Mary Wu, Virtual Assistant

Home » 2014 » April

Monthly Archives: April 2014

E-troductions

business_1100010234-012914-intFor the last day of my Administrative Professional’s Week 5-part series, I’m going to share one of my favorite tips: the e-introduction.

One goal in my business (and my life) is to be a resource to people. I truly enjoy finding ways to help other people out. One way to be of assistance is to help people find the right resource providers or joint venture partners. For some time I struggled with the right format for making introductions between people until I hit upon a article at Forbes.com titled “How to Make the Perfect Email Introduction” (see “Related Article” section.) This article describes a basic template for introducing two people via email.

There is one point that the article misses, which I’d like to add. BEFORE doing an e-introduction, double check with both parties that they are willing to “meet” a new person.

This is a very valuable way of allowing two people to meet because you can describe in detail why you think they would be able to connect, they will both have each others email address, and they both have a common connection.

People are most likely to do business with people that they know, like, and trust. But if someone cannot find a person they know, they may feel a bit more at ease working with someone that comes with a strong common connection.

Related Article:

How to Make the Perfect Email Introduction. Andy Ellwood. (forbes.com)

 

 

 

 

Shave Time Off Your Commute

waze

waze (Photo credit: tenz1225)

 

In honor of Administrative Professional’s Week, I’m doing a 5-part series with tips to simplify your life in some way. Today I’m going to tell you about my new co-pilot. On our recent vacation I was driving my friend. John was giving me directions by using his phone and an app called Waze. Like any GPS, Waze will give you turn-by-turn directions, but Waze has the added feature of crowdsourcing your drive.

As with any navigator, you enter your destination and it figures out a route for you to take. However, unlike my GPS unit, it determined the best route by using real-time GPS and traffic reports from drivers. Wazers are able to report to other drivers about traffic or accidents or cars on the shoulder.

If you choose to link it to Faceook, you can even report to your Facebook friends when you will arrive at a location.

Like any navigation tool I’ve ever used, it is a good idea to have some knowledge of your route. (The other day I was at a Starbucks and wanted to cross a major road. Waze would have had me driving around through an industrial park in order to make my left turn. I just drove through a hotel parking lot to turn around.)

While on vacation (and with another driver in the car), my husband and I would often report about minor accidents and cars on the shoulder. I do not make any reports when I’m alone in the car.

But every now and then I’ll be driving along and hear a report of “police ahead,” which might be a useful warning for people who might possibly sometimes tend to drive maybe a smidge above the posted speed limit. Think of it this way, this free app may save you time or traffic hassles, or it may even save you from a speeding ticket.

Waze is available for free on most smartphone platforms.

Related Articles:

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

In Search Of

In honor of Administrative Professional’s Week, I’m doing a 5-part series with simple tips. Today I want to help make your life easier by introducing you to one of my favorite apps.

Image representing Yelp as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

We recently took a vacation and discovered a wonderful app called Yelp. We’ve probably used it before, but not to the extent we did on vacation. In the “Related Articles” section there is an article titled “The Do’s and Don’ts of Planning a Vacation” and one of their tips is to “do your research.” On past trips I’ve done this (especially with regards to restaurants) either by checking out books from the library (like Zagats guide) or by doing Internet research. Now that we’re living in the age of 4G networks and smartphones, I decided that planning consisted of taking care of the major items (hotels and plane tickets) in advance and waiting to see the mood of the moment when it come to breakfast*, lunch, and dinner.

We were very pleasantly surprised at all the places we found and how well Yelp worked for pricing and ratings. By the middle of the trip, we were depending on Yelp exclusively to help us find food.

About a week after we returned home, my husband and I were planning to go see a friend of mine in a play in a suburb we rarely visit. I realized that I could actually use the same app here in Illinois that I used in California.

Sometimes we do things in a “vacation” mindset or at “at home” mindset and forget that some tools can be multipurpose.**

Related articles

*Well – there was only one morning we needed breakfast because most nights the hotel included breakfast.

**I love watching babies in restaurants “discover” the law of gravity. “Let’s see,” says baby, “when I’m at home on my high chair and I drop stuff it falls on the kitchen floor. What happens here.” And then baby realizes, “Not only does stuff fall on the floor, but strangers come and pick my stuff up and smile at me. Let’s try that again.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

Taming the e-Tiger

Email Envelopes On Screen Showing Emailing Or ContactingIn honor of Administrative Professional’s Week, I’m doing a 5-day series with simple tips. Today we discuss email.

There are quite a few books and systems in place for handling the paper tiger in your home or office*, (flylady.net is an excellent resource), but sometimes the “paper” is an overflowing e-mail box. I’ve discovered (through trial and error and error and error) that it’s easier to keep a handle on email than to GET a handle on email.

  1. Schedule. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, schedule when you read your mail. If you are reading at a time that you are able to give 100% of your attention to your mail, you can go through your mail with fewer distractions.
  2. Prioritize. Determine what needs to be taken care of immediately and what can wait until later. If you have something that you’re not ready to sort, you can having a “holding” folder outside of your inbox (for instance, a “todo” folder).
  3. Sort**:
    Presort. You can “presort” your mail before you read it. This can be done using filters or making use of the priority inbox on the Google Gmail tabs (see “Related Articles” for my article about using Gmail tabs to sort mail.)
    Post sort. Many people use files to tame their “paper” tigers. You can also use files to tame your e-tigers. For example, I have files for each of my clients, and all of their mail goes into their file. If I need to find something, all I need to do is to go into their file. I also have a file for any online purchases I make (I can put order confirmations and shipping notifications in this file).
  4. Trash. If you no longer have a need for an email, dispose of it. It will give you one less message to pass over if you’re looking somewhere else. Sometimes I’ll go through one of my Gmail tabs and delete items when I’m waiting in a line or at a doctor’s office.
  5. Send it somewhere else. I know some people that tame their email by make sure that anything that can be ignored goes to one address. This is a good place for sign in forms, sweepstakes, or drawings. This is often used for mail that does not need to be checked on a regular basis but can be checked every week (or every month).

Related Articles:

Q&A The Gmail Changes. Mary Wu (marywuva.com)

*My oldest child is a high school junior who has taken the SAT. We don’t have a paper tiger, we have an entire herd of paper elephants in the form of marketing materials from various colleges. I wonder if insurance companies should consider increasing fire insurance rates for anyone with a 17 year old.

**It’s just like laundry. You wouldn’t put all your whites clothes with your red clothes with your dry cleaning. And when you’re done, you fold the towels together, match the socks and sort them by family member, and hang the blouses.

 

Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me

Stress. Woman stressedIn honor of Administrative Professional’s week, I’m going to do a 5-day series with simple tips.

One thing many people struggle with is an overflow of incoming information. We have email (and sometimes multiple email accounts), phone calls, texts, tweets, and Facebook notifications coming at us from all directions. Sometimes it’s hard to filter out the flow of information. What can you do to prevent feeling overwhelmed?

Here are a few tips:

1. Prioritize. Determine who may need to urgently contact you, and set up a way that you can receive their information. For me, if I’m married to you, have given birth to you, or adopted you (or if you’re caring for one of the above), I will answer your calls. This means that my husband and children have very specific ringtones and the school nurse line has a specific ringtone. Other calls can (and often do) go to voicemail.

2. Turn it OFF. I’m fairly certain the default for everything on my Android phone is to have really irritating notifications turned on. This might not be true but I was noticing that I would often get rings and beeps and vibrates for many reasons during the day. I went through my settings and turned off notifications on most items that I did not deem important.

3. Schedule. There are certain times of the day that I focus on certain platforms. For example, I check email at 9, noon, and 3. I’m not distracted by email at other times (unless I’m waiting for information from a client), and when I’m checking email, that’s the only thing I’m focused on.

4. Get rid of it. (Thanks to Heartbleed.) When the Heartbleed bug caused us to need to change all our passwords, I had some issues with bringing certain things up on my phone. I found this to be a fortunate circumstance, as I discovered that I could actually manage without instant access to certain email accounts. I find some things are really best handled on my desktop computer instead of my phone.

The other thing that we have to allow ourselves and others is some breathing space. If I haven’t heard from someone in 24-48 hours, then I can bug them again. We tend to have an expectation of immediate responses, but (provided none of us are ER doctors) most things can wait.

Related Articles:

Is Your Smartphone Making You Stupid? Kathy Colaiacovo. (timeontaskva.com)

(If I were to go where the weather suits my clothes, I’d have to go someplace where I could wear Birkenstock sandals year round).

Heartbleed – two simple steps to take NOW

ID-100125771Most people that know me would say I’m rather level headed. I’m not likely to over react to situations, and I have a pretty relaxed attitude about most things. But then, all of the sudden, there’s a major security bug that has been discovered (after being present for two years).

You’ve probably heard about heartbleed. As I often try to do, I’m going to attempt to explain the steps you need to take in simple lay terms.

(If you haven’t heard of this, that’s fine; just do these two things, now would be good)

Check your sites. Go to the Heartbleed test website and type in the name of any site you do business with (I started with my bank). There is (in the related articles section) an article from Mashable titled “The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now.”  (more…)

How to Prepare your Business for your Vacation

Guest Post (with minor edits) courtesy of Evie Burke at One Insight Closer. IMG_2099a

Whether it’s spring break or summer vacation or winter holidays, we all need a few days off, or even a vacation (!) to have some time to relax.

Sounds wonderful right? But then you start to think about all those things that you want to or should be doing for your business right now – and suddenly taking any time away from your home office sounds less wonderful and more stressful.

On some level though, you know you need the time away – a time to rest and not think about your business. You just don’t know if that’s possible.

Let’s take a step back and remember having a JOB (play with me here). Remember going on vacation then? If your job was anything like mine, going on vacation meant that you had to set aside some extra time before you left to tie up any loose ends, to let clients and/or co-workers know you’re going to be gone and to update anyone who was going to be handling some of your responsibilities while you were gone (and maybe letting them know how to reach you in an emergency).

You know that that process was? A system, even if you didn’t call it that or think of it that way, it was the system that you, or the business you worked for, setup to make sure that things ran relatively smoothly while you were gone.

Let’s step back to today. What is your system for taking time off in your business?

Okay, I hear some of you laughing (or sighing) that you are your business and if you’re not there things don’t run. Nothing happens when you’re not in the office – or worse, if you’re not in the office things start to fall apart. Well, that might currently be true, but there are probably a few things that you can do before you leave or set up to happen while you’re gone to make sure nothing falls apart and that things run smoothly when you return.

  1. Let your clients know you’ll be out of the office
    Just give them a heads up. This could be a quick phone call and a follow-up email so they have the dates and other information at their fingertips. And let them know how to contact you if you’re in a business where emergencies happen and they might need you now. Let them know how to handle that.
  2. Tie up loose ends
    If you have any projects or communications that have under 15 minutes left on them, finish those up. These things will take longer to do if you wait until you return, because they won’t be fresh in your mind.
  3. Decide what can wait until after you get back
    If you’re anything like me you’ve suddenly decided that those two bigger projects that you put on the back burner should really be DONE before you leave. Because you don’t want to think about it when you return. You want to have time available for those great new ideas that will pop up when you return from vacation.This is where I remind us both (you and me) that some things will have to wait until after vacation. Trying to cram too much in before you leave will result in frustration and the temptation to take work with you on vacation (don’t do it!). Instead, decide ahead of time what can wait. Make a list if you need to and then you can schedule those things when you return.
  4. Out of Office email reply
    Most email programs have this. Set it up for the dates that you’ll be gone and let them know when they can expect a reply back from you.
  5. Update your voice mail message
    Again, let people know you’re out and when you’ll get back to them.
  6. Set time aside for replies and phone calls when you return
    Set aside a couple hours on your first day back in the office for returning emails and phone calls (and cleaning out your inbox).
  7. Plan the first couple days you’re back in the office
    This one is really important for me. Last year I didn’t do this when I went on a two week vacation. Actually, I “planned” on planning my first week back on the airplane ride home. Yeah, so on the airplane ride home I think I slept, talked with my husband and maybe read a couple of chapters of a fiction book. So, my first week back “in the office” I did catch up on email and send my newsletter, but that was about it…I realized that first week back would have been a lot smoother, and more productive, if I would have planned a few tasks to be completed that week. I could have gotten back into the swing of things a lot faster.
  8. Write and schedule your newsletter in advance
    If you send a newsletter, you can write it in advance and schedule it to go out while you’re gone. And if you have a VA you can write everything in advance and pass it along to her early.
  9. Enjoy your time off!
    Allow yourself to mentally unplug from your business and enjoy your time off!

You deserve some time off! Put it on your schedule and start planning for it!

In the comments below share what else you do to prepare for vacation or even a day away from your business.

(Additional note on #8, if you don’t have time to write a weekly blog post, remember to ask if someone wants to do a guest blog — Mary).

Photo by Mary Wu, on a previous vacation.