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Category Archives: Time Management

Pomodoro Technique for Small Business Management and more…

Time is MoneyIn operating The Write Hand, LLC, I often find that balancing my client workload and personal tasks gets tedious. As a Virtual Assistant keeping accurate time for clients is imperative because I charge on the least increment of time to save my client’s budget.

For those that have read my blog previously, you will recall my posts about time management as I am still trying to master this. I have previously used the method of Dale Carnegie but somehow I still allow myself to lose focus; or sometimes I even sit way too long and then tire myself out. So I started searching for alternative methods. I learned recently of this Pomodoro Technique and maybe, just maybe I can manage this one. I use a timer to record my per-client work so the technique herein should align well with my existing time methodology. I thought I would share this for your own benefit and maybe even hear back from folks that have successfully used the technique.

Here is the basis of the technique as described by Wikipedia…

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are known as “pomodori”, the plural of the Italian word pomodoro for “tomato”. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.

Closely related to concepts such as timeboxing and iterative and incremental development used in software design, the method has been adopted in pair programming contexts.

  • There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:
  • Decide on the task to be done
  • Set the pomodoro timer to 25 minutes.
  • Work on the task until the timer rings.
  • Take a short 3-5 minute break.
  • After four pomodori, take a longer break of 15–30 minutes.

The stages of planning, tracking, recording, processing, and visualizing are fundamental to the technique. In the planning phase tasks are prioritized by recording them in a “To-Do Today” list. This enables users to estimate the effort tasks require. As pomodori are completed, they are recorded, adding to a sense of accomplishment and providing raw data for subsequent self-observation and improvement.

For the purposes of the technique, “pomodoro” refers to the interval of time spent working. After task completion, any time remaining in the pomodoro is devoted to overlearning. Regular breaks are taken, aiding assimilation. A short 3–5 minute rest separates consecutive pomodori. Four pomodori form a set. A longer 15–30 minute rest is taken between sets.

An essential aim of the technique is to reduce the impact of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow. A pomodoro is indivisible. When interrupted during a pomodoro either the other activity must be recorded and postponed or the pomodoro must be abandoned.

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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in Time Management

 

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How to Manage Time with 10 Tips that Work

Time-FliesIt seems like I have my hands into so many different things that I really am challenged in managing my time wisely. I get the important stuff done first of course, but then sometimes I forget things or feel frustrated because I didn’t do enough in one day. My top priority is managing The Write Hand, LLC and making sure my clients’ needs are met. I have the luxury of mostly avoiding strict deadlines and having a future due date but this means I derail and work on things like the Amp’d Rider Project, the SOX Project, and managing my personal litigation and healthcare paperwork (which in my case is way longer than my left leg – hahahaha). Since I have moved to Western North Carolina, I have been blessed with Mom visiting twice and so far four friends from Illinois have visited. This weekend and next week will bring three more friends to my Heavenly Hill. Sometimes I feel bad because when folks visit they are on vacation but I still have to work. I try to finagle my schedule so needs are met and quality time is spent. It goes without saying that I am constantly trying to spend my time wisely. With riding season just around the corner, my passion will have to fit in somewhere and articles like this to keep my SEO rating up on search engines and marketing my business are a must. Only true client work generates income; none of the other things do. So, I am having to cut out a few things and while I love writing my motorcycle magazine column and putting on my motorcycle radio show; that combination generates the least leads to my business. As such I believe I may be saying good-bye to that for a while.

When I research for business I try to find topics that will serve me and other small business owners, while also trying to find articles that will serve nearly anybody. After all, not all those that follow me are motorcyclists, nor virtual workers, so I need to share information that is useful to a very wide audience. I hope you will find this article of interest; I sure did.

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How to Manage Time With 10 Tips That Work

By Joe Mathews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival

Chances are good that, at some time in your life, you’ve taken a time management class, read about it in books, and tried to use an electronic or paper-based day planner to organize, prioritize and schedule your day. “Why, with this knowledge and these gadgets,” you may ask, “do I still feel like I can’t get everything done I need to?”

The answer is simple. Everything you ever learned about managing time is a complete waste of time because it doesn’t work.

Before you can even begin to manage time, you must learn what time is. A dictionary defines time as “the point or period at which things occur.” Put simply, time is when stuff happens.

There are two types of time: clock time and real time. In clock time, there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. All time passes equally. When someone turns 50, they are exactly 50 years old, no more or no less.

In real time, all time is relative. Time flies or drags depending on what you’re doing. Two hours at the department of motor vehicles can feel like 12 years. And yet our 12-year-old children seem to have grown up in only two hours.

Which time describes the world in which you really live, real time or clock time?

The reason time management gadgets and systems don’t work is that these systems are designed to manage clock time. Clock time is irrelevant. You don’t live in or even have access to clock time. You live in real time, a world in which all time flies when you are having fun or drags when you are doing your taxes.

The good news is that real time is mental. It exists between your ears. You create it. Anything you create, you can manage. It’s time to remove any self-sabotage or self-limitation you have around “not having enough time,” or today not being “the right time” to start a business or manage your current business properly.

There are only three ways to spend time: thoughts, conversations and actions. Regardless of the type of business you own, your work will be composed of those three items.

As an entrepreneur, you may be frequently interrupted or pulled in different directions. While you cannot eliminate interruptions, you do get a say on how much time you will spend on them and how much time you will spend on the thoughts, conversations and actions that will lead you to success.

Practice the following techniques to become the master of your own time:

    1. Carry a schedule and record all your thoughts, conversations and activities for a week. This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where your precious moments are going. You’ll see how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions.
    2. Any activity or conversation that’s important to your success should have a time assigned to it. To-do lists get longer and longer to the point where they’re unworkable. Appointment books work. Schedule appointments with yourself and create time blocks for high-priority thoughts, conversations, and actions. Schedule when they will begin and end. Have the discipline to keep these appointments.
    3. Plan to spend at least 50 percent of your time engaged in the thoughts, activities and conversations that produce most of your results.
    4. Schedule time for interruptions. Plan time to be pulled away from what you’re doing. Take, for instance, the concept of having “office hours.” Isn’t “office hours” another way of saying “planned interruptions?”
    5. Take the first 30 minutes of every day to plan your day. Don’t start your day until you complete your time plan. The most important time of your day is the time you schedule to schedule time.
    6. Take five minutes before every call and task to decide what result you want to attain. This will help you know what success looks like before you start. And it will also slow time down. Take five minutes after each call and activity to determine whether your desired result was achieved. If not, what was missing? How do you put what’s missing in your next call or activity?
    7. Put up a “Do not disturb” sign when you absolutely have to get work done.
    8. Practice not answering the phone just because it’s ringing and e-mails just because they show up. Disconnect instant messaging. Don’t instantly give people your attention unless it’s absolutely crucial in your business to offer an immediate human response. Instead, schedule a time to answer email and return phone calls.
    9. Block out other distractions like Facebook and other forms of social media unless you use these tools to generate business.
    10. Remember that it’s impossible to get everything done. Also remember that odds are good that 20 percent of your thoughts, conversations and activities produce 80 percent of your results.

Full article and credit can be found here.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2015 in Time Management

 

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Time Management for Small Businesses…

The Art of Juggling a Small Business

The Art of Juggling a Small Business

WOW – I ran across this Time Management for Small Business tool today and think I just might like to take this seminar if I find it in my area. The Write Hand, LLC is a Virtual Assistant business, and I am constantly trying to manage my time from highest priorities to lowest. Often I cannot control when schedule changes occur due to client needs. I have always been an advocate of Living in Day Tight Compartments when I was in a corporate environment, but in all honesty it is often very hard to stay on task with this schedule type in my Virtual Assistant business.

I try hard to allocate my hours based on:

  • Real Work to generate revenue.
  • Business Marketing to generate revenue.
  • Reading News to stay apprised of my world.
  • Personal Tasks that simply must be accomplished.
  • Work on side projects like my YouTube series called Amp’d Rider Project and our giving efforts for SOXProgram.org.
  • My radio show and magazine column that share not only my life’s journey but send folks back to my real business.
  • … and oh yeah, riding, eating and having a life!

I have been thinking that I need a new strategy since I have not been very successful at Living in Day Tight Compartments. Perhaps this seminar would be added ammunition for my small business arsenal as a self-employed person operating a small business.

Take a read of the workbook for this program and maybe it will help you in your strategy and perhaps you may find the seminar in your area. 

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Time Management

 

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3 Mistakes to Avoid when working with a Virtual Assistant

3 Mistakes to Avoid when working with a Virtual Assistant

I have no desire to recreate the wheel if it rolls along just fine. As a Virtual Assistant, I am very much in tune with my strengths and the strength of others. So when I found this article written by Dorie Clark, I felt it was right on and worth sharing. Using a VA can certainly help free up some your time on tasks that aren’t your specialty but you still have to make sure the job is getting done to your desired vision. And as Dorie mentions, I too have subscribed to the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, although in all honesty, I’m still trying to perfect that vision – haha. Frankly, I just like what I do and enjoy being the go-to chick that makes success for my clients.

Dorie Clark – Contributor to Entrepreneur Online Magazine – September 29, 2014

Like many entrepreneurs, I was introduced to the concept of working with a virtual assistant, or VA, by Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. He extolled the benefits of outsourcing repetitive work (or tasks you aren’t good at or don’t enjoy) so you can focus on your most valuable tasks. Lured by the idea of following the 80/20 rule (i.e., spending my time on the 20 percent of activities that generate 80 percent of my returns), for the past six years, I’ve worked off and on with VAs locally and around the world. They’ve handled a variety of tasks for me, including transcription, sharing articles on social media, uploading and formatting blog posts, audio and video editing, writing interview questions, and more.

If you’re considering hiring one — or would like to improve your working relationship with the ones you’re currently contracting with — here are three mistakes to avoid.

1. Failing to scope out your tasks. Well before you hire a VA, it’s useful to make a list of tasks that you’d like them to perform for you. In my case, it includes things like booking travel arrangements, uploading blog posts and sharing articles on social media. Creating an accurate task list can help you select a VA with the right experience and aptitude. Once you hire your VA — either through personal networking, placing an ad or perhaps by using a service such as Zirtual — you’ll also want to put the same level of advance thought into describing each individual task you’d like accomplished. This is especially critical if you’re dealing with an overseas VA whose cultural reference points may be different than yours; they may not understand that booking a Boston to Atlanta flight with a layover in Los Angeles is a very, very bad idea. You can save yourself a great deal of trouble later by being very precise in your instructions and trying to anticipate questions your VA might have or ways things might go wrong.

2. Not making time to review their work. It’s tempting to think that once you hire a VA, you can delegate the task and then forget it. But, at least at first, that’s definitely not how it works. You need to build time into your calendar to review everything they do, so you can catch problems early and offer suggestions and feedback. Some VAs may be hesitant to alert you if they’ve hit a roadblock or don’t understand your instructions. So checking in frequently and monitoring their progress in the early days can ensure they’re not going down blind alleyways trying to follow instructions they’ve misconstrued. It’s easy to get busy and ignore your VA temporarily; they’re not demanding your time the way a client would. But if you want them to be effective, plan at least 30 minutes per day to review their work early on. That gives them timely and actionable feedback, and will save you money because they’re less likely to have to go back and redo tons of work.

3. Not creating a system. One of the best things I did with my most recent VA was developing an “assistant’s manual” prior to her starting the job. I wrote down step-by-step procedures for the most common tasks I’d be asking her to do and put all the relevant information, such as website passwords or frequent flier numbers, into one easy-to-search document. (Depending on the task, you could also consider making online videos to demonstrate procedures to your VA.) That ensured she wasn’t constantly barraging me with basic questions and she could quickly become self-reliant. When she took on a new task, I also instructed her to write up the procedure and include it in the manual, so that it could become an ongoing reference tool for the future. The goal is to enable an easy transition and avoid having to reinvent the wheel when there’s been a long gap in between performing a particular task (such as uploading a blog post to a particular website with its own layout quirks).

Working with a VA can exponentially increase your productivity – but that’s only if you fully leverage their time and talents. You’ll never harness the real benefit if you’re constantly having to clean up mistakes and do things over again. The only way to avoid that is by planning in advance and setting up the systems that will enable them to succeed.

Full credit and article here

 

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College student or CEO- we can all prepare for the best TAX RETURN possible…

Cut Your Tax by Being Organized and Educated

Cut Your Tax by Being Organized and Educated

I’ve always considered myself a pretty middle-class / average type of person. I’ve had the office job, the mortgage, the cars, and the kid. I was never super high on any one totem pole yet I did choose to be homeless after losing that corporate job. So, I know for sure that what I’m about to tell you is something you already know and is something that can help any ‘tax bracket”.

Quite simply, with so much technology at our finger tips these days, it’s so easy to be organized even if that is not your specialty. Being organized with your finances is half the battle in figuring out what you can and cannot claim on your taxes. So if you are just leaving money on the table, send it to me – if you want some of that money back, you have to be organized and it’s easy.

Here are some suggestions that may help make your organization and preparation a lot easier during the year.

  1. I absolutely love Quickbooks Online. Their secure servers and protection make me feel good about my experience and I can do everything I need for my personal and small business finances from anywhere, anytime. From here, I use other options…
  2. I have linked my bank accounts to my Quickbooks so all my transactions load when I update my QB. This makes life so much easier than ever before. Now, I merely have to categorize these transactions however, over time if you repeat the same vendor and category, QB will pre-fill this, getting even easier as you go.
  3. From QB or my bank account, I can setup automatic bill payments so nothing is ever late. Regardless which way I setup the payment, the are linked so the info will transfer to the other with little effort on my part.
  4. I have an app on my iPhone called BizXpenseTracker. Now for me, I don’t generally use the app for recording receipts that I acquired using my debit card because that will show on my bank statement which feeds to QB. I do use it a lot for cash receipts because I can snap an image of the receipt and trash the paper. I can also categorize those receipts. Further to this, and I like this best personally, I can record time I spend on each client in this app and download my report at the end of each week. It’s like a touch button time-clock. In my dream of 2013 and pending re-start in 2014, mileage is my life but I dare not try to calculate it and it is not “really” required for my work – but if I wanted to record mileage per client, I could do it in this app; just sayin’.
The Dreaded Tax Envelope

The Dreaded Tax Envelope

I realize that everybody isn’t going to suddenly switch their whole life around to this extreme, though I think it’s a smart process. I can’t tell you how many people (men) I have been around that have an old tattered and torn up envelope that they brutally shove every receipt into whenever they return from the gas pump, restaurant, or Home Depot.

There are some more simplified ways you can help yourself and I know this from growing in my own processes.

First of all, no matter what process you use and what you do with your smart phone I highly suggest that everybody subscribe to some type of cloud based storage for your contacts and photos plus all the other goodies on your phone.

That being said, I used to have photo albums in my old iPhone called: Biz Receipts, Medical Receipts, Bike Receipts, etc… you get the ‘picture’. In these albums I saved images of receipts for just those things that I thought would be beneficial come tax time or something I may need for warranty purposes (so clearly I didn’t save receipts for water and cigarettes at Citgo). Every so often I would download those images into folder in my DropBox and record them in a spreadsheet with categories.

This article is intended to put your mind around the organization and preparation that you will need to make tax time easier each year, because face it; we have to do it – how can we make it a little less painful?

Back in those days I didn’t think I had much to claim if I itemized, but after the past two years, I have learned many valuable lessons and have been able to claim things I didn’t know I could and I correct some mistakes I had made in the past. I can easily keep tabs on all my expenses during the year easily and so can you. Don’t forget, a lot of these types of tasks can be managed in partnership with a great virtual assistant. I know one; just sayin’…

The Write Hand

The Write Hand

 

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Virtual Assistants: Everyday Uses for Everyday Folks

Always the To-Do List

Always the To-Do List

Don’t we all have nagging little tasks that we’d love to get done, but just keep putting off? Some of these tasks are simple yet time consuming. Some perhaps are not your specialty and just aren’t appealing. In any case, a Virtual Assistant can often be a good source to help with a lot of tasks from simple to elaborate.

Now a Virtual Assistant typically has extensive background in administrative tasks. As such, he or she should be very organized, time disciplined, and savvy with a myriad of technology. The list of skills could truly go on forever because every assistant excels or enjoys certain tasks more than another or is educated higher in some areas than others. Virtual Assistants often rely on each other as a network to accomplish a client’s vision. Let me give you a very small sampling of how a Virtual Assistant can help men and women in their daily lives.

»Creating a searchable document with all those recipes you have collected over the years and have to scrounge through every time you need that special one.

»Entering your contacts for those business cards you collected at the last conference because goodness knows you can’t reach them if you don’t have the info handy.

»Keeping your family or business QuickBooks accounts in order and reconciled, plus reporting, payroll, and more.

»Researching travel plans for family or business travel.

»Help you sell all those car and bike parts in the garage you just haven’t gotten around to listing on eBay.

»Creating a website for your small business whether it’s a main source of income or a hobby with potential. Similarly – helping manage your social media for optimal success.

»Refresh Your Resume, build a new resume for a high school kid, or even a college student.

»Checking your email and actually UNSUBSCRIBING to ads you no longer want. Come on, we all do it – we delete it and say we’ll unsubscribe later and just never do.

»Research dern near any topics you have in mind perhaps you simply haven’t had the time. A simple list of some of the better search results on your topics can make your reading and research a little less painful.

»Setup reservations for dining, theater, travel, and more. Along with extensive help with scheduling.

»Clean-up and organize all those digital photos you have collected over the years. There are also great storage and backup platforms that they can suggest as well.

…the list could really go on!

VAs can help unjuggle your life

VAs can help unjuggle your life

Just think of it this way, “Is there somebody I can just give this to for a reasonable price and have it off my plate?” If you don’t physically have to see this person, a Virtual Assistant can and most likely will be your most trusted and most economical means of support for miscellaneous tasks throughout life.

The nice thing to keep in mind is that if you establish a relationship with a VA, you don’t have to use them every week for a guaranteed number of hours. Make sure you interview your VA and ask how they function and be sure it suits your needs. You will find after that one simple task is completed, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment even if you didn’t have to do a lot. From there you will be searching for tasks to give to your Virtual Assistant to help make life smoother and free up some of your time.

 

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Walk the Talk – Living in Day Tight Compartments (Time Management)

Last week I wrote about Dale Carnegie‘s philosophy of Living in Day Tight Compartments. When I had an 8-5 job the schedule made itself and the tasks ran in a fairly set manner. However, now that my work relies solely on “ME” it has become increasingly important to manage my time wisely. As was discussed last week the Living in Day Tight Compartments philosophy is a golden nugget and although a simple strategy in theory, it’s up to us to make a difference in our lives and to have the structure necessary to do it. That is not always easy as you’ll read in this blog post from Dale Carnegie’s site.

To help get my week off to a fabulous start and to ensure that I am maximizing my time, I sat last night and created my day tight compartments schedule (see photo below). I have set alarms in my phone which is never more than 5′ from me, and today I plan to work that schedule to the bone. Since my business changes in an instant depending on clients’ needs and since I’m in an interim limbo so to speak (trying to make money where ever possible), my schedule may not look that exciting to you, but the theory is still the same.

With riding season upon us, believe me – – jumping on my Harley when the sun is out gnaws at me constantly, but … first thing is first, and that’s to make money to put the gas in the Harley on the days when I do have some spare time.

My calendar was created in Excel because frankly, it’s the easiest to manipulate for this type of close combat organizing. You’ll see I have created my Day Tight Compartments in 10 minute intervals. This can easily be changes to quarter hours or half hours. START NOW: If you would like to save yourself some time and use the templates I have already created, I’d gladly share with you a 2012 version of your Day Tight Compartments schedule. Simply PayPal $5.00 to me at ursula_m_w@yahoo.com as a GIFT (no fees that way) and in your note, indicate what intervals you wish to have in your format (:10, :15, :30).

Until next time, be organized, be timely, and be successful…

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