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Ingredients for Creativity and Innovation

Ingredients for Creativity and Innovation

I rather liked this article. It reminded me that I use several of these techniques but must make a habit of using them continuously to maximize my potential. As a Virtual Assistant my days are never exactly the same, so I have to work harder at making good practices into second-nature.

7 ingredients for Creativity and Innovation

by Eve Ash / Tuesday, May 10 2016

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Virtual Assistant

 

“Discovery” Albert Szent-Gyorgyi wrote, “is seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought”. Very true, which is why all workplaces seeking to make their mark should provide the following necessary conditions for creativity and innovation.

Space

This means a certain amount of latitude to pursue a problem or consider alternatives. It is difficult to be innovative when someone is micromanaging you or tut-tutting about the state of your desk or personal circumstances. If a project’s outcomes aren’t pressing, or if a person really does their most inspired work alone or even at home, let them get on with it (providing of course you’ve seen that this does work for that person).

Boundaries

Workplaces invariably have rules and restrictions, so creativity must be able to be triggered within certain expectations or constraints (which is not the same as micromanaging). When there’s a deadline to meet, or a client is jumping up and down, we need people who can thrive on a slightly frenetic atmosphere and under these circumstances turn out creative solutions. But the boundaries must be clear and tangible – not shifting goalposts.

Challenge

Then there are those among us who are a little bit feisty; people who love it when a metaphorical gauntlet is thrown down. Most people love competition. Providing there’s a level playing field where the rules are clear, the incentives are there and stringent penalties exist to prevent cheats, a challenge can produce wonderful ideas and refinements on what currently exists in the marketplace.

Jolt

It’s important to give ourselves a small jolt from time to time. Everyone is apt to become a little stale, irrespective of their daily output or viability of routines. Human beings lap up interesting concepts, new ways of seeing and experiencing things, visiting places never seen – the list goes on. Find new external stimuli – go to an interesting lecture, listen to a debate, pick up a book you’ve heard about and read it to the end, find a relevant best practice article related to your work. Or go and volunteer somewhere completely different for a few days.

Stretch

Start stretching your body and honing your health and fitness in ways you’ve never tried. Even sitting straight (standing preferably) acts as a stimulant to a brain’s electric circuitry. There’s no need to become obsessive, but a few minutes of intense physical activity will cause tingling endorphins and a feeling of wellbeing, which in turn sparks fresh approaches to your life.

Mix

Once in while take people from different areas of the business and different teams and create a multidisciplinary mini-team that can brainstorm and solve issues together. Just the simple action of mixing non-traditional roles can release a whole new way of approaching tasks. Accept different approaches and find ways to BUILD on each others ideas without offence.

Special

Create special places at work to have fun and “incubate” ideas, for example, by adding whiteboards on pillars, breakout rooms with fun seating, or a games room. But ensure there are ways to record the ideas. Make sure everyone is encouraged to write down ideas, whether in groups or alone. Regularly review ideas – keep lists fresh and fun, and celebrate the implementation of new ideas.

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Posted by on May 10, 2016 in Time Management

 

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Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant

Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant
VAs can help unjuggle your life

VAs can help unjuggle your life

In the last 10 years people have been hearing about and experiencing virtual work at a staggering pace. After all, if productive work can be accomplished with less overhead and micromanaging; it’s a win/win for both employer and worker. A vast array of fields can benefit from virtual workers. At The Write Hand, LLC, my team and I focus on business administration, marketing, and online presence for small to medium businesses. It’s important to have a virtual team that has members with varied talents.

When it comes to hiring a Virtual Assistant or team of them for that matter; the hiring process is nearly the same as hiring on-site support. However, some folks aren’t sure where to start when it comes to managing a Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant team. Along with some of my other tips found in Let’s Share; I offer these tips to give you a basic foundation on creating a Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant.

Training

A great Virtual Assistant has many talents, so why should you hire somebody that needs training? Well, your VA may not need hand-holding or formal education but training him or her to your processes and business strategies is only wise. The great thing about a VA is that they are for the most the type of people who are quite flexible because their business is to serve many types of people and companies. Take some time to share your visions and processes. You will likely find that the training is easier than expected because of your VA’s many talents.

Patience

It will be important to have patience with yourself and your Virtual Assistant. I like to tell new clients to create a list of tasks they want to delegate, or in the case of building a website; a list of all the highlights they wanted built. Then, number them in order of importance. Start a Wise Partnership with your Virtual Assistant be delegating some of the smaller, easier tasks firsts. This accomplishes two things: 1) It gets many small details out of the way and 2) is a great way to begin to share your operations and visions with your Virtual Assistant -you learn each others’ methods.

Time-FliesDeadlines

It’s easy to put aside tasks, particularly ones that may seem pesky. As a deadline approaches you may felt in the past a great stress and regret for putting it off. Even if you don’t have all the details right away, let your Virtual Assistant know that a particular project will be coming up and due by XX date. A great VA will keep the task on a timeline or To-Do list and will gently remind you (a few times if needed), that the deadline is approaching. You may find these projects are easier managed in pieces. If on the other hand you suddenly come upon an urgent need, let your VA know immediately so they allocate the proper time for the project; after all, you are not likely their only client. It may be necessary to rearrange other priorities to accomplish the urgent need; be flexible and forth-coming. In a Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant, you may wish to create a project calendar. This will ensure that each of you stays in the know and can meet deadlines with less stress.

Communication

Whether you use your Virtual Assistant for random work or for recurring tasks, neither they nor you can read minds. Your VA may be on auto-pilot for some of your recurring tasks, but it’s always good to schedule a regular meeting – perhaps by video conference or phone call. You want to ensure that your VA is upholding your vision and quality. You may often find that the collaboration will generate new ideas and ways you can further utilize your Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant.

Time is MoneyBalance

You may think that you have handed off a bunch of stuff to your Virtual Assistant and you can breathe easy and forget they are out there as long as things are getting done. NO!! Don’t ignore emails or calls from your Virtual Assistant. Remember, they are out there to keep you organized, on-task, and productive in your roles as they perform their roles. If your VA seems to be hounding you about something you just don’t want to think about right now, remember… you hired them to help you through these things. I have found it helpful to form more a kinship/friendship with my clients and to let them know, I am a great sounding-board that is removed from your every hour, every day practice. This gives them more than a Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant, it gives them an “out”, a means to “vent”, and an avenue to throw out ideas and see what sticks.

A great Virtual Assistant will have not only a variety of talents but the fortitude to delicately “push” you towards the goals you set together. In creating a Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant you will develop a strategy and routine that fits your both very well. After a wee bit of time you should find that your partnership comes easy, that your idea sharing is fluid, and your tasks are being accomplished seamlessly and with far reduced stress from that or ordinary office life.

 
 

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What Can I Delegate to a Virtual Assistant by The Write Hand, LLC

Using a virtual assistant can shave hours from your workweek, but knowing which tasks to delegate can be tricky. When considering a virtual assistant, I suggest that you start with a list of tasks that take away from your main business goals. What are you doing that could easily be accomplished by somebody else?

Working remotely is rapidly becoming appealing to employees and employers. Both are finding and capitalizing on the many rewards. Employees are broadening their horizons, working flexible schedules, and finding greater work/life balance; thus creating a happier and more successful employee. Employers are realizing economic savings with the reduction of overhead and better output from employees that are truly enjoying what they do. Virtual Assistants are just one category of remote workers but they sure can save you a lot of time and aggravation.

Certainly running your own business can mean burning the candle at both ends. How many times have you been so overloaded that you just didn’t know which way to go next? Wouldn’t it be great to have your own virtual assistant? Well you can!! No, I don’t mean an assistant that shows up at your door Monday through Friday from 8 to 5. I’m talking about an assistant that is ready when you are, can do a lot or a little; an assistant that you keep in your back pocket for one off tasks or maybe a steady 2-3 hours a week to free you from pesky administrative chores.

No matter if you’re running the race in corporate America or forging your own path in entrepreneurship; a quality virtual assistant can be an economical and beneficial facet of your success. Sometimes, all you need is an Ah-Ha moment to get the wheels spinning…

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Let's Share...

 

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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.

17553-Time-Flies-Youre-The-Pilot

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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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Video and Audio editing and creation DON’T need to be a HEADACHE…

Back when I still had two real legs I did a great deal of audio transcription. Sometimes the audio would come in an MP3 file or a video and the client would want a Word file of the content. I found a terrific product called AVS4YOU. It has many great features that helped make processing audio and video so much faster and cleaner.

When I traveled the country on my motorcycle during the original B.R.O.A.D. (TM) journey I gave up transcription because honestly there isn’t much money in it and it was more equipment to tote around.

After I was hit and lost part of my leg, I began a video series of what life was like for me missing part of my leg. These videos were about showering, managing my living space to suit my needs, traveling with a wheelchair, trying to cook, and more. It was then that I needed to find a program that would help me put together quality videos in a user friendly manner. Again, I turned to AVS4YOU. The video series called, “Doing It With The B.R.O.A.D.” (TM) was a huge success and folks really appreciated the private understanding of what my life had become. I do not claim to be a guru at making videos, but thanks to AVS4YOU, they turned out pretty decent.

Now, a year has passed and a new video series is in the making. I am getting better and faster at managing AVS4YOU and creating the videos that will become “The Amp’d Rider Project”. This project, similar to the other project, is about sharing what life is like as an amputee but I’m taking it a step further and encompassing the love and passion I have for motorcycle riding. I am interviewing amp’d riders, professionals that modify motorcycles for amputees, and professionals that make it their careers to assist amputees medically and also with prosthetics.

And so I share with you these tidbits, but for this article I really want to share with you AVS4YOU because it is a wonderful cost effective tool for anybody that wishes to edit and create terrific videos and audio for any project you may have in mind.

Now, if you have an interest in the video series called, “Doing It With The B.R.O.A.D.” (TM), you can certainly find them on YouTube.

By the beginning of February 2015, “The Amp’d Rider Project” will begin on YouTube as well. In the meantime, you can see some of the one legged adventures…

 
 

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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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