Did you know that procrastination is a valid, effective productivity tool?

I can tell this story now because it’s history. I had a client several years ago who would send an email outlining a task to be done. He would then send another email an hour or so later with updated requirements, changes, etc.

By day’s end, there’d be another email with more changes.

The next morning, there’d be a final email saying, “never mind, I’ve taken care of it.”.

Can you guess when I attacked the task? I was on a retainer, so it didn’t matter pay wise.

It this particular case, I knew the client well enough that I could tell which projects would follow this path. So, I’d likely not read any further emails until the next morning. If there was no stop-order, then I would read through the thread, and use the specifications to do the assigned task.

I’m told contractors try to do something similar for related reasons. It’s expensive, and more importantly, highly time-consuming,  to do a construction project according to client specs only to have a change order come in that requires undoing a lot of work and redoing it to the new specs. So, contractors try to schedule these kinds of projects as late in the process as possible balancing the likelihood of change orders and the necessary time needed to actually complete the task.

Procrastination becomes a time management tool when it eliminates repetition, the undoing of work in order to upgrade or otherwise makes it faster and easier to do the task. It’s not about waiting until the last minute, it’s the art of doing the work at the right time.

What do I do?


My friend, Chris Pagli over at Above and Beyond Marketing Strategies (I hope you’re following his “Marketing Gold Mondays” podcasts on Facebook) recently suggested that I should write about the questions people ask me.

That seems still to be, “What do you do?” The first thing I have to think is that I’m not really being clear about that. So, let’s see what I can do about that.

The single most important thing I do is build a bigger, badder toolbox. Why? The more tools I have, the more things I can help you with.

That’s because, I don’t sell a package. I custom design an experience for you. Your needs are not the same as my other clients. I sit down with you and try to listen to what’s holding you back, what’s keeping you up at night, as it were, what are your frustrations and concerns.

The number one concern that almost no one ever articulates is the fear of letting go of things I’ve been doing. Fair enough. That’s just another reason why I want to meet with you so that perhaps I can win your trust enough to give me a shot at what you need done. I’ll even propose strategies that keep you pretty much hands on early on through approval of my work every step of the way until you feel comfortable that I know what I’m doing and you can let go, even just a little bit more.

Once I discover what you really need, what’s making you crazy at your business, we work together to create a strategy. I may do things like:

  • Start taking care of your website for you
  • Make sure the content you’re writing gets out where you want it.
  • Help organize a direct mail campaign for you
  • Help organize an email campaign for you
  • Create some graphics with captions for your social media.
  • Do some basic editing of an image for you
  • Get some data into some database.
  • Send out your invoices

Or we may come up with other things. For example, in the list above, I suggested, “create some graphics with captions for your social media. I never would have thought of listing that as a service until one of my clients asked me to do just that very thing.

What do I do? I do the work you hate so you can do the job you love. I want to help you with your business so you can realize your goals and achieve your dreams.

What do you hate to do?

Okay, so it’s way past time to break my blogging silence, and I want to do that by asking a question. It’s actually the core question of what I do.

“What’s blocking you from being productive – from focusing on the money making activities of your business?”

On Alignable, someone asked a similar question, “What business tasks do you put off doing?” It wasn’t a hot question as only a couple of people responded. One person said, “Marketing,” and the other response was basically, “bookkeeping”.

My answer is really similar to the one businessperson who answered, “marketing” because he indicated that he’ll market all day long for his clients, but he never gets around to taking care if his own marketing! That’s me with marketing and the general business paperwork. I have a client who sometimes has me create a meme for his podcast. I listen to the podcast looking for a good quote and then use that to create a meme – a graphic with an appropriate, hopefully either compelling or humorous relevant image (or both) and the quote as a caption. Spend much time on Facebook? You’ve seen memes.

I could be creating quick and easy memes for myself. The latest fad of sayings and pithy quotes on a colored background can be created in just a minute or so in Word or PowerPoint and then sent up to my social media channels.

Are you like that, do you have things that need to get done? Are you feeling the pressure to up your game, but feel bogged down by these detestable chores that lurk in your to do list? Do tell!

Six Uses for Mail Merge

Six Uses for Mail Merge

Pretty much anyone who is more than just an occasional casual user of Microsoft Word knows at least that something called “Mail Merge” exists. For those who aren’t quite sure how it works, the feature allows you to customize form letters by inserting fields for things like the recipients address, a salutation and perhaps some piece of data unique to that person.

One example of this that I use is to send out acknowledgement letters for donations received by a client who does fund raising. Aside from the usual parts of the letter to be customized, the letter includes the amount of the gift received. It could be anything, though that you might want to insert into each person’s letter but is unique to each person. You might be sending out appointment reminders and want to include the appointment data in the reminder for each person without having to manually edit each letter.

But, there are other used for Mail Merge. Here are some I have done or at least considered:

  1. Labels for displays. For one client, I was given a spreadsheet of plants and their Latin names to be printed on 4 x 6 index cards for a garden party. This was a perfect job for a mail merge. I just had to set up the proper template in Word and insert the fields, format the text and run the merge.
  2. Name Tags for an event. Like the plant labels, name tags are easily done. If you were a member of a networking meeting or holding a big business networking event, you could add things to the name such as the business and the city the person is from. Your logo can be included, and with a little more effort, you could actually include the guest’s business logo or photo.
  3. Speaking of photos, you could also create a temporary ID card/pass for a group of people.
  4. Want to make a directory of employees for your business, members of your club etc. to hand out? Mail merge can handle this easily. There are functions built in to print multiple records on one page, and with some study and effort, you can even get it to put dividers between groups of names when the first letter of the last name changes.
  5. Of course there are mailing labels and envelopes.
  6. I used a mail merge to create a standard monthly report. As it happens the data could be exported from a database and then I could add some formulas to do the necessary analysis, call up the Word file with the standard report and run the mail merge and all the data went into place all properly formatted, calculations done and pretty much ready to go.

So, what are your mail merge ideas? I know there are lots more than I’ve come up with here. It’s one of those tools that have more uses than I can think of on the fly, but, sometimes a situation comes up where I realize that it’s a tool I could use.

Why you might not always DIY

Person under car doing oil change
Courtesy Robert Couse-Baker CC by 2.0


What do you value most in hiring outside help?

For some, the biggest value is having someone take on a part of a project that they just don’t have the skill for on their own. Adding a page to a web site would be an example.

For others, the biggest benefit might be having the task done by someone who is more skilled at it and can do it more quickly. A lot of us know how to change the oil in our car. It’s generally quite easy. But, it’s inconvenient and there are other things we’d rather be doing. So, even though it can take nearly as long to stop in and get it done, even if it’s a stop while doing other errands, it’s a lot easier just to pay them to do it as it is to do it yourself. Social media can be that way. It’s so distracting for a lot of us. Sure, it’s easy to post on our three or four main channels, but it’s hard to get in there and do that and get out and get back to other things.

How about doing the work you went into business to do? How frustrating is it to find yourself having to do a bunch of things you really didn’t sign on for? I know of one person who told me he’s no longer working for himself because he never got around to invoicing his clients. He had the potential of being a highly paid consultant. Imagine if he hired someone just to print and mail invoices!

The great thing about the freelance economy is that these problems and many others can be so easily taken care of with the appropriate person. Just think, your one person operation could have a staff photographer, an IT department and a graphic arts studio available whenever your project needed one and, here’s the kicker, at no cost to you when you don’t.

What’s on your plate, keeping you from moving forward?

Delegating for Success

Delegating word cloud on tablet

Nice job! You’ve built your business up from nothing, perhaps even with little or no capital to do it. You have networked, advertised, met with clients, provided services and gone the extra mile. Impressive. You’ve got tremendous passion for your business.

But, now you’re maxed out. You want to do more. There’s a lucrative project sitting out there just calling out for you. But, you don’t have time. You’re marketing, networking, producing, meeting, invoicing, blogging, working social media – in short you’ve got your business plans and you’ve got your administrative overhead bogging you down.

You’re on the cusp of potential new business growth. You’re ready to enter the next phase of your business where you begin to develop it in new ways. This means possibly finding a bigger place, searching for quality employees, developing documented procedures, methods and policies, and, delegating.

Harvard Business Review asked some time ago, Why aren’t you Delegating? If you’re a freelancer or a “solopreneur” you may think the author is talking about bigger businesses than yours. She refers to people who have subordinates, for example.

But, not all delegating has to be internal. You probably already do some and don’t really see it as such. Unless, of course you’re doing your own taxes. In today’s freelancing market economy, so many things can be delegated on an as-needed basis.

As the blog suggested, become aware of the things you’re doing that other people could do for you. Ask yourself why you’re still doing them, especially if these tasks keep you from producing more revenue. Would you benefit more from preparing and sending invoices or from actually serving another paying client?

As one business owner pointed out to me recently, “I’ve built this up myself. I’m invested in it. It’s just difficult to pass these tasks on to other people.” I get that. I really do. I also wonder how he’s going to continue to expand his business.

Are you looking for an assistant, or a file clerk?


If all you need is a file clerk, I’m probably not the person you’re looking for to be a part of your business.

Yes, as a virtual assistant, I can help you with your filing. I can cover your phones for you for a couple of hours. I can help manage your emails. I can do a lot of things you might need.

I can also manage your Word Press site, your social media sites, assist with a lot of the technical aspects of your email or direct marketing campaigns, get you set up to do some e-commerce with your web site and provide a lot of other services.

What sets me apart from the file clerk? First, I don’t want to pick on file clerks. You indeed may need one and benefit from one. Look at it this way. I go to my mechanic when I need my car repaired. I don’t go there to get my oil changed because there are companies who have developed efficient procedures that allow them to do the same quality job for less and I find I get the service I expect.

So, a file clerk may be just exactly what you need.

But, do you only need to get a task done, really? Or do you really need someone who wants to help you execute your business plans so that you can achieve your goals and realize your dreams?

Do you want someone whose main focus is getting a specific task done and getting paid, or someone who values not only you as an entrepreneur, but also, your business, who shares your drive for success and achievement, and whose definition of success is directly linked to your success?

The one of the key values of any virtual assistant is rooted precisely in that person’s ability to be a well rounded assistant for you, in serving you by taking a lot of the administrative overhead off of your shoulders enabling you to focus on the core issues surrounding the growth and prosperity of your business.

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Photo Credit: Courtesy Alachua County via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Why You Should Write Your Own Content


As a virtual assistant, I offer as one of my services the task of posting your social media content. Why do I not write copy? Why do I not offer to write your posts for you?

Social media is just that – social. Even as a busy small business owner, you need to be in some direct contact with your clients through social media. It’s important that they get to know you as a person, and not just as a source for services or a product. That’s the whole point of social media marketing. You’re in a conversation with the world. It’s your story that needs telling.

Ever notice how autobiographies tend to have a certain special appeal? You’re hearing about interesting people in their own voices, getting their personal perspectives and hearing it in their own words.

The same holds for your blogs, Facebook posts, tweets and other forms. Your clients need to hear from you. They don’t really want to hear from your ghost writer because when you have someone else writing your content, the personal touch necessarily gets lost. It takes a skilled professional in their own right to really be able to take the time to read a lot of what you’ve written, get a sense of how you express yourself, what your values are, what your style is and then mimic it.

In the end, I think Chris Pagli sums it up in his post, How “Social” Is Your Social Media Strategy?

What we post online is out there for the world to see. Isn’t that the point? Have we created another mask for people to hide behind? Are you truly bringing your authentic self to your”strategy and posts? If we took away the device would you be the person you claim to be online?

If you’re not writing your own content, how can you be the person on line you are in real life?

A Heartfelt Thank You

American Flag to thank Veterans

I really want to pause, having just celebrated Veteran’s Day, and publicly acknowledge our veterans of all the wars who have fought to make America what it is – the land of the free.

We hear a lot about current unrest; many refusing to stand and salute the flag during the singing of the National Anthem, the poor care many of our veterans get in the VA system; protests. In all the clamor of this time, I simply wish to join my voice with so many I’ve seen and heard around me in gratitude that we are a nation that can withstand these trials because of your strength, your courage, your selfless service to our nation.

God bless each and every one of you. And God bless America.

Boosting Productivity

Boosting Productivity

photo courtesy of SNP | Katy Cain CC BY 2.0
photo courtesy of SNP | Katy Cain CC BY 2.0

In my last post, you read about how Virtual Assistants can turn some of your administrative overhead into revenue productions. Now, let’s consider another dynamic.

As a mason’s tender, I picked up a couple of skills. Nothing terribly exciting or technical, but, important nevertheless. I learned to rake joints and to tuck-point. It’s easy work, but demands some attention to detail because the goal was to make the joints between the bricks look as good as possible by smoothing them out and by filling in any holes that may have been created. Tuck-pointing is also used as a technique as part of repairing old mortar joints that may be weathering to prevent more damage.

This meant the mason could focus on the more advanced technical details of the construction, installing trim around windows, doing the fancy brick-work, or just making time by getting a lot of bricks laid. It also meant I was more busy, and, more importantly, of more value.

Every skilled job has its own “grunt work”, if you will. Web designers have to move or insert content, something that a less highly skilled but still knowledgeable assistant could do at a lower cost while the web designer worked on the more involved details of developing a site, or on getting the next site started. Social media marketers may also be responsible for posting the content they create. While there are great efficiencies for this, sometimes it may be worth their while to have someone else take this on while they focus on the more demanding role of strategizing and good content creation. Writers always could use a hand proofreading and maybe even a second set of eyes to get feedback on how the text flows.

“But,” you’re thinking, “I’m far too small to hire someone to take this on. I’m just not at that level of production where this is always a problem for me.”

That’s probably true, or you’d be hiring a full time or part time assistant. Still, what about that one time you’re working on those kinds of details and a nice lucrative project comes your way you’d like to grab onto, but can’t because you really need to get these “punch list” items taken care of on the projects you’re wrapping up?

Virtual Assistants pay off well here. We’re available for a one –hour knock-off gig, or for several days of helping with a project. There’s no need to find work for us; that’s our concern. As a small business owner, you may not even have the space to provide for an in-house assistant. Virtual Assistants provide our own space and our own equipment to work with in most cases.

So, if you need to get an email newsletter laid out and sent to your mailing list, push the newsletter through social media and put the final touches on a direct mail campaign to send it to a mail house for processing, there’s help with that. If you need someone to handle the technical aspects of getting your blog onto your website, content onto a client’s website, your posts and tweets onto social media or your invoices in the mail this week, because you’ve got another new, exciting project you’d like to take on, give your friendly, neighborhood Virtual Assistant a call.

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