Personally Virtual Blog

19th January, 2018

It sounds painful, but I can assure you that self-development is an incredibly worthwhile exercise.  It’s all too easy to fall into a familiar routine of household chores and day-to-day work, sitting down every evening to watch the same television programmes before going to bed and starting the entire process again, day in, day out...  A mental or physical challenge to learn a new skill (or improve on an existing hobby) can draw you out of this monotonous state and give your personal and professional life a boost, though I know that can seem like a far-fetched idea on a cold, grey January day, when all of the motivation and inspiration that swept you in to 2018 like some kind of productivity god appears to have vapourised.

Learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby – regardless of whether it is a physical activity or a more sedate occupation – has been found to improve both psychological and physiological wellbeing.  A 2013 article in the Washington Poststated that “research has shown that people who have hobbies are generally healthier, and have a lower risk of depression and dementia[1].  Last year I had a go at both painting and paddleboarding (with dog!) and those times really were the most relaxed I felt at any point in the year – even with the likely risks of falling into cold water or creating something that looked more like a 3-year old’s finger painting effort than a Monet.  

Learning new skills can help to keep your brain active and, if engaged in a team sport or if you are learning in a classroom setting, the social benefits of getting out and about and interacting with different people can also prove to be a rewarding experience, particularly for remote, lone-workers like small business owners and self-employed individuals, who can potentially go for weeks without having meaningful face-to-face interaction with anyone! Trust me, it can happen!

Admittedly, making time for a new hobby or course can be a difficult process in itself! If you’re already busy at work or have a million and one things to do at home every day, it’s difficult to justify spending an hour or two a week on what could be perceived to be a ‘frivolous’ activity.  But self-development isn’t a purely selfish act – with the health benefits associated with hobbies, it’s an investment in your own future, and an aid to relieve stress that could otherwise manifest itself in other aspects of your personal or working life.  Upskilling via an online or open course, or even the odd webinar, will also help to benefit your clients in the long term; you may be able to offer them an additional service, or have greater knowledge in an area that you already work in. So, block out a regular slot in your diary for self-development, and treat it as a business necessity, just like invoicing and marketing, to ensure that your business remains competitive and sustainable.  There’s never been a better time to start.


19th January, 2018

The majority of people I know adore learning, and soak up new information like over-enthusiastic sponges at every given opportunity, poring over books and podcasts, signing up for obscure lectures and classes, and visiting museums with much enthusiasm to look at dusty artefacts in glass cases.  Other people claim to hate it, reminded too much of school days and reciting irrelevant facts and figures that are of little use in real life (for example, the highly useful German phrase “gemischte gesamtschule” meaning “mixed comprehensive school”).

Learning doesn’t have to be in a traditional classroom setting anymore, with full time, long term courses carried out over a number of months or years.  In today’s digital age, more and more academic institutions and professional bodies are making learning accessible on the go via distance or online learning courses, eBooks and podcasts.

If you want to learn a new skill, but feel as though you are time poor already and can’t justify dedicating a few hours a week to sit down and access written learning material, why not consider listening to educational material on a topic of your choice whilst you are carrying out another activity? Need to walk the dog? Half an hour listening to an Audible audiobook (there are over 200,000 titles available – see the website: https://www.audible.co.uk/ ) could help you use your time more productively, meaning that you are learning about a new subject without having to make additional time available in your busy schedule.

Business related Podcasts are another great way to keep up to date with the latest developments in your field without having to take extra time out of your working day; listening to a podcast whilst driving, cleaning or walking can help to boost your working efficiency during periods when you might have felt that time was otherwise ‘wasted’ doing practical (read: essential) activities that you wouldn’t be able to charge a customer for!  If you need a little help finding a business related podcast, why not start by taking a look at a list of recommended podcasts compiled by Forbes – you can find it here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2017/10/11/10-business-podcasts-every-entrepreneur-should-be-tuning-into/#140f47835c5a

Just because you don’t have a spare year available to sign up for a full-time course right now, it doesn’t mean that learning has to be put on hold.  Self-development and education – both for professional skills and personal satisfaction – can easily be shoe-horned into the tiniest of available spaces.  And the great thing is, with so much choice out there, you don’t have to learn pointless facts and useless statistics unless you really want too.

I’m just going to leave you with one more German thought for the day.

Der Krankenwagen ist kaput. The Ambulance is broken.

Happy Learning!


26th November, 2017

As you may have guessed, things are pretty busy at the North Pole at this time of year.  From November onwards, Santa’s diary is rammed with personal appearances and I’m left to single-handedly manage the day-to-day running of the toy workshop in the jolly man’s absence whilst the elves focus on the all-important toy manufacturing process and general reindeer welfare duties.

Don’t get me wrong, things have improved vastly since I started 5 years ago.  For a start, we’ve put the ‘naughty and nice’ list into a new CRM – a move away from the traditional parchment rolls (which took up loads of archive space and were a massive fire hazard).  It was a huge undertaking, but has saved us so much time and paper and really helps if we ever need to locate a child and review their gift history and property details quickly and simply (i.e. does the house have a chimney entrance or is a front door master key required? etc.).

So, what am I up to at the moment whilst Father Christmas is out of town on site visits? My primary concern is his travel and accommodation; As the reindeer are still North Pole-based and following a strict nutrition plan and exercise regime to ensure that they are in peak physical condition for December 24th, we’re having to rely on more mainstream travel methods like Rail and Uber.  Unfortunately, as you well know, these forms of transport are subject to occasional delays and cancellations, so I’ve always got Santa’s travel itinerary up on my computer with live tracking enabled so that I can keep event organisers aware of his ETA.  We’re also trialling a new app that photographs receipts for food, accommodation, etc. that Santa has put on the business credit card too, to try and get ahead of the game a little for his 2017/18 tax return.  To be honest, anything we can do now to save some time in 2018 is going to be very warmly received as we, like you, have to get to grips with GDPR early next year.  Thankfully, some of the elves have been undertaking some GDPR courses too so that we can all work together to ensure compliance.

Thankfully, I’ve got a week off from the 25th December, so I do have something to look forward to despite the long days and heavy workload.  3 of the elves and I have decided to fly to Sydney for a new year in the sunshine, which I am absolutely thrilled about! I mean, I love snow – who doesn’t? But it is SO hard to type with thermal gloves on!

Anyway, better get back to work, we’ve got another load of post due at any moment that I’ve got to scan into the CRM and respond to, such fun!

Merry Christmas everyone!


26th November, 2017

As the festive holidays approach, how is business for you? After a long and hectic year, it’s understandable that energy levels and efficient and productive working habits can wane, but if you can keep the momentum going for even just a few more days, 2018 could definitely start on a positive footing for you! Let me explain…

I have the pleasure of knowing a gentleman from a networking event who has developed an idea he refers to as ‘The Leverton Fast Start’.  This phrase calls for an individual, team or business to make December all about getting a good start to January on the basis that starting a new (or financial) year in a good way, is likely to motivate and energise you for the rest of the year. 

December is a challenging month for many B2B businesses as companies wind down, go off on jollies and generally lose interest in buying anything other than mince pies. In the meantime, most companies have targets to hit by the end of the year, making December a frantic month to try and sell at the same time as no one is really interested in buying! In your year plan, mentally write December off for new business conversations and instead, make your December focus all about getting meetings in for the New Year.

As you know, returning to work in January after a week or so off isn’t always an incredibly exciting and productive affair.  For a start, many of us have probably consumed our weight in mince pies, sausages wrapped in bacon and ‘Christmas tipples’, not to mention eating turkey in every conceivable form. January also isn’t traditionally associated with tropical weather that has you bursting out of bed every morning and throwing the windows open to greet the sunshine.  In fact, January can be a bit of an anti-climax, making it difficult to get back in ‘the zone’ when it comes to work.  However, if your diary is already full of meetings, it definitely is slightly easier to get back on the horse! Having definite events to focus on and plan for can help to motivate you, and help you to hit 2018 running and work coming in the door. For those who decide to temporarily put off scheduling appointments and events until after the festive season, the start to 2018 can definitely be a lot slower; clients and contacts may still be on leave until the middle of January, and you could find that your diary only starts filling up from February onwards.  That makes January a looooooooong month with potentially few new conversations.

So, if you are tempted to slow down this December, why not try and keep pushing through for a little bit longer so that you can start January ahead of the game? We’re definitely embracing the ‘Leverton Fast Start’ here at Personally Virtual, and are looking forward to leaping into January with fireworks, bells and whistles and as much excitement and momentum as we can muster – wish us luck!


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