Personally Virtual Blog

After the year we’ve had, we all deserve as stress-free an existence as possible – there’s enough drama going on in the real world, without drama in your working life too.  For this reason, it’s really important to work with people who can deliver the services that you require in a positive, effective and efficient way.

If you’ve been in business for a while, I’m sure that you’ve had experience of working with contractors, freelancers, or even employed members of staff who aren’t quite the best fit for your business.  It’s perhaps more noticeable in small businesses, where there are minimal staff to shoulder the workload, but it can be a challenge whatever industry you are in, and whatever you do.  Perhaps your colleague lacks confidence or knowledge when it comes to the skillset they need? If they’ve made it clear that they don’t have these skills, and are trying to learn them ‘on the job’ in line with your recommendations and approval, that’s not so much of a problem, but there are some  individuals out there who claim to have extensive skills in a particular area, but are unable to practically demonstrate these skills.  Perhaps your colleague has a different approach to communication than you and the rest of your team do, and comes across as abrupt or aggressive, or doesn’t seem to take their role seriously? When you spend day-in, day-out liaising with these colleagues, it’s not uncommon to have the odd personality clash, and in many cases these behavioural quirks are overshadowed by the positive skills and experience of those team members, but if they aren’t, it’s worth addressing them objectively (and following advice from a HR professional before you take any action, if appropriate) to try to improve the working environment for all members of staff.

When selecting in-house staff, interviews and probation periods prove invaluable when trying to establish whether a team member is going to be a good fit and successful plug the skills gap you specifically need assistance with.  The same is possible with freelancers and outsourced team members too.  Here at Personally Virtual, for example, I have grown a team of trusted business support professionals that I know can provide a high level of support and professionalism.  I have seen their references/testimonials, checked that they have the necessary insurances and systems in place to work safely and effectively, and have liaised with them all personally to ensure that they understand and share the same values that I do – to provide consistently high quality services in a professional, efficient and effective manner, despite working remotely from the wide range of businesses that we support, both large and small.  From experience, I strongly recommend that if you are considering outsourcing work to an external individual, that you make sure that you clearly identify the support that you need and the skillset that you expect before you advertise for a role, and don’t be afraid to ask potential candidates for references/testimonials and evidence of insurance and accreditation, etc. if appropriate (for example, Anti-Money Laundering or ICO registration).  It’s also worth talking with a potential candidate personally to find out more about whether they could be an appropriate fit for your existing team.  Another benefit of working with outsourced staff is that you can consider starting with a short-term contract (for example, a set number of hours or a month, etc.) as a 'trial period' before moving on to regular, retained support – why not speak to them about the way that they work and the contracts that they work to in order to find out what would work best for both you and them?

As I said, life is challenging enough without having to face additional stress in your work life too, so if you are considering bringing in a new member of staff – either in-house or outsourced – it’s worth carefully considering the skills, experience and characteristics that you are looking for so that you can find an effective, efficient and friendly individual to help you further develop and grow your business.


The birds are singing, the daffodils are waving in the breeze, the sun is shining (momentarily)… Spring is most definitely in the air! If you are feeling a spring in your step this March, perhaps it’s a good time for a Spring clean – not just for the house and/or garden, but for your business life too. Here are my top ‘Spring Clean Your Business’ tips:

1.)   Spring Clean your contacts list: Whether you’ve got email marketing software that holds contact details for your previous/existing customer and contacts, or you’ve simply got a spreadsheet or address book with contact details in it, it’s worth reviewing your list.  If you’re regularly emailing people, are there any ‘bounced’ emails? Has anyone unsubscribed from your list? Has anyone not opened anything from you for the last 6 years? Why not have a good clean up and focus on the people who really want to hear from you? Spam complaints and unopened messages can have an impact on your email engagement statistics and skew the results, so opt for a quality over quantity approach and clear out the contacts who have drifted away. It’s positive from a GDPR perspective too, as you’re not holding on to more personal data than you need to or continuing to market to people who don’t want to receive content from you anymore. Even if you’ve only got a spreadsheet, make sure it’s up to date and that you’re only holding on to information that is specifically required for each customer.

2.)   Spring Clean Your Office: Paperwork can build up over time (even when you try to be a ‘paper-free’ office!), as can expense receipts, invoices, discarded pens, etc. Why not take a couple of hours out this month to clear out your office and file anything that needs to be filed. It always feels much nicer sitting down to work in a clean, clear environment – even if it’s only a few days before the paper starts to mount up again.

3.)   Spring Clean Your Task List: Time to refresh the daily to do list! Why not make a note of the things that you’d really like to achieve this year, not just the things you need to do, and include them all in your daily/weekly/monthly to-do list so that you can make these wish-list items a reality? In addition, why not consider the possibility of outsourcing some of your recurring, long outstanding or unloved tasks to someone who actually likes them? There are so many business support professionals out there who could help (including us!), and could help you free up some valuable hours in your working month for either the tasks that only you can do OR something from your wish-list.

4.)   Spring Clean Your Goals: Have you got professional or personal development goals? If you regularly review your business, you may have quarterly, bi-annual or yearly goals that you set, but things can (and do!) change so quickly at the moment that it’s important to ensure they are still appropriate for you. Don’t forget to ensure that your goals are SMART – that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely – so that you can maintain focus and successfully work towards achieving these goals over the coming months.  If they aren’t SMART, you’ll be setting generic, pie-in-the-sky goals that may or may not ever happen, making it difficult to keep motivation levels up and feel positive about making personal and professional progressions.

Will you be having a business Spring Clean this March? If you would like to refresh your business goals or outsource tasks, etc., don’t forget that we’re here to help you, this Spring and beyond! Get in touch today – telephone: +44 7805 390651 or email: Kathy@personallyvirtual.co.uk

 

 

Working from the dining room table on a wooden dining chair? Sat for long periods of time at a low desk that you have to hunch over? Even if you’ve been working from home for a long period of time, there’s a possibility that your existing office set up isn’t hugely beneficial to your posture and overall wellbeing. For many, supportive office chairs, ergonomic keyboards, foot supports and screens at an appropriate height are a luxury and not a priority – it’s the billable hours that are most important, right? I’m afraid not.  Long periods of time sat in an uncomfortable and unsupported position can result in long term pain and discomfort, which in turn can hamper your productivity.

Don’t worry though, there are simple things that you can do to make your office a healthy and happy space:

Invest in a supportive office chair that provides adequate support for your lower back – this is an absolute must! Yes, a stool or dining chair may be convenient (and cheap), but if you work from home long-term, a good quality, supportive office chair is an important investment.  The Evening Standard recently wrote an article on affordable, quality office chairs - you can find it here if you’d like to learn more: https://www.standard.co.uk/shopping/esbest/home-garden/best-ergonomic-office-chairs-home-a4469786.html 

Raise your screen to eye level – looking down (or up!) at your computer screen can cause neck and back discomfort.  If you can invest in a large screen for your computer, I would strongly recommend it to ensure that both your eyes and neck aren’t overly strained by looking down at a small laptop.  Alternatively, why not raise your screen up on a box or specialist stand? If you’ve got a laptop, you can purchase separate keyboards that you can keep at desk level to help ensure that you aren’t over stretching your arms by raising your machine!

Don’t over reach for your keyboard, mouse, phone, etc. – keep everything close and in front of you! Twisting and over-reaching for long periods of time can cause pain and discomfort. Keep your keyboard in front of you and your mouse close to tackle this.

Try anti-glare glasses – if you are on your computer, or looking at screens for long periods of time throughout the day, why not consider some anti-glare and blue-light blocking glasses (or lenses, if you are already a glasses wearer)? This can help reduce eye strain and help to tackle the negative impact of blue-light on your brain, which can interfere with sleep[1] and have an impact on your mental wellbeing.

Take regular breaks – 5 minutes break in every hour is an absolute must if you have a sedentary job.  Yes, if you’re in the flow of work, it may feel like an unwelcome distraction, but it’s really important when it comes to your physical and mental wellbeing.  In addition to this, make sure that you take a lunch break, and if you can, go for a short walk too. It’s essential to keep moving throughout the day to reduce the negative impact that long periods of sitting down can have on the body.

I recently purchased a sit/stand desk and I can't tell you how much difference it's made - not only to my back but also my energy levels. 

The NHS website has some further useful tips – you can find them here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-sit-correctly/

If you’ve got a few minutes to spare today, why not take a look at your desk set up and see what can be done to help make it a healthier and happier space for you.

 


11th January, 2021

I don’t know about you, but 2021 has had its ups and downs already! With lockdown 3.0 in force, the usual January ‘New Year, New You’ clamour to be more successful AND productive AND organised, and customers returning to work after the festive break, there’s quite a bit going on!  Generally, the thought of a fresh planner and a quarterly planning session is something to be enjoyed, but this year – with regulations seemingly changing every three and a half minutes – it is difficult to raise those excitement levels at the thought of getting prepared! So I’ve pulled together some ideas to help you focus and work productively, but in a way that acknowledges that madness of the moment!

1. Be kind to yourself – The last thing you need on top of external stresses is the guilt of not working hard enough or achieving enough. Productivity guilt is a real issue, arising when “we link our behaviour, our performance, our productivity, with our self-worth,” according to Julie de Azevedo Hanks, Ph.D, LCSW. When feelings of guilt slip into your thoughts, take a step back; focus on the things you have achieved and take a few moments to do something for you – a quick walk in the fresh air, a cup of coffee and a biscuit… Try to acknowledge that these feelings aren’t helpful at increasing productivity or efficiency, and that the only way that will really happen is if you feel positive and motivated enough to achieve.  For more information about tackling productivity guild, visit the Psych Central link below.

2. Be realistic about what can be achieved on a daily/weekly basis – Who hasn’t got a to-do list that’s at least 50 items long at the moment? The point is, even if your list of tasks is as long as your desk, it’s important to note that there are only so many things you can physically complete in a day. In addition to this, there’s always the odd urgent task that sneaks in via your emails, or a task that takes longer than you anticipated to carry out. As a result, try and factor in some time every day that doesn’t have a specific task associated with it – some ‘just in case’ time! Even If you don’t need it for today’s work, there is something magical about completing tasks that were on your list for tomorrow, so treat yourself to the satisfaction of getting ahead!

3. Have a business task ‘wishlist’ – During the last lockdown, I had a jar full of ‘wishlist’ items; some important business tasks, some household related, and some self-care related.  Whenever I had a gap in my schedule, I pulled out one of these tasks (each individually written on a strip of paper), and set about completing whatever was on the paper.  These were all short tasks that would take no more than 60 minutes to complete, but helped to keep my motivation levels up, as I never knew whether I was going to get a treat or end up filing for an hour!

4. Keep on top of the important stuff – invoicing, paying bills, keeping your financial records up to date, re-registering with the ICO and checking your insurance is up to date, etc. These are the important things that keep our businesses running. It’s easy to lose motivation and focus sometimes, and let these slide a little, but it’s so important to set aside time for these so that you’re not suddenly hit with an unexpected bill, or have to rush to complete your self assessment. No one needs additional stress at the moment, so why not try the little and often approach? It could help to manage your stress levels over the coming months.

5.   Lean on your support network – if not for work, then for a brief check-in. If you’ve got colleagues or friends working remotely, why not book in for a 15 minute check in chat (or a virtual coffee if you’ve got a little more time to spare)? We all have wobbly moments, and that’s perfectly understandable, so keeping the lines of communication open can help to share the burden. A problem shared is a problem halved, and all that!

Take care and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to over-achieve this month. These are challenging times, and the odd not-quite-so productive day is understandable!

source: https://psychcentral.com/blog/reducing-your-guilt-about-not-being-productive


Yes, January the 1st is always a little bit of an anti-climax, but if you’ve managed to have a few days off over the festive period, at least you can come back to work with some renewed vigour, passion and focus! So if you’ve got a few days free over the festive period (or at the beginning of the new year), why not embrace the whole ‘New Year, New You!’ cliché and, as you are sipping on a spinach smoothie and limbering up for your first post-Christmas work out, start some business planning to make sure that 2021 is as productive and successful as possible!

Why not start with a financial review (yes, it’s always the fun stuff first!)? Are your books up together for the end of the 2020/21 financial year? Have you collated and reviewed all of your allowable expenses for the year to date? And how has your business fared financially through this challenging year?

If it has been an extremely financially challenging year for you, is it time to pivot? And by that, I mean either add some new products/services to your business, consider a change of direction and/or add some passive income streams to your business.  Offering a wider variety of services, based on what you found that people wanted most during the lockdowns this year, could be a good option to ensure that your business is robust enough to remain competitive.  In addition, opening a shop or embracing passive income via affiliate marketing schemes could be a way to bring in extra income with minimal effort from you (and either little or no financial outlay).

Once you’ve reviewed your finances and the products/services you offer, it’s time to ask yourself: “Are my skills up to date?” In an increasingly competitive market, it’s essential that we stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons, so it’s worth investing a little time and effort into making sure our skills (specifically relating to the products and services that we provide) are up to date.  It seems that every time I login to a software package that I’m familiar with, something on the platform has changed, so ensuring that you’re aware of the latest developments and functionality of the tool is important!

If you’ve got time, a quick review of your marketing materials is always beneficial! Does everything reflect your professional and business identity? Does it address the unique concerns and issues faced by your target audience? Does the branding ‘fit in’ with the look and feel of your website and social pages? If not, why not spend a couple of hours pulling together some new imagery using a tool like Canva - https://www.canva.com – or re-writing some of your sales/marketing content to ensure that it reflects what your business is all about? It’s better than pulling in the wrong customers – or none at all if they are confused about who you are and what you offer!

And finally – a question that’s on everyone’s mind at the beginning of the year: What do I want to achieve this year? If you’ve got some specific business goals (writing a book, completing a course, growing your team, etc.), why not write them down and map out a basic plan of action for how to achieve them? If you want to write a book, make sure you’ve got enough time set aside for you to do this. If you want to complete a course, why not contact the training provider now and find out what the course involves, how much it is, and how frequently it runs so that you can build it into your yearly plan.  Whatever you want to achieve, there’s a real chance you could achieve it in 2021 IF you’ve outlined the all-important ‘How do I get there?’ details.

Wishing you all a restful and enjoyable Christmas and New Year!

 

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