Sunday, April 29, 2007

IVAA Summit

I attended the IVAA Summit in beautiful San Francisco this past week. I love that the conference was in my neck of the woods! Kudos to the organizers. I was impressed with how professional the conference was. No glitches and everything ran smoothly. Heather Lee and Linda Selden did a fabulous job coordinating everything.

It’s always nice to get out of the office and spend some time learning from my peers who are experts in the field.

There was a great line up of speakers at the summit.

  • Elinor Stutz shared tips on creating a Smooth Sale
  • Robert Brenner shared some eye opening statistics about VA pricing.
  • Kathy Mandy shared some heartfelt stories of her real life experiences that made her the expert in preparing your business to survive and emergency.
  • Sue Kramer talked about what image you present to the world and reminded us that image is more than just what you wear.
  • Jill Lublin shared some insider secrets on getting publicity. I was lucky winner of her book Guerilla Publicity.
  • Barbie Dallman, VA turned Life Coach got us all relaxed by leading us through some guided imagery and then helped us to answer some pretty deep questions about where we are and where we want to be and what is holding us back.
  • Lauren Hidden reminded us of the importance of staying educated, taught us some networking tips and did a fabulous job inspiring us all (despite suffering from Laryngitis). Kudos to Lauren for still going through with her presentation!
  • And finally, Candy Beauchamp the new IVAA president shared with us the state of IVAA and talked about all the exciting new benefits to expect in the upcoming year.

Oh and the food was amazing! Loved that champagne vinaigrette salad dressing.

Thanks IVAA!


Reminder: Sharon Williams will be stopping by here on May 2nd for the
OIVAC blog hopping tour.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What are you thankful for?
Inspired by Yvonne Weld and her Top 10 List.

1. My Health! I am so thankful that I am fortunate enough to be healthy and pain free! This is something I have taken for granted before and am happy to have it back!

2. My Family! I love my kids, my partner and my extended family and don't know what I would do with out them!

3. My Friends! I am thankful for my lifelong friends, my new friends and my friends "in the box" who inspire me everyday!

4. My Business! I am thankful for my business that allows me to be home, to have a flexible schedule and to keep my priorities in order.

5. My Clients! I love my clients and am thankful for them! I work with the coolest people!

6. My House! I love my house and it's location.

7. The Internet! Without the internet I would not have a business or my friends in the box.

8. Wild Flowers and Sunny Days! These inspire me to get out of the house and exercise.

9. My Car! I am thankful that I have a car that is in great condition. Car problems really stress me out so I am happy that I have a reliable car.

10. My Dog! I can't forget about Poncho! He is the best dog in the world and brings a smile to my face every single day!



Like Yvonne, I am hoping to inspire you to take some time and blog about what you are thankful for. Tag you're it! Please post a link back to your blog here after you write your list.
Thank you!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Learn Faster, Deeper and Better

With the internet providing us unlimited information it can sometimes be overwhelming to absorb it all. I know many Virtual Assistants crave learning new things and sometimes find themselves on overload. Here are some fun suggestions to learning "faster, deeper and better".

I especially like number 73.

There are some pretty cool links to programs I didn't even know existed. Has anyone used Gliffy before? I don't actually have a need for that kind of work right now but that program looks so cool I might just create a need. LOL

Enjoy.


Hacking Knowledge: 77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper, and Better

knowledgeIf someone granted you one wish, what do you imagine you would want out of life that you haven't gotten yet? For many people, it would be self-improvement and knowledge. New knowledge is the backbone of society's progress. Great thinkers such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and others' quests for knowledge have led society to many of the marvels we enjoy today. Your quest for knowledge doesn't have to be as Earth-changing as Einstein's, but it can be an important part of your life, leading to a new job, better pay, a new hobby, or simply knowledge for knowledge's sake — whatever is important to you as an end goal.

Life-changing knowledge does typically require advanced learning techniques. In fact, it's been said that the average adult only uses 10% of his/her brain. Imagine what we may be capable of with more advanced learning techniques. Here are 77 tips related to knowledge and learning to help you on your quest. A few are specifically for students in traditional learning institutions; the rest for self-starters, or those learning on their own. Happy learning.

Health

  1. Shake a leg. Lack of blood flow is a common reason for lack of concentration. If you've been sitting in one place for awhile, bounce one of your legs for a minute or two. It gets your blood flowing and sharpens both concentration and recall.
  2. Food for thought: Eat breakfast. A lot of people skip breakfast, but creativity is often optimal in the early morning and it helps to have some protein in you to feed your brain. A lack of protein can actually cause headaches.
  3. Food for thought, part 2: Eat a light lunch. Heavy lunches have a tendency to make people drowsy. While you could turn this to your advantage by taking a "thinking nap" (see #23), most people haven't learned how.
  4. Cognitive enhancers: Ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo biloba is a natural supplement that has been used in China and other countries for centuries and has been reputed to reverse memory loss in rats. It's also suggested by some health practitioners as a nootrope and thus a memory enhancer.
  5. Reduce stress + depresssion. Stress and depression may reduce the ability to recall information and thus inhibit learning. Sometimes, all you need to reduce depression is more white light and fewer refined foods.

Balance

  1. Sleep on it. Dr. Maxwell Maltz wrote about in his book Psycho-Cybernetics about a man who was was paid good money to come up with ideas. He would lock his office door, close the blinds, turn off the lights. He'd focus on the problem at hand, then take a short nap on a couch. When he awoke, he usually had the problem solved.
  2. Take a break. Change phyical or mental perspective to lighten the invisible stress that can sometimes occur when you sit in one place too long, focused on learning. Taking a 5-15 minute break every hour during study sessions is more beneficial than non-stop study. It gives your mind time to relax and absorb information. If you want to get really serious with breaks, try a 20 minute ultradian break as part of every 90 minute cycle. This includes a nap break, which is for a different purpose than #23.
  3. Take a hike. Changing your perspective often relieves tension, thus freeing your creative mind. Taking a short walk around the neighborhood may help.
  4. Change your focus. Sometimes there simply isn't enough time to take a long break. If so, change subject focus. Alternate between technical and non-technical subjects.

Perspective and Focus

  1. Change your focus, part 2. There are three primary ways to learn: visual, kinesthetic, and auditory. If one isn't working for you, try another.
  2. Do walking meditation. If you're taking a hike (#25), go one step further and learn walking meditation as a way to tap into your inner resources and your strengthen your ability to focus. Just make sure you're not walking inadvertently into traffic.
  3. Focus and immerse yourself. Focus on whatever you're studying. Don't try to watch TV at the same time or worry yourself about other things. Anxiety does not make for absorption of information and ideas.
  4. Turn out the lights. This is a way to focus, if you are not into meditating. Sit in the dark, block out extraneous influences. This is ideal for learning kinesthetically, such as guitar chord changes.
  5. Take a bath or shower. Both activities loosen you up, making your mind more receptive to recognizing brilliant ideas.

Recall Techniques

  1. Listen to music. Researchers have long shown that certain types of music are a great "key" for recalling memories. Information learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled simply by "playing" the songs mentally.
  2. Speedread. Some people believe that speedreading causes you to miss vital information. The fact remains that efficient speedreading results in filtering out irrelevant information. If necessary, you can always read and re-read at slower speeds. Slow reading actually hinders the ability to absorb general ideas. (Although technical subjects often requirer slower reading.) If you're reading online, you can try the free Spreeder Web-based application.
  3. Use acronyms and other mnemonic devices. Mnemonics are essentially tricks for remembering information. Some tricks are so effective that proper application will let you recall loads of mundane information years later.

Visual Aids

  1. Every picture tells a story. Draw or sketch whatever it is you are trying to achieve. Having a concrete goal in mind helps you progress towards that goal.
  2. Brainmap it. Need to plan something? Brain maps, or mind maps, offer a compact way to get both an overview of a project as well as easily add details. With mind maps, you can see the relationships between disparate ideas and they can also act as a receptacle for a brainstorming session.
  3. Learn symbolism and semiotics. Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols. Having an understanding of the symbols of a particular discipline aids in learning, and also allows you to record information more efficiently.
  4. Use information design. When you record information that has an inherent structure, applying information design helps convey that information more clearly. A great resource is Information Aesthetics, which gives examples of information design and links to their sources.
  5. Use visual learning techniques. Try gliffy for structured diagrams. Also see Inspiration.com for an explanation of webs, idea maps, concept maps, and plots.
  6. Map your task flow. Learning often requires gaining knowledge in a specific sequence. Organizing your thoughts on what needs to be done is a powerful way to prepare yourself to complete tasks or learn new topics.

Verbal and Auditory Techniques

  1. Stimulate ideas. Play rhyming games, utter nonsense words. These loosen you up, making you more receptive to learning.
  2. Brainstorm. This is a time-honored technique that combines verbal activity, writing, and collaboration. (One person can brainstorm, but it's more effective in a group.) It's fruitful if you remember some simple rules: Firstly, don't shut anyone's idea out. Secondly, don't "edit" in progress; just record all ideas first, then dissect them later. Participating in brainstorming helps assess what you already know about something, and what you didn't know.
  3. Learn by osmosis. Got an iPod? Record a few of your own podcasts, upload them to your iPod and sleep on it. Literally. Put it under your pillow and playback language lessons or whatever.
  4. Cognitive enhancers: binaural beats. Binaural beats involve playing two close frequencies simultaneously to produce alpha, beta, delta, and theta waves, all of which produce either sleeping, restfulness, relaxation, meditativeness, alertness, or concentration. Binaural beats are used in conjunction with other excercises for a type of super-learning.
  5. Laugh. Laughing relaxes the body. A relaxed body is more receptive to new ideas.

Kinesthetic Techniques

  1. Write, don't type. While typing your notes into the computer is great for posterity, writing by hand stimulates ideas. The simple act of holding and using a pen or pencil massages acupuncture points in the hand, which in turn stimulates ideas.
  2. Carry a quality notebook at all times. Samuel Taylor Coleridge dreamed the words of the poem "In Xanadu (did Kubla Khan)...". Upon awakening, he wrote down what he could recall, but was distracted by a visitor and promptly forgot the rest of the poem. Forever. If you've been doing "walking meditation" or any kind of meditation or productive napping, ideas may suddenly come to you. Record them immediately.
  3. Keep a journal. This isn't exactly the same as a notebook. Journaling has to do with tracking experiences over time. If you add in visual details, charts, brainmaps, etc., you have a much more creative way to keep tabs on what you are learning.
  4. Organize. Use sticky colored tabs to divide up a notebook or journal. They are a great way to partition ideas for easy referral.
  5. Use post-it notes. Post-it notes provide a helpful way to record your thoughts about passages in books without defacing them with ink or pencil marks.

Self-Motivation Techniques

  1. Give yourself credit. Ideas are actually a dime a dozen. If you learn to focus your mind on what results you want to achieve, you'll recognize the good ideas. Your mind will become a filter for them, which will motivate you to learn more.
  2. Motivate yourself. Why do you want to learn something? What do want to achieve through learning? If you don't know why you want to learn, then distractions will be far more enticing.
  3. Set a goal. W. Clement Stone once said "Whatever the mind of man can conceive, it can achieve." It's an amazing phenomenon in goal achievement. Prepare yourself by whatever means necessary, and hurdles will seem surmountable. Anyone who has experienced this phenomenon understands its validity.
  4. Think positive. There's no point in setting learning goals for yourself if you don't have any faith in your ability to learn.
  5. Organize, part 2. Learning is only one facet of the average adult's daily life. You need to organize your time and tasks else you might find it difficult to fit time in for learning. Try Neptune for a browser-based application for "getting things done."
  6. Every skill is learned. With the exception of bodily functions, every skill in life is learned. Generally speaking, if one person can learn something, so can you. It may take you more effort, but if you've set a believable goal, it's likely an achievable goal.
  7. Prepare yourself for learning. Thinking positive isn't sufficient for successfully achieving goals. This is especially important if you are an adult, as you'll probably have many distractions surrounding your daily life. Implement ways to reduce distractions, at least for a few hours at a time, else learning will become a frustrating experience.
  8. Prepare yourself, part 2. Human nature is such that not everyone in your life will be a well-wisher in your self-improvement and learning plans. They may intentionally or subconsciously distract you from your goal. If you have classes to attend after work, make sure that work colleagues know this, that you are unable to work late. Diplomacy works best if you think your boss is intentionally giving you work on the days he/she knows you have to leave. Reschedule lectures to a later time slot if possible/ necessary.
  9. Constrain yourself. Most people need structure in their lives. Freedom is sometimes a scary thing. It's like chaos. But even chaos has order within. By constraining yourself — say giving yourself deadlines, limiting your time on an idea in some manner, or limiting the tools you are working with — you can often accomplish more in less time.

Supplemental Techniques

  1. Read as much as you can. How much more obvious can it get? Use Spreeder (#33) if you have to. Get a breadth of topics as well as depth.
  2. Cross-pollinate your interests. Neurons that connect to existing neurons give you new perspectives and abilities to use additional knowledge in new ways.
  3. Learn another language. New perspectives give you the ability to cross-pollinate cultural concepts and come up with new ideas. As well, sometimes reading a book in its original language will provide you with insights lost in translation.
  4. Learn how to learn. Management Help has a resource page, as does SIAST (Virtual Campus), which links to articles about learning methods. They are geared towards online learning, but no doubt you gain something from them for any type of learning. If you are serious about optimum learning, read Headrush's Crash course in learning theory.
  5. Learn what you know and what you don't. Many people might say, "I'm dumb," or "I don't know anything about that." The fact is, many people are wholly unaware of what they already know about a topic. If you want to learn about a topic, you need to determine what you already know, figure out what you don't know, and then learn the latter.
  6. Multi-task through background processes. Effective multi-tasking allows you to bootstrap limited time to accomplish several tasks. Learning can be bootstrapped through multi-tasking, too. By effective multitasking, I don't mean doing two or more things at exactly the same time. It's not possible. However, you can achieve the semblance of effective multitasking with the right approach, and by prepping your mind for it. For example, a successful freelance writer learns to manage several articles at the same time. Research the first essay, and then let the background processes of your mind takeover. Move on consciously to the second essay. While researching the second essay, the first one will often "write itself." Be prepared to record it when it "appears" to you.
  7. Think holistically. Holistic thinking might be the single most "advanced" learning technique that would help students. But it's a mindset rather than a single technique.
  8. Use the right type of repetition. Complex concepts often require revisting in order to be fully absorbed. Sometimes, for some people, it may actually take months or years. Repetition of concepts and theory with various concrete examples improves absorption and speeds up learning.
  9. Apply the Quantum Learning (QL) model. The Quantum Learning model is being applied in some US schools and goes beyond typical education methods to engage students.
  10. Get necessary tools. There are obviously all kinds of tools for learning. If you are learning online like a growing number of people these days, then consider your online tools. One of the best tools for online research is the Firefox web browser, which has loads of extensions (add-ons) with all manner of useful features. One is Googlepedia, which simultaneously displays Google search engine listings, when you search for a term, with related entries from Wikipedia.
  11. Get necessary tools, part 2. This is a very niche tip, but if you want to learn fast-track methods for building software, read Getting Real from 37 Signals. The Web page version is free. The techniques in the book have been used to create Basecamp, Campfire, and Backpack web applications in a short time frame. Each of these applications support collaboration and organization.
  12. Learn critical thinking. As Keegan-Michael Key's character on MadTV might say, critical thinking takes analysis to "a whole notha level". Read Wikipedia's discourse on critical thinking as a starting point. It involves good analytical skills to aid the ability to learn selectively.
  13. Learn complex problem solving. For most people, life is a series of problems to be solved. Learning is part of the process. If you have a complex problem, you need to learn the art of complex problem solving. [The latter page has some incredible visual information.]

For Teachers, Tutors, and Parents

  1. Be engaging. Lectures are one-sided and often counter-productive. Information merely heard or witnessed (from a chalkboard for instance) is often forgotten. Teaching is not simply talking. Talking isn't enough. Ask students questions, present scenarios, engage them.
  2. Use information pyramids. Learning happens in layers. Build base knowledge upon which you can add advanced concepts.
  3. Use video games. Video games get a bad rap because of certain violent games. But video games in general can often be an effective aid to learning.
  4. Role play. Younger people often learn better by being part of a learning experience. For example, history is easier to absorb through reenactments.
  5. Apply the 80/20 rule. This rule is often interpreted in dfferent ways. In this case, the 80/20 rule means that some concepts, say about 20% of a curriculum, require more effort and time, say about 80%, than others. So be prepared to expand on complex topics.
  6. Tell stories. Venus Flytrap, a character from the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, once taught a student gang member about atoms, electrons, and protons by saying that an atom was one big neighborhood, and the protons and neutrons had their own smaller neighborhoods and never mixed. Just like rival gangs. The story worked, and understanding sparked in the students eyes.
  7. Go beyond the public school curriculum. The public school system is woefully lacking in teaching advanced learning and brainstorming methods. It's not that the methods cannot be taught; they just aren't. To learn more, you have to pay a premium in additional time and effort, and sometimes money for commercially available learning tools. There's nothing wrong with that in itself, but what is taught in schools needs to be expanded. This article's author has proven that a nine-year old can learn (some) university level math, if the learning is approached correctly.
  8. Use applied learning. If a high school student were having trouble in math, say with fractions, one example of applied learning might be photography, lenses, f-stops, etc. Another example is cooking and measurement of ingredients. Tailor the applied learning to the interest of the student.

For Students and Self-Studiers

  1. Be engaged. Surprise. Sometimes students are bored because they know more than is being taught, maybe even more than a teacher. (Hopefully teachers will assess what each student already knows.) Students should discuss with a teacher if they feel that the material being covered is not challenging. Also consider asking for additional materials.
  2. Teach yourself. Teachers cannot always change their curricula. If you're not being challenged, challenge yourself. Some countries still apply country-wide exams for all students. If your lecturer didn't cover a topic, you should learn it on your own. Don't wait for someone to teach you. Lectures are most effective when you've pre-introduced yourself to concepts.
  3. Collaborate. If studying by yourself isn't working, maybe a study group will help.
  4. Do unto others: teach something. The best way to learn something better is to teach it to someone else. It forces you to learn, if you are motivated enough to share your knowledge.
  5. Write about it. An effective way to "teach" something is to create an FAQ or a wiki containing everything you know about a topic. Or blog about the topic. Doing so helps you to realize what you know and more importantly what you don't. You don't even have to spend money if you grab a freebie account with Typepad, Wordpress, or Blogger.
  6. Learn by experience. Pretty obvious, right? It means put in the necessary time. An expert is often defined as someone who has put in 10,000 hours into some experience or endeavor. That's approximately 5 years of 40 hours per week, every week. Are you an expert without realizing it? If you're not, do you have the dedication to be an expert?
  7. Quiz yourself. Testing what you've learned will reinforce the information. Flash cards are one of the best ways, and are not just for kids.
  8. Learn the right things first. Learn the basics. Case in point: a frustrating way to learn a new language is to learn grammar and spelling and sentence constructs first. This is not the way a baby learns a language, and there's no reason why an adult or young adult has to start differently, despite "expert" opinion. Try for yourself and see the difference.
  9. Plan your learning. If you have a long-term plan to learn something, then to quote Led Zeppelin, "There are two paths you can go by." You can take a haphazard approach to learning, or you can put in a bit of planning and find an optimum path. Plan your time and balance your learning and living.

Parting Advice

  1. Persist. Don't give up learning in the face of intimdating tasks. Anything one human being can learn, most others can as well. Wasn't it Einstein that said, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration"? Thomas Edison said it, too.
  2. Defy the experts. Dyslexia, in a nutshell, is the affliction of mentally jumbling letters and digits, causing difficulties in reading, writing and thus learning. Sometimes spoken words or numbers get mixed up as well. In the past, "experts" declared dyslexic children stupid. Later, they said they were incapable of learning. This author has interacted with and taught dyslexic teens. It's possible. Helen Keller had no experience of sight, sound, or speech, and yet she learned. Conclusion: There is more than one way to learn; never believe you cannot.
  3. Challenge yourself. People are often more intelligent than they realize. In a world that compartmentalizes and categorizes everything, not everyone is sure where they fit in. And genius can be found in many walks of life. If you honestly suspect that there's more to you than has been "allowed" to be let out, try an IQ test such as the one offered by MENSA. It's unlike the standardized IQ tests given in many schools. You know the kind — the ones which traumatize many young students into thinking they are stupid, simply because the tests don't really assess all student's knowledge and learning ability. And the ability to learn is far, far more important than what you already know.
  4. Party before an exam. Well, don't go that far. The key is to relax. The worse thing to do is cram the night before an exam. If you don't already know a subject by then, cramming isn't going to help. If you have studied, simply review the topic, then go do something pleasant (no more studying). Doing so tells your brain that you are prepared and that you will be able to recall anything that you have already learned. On the other hand, if you didn't spend the semester learning the ideas you need, you might as well go party anyways because cramming at the last minute isn't going to help much at that point.
  5. Don't worry; learn happy. Have a real passion for learning and want to share that? Join a group such as the Joyful Jubilant Learning community [via LifeHack].

Sources For This Article

This is only a partial list of sources, focusing only on Web sites. Many of the ideas presented above come from long years of experience, with information gleaned from dozens of books and tapes on learning and, more recently, Web sites. The Web sites below either present original articles related to the ideas above, or summaries of ideas with links to other Web sites. In the latter case, such Web sites have likely been linked above. Book sources have either been long forgotten or mentioned above.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Blog Craze

So… I’ve jumped in to the blog craze (thanks to Laurie gently pushing me, well gently probably isn't exactly the best word) and the VA blog tour. Those of you who know me know that I don’t like to miss out on anything… so I just had to get my blog up and running so I wouldn’t miss out on this cool tour.

Having a blog has added a new stress to my life. Okay, not really a stress… more like an obsession. I feel the need to produce insightful postings on a regular basis… okay that is kind of stressful actually. The obsessive part is the desire to spend my whole day fiddling around with my blog… changing the template, changing the colors, adding links, deleting links, etc… wondering if I should be using WordPress instead of Blogger… all sorts of new worries added to my daily ramblings that happen within my head.

I’m still not sure what I think of this whole blogging thing. I mean, I love reading other peoples blogs… just feel a little exposed throwing my random thoughts out their for the world to see… other parents, my parents, my children, their friends, exes, my friends, co-workers, family, strangers, who knows? Not like, I think I have this huge blog following or anything… but still… having a blog means my ramblings are out there for the world to read (if they actually want to).

If you happen to be a friend, an ex, family, a colleague, a stranger, anyone: Welcome to my blog and please feel free to leave a comment and say hello. It’s nice to see you here outside of my comfort zone!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Confidence in a Box

Kylie from Tilda Virtual Services tagged me and now I have to write about confidence. Okay, I get to write about confidence not have to. Thanks Kylie!

Confidence can be a fleeting state of mind, at least for me. Some people seem to have confidence at all times. Others seem to have none. Mine comes and goes depending on the situation, my mood, my hormones, etc.

I admire people with high self confidence.

I find the older I get the more confidence I have. I guess life experience does that to a person.

Being a business owner it is important to have high self confidence. I know for myself if I am going to hire people who are confident. If I am looking for an accountant, a doctor or a lawyer, I don’t want someone that says, “I think I can help you with that”. I want someone who says, “Yes! I can do that for you!”

I like confident people... but I don't have a lot of patience for know-it-alls. You know the type, they act like they know everything and always have to one-up you in all conversations. That is not confidence. That is just plan annoying.

Think about that next time you are trying to land a client… when they ask you if you can do something that you know how to do, how are you going to answer them?

As Kylie did… I am passing the confidence box along to some seasoned bloggers and some new kids on the block. I tag Jennifer from Atypical VA, Patty from Time is of the Escents, Yamisi from In Touch VA, Anita from Above and Beyond Administration, Pam from Delaney Imaging and Jodi from Vanguard Business and Outsourcing Solutions.

How closely do you look at your bills each month?

Do you open each bill and look at it in detail before paying it?

If not, you might want to.

I am very meticulous with my bills. I enter everything in Quicken and know exactly how much I owe each month and always pay my bills on time. One thing I’ve noticed that keeps happening is there are often charges on my bills that should not be there. When I say often, I mean just about every month some company has slipped in a fee or overcharged me for something and I’m guessing I am not the only one this happens to. But I’m also guessing those of you that are in debt don’t like to look at your bills so you may not even be aware of all the extra charges being piled on to your debt.

For instance, yesterday I was paying my phone bill. It is one of those all in one types… cell phones, land phone, long distance service, and internet are all on one bill. This means my bill is about 15 pages long and incredibly hard to decipher and I am always tempted to just pay the bill and not look through all the pages. But it seemed high so I decided to start combing through it. About a year ago, looking through the same bill I found an extra $9.95 charge on one of the cell phones. That charge was occurring every month! Turns out some 3rd party ring tone company had slipped the charge in. I don’t even shop for ring tones!

When I called my company a year ago… they told me they could block the future charges but could not do anything about the previous ones. They said I had to contact that company directly to get a refund for those charges. Well that company was nowhere to be found. After much research seems they are some company in Italy that doesn’t respond to emails, calls, etc. I am not the only one having this problem.

Mysterious Cell Phone Charges


Anyway, I decided to just eat the charges that I had accrued because it was too much hassle but was happy that they weren’t occurring any more. Then last month I noticed they were back on my bill! I called the phone company again, they apologized, offered to give me a courtesy credit and to block that company again! Guess what? This months phone bill had the charge again and the courtesy credit had not been given to me. Now I owed them $30. Once again, I called my phone company and the charges have been waived…

Another thing that happened was I mailed my credit card payment a few days before it was due and it seemed to arrive to the company a day after the due date. My next bill had over $100 in charges and I don’t even have an outstanding balance on my credit card. That was late fees and interest on the balance that was paid a day late! I managed to get those fees waived too!

A few months back my medical insurance sent me a bill saying I was past due a month and started sending me threatening notes insisting I owed them money. I had to get the canceled check from the bank to prove it to them. That was almost $300.

I could go on and on. Extra bank charges, random credit card fees, double billing, etc… At least once a month there is some charge given to me that shouldn’t be. Calling those 800 numbers is a pain but if I added up all the charges of the last year that I would have paid had I not been paying attention I’m guessing it would be over $1000.00.

Tip: If you are in debt you will be amazed at how much a simple phone call can help you. Call those 800 numbers on your credit card statements and explain to them that you want to get out of debt. Ask them if they can help you by waiving the interest charge or removing some of those finance charges. More often then not they are willing to knock a big chunk of money off of your debt. A friendly phone call goes a long way.

Watch those bills closely and pick up the phone when you need to!

________________________________________________________

Are you in debt? Could you use some help simplifying your life? Contact Coach Sally today!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Boundaries are a Necessity

Running a Successful Business from your Home

Setting Boundaries when you work from home is probably the most important thing you can do for your business, your family and yourself.

Do any of these descriptions sound like you? If they do it is probably time for you to set some boundaries:

  • Workaholics: never get off the computer and loved ones feel neglected and begin to resent their business
  • Doormats: family, friends, neighbors and others needs are always coming first and our business ends up getting pushed to the back burner… which means the income stops flowing and once again our loved ones feel neglected because we are not providing the financial support we are capable of providing, we get bitter towards our family and begin to resent them because we have no time to focus on our business. When we say yes to being the president of the board or heading the auction at our child’s school what are we saying no to? Free time with our families, time to work on our business, what else?
  • Online Addicts: we become addicted to forums, chat rooms, blogs, emails, IM, online networking and volunteering, we don’t know when to say no. We think we have to do this to build our business, we feel guilty being away from our computer, afraid we might miss something, keep volunteering, chatting, posting hoping it will turn into business… what it really turns into is all of our time being eaten away, no billable hours to show and a resentful family and quite possibly a feeling of isolation. I’m not saying that any of this is bad, but there has to be limits… if you are spending 8 or more hours a day doing this and seeing no income or getting behind on client work, feeling overworked and stressed and know that your family is resentful, you may have a problem.


Before we can begin to set boundaries that are going to be of any success we first need to figure out our priorities in life.


Steps You Must Take to Run a Successful Business from Your Home

  1. Know your goals and see where you want your business to be today and in the future

Knowing what you want is necessary before you can begin to set boundaries and limits. Do you know where you want your business to be in 1 month? 1 year? 5 years from now? How much money will you be making? How many hours a week will you be working? How much flexibility do you want in your schedule? What services do you offer? If you don’t know the answer to these questions…then before you do anything else you need to stop right now and take the time to figure it out. Sit down and brainstorm, write the story of your dream business. After you write your story, go back and read it and think about what steps you need to take to get to that point.


  1. Figure out what your boundaries and limits are

Now that you know what you want and what you need to do to get it, you need to determine your boundaries. How are others going to respect your boundaries if you don’t even know what they are?

For instance, if you can’t get anything done because your kids or significant other’s needs always come first… you need to set some boundaries with them. This goes both ways, if you are neglecting your loved ones and spending all of your time on your computer you need to set some boundaries with your clients, colleagues and yourself about when work time is and when it is not.

Do you have office hours set so your clients know when it is okay to call and when it is not? Do you have certain times set aside when it is your time to work so your kids know not to interrupt you during that time (unless of course it is an emergency)?

  1. Let everyone know your boundaries – communication is key!
    • Be prepared to repeat your new rules frequently to your kids, your significant other and your clients. They have all been used to the old you… it will take them some time to respect and understand the new you. Be patient and be firm.
    • Visualize a big line that you draw so you know when someone is stepping over it
    • Make a schedule
    • Make a plan
    • Create financial boundaries/limits
    • Be consistent

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Sally Kuhlman, owner of Virtual Simplicity, a.k.a. Coach Sally works with business owners mentoring them to set boundaries, take risks and bring their businesses to new levels of success. She is currently co-authoring a book with Yvonne Weld on Managing Your Business and Your Time to Maintain a Thriving Business©.