Sunday, January 27, 2008

New Poll Shows The Growing Need For Virtual Assistants

Thanks Darrell Williams, fellow VANA member for this interesting press release.

"Harris Interactive poll re-iterates the need for virtual assistants in our busy world."

January 27, 2008 - A recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive, one of the largest and fastest-growing market research firms in the world, revealed some interesting facts about how people view virtual assistants.

It turns out that 64% of American adults would gladly outsource a whole range of tasks to someone else. When asked if hiring a virtual assistant would give them more time or reduce stress in their lives, more than 70% said that it would. An even higher number (75%) believe that personal assistants aren’t just for celebrities.

When asked what types of tasks they would have a virtual assistant do for them, the survey found a long list of things that people would rather have others do for them. Topping the list, 33% would rather not research and organize their own travel and vacation arrangements. Coming in a close second, 28% of the survey participants said that organizing and paying bills was something they would rather not do themselves. The survey found that men find this task more dreadful than women at 31% versus 25%.

There was a tie for the third most hated task. Answering calls and taking messages along with writing and mailing thank you, holiday, and birthday cards came in at 26%. It also turned out that younger adults, age 18-34, were 85% more likely to hire a virtual assistant to help them with these unwanted tasks.

Darrell Williams of Right-Hand-Man Virtual Assistant Services says, “Theses are common tasks that people hire us for. It seems people just don’t have the time they need to get all the little things done in their busy lives. Having a personal assistant is almost becoming a necessity in our overly scheduled world.”

The survey found American adults also feel strongly (73%) that hiring a virtual assistant would definitely be beneficial. 55% fell they would have more time for important tasks and errands if they had a virtual assistant while 34% percent feel they would perform better in their work, and 52% stated they would have more time to spend with family and friends or time to exercise or vacation time.

This particular survey also noted that almost three quarters (72%) of respondents would not feel comfortable hiring a virtual assistant from overseas. People also don’t feel comfortable in sharing their valuable information such as credit card information (67%).

And who would be more likely to hire a virtual assistant – a man or a woman? The survey found that men (77%) see the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant before women (69%). The total number of people surveyed was 1,005 with 503 respondents being women and 502 being men.

From the results of this survey, it seems that the virtual assistant will continue to grow. As the American adult gets busier, the need for virtual assistant services will become more evident. As the young adults move into busier lifestyles they will be more likely to look to a VA to help them succeed.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

SOS - Goal Setting

By Fran Watson

... --- ... SOS This is the traditional seafaring emergency call to "Save Our Ship!" - to rush first aid to a sinking vessel. On land - and in daily life - it stands, simply, for "HELP!" Until I read this recently, I never really knew exactly what it stood for. Did you know the correct meaning? My sister thought it stood for Save Our Souls.

Do you ever feel the need to send out an SOS? To holler "help" because you just have too much to do and your life is just too confusing to manage? Do you ever feel as though you're paddling upstream in a leaky canoe? Well, maybe tonight I can offer some words of wisdom that will help you patch that canoe so you can make your journey safely.

Recently I read about another meaning for the acronym SOS. It was in a book entitled "Go For It, Get Organized", and it stood for Simple, Orderly, Step-by-Step. Now you may say, sure, it sounds easy, but my life is too crazy. I have too many things to accomplish; it will never work for me. My life is anything but simple. Well, before you reject this idea, let's take a look at how it works.

The first simple step is to take a look at your life or situation. Try to see the whole picture and set a goal. Now a goal is simply defined as "the end toward which effort is directed." So you can pick anything can be your goal. The second step is to take a look at your goal and determine what needs to be done first. Once you can establish an end point, it is much easier to see how to get there.

Think about doing a jig-saw puzzle. It is broken down into many tiny pieces. Each piece has to be fit into place. You have a picture of what it should look like when it is finished - your goal. When you can look at the picture on the box, it is much easier to envision where each of the pieces go. You keep checking with the picture to make sure you are heading in the right direction. Without the picture, it is much more difficult and takes a lot longer to complete.

Most people have a system for putting together a puzzle. Some people like to find all the pieces with straight edges and put together the outside first. Others will choose the largest object and put it together. Still others will sort all the puzzle pieces into piles of each of the colours before beginning. However you do a puzzle, you have to have a vision, an idea of the end result, before you can complete it.

When you were a child learning to walk, you had a goal. Usually one of your parents was holding out their arms and saying, "Come here". Your goal was to reach their arms and get a big hug. So you took a step or two and then fell down and maybe crawled the rest of the way. The next time you took two or three steps and then four and five until you eventually walked all the way just to hear them say, "Good boy, or Good girl" and give you a big hug. After days or months of practicing, you learned to walk all over the place, and then you learned to run. Now you were no longer restricted to a small corner of the world, you had a great big world to explore. But it all started with a vision.

We may all wish to be superhuman, to accomplish a lot of things, but the fact is, we can only really focus on one thing at a time. Most of us have computers and we are impressed with their speed and all the things we can do with them, but no matter how mindboggling a computer's operations seem, the computer is in fact performing only one operation at a time. And if the computer does not have an end in mind, if someone forgot a command, it can't accomplish its task. The same applies to us. If we don't have a goal, we may become scattered in too many directions to accomplish our tasks.

Have you ever noticed how much more you accomplish at work just before you go on holidays, or how quickly you can clean your house when you know that company is coming over in a little while? It's because you are more focused. There are certain things that must be accomplished and so you start working on completing one thing at a time and you don't allow little interruptions to take you away from your goal.

What are some of your goals? What do you dream of? Where would you like to be in four years? What do you want to do next week? What must be done today?

When looking at all the things you have to do in your life, ask yourself the following simple questions:

Must it be done?

Must it be done now?

Must it be done by me?

The answers to these questions can help you simplify, to take away what's not really necessary. Many times we complicate our lives when we are distracted by past, future, or side issues - by "what if", "if only".

The next thing to do after deciding that the task must be done now, and by you, is to break it down into smaller, simpler steps and to tackle those steps in an orderly manner, one at a time, just as you would the puzzle pieces. By focusing on one area of your life and getting it in order by completing it, you become energized to focus on another area and then you can complete that next. I recently read that completing tasks releases endorphins into our body making us want to complete even more tasks. Think about how you felt the last time you completed a project.

When working on a puzzle we usually take short breaks to rest our eyes, to look away from the problem and come back with a fresh perspective. It's amazing how often you immediately see where some pieces go when you come back from getting a snack or just taking a break. It's important to take breaks, to relax and put your mind and body on hold for a few minutes.

At, the site author suggest doing things in 15 minute intervals, e.g. if you have to clean your house in a hurry because company is coming over, set a timer for 15 minutes and tackle 1 room, perhaps the kitchen. When the timer goes off, you reset it and tackle the next room. At the end of that 15 minutes you tackle another room and at the end of the 45 minutes you set it for 15 minutes again and take a break. Then you start all over again. It's amazing what you can accomplish in 15 minutes when you are focused.

Getting into the habit of getting organized with the S O S principles takes what every new skill takes: practice.

Studies have shown that it takes about 21 days or 3 weeks to make or break a habit. So try it for the next 3 weeks.

Pick one goal or vision to focus on and put the acronym SOS on your bathroom mirror so that you'll see it every morning. See how energized you become around completing that task and think up a great way to reward yourself when you are finished.

Fran Watson is a Career Counsellor and a Toastmaster (ATM-B). For more information on Toastmasters you can go to her webpage

Friday, January 25, 2008

Blog of the Week (Week 3) - Thriving Business Blog

Ooops I missed blog of the week last week. I actually missed blogging all last week. As I said in my earlier post, I'm recovering from the flu (and a 3 day power outage) so that is my excuse.

This week my pick for the blog of the week is: Yvonne Weld's Thriving Business Blog. The first week in January she got inspired to become a super blogger and that is exactly what she has done. She now posts multiple times a week and her posts are thoughtful, fun and inspiring. Thanks Yvonne!

Contingency Plan

As I'm sitting here recovering from the flu, looking out the window at the pouring rain, I am reminded how important it is to have a contingency plan. (Ie. pouring rain often equals a power outage in my neck of the woods).

Do you have a contingency plan? I'm going to have one soon. I have almost completed my business manual which includes my contingency plan. One of my goals this year was to finish my manual. I am committing to a minimum of one hour a week to finishing it.

I'm finding that going through the work book is inspiring now ideas and making me really think about my business. It's actually fun. I feel so much better knowing all my business information is now in one place.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Independent Contractor Reporting (ICR)

Do you work with independent/sub-contractors and live in California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, or the territory of Guam?

If so you probably need to file an ICR report with the EDD for each contractor you work with.

The information is used to locate parents who are delinquent with child support.

For more information visit the California EDD website:

Friday, January 11, 2008

National Clean Off Your Desk Day

I just learned this Monday is National Clean Off Your Desk Day! Terri Brooks a fellow VA shared that news with us in VANA. She pointed out how hiring a Virtual Assistant could really help with keeping your desk clean. I couldn't agree more.

Look around your desk. Is it piled with things you don't want to deal with? I'm guessing it is because if you actually wanted to deal with those things they wouldn't be in a pile on your desk, right?

Do you have forms to fill out, appointments to make, letters to type and marketing ideas that need to be completed? If you just can't seem to get through your to do list or the tall stack of papers piled up on your desk how about hiring a Virtual Assistant. Look what one Virtual Assistant can do in an hour or less.

Happy Clean Off Your Desk Day!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Best Buy - Worst Buy

Customer service. I'm big on customer service and expect good customer service at the places I choose to shop. I won't be shopping at Best Buy anymore.

Well... I didn't get the best customer service today at Best Buy in Marin City. I bought a headset there about a month ago. The package the headset came in was one of those impossible to open sealed plastic things. By the time I got the package open there wasn't actually much package left so I threw the package out. A few days later I finally got around to plugging in my headset and guess what? It didn't work. Convinced I was the problem and not the headset I kept trying different holes in the back of my computer. Still convinced I must be the problem I waited thinking it must be the Webinar conference room I'm using. Finally, I came to accept that my headset was just not going to work. My $30.00 headset was useless.

The other day while cleaning my desk I picked up the headset and thought about throwing it out. When suddenly I noticed the wire was broken.

So... I decided to head off to Best Buy today and tell them my discovery. I was hoping they would let me exchange it but knew they might not since I no longer had the package (although I did still have the receipt). I explained that from day one it never worked and showed her where the wire was broken. She said um I don't think we can exchange this and she went and got her manager. He took one look and said we can't exchange this it looks like you cut it. I explained how it has never worked since the day I took it out of the package and he said well I don't know what you did but we aren't exchanging this. I don't remember what else he said, it's not important but I went away with the feeling that he and the woman thought I was lying. They did not apologize just accused me of breaking it and acted annoyed with me for bothering them.

I wasn't expecting to be able to exchange my headset. I was hoping but not expecting. Being able to exchange my headset would have far exceeded good customer service (like Nordstrom's and Costco have been known to do). I was expecting some respect not to be treated like a liar. An exchange would have been great! Even a discount would have been great! An apology would have been good customer service. An accusation is just bad customer service.

I feel the need to point out a moral to my story here so it's not just a post of me whining about my bad customer service at Best Buy.

Here goes...
When a client calls to complain about a job you have done for them what do you do? Do you take ownership or do you make excuses? Do you blame them? Do you take the time to really listen to them and try to find out a way to make them satisfied?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Blog of the Week (Week 1 and 2)

Instead of having a long blogroll of all my favorite blogs I'm going to start picking a blog of the week to feature over there in the right column. ------> (Where it says Blog of the Week).

I spend most of my blog reading time reading blogs by marketing experts, other Virtual Assistants, and some other miscellaneous blogs that inspire me.

Last week the Blog of the Week was Dusty Warren's new blog Jorren Co. Dusty is an awesome VA and I'm so glad she has started a blog, she has a lot of great information to share with the world.

This week I am featuring the new blog Beyond Mom by Jennifer Gniadecki (the Martini Marketing queen). I love the way she writes and her posts are always thought provoking.

7 Weird Things About Me - Meme

I was tagged by Jennifer at Beyond Mom to share 7 weird things about me.

I am generally considered weird by my peers and my children so my problem is trying to narrow down the list to seven.

Now I am supposed to tag seven more people...

So for those of you who have been tagged here are the rules:

1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
3. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself
4. Tag seven random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog

Here goes...

1. I walk like a duck. I really do. My feet turn slightly outward.

2. Some of my best friends are virtual friends that I have never met in person (or met only once).

3. I wish I could carry skype emoticons around with me and just hold them in front of my head when I want someone to understand me better.

4. I still talk to some people I met in Kindergarten.

5. I like Myspace better than Facebook.

6. Someone wrote a book about me because I am so weird.

7. I'm actually quite normal even though most people think I'm weird.

The seven people I am tagging are:

Yvonne Weld
Dusty Warren
Pam Sargant
Crystal Pina
Lisa Boyd
Kylie Short
Anita Burton

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Power Outages - Are you prepared?

Maybe you heard the news? California had a big BIG storm. Once again I lost my power. I usually lose my power about once a year. This time I lost it for three days! Fortunately two of those days were weekend days but still. Was I prepared for this? No, of course not because I procrastinated. Yes, super organized me procrastinated on getting my contingency plan ready. I could list all my excuses here but I won't bore you.

So, to avoid writing this same post next year I am going to finish my Thriving Business Manual now. I'm halfway done. This book written by Yvonne Weld walks me through the steps of writing a procedure manual and spelling out every little detail of my business. Basically, when the book is done if anything happens like I get sick, I go on vacation, I have an extended power outage I could hand this book to another Virtual Assistant and they could pick up where I left off and keep my business going until I get through my challenging times.

Do you have a business manual set up? Have you thought about what you would do if you had a major power outage or a family emergency? What would happen to your business? Who would take care of your clients?

I'm off to complete my Thriving Business Manual and my thankful list. Today I am thankful for having electricity, for my computer, my heater, my fridge, the lights in my house and everything else dependent on the power working.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Just Do It!

It's the new year and many of us are focused on setting our goals and planning for the upcoming year. Knowing where you want to go is important but make sure you don't get stuck in this phase. Make sure you get there by taking action.

Getting Stuck In The Planning Stage

Don’t get stuck in the planning stage. Although plan, plan, plan is one of our mottos, you also need to take action. Big, “get up and move” kind of action. Get out of your comfort zone and “DO something” kind of action. Many people get stuck in the planning and dreaming phase and never move to the doing phase.

(excerpt from Managing Your Thriving Business For Success)

What actions are you going to take this year?