Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

When Kids Crash Your Video Call

I can’t stop cracking up at this. Utter comic perfection:

The three-year-old parade-stepping into the room. The escaped baby. The mom flying in like she’s sliding into third base (and then backing out of the room on her knees with the kids as if that makes it all less conspicuous). And him looking like, “Please don’t notice. Please don’t notice. Just kill me now.”

I mean, you couldn’t script it better than this, lololol.

Poor guy. Obviously, we try to prevent these kinds of interruptions when we’re on a professional call, but when they happen, all you can do is take life in stride and laugh.

Have you ever had a similar mishap when talking with a client? How did you handle it and what are your best tips for working when kids, family and pets are determined to get your attention?

How to Come Back from Burnout

How to Come Back from Burnout

A recent article I came across on Lifehacker (What Causes Burnout and How to Avoid It) inspired some thoughts about burnout.

Burnout happens to everyone in our business, to varying degrees, at one time or another.

Some of it is the natural ebb and flow of things, and it’s good to be cognizant of that.

It’s also not necessarily a permanent state. There are some underlying causes for burnout that you have some measure of control over.

For example, burnout can happen if we don’t feel appreciated in our work, if we aren’t getting enough positive (or any) feedback from clients, if we’re being treated like a peon rather than a respected administrative partner:

Burnout can also happen when we over-complicate our business. What are some of the things you can examine there?

  • Can your systems and processes be simplified?
  • Are you making exceptions to your normal processes for certain clients? (Maybe it’s time to stop doing that.)
  • Are you billing by the hour and tracking time for clients and submitting time reports to them? Maybe it’s time to stop doing that as well.  (That was a rhetorical question. Yes, it’s HIGH time everyone stops doing that!).
  • Are you charging different rates for different clients? How about deciding what and how you charge and applying it to ALL of your clients?

Every exception you make, every standard you step over, every policy you bend, is making your business (and life) more difficult. More ease goes a long way in curing burnout.

Maybe you aren’t charging enough and constantly being broke is bringing you down. Well, things are never going to change until you do something different.

What could you differently there? RAISE YOUR FEES, SISTAH!

The alternative is to stay broke and unhappy in your business, which I’m going to guess is not what you went to the trouble of starting it for, now is it?

  • If you’ve never done any kind of proper business planning around fees, be sure to download our free ACA Income & Pricing Calculator. This is going to help you get clear and conscious about the economics of business and what you really need to be charging for a profitable, sustainable business that will earn what you need to thrive.
  • Get off the hourly-billing merry-go-round — because it’s killing your business. Watch this video to learn why.
  • Learn how to implement value-based pricing instead in your administrative support business. This will teach you a whole other simpler, yet more profitable, way to run your business and offer your support.

Have you experienced a bit of burnout at any time in your business? What did you feel was the root cause of the burnout? Were you able to overcome it and get inspired again? What helped you?

Keep On Keeping On (Video)

 

Several weeks ago I got to participate in a collaborative music video produced by a super talented couple I befriended when they used to play at a favorite restaurant in my area.

They’re in Texas now, kicking ass and making their musical career dreams come true! I love watching their journey, and this video is just all kinds of amazing.

It’s a shining, gorgeous example of what America’s REAL values are and how each of us, in our own unique and humble way, plays a part in standing for truth, love and kindness for all!

I absolutely ADORE what they’ve created! What will YOU keep on doing?

(Please share far and wide!)

I’m Back from my Sundance Festival Road Trip!

I'm Back from My Sundance Festival Road Trip!

I’m back from my Sundance Festival road trip and it was amazing!

I had so much fun and packed so much stuff into a short time frame (left on January 26 and got back Feb 2).

I posted pix of my explorations on our ACA Facebook group. Come join us there if you’d like to take a look. (Note: If you request to join and your profile doesn’t provide any info about your administrative support business, be sure you also message me either on Facebook or by email.)

I just LOVE road trips. Travelling by car is my favorite way to travel because you can go at your own pace, stop when you feel like checking something out, and see cities and countryside up close and personal that you haven’t before.

It’s a much more intimate way to travel and see and explore places that would be bypassed in any other mode of travel.

Some of my road trip highlights:

  • Um, attending the SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL!
  • Meeting and talking with all kinds of interesting industry people from actors to a film composer to filmmakers and others who work behind the camera.
  • Having Robert Redford walk past me so close we actually touched. And yes, he is handsome as ever.
  • Also, walking past George Lucas as he was exiting one of the many celebrity Suburbans that began showing up later in the day on Main St.
  • Shopping for souvenirs and gifts.
  • Having an amazing pedicure in Park City.
  • Getting restaurant recommendations from locals and eating at some amazing places including some fantastic greasy spoons. (For anyone not familiar with the term, a greasy spoon is a high honor. It’s the kind of establishment that is usually locally/independently owned where typically fresh/home-cooked type food is served. These are often the BEST places on the planet for amazing down-home breakfast served any time of day.) I highly recommend No Worries Cafe in Park City.
  • Seeing the Great Salt Lake in person for the first time (I’ve only ever seen it by plane other than that).
  • Seeing country in Oregon, Washington and Idaho I’ve never been to before.
  • Oh, and lots of new souvenir travel magnets to commemorate my travels and explorations!

I'm Back from My Sundance Festival Road Trip

And it was scary crazy how everything worked out so perfectly. This was a totally spontaneous decision to go. I hadn’t actually registered for Sundance this year, didn’t know if I’d be able to even see any films (and if I didn’t, I was okay with that; it was enough just to go), and I thought there was no way in hell there would be any hotel rooms left, especially not without any advance reservation (and if there were, they’d cost a million dollars; most rooms start at $500 during festival week and go up into the thousands.).

I just left and trusted that everything would work out the way it was supposed to. And it did!

Everyone I talked to could not believe how lucky I was. When there were still hundreds of people on waiting lists for tickets, for some reason I scored seats. And the first hotel I called actually had a room available. For some inexplicable reason, they put me in a $500 room and only charged me $129/night (I stayed two nights). The only thing I can think is that I really hit it off with the gal I spoke to on the phone. She loved how I had just hopped in the car and took off.

This trip was also one of personal growth as well as it was the first time I’ve traveled such a distance (3 states!) all by myself.

Since I’d never done anything like this before alone, it was scary to me in a lot of ways.

And I aced it! Not one bit of anxiety being that far from home by myself and not one pang of homesickness (other than being ready for my own comfy cozy bed after a week).

I gained a huge sense of accomplishment and empowerment. It was a reminder to me that the world is my oyster and I can do anything I set my mind to do (and have).

And while I do love travelling with a partner, I also enjoy my own company and meeting and talking to new people immensely.

This trip was a precursor to a bigger plan I’ve had brewing for several years, which is to travel the U.S. (first) and some parts of Canada, meeting my members and colleagues, and seeing the country by car.

I’ve sort of kept it on the down-low because I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. I’m also not one of those people who benefits from putting plans out there as a way to make me accountable to myself. The minute I do that, I get blocked, so I just don’t. And life also simply got in the way.

First, we moved to Europe for a couple years. Then six months after we returned to the U.S. for good, I left my man of 12 years which was a huge, life-changing decision. Then I wasn’t sure how to even undertake something like this all by myself. And then my dad’s health took a turn for the worse and I had to put him first and help care for him.

Once we got dad’s health stabilized in January, I decided to make this trip to do something for me to recharge and renew.

I'm Back from My Sundance Festival Road Trip

I’ve long been a lover and devotee of independent film so it was perfect timing and the festival gave me a great destination focal point.

And besides being a business networking/writing retreat, I had also wanted to try to meet a few colleagues along the way. This trip was pretty much a spur-of-the-moment decision and since I announced it so last minute (like, the day I was leaving, lol), by the time I had heard from three Portland area colleagues, I was already near Idaho.

So, I did learn a lot of things in this first trip which are going to help me in my next member/colleague meeting travels:

  1. After a certain point, you have to stop planning and trying to identify every little detail and JUST DO IT! There’s no way you can figure everything out upfront and too much planning can easily become a procrastination vehicle.
  2. One of the things that was stopping me before was trying to figure out how I was going to accomplish a full cross-country trip. What I realize now is that the best way I’m going to accomplish it is doing it in different legs, not all in one shot. For example, I’m thinking my next trip will be down the Pacific coast and/or I5 corridor through Oregon and California and than maybe over to Nevada with a turn-around for the return leg of the trip in Sedona, NM. I haven’t completely figured out how I’ll work any midwest and east coast and southern legs, but I’m thinking for those trips, it might make sense to fly somewhere once I’ve mapped out that particular travel route, and then rent or lease a vehicle there. Anything west of the midwest states, I can use my own car.
  3. I love to travel and I can and have continued running my business and taking care of clients on the road (even in a different country). However, I do work best from my main command center (my home office, lol) and the luxury of my big main computer. I do not prefer working on a laptop. I can and have, but it’s not how I do my best work. In recognizing this, I can plan accordingly. And all the more reason why I will benefit from doing these trips in mini-stages instead of one long stretch. That way, I can come back to home base, regroup and then go on the next leg of the journey at a time that’s optimal for me.
  4. I need to figure out how to monetize the venture so that besides the expenses being a business write-off, it also funds itself instead of just being an expense. That includes putting more focus and attention on sales from the ACA Success Store. I’m thinking that in addition to just meeting up with my industry mentors and colleagues, I could offer some paid in-person, day or half-day consulting and coaching spots for those who want to take advantage of the opportunity while I’m in their city or town.
  5. There are people who are super smart about getting sponsors and things like that for trips like this. I would love to learn more about that, but currently I’m not one of them and I’m okay with that about myself right now. And the thing is, I don’t really want to make a huge production out of things. Because once that becomes the case, for me, it takes the joy out of it and then I don’t want to do it. I can’t let not having sponsors to make these trips pay for themselves be the thing that stops me from doing it.
  6. I need to find the balance between being spontaneous (which is what “does it” for me) and not having everything turned into a big production, and planning and making announcements with enough advance notice that people CAN have enough time to plan on meeting up when I’m in their city. What I know about myself, bad or good, is that I am commitment phobic, lol. Not about taking care of clients or anything like that. I don’t know where it comes from (though it does seem to be something I developed when my first/late husband passed away nearly 20 years ago). I just know that the minute I have to RVSP to something is the second I absolutely, positively don’t want to go. I know, it’s crazy. But that’s just me. Therefore, I know I wouldn’t do well making a big deal out of planning a meet-up, securing a specific venue or conference room, yada, yada, yada. Yuck! I hate that stuff! I like to keep things casual, informal, personal. What I envision is letting my peeps know (on the blog, via the ACA mailing list, etc.) that I am close to their city and inviting them to contact me to meet up. Then when I hear from someone, asking them where a great spot would be to get together, a fun restaurant or pub or something, and once we decide that, inviting others in the area to join us. Casual, see?

I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t know how it will all work out. And I don’t have any specific time frames right now. But that’s where all the magic, fun and adventure of it is!

If I was to come to your area, would you like to meet up for a meal, do something fun together, or maybe be my tour guide for a day? What do you like to do for fun and/or what would you show me in your city? I’m game for just about anything. (Except skydiving. I have no desire to skydive and I’m okay with that, lol.)

Would you love an opportunity for private, one-on-one, in-person business consulting and guidance if I came to your city? I’m exceptionally gifted at identifying where people need help in their business, but tell me, what areas of your business would YOU like more help with?

Is One of Your Business “Whys” to Care for a Loved One?

Is One of Your Business "Whys" to Care for a Loved One? (free resources)

It is for me, now, and it’s yet another new reason I am so incredibly thankful for my business and my administrative skills.

Some quick background details:

About six years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

Up to now, his symptoms have been relatively mild. So, far, it’s really only been a slight tremor in his right hand and sometimes he says his right leg will “freeze” and not do what he wants. Medication helps alleviate these symptoms immensely.

And while he’s maintained good mental clarity, my sister and I noticed a distinct downturn in his energy this year. He’s slowed down quite a bit and mundane things like operating his cell phone have become increasingly daunting and confusing for him, which is not usual.

We certainly understand that being diagnosed with a serious disease can be very depressing, and it has been for our dad.

He’s a proud guy and always been very independent. He doesn’t want to be a bother to anyone, and he doesn’t want to be treated like an invalid.

So, we’ve all been walking on eggshells around the topic because he gets annoyed with us when we ask how he’s doing, would he like help with anything, etc.

It’s been tough for us as his family because he’s been very close-lipped about sharing medical information with us. Pure stubbornness. We’ve felt helpless and not sure how to support him.

And up until now, he’s abjectively refused to let my sister and I talk with his doctors, ask questions of them and so forth. So we’ve had to rely on whatever my dad chooses to tell us, which is very little.

Well, we all got a wake up call on December 5.

A neighbor, who is also a good friend of 20+ years, became concerned when she realized she hadn’t seen my dad up and about as per his usual habits.

She went over to the house and knocked, but there was no answer. Luckily, the door was unlocked, and she went inside.

She found my dad sitting in the bathtub, fully-clothed, thinking he was in the waiting room at the dentist’s office. He was also having some bizarre hallucinations and my sister later told me that he’s been complaining of nightmares the last month or so as well.

After being taken to the ER, the hospital kept him the whole weekend for observation.

By Sunday, he was much better. Still weak and slow, but back to being himself for the most part.

The conclusion thus far is that a recent increase in his Parkinson’s meds caused some added confusion which then caused him to forget when he had taken his AM and PM doses and he’d end up doubling up on those. So basically he was hopped up on his meds.

On top of that, he hasn’t been eating well, and the hospital found that he is anemic and severely B12 deficient.

Ya, fun stuff.

It is clear that he is entering the realm of not being able to care for himself and manage his own feeding. He used to love his daily French press coffee, but he says it’s all just become too much work.

It’s tough for him to admit, but my dad is realizing now that he needs help and is starting to welcome and warm to the idea of letting us in. We all need the love, help and support of others.

So, I am now entering a new role and chapter of my life: that of being a caretaker for a sick, elderly parent.

It’s times like this that I sing my gratitude over and over to the universe for my business that allows me the flexibility to step in and deal with things in a crisis, and to myself for setting my practice up in a way that gives me breathing room so emergencies are just a blip and don’t turn my business upside down.

When I’m confronted with situations like this, my first instinct is to go into strategizing and mobilization mode: assess the situation, take inventory, organize information and begin to plan. That’s the administrator in me and why I’m so exceptionally good at this business.

These same qualities that make me so well-suited to this business and the processes that I use with clients are now allowing me to be a long-distance caretaker.

So I want to share some of the things I’ve done and tools I’ve used and documents I’ve created in case anyone else in a similar situation or role finds them helpful.

One challenge my family has in caring for my dad is that while my sister lives in Seattle and her home is not far away from my dad’s, she doesn’t drive.

(She’s just always been a nervous driver and used to joke that everyone on the road was safer with her not on it. She realizes that has to change, though, and is taking the necessary steps.)

And while I do drive, I live about 45 minutes away. And let me tell ya, this past week of traveling back and forth every day has been super difficult.

The rest of my dad’s family all live back east in New York so there’s really nothing practical they can do to lighten the load.

He does have many friends and people in his life here who love him and we’re certainly going to accept any and all help that is offered, but obviously, the primary care always falls to family members.

So, technology is a HUGE blessing as we all know! Here’s how I’ve utilized technology to mobilize everyone and keep them up-to-date and in the loop.

Since I’m the one who drives, I have committed to being the primary person to take my dad back and forth to his appointments. (I should mention that his doctors reinforced to my dad what we’ve gently suggested to him: that it’s not safe for him to drive, at least for the time being).

  1. So, the first thing I did was set up an online shared calendar so everyone on my dad’s family and friends care team can stay apprised of his appointments and medical care. There are a ton of free online calendars these days and really it just boils down to whatever one best serves your needs and the level of functionality and features you want. One that we ended up using that was recommended to me is Cozy Calendar. It works on your computer and has a corresponding app for your smartphone. The free version includes calendar, task list and some other goodies, and you can upgrade for a very affordable fee to the ad-free version. Whatever online service you use, look for one that can be shared with everyone on your care team and used across all devices (i.e., computer and smartphone) so communications and information is collaborative and updated in real time.
  2. We were also getting hit with a ton of to-do’s so I immediately downloaded the Workflowy app on my phone and started an account for all of us to share to keep track of everything. With this easy to use technology, we can keep a running list of notes and to-do’s. Everyone knows what needs to be done and you can assign tasks and roles and sort things with simple hashtags. Workflowy uses an outline hierarchy and you can delete things or mark them complete as they are finished. To share a Workflowy account, whoever sets up the account can simply give everyone the login details so everyone who is privy can add to and update the list as well. Again, there are a ton of online to-do list/task management type apps out there to choose from. It’s whatever works for you. I just happen to use Workflowy because it’s super clean and simple and is organized the way my brain works. It’s also free. UPDATE: I used Workflowy initially and it’s still a great free program. However, once I got on the Cozy Calendar, it became easier to keep our to-dos stored there as well instead of in separate programs.
  3. Once I had a minute back at my computer, the next thing I did was put together a master list of important phone numbers and information in Word. The first page/section has the complete names, addresses and phone numbers of all of us (family and friends) involved in caring for our dad. The second page/section has the complete names, addresses and phone numbers of all my dad’s medical service providers (e.g., primary care physician, neurologist, etc.). And the third page/section is a list of all the online services, links and logons we are using to store and share information among our family and friends care team. Please feel free to use the template I whipped up for this.
  4. I also created a medication list in a Word document. Since my sister lives up there and is the one nearest my dad, she is the one who is managing his medications. He has various pills to take three times a day and because she noticed some increasing confusing on his part doing that, she started going over to his house every Saturday and organizing his pill box for that week. So that’s working good, at least until we can get some in-home care since neither one of us is in a position to move in with our dad for the moment. However, I wanted to familiarize myself with my dad’s meds for my own piece of mind, and I feel it’s important that everyone who plays a part in caring for him knows them as well. In the process of educating myself, I ended up creating this document that lists the name of each medication, what it’s taken for, the dosage and instructions and a picture of both sides of the pill (you can take a photo of each med with your camera phone or look for a picture of the med online). Again, please feel free to use my template if it’s helpful to you.
  5. While creating these documents, I also set up a folder in Dropbox and gave access to that folder to our family and friends care team. Along with the other aforementioned documents, I put his will up there, Durable Power of Attorney, Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment document, medical reports and anything else that needs to be kept in one place and is good for everyone to know and have access to quickly and easily. What’s so great about using Dropbox for this is that instead of having to update and send emails to every person any time a document is updated, all you have to do is either add them to the folder or share the file/document link. You have full control over who sees what. Dropbox also has an app that can be downloaded to mobile phones and other portable devices so a document can be opened, viewed and edited from anywhere. Dropbox is free, by the way.
  6. My dad’s medical insurance provider also has a fantastic online service where you can email doctors directly, set up appointments, get lab results as soon as they are done, etc. I have the same insurance and use the online service myself so I know how fantastic is. Since my dad hadn’t done this (technology is difficult for him anymore), I went ahead and got his online account set up. Now, my sister and I can get appointments scheduled and meds ordered faster, email our questions as they arise and communicate directly with my dad’s doctors without having to wait until the next appointment. If your/your family member’s insurance has an online service, I highly recommend you get on it pronto. It will make your life so much easier!
  7. I also had the great idea to start a private Facebook group and added all my dad’s immediate caretakers as members. This has worked out fantastically. We can update, share thoughts and ideas, ask questions, and communicate with each other quickly and easily from any device. One of the reasons I had this idea is because my sister is horrible about answering email and likes to text and while I prefer email and absolutely, positively HATE texting with a passion, lol. With the Facebook group, we can each communicate using our preferred method and it all goes into one central platform, which solves the other problem that all our communications were getting scattered and disorganized across several modes. This centralized everything and we’re communicating with greater ease and efficiency now.

To summarize:

  1. Set up online calendar.
  2. Create Workflowy account.
  3. Establish a Dropbox account (if you don’t have one yet) and create a shared folder for your family member’s care team to access important documents and information.
  4. Start a master phone and info list.
  5. Start a medication list.
  6. Where available, be sure to utilize the insurance company’s online account services.
  7. Set up a private Facebook group.

I hope this is helpful in some way to someone. We’re still in the very beginning stages of this care-taking role ourselves with all this stuff so it’s definitely going to be a journey. If you are traveling this same road, I would sure welcome any tips and pointers you also have to share and thank you kindly!

Grateful to Be a Business Owner

I am unendingly thankful for making the decision so long ago to go into business for myself.

Creating, growing and running a business has expanded my mind and added to my life in so many ways.

Being a business owner has made me a more conscious person, not just in business, but in life.

The experience has taught me so much about relationships, about myself, even what life is about.

It’s allowed me to live and feel and experience life more fully and vibrantly.

Self-determination is the epitome of freedom, and I’m so grateful to live in a country and be in a business that allows me to have that freedom.