Kathy Colaiacovo, President
Working Virtually comes with so many benefits, but is not without its downsides too. One of my biggest struggles working from home is keeping the two separated... especially as the business has grown. Many of us started our own virtual assistant businesses to achieve the balance of work and family... yet when work grows and is a success you are busy and family can suffer, and when family issues happen business and work can suffer.
My hardest piece is when the kids / family assume I can talk on the phone or come to the rescue at any time. Now, yes that is what I am here for but if I answered every call my family and friends made to me in the middle of my business day – I would lose a lot of billable time.
Then you have the other side of your business which is marketing and finding new clients... so you have to make sure family and friends also know what you are all about and what you do for a living. You never know where your next referral may come from!
So... the balance needs to happen to make it work for everyone. It is a constant juggling act and the articles in this issue have some great advice on setting boundaries and learning to say no, as well as how to manage aspects of keeping your business and personal life separate but work together when needed. Business and Personal... both of these very important sides of the scale we need to balance as VAs.
I also wanted to mention that we are coming up to the final early bird deadline for our IVAA Live Summit in Las Vegas. Be sure to seriously consider if you can afford to miss out on the premier in–person conference for virtual assistants worldwide. The Hotel rates are fabulous and you can always find someone willing to share a room. (I started one of my best friendships ever by rooming with a stranger!)
Wishing you Virtual Success in 2014,
Living in the Moment – Keeping Your Business and Personal Lives Separate
By Christine Bearse
This Christmas I received a lovely bracelet with the reminder to "Live in the Moment". It is not such a simple thing to accomplish when you own your own business. When I started my business I have to say it consumed every waking moment I had. Which, looking back, means I may have missed enjoying time with my two very small children. Many times I found myself being overly disappointed that my children weren't napping when they were "supposed to" because I had scheduled a client call for that time. The client call probably happened at another time, is it really important now? No, but my children are.
With technology keeping us plugged in and up to speed at all times, it takes a dedicated effort to pay attention to what we should be at any given moment. Are we going to lose a client if we don't text them back when we are driving? No. Could we get into an accident and cause irreparable damage? Yes. I have some suggestions to help keep your personal time sacred and your professional time productive.
Set business hours just like a brick and mortar business does. Don't stray from these unless it is absolutely necessary. If you are answering emails during dinnertime or before bed your clients will assume that it is okay and come to expect service at all hours of the day. Believe it or not, those clients who seem to "need" you to work late will actually learn to get work to you earlier in the day or expect their projects within a reasonable timeframe. They will also respect you more!
Plan personal time for yourself. Time blocking is a great exercise for this. Start out by printing out a weekly calendar with each hour visible from the time you wake up until you go to bed, not just M-F, 9 to 5. Then go in and block out times that are the same each week like your work hours including standing telephone calls and weekly activities, family activities that you must attend or drive to and from, and meals. Then in the empty times put in things that you would "like" to do such as reading, social media and web surfing, watching TV, planning your meals for the week ahead, etc. I remember thinking there was no way I would want to be so rigid with my time. I found that scheduling things in made me more productive and also allowed me more time to slip in special things I may not have had time for when I was not paying attention (wasting) my time.
Live in the moment. When you are cooking dinner, focus on cooking dinner, feel the vegetables in your hand as you chop them, smell the aromas, taste test to see if you need to add more spices. When you are watching your child's sporting event, watch the event. Your child will be watching you and noticing if you are distracted. When you are working, work, don't check Facebook or fold laundry. By paying strict attention to your task at hand, not only will you do a much better and more accurate job, you will do it in less time. Setting a timer is a great way to get used to living in the moment. Set a timer for 10 minutes, then tell yourself you are only going to concentrate on that one activity for 10 minutes whether it be mopping the floor, planting flowers or writing a blog post. Then at the end of 10 minutes decide what you are going to do for the next 10 minutes, the same activity or a new one?
I like this quote on awareness, which can only come from mindfulness:
"The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance."
WORKING WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT
Home and Work Life Balance – Banish Your Inner Control Freak
By Tracey D'Aviero
Working from home can be such a blessing when you have a family. It can allow you to spend more time with your family, and even take part in events at your kids' schools, appointments – or even extracurricular activities.
But it's not always easy.
Balancing your home and work life can be a challenge.
If you take time off during your work day to attend a personal event or appointment, you will no doubt need to make up that time outside of business hours, to get your work done.
And of course if you then abandon Family Game Night, you run the risk of being held in contempt by the others, who think you are 'always working'.
Sound familiar? I thought it might.
So how do you cope? You have to banish your inner control freak. You can't do it all, and you shouldn't have to. Simple planning and asking for help will help you balance both work and life. You're not a housewife when you work from home. You are a business owner who happens to work in the home. So it's important to treat yourself as such.
I try to keep a regular balance simply by smart scheduling. I have a lot of clients so I need to be sure that when I am planning to attend something that is non-work related during my regular business hours, that I plan other things around it. And I try to plan ahead.
For instance, say in February you know little Johnny will have 3 soccer tournaments that you want to attend. And then little Janey has to go to the orthodontist every two weeks for checkups.
Prioritizing what you need to do is the key. So if you know that you will be away for those 5 days (or part days) then you want to be able to balance the rest of your work schedule that month. Basically that just means that you shouldn't schedule more personal commitments if you already know you have 5! (And maybe you can't go to all 3 soccer tournaments, but you can make it to 2!)
And then on those days that you know you will be already out of pocket work-wise, you will need to be sure that your family knows you need to catch up. So maybe move Family Game Night to another night that week. Or maybe instead of working 3 nights in a row after everyone goes to bed, you pick just one evening – and start work right after dinner. It's about smart scheduling, so you can maximize your productivity.
And if household chores become a problem because of the shift in your schedule, then be sure to enlist help where you can.
Kids of all ages can help with dinner (especially if you menu plan!) and other household chores – taking the laundry downstairs, bringing the garbage cans in, tidying common living areas in the house, and more. Don't try to be everything to everyone. The balance is in good planning, and also in getting help with things that you really don't need to be doing all by yourself.
And of course, if you need help with your client work, seek help for that too! If you want to try to do it all at home, maybe the support you need to get is for your business. Being a smart business owner is easy when you realize when you need help.
Giving yourself the power to be a successful small business owner AND a great mom starts with simple planning (doesn't everything?).
STAFF WRITER BIOS
Christine Bearse co-owner of Van den Braak, Bearse and Associates, a mult-va company with associates spanning the globe. To learn more about VBBA, please visit
www.vbbassociates.com. When she is not consulting with clients, she enjoys time with her husband and two young sons in Bridgewater, MA.
Tracey D'Aviero is a veteran VA and Founder of Your VA Mentor. Her mission is to provide education, inspiration and motivation to Virtual Assistants to help them build and grow successful businesses. She teaches teach them business and marketing skills and strategies, and mentors them as they implement those skills. Visit www.yourvamentor.com to learn about upcoming VA training programs and to pick up some great free resources.