How to Stop Multitasking

How to Stop Multitasking

Do you ever have those days where you can’t stay focused to save your life? For me, it’s usually when I have way too much to get done, and my brain thinks I should try to do it all at once. Not a good way to do quality work and also a nightmare when I’m supposed to be tracking time. I’ve toyed with a few different ways to slow myself down and focus on one project at a time, with pretty good success.

Firstly, banish the idea that in order to get everything done you need to do it all at once. I am guilty of this often. You will get way more done if you concentrate on one thing at a time and put all of your energy into it. I recently read an article from Psychology Today that goes into exactly that. Basically, you will get both tasks done a lot faster if you concentrate on one at a time than if you do both at once. Here are a few ways I have found to help myself stay on task.

Set a Timer

I use this one every single day. In fact, I set a timer for half an hour to work as far on this post as I could. It gives you the freedom to work as much as you can on the given project while knowing that you can go to a different task once the timer is up. It’s also really helpful for when you are working hourly.

Unplug

This one can be used in conjunction with using a timer. While you are working on a specific project, put your phone on do not disturb or silent. That way you won’t be drawn to look at that new twitter update or a text from your friend. Do not disturb is particularly helpful because you can set it to allow a caller through if they call a certain amount of times in a small period, so you won’t miss anything truly important.

Stay Off Email

Getting a notification for every email can be really jarring when you need to concentrate. My worst times are when I’m on a call with a client and feel drawn to checking the new notification from my email. So not professional. I’ve turned off the banner notifications on my phone and minimize my email window when I don’t want to be bothered with it. There are very few emails important enough that they need an immediate reply.

Noise

There are two types of people in this world: people who need silence when working and those who don’t. You probably already know where you fall (especially if you’ve worked in an office.) Personally, I find silence extremely distracting, so I always have my Pandora playing in the background. You might like having a TV on in the background on news or the weather channel. Or you might need complete silence. Whatever helps you to concentrate, do it!

Other Distractions

There are always distractions that are particular for you. Mine is my cat when she wants to sit directly in front of me on my keyboard, hence the window seat next to my desk. Yours might be your children or Candy Crush or any other number of things. Try thinking outside the box for solutions to limit these distractions.

After all of this, I still have to say there are times when multitasking is beneficial. I found it useful when I had to answer phones at my previous job. If you have young children, it is probably a good thing you have the ability to pop in and out of tasks to address their needs. But when you really need to stay concentrated, use these tips to help guide yourself to limited multitasking.

Thoughts from January 2018

Thoughts from January 2018

January has been a quiet month. After the frenzy of holiday travel,  it felt so nice to get home and get back to work. I really leaned into my 2018 goals this month, which means there was a lot happening in the background, but not so much out in the open. Maybe February will be a little more robust!

Links I Love

 

Working Smarter

In December, I felt like I was drowning in things to do and never seeming to get enough done. I knew I needed to be dedicated to my work.  So, I made the goal to work eight hours a day Monday through Friday. There are only two rules. One, anything in my to-do list app could count towards the eight hours since most of those things are connected to my goals. Two, I need to allow myself some bad days and not dwell on them. This has been working so well and I’ve been working so much more intentionally because of it.

 

Walking More

Another goal for 2018 is to increase my step count and since I live near three major bike paths, I’ve been getting out to walk a lot more. My friends who I babysit for also gave me one of their strollers so Axel and I can get out and about. If you want to check up on my walking, please friend me on Runkeeper.

I’m slowly and steadily working on my 2018 goals. It’s so easy to let goals fall by the wayside, but if I keep them front and center, I hope that I can say that I finished them all by the end of the year.  There should be some more travel in February and a lot more work on this blog. How was your January? Have you made any goals for the new year?

Blogging Goals Update: January 2018

Blogging Goals Update: January 2018

It’s time again to revisit my blogging goals. I share various goals at the end of each month for two reasons. One is to keep myself accountable.  The other is to encourage you to make your own goals. They don’t have to be about blogging (but they can be!), they only need to move you forward in your journey, especially if it leads to working from home.

The lesson this month is about learning to move forward even if you don’t accomplish what you thought you would. I didn’t complete any of my previous goals and I even had four months since I made my last goals. My Pinterest is in about the same shape as it was in September and, though I’ve made considerable progress, I have not finished all of the blogging books I have. It’s frustrating to not accomplish anything, but it shows me that I need to scale back my goals and set ones I can actually finish.

 

3-Month Goals – April

  • Finish Blogging Books
    • I’ve finished 2 of the 4 books and the last two are relatively short. I should be able to get them done.
  • Input To Dos from Books into Omni Focus
    • What’s the point in reading these books if I don’t use what I learn from them? And this is an enjoyable goal for me.

 

6-Month Goals – July

  • Reorganize Pinterest
    • I’m slowing down my posting schedule so I can get really solid in it. Then I can start to up my social media presence in force.

 

12-Month Goals – January

  • Have Monetization in Place
    •  I want to add this to my work-from-home income, so making money from my blog is a must.

 

I’m slowing down these goals a little as I learn how to keep up with my posting schedule. Once I can do this, it will be easier to add in other to-dos. I didn’t put this particular to-do on this list because it isn’t a goal that propels me forward; it is the foundation on which all other goals are built. What are the goals you are trying to move forward? Do you have any tips for staying on task?

Thoughts from December 2017

Thoughts from December 2017

December was another busy month for me (as is January, which is why this is so late.) I traveled home to Wisconsin for the first time since moving to Washington and that involved a lot of work beforehand in my business. It was a pretty good month even with that.

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Virtual Assistant Business

I’m finally reaching the point where I’m not scrambling to get another client. If my math is right, I should be able to have a tiny bit of leftover money in January. Cross my fingers. This is due to me adding my fifth client at the beginning of January and another one of my clients adding a task. I’m pretty excited about this!

The white line on the horizon is the Olympic Mountains, the water in front of it is Puget Sound, in the middle is Seattle, and the closest body of water is Lake Washington. Beautiful!

Christmas in Wisconsin

I went back to Wisconsin for the week between Christmas and New Years. The only bad thing about the whole week was the sub-zero temperatures (seriously, it got above zero one day while I was there.) I got to celebrate Christmas with my extended family, visit friends in Madison, go to a high-school friend’s wedding, and have some college friends over to my parent’s house. It was a really busy week and it felt good to head back to Washington at the end of it (the 40-degree temperatures helped as well.)

New Year Ahead

I am so excited to tackle the year ahead of me. 2017 was a really rough year for so many different reasons and there’s always the hope that the new year will be better. Politically, I can’t do much to fix national climate other than being kind to others and stand firm in my personal conversations. Personally, I have a grand plan in how I’m going to make 2018 a good year. I know that I need to strive to be a better me and I plan on rocking it.

How was your December? Do you have anything to celebrate as 2017 ends and 2018 begins?

End of the Year Review and New Year Goals

End of the Year Review and New Year Goals

Happy New Year!!

I absolutely love new starts and nothing is better than the start of a brand new year. It always gives me the sense that all my possibilities are open and I can achieve anything. This year I’ve decided to make comprehensive goals for the new year in a number of different areas. And you can, too! Please use this post to create your new year goals, which you can do at any point in the year!

End of Year Review

The beginning of a new year should always start with a review of the last. I look at it as a baseline. For me, I didn’t set any real goals at the beginning of 2017, so I can’t review them, but I can say what went well and what didn’t. I moved from Wisconsin to Washington, started my own business, live alone for the first time, and launched a blog. Even with having no goals, I got a lot done! Write down a few of the things that have gone right for you this year.

That being said, there were also some not so good things. I did have to ask my parents for money during my transition. I didn’t reach my reading goal, which was the only goal I set in 2017. And my fitness plummeted when I started working at home. Even with these negatives, they give me ideas for goals in the new year so those not so good things don’t happen again. Even though it might not be comfortable, make a list of the things that didn’t go so right this year.

Word for the Year

I picked a word for the year in 2016 and 2017 and don’t plan to stop. The basic premise is picking a word that reminds you of what you want out of the year ahead. This year I have chosen EXPLORE for my word. I want to discover new and interesting things about myself and my relationship with everything around me.

Big Goals

The next thing I do is to pick my big goals. These should be goals that are the end game. Some will go to the end of the year, some will be completed sooner, but they are the big picture. I split mine up into six categories: Family/Friends, Financial, Health, Personal, Professional, and Travel. Your goal categories will look different than mine, but be sure to not have too many. I also make sure to have no more than three big goals in each category and to vary the difficulty of my goals. Take some time to brainstorm your goals. Here are mine:

  • Friends/Family
    • Be a More Intentional Friend
  • Financial
    • Don’t Get Behind on Bills
    • Get My Own Health Insurance
  • Health
    • Increase My Step Count
    • Wash Face Regularly
  • Personal
    • Read 24 Books
    • Organize Electronic Devices
  • Professional
  • Travel

Small Goals

I am all about actionable goals, but, as you can probably see, some of these big goals are not actionable at all. This is where my small goals come in. They give me a chance to give myself a roadmap of how I will achieve my goals in the year ahead.

  • Friends/Family
    • Be a More Intentional Friend
      • Chose which friends are included
      • Some friends are contacted weekly, others monthly
  • Financial
    • Don’t Get Behind on Bills
      • Banking Once a Week
    • Get My Own Health Insurance
      • My Deadline is August, When I Turn 26
      • Start Research in May
  • Health
    • Increase My Step Count
      • Start Walking a Mile During Lunch Three Days a Week
      • Increase Daily Step Goal by 2,000 Steps Every Three Months
    • Wash Face Regularly
      • Add to My Evening Routine
  • Personal
  • Professional
    • Work 8 Hours on Weekdays
      • Work is Anything in My To Dos
      • Use a Daily, Hourly Planner
    • Finish Proofread Anywhere
      • Proofread at Least 15 Pages a Day
    • Market Blog Intentionally
      • Rework Social Media Strategy
      • Add Pinterest to Social Media
  • Travel
    • Visit Every Park in Lacey, WA
      • Make a List of All Parks
      • Visit Parks on Walks and Weekends
    • Hike Carbon River in Mt. Rainier National Park
      • Purchase Yearly Mt. Rainier Pass
    • See Puffins on the Olympic Penninsula
      • Research When They Come and Where to See
      • Plan Roadtrip to Olympic Penninsula

Future Reviews

The last thing I do after putting all my small goals into my to-do app is schedule times to review my goals. I schedule mine for every three months. I use this time to make sure that my goals are on track and see if they are still relevant. A lot can change throughout the year, and you shouldn’t be afraid to amend or disregard your goals if it’s warranted.

Goals are a really awesome to keep yourself on track and you know the best way to structure them for how you work best. I know of people who only work with quarterly goals and others who can have full five- and ten-year goals. Do what feels the most comfortable for you and play with your goals throughout the year so the most important things get accomplished. Please let me know what your goals are for the year! What is the best way for you to achieve your goals?

Virtual Assistant Goals Update: December 2017

Virtual Assistant Goals Update: December 2017

It’s that time again! Every three months I review my goals for my virtual assistant business and create new ones for the next few months. This is an excellent way for me to stay on top of my goals and have accountability. It’s also a good reminder to you to revisit your goals in life and whether you are moving towards them. The last time I discussed my VA goals was in September.

Achieved Goals

  • Get More Clients
    • I’m so proud that I am up to five regular clients! I’m finally breaking even.
  • Build Social Media Skills
    • I’ve been reading articles and making good progress. There is always more to learn, but I’m going in the right direction.

3-Month Goals – March 2018

  • Build Billable Time
    • I need to concentrate on staying focused throughout the day and devoting as much of my time to billable hours as possible.
  • Create New Work With Me Page
    • My first Hire Me page is sort of terrible, so I’m hoping to roll out a new and improved one in January or February.

6-Month Goals – June 2018

  • Create a Plan for a Rate Increase
    • At the year mark of my business, I need to evaluate if my rates need to go up.
  • Build Adobe Product Skills
    • I’m starting to use more Adobe products (like InDesign) and I would love to continue building those skills.

12-Month Goals – December 2018

  • Make $2,000 a Month from Freelance Work
    • This is one of my big goals for 2018 and the best way to motivate me to continue building my business.

I thrive off of goals and having a clear picture of where I am going. I’m also really happy with my progress, especially in the number of clients I have and how much I absolutely love my work.  Are you starting out on your virtual assistant journey? Check out 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success. This is an indispensable tool for me.

Is Your Goal Actionable?

Is Your Goal Actionable?

Merry Christmas! We are entering the time of year where a lot of people start thinking about what they want from the year ahead. Some people create new years resolutions and concentrate on one goal at a time and others create comprehensive goal sheets with subgoals and deadlines (mine is coming out next week.) However you do it, you should be setting yourself up for success, which means making goals that are actionable and can be accomplished.

Reframe Goals

You want to take any nebulous goals and make them more concrete and focused. I’ll use one of my goals for the new year: be a better friend. Of course, this doesn’t tell me anything about what I really want out of this goal or what the end result might look like! After some thought, I realized that I wanted to be a more intentional friend and maintain my friendships on a more consistent basis. This is narrowing down on one aspect of being a friend.

Under Your Control

For every goal you have, make sure that any action that needs to be taken is something you have under your control. In order to be a more intentional friend, I can’t set the goal that I will spend time with a specific friend once a week, I don’t know their schedule. Instead, I can have my goal be to reach out to that friend at least once a week. This means that even a short text conversation fulfills this goal, but also leaves it open to more substantial contact.

Measurable

This is the biggest part of making a goal actionable, how can you measure that you have completed your goal? For me, it means defining what reaching out means, choosing the specific friends I want to include in this goal, and understanding that there may be times that I fail. An ongoing goal (reaching out once a week) is hard to maintain. l also include the caveat with my goal that there may be weeks that I miss this small goal, but as long as I reach out at least 40 weeks out of the year, I can still say I reached my goal.

Reaching your goals is the best feeling and making sure your goals are actionable is the first step to setting yourself up for success. What are your goals for the new year? Do you think these goals are actionable?

How to Create a Flexible Weekly Meal Plan

How to Create a Flexible Weekly Meal Plan

Meal plans are a staple in many households. They can allow you to grocery shop much more proficiently, know what you have in your house, and even eat more healthy. And I tried them many times and can’t make them work. I would find myself skipping meals or running out of ingredients because the plan was too restrictive. Then I tried a different way of meal planning that is based on how many servings I have of each meal. It’s changed how I view meal plans! Here is how you can make your own.

Recipes

Make a list of all the meals you like to eat. You can split the list however you need to. I only need main lunch/dinner meals and main breakfast foods. You may want to include side dishes, desserts, or work lunches. Maybe making a list separately for kids and adult will be helpful. Either wat, you want to have a semi-complete list of all the meals you normally make.

Portions

Next, decide on the portion sizes you need. If the recipe pretty much makes what you’ll eat, list that. If you commonly have leftovers for a particular meal, list the number of meal you can make from one recipe. And the portion sizes can be for individual people or it can be a portion that will feed your family. I know that I can get three meals out of a medium sized pizza and one meal out of two slices of bread with whatever filling I want.

Meals a Week

The last thing you need is the number of meals in each category you need a week. That might be five adult lunches, five kid lunches, nine lunch/dinner meals for the whole family. Or a combination thereof. I usually have 14 lunch or dinner meals and 7 breakfasts. Choose what makes the most sense for you for that week.

I make a layout of my meal portions for each week based on what I have in my house and what I buy grocery shopping. I already know I have all the ingredients I need before I make this. As I eat a meal portion, I cross out the box next to it. This way I can know all my options in one glance, but also have the flexibility to eat whatever I feel like eating. What sort of meal plan do you usually use? Is this new format useful to you?

Vancouver and Victoria Road Trip

Vancouver and Victoria Road Trip

As I mentioned in my Thoughts from November post this month,  my parents came to Washington for the week of Thanksgiving and we went on a road trip to Vancouver and Victoria, BC.  It was a really great time and my first time in Canada! I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see a different part of the Pacific Northwest.

The Route

When I was trying to explain to my parents where we were going, it was hard to accurately talk about the spacial relations. As you can see on the map above, we drove north from the Seattle area to Vancouver. Then we got on a ferry and went southwest from Vancouver to Victoria. From Victoria, we took another ferry straight south to Port Angeles, which is in Washington. From there is was a simple drive south to my apartment, which is generally south-southwest from Seattle. Basically, we made a giant triangle, sorta.

Me at the Vancouver Art Gallery
View from the gondola.
The view from Grouse Mountain.

Vancouver, BC

It was raining when we arrived in Vancouver. This put my parents off quite a bit, but I just kept reminding them they were in the Pacific Northwest during winter, so they shouldn’t be surprised. Since it was raining, we went to the Vancouver Art Gallery. It’s in the heart of downtown Vancouver. My mom loves art; Dad and I are less thrilled with it. We enjoyed several of the exhibits though, and it was so interesting to learn more about the culture of Canada through its art.

We stayed in North Vancouver that night. The next morning we took a gondola ride to the top of Grouse Mountain. It was a very nice ride and had a few cool views. It would have been better on a clearer day, though, as is the case with a lot of things in the PNW. We got to experience mountain snow and were a little under dressed for it (which is surprising, since it snows all the time in Wisconsin.) After this, we packed up and drove to the ferry to take us to Victoria.

Sunset over the Strait of Juan de Fuca
The view of the harbor from our suite.
British Columbia Parliament Building

Victoria, BC

We all fell completely in love with Victoria. It’s smaller than Vancouver, but still has some of the big city attraction. The architecture of the downtown area is fantastic and it has several wonderful parks in the area. We stopped in Beacon Hill Park to watch the sun set over the Olympic Mountains (thank goodness for clear days.) We then treated ourselves to a penthouse suite on the harbor. This is not something we would normally do at all, but my mom decided we deserved it. We had views of the harbor and of the BC Parliament Building. We took a walk around the harbour and enjoyed the wonderful weather and the history. Sadly, due to a crunch on time, these were the only things we were able to do in Victoria, but all three of us agreed that we would go back together someday.

On the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria.
My parents on the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria.
View of the Olympics from Victoria.

Customs and Ferries

I had only ever gone through customs in an airport, so going through land-based customs and a ferry-based customs was interesting. The land one was really easy and took only five minutes. The ferry one was more interesting. We had to get to the ferry terminal 90 minutes before departure. Then we had to wait and show a bunch of different people our passports.  Once we were in the United States, we did the drive-through thing again. It was a unique experience.

The ferries were the best part for me. The ferry from Vancouver to Victoria was a very large boat with multiple decks and an insane capacity. It also wove through several islands, which was so beautiful. My dad even saw whales! The ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles was smaller, but still the second biggest ferry I had ever been on. The journey was a lot more boring due in part to the lack of islands and the fog that had settled in. The day before we had been able to see the United States from land and the next we were unable to see it until we were right upon in.

Interesting Tidbits

I had never been to Canada before and had only been out of the US one other time (to Mexico), so this was a new experience for me. Since they measure in kilometers, road signs were weird for a little while. I kept catching myself going “It can’t be 100!” and then remembering it was in kilometers and that was only 60 miles per hour. The currency exchange rate was also awesome. Everything was much cheaper than it appeared for us and asking Siri for the conversations was fun. I also learned that Canada doesn’t use their one-cent pieces anymore (which we should totally do.) Overall, though, it was pretty much the same as the U.S., we even ate in a Denny’s one night, though they did have real maple syrup!

I loved this trip and it was awesome to be able to do it with my parents! There is still so much I want to see in this area of the continent, so subsequent trips are a must. If you’ve been to any of these places before, what was your favorite part? If you haven’t been, is it somewhere you would want to go?

How to Identify the Most Important Thing in Your Day

How to Identify the Most Important Thing in Your Day

I love to read about productivity plans and to play with them in my own routine. However, a lot of them talk about choosing your most important task of the day. When I first read that I thought, “One!? I can’t choose only one!” Then after reading about it multiple times, I decided to start an experiment and to my surprise, it was very helpful. Here are a few questions I ask myself to figure out my most important task of the day.

Are there deadlines coming up?

This is probably the easiest way to pinpoint your most important task. If you have something due tomorrow, do it today. Also, if there is something you’ve been putting off, but it really needs to get done, make it your most important thing. This might be where you stop, but if you have nothing that is imminently due or behind, then you should continue on to the other questions.

What will be the most satisfying to complete?

I use this qualifier more often than not. There are some things you have going on that will just be very satisfying to finish or get caught up on. This is especially true for things you aren’t very keen on doing. Get it out of the way first, then your day will have a satisfying ending.

What will you be disappointed tomorrow?

I try to be nice to tomorrow me and you should, too. If it’s going to be a hassle to finish a project tomorrow, try to get it done today. The worst thing is waking up in the morning and realizing that you have a huge project to complete that you should have worked on the day before.

What do you have time for?

My most open days are Monday and Friday right now. I know that I can stick my larger projects on those days and not feel overwhelmed. On the other hand, Wednesdays are my busiest days currently. I try to be gentle with myself and have simple goals on that day since I know that I won’t have as much time. Always be kind to yourself as much as you can.

Even at the end of these questions, I still sometimes have more than one most important task. I split my tasks into personal and work items and that usually helps me. It also helps to have a hierarchy of importance, so there is a list of 3-5 of my most important tasks in each category. How do you decide which tasks are the most important?