Back to work tips for August

It’s August, and for many of us with children we know it’s time to get in one last bit of relaxation this summer. If you live in Florida for many of you like myself there’s only one or two weeks left of summer vacation. So enjoy the beach, have a couple of late mornings and get ready for the back to school schedules.

On the work side for many self-employed professionals summer is normally the time when things slow down for us. It’s also a good time to get your office back in order and ready for business for the next push of the year. My work tips for August:

  • Get your finances in order – August is a great time while it’s slow going to update all your bookkeeping/accountig. Round-up any stray unpaid invoices from customers if you have any. Do your bank recons so you have a idea where you stand financially and what you need to do to meet your end of year financial goal. Hire a bookkeeper if you don’t have the time, patience or software to do your finances by yourself, or they are too out of control for you to deal with. However you decide to deal with your finances set a deadline for August 31 to get it all done and ready for the last months of the year.
  • Schedules – If you have kids then your work from home schedule is going to be really important. Be realistic about what you can do and when you can do it. For many of us our best work time is when the kids have gone to school. That will give you a good 6 to 8 hours of focused work time, so use it wisely.
  • Be flexible – Although you’ve got a schedule it’s always good to be flexible because life happens.
  • Home Office or work space – Over time our work areas get cluttered, it’s natural. While its slow take a couple of hours to tidy up, put files in their place and shred all that unwanted paper that is cluttering up your space and make it workable again 🙂 Don’t forget your computers too, we tend to drop a lot of stuff on our destops, so file those away too.
  • Finally have fun – Enjoy the last few days of family relaxing time before everything goes haywire again. Have fun and head outdoors, go to the beach or bike riding, but have some more fun before school and work get back in full swing.

Happy summer and have a great August.

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Brain on vacation – Back to normal

Finally tax day has come and gone, and now my brain can vacate for a few days. It’s been a busy few weeks but was well worth it. Now to relax into a more steady work schedule.

mental-vacation

I can never say this enough having your accounts in order whether they’re done by you or a bookkeeper/accountant, it’s so much easier when it comes to taxes and annual accounts. Doing your accounts ever month, every quarter or even six months will be beneficial to you the business owner/independent contractor in that it helps you keep track of what your income and expenses are.   It also lessens the stress when it comes to doing your annual accounts and your profit and loss statements and other reports that you need at the end of your financial year.

So if you haven’t done your first quarter accounting, now would be a good time to get it done or hire a bookkeeper to do it for you.

Enjoy the week.

Althea – VYPA

How to write formally without sending readers to sleep.

I came across this article on the website How to Write Better. There are some good insights on making your writing more precise and to the point when writing formal documents for your business. But these tips can also apply to any kind of writing that we do now a days may it be formal or informal. So enjoy what the author of this article by Penny Dent has to say on the matter. I found it very interesting.

7 key tips to writing good formal documents, reports, letters and more

When we are writing something formal and structured, such as a document, report, or a letter, it is even more vital to be clear and get it right. This is no casual conversation, this is something that will make a difference. I spent twenty years producing formal documents that made a difference to children’s lives, so I know how important it is to follow a few simple rules in order to say what is needed.

Structure – keep it simple. What is the main objective of what you want to say? Don’t be tempted to muddy the waters by expanding on your message in too much detail or digressing into other areas. The more you keep it short and focused, the more likely you are to have your message heard and understood. If you are writing at length, consider including an introduction and conclusion; “tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em and then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.”

Layout – tempt the reader onwards. I am a great believer in using the layout of what you say to ensure that the message is read. So no long paragraphs, with multiple clauses, but not too many short, snappy sentences either. Avoid repetition, contractions and jargon. Keep sentences all the same length, wherever possible. Do the same with paragraphs; I really dislike long paragraphs and I would never put a single sentence as a paragraph in a formal piece of writing, unless I wanted to create real emphasis.

Break it up – I use punctuation and paragraphs to provide the basic structure, but if I am writing any length, I use other formatting to help invite the reader onwards. Bullet points are usually preferable to numbering in my view, as they highlight individual points without putting these in any particular order. Sub-headings are useful, even when contained within the text, as I have done here.

Language – of course the words we use are vital in communicating our message. Using complex or unusual vocabulary is counter-productive unless we are aiming to deliberately confuse or mislead our reader. Or if you want to impress them with what a bombast you are! Jargon is a definite no-no, as this may not be understood by those outside the sphere of its use. Writing formal documents on children with special educational needs for many years, I used to take on writers with no real knowledge of the field, so that they would not be tempted to use the jargon; I would tell them “if in doubt, leave it out.”

Grammar – when we are writing something more formal, we do not generally use the same grammatical structures we use when talking. This has become harder to define and maintain now that so much of what we write is casual and written in a conversational tone, such as in emails, texts and blogs. However, I think it is still useful to be correct when writing, as much to avoid silly mistakes as anything else. Mistakes or chatty grammar distract from the message we are trying to convey, which will make it lose its impact.

Tense – I try to write in the present tense as much as possible. Even when you are writing formally, this has more impact than writing in the past. Narration has traditionally been written in the past tense, or if you are writing a report and explaining what has happened, this will also be described as having happened. If you are explaining how to do something (as I am here) then I would keep it in the now as much as possible. These days books are often written in the present tense, making them more exciting and relevant.

Active or passive voice – using the passive voice used to be standard for any formal writing; “the words used are vital in communicating the message.” Nowadays we are much more personal and direct in what we say, so that even formal writing is related to our own experiences and views. This makes it easier to understand and follow. However, there is a difference between writing in the active voice “I really dislike long paragraphs and I would never put a single sentence as a paragraph in a formal piece of writing” and being too chatty “I hate long, boring bits of writing and wouldn’t put a sentence on its own”.

Overall, whatever the purpose of the writing, my number one tip is to keep it as short and simple as possible. People are lazy! So no matter how interesting your writing, they will not read it all carefully or thoroughly, unless it is riveting. As with any writing, set it down, walk away and then come back to check it, reducing the number of words and simplifying the message. Less is more.

Finding clarity from all the information around us.

clarity-email

As freelance professionals, or businesses working online or using online communications we will always be bombarded with information.  Information is one of those things that is, for the most part, free.  You join marketing groups, business development groups, forums, advice sites or social media sites.  Whatever site or group you join there is always information being sent via email, text message, push notifications and sometimes by physical mail.

When we’re just starting out on our own many of us, if not all of us, join numerous groups, sites or forums with the aim that they will help us to move ahead, gain more sales or a group following. Or to just be able to guide us in the direction that we think will help us to achieve our goals of being successful. However, as we progress in our journey some of those sites and the information that they provide becomes irrelevant. When such a time arises that the site and it’s information is no-longer needed then that is the time for you to cut all ties with that site and move on.

Getting rid of all the senseless information that comes from these sites once they become useless can be challenging and so it is best done as soon as you make the decision to quit the site. You should remember that once you close or delete you account on the site the information flow does not stop. You will have to go into your email and social media accounts and physically stop these notification by either unsubscribing. While most emails can be unsubscribed from there are some that don’t have that option and so the next best thing to do is to block those emails. Do the same with you social media group and push notifications and text message. The quicker you clean up those unwanted information the faster you can move on in achieving your goals.

It’s good to know what’s out there to help you, but once you find the right information for you the faster you will succeed. Have fun being successful.

Windows 10 upgrade available until July 29, 2016

windows 10

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re all having a great Sunday and Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. I just want to remind all the users of Windows 7 & 8 that the free windows 10 update is still available until June 29. So you have 10 days to get your laptops or PCs updated for free.

By now you should have received a notification in your update ready section telling you that you can update your windows product, but if not you can click on the link and get the download from Microsoft. This link will become inactive after July 29. Link courtesy of Microsoft.com

Windows 10 upgrade – FREE

I’ve had windows 10 for almost a year now on the free upgrade and it’s great to work with. Now all my laptops and computers have it on.

Happy updating.

Althea – VYPA

 

 

 

Spring has Sprung – Part 1: Spring clean your work space.

Spring is finally here and with it coinciding with the end of the first business quarter, it’s a good time to declutter our work space and fine tune our work tools.

spring-cleaning-sites

Spring has finally sprung, and with the start of the new season it’s time for us to do a bit of spring cleaning. As is traditional spring is the time where we clear our closets of things we don’t wear, and clean our homes from top to bottom and discard all those unwanted items. Spring cleaning is always associated with fresh beginnings, and fresh starts, and getting things right for the rest of the year. Since we make this association with our lives and spring it only makes sense that we also spring clean that area of our life that is responsible for us having and maintaining our standard of living, our office and work areas. There are three main areas that we should pay attention to when it comes to our work space.

The first area is our work desk. Many of us have desks and draws that are so filled with clutter that we don’t even go into them anymore because naturally nothing of use can be found in them. Many times we put things in our desk draws and inevitably forget about them, and many of those items that are in our draws can technically be thrown away. Now is a good time before the year gets too busy to go through those draws and do a spring clean of all the junk that has accumulated over time. If you use the draws for file storage, set up a system where only things that are only needed for work are put in those files and draws, all other stuff for personal use can go else where. A neat and organised draw will make it better to find what you need. And when looking for something you will spend less time searching and more time doing some productive work.

On the desk that pen holder full of pens that are either broken or empty needs to be decluttered. I know some things have sentimental meaning, I still have a pen set that I was given when I graduated from university years ago, but sitting on my desk is not the place for it. Something of meaning should have a place to be stored. On your work desk should only be the things that are necessary for your work. Yes pictures are fine but if you have a desk full of pictures and nowhere to work then you probably have too many pictures. Keeping your work desk as clear as possible helps to focus the mind and keep it clear. When our desks are cluttered, the clutter acts as a distraction and hence lowers our productivity rate. So clear those desks of unnecessary distractions and get back to work.

With our desk and draws uncluttered and clear the second area of cleaning is our computers. Many of us make our living solely by PC, we create reports, we write, we Skype, we use them daily and for long periods. If something happened to our computers/laptops we would be lost and in many cases our businesses would grind to a halt. In this day of working remotely and doing almost everything by computer it makes sense that we keep our number one working tool finely tuned. I regularly go through my program file and see what programs are there, many times when we download stuff we get additional programs added to our file. And yes even though you click the do not download this it will sometimes still be added to your computer. I have found that going through the program files and deleting unwanted files helps declutter the computer and releases memory that can be used on something useful. In conjunction with deleting unwanted programs you can also run the defragment program on your computer to free up space also.

If you have an antivirus software or any type of protection for your computer, now would be a good time to run a full scan of your computer and give it a good clean. Running a scan, depending on which virus protection or software you have, will help prevent unwanted programs, viruses, trojans, etc. There are many times we stop our programs from running these scans because we are too busy, but they are a good thing and need to be done not only at spring cleaning time, but at least at the end of each quarter, or more frequent if you can. You would be amazed at how much faster your computer will run after a full scan and clean up.

The third area we should spring clean is our emails. Have you ever noticed that you’ll get an email and you don’t have the time to read it so you create a folder and put that email in there for later. But later never came and the email is still in that folder along with numerous others. I’ve done that. Some times emails look interesting and you think, “I’ll take a look at that later,” and then you put it into your saved folder, or whatever name you’ve called it. Two years later it’s still there. With the amount of emails that we receive daily sometimes things look so interesting that we are tempted to put them aside to read either at the end of the day, week, or over the weekend. As we all know life happens and those emails never get touched. So if you have one of those folders or files in your email account by all means go ahead and delete it with its contents. Chances are if you haven’t read anything in there that was of use to you before there won’t be anything of use to you now, so hit delete.

Also since you’re cleaning out your email folders it’s a good time to go through all your email folders and clean them out. If the emails are for old projects that you worked on and completed in the last 18 months then go ahead and archive them. If they’re older than 18 months then you can delete them. I know there are places and people who need to keep emails or files and such for five years and more, but for many independent contractors, executive assistants, virtual assistants, there is a limit to how much you can keep, and in many cases with the confidentiality agreements you sign the work that’s done does not belong to you it is ultimately your clients. So with that said there is no need to keep work for clients that you did over an extended period of time. So those files and emails can be deleted. Yes of course you will still keep their contact information and any contractual information you have but the back and forth emails in some cases does not need to be kept and can be discarded to declutter your email.

These are usually the three main areas that cause us the most grief when it comes to working, our computers, our emails, and our work desks. If you keep these clutter free after this spring cleaning then hopefully it should help you to be more productive for the rest of the year. Now all we have to do is get our filing systems in order.

Happy spring cleaning.

Althea