March resilience tip: Confidence

This month I’m focusing on confidence. Confidence is a tricky trait and one that’s often misunderstood. Confidence should not be confused with arrogance or hubris. Both of those traits stem from a lack of confidence

True confidence comes from self-assurance rooted in fact. For example, I have made egg salad 9,567,234 times (this is an estimate) so when I go to make egg salad, I am extremely confident in my ability and the outcome. To further extend the analogy, since I have such success with egg salad, I am also confident in my ability to make other kinds of “salads”, even if I haven’t made them before. This is largely informed by my experience following recipes. I know if I follow a recipe I can pretty much make anything. Where my confidence falters is if there is math or science involved in a recipe. This is where I turn it all over to my husband and go to bed. 

I feel I have worn out this egg salad analogy. Also, I’m hungry.

Confidence—one of the core change muscles

When we talk about resilience and the ability to face uncertainty, Confidence is one of your core muscles, in addition to Positivity, which I talk about more in-depth here. By engaging these two muscles I set myself up to lean on the remaining five in a way that will (hopefully) accurately address the upcoming disruption and allow me to remain sane and healthy throughout. That’s the goal, right? How many of us have come out on the other side of some change feeling run-down and exhausted, only to be faced with another change almost immediately? Already depleted, we crawl back to bed hoping someone else will deal with whatever it is. I know for me, this causes me to ignore situations that could be opportunities, or walk around feeling like a failure. It’s not a fun way to live. 

Prosilience—oh great, another “ilience”

Here is where I’d like to introduce the idea of “Prosilience”. Prosilience, a term coined by Linda Hoopes, comes from a combination of the words proactive + resilience. Prosilience asks us to practice being resilient even when we don’t need to be. To move forward in a discussion about resilience demands a conversation about what we do when we’re not freaking out. It’s difficult to be resilient if you haven’t been practicing, right? The best athletes say that practice is just as important to their success as talent and skill. Just ask Serena Williams, who daily practices at least 4 hours in addition to the time she spends working out and taking a dance class. If you want to know more about her workout and diet, you can check it out here. She is incredible. I could write an entire article on her and how she is Prosilience personified. 

So if we’re talking about being proactively resilient, it is important to first build up Positivity and Confidence since these are the first muscles generally flexed when expectations aren’t met. 

Positivity: What does this mean for me? Is it dangerous or will it present an opportunity? (this may not be your specific internal dialogue. Mine is usually closer to “oh for f*ck’s sake WHAT NOW?”) 

Confidence: Can I handle this? Will everything be ok? (or me: “someone call my MOM”)

Resilience workouts—the only workouts that don’t require sweaty bathroom selfies

To answer these questions in a way that allows us to stay energized and alert we need to weave a resilience workout into our daily routine. So how do I build my confidence when I don’t know exactly what I need to be confident in? The good news: confidence doesn’t have to be specific to one thing. 

Confidence is the muscle that helps you understand your own strengths and capabilities and see how you can use them to solve the problems you face. A strong Confidence muscle helps you have a “can-do” attitude, believe in yourself and your capabilities, tolerate disappointment, and persist in overcoming obstacles.”

Hoopes, Linda. Prosilience: Building Your Resilience for a Turbulent World (pp. 74-75). Dara Press. Kindle Edition. 

Our confidence in any given situation is closely tied to our ability to problem-solve. To proactively build my confidence, I challenge myself in a few different ways. 

  1. I try to keep a “growth” mindset. Instead of viewing my abilities, talent, skills, and intelligence as fixed, I remind myself that I always have something new to learn. Yes, there are things I may be an expert in (like making egg salad) but I do my best to stay open to learning from others. I also try new things. There are tons of free online courses in everything from creative writing to cooking. I sign up for a new course about once a quarter and learn something new. It challenges me to use my brain differently and come at something like a total novice and it’s a great exercise in remaining teachable.
  2. I know my strengths. This one is a biggie. I used to be very hard on myself and thought I wasn’t good enough at anything. In my tumultuous 20s, a friend told me that I was good at something and it blew my mind. This was the first time I ever considered that just because someone else might be as good or better than I was at something, it did not mean I, too, wasn’t good at it. I realized how empowering it was to know I was good at something and to let that fact stand alone. I didn’t have to be better. It was ok to know I was good at something and file it away as one of my strengths. Since then I have taken a few strengths assessments and even asked supervisors and coworkers what they think I’m good at. It’s so helpful to have a clear understanding of your strengths in addition to the things that may not be your forté. 
  3. I’m (mostly) nice to myself. Like I said before, I used to be really, really, really hard on myself. I berated myself for what I thought people thought about me. If I made a mistake or acted out of anger I would spend days and days upset and horrified at my behavior. Coworkers were afraid to talk to me about the mistakes I made at work because they knew how mean I would be to myself about it. It caused people to be uncomfortable around me. It was a problem. Eventually, I decided it was time to stop treating myself this way, and sought advice from someone in my network. Through our work together, one of the best tools she gave me was to turn my sense of humor inward. I had heard “be nice to yourself” so many times and it seemed so silly and unattainable. But laughing at myself was easier to do. It opened the door for me to be a bit more objective when I felt myself succumbing to my inner critic. If I could look at the situation like I would if it were one of my friends I had a much easier time laughing at whatever dumb thing I’d done. With years of practice, I very rarely get down on myself anymore. 
  4. I make sure I’m having fun. It’s easy to get caught up in all this “work” and forget to enjoy myself. Nothing builds my confidence more than when I am laughing and having fun with my people. It gets me out of my head and into the moment where I realize everything is really ok. 

Confidence is not a feeling—except when it is

And finally, it’s totally ok if you don’t feel confident all the time. No one does. When something happens that is out of my control, very rarely do I feel confident at first. I usually get scared, and anxious, and want to run away. This is when I have to use my logic to decide that I can handle something and work my way up to being confident either by doing research or asking for help. However, there are times when something comes my way and I do feel confident, which is a bonus of lots of practice.  

Taking small steps daily to build confidence will ensure that when faced with change, whether it be at work or at home, you can flex your confidence muscle and engage your energy in a way that’s optimal for you. If you want to learn more about your resilience and how to be prosilient, contact me and let’s chat! 

Now go make yourself some egg salad.

The first step to increasing resilience: Positivity. Great.

In 2009 I was in a dark place. My dad had just died, I was quickly losing faith in an industry I thought I would be in until I retired, and I hadn’t had a steady paycheck in more than a year. I could no longer afford rent so I was essentially homeless. I was 2,000+ miles away from my family and I didn’t see a light at the end of this long, long tunnel. I was 32 years old and light-years away from where I thought I would be at that point in my life and career. So, I did what I had to do. I quit the soul-sucking job that wasn’t paying me (and prior to completely doing away with my paychecks, they barely covered my bills), packed everything I could into my truck, and got two minimum wage jobs while I crashed on friend’s couches.

What a life! 

Looking back now, I see how I did use positivity to get through it, but if someone had said “Hey! Just think positive!” at the time, you could add “went to jail for attempted murder” to the nightmare I was living. 

I’ve since learned that I’m a very resilient person by nature. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to experience a crisis in order to flex my resilience muscles, that not everyone is naturally as resilient as I am, and that resilience can be learned and developed. You don’t have to be born with it. 

“Positivity: Finding hope and possibility in the midst of difficult situations.”

Hoopes, Linda. Prosilience: Building Your Resilience for a Turbulent World (p. 69). Dara Press. Kindle Edition. 

So why am I writing about positivity? Because it is important both in life and in business. Using positivity doesn’t have to mean you ignore the reality of a situation. Nor does it mean you relax into a sense of naiveté that “everything happens for a reason”. It means you purposefully look for something positive in the situation. Here are some examples of finding hope in even the darkest of times:

  • Did I practice basic self-care today? If not, is there one thing I can do now? (take a bath, drink some water, go for a 5-minute walk)
  • Think of one person I know who loves and cares for me. What would that person say to me right now? Better yet, call them or send them a text.
  • Did I ask for help today? If not, think of something I can ask for help with tomorrow.

Positivity doesn’t always mean finding something good about a crappy situation. It actually works best when we think of something positive we have done. This encourages us to continue to make positive, healthy decisions which in turn makes us feel good about ourselves.

I understand this can take work. Remaining positive during a major change or traumatic life event is mostly not intuitive for people, and honestly, it’s the last thing I want to do when I am justifiably scared, angry, or upset. The best part: there are no rules! Wallowing, being stuck, and seeing only how bad things are is an important part of the process. Acknowledging the gravity of a situation and assessing the effect it will have is vital. However, most people know on some level when they’re ready to shift their mindset and see something (anything!) good in a hard situation. If shifting out of a negative mindset is consistently difficult, I highly recommend a good therapist or coach to help you with the process. 

Positivity is only one part of the resilience equation. I’ll be writing an article a month on each resilience characteristic, and then move into talking more about prosilience: being proactively resilient. Sign up here to have each article delivered directly to your inbox, along with (non-spammy) tips about increasing your resilience and improving your life and work. 

What are your thoughts about positivity and resilience? Let me know in the comments!

How to Love the Tasks You Hate

“Jacqueline, we’re out of toner.”

When I worked in a traditional office, those five words would send me into a panic. I HATED ordering toner. I have no idea why. It wasn’t that different from ordering any other office supplies. It actually took less time than ordering supplies, but I just refused to do it. Then we’d run out and I’d have to make a mad dash to the nearest Office Depot and stock up.

How did I get over my aversion to toner procurement? I DELEGATED.

Do you really need another long, drawn-out blog post about how to use mindfulness or meditation to overcome your childhood trauma related to ordering toner/updating your website/sending out newsletters/keeping track of expenses? No. You do not.

I’ll keep it very simple. Delegate. Find someone who will take your business to the next level by doing the things you dislike.

Contact me today to find the right Virtual Assistant or Remote Operations Specialist to make all of your organizational dreams come true. Want to learn more about my 20+ years experience managing offices and CEOs? Here’s a link.

May you escape this April Fools’ Day unscathed. Until April 2nd…

The Five Best Apps for Virtual Assistants in 2019

By Jacqueline Leibler

As we start another year, it’s important to stay up to date on the best apps to use to streamline your processes and improve productivity. To put it bluntly, the more technology can help you cut down on time, the happier you make your clients by beating project timelines, and you make more money as you have more time to do—more! Below are my five favorite apps for saving time and getting precise results.

1. Trello—I ADORE Trello. It is my favorite go-to app for project planning. The free version offers tons of functionality, and you can add “power-ups” that will connect to other apps and make it so easy to track time on various projects and attach working documents to project cards. You can add your client to a specific board and work directly in Trello instead of trying to wade through unending email threads or text messages. You can set due dates and leave comments for each other as well as creating checklists that you can mark off as tasks are completed. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of checking off a to-do as done! At less than $50 a year, Trello is an incredible deal, and you get a free month every time someone signs up with a link you send them.

2. Harvest—The best time tracker I’ve ever used. It allows you to set up multiple clients with an unlimited number of projects and tasks attributed to each. It can be accessed via the web, a desktop app, or an extension added directly to a browser. If you’re anything like me, you might leave timers running after you’ve completed work. Don’t worry! Harvest will send you an email to let you know they’re concerned about your health if you’ve been working for 14 hours straight. You can then adjust your time manually. It easily aggregates your data into precise reports that can break down your time by client, project, and task. Harvest also boasts the ability to send invoices and submit timesheets for approval. Harvest offers a 30-day free trial, but their monthly price of $12 (get a 10% discount if you pay annually) isn’t bad for all the features.

3.Preview App—For VAs that manage social media for their clients, Preview App is a must-have for Instagram posting. We all know you get the best engagement from using carefully researched hashtags, and Preview does all the hard work for you. Though you will still need to create your captions in a notes or text edit app if you want to add spaces, you can easily cut and paste your text into Preview’s caption area, use filters on your images (they also offer a library of stock photos), and schedule Instagram posts within the app. Another helpful feature is the “Repost” option. It allows you to easily find and repost from other accounts (always be sure to give credit to the original account, though!) The free version allows for unlimited posting, but limits your filter packs and gives you basic analytics. If you upgrade to the Pro version, for just $7.99 a month it unlocks its entire filter pack, advanced analytics and hashtag analytics. It’s a lotta bang for your buck.

4. Canva—If you create social media posts, Canva is a great tool for creating images if you don’t want to spend hours in Photoshop. They offer templates specifically sized for various social media platforms, and free stock backgrounds to create eye-catching social media posts, email headers, and blog banners to name a few. All of this is available in Canva’s free version, and for just $12.95 a month you can access more stock imagery, their “magic resize” function, and create images with transparent backgrounds. I have been using Canva almost exclusively for over a year now, and my social media posts have never been more engaging.

5. Google Drive–I know this is a serious “duh” but I’ve been using Google Sheets and Docs almost exclusively for the past year and I’m starting to like them more than Microsoft Office. It’s much more intuitive and user-friendly (in my opinion) than Word/Excel and the best part is the ease of collaboration. Almost everyone has a gmail account these days, and Drive makes it a breeze to share docs and sheets with your clients and edit, comment, and save your work in the blink of an eye. No more tracking changes and trying to find the latest version of a document. An added bonus is the version history stored directly in Drive. If you accidentally edit and save a template you can create a new document and then revert the template back to its earliest version. Voila! Drive comes with a GSuite account, and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to collaborate with remote workers.

While there are so many helpful apps I use on a daily basis, these five have become necessary to my business and inherent in getting the job done right. While quantity can be important, quality is what will set you apart from everyone else. I hope you have a happy new year, and a prosperous 2019!

Five Indications You Need a Virtual Assistant

by Jacqueline Leibler

Let’s face it: running a business is hard work, and it’s even harder to ask for help. Business owners have to maintain a delicate balance when it comes to adding staff and sticking to a budget,  and most likely a virtual assistant (VA) seems like a splurge. But it’s 2020,  and 4.3 million Americans are remote workers, and for good reason. A virtual assistant will not only help you save money but more than likely, they will increase your profitability. Here are five indicators it’s time for you to hire a VA.

  1. You’re spending more than 10% of your time on administrative tasks— as a business owner, your time is valuable. As you grow your business, you have a million tedious administrative tasks that need to be dealt with such as document management, policy and process documentation, and retention of customer information. A good VA will organize and manage all of this for you.
  2. You’re neglecting basic human needs—I have experienced this myself. Slowly, managing my business starts to creep into every waking moment. The time I had set aside for exercise gets cut from an hour to 20 minutes so I can take a phone call that had to be rescheduled. I meant to make a doctor’s appointment but I might have a client meeting that day, so I’m putting it off. This can be a very slippery slope. If YOU are your business and you can’t work because you’re sick, who picks up the slack? A virtual assistant can take time-consuming tasks off your hands and free you up to have that phone call and make it to Pilates.
  3. You’re forgetting small details—We’ve all been there: a notification pops up from your calendar that you have a  phone call in 10 minutes. You’ve recorded it as a “follow up call” but you can’t remember what you’re following up about. You spend the next 10 minutes in a mild panic sifting through old emails trying to remember what you talked about previously. With an experienced VA, you can develop a plan for details like this to be added to a calendar invitation or your VA can send you a text prior to a phone call with a reminder about the agenda. Either way, you will have more brain space because your VA is doing the heavy lifting.
  4. Your inbox has become unmanageable—Do you open your email with a sense of dread? I have worked with clients who will actively avoid their inbox because they feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of unread emails. This is completely human, but ultimately you’re leaving money on the table. A VA can help you organize your inbox so you see only what’s high priority and can use your time wisely responding to those requests that will increase your business potential.
  5. You don’t have time for your employees—I see this one regularly. You’ve spent precious time interviewing and vetting the best talent to help you make your vision a reality. They’re smart, capable, and excited about taking your business to the next level. With the best intentions, you create regular checkpoints to meet with them and provide guidance, but you find yourself rescheduling more than you’d like. They’re expressing concern that they need your input on projects and they’re pushing deadlines back. Your employees are an important investment, and you need to be there for them. Having a competent VA to take on the little things will free you up to spend time with your in-house employees so you can provide the leadership they need.

Does this list sound like you? If you’re still on the fence about hiring a VA, schedule a 15-minute call with me and I can help you decide if it’s the best move forward for you.