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Business

productive people

How Productive People Think

productive people

How Productive People Think

task virtual assistant

Productivity is not just about working hard or being busy. It's about being effective with your time and resources. Productive people are able to focus on what's important and make sure that they are using their time wisely.

A productive person is someone who has the ability to make their own decisions and take action on them. They are able to prioritize tasks, manage time, and set goals for themselves.

So how do productive people think?

Priorities matter

People who are the most productive are clear about their priorities.  They know that some things are more important than others and they’re able to attack the most important things first.

Start each day by making a list of tasks and placing them in order of priority.  This will help you to get the most important things done first and even help you to eliminate tasks that really aren’t necessary.

Understanding priorities also makes it easy to delegate tasks and avoid things that might take away from reaching goals.

Plan for success

Productive people make a plan.  They schedule their next day at the end of the current workday.  This makes it easy to jump right into work the next day without having to take time to decide what’s next on the list.

Eliminate time wasters

There are many things throughout the day that could threaten to take away from productivity.  Productive people know how to put those time-wasters on the back burner and stick to the important work.

It could be social media, chatty coworkers, emails, text messages, phone calls, or reading online news that prevents you from getting business done.  Set those things aside and schedule a specific time when you will allow yourself to participate in those things.

Take responsibility

Productive people are happy to take responsibility for both their successes and their failures.  Rather than looking to point the finger at someone else, they stay accountable for their work.

Learn from mistakes

Productive people have a healthy attitude toward failure and are able to use it as an opportunity for growth. They are not afraid of making mistakes and they learn from them.

The key is to take the time and think about why you failed so that you can learn from your mistakes instead of letting mistakes throw you off course or cause you to quit.

Efficient tools

Productive people also know it’s important to have the right tools to do the job.  That means having a high-quality computer, the proper software, and even the right desk setup.  When you have what you need in your workspace, it helps you to get more done.

If you want to become more productive, it helps to understand how productive people think.  Think about your own productivity levels.  Where can you make changes in your mindset to become more productive?  Small changes can lead to big results.

time management

5 Tips To Stay Ahead Of The Curve

time management

5 Tips to Stay Ahead of the Curve

task virtual assistant

Running an accounting firm is not easy, and oftentimes, not the most exciting. There are so many mundane, everyday tasks necessary to keep the business running. Tasks such as filing, billing, and data entry bog down a daily task list; they have to be done, but not by you! Hiring a virtual assistant can be a simple solution. But how do you know when to outsource? These five tips will keep you ahead of the curve by helping you sort through your tasks and decide what you can do and what you could be letting someone else do.

1. Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

Have you looked at where your firm is, and where you want it to be? Do you have a clear road map to get there? Many times, we fail to reach our goals because we haven’t defined them clearly. It’s simply not enough to say, “I want to make more money this year,” or “I’d like to spend more time with my family.” Your goals need to be very specific. They should provide direction, and motivation, and clarify the importance of what you’re aiming for. Setting up SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely is a recipe for success! So, instead of "I want to make more money this year", say, "I will increase sales 17% by end of Q4".

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2. Know Your Why

Once you settle on a goal and a specific target, you need to clarify the purpose of the goal, or ‘your why’ If your goal, for example, is to increase earnings over last year, determine WHY you need more money. Do you want to take on more clients, or maybe you want to staff the office?

 

The ‘why’ is more important than the ‘what’.  Your ‘why’ is the foundation, the passion driving you. If you lose sight of why you have settled on your goal, it will be much more difficult to stay motivated.

3. Work Smarter Not Harder!

Building a successful accounting firm isn’t easy. Many accountants burn out within the first 5 years. They lose the passion and the drive that is necessary to stay competitive, especially if they are too busy working 70+ hours a week. Believe it or not, there is proven research behind the 40-hour workweek. It wasn’t designed to help workers, but to boost productivity, which has been shown to drop dramatically after working more than 40 hours per week for a month. Being busy is not the same as being productive.

 

time management

Let me say that again - Being busy is not the same as being productive.  Top performers focus on the activities that support their goals. They leverage technology and other services to help them be more productive.

4. Create A Daily Task CheckList

If I were asked which one of the five tips I'm providing is the most important, it would be this one. A task checklist is a visual tool of accountability.  Start the first 10 minutes of your day by writing down all the things you need to accomplish. Ask yourself: which activities generate the most income? Begin prioritizing your most income-producing tasks first using the Eisenhower matrix:

time management

1. Do First

Tasks in the green box should be the core tasks that directly earn you money such as responding to new leads and current clients.

2. Schedule

Important, but not urgent tasks belong in the blue box.  Schedule tasks like continuing education, reading the latest IRS updates and researching virtual assistants.

3. Delegate

The yellow box should be reserved for less important tasks, but need to be done rather quickly. These are tasks that do not necessarily have to be done by you. These tasks can and should be, delegated to someone else. Hiring a Virtual Assistant is a great way to delegate tasks.

4. Don’t do

The red box is for STOP. These are the tasks that aren’t helping you at all. For most people, these will be time-wasters such as spending time on social media related. For example, have you been spending an hour a day on Facebook with nothing to show for it? Probably time for a new strategy. These tasks should definitely be turned over to a Virtual Assistant.

Prioritizing your daily tasks will make you that much more productive and mindful of how you spend your time. By using a Task Checklist daily, you’ll start to recognize patterns in your routine and find solutions to improve your results.

5. Hire a Virtual Assistant

 

No one person can do it all. Delegate or outsource everything except the stuff you’re good at because it allows you to focus on the tasks that you’re amazing at, like analyzing the numbers!

Virtual AssistantLook back on your daily task checklist, how many of the tasks are not high priority or goal-oriented, but need to get done? How many of those tasks can you delegate to your VA - social media accounts, your monthly mailings, engagement letters, administrative tasks.

A virtual assistant is your customizable asset!

optimize workflow

5 Tips To Optimize Your Workflow

optimize workflow

5 Tips to Optimize Your Workflow

task virtual assistant

Whenever I speak to an Accountant about their business, one of the recurring struggles I hear is the workflow, or rather, the lack thereof. Whether it's a small staff under ten, or over fifty, the common denominator is a clog somewhere in the workflow. This usually means the work is bottlenecking somewhere, and it's at that point optimization needs to happen.

I don't have to tell you that to run a successful accounting firm, you have to be able to manage the workflow of your team and make sure that everyone is on top of their game. The tips below can be adapted for one person or the entire office staff.

There are five basic essentials for optimizing your workflows:

1) Start with the end in mind - Break it Down

The most important thing you can do to optimize your workflow is to know what your goals are. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish by the end of the day, then it’s going to be very tough to figure out how best to use your time.

Think about what you want to accomplish, how much time you'll spend working on it, and when you'll do it. This will allow you to plan your days accordingly and make sure that you're focused on what's most important. Then break down your tasks into similar groups or batches. This creates a workflow that will allow you to get your work done quickly as you no longer go back and forth between different tasks.

2) Work with what you’ve got - know your workflow

To effectively optimize your workflow, you have to know your working style. Knowing your working style is important for two reasons. The first is that it helps you to know how to manage your time more efficiently. Secondly, it helps you to know what type of environment you work best in.

There are many different working styles. Some people like to work alone, others like a more collaborative environment. Some find that they do their best work early in the morning while others need a good night’s sleep before they can be productive.

The importance of knowing your working style is that it helps you to know how to manage your time more efficiently and what type of environment you work best in.

3) Find a way or make one - Project management

Whether you work alone, or have a fully staffed accounting firm, creating a project management plan is imperative if you want to be successful. There are many ways to manage projects, from cloud-based systems like TeamWork to using a series of spreadsheets, documents, and files that are shared with everyone. The bonus is that by setting up a project management plan, you will see a time management plan emerge, which will keep you from wasting valuable time.

4) Use what you know - the Calendar

Believe it or not, you already know how to make this work, you just need to figure out how to implement the process. Many of you reading this are CPAs and spent four long years of learning and studying to get that recognition. Think back about how you did that. You had a system of note-taking, reviewing, and studying. You had time set aside to write papers. Your business is not much different. Use a calendar for yourself and your staff. Color code Urgent and Normal. Color code client work, admin work, and continuing education work. Add drop-dead due dates, and set multiple notifications prior to that date. Have you ever met someone and wondered how in the world she does it all? It’s probably a very thought-out and coordinated schedule that allows her to accomplish so much.

5) Do it now

Probably the most important step is to stop putting it off. The bottleneck is not going to go away on its own, obviously. The workflow is not going to magically happen. You have to put things in motion, and the sooner the better. Stop waiting for that "perfect day" when you don't have tax returns to worry about, payroll to get out, or general ledgers to reconcile; it's never going to happen. But you already know this.

lifetime learning

Lifetime Learning is Essential

lifetime learning

Lifetime Learning is Essential

task virtual assistant

There is one thing that is certain in life, and that is change. If you are like me, you embrace change because it is another chance to learn and gain something new. I am an avid learner, a lifetime student if you will. I learned early on that if you want to succeed, you must stay one step ahead, and the way to do that is through learning.

Increase Your Confidence and Motivation

A lot of anxiety or fear stems from a lack of knowledge. If you strive to learn something new as often as possible about your niche and the world at large, you will empower yourself to do better, thus making you believe in yourself, and boosting your confidence while giving you the knowledge to be successful.

Keep Up with Your Competition

"The simplest way to learn business is to study your competition and improve what they are offering." - Ehab Atalla

"Study your competition", is exactly what Netflix did. Netflix saw a change in technologies and tried to understand and learn new ways to improve its business model as well as its biggest competitor, Blockbuster. They now lead their industry by streaming movies and television shows straight to your T.V. and have become a model for all streaming services.

Tawnya Sutherland, a pioneer in virtual assistant training and networking, fully understands the importance of studying your competition and dedicates an entire section on the subject in her signature, "Virtual Assistant Career training program"; from knowing your customer to introducing your business, she spells it out and walks you through it.

Fully Understand Your Potential

Learning unlocks skills and resources about yourself that you would have never discovered if you didn't make an effort to do so in the first place.

"Learning is a constant process of discovery - a process without end" - Bruce Lee.

I remember mom always saying, "you can't say you don't like it if you don't try it." Same idea here, if you don't continue to learn, you'll never know what you could be.  And you can quote me on that 😉

Be Successful

To be successful and keep up with your business, you must continue learning new technologies, software services, and social media platforms. And I can't think of a better "one-stop learning center" than Freelance University. Here you can hone a specialized skill, get live training support, attend workshops and learn the latest technology, all in one place!

But success doesn't stop with learning new skills. If you want to keep up with the crowd you need to learn new strategies. What worked five years ago, might not work today. As a business owner, it is important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and news in your industry. This way, you can always be on top of what’s happening and address any issues as they arise.

Create the Job or Life You Want

Learning is an important part of our lives. We learn from childhood to adulthood, and it is never too late to learn something new. Learning unlocks worlds, ideas, values, and inspirations you never knew existed. When you learn, you create more choices in life to live the way you want. Not sure what you want to be when you grow up? Check out LinkedIn Learning; whether you're looking for continuing education, or want to try something new, this is a great source to have. If you already have a premium account, then LinkedIn Learning is free, otherwise, it's a nominal monthly fee, and has a 1-month trial. 

Learning is a lifelong process that takes place anywhere and anytime - at work or at home, on the bus, or in the car. It can take many forms: reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching a video on YouTube, attending a conference or workshop - the list goes on and on. Education, knowledge, and experiences are fun and rewarding. They, together with practice, are vital for growth, understanding, and compassion for the world. Education and learning provide no consequences if you want to accomplish your dreams and be more productive. Keep reading, experimenting, and jump out of your comfort zone to learn and gain more knowledge.

"You'll never be bored when you try something new. There's really no limit to what you can do! - Dr. Suess

defining a virtual assistant

Getting the Help You Need Virtually

defining a virtual assistant

Getting the Help You Need Virtually

Defining A Virtual Assistant

task virtual assistant

Keeping up with all of the routines can be difficult for those who work hard in their company or personal life.  There are fifty million things to accomplish in one day with too little time and too few people to help.  If you want to begin saving time, you can invest in a virtual assistant who will take some extra things off your plate.

The best way to evaluate whether you need a virtual assistant (VA) or not is to see what you are doing all day.  If you are spending time on administrative correspondence and not your vision, then a virtual assistant might be the right answer.

When you need an extra helping hand, look to a virtual assistant.  Most VAs offer a variety of services, from administrative to technical to creative, and will advertise themselves in their area of expertise.  For example, some assistants will focus on designing websites for you and maintaining the website or database after completion.

One of the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant is cost savings.  They will work for you from their own home office; they are not employees, so you do not need to pay employee tax or benefits. Partnering with a VA allows you to pay for the work you need and not for idle time.  Simply put, if there is no work, you don't pay them.

Finding A Virtual Assistant

Finding the right virtual assistant means looking into the most well-known areas for virtual assistants.  There are many resources available, all of which can help get you to the right person.  For example, VANetworking, the VA industry's market leader since 2003,  thoroughly vets their VA's and the businesses looking to hire and will help you find the best Virtual Assistant for your business needs.

Pricing a Virtual Assistant

As a business owner, you know the important questions to ask before you get involved in anything.  One of the common questions you have probably grown familiar with asking is, "how much will this cost me?" Knowing how much each service will cost with a virtual assistant can help you define what work you want and need to complete and what isn't essential to get done.

Pricing systems vary among VAs. Some will charge by the hour or on retainers, and others might have standard pricing for projects or packages such as website maintenance or social media management.

Long-Term or Short-Term

You can hire a VA for long-term management projects, such as ongoing social media management, or short-term projects, such as planning an upcoming event or building a website.

Short-term projects usually focus on a specific function or task; however, they can also be on-going, such as performing maintenance, which requires regular updating.  For example, bookkeeping is typically a short-term project because it only needs to be maintained once every quarter.

No matter what type of extra help you need, you can find a virtual assistant who will see your vision and help you to reach your goal.  You can easily find a virtual assistant who will do what is in your company's best interest.

Have questions? I'm here to help! Set up a NO OBLIGATION, and TOTALLY FREE call to discover the possibilities!

Take action

How to Take Action on Your Plans

Take action

How to Take Action on Your Plans

task virtual assistant

Do you have big plans for your life or your business, but aren't quite sure how to get started? Don't worry. You are not alone! Taking action is the hardest part of having plans! Kristen Rohde, a behavioral science professor, talks about the gap we all suffer between planning and doing in Tedx Talks.

How much our future selves will like what our current self decides today

From changing circumstances to failing to plan, we all have our reasons for not taking action. Below are some tips to help you take action on your plans so that you can bridge this gap and make your ideas a reality.

Eliminate Your Excuses
If you find yourself wanting to take action on your plans but often making excuses for yourself, then the first thing you need to do is eliminate your excuses. You can do this by recognizing when you are making an excuse for yourself and eliminating it. If you go to take action, then find yourself thinking that you probably won't be able to do it anyway. This is an excuse. You need to tell yourself this and hold yourself accountable. This way, you can overcome the excuse to take proper action.

Don’t Wait
Many times people wait to carry out their plans because they believe they are waiting for the perfect moment to execute their dreams. News flash, the perfect time doesn't exist. You will always be busy and always have responsibilities, so there is no time like the present to start taking action! If you still find yourself struggling with this, ask yourself how you would feel if you never got to do something you wanted. Disappointing right? That's why you should do it now, so you don't miss out on your opportunity.

One Step At A Time
Do your plans seem opposing? Not sure where to start? You can remedy this by breaking your goal or plans down into small steps. This way, you will know exactly where to start. When you accomplish that one small step, this will help you stay motivated to accomplish the next step. Just like learning to walk, you put one foot in front of the other and before you know it, you will be well on your way to achieving your goals one step at a time!

Don’t Be Afraid To Fail
Many people don't take action because they are afraid to fail. Failure, or mistakes, are part of life. The important thing to remember is you must fail fast. Learn from your mistakes and then quickly move on. They really are not a big deal, and you need to recognize this, so you will no longer let your fear hold you back from taking action!

No matter what action you want to take in your life, use the above tips to make your plans a reality. Although stepping from the planning stage to the action stage can be difficult and scary, and you may think that you should wait till a better time, there is no reason not to take action to make your plans a reality today.

tax prep

Hire a Tax Preparer or Go It Alone?

tax prep

Hire a Tax Preparer or Go It Alone?

task virtual assistant

Albert Einstein once said, "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax".

But more and more people are making the move to doing their taxes at home. With programs like 1040.com andFreeTaxUSA available, the process can be simplified and the refund swift in coming. However, going it alone is not always the wisest or most cost-efficient choice.

Let’s weigh some of the key factors in determining whether you should go it alone, or enlist the aid of a professional tax preparer.

Is it worth your time?
For the self-employed, it may be more advantageous to enlist the services of a professional tax preparer or Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Doing your own taxes, especially those related to a business, takes time. And, time is money.

Do you have the knowledge to glean all of the tax-related benefits involved in owning your own business?
Being self-employed may just be one of the greatest tax strategies of our time. As a self-employed individual, you are in control of your taxable income. With the right know-how, you can fully control how much tax you pay. In fact, there are many tax advantages to being self-employed, and, oftentimes, a professional can find tax savings and deductions related to your business that you may have otherwise overlooked.

Ultimately, for the self-employed, it’s a matter of weighing the cost against the advantages of hiring a professional. Keep in mind, however, hiring a professional can often result in tax savings that more than makeup for the cost of the service.

What if you aren’t self-employed? What if you are filing for yourself or your family?
In this case, it may be worthwhile to consider going it alone. Programs like 1040.com make it easier for you and will walk you through the process step-by-step and often make receiving your refund a simple and expedient process.

Above all else though, the best rule of thumb to follow in either situation is to trust yourself. Base your decision on whichever route gives you the most peace of mind. If you are comfortable completing the tax forms and utilizing the programs available for going it on your own, then this may be the best route for you. If however, you have any doubts or concerns, your best bet may be to hire a professional tax preparer.

Whatever you may decide, download our Tax Preparation Guide and Checklist to help you better prepare.

The Kaizen Way to Better Computer Performance

computer speed

The Kaizen Way to Better Computer Performance

task virtual assistant

If you run a business then you may be familiar with the concept of Kaizen, a technique designed to improve your business process. This basically means making continuous improvements to your business model and workflow so that you see exponential gains in your productivity and profits. When we think about making small changes on a regular basis in order to ultimately improve on a larger scale, it brings to mind areas like Financial, Business, Personal Goals, Relationships, and Health. But there is another time-leak source that is often overlooked - your computer's boot-up time. And it could be costing you money.

The Time You've Lost
A good computer should boot up in approximately 1-2 minutes. Bad ones though can take anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes. And while 10 minutes a day might not seem like the end of the world, it's worth bearing in mind that that's 50 minutes a week. 50 minutes a week meanwhile is 200 minutes a month, which is 2,400 minutes a year. To put that in further perspective, that's 40 hours a year.

Imagine what you could have accomplished in 40 hours a year!

Now apply that to an office full of workers. If you have a team of 20 people, all with computers that take 10 minutes to load, then you've lost 800 hours of work every year! That's like having 33 extra sick days in that year and all the while you'll still be paying the heating bill and rent. Not to mention, computers that are slow to boot tend to be slow to run also. So you've probably actually lost much more time than that in reality.

Hopefully, this has made it clear how important it is to keep your computers running smoothly. Follow these simple steps and you will speed up your boot time, help keep your computer running efficiently, and maybe even increase your ROI:

Delete unnecessary files and empty the recycle bin

You should check your files regularly as well as empty your recycle bin. Files in the recycle bin are still on the hard drive, and as the hard drive nears capacity, your computer will slow down.

Run virus checks and malware checks on a regular basis.

Malware can seriously impact your computer's performance and significantly increase your bootup time. Make sure you keep your software updated to the latest version. You can find out more about Malware in my course "Cybersecurity At Home".

Stop unnecessary programs from starting when you start your computer.

Many apps, or startup programs, automatically load while your system is starting up. Reducing the number of active startup programs is an effective way to get a fast startup in Windows 10.

Upgrade your hard drive.

It takes much longer to load Windows on an older hard disk drive (HDD) than on a newer and faster solid-state drive (SSD). SSDs access data instantaneously, which can load your files in seconds rather than minutes. Now that's ROI!

Upgrade to Windows 10 or 11

If you're running  Windows, upgrading to Windows 10 or 11 will make a big difference in your bootup time. Also, enable fast startup in Windows 10. This can be done through "Power & Sleep" under "Additional Power Settings" in the Windows 10 settings menu.

This is one example of how making a very small change can have profound impacts on your productivity, overheads, and profits. Imagine what else you could accomplish if you took this approach in every area of your business?

mindset traps, escape mindset traps

5 Mindset Traps You Don’t Know You’re Stuck In

mindset traps, 5 mindset traps, how to escape a mindset trap

5 Mindset Traps

(You Don't Know You're Stuck In)

task virtual assistant

Today is the Lunar New Year, and it's the Year of the Tiger. The Tiger symbolizes recovery and growth so I thought this was the perfect time to talk about mindsets, or rather mindset traps.

What are Mindset Traps?
The term "mindset trap" is used to describe the ways in which we limit ourselves by thinking about how things are done in the past, or how they should be done. Mindset traps are not always obvious, and definitely not easy to escape. If you find yourself saying things like "I'm not good enough", "It's too late", or "I don't know what I want", you could be stuck in a fear trap, or living in the past. How about, "I can't do anything about it anyway", or "I'm not creative enough"? These are common thoughts of a self-saboteur.

1. The Trap of Living in the Past
Living in the past can be a trap that keeps you from moving forward. Sometimes we get so caught up in what has already happened, that we forget how much potential there is for what can happen next. It is important to let go of the past and not allow it to control your life. I used to have a small wall plaque growing up, "We can't change the past, but we can ruin the future by worrying about the present". In order to live a fulfilling life, you have to let go of the past and focus on what lies ahead of you.

2. The Trap of Letting Fear Stop You 
The fear of success is a common emotion that many people experience when they are on the verge of achieving something great. We may doubt our own worthiness, be afraid we'll suck at it and we'll fail in epic proportions in full view of the whole world.
The first step in overcoming this fear is to understand that it's natural for anyone to feel some level of anxiety about success, especially if they’ve never experienced it before or if they have experienced failure in the past. Understanding that fear is natural will help you realize that there is nothing wrong with feeling some level of anxiety before accomplishing something new or difficult.

3. The Trap of Self-Sabotage
Are you giving yourself the wrong pep-talk? Instead of using some positive self-talk to get things done, are you by any chance using negative self-talk to keep you from trying? After all, it's very easy to convince ourselves that we're failures. Why do we do it? Because if we know it's not going to work out, we never have to try in the first place. The self-sabotage trap is a common problem, yet it's hard to identify and even harder to solve. The first step is awareness. You need to be actively aware of your thoughts all day, every day. When negative thinking tries to sneak in, stop it and remind yourself of all your strengths. Become your best friend!

4. The Trap of Doing What is Expected
In today's world, most of us have fallen into the trap of doing what is expected at least once or twice. Staying in this trap, and continuing to live your life doing what you think you should be doing and not what you want to be doing, can lead to emotional burnout. But this doesn't have to be the case. If you are not happy with what you are doing, then it's time to break free from the norm and do something different. Listen to your inner self, your gut. You'll find the answer.

5. The Trap of Being Overwhelmed
When we are constantly bombarded with information, we start to feel overwhelmed. When we feel overwhelmed, it is hard to focus on what matters. We need to learn how to manage our time and our energy so that we can stay grounded and balanced. Use a time management process such as the Eisenhower Matrix, the Pomodoro Technique, or the Pareto Principle - or develop your own from a combination of the processes. This will be your roadmap to follow each day as you focus on your tasks. Also, limit your time spent on social media, stop watching 24-hour news programs, and limit your podcast time to only programs that provide you valuable insight into your success. Declutter your mind and you will be more productive, less stressed, and more motivated.

You will stumble upon mindset traps often on your road to success. You can avoid stepping on them by developing a daily routine that includes meditation, and mindfulness activities such as journaling, deep breathing, and single-tasking. Stop being a perfectionist. We all make mistakes, learn from them. You will fail, and you will do it many times in your life. Embrace this as a gift rather than a burden. Don’t tell yourself you are a failure, tell yourself that you just learned what doesn’t work.

bookkeeping tax prep

Popular Bookkeeping Software: My User Experience

Bookkeeping Tax Prep

Popular Bookkeeping Software: My User Experience

task virtual assistant
As we enter tax season, I wanted to talk to you about a few bookkeeping software programs that will help make your tax prep go smooth and stress-free. First let me say, there are many, many applications out there that are really good. A quick google search on "bookkeeping software" returns an onslaught of programs and reports on the best programs, comparisons, etc. It can be quite overwhelming! So what makes my comparison any different? Honestly? Probably not much, but I am going to talk about four programs based upon my user experience with them.

Over the past two years, I have been on the search for the perfect SaaS business solution, from bookkeeping to email marketing to social media management, and everything in between. And yes, there will be reports on all! Today I want to share my real experiences and thoughts on four programs: Quickbooks, Xero, Wave, and ZohoBooks. Complete transparency, some of my links may be affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission should you decide to buy their product, but this report is by no means recommending one or the other. This is just a story of my search for my perfect solution.

I used Quickbooks Desktop in the past, so it made sense for me to choose this software as my business tool. There are at least fourteen different Quickbooks solutions, probably more but I lost count, and it's not an easy task to sort through all of them and choose the one best for you. I chose Quickbooks for Self Employed and immediately realized my mistake, but gave it the old college try. Quickbooks for Self Employed (let's just call it QSE for simplicity's sake!), is an excellent tool for Schedule C filers. You can easily categorize between business and personal expenses, set routine recurring expenses, create tags, and more. The reporting is also fantastic, again for Schedule C filers. If however, you file a Form 1065, as I do, this is not the way to go as it combines all your personal and business data on the P&L and throws everything off. I could never get the two, QSE and my Excel spreadsheet, to match up. It was more frustrating than anything! My experience with Quickbooks customer service was not pleasant, but I'll spare the war story. Suffice to say, that after a few attempts, I finally reached someone who could help me switch my current account to QBO or Pro, and she even offered to do the transition so I wouldn't have to worry about messing anything up. Oops. I should have done it on my own. The transition went smooth, but she pulled EVERYTHING from my QSE, including my personal accounts! Contacted customer service again only to be told that they couldn't fix it, but I could purchase their accounting service and have one of their bookkeepers' help. Wait, WHAT?!?!?!?!? But it was your mistake Quickbooks!

Overall: Quickbooks is a love/hate kinda thing for me. It has exceptional functionality and an array of accounting reports that will help you see your position at any given time. I love the tag feature and the ability to filter within accounts. It's rather simple to use, but a little rigid if you need to fix a mistake. This is going to be the best solution for someone, just not me. Would I go back? I've thought it about, but then there's the hate factor - customer service.
Customer Service: Severely lacking, and this my friends, is a deal-breaker for me. If they up their customer care game, I could be persuaded.
Cost: Reasonable. Different tiers based on your needs. Online Plus has an annual subscription. The desktop version comes with updates for three years.

I liked what I saw of it. But, could not correct an account status from Bank to CC, even though I selected CC when I loaded it. When I reached out to customer service their response was to create a new account (complete new Xero account!) with a different organization name, and then link the credit card account to "Credit Card". Hmmm, but I did that the first time. After a little more digging and researching, I came to the conclusion that if your banking account and credit card account are from the same financial institution, then it will revert to "Bank" no matter what you do. And then, once you link an account, there is no way to change its orientation - even though there is an option to do that just that!
They do have a very easy invoicing system, that walks you through the process very easily, a zero on the frustration scale - haha, no pun intended there! However, I didn't like their choice for ACH - the company wanted way too much information for my liking, and then they wouldn't even cancel my application without first giving them said information. They continue to spam me for this information.

Overall: I never really had a chance to dig in. I went in on a free trial and I spent so much time trying to figure out a workaround for the credit card account that my trial expired. Quick note: once your trial expires, you can not get in to retrieve your data. I recommend downloading your data a couple of days before it expires if you decide not to move forward.
Customer Service: Slow in responses
Cost: Free trial, then monthly subscription packages based on your needs. No annual plan.

This is perfect for businesses just starting out, or if you have a small budget. The program is free for accounting and invoicing purposes. You will get charged transaction fees, just like any other merchant pay program, and you can add Payroll for a low monthly fee. It doesn't have a lot of integrations, and recently discontinued its integration with PayPal. Their suggestion was to use Zapier and create a zap if you need PayPal. This is quite inconvenient not only because you need another program (Zapier), but depending on how many PayPal transactions you do each month, those zaps can get a little bit expensive.

Overall: The lack of integration was a deal-breaker for me and I canceled my account.
Customer Service: I was unable to reach anyone and had to find out about PayPal through a Google search.
Cost: Free for basic service. Payroll plans start at $20 a month.

I've been using Zoho Books for a few months now and really enjoy it. It was easy to get set up and easy to use, once you get past the steep learning curve. They do have several webinars on YouTube to guide you along. The only issue I've had so far is the double, and sometimes triple entry it brings in with the PayPal connection. UGH! I have since disabled PayPal and it's running very smoothly. Zoho Books connects with PayPal, Stripe, Square, and WePay. They also have an ACH program which I have yet to configure. They even have a project and time tracking feature!  It may replace what I use in ClickUp!

Overall: Extensive reporting system, invoicing, and accounting, with the ability to add Payroll. Connects to all your Zoho services with a key.
Cost: Free version until your business grows, then tiered pricing plans based on your needs. So far, I'm loving it! And it doesn't hurt that Zoho has a kazillion other products I can rabbit hole down!!
Customer Service: I have not had to contact them, yet.
Cost: Free for basic service. Payroll plans start at $20 a month.
strategy, goal planning

Your Complete Guide to Strategic Task Lists

strategic planning, goal setting

Your Complete Guide To Strategic Task Lists

task virtual assistant

Here’s the honest truth for entrepreneurs - your task list will NEVER be complete. There will always be more to do! So how can you manage everything without tasks or projects slipping through the cracks? Use strategic task lists.

Why You Should Use a Strategic Task List

A strategic task list is a list of tasks that can help you achieve your goals. It is a tool that can help you stay organized and focused on what you need to accomplish. It can be used for a variety of purposes and is one of the strongest time-management tools you can have in your arsenal.

Strategic Planning:

Use the list to organize your thoughts and plan out your agenda for the day or week with each item representing an action or project you want to complete.

Goal Setting:

The tasks on the list are those things that support your goals, making it easier to remember what needs to be accomplished in order to reach them.

Resource Management:

This type of task list is often used by people who need reminders about what’s happening at work so they know which meetings they need to attend, identify gaps, and maximize capacity.

Change Your Strategy by Having a Strategic Task List

If you have a task list, you are more likely to complete it within time limits which will lead you to accomplish your goals faster.

With a written strategic task list, you are less likely to be derailed or distracted by small tasks that may not seem urgent but actually are urgent. Being able to identify what needs immediate attention is important for an organization’s success.

When there is clarity about what needs to be accomplished time gaps are eliminated and you achieve maximum productivity levels.

Create the Perfect Strategic Task List

Creating the perfect strategic task is easier than you might think. Following these simple steps will ensure that your task list is effective:

First, do a brain dump! Using a pen and paper, set a timer for 15 minutes. Write down EVERYTHING that you need to do - business and personal. Do not assign deadlines, edit or prioritize yet. When the timer goes off, try to go for another 5 minutes.

Next, prioritize the tasks using the time management matrix:

Urgent + Important: Must do tasks with a clear deadline such as paying taxes, paying bills, completing work on a deadline. If this isn’t done - there is a clear consequence!

Urgent + NOT Important: Time-sensitive tasks that should get done such as replying to your emails, client communication, working with your team. This is an excellent area to automate and systemize.

NOT Urgent + NOT Important: These are tricky tasks because these are the ‘should do’ tasks we say yes to without determining if they really help us reach our goals. Learn to say NO to these tasks. Outsource to another to handle this area.

NOT Urgent + IMPORTANT: This is where you want to play! Focus your time and energy on important revenue-generating tasks such as marketing, sales, or developing new revenue streams.
Many of the tasks should be based on your goals. I find it helpful to keep a printed copy of my goals on my desk, usually in my day planner, for quick reference.

Finally, check your daily task list at night and prioritize the remaining tasks based on what you should be working on first. Create a fresh list every morning pulling forward the unfinished tasks from the day before.

It is important for any organization to have a strategic task list. Whether your company has 1 employee or 100 employees, using strategic lists will help them understand the steps needed to reach the end goal and thus, provide stability and consistency in your strategy.

It is important for any organization to have a strategic task list. Whether your company has 1 employee or 100 employees, using strategic lists will help them understand the steps needed to reach the end goal and thus, provide stability and consistency in your strategy.
smart goals

Are You Realistic About Your Goals?

smart goals

Are Your Realistic About Your Goals?

task virtual assistant

People often struggle in both life and business with the process of goal-setting—more than likely, you’ve read a lot about creating SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. SMART goals give direction and focus to your efforts. If your goal is without focus, or if you are unable to tell if it's working, odds are you'll be wasting time.

Let's Be Clear

If there’s one thing that keeps people stuck, it’s a lack of clarity.

You know you want to quit your soul-sucking day job in favor of the freedom of self-employment, but you aren’t clear on the steps to take. You want to take an exotic vacation, but you aren’t sure where to go—or how to make it happen. You want to grow your business but aren’t even sure what that means.

The truth is, with ambiguous “goals” such as these, in five or ten years, you’ll still be right where you’re at today. But with a little clarity, you can achieve any goal you can conceive. The first step is simple, visualize what you want.

Start With A Vision

A vision board is a planning tool that allows you to unleash your creativity and daydream in a tangible format. Vision boards can serve to keep you inspired when boredom strikes and remind you of why you’re working so hard when all you want to do is take a nap. Best of all, creating a vision board is easy—and fun!

Start by collecting images that represent your biggest goals. Gather pictures from magazines, photos from a favorite vacation, ads of products you want to have. I had a postcard from the New Yorker hotel I used to keep pinned on a board above my desk. I looked at it every day and knew I would be there one day. Four months later, I accepted a position at a start-up company in New York City!

Use images, graphics, photos that express what you want. Dollar signs, or a specific figure, to represent your desired bank account balance. Phrases and quotes that inspire you. Add it all to your new vision board.

Your vision board is a living document. Your dreams and goals will change. Some you will achieve and remove from your board to make room for bigger and better dreams. Some you will decide no longer matter, and you’ll trade them for some others. It’s your vision, and it’s entirely up to you what dreams you choose to follow.

Keep your vision board within sight; you’ll be better able to focus on the steps necessary to reach your goals. I keep mine hanging on my wall directly opposite my bed. It’s the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see before going to sleep.

Now, Create Your Goals

Using your vision board as your roadmap, create three SMART business goals and at least two SMART personal development goals. Quantitate each goal and include a deadline date. Write your goals out and keep them visible. If this is not feasible, make sure they are easily accessible.

Keep It Real

It’s fun to fantasize about becoming a millionaire or making a high six-figure salary while sitting on the beach. The problem with this is that it’s just not that realistic. It’s not to say that no one has ever done it, but more than likely, they already had tons of resources like money and contacts that allowed them to delegate while they’re lying on the beach.

When you come up with a figure or a measure for your goal to track, you want the number to be realistic and not just pulled out of thin air.

To be accurate and realistic about how much you can earn, you need to figure out the order of operations at your business.  How many hours will you have available for clients, and how many hours will be set aside for business administration? A typical 40-hour workweek will probably give you four or five hours billable in a day, and the rest of the time, you’ll need to work on marketing and other aspects of your business. If your billable rate is $40 an hour, that will provide a gross income of $1,000/week. Reduce that by business expenses and personal draw to reach your net income. Will that be enough to sustain and grow your business?

Perhaps you can find other ways to increase your billable hours, such as outsourcing or hiring full-time employees. The main thing is that you should not leave these numbers to chance. Design your entire day and figure out what is realistic for your goals in each case. Don’t just pull a number out of the air. Think about the number and how it can happen or not happen before you put it in writing.

Personally Speaking

Use the same process for your personal development goals. Think about what skills you want to improve; how long will it take to develop? Are there classes you can take? A good freelance education source is Freelance University. You can find just about any skill development course you need in their extensive library. Now, create a SMART goal. For example, perhaps you want to become more efficient with Excel to maintain your financial plan or even automate some of your tasks. You could write, “By March 1 (or any date you choose), take an Excel course to increase efficiency with some of my business administration tasks.”

Review Your Goals

Now that you’ve taken the time to create some fantastic goals, set up a schedule to evaluate your goals. I suggest reviewing your goals quarterly at a minimum. Assess where you are, is the goal progressing as you anticipated, are you on track to complete as stated? Make any necessary alterations and keep notes as to why the changes are required.

Planning and working towards your goals should not be a source of stress if you remember to not only think about what you want but also how you will get there. This step helps clarify expectations and makes sure that the goal is SMART and worth your efforts.