October 25, 2007

What do Facebook and Microsoft mean to a 23 year old?

Posted in Business Bytes at 2:49 am by aewart

Lots of friggin’ money!

Microsoft just beat out Google and will buy 1.6% of Facebook for a whopping $240 million.   Only 1.6 %??  Wow!

That values the social networking site at $15 billion. You read right —  billion!

Hearing about 23-year-old Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, aka one very rich man, make me wish I finished Computer Programming!!


October 13, 2007

Days of Fall & Family

Posted in 1, Baby Bytes at 8:04 pm by aewart

Fall is my favourite time of year! We get to experience a new climate here in Alberta and even though some of the rich reds and oranges are not always present, the golds are pretty vibrant!! One thing I LOVE about Calgary, is that the clouds seem much lower. I suppose that is because we are so much higher here! Calgarians say it is because we are closer to God! LOL! 😉 Anyhow, I love the intensity of the clouds and the weather formations. I have included some pics here; and also some of my happy jubilant boys!!















Working in Style

Posted in Productivity at 6:49 pm by aewart

Organized-Living Blog and I am “in love” with this new site called “See Jane Work.”  I have found that the ‘environment’ in which I surround myself in, has a lot to do with my output and my enjoyment while working.  I have always surrounded my office in beautiful things.  Organized, stylish, candles, music, funky pens and pads — and with this site above; I will want to be in my office ‘all’ the time.   I started thinking about the correlation between our environment versus output and productivity, and I wanted to prove that there is a direct result of the environment in which we work really does affect the level of our work. Homemade Simple suggests this: 

Create a Welcoming Workspace-Tips for an office you’ll love to work in.
Your desk, your home office, your workspace, whatever you call it and wherever it is, this is the area where you keep your life organized. But the household command centre doesn’t have to be all business. A comfortable work area is more calming and efficient. Use our helpful ideas for creating a welcoming and organized workspace in your home.

When we lived in Ontario, I took a few pictures of my office. The room was a calm room with soft sky blue walls, pewter accents and white and blue lamp shades and a rocking chair. Now, in Calgary, my office is the exact opposite. It is rustic, filled with bright colours, mosaics, funky accessories, and lively art pieces. I will soon take a picture of my new office, for now, here is my office back in Ontario…


What prompts your productivity? Your Environment? Office Accessories? Starbucks Cofee? My favourite is Sumatra two cream, two brown sugar! Music? Late nights? Wine (LOL!)? When are you most productive and why?

September 22, 2007

Seth’s “Baby Byte” of the day

Posted in Baby Bytes at 8:49 pm by aewart

seth_blue_is_sm.jpgSeth’s Baby Byte of the day is:

While running mach 10 from the living room to the kitchen… Seth (2.5) fell on the kitchen floor, and claimed: 

“I spilled me mom!”  

So, I ‘wiped him up’; put him safely on solid ground again,  so that he could ‘pour’ himself into life, all over again!! 

It’s not just about Outsourcing…it’s about a ‘Lifestyle’.

Posted in Business Bytes at 8:39 pm by aewart

When I first wrote this post on May 21, 2007 for The Pillar Group; I was really intrigued by Timothy Ferriss and his book; I e-mailed him about my post, and got hired!! I have been working with Tim for several months now, and he truly operates his business, just as he writes that he does.  I thought you’d enjoy the post that got me hired by Timothy Ferriss, WSJ and NYT Best Selling Author of The Four Hour Work Week.

May 21, 2007 – as written by Amy Ewart:

Right now the business world is buzzing about “The Four-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss, and I must admit that I originally thought, this is some CEO who already has lots of money, an office full of contractors and he can afford to delegate everything and just work four hours a week. I say that, because I have worked for many of those sorts before, and often (okay begrudgingly often… :-)) thought how nice it is for you to only work three days a week!

But I was checking out Timothy Ferriss’ Blog and I was captivated! I kept investigating and I was really intrigued by how he did it; he seemed much more involved than someone who spent only four hours a week working, he was living the life most of us want to live. Then I read his Manifesto (which you can download here); and I realized that it wasn’t just about getting someone else to do your work, he was communicating about how it is impossible to continue working the way we do.

As he was relating some examples of his work day, I gasped because it sounded exactly like my work day! And I realized it wasn’t effective. Timothy goes on to say that our society has an epidemic of Information Abuse and Information Addiction. The concept that they must be available and stay connected all the times and that checking e-mails 100 times a day and having a Blackberry attached to your head is how you will become more productive. As a virtual assistance firm, this was what our clients paid us for. They hire us to be available, so they dont need to be. So needless to say I was really pondering “how does a Virtual Assistant who is hired to read, sort and research endless information on behalf of their clients apply this concept of unplugging?”

Here is an excerpt from Ferriss’ book – can you relate?

The problem is clear when we look at the best case scenario: If you get what you want for example, a promotion or 10% more customers per month and get 10% more e-mail or phone calls per month as a result, are your behaviors and routines scalable? Can you answer 1,000 e-mails as easily as 100? If not, at what point will you become a bottleneck that creates a permanent backlog of unread and unanswered items?

For me, it was June 14th, 2004.

From August 10th, 2000 to June 14th, 2004, I checked Outlook 100-200 times per day, first as an employee, and later as the founder and CEO of a Silicon Valley-based firm with more than 300 full-time and contracted workers. In June of 2004, I was working from 7am to 9pm, including weekends, and receiving more than 1,500 e-mails per week. It was unsustainable and 100% unscalable.

Deciding that incremental changes wouldn’t solve the problem, on June 14th, 2004, I decided to conduct an experiment at the opposite extreme I left the US to run the business from wireless locations in more than 20 countries. There was just one rule: I couldn’t check e-mail more than once per week for 15 months. To be honest, I expected the experiment to fail. Instead, profits increased 30% in the first four weeks alone.

How did it happen? In retrospect it was simple. I had decided to cultivate the rarest of skills in a world of infinite interruption: selective ignorance.

Then Ferriss provides strategies about to become more productive. His blog even has videos for how to organize your inbox for e-mail overload. And to summarize; this next excerpt about wraps it all up, as much as the multi-tasking blood runs through my veins as a woman, I realize the importance of this statement.

Multi-tasking is dead. It never worked and it never will. Intelligent people love to sing its praises because it gives them permission to avoid the much more challenging alternative: focusing on one thing.

Single-tasking, creating an environment that permits the start-to-finish completion of high-impact tasks, will be the defining feature of top performers in a world of ADD-enabling technologies.

At first I struggled with the fact that The Pillar Group IS the company that you outsource to so how would this work? Then I relized that we have to set the example. We train our clients and our subcontractors how to communicate with us; how to become productive and efficient.

By implementing these strategies ourselves as the hub of the company we force our clients and our clients, clients to evaluate their workload, and to think more carefully about their reason for interrupting us. It helps them to decrease meaningless and time-consuming back-and-forth communication. They begin to know when to contact us, what they should be handling themselves and what information is worth sharing, and what isn’t. So to conclude; how does an Outsourcing firm outsource? My take is this:

  • Establishing boundaries and train clients how to use e-mail effectively. E-mail Abuse is is not productive.
  • Be clear about how many times a day you will check your e-mail and advise your clients when you are available online. Using Instant Messengers too frequently, back and forth e-mails, and too many frequent questions lowers your productivity.
  • Empower others to make decisions on your behalf. Most likely you trust whom you are working with. Allow them to find the answer, give them the authority and power to make it happen. This saves a lot of back and forth and also lets people know where they stand and what they can handle for you. (i.e. bookkeepers, accountants, subcontractors). 
  • Don’t be afraid to unplug. Timothy recommends setting up an autoresponder telling people that they can call you if something urgent is needed. Each e-mail response generates 1.5 to 2 return e-mails, thus generating more e-mail. Try to complete the communication through another method (i.e. an IM, Twitter, a phone call, a calendar item). Only respond to what is necessary, and delete what is unimportant or save it in a done folder for later reference.

It really is true what they say…. “Ignorance is Bliss!”

Blissfully yours,

– Amy