Welcome To The New Millennium

Welcome To The New Millennium

remote-work-gear-patrol-970-1If you were to describe your dream job, I bet that would involve having the capability to work remotely. Who wouldn’t want to have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world at any time they want? The option to work from home is now one of the perks that office workers negotiate instead of (or aside from) a salary raise. In fact 36% of workers would choose a work from home option over a pay raise. And why not? Working from home affords them a day to rest from the rigors of commuting and a relief from the stress of traffic while still being productive at home. Yes, more productive! In fact, in companies such as Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical, and many others studies show that teleworkers are 35-40% more productive. And now, we have the technology to  enable remote work. Welcome to the new Millennium!

Congratulations if you have been offered the option to work from home. If not, then maybe you can negotiate a work from home option on your next performance evaluation. It’s not that hard to transition from working on your desktop – with all things fixed – to  a mobile setting. Here, let me help you with what you’ll be needing for the transition to a mobile work station.

Mobile Devices:

You’re going to have to acquire a laptop, although you may have been already issued one from work. Be sure that all your files are available either in an encrypted external drive or in the cloud (more on that later). You may also choose to get a smart phone and/or a tablet and set it up with the mobile app counterparts of all your web applications (e.g. Skype for mobile, Gmail or Outlook for mobile, PDF reader,  etc.) Make sure you set up all your email accounts and connect and synchronize all your mobile  apps to your existing web apps. Most, if not all, of these web apps are cloud based so they should sync seamlessly to all your devices, if you’ve set it up correctly.   

Cloud Storage and Cloud based Software:

This is a remote workers best friend. What is the point of being able to work from anywhere if you have to lug around all your hardware and data  in an external hard drive with you. The power of the cloud enables you to access all your information from anywhere across all your synchronized devices as long as you have internet connectivity (more on that later). There are lots of FREE cloud storage services like DropBox and Google Drive that gives you as much as 16GB of free storage. You can also access, create, and make changes to documents in real time

Mobile Internet Connection:

Most places offer free wifi as an incentive to get you into their establishments. However, this connection is shared among all the other patrons. So most of the time, you might find yourself with a rather slow connection. It is a good idea to buy one of those pocket wifis that you can connect to to access 3G or 4G networks. It’s also a good idea to have a data plan via your mobile service provider so you can connect your mobile devices and laptop by turning on your mobile hotspot.

These are only a few of the tools you can use to help you work remotely. You can still be productive while staying connected to your office or with your clients. Have I missed any of the tools that help you work remotely? Please let us know in the comments. Remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!



Written by Jaie O.- The Help

How Music Affects Your Productivity

How Music Affects Your Productivity

when_should_you_listen_to_music_at_work_title_card_small-pngPeople have different preferences when it comes to playing music at work. Some people say that playing music distracts them from their tasks, so they prefer it nice and quiet. Others just plug in their earphones to drown out the office noise. Some swear that playing ambient music or instrumental music improves their creativity.

If you’re like me, you fall into the last category. My routine is to make myself a cup of tea, put on my headphones, and listen to ambient music or at least something that’s very familiar. Familiar songs are my go-to pick me upper. I try to stay away from music that has a different genre at work because I feel that listening to lyrics takes away from my focus.

It turns out, my listening habits are grounded on science! It is reported that ambient noise is essentially the creative sweet spot according to a study published in Oxford University Press. As long as it is at a low to moderate noise level, you’re good to go. I’ve also learned, from this study, that for intensive work, lyrics distract and take away your focus. Now I understand why I can’t listen to any new songs while doing creative work (like writing this article, so I’m currently listening to familiar songs)

Familiar songs are indeed best for focus. It is actually recommended that we listen to our usual playlists of go-to songs if we need to intensely focus on a task. You pay less attention to the song since you are already familiar with it and you still get the benefits of the dopamine released when you listen to your favorite track.

Music makes otherwise mundane or redundant tasks more enjoyable – as long as a task does not demand your full attention and is not fully immersive, like say for example, creative tasks.  Then studies show that playing background music while performing repetitive work increases your happiness and efficiency.

Playing music can be good for your productivity, but like most things, there is a perfect time to play and not play. Want to know the best time to play music and when dead air is most effective? Here’s a solid formula for when and when not to listen to music:

When doing a task that requires repetition: PLAY

Listening to music while doing a repetitive task relieves stress, improves focus, and enhances performance resulting to faster performance and fewer errors. This is why surgeons routinely play music in the operating room.

When you’re learning something new: STOP

For fully immersive tasks that require utmost concentration, keep it silent for a while. You need to analyze and remember facts and information. This is not the time for multitasking and your brain can misinterpret the information. Your brain might associate the data incorrectly or store  the wrong information. New music is especially dangerous because…words are distracting. So try to keep it quiet when you’re learning new things.

When your workplace is noisy: PLAY

Listening to music can actually help you concentrate on your work better by blocking out unessential input like hearing your co-workers discussing their plans for a fabulous weekend getaway. A noisy environment can cause stress and music can help increase dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine production.

Do you listen to music while working? What works for you? Please let us know in the comments. As always, remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!


Written by Jaie O.- The Help

Home Office Essentials and Wishlist Items

Home Office Essentials and Wishlist Items

decoracaohomeofficeI believe that all adults should have a home office – a space in their home designated for work and work alone. It doesn’t matter if you really work from home or if you’re an office worker who just needs to take some work home for the night or for the weekend.

Having a designated area for work takes you into the productivity zone. Let’s face it, hijacking the kitchen table could work temporarily until it’s time for dinner. And having no permanent work area makes you vulnerable to distractions. Need to do the laundry? Fold them too? Why not? Kitchen pantry needs organizing? Sure. TV with the kids? Absolutely!

We all equate home with rest and not having to work. Starting a work task is hard enough, doing it while at home makes it even harder. It is daunting to discipline yourself from doing ad hoc tasks while working from home, not having a designated work area compounds the problem. While answering emails on your bed or in front of the sofa in your pajamas sounds like a dream job to me, that setup won’t be sustainable in the long run.

I know that not all of us would have the luxury of having a home office, what we can do is assign an area of our house for work. It could be a lone table at the end of the hall, a large closet that you’ve opened up and outfitted with a desk, or an area in the kitchen away from the dinner table. Just as long as you can separate “home” from “office”, you’re all good

Once you have carved out a space for yourself that is specifically allocated for work, you can start equipping it with home office essentials. Here’s a list of home office “essentials” that most home office workers swear by.

Absolute must haves:

  • A clock – to keep track of your work hours. Many people who work from home have a difficult time keeping track of their work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to keep at it late into the night or be distracted by the kids or spouses. Be sure to check the time.
  • Trash bin – keep a trash bin nearby so you don’t have to get up and go to another room to throw it away.
  • Basic office supplies – staplers, pins, paper clips, scissors, pens, pencils, a sharpener, post its, and some note pads are some of your best bet.
  • WiFi/High Speed Internet Connection – nowadays, business is largely done over the internet with large files being exchanged between collaborators. A wifi connection enables you to stretch your legs and bring work to the garden or porch from time to time. Let go of your dial- up connection. Seriously.
  • Computer (Desktop or laptop) – This is where the magic happens. So, if you must have 2 absolutely essential and non-negotiable items on your list, a computer with high speed internet connection is a must.
  • Surge protector – you have to protect your assets and this will protect your tech from voltage spikes and surges.
  • Comfortable ergonomic chair – for long hours of work in front of the computer, an ergonomic chair is a must have. Your back and whole body will thank you for it.
  • Mobile phone – for business calls and generally for keeping in touch.
  • External Drive – for data transfers and keeping backups of your important work files.

You could use these too:

  • Multifunction printer – you might be going paperless so you could do away with a printer, but this could come in handy when printing labels or other resources that need to be printed out.
  • Hardline phone – not essential if you do most of your business on your mobile phone,  but a landline number on your business card or business listing tells people that you are more established and are not a fly-by night operation.
  • Window view – ah…wouldn’t it be nice to have a garden or lakeside view while booting up your computer and sipping coffee?
  • Coffee maker – speaking of coffee, a coffee maker would a great addition to your home office.

Wish List items:

  • Small well stocked fridge – you could always go to your regular sized fridge for healthy snack and refreshments but if you have a mini fridge in your home office, that would be stellar.
  • Cuddly significant other – pets are always a stress buster – so are cuddly humans.

There you have it folks – a list of home office essentials. Did i miss anything? Please let me know in the comments. Remember to Stay Humble, Hustle Hard.


Written by Jaie O.- The Help

Yes, You Need A Virtual Assistant

Yes, You Need A Virtual Assistant

wfbSmall business owners and startup entrepreneurs know all about wearing multiple hats. They tend to spread themselves too thin by handling multiple tasks and roles – all by themselves. As the company grows, free time begins to be a luxury.

In fact, a survey found that small business owners are not only working harder than they were five years ago, they’re also working longer hours. Many find themselves working nights and weekends too, to get the job done. This schedule makes it harder to start creative projects or to work on innovation. That is why many small business owners and entrepreneurs are now looking for help. Enter the Virtual Assistant.

VA or “Virtual Assistant” services have seen an exponential growth over the past few years in just about every industry where there are time-consuming or redundant tasks. The advent of technology has enabled a lot of workers to work from the comforts of their home. Small business owners now have access to top talent by sending a call out for specific skills to targeted VA pools. Not only is this pool limited to local and on-board talent, but also this pool is now composed of international talent and is readily accessible to entrepreneurs through VA outsourcing services.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant has freed up a lot of entrepreneurs from the burden of grunt work. Extra support means that they can focus more on creative activities and drive more business for their companies.

Here are some other winning points to hiring a VA:

Flexibility: What is great about getting Virtual Assistants is the flexibility of their services. VA services allow you to get help for as long or as little as you need, maximizing time and monetary investment for both you and your VA.

Cost: Speaking of monetary investment, entrepreneurs are always looking to minimize cost. Outsourcing work to a VA means lower overhead cost as all VA’s who are worth their salt already have the existing tech and hardware to carry out VA services.

Better Quality of Service: When asked “what is the most difficult aspect of owning and managing a small business?” the top answer is having to cover multiple jobs. The rest of the answers are: not having enough time to get everything done, making a profit, staying ahead of the competition, managing employees, and other reasons. Having a VA covers the top 2 most difficult aspects of having a small business freeing up business owners to address the rest of the issues like making a profit, staying ahead of the competition, managing employees, and other reasons.

These are just some of the reasons why you should get yourself a virtual assistant. If not for improving your work life balance, do it to keep your sanity and optimize your skills. A balanced life frees you up to optimize your skills where they are most useful – driving more business for your company. Hopefully, these tips help you see the benefits of having a Virtual Assistant and help you make the decision to regain your precious time back. As always, remember to Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!


Written by Jaie O.- The Help

How to Stay Focused On Work (Part 4)

How to Stay Focused On Work (Part 4)

stay-focusedThis is my last installment to this month’s series of articles that talk about tips on how to stay focused at work. With small distractions and a lot of ad hoc tasks that gets sent to us within a work day, the challenge is to stay focused all throughout. These 3 tips complete the series. Read on!

  • Establish a favorite focus spot

Our brain operates on 2 systems. Let me try to explain the basics of these 2 systems. System 1 is grounded on involuntary systems. It is a network that is always on and makes automatic decisions for us. Like how we turn our heads when someone calls our name out, or how we pull our hand back when we touch hot surfaces. System 2 runs the voluntary responses  Based on suggestions from system 1, it processes information and makes decisions. It also chooses where we direct our attention.

When work gets a little too repetitive, we often struggle to concentrate. It might feel daunting to even start work. Sometimes, we just don’t know how to begin. But if you are lucky enough to find a nice quiet spot where you get all your brain work done, then please, stick to this spot. It runs on the premise that there are things you can train your brain to do  automatically. Having a favorite focus spot eliminates the need to waste time choosing where to work. It puts you on automatic mode and tells your brain that “this is a place where I can do efficient work.” You automatically get into the mindset of focusing on the task at hand.

  • Devote specific hours to tasks

Have you ever worked a 12 hour shift? How did you feel after that? I bet your answer is…TIRED. Understandably, it would be very hard to focus if you are tired. So try to keep your work within the limits of a normal work day, that’s 8-9 hours. Don’t forget to take regular breaks to boost your concentration and improve your focus.

Not only does the length of time you work affect your focus, but the timing does as well. Your body clock is a factor on how well you could focus on work. So try to understand your circadian rhythm. Morning larks obviously have no problems performing their best work in the morning. And night owls are at their best and most efficient when working at night.

  • Embrace boredom

When you’re supposed to be taking a break, avoid keeping yourself distracted by different forms of stimuli (yes, games and social media count). You are just fooling yourself with more stimulation disguised as relaxing activities. This might become a habit as you need more and more activities (like games or social media) to sustain you during what is supposed to be your down time. Breaks are important in restoring your focus and improving your concentration. How about we all embrace doing nothing for a change?

There you have it! 15 tips on how to stay focused at work.  I hope you found this series helpful! Tell us what works for you in the comments. We’d love to hear about your experiences. As always, remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!


Written by Jaie O.- The Help