Author Archives: Astrid S.

Keeping the Communication Lines Open

Keeping the Communication Lines Open

In order to keep your team running like a well-oiled machine, it is very important to keep constant communication. Lack of communication in the workplace leads to less than stellar project outcomes and unproductive hours.

Imagine collaborating on a project where the team members are not available to answer questions or monitor task progress. There will be a lot of waiting…waiting for go signals, waiting for answers, waiting for input, and waiting for contributions from team players. That’s a lot of wasted time and resources that could have otherwise been put to good use. It could also mean missed deadlines and lost clients.

Thankfully, instant messaging and collaborative tools have helped make collaboration and communication easier for teams that work remotely or in different locations. It is just as easy to talk to a co-worker on the same floor or work area, as it is to talk to a co-worker in a different time zone (given, that they’re awake and within their working hours).


Here are a few of the best instant messaging services for your team:

Google Hangouts:

Google has everything – an outstanding webmail application, a drive for file storage, and a host of other things that make work life easier. Of course, they would have an instant messaging service. They have quite a few of those, actually. They have Google Hangouts (my favorite), Duo, and Allo. Pick one that you can easily integrate into your work team.


Now Slack is a different animal altogether. Like most instant messaging tools, Slack is simple and can be easily integrated into your work teams. You can upload files that show up inline, as well as add links that show up inline as well. All conversations are searchable. And as an added bonus to this already awesome tool, you can create Google Hangouts from within a chat room.


Skype is one of the first ever instant messaging tools that have robust functionality. It has stayed as one of the major players in this space for a long time because they keep adding useful features and updates like Skype to Skype calls, call outs to mobile or landline phones, group calls, and more. You can share files, images, and links, hold group meetings (of up to 25 people) or even get your own Skype number.


At the enterprise level, Zoom is a super powered communication and collaboration tool rolled into one. It has the web and video conferencing and lets you hold a host of online meetings. You can use it for one on one meetings, group meetings (up to 50 people), town halls, training, webinars, and even events.


GoToMeeting affords you the convenience of scheduling meetings straight from your Outlook or Google calendar. Aside from that nifty feature, GoToMeeting has HD video conferencing, screen sharing, drawing tools (helpful if you’re giving instructions), and the ability to record meetings (for when you missed taking minutes of the meeting).


Ever used any of these tools before? What is your favorite? Let us know in the comments. Stay humble, hustle hard!


Written by Jaie O.- The Help

Is it really worth the effort to go paperless?

Is it really worth the effort to go paperless?


For years, we’ve been told that going paperless is great for the environment and that the ‘paperless office’ is just around the corner – like a flying car and tech cities. In reality, most businesses are still buried under a mountain of paperwork: invoices, receipts, bills, bank statements correspondence, payslips, drawings, plans, manuals, reports… not to mention a constant stream of forms!  It’s a non-stop avalanche of paper!


While it may look cheap, all this paper hides very significant costs. The production and processing of paper documents averaged out to about 27 to 50 cents per sheet.  That includes labor and materials, and does not include the costs of filing and storage.  The cost of finding and retrieving a piece of paper from filing averages around $5! When examined closely, the use of paper demands a lot of labor around organizing and retrieving documents, and re-entry of information. It is the hidden costs associated with that labor that makes paper so expensive.

If you’re consciously trying to make an effort to go paperless, the first thing you should look at is… financial records. That would be receipts, bank statement, invoices, and other transactional and financial documents. That is where the bulk of your paper usage lies.

This is a big issue for all small businesses. For taxation purposes, we need to keep receipts, banks statements, invoices, and other transactional documents for an extended period to comply with tax regulations.   Even if your accounting systems are up-to-date, you still need to be able to produce the paperwork for your Accountants and the Taxation Office.

Technically, you only need to keep digital copies of your financial records: not the paper itself. If you adopt a personal (and professional) policy where all financial records are stored electronically, you gain several benefits: no physical space is taken up in the office; you can share copies of the records with your accountants with a simple mouse-click, you can find information quickly from your keyboard or even phone, rather than digging around in filing cabinets.

Try going paperless as a matter of personal preference. If that works for you, then you can use the principles (with some tweaks) for your business.

Here are some tips:

Get a good, reliable flatbed scanner – you’ll need one that is easy to use but efficient in scanning, converting, and filing your documents. If you can get one that has duplex scanning feature (saves more paper) and wireless options (for greater convenience), that’ll be great – but you can do with just the conventional scanner that has a decent document feeder.

Physical boxes (Inbox and Outbox) – the inbox contains all the necessary documents that you wish to scan while the outbox will contain all the documents that you have already scanned once you’re done filing them into the appropriate digital folders. Remember to dispose of these properly!

Digital/Electronic Filing system – create folders that are appropriately labeled and start scanning and filing all your documents into them. Some examples are: House Documents – contains property docs, mortgage docs, rental receipts, repair receipts, etc.

Lastly, call your service providers and request for an e-bill or electronic bill. I get all my statements and bills sent to me via email. I can also access them online. The bills and statements are conveniently available for download if I ever need to have a physical copy.


Going paperless takes some getting used to. But if you can practice this in your home, then you can adopt it on a larger scale for your business. Let me know how your paper purging works out in the comments. Goodluck and remember to stay humble and hustle hard!


Written by Jaie O. The Help

Remember the Eggs!

Remember the Eggs!

My dad told me always to keep a pen handy because you’ll never know when you need it. Like most fatherly advice, this is right on the money. Dad probably thought it would come in handy when you need to fill out forms, coupons, or raffle tickets. It’s also great advice for when you need to remember phone numbers (like the delivery number for your favorite Thai place) or to get eggs on your way home. When I was younger, I always had a pen in my pocket. All the bags I use had a pen (or a sharpie) and some post it notes. Yes, even my traveling bags and luggage had writing implements stashed in their pockets. Of course, that has changed now because I have a smartphone.

Smartphones make taking down notes easier and more convenient. Ideas come to us at very random times: while standing in line at a supermarket checkout counter, during heavy traffic, at a weekend game, relaxing at home while you have your feet up, or (annoyingly) at 3 am when you can’t sleep (this is a universal truth). It’s during these times when you get ideas for the next product pitch, a new character for your book, or your to-do list for tomorrow’s workday.

More than anything, it’s ideas that buzz around our head that pop up at random times. When you work in the creative industry or service industry, ideas and reminders are gold. The key is to be able to capture these ideas the moment you get them. And what’s better is to be able to work on these ideas or reminders from anywhere at any time. The ability to quickly take an idea and turn it into action is what separates superstars from the rest.

Because of this need, we are always looking for tools that help us get things out of our head and into paper… or in our case nowadays, digital documents. We would want these digital documents to be as readily accessible as possible – and we would also want them to be editable because you want to be able to fine tune them or build on the existing content. We have come far from the traditional pen and paper route. Smartphones and tablets have changed the note taking game and has made everything better and more convenient.

There are a myriad of note taking apps that we can choose from depending on our note taking style. Some are minimalist, while some have advanced organizing and cataloging capabilities that will put the Dewey decimal system to shame (ok, I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea).

Here are four that are worth the try:


Evernote is a classic and has been one of the oldest note-taking apps around. Its staying power is attributed to the fact that it has evolved to accommodate user needs based on functional experience and it has very powerful capabilities. It also helps that it is free and available on almost all devices. This app is enjoying the top slot on the note taking app list and practically anyone who has needed a note taking app has come across Evernote.

Extra: Evernote has the ability to clip web pages and images, lets you search for text within images, and can be used as a collaboration tool with other users.

Microsoft OneNote:

OneNote is for all the Microsoft loyalists who use the MS Office Suite on a regular basis. It integrates well with Microsoft products like Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. It has a free form pen and powerful organizing capabilities. It can also be used as a collaboration tool and is compatible with almost all devices.

Extra: you can take a picture of a slideshow or whiteboard presentation, crop it and record audio. Which is why it is widely used in the education sector by students and teachers alike.


Of course, iOS would have a counterpart app for everything available on other devices. Apple’s Note is streamlined and uncomplicated but still has powerful capabilities like being able to organize into notebooks or categories or search within your notes using hashtags through the convenient search field.

Extra: It can also be used as a collaboration tool with other Note users.

Google Keep:

Google Keep goes the visual route and is great for people who want to organize their thoughts into colorful cards. The fact that it looks like post-it notes immediately associates it with important reminders that we set for ourselves. It’s also a pretty straightforward app that lets you take notes, capture images, create checklists. All the changes you make on the app immediately syncs up across all platforms – so the latest version is always available whether you use it on your phone or the web. You can tag your notes based on location or time – great for errands or meetings.

Extra: It has a voice memo feature – so you can record yourself reminders. Fun if you do it in an accent or in your manager’s voice.


Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments. Remember to stay humble and hustle hard!


Written by Jaie O.- The Help

Work Better, Not Longer

Work Better, Not Longer


Let’s put an end to the mindset that people who stay at the office and work longer hours are extremely hardworking and productive people. People who say they’ve spent long hours working at the office no longer impress me. My first question to them is…WHY? My second is…do you need help with time management?


At the risk of sounding like an arrogant machine OR a lazy slacker, please allow me to explain why long work hours no longer impress me.


In this age of productivity apps and ergonomic workspaces, employees should be given all the tools they need to manage their time properly. We now have word processors and computing machines so that we no longer have to use typewriters. We have smart phones and CRMs so that we no longer have to sift through files and Rolodexes. We have video conferencing, instant messaging, and online collaboration tools so that we no longer have to physically attend meetings or travel to get team documents done. All these things have been invented to save time and help us work more efficiently. Instead, we have swapped out these time savers for proverbial time wasters.

An infographic from SocialCast [1] lists the reasons people waste time at work. Nobody would be surprised to find that all these activities are online activities that are unrelated to work.

  1. Social Networks
  2. Online Games
  3. Email
  4. Web Portals
  5. Instant Messaging
  6. Videos & Movies
  7. Search
  8. Online Shopping
  9. Adult Sites
  10. Fantasy Football

The internet is supposed to help us get our work done – but access to it also exposes us to huge time wasters that cut through our productivity and generally leave us scrambling to finish the work we should be doing in the first place.

I know, I know…all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl. I’m not saying that each and every minute at work must be used for work with military precision and inhuman like self-control. I’m just saying that we could all do with some help in avoiding workplace distractions.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you’ve already finished your work week by Thursday? It would be a huge morale boost to know (in a secret place in your mind) that you have a “bonus” time to get ahead of the next workweek instead of spending the whole week trying to put out fires you created in the first place.

So stay focused on priorities and block out distractions. There are apps that can help you tune out social media for a while. There are apps that can help you focus on work. There are tools that can block out websites and (if you really need to hunker down and get to writing those reports) there are apps that can block out the whole internet entirely.

Here’s the funny thing – you can use the internet on pointless online activities, but then again, you can also use the internet to help you get back on the productivity. It’s up to you – choose wisely. Whatever you choose, I hope you always choose to stay humble and hustle hard!




Written by Jaie O. The Help

Minimalist Ways to Maximize Your Workspace

Minimalist Ways to Maximize Your Workspace

Everything functions efficiently when you have systems in place. Establishing systems is easier to do in your homes where you have better control of who goes in and out, and what stays or gets thrown out. However, it might be harder to organize your workspace when you share it with a dozen (or a hundred) other employees.

Offices already come with built-in systems, cubicles, and workspaces and sometimes, it might be hard to customize your own workspace to your preferences. But fear not, there are a few ways you can customize your workspace. Don’t worry if it’s just a piece of real estate in a long open table set up. You can still tweak it so that it looks and functions exactly how you want it – plus points if you have your own cubicle and major plus points if you have your own office!

Here are a few minimalist ways on how you can maximize your workspace:

If your workspace comes equipped with staplers, copy paper, pens, and other office supplies – you might want to consider returning those you don’t use on a regular basis to the supply room. You might not need the ream of copy paper lying around on your desk – and this is true for all offices who are going or have gone paperless. This frees up space and makes your workspace feel less cramped. Just keep the supplies that you regularly use conveniently nearby.

Consider “reducing.” If you can’t eliminate items out completely off of your workspace, then consider reducing the number. I mean, do you really need 15 pens..and are you sure all of them are even working?! How about keeping 3 and stashing the rest in a drawer or pen case? Keep your favorite ones and make sure they’re all working.

Here’s a minimalist tip that’s universally true. If you haven’t seen it in and used it in 6 months – you didn’t need it in the first place! So go through your drawers and toss out or give away anything that you have not used in 6 months. Sure, the gold and pink stationery is beautiful, but if you haven’t used it in half a year, give it to someone who will appreciate it just as much as you do. It’ll make a nice gift for your co-worker’s daughter or for your mom who still writes handwritten “thank-you” notes.

Stop buying things just because they’re on sale. Do not – I repeat – do not buy that organizer just because it’s on sale when you already have two on your desk. One for organizing the office stuff and one for organizing the organizers for the office stuff.

Keep as much of your worktable clear as best you can. Not only is clutter cramping your style but unnecessary objects on your workspace creates visual noise that might be distracting not only to you but for everyone who can see it. On that note, if you buy something new – get rid of something old. This will keep clutter to a minimum.

Keep a trash bin nearby. Every time you feel the need to purge, do it immediately. Keeping a trash bin nearby will help you make that decision and not hesitate or leave it for another day. You’ll either forget or make up an excuse as to why you’re still holding on to that chipped mug from two Christmases ago.

Keep these tips in mind when you’re looking at that pile of papers and what-not on your desk and free up your precious workspace! Keep your workspace clutter free. Remember also to stay humble and hustle hard.


Written by Jaie O.- The Help