Get Organised in the Run Up to Christmas

Get Organised in the Run Up to Christmas

So, it’s that time of year again.

The time of year when you can’t go anywhere without a Christmas Countdown flashing before your eyes.

Panic and anxiety sets in…you know exactly how much you need to get done and you realise just how little time you have to do it.

And so, the nightmare begins…

But not this year!

This year, I am going to help you to get organised so you can relax and enjoy your Christmas. After all, ’tis the season to be jolly.

I am going to let you in on my Step by Step Guide to Getting Organised for Christmas


Step 1 – Start now

Thinking about Christmas in October?! Yes, I know it is early, but if you have a business to run, a family to look after, a job to go to, dogs to walk, parties to attend, the next 8 weeks will fly by.

Before you know it, it’ll be the week before Christmas and you’ll be running around like a headless chicken instead of enjoying the festivities.

Step 2 – Use a planner

If you don’t already have a planner, be it an online planner or a physical one you keep in your bag, get one.

At this time of year there is so much going on; networking events, kid’s assemblies, party nights, etc, you need to jot these dates in your planner so nothing gets forgotten.

There are some fabulous planners out there. The Classy Planner have some gorgeous ones to choose from, including a handy, wipe-clean, magnetic fridge family organiser. There are even some free templates to download and print to help you stay on track. They’re as pretty as they are handy too!

If you prefer an online planner, there are plenty out there. I use Google Calendar because it allows me to create different calendars for different aspects of my life.

For example, I have a 9 year old step daughter, so I have created a calendar specifically to keep track of her events and appointments, as well as what days she is staying with us and who is picking her up from where. I share this calendar with both her mum and dad so we all know what is going on. It is a life saver!

You can also set reminders and, if you download the app to your mobile, you’ll get a notification so you don’t need to remember everything yourself. Perfect!

Step 3 – Batch cook

I really don’t know how I managed before I started batch cooking. By the time I got home from work and walked the dogs, there was never enough time to make a decent, healthy and hearty meal for everyone.

It was getting so stressful, we were all rushing our dinner so we could fit in homework, bathtime, reading, etc, with the hope of squeezing in half an hour of chill out time before bed! That’s when I bought my slow cooker. It wasn’t an expensive one but it has changed my life.

Every Sunday I find one hour to prepare meals for the week ahead. I mean, I’m no Nigella so it is never anything fancy, but it is so easy to heat up a stew, spag bol or a homemade soup at the end of a busy day. This way, I know exactly what’s in our food and it saves us so much time, we can have a chat over dinner instead of racing to get finished.

At this time of year life gets so hectic. Rushing around to different events and appointments, spending that hour on a Sunday can free up time in the week to get on with all of the others tasks we need to complete.

To make things even easier, I use the free printable template from The Classy Planner to plan our meals each week.

Step 4 – Work out your budget

It’s easy to get carried away at Christmas. I always strive to make the next Christmas more magical than the last, but my bank account was at breaking point so I had to take action.

I used Google Sheets to create a simple spreadsheet where I could list everything I needed to buy, what my budget was and how much I was actually spending.

If you don’t fancy creating your own, download my Christmas Budget Planner for free. Once you’ve opened it, just click File and Make a Copy or Download, then you can edit it however you wish.

Step 5 – Create a gift list

Once you’ve set your budget, you can start thinking about gift ideas.

I don’t know about you, but I am terrible for picking up little presents here and there which end up amounting to an absolute fortune!

Creating a list of gifts for each of my family members and friends helps me to not only stick to my budget, but it also gives me a wonderful sense of achievement when everyone has a tick next to their name.

I created a checklist in Google Sheets and, because I have the app on my mobile, I can tick gifts off my list as and when I buy them. Click here to get your free copy of my Christmas Gift List. Once you’ve opened it, just click File and Make a Copy or Download, then you can edit it however you wish.

Step 6 – Put aside some time to shop

Online shopping is your friend for many, many reasons.

  1. You can easily use search engines to find discount codes to ‘apply at checkout’.
  2. Signing up to a cashback site, such as Quidco or Top Cashback, can earn you a tidy sum which will come in handy in January!
  3. Using Google Shopping, you can find the best prices for the gifts you’re looking for at a glance.
  4. You don’t have to travel anywhere, fight the crowds or even get dressed!
  5. It can all be done in a couple of hours from the comfort of your home.

If you can put aside an hour or two over a weekend, armed with your Christmas Gift List and Christmas Budget Planner, your shopping will be done so all you need to do is wait for it to turn up on your doorstep.

Step 7 – De-clutter

Start with one room at a time, otherwise this may feel like an overwhelming task.

Take a look around the room. What have you not used in the last 6 months?

Take it to a charity shop, ask your friends and family if they can make use of it, or even pop it on a site like Facebook marketplace to earn some extra pennies ahead of Christmas.

Ask the kids to pick out a few toys or games they no longer play with to give to less fortunate kids for Christmas. It helps you to have a clear out and you’re all doing something great by helping others. Win win!

Step 7 – Check what decorations & tableware you have

You don’t want to get to Christmas day to remember you accidentally smashed two of your serving dishes last year! Nor do you want to spend a fortune on decorations at the local garden centre, only to find you don’t have enough branches on the tree to fit all of your baubles.

Take a look at what you already have and, if you do need anything, make a checklist that you can tick off as you go.

Step 8 – Have a festive family prep evening

One of my favourite night’s of the year…Christmas Prep!!

This is usually the day / night we put up our tree – 1st December, or as close to this date as we can get!

Getting the whole family together makes this a lovely, yet productive evening to help you get organised…

  1. Get a selection of festive nibbles on the go;
  2. Put your pjs on (festive or otherwise);
  3. Pop on a Christmas film;
  4. Let the kids decorate the Christmas tree (I will admit, I do re-dress the tree once the small one is in bed but so far I have got away with it and she is super impressed when she remembers what a great job she’s done!);
  5. Write your Christmas cards and start your gift wrapping.

Tree up, cards written and presents wrapped…3 big jobs done in one night!

Step 9 – Prepare your food list

If you have already filled in your Christmas Budget Planner, you’ll have already made your food list but it is always worth double checking in case you have missed something.

Now, I love most things about Christmas, but the Christmas food shop is not one of them. The supermarkets get too busy, the car parks are a nightmare, everyone fights over the best looking veg and I just cannot be bothered with it.

Last year, for the first time ever, I pre-ordered our Christmas food. PRE-PREPARED CHRISTMAS FOOD.

All I needed to do was pick it up on December 23rd and shove it all in the oven on 25th!

I can hear a few gasps from the cooks amongst you, and I know this approach isn’t for everyone.

For me, it saves me the stress of the shop itself, the worry of keeping on top of my timings on the day and, most of all, gives me more time to spend with my family and friends with a glass of fizz.

Step 10 – Finish your wrapping

We’ve reached Christmas Eve.

Almost everything is done. The kids / dogs / other half are asleep and there is one last job.

It’s time to finish those last bits of wrapping you weren’t able to risk up until this point.

If you’ve got time, set the table in preparation for tomorrow.

And, you’re done!

Now all that is left to do is to relax and enjoy Christmas.


Do you have any tips you’d like to share? How do you deal with the stress of Christmas?

If you need an extra pair of hands in the run up to Christmas to help out with any admin, marketing or even personal tasks – fill out the form below and I will be in touch to discuss your requirements.

Why Hire a Virtual Assistant?

Why Hire a Virtual Assistant?

One of the main issues holding small business owners, sole traders and entrepreneurs back from success, is trying to do EVERYTHING themselves. 

Wearing too many hats often means not having time to build your business. 

Delegating and outsourcing can free up valuable time to concentrate on building a successful business, and that’s where hiring a Virtual Assistant can help. 

If you’re spending time supporting your business rather than building it, you’re not spending your time wisely. As the old saying goes…time is money! 


How hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) can benefit your business… 

Cost saving 

As Virtual Assistants work remotely, you don’t need to free up office space or provide extra equipment for them. There’s also no need for recruitment costs, NI contributions, tax or pension. 

Organisation

As your business grows, so does the need to implement processes and procedures. A Virtual Assistant can set these up for you to help your business run smoothly. 

You may also need a social media presence. Some VAs, like myself, specialise in social media and digital marketing, so can set up your social media profiles AND schedule content so you don’t need to worry about doing it. 

The power of delegation 

No one likes to admit they can’t do everything. But, learning to delegate tasks can be the key to a successful business.  

Why cause yourself stress when you can put your trust in a VA to carry out those essential, but time-consuming tasks, giving you time to focus on the bigger picture? 

Support when you need it 

You may only need extra support for a specific project or task, in which case it isn’t cost-effective to employ someone to sit in the office waiting to be needed. Nor is it productive to wait until you need help then start a recruitment process.  

Your VA can be on hand for ad hoc tasks that need to be done quickly and efficiently. You only pay for what you need so this option can be both cost-effective and productive! 


What tasks can I outsource to a Virtual Assistant? 

Not all VAs have the same skillset, so you need to find someone who fits what you need.  

20 tasks that can be outsourced to save you time… 

  1. Document Creation (templates, spreadsheets, presentations, etc) 
  2. Typing
  3. Editing
  4. Proof reading
  5. Data input
  6. Setting up / cleansing and maintaining databases
  7. Report creation 
  8. Email monitoring & management
  9. Record keeping
  10. Invoicing & bookkeeping
  11. Process & procedure setup and implementation
  12. Office setup & organisation
  13. Social media profile setup
  14. Social media content scheduling & management
  15. Website creation
  16. Website management & updating  
  17. Email marketing creation, distribution & management
  18. Travel arrangements
  19. Event planning
  20. Personal tasks & diary management

Not sure if you need a Virtual Assistant? For a free discovery call, please complete the form below and I will be in touch to chat through your requirements. 

The Rise of Airbnb in the UK

The Rise of Airbnb in the UK

Last weekend I had the chance to get away for a couple of days. I took this chance to visit my families’ glamping site in Cumbria. Unfortunately (or, should I say fortunately) I couldn’t stay on the site as it was fully booked so I stayed with my parents, but it got me thinking…

How has Airbnb changed the way we travel? How have ‘normal’ people benefited from Airbnb? What does the future of Airbnb look like?


My story

Two years ago, my dad (life-long joiner and builder) built a Shepherd’s Hut using locally sourced materials and asked me if I would advertise it. At the time, I didn’t know much about Airbnb but after a little bit of research Airbnb was the obvious choice. As a techie, it was easy to set up and cheap to advertise.

Since then we’ve had amazing success and have since put up a gorgeous Nordic Tipi which is proving to be even more popular!


Airbnb popularity

So, there are currently 223,200 active UK listings on Airbnb (10,200 of which are in the north-west, my neck of the woods) with an average annual income of £3,100.

58% of these active listings are entire homes, but a whopping 48% are private rooms!

In this world of economic uncertainty, an average ADDITIONAL annual income of £3,100 is not to be sniffed at.


The future of Airbnb

In February 2018, Airbnb Plus was launched in Edinburgh and London. These listings are visited by Airbnb in person and are checked against a 100-point checklist.

Airbnb Plus homes are nine times more likely to be seen by Airbnb guests and hosts are earning an average of up to 75% more than other listings!

When will it be rolled out to other UK cities? Watch this space…


Are you thinking of advertising your space on Airbnb? Not sure where to start? Already got an Airbnb listing but need a website? Take a look at the Airbnb services I offer or contact me for help and advice.

Email Marketing Made Easy

Email Marketing Made Easy

By the end of this year, it is estimated that there will be 5.6 billion active email addresses, according to Statista.

99% of consumers check their email everyday (DMA) and 73% of millenials prefer to receive business communications via email (Hubspot).

If you’re not already email marketing, what is stopping you?

  • Not sure how to organise your database?
  • Content writing not one of your strengths?
  • Haven’t got email marketing software?
  • Don’t know how to monitor or analyse engagement?

In this blog I will give you some pointers so you can start your own email campaigns.

Step 1 – Establish your goals

Before you even start to think about putting an email marketing campaign together you need to decide what you want to get out of it.

  • Do you want to drive traffic to a particular page on your website?
  • Do you want to spread the word about your latest product or service offering?
  • Do you want to entice people to attend one of your events?

Establishing your goals at the outset will make it so much easier to put your content together and choose who you want to send your email out to.


Step 2 – Organise your database

What if I don’t have a customer database?

If you don’t already have a database of potential customers to send your email campaign to, you can start to build this by asking anyone who contacts your company or who you communicate with to ‘opt-in’ to your mailing list to be kept up to date with your latest news and offers.

My customer database is just a list of names and email addresses…

Although it can be a time-consuming and labour-intensive job, transferring your contacts to a spreadsheet with clearly titled columns is invaluable.

Most email marketing platforms, like Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor, enable you to easily import your contacts from a spreadsheet. You will also be able to keep your database up to date as these platforms will remove any ‘unsubscribes’ from your list automatically.


Step 3 – Choose an email marketing platform

There are lots of email marketing platforms out there, but you need to find one that works for you, so do your research.

If you’re just starting off, lots of email marketing platforms allow you to send to a couple of thousand emails a month for free.

I’d suggest giving them all a try to find which one works best for you. Here are some suggestions: Mailchimp, Mailer Lite, SendPlus, sendinblue and Zoho.


Step 4 – Keep it simple

Now that you’ve established your goals, determined your audience and chosen a platform from which to send your email marketing campaign, you need to create it.

It is best to keep the design simple, give clear calls to action, use good design to focus the readers attention and create an engaging subject line.

The subject line is one of the most important elements of your email marketing campaign. If it isn’t enticing, no one will even open your email.

  • Keep it under 50 characters (including spaces);
  • Include your company name;
  • Avoid ‘spam’ words like free and urgent.

Step 5 – Monitor, test and refine

Once your email has been sent, you need to monitor open rates, clicks and conversions.

If you can, setting up tracking will allow you to monitor your statistics through Google Analytics.

Most email marketing platforms will give you data on how many people have received your email, how many have opened it and how many have clicked on a link within the email.

From this, you can play with the layout of your emails and change up subjects lines to find out what works best. This is ever changing so the key is to test, test and test again!


If you still need help setting up and delivering your email campaigns, I can help. Fill out a contact form or email me for more information.

Organising your workspace

Organising Your Workspace

A tidy desk is a tidy mind. 

This is true – there is scientific evidence! 

Scientist have found that people who work in chaotic surroundings find it hard to focus as the clutter can confuse the mind. 

If you’re one of these people, and you don’t know where to start, I’ve put together a handy guide to organising your workspace… 

Step 1 – Declutter 

  • Take a look at your workspace – what can you get rid of? Remove any unnecessary furniture, gather similar documents and place them in a folder, invest in an office waste bin (remember to recycle what you can!) and get some storage boxes.  
  • Give everything a place – Although I try to be as digital as I can, I still couldn’t live without trays, folders and a desk tidy. Everything should have a place so you can find it easily when you need to. 
  • Minimise personal items – These only serve as a distraction. Keep it work-related and you’ll be more focused on the job at hand.  
  • Go digital – The more ‘digital’ you can be the better. There are plenty of free organisation tools available (Trello is one of my favourites!). You can store documents using a tool like Google Drive or Dropbox) and keep on top of appointments using Google Meeting Scheduler or, if you use Microsoft, use Teams to organise your company workload. 
  • Keep on top of it! At the end of each working day, put everything in its ‘place’ – when you go back to your workspace in the morning you’ll have clear mind ready to take on the day! 

Step 1 – Motivation and Inspiration

So, you’ve tidied up your workspace…now what? 

You need some inspiration and motivation to get you through those challenging tasks… 

  • Inspirational quotes – Stick some inspirational quotes on the wall for those times when you feel like you just can’t complete the task at hand. You don’t even need to buy them, just Google ‘inspirational quote’, find something that speaks to you, print it out & stick it on your wall! 
  • Feng shui – Whether you believe in it or not, surely it is worth a go? Don’t place your desk so that your back is to the door as this will distract you but do place a plant on your desk – this can apparently improve productivity by 15%! 
  • Light – Whatever your office space, making it light and bright is an instant mood-lifter. 

Step 3 – Organise your desktop 

Your office is now a clutter-free haven of calm and focus, but you turn on your computer and yet more chaos awaits! 

It’s time to sort this out… 

  • Clear out unwanted files – Create folders (with names that mean something) and place all of those files in to the appropriate folder. It’ll make things easier to find when you need them in a hurry. 
  • Sort out your inbox – I have seen so many business owners with 100s, sometimes 1000s of unread emails and it gives me palpitations. Create folders within your inbox and either set up rules or drag emails in to those folders as soon as your receive them. You’ll quickly realise which emails you need to read and which can be saved until later on. 
  • Declutter your bookmarks – Periodically check your bookmarks and delete any that you no longer need. This will make it so much easier to find what you need in a hurry. 

Do you have any more tips? How do you keep organised at work? 

If you still need help, take a look at the services I offer and feel free to send me a message if you think I can help!