Jan 13

Upgrading my laptop computer

A huge pain it would be, and I was not looking forward to it!

My 4-year old laptop was slow as molasses and I knew I had to upgrade soon if I didn’t want to loose my sanity. That day finally came in October 2010, but after two weeks of research, looking at specs, comparing eight models of different brands to choose from, deciding to buy online or in store, trying to find the best deal and get the most for my money, I was ready to throw in the towel! Then I asked myself why it had to be so complicated? (I know, I know,  it’s me …)

Just buying something that was newer and better than what I had shouldn’t be that difficult right?  Unless you’re like me, trying to find the perfect computer for less money…!  If I used no more than four of the most important criteria it would be a cinch, so I said to my husband on a Sunday night: let’s go to the store tomorrow and buy the computer. Enough research done, opinions asked, going back & forth, etc.  I made my decision!

It still took about 30 minutes to look and play with the laptops on display, asking a few questions, looking at specs again and choosing from 3 models, keeping my most important criteria in mind. I wanted another HP, that was lighter, faster, with webcam at a reasonable price.

Final decision made, and I came home with my new baby:
an HP G62-340US with a faster processor, more RAM, bigger hard drive and a webcam!

Eager to test it, I played some videos, opened some websites that used to take forever to load, and was happy to see things happen (almost) instantaneously. A huge improvement, also thanks to the Windows 7 operating system (haleluja, no more Vista!!!).

However, the next chore was waiting for me… personalizing my new computer, moving files and programs and cleaning up the old one which would be used as a back up in my hubby’s office. Just thinking about it made me want to cry, but that’s not me.  All I needed were some tips to make the transition as easy and smooth as possible. So here I had to go again with my ‘research’ ….  Jumped on the internet and found a lot of outdated tips from 2001 to 2008 with only a few written in 2010. Knowing myself, I would still create my own plan, drawing from information I gathered. But now I was at least prepared to make the moves ‘soon.’  It still took me almost three months working in increments, but hey, life happens!

I’m still getting used to my new laptop  and sometimes miss the features of my old (entertainment) laptop, except for Windows Vista! But I wanted a workhorse not a play thing, so I got one. 🙂

For the sake of keeping things ‘short’ but sweet, my next post (instead of this one) will list some tips on how to transition from the old to the new (laptop that is).  Happy New Year by the way!

Aug 24

Be an optimist!

I regularly browse the web to find inspiration for my topics and as I was doing this a couple of weeks ago, the article about a “successful optimist” on Entrepreneur.com jumped out at me. Why? Because I like to look at the positive side of things and I could very much relate to the topic. Unfortunately, I got wrapped up in other projects and didn’t write the article as planned so it got on the back-burner.

Weeks later, as I was getting my daily news fix, I encountered not one, but two other articles about the very same topic! Now I really felt the pressure of doing something with this topic and that’s how this post was born.
I hope you can find some pearls in this post too, because it specifically applies to our business, language and attitude.

The first article on Entrepreneur.com relates to the language you use in business (and personal life). Remember the question: Glass half-empty or half-full? And, You get what you ask for? (or in this case say)
Some studies have proven that being optimistic brings you positive stuff, while pessimism leads to a less desirable outcome, the one you predicted yourself ….

Apparently:

  • Optimists earn more and are more loyal.
  • Optimists with a good sense of reality can make more money.
  • Pessimists on the other hand are more accurate about reality, however optimists will be more creative and not give up easily.
  • Pessimist (sometimes necessary) are unfortunately more depressed.
  • Optimists easily  move on because they believe in options.

While it may not be easy, it would be ideal to have a mix of both to benefit your business or personal life. It’s good to get the real picture but still see options where others don’t. There are always options, always!  You just have to see them!

Read the full Successful Optimist article here.

The second article on Freelancefolder.com is about what message we are sending out in our communications.

  • If you want a positive, don’t be negative because your (potential) customer will perceive it as such.
  • Turn a negative into a positive and leave the not’s out of your communications. Say: “call me now” vs “don’t hesitate”

More on the ‘How negative of a freelancer are you’ article.

The third article was on Lifehack.org and it gives some ideas on how to deal with negative people.

  1. don’t get into an argument, it may be a waste of energy
  2. empathize, don’t advise, they will figure out the solution on their own
  3. lend a helping hand, sometimes an offer is all they need
  4. keep the topics light, unless you don’t want to hear the end of things
  5. don’t feed negative comments
  6. praise positive things they do
  7. include more people in your circle so you can ‘share’ negativity
  8. be responsible for your own perception (are you the one being negative?)
  9. avoid them if you don’t have another choice!

(funny how we can’t get out of negatives at times 🙂 )

Full article of dealing with negative people.

The sky is blue, not pink, and even if it’s grey the clouds have a silver lining. Really, go look for it!

Aug 01

Can networking really help your business?

The answer should be: YES!
However, a lot of people (myself included) feel like they don’t gain anything from going to networking events.

When I used to go the translator’s association networking events, I would always think: how will I ever get business out of this, when the other attendees are doing exactly the same?

That was not exactly true, because the only thing we had in common was moving content from one language into another. Everything else was different. How so? For one, the languages were different (Spanish, Dutch, French, German, Russian, etc.), then there was a difference in style (translation or interpretation), and lastly the topics were different (medical, business, legal, technical, education or general). But the big question was: how could we get business from eachother? How could we each benefit from this monthly ‘networking’ event? Isn’t that the purpose of networking? I didn’t know the answer then and after attending the events for several years, I gave up mainly because I was not getting any business, but I also became more involved with nontranslation activities. Yes, the events resulted in getting over my initial shyness (being the webmaster helped too), meeting my peers, getting to know them and even make friends, but I wasn’t getting my “ROI” (return on investment) 🙂

Last week, when I read an article on Entrepreneur.com about the very same topic, it dawned on me that (unknowingly) I had been doing some of the things recommended in the article. Now I understand that the most important purpose for networking is to build relationships, and this can evolve into business later on. [Yes it’s true, because I have worked with some of my peers on projects I had acquired!]

Here are the three main points of the article: 

  1.  Limit the number of contacts per event. You don’t have to meet everyone and their mother. Five to 10 seems to be a good number, especially if you’re going to several events per week or month. It’s not about the quantity but the quality of your contacts. 
  2. Spend five to 10 minutes talking to and (especially) listening to each person. You don’t have to hear their whole lifestory (or tell them yours), but you want to show interest and make an impression. That makes it easy to remember when you call them afterwards.
  3. Write notes on the backs of people’s cards. If you are collecting 10 or more cards per event, you will not remember who you talked to by reading their card. How often have you looked at a card in your collection and had no inkling of who the person was? [I did plenty of times and even keywords I would use were not enough to trigger my memory!]

A few things to remember when networking:

  • You don’t want to ‘sell’ anything to the people you have just met, but rather try to find out how to help them if you can.
  • You want them to remember you, being different than the rest, so have your own identity.

Read the full Entrepreneur.com networking article here.

A great book I read on the first step of networking is:  “How to Work a Room” by Susan RoAne. It’s funny and very easy to understand.



The author’s website is  http://www.susanroane.com/

I hope this article helped a bit to look at networking from a different angle, one that may offer better results for your business. Good luck!

Jul 25

How to make your emails stand out

In this age of information overload, where everyone is bombarded daily with email, whether legitimate or spam, you have to go the extra mile to make your emails stand out.

Following are some tips for effective use of email communications.

  1. Let your Subject Line speak for itself. You don’t have to put all the details in there, but say in a few words what the email is about. For example: “Rescheduling meeting of August 3rd”. Your recipient will immediately know what the purpose of the email is and will less likely ignore it.
  2. Keep your message short and sweet. Who has time for long emails nowadays? No one! So keep it short, but polite and especially clear on what it is you need from the recipient. Know what the purpose is of your message and send a separate email if the topics are unrelated.
  3. Before hitting Send, be sure to check the spelling, grammar and language. Is your message clear and to the point?
  4. Familiarize yourself with email etiquette. Don’t use all Caps (= screaming) , don’t use abbreviations and emoticons in business correspondence, watch your tone and don’t be demanding or rude. It’s difficult to express your tone in writing, so be careful.
  5. Attachments. Double-check if you attached the right document. Keep compatibility of the document in mind and use an older version of i.e. Word because not everyone may have the latest MS Office. Or convert to the a more universal format like PDF. If possible, decrease the file size of your attachment. Photos can be edited with special software, or use a Zip program to bundle documents in a zip file. Your recipients will thank you for not clogging their Inbox.
  6. When replying, delete unnecessary info or email treads. Don’t Reply to All unless they need to stay in the loop. Use Bcc (blind carbon copy) to protect multiple recipients’ privacy, even if it looks like you’re sending the message to yourself. Reply to your emails within 24-48 hours otherwise they’ll get ‘lost’ in your Inbox, plus you might be paid the same respect.
  7. Create a good signature file that includes your business and contact info. Why not use this free tool to market yourself? Add a tag line or your favorite quote to make it more memorable!
  8. Keep your email lines to 70 characters and use ‘hard’ returns. This one is new to me, but it makes sense considering that not everyone may have the latest and greatest monitor, so they may have to scroll to the rigth to read the entire line. Anything to make it easier and be read!
  9. My last tip is related to your mood when writing an email. If you are angry or upset, WAIT 12-24 hours before sending that message. Go ahead and write that email (leaving the To box empty) and express your anger, pour out your dissatisfaction, delete and rewrite, repeat, write down whatever is bothering you, but just DO NOT send the message out! Once it’s gone, it’s out there and cannot be retrieved! So don’t be a hot-head! When you go back after a few hours, your head will be clear, your emotions will be calm, you may see things differently, and you will be better able to get your point accross by leaving the emotions out of the equation. I have done this several times and I’m sure I saved myself many embarassing moments.  You have to think about the purpose of your email. What do you want to achieve? Not war I hope 🙂 

Follow these tips to get your message across effectively and you will surely  get the feedback you want or need.

Jul 21

Letting Bad Things Happen

It’s been a while since I read the 4-Hour Workweek but there is one key idea I got from the book which has stayed in my mind and I believe has served me well, particularly when I travel.

“Oftentimes, in order to do the big things, you have to let the small bad things happen”.

Whenever you try to go after your dreams or complete an important goal, bad things will happen. Phone calls and emails from potential clients may go unanswered, resulting in missed opportunities for work. You may also miss an important family event, or a visit from a relative you haven’t seen in years. (All of these things happened to me on my last trip).

If you’re a responsible adult, chances are you will never find a truly convenient time to travel, or get married, or go back to school, or learn a new language. There will always be some other important task you should or could be doing instead.

I am amazed at the number of comments and emails I received in my travel blog during my absence, comments I would have loved to promptly reply to.

This is one of the hardest things for most of us to deal with and it wasn’t until I read the 4HWW that I felt like I was finally given permission to let a few small things fall through the cracks, in order to complete a task of greater value.

I chose to make my recent trip to France a top priority because otherwise, it would have remained forever in my ‘someday’ list, along with many other someday dreams and wishes I’ve been postponing for years.

I arbitrarily set the date of April 1st as my departure date and sure enough, on the last week of March, several urgent matters popped up which made me feel guilty, irresponsible and scared about going overseas on an extended trip.

Except for a leaking water heater, I can only vaguely recall what were the emergencies I had at the time that threatened to derail my travel plans, which shows how unimportant they were in the first place.

As it usually happens when I travel, I received a few requests for freelance work (good jobs) exactly on those few days when I didn’t check my emails, either because I was traveling between cities or because I didn’t have a reliable Wi-Fi connection or because I was simply to tired to power up my laptop at the end of the day to check messages.

When I finally checked my emails a few days later, feelings of guilt and frustration swept over me, “I should have notified everybody I know ahead of time, I shouldn’t have let three days go by without checking emails, I’ll never be a ‘digital nomad’, I could have…” and then I remembered Tim Ferris words: “bad things will happen”.

It is important to get in the habit of allowing bad things to happen, sometimes, in order make room for life changing experiences and the truly important tasks that will make a difference in our lives.

I am not advocating that you ignore important deadlines or fail to complete an assignment in time or ignore your financial obligations. To quote from Tim Ferris again:

“Be focused on work or focused on something else, never in-between. Time without attention is worthless, so value attention over time”.

– Is there an urgent ‘to do item’ you can purposely let go or ignore for a few days? Try turning an urgent item into a non-urgent one and push it to the bottom of your to do list.

– Take an important, non-urgent item (important to you that is) and turn it into a crisis. Start working on it first thing in the morning and don’t allow any interruptions until you finish.

Some phone calls or emails do not have to be returned right away. Really. Make it a habit to let bad things happen. Feel the discomfort and do it anyway.