My Top Tips for Preventing Some of the Pains Associated with a Sedentary Desk Job

My Top Tips for Preventing Some of the Pains Associated with a Sedentary Desk Job

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook and/or follow my Facebook business page will know that I’ve been suffering with pain in my neck and back for the past few months.

While I’ve had neck and back pain before on and off, it got to the point this time where I couldn’t even sleep, so I had to go see a doctor. The doctor said it was my thoracic spine that was the root of all my pain and discomfort, most likely caused by me being sat at my desk working too much.

Now it has been a busy few months and I’ve been spending a lot of time working. However, I thought that walking the dogs twice a day would be enough activity to keep me from killing myself.

The doctor referred me to a physio and I managed to get a cancellation appointment. I also made an appointment with an osteopath recommended by my mother.

After about 2/3 appointments with the physio and 1 with the osteopath, I was able to function without the strong painkillers the doctor gave me. It’s now only at night that I am in some pain and find it difficult to get comfortable.

Then, by a massive coincidence, a friend of mine who runs a gym/personal training business called Limelight Fitness advertised on Facebook about a new 6-week mobility course she was running. It focussed on helping people with, well, mobility problems, so issues with pain in their knees, hips, back, etc. I booked in with her straightaway and started 3 half-hour sessions a week, last week.

Despite the fact it’s pretty hard going, I can already feel as though my general mobility is getting better.

Unfortunately, it’s been a pretty stressful couple of months, what with physio and osteopath appointments 30 minutes away from my house (office). Trying to juggle my work and focus on getting myself better has been difficult – especially as I’m a routine freak!

Getting used to being out of the house at random times during the week – especially now I have started the mobility course – has been a challenge.

To try and arrange my days better, I have put a schedule together and blocked out times in my calendar by client/task.

Work Schedule

This has worked really well keeping me on task rather than jumping around multi-tasking and not really getting anything done. As well as turning off notifications during the times I’m working on a task, this has made a massive difference in my productivity.

Now that I’m on the mend, I thought it would be useful to share with you some of the tips given to me by the physio and the osteopath that have helped improve my condition.

1. Set a work timer

My osteopath suggested that I set a timer to go off every 30 minutes and have a 5-minute break every time I hear it. Admittedly, I have mine set for 45 minutes, but this has still worked well.

I’m using an app called Awareness that gongs every 45 minutes and records when you stop using your computer. Five minutes is actually a long time when you’re waiting to get back to your desk, so make a list of things you can do in those 5 minutes e.g. make a cup of tea, tidy your desk/office, pre-prepare your dinner, wash-up, whatever you like really.

2. Invest in some ergonomic kit

Repetitive strain injury is really common in the wrist/arm you use your mouse with. My osteopath suggested I get a vertical, ergonomic mouse. I did and while it took some getting used to, I must say I’ve noticed my wrist/arm pain is a lot better.

3. Exercise your upper body

I had always thought walking for about an hour a day was enough, and for activity purposes it is, but the upper part of my body was not getting any exercise. I now have a set of exercises from the physio that I do each day and with the mobility sessions, my upper body is moving as it should be. These exercises should also sort out my posture – after working at a desk for around 24 years, no wonder my body is finally telling me to stand up!

4. Standing desks

Have you seen them? They are a great idea, but only in small doses. My osteopath says that standing all day working is going to put pressure on your legs, so alternate between sitting and standing. I now have my laptop on my kitchen counter which I use a couple of times each day for around 15-20 minutes at a time.

Do you have any daily routines or top tips that help to prevent aches and pains while you’re sat at your desk working? I’d love to hear them!

My Top Marketing Tip for Freelancers and Solopreneurs

My Top Marketing Tip for Freelancers and Solopreneurs

When I first started out as a virtual assistant in 2011, social media was my first port of call for marketing. Six years on and I still view social media as one of the most valuable marketing channels out there.

But it’s not for everyone.

First, let’s not forget why social media has become so phenomenally popular today. Its roots lay in providing a platform for people to effortlessly interact and be “social”.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the other social networks out there enable people to share photos, memories and life updates with the push of a button.

Now you might be wondering, what’s that got to do with marketing myself as a freelancer or solopreneur?

A lot actually, as it goes.

That’s because social media is a fickle beast when it comes to marketing. It was never designed to be full of brands bustling for attention and plying their wares in people’s news feeds.

That’s why you need to be smart and patient when looking to leverage social media for marketing purposes.

My top advice would be to get yourself on social media. In particular, the channels you think your target audience is on. Then, you need to spend time interacting with them, getting to know them and providing immense value in everything you share with them.

Share personal successes, images and videos. Show them who you are and what you are all about – do not try and sell to them directly! Then, and only then, will you have gained their trust and attention.

When people like you and see that you know what you’re doing, they will come to you! 😀

This blog post is part of the Freelancermap.com Book Carnival.

My Top Book Recommendations for Freelancers

My Top Book Recommendations for Freelancers

When I first started my Virtual Assistant business back in 2011, I needed all the help I could get. Here I was running my own company for the first time and in a foreign country to boot.

At that time, business books were very important to me. They still are now, but back then in particular I  gleaned a huge amount of information from them and was able to successfully build my own business.

Here are my top five must-read books for freelancers:

1. Freedom from Bosses Forever by Tony Robinson OBE

First up on my list of must-read books for freelancers is Freedom from Bosses Forever by Tony Robinson OBE.

Now I should start by telling you that it’s a satirical book. But that absolutely does not detract from the value it provides. In fact, for me, it enhances it. Think of it as a serious book about small business development written in a cordial and easy to understand style.

If you want honest, relevant business advice, which is straight to the point and easy to digest, I highly recommend Freedom from Bosses Forever.

2. Your Business Foundation by Christopher Briggs

The thing I like about Christopher Briggs’s Your Business Foundation is that it’s obviously been written by a guy who’s been there, done that, and got the T-shirt several times over.

Unlike many other business-focussed books, Your Business Foundation provides straightforward advice and assistance, without losing its messages in over-heavy business speak.

As well as all the advice in the book about the best foundation on which to build your business, there’s also a namesake website which has even more tips and information on top.

3. New Business: Next Steps by Ann Hawkins & Ed Goodman

If you’ve recently started or are thinking of starting a new business, New Business: Next Steps is the perfect all-in-one guide for you.

Ann and Ed clearly have a great deal of knowledge about setting up and running businesses, which they translate very clearly in New Business: Next Steps.

Moreover, the numerous case studies and examples make the information that it provided easy to remember and practical.

4. Get Clients Now! by C.J. Hayden

As its name suggests, Get Clients Now! helps you get new clients. Even though I first read it awhile ago, I often refer back to it if I need to get some new clients.

The advice is easy-to-follow and genuinely works. So much so that I tend to follow it for a week or so and then put it down because I’ve already got all the new clients I wanted. It’s that simple!

If you’re an entrepreneur, solopreneur or micros/small business owner, Get Clients Now! should be your marketing bible. Because without clients or customers, your business isn’t going to be the success you envisaged.

5. Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

Again, this is a book I first read years ago, even before I knew I wanted to start my own business. Nowadays, I refer back to when I need a bit of inspiration.

Richard Branson has always been a hero of mine and when you read Losing My Virginity you’ll realise that he has succeeded through sheer grit, determination and guts.

Don’t be put off by the fact that this is a 500+ page book. Once you start it, you won’t be able to put it down – at least I couldn’t anyway.

This blog post is part of the Freelancermap.com Book Carnival.

How to Effectively Manage Your Time as a Freelancer

How to Effectively Manage Your Time as a Freelancer

work-desk-1205159_640The allure of answering to no one (except ourselves) and being “free” from the invisible restraints placed on us by working for someone else is what drives many of us to fulfil our dreams of becoming a freelancer.

But while freelancing affords a lot of benefits for many of us, like getting to choose our own hours; working from home when we feel like it; and being able to select our clients, unless we manage our time effectively, our long-term business survival could be placed at risk.

That’s why as freelancers, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, whatever you want to call us, we’ve had to learn to work in a way that allows us to utilise our time to its fullest.

How many of these freelancer time management habits do you use?

1. Remain Focussed on Social Media

As a Virtual Assistant, social media plays a huge role in what I do on a daily basis. Whether it’s posting updates on behalf of a client; creating a new profile/page; or responding to messages, I need to logon to the most popular social media sites regularly.

However, as you’ll probably already know, social networks, like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, contain A LOT of potential distractions. The urge to just quickly check your own feed can lead to huge portions of your time getting consumed, and that’s why you need to stay focussed on the task at hand.

2. Remove Distractions

Social media is a great example of a digital distraction, but what about all the ones that exist in your working environment? Kids, pets (dogs and a cat in my case), a TV, and many other things can chip away at your “work time” unless you take a conscious stand not to let them.

It’s absolutely possible to achieve a better work-life balance as a freelancer (I’ve done it), but you need to be regimented and make sure your day is definitively split into work and leisure times.

3. Italian Tomatoes

Yes, you read that correctly: “Italian tomatoes”. Who’s heard of the Pomodoro Method? The term is thought to have been coined in the late 1980s, and works on the premise that having a fixed amount of time to complete a task makes us work more efficiently.

For example, how many of you have accomplished five hours of work in a four-hour time frame before? And how many of you, when given 10 hours to complete the same amount of work, have used all 10 hours? That kind of sums up the Pomodoro Method, which sees us work faster when constraints are placed upon us.

Try working for 25 minutes straight at a time and then having a five minute break; a break completely from your work – far away from your desk if possible.

Ever seen those tomato-shaped kitchen timers? “Pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato 🙂

4. Learn to Say “No”

Pleasing people is in all of our natures, but unfortunately we cannot do it 100% of the time. If we can’t say “no” when we really need to, our relationships with our clients and our families both stand to suffer.

Promising a client something at short notice, when you’ve got lots of other work on, will often lead to one of your clients being disappointed. Likewise, if you overcommit yourself and literally don’t have enough hours in the day – even with the Pomodoro Method – your precious family time could be sacrificed.

5. Remember, You’re the Boss

The only way to succeed as a freelancer is to establish a system that works for YOU and inform all of your clients about said system, so that they know exactly what to expect when entering into a working relationship with you. If you don’t do this, your clients will expect you to work how THEY like to work and that’s not going to do either of you any good in the long-term.

If you don’t work weekends, tell your clients that from the very start. Failure to do so could lead to them expecting a reply on a Sunday night that they’re never going to get.

If you don’t manage your time effectively, it will slip away in front of your eyes. You wouldn’t be so careless with your cash, so don’t do it with your time.

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