Just over a month or so ago, I started bullet journaling and now I’ve been at it for a short while, I wanted to tell you more about it, including how it’s increased my productivity.
But before I do that, let’s address the elephant in the room: what is bullet journaling?
If you’ve never heard of it before, you might be surprised to learn that bullet journaling is actually something that requires a notebook and a pen – shock horror! Now you’re probably thinking how can an analogue (manual) system be more efficient and effective than a digital one? It’s a fair question, so I’ll explain.
What is a bullet journal?
Let’s start by looking at the most fundamental part of the bullet journaling system: the bullet journal itself. It’s basically a notebook that’s been tailored to enable you to track the past, organise the present and plan for the future – they’re not my words, by the way; they are the words of Ryder Carroll, the guy who invented the bullet journal and bullet journaling.
In a nutshell, a bullet journal allows you to record, organise and manage all of the tasks you need to do, the events you need to be aware of and any other notes you need to stay on top of. The journal itself comprises four main elements: The Index, The Future Log, The Monthly Log and The Daily Log.
Don’t worry; while it sounds complicated, all you need to get started is a blank notebook and a pen.
The easiest way for you to see how the elements mentioned above come together is to head over to https://bulletjournal.com and watch the 5-minute tutorial video at the top of the page.
How does a bullet journal help boost your productivity?
We all lead busy lives and it often seems as though there’s simply not enough time in the day. This is where bullet journaling really helps.
You see, with bullet journaling, you are constantly reviewing entries to check if they are still worth your while i.e. will the reward for doing them outweigh the effort you’ve invested? The ones that are will be rolled over (migrated) into the next month or near future, while the ones that aren’t worth your time will be struck out.
It’s this feature of bullet journaling that really helps you focus on what matters and ignore what doesn’t – leading to you becoming more productive in the process.
While it might seem like a long-winded, time-consuming process writing all this stuff out by hand, it actually makes you pause and really assess each and every item. If something’s not worth the hassle of writing it out again the next month, is it really worth you even doing it?
Remember, there’s a huge difference between being busy and being productive. And the more bullet journaling you do, the more natural it will become to progress from using it as a system to adopting it as a practise.
Is a bullet journal a to-do list, a planner or a diary?
It’s all of the above and more!
One of the reasons why I love bullet journaling so much is because it allows me to track my day-to-day activities, record my experiences and remain focussed on my long-term goals.
My own bullet journal has been further customised to meet my own needs. The ability to customise as you see fit is another big draw of bullet journaling.
For example, some of the things I have on my weekly spreads at the moment are:
- A small monthly calendar so I can easily see dates
- A block for each day where I put my tasks/events and notes (if I have space)
- A block for money that is scheduled to come out of my bank
- A block for next week’s tasks that I can then move over
- An area where I can record my mood, energy and productivity – this is work in progress, and I’ve changed it a couple of times
- My water/liquid intake on a daily basis
- General notes about my day/week
I also have other pages which contain:
- Trackers – things like reading, personal development, housework, etc.
- Lists – places to visit, books I’ve read, ideas
- Challenges – For example, my 30-day de-clutter challenge
There really is no limit to what you can include!
If you’re more creative than I am, you can even draw pictures, doodles and add oodles of colour. Check out some of these bullet journals on Instagram for more inspiration.
Does bullet journaling sound like something that could help you see the wood for the trees? Maybe you’re already a bullet journaling pro. Either way, I’d love to hear from you about your experiences and how bullet journaling has improved your productivity.
You can also listen to my recent podcast where I talk all about bullet journaling.
If you’re interested in my purchases shown in the image above, you can find them here…
Encryption benefits us all in our day to day lives and perhaps you weren’t even aware of that. However, there is a wide range of different situations in which encryption assists in the security of certain services.
For example, encryption methods are used to safely exchange data between web servers and browsers, withdrawal cash from ATMs, sent secure emails, online data storage (think about files, photos, videos, etc) and also when you send messages to your friends and family through messenger applications such as WhatsApp.
The different types of encryption methods such as symmetric and asymmetric encryption will not be explained in this article but instead, I’ll provide 5 different ways how everyone benefits from encryption in our daily life.
1. SSL Certificates
Browsing the internet is an activity that most of us do every day. On the internet, encryption comes in the form of Secure Sockets Layers (SSL) certificates. SSL protection is a security technology feature that website owners can buy in order to increase the security of their site.
You can recognize an encryption protected website from the green padlock and the “HTTPS” in the URL.
SSL protection establishes an encrypted communication channel between a browser and a web server.
An active SSL certificate on a web server is especially useful on websites where visitors enter sensitive information such as credit card information, phone numbers, IDs, etc. That means that all the data that is being transferred between a browser and a web server is encrypted for security and privacy reasons.
For example, if you’ve seen awesome shoes on a webshop, you’ll need to enter your shipping details and payment information. On a SSL secured website, this means that all of your sensitive information is encrypted, so that the readable text that you entered will be encrypted into ciphertext (unreadable text). This makes online shopping very safe!
2. Cash Withdrawal From ATMs
Banks use Hardware Security Module (HSM) encryption methods in order to protect your PIN and other banking information while the transaction is in transit in the network.
HSM encryption comes in many different types but, in essence, it’s function is to encrypt the 4 to 6 digit PIN of every person that uses the ATM. Then, the PIN is decrypted at the HSM side in order to execute and validate the transaction or money withdrawal.
This encryption method ensures that hackers won’t be able to get their hands on your PIN in case they intercept the network data in transit.
Webmail applications such as Gmail and Hotmail provide the earlier explained SSL encryption (HTTPS) in order to protect the user. However, it’s important to note that SSL encryption does not encrypt the text in emails.
Thus, without going too deep into the technical jibber-jabber, the NSA for example, would still be able to intercept your emails in readable text format.
Privacy-minded users are increasingly more often leaning towards end-to-end encryption email providers such as Protonmail and CounterMail. Millions of users have already made the switch to similar encryption protected email providers.
This email software ensures that every sent and received email is encrypted into ciphertext. So, even when the email is intercepted, it’s unreadable to anyone without the decryption key.
4. File Storage
Popular file storage platforms such as Dropbox and Google Drive, with 500 million and 800 million users respectively, greatly emphasize on the security of the platform.
Obviously, the platform wouldn’t be used by millions of users – individuals and businesses – if it didn’t provide a secure environment to store important files, photos and videos.
That means that every file is encrypted into cipherdata in order to protect the users. Dropbox even stated in their security protocol that they break every piece of data into multiple other pieces and encrypt these smaller pieces of data one by one.
Both platforms protect files in transit between servers and apps, but also at rest (when it’s stored on their server). Which is incredibly helpful for all these millions of users, to be sure all their important data is safely stored online.
5. Messenger Apps (WhatsApp)
According to TechCrunch, the popular messenger application WhatsApp had 1.5 billion active monthly users in Q4, 2017. Which is good for 60 billion messages sent per day.
It comes to no surprise that WhatsApp values the privacy of its users, which is why WhatsApp implemented complete end-to-end encryption in their messenger application. That means that all your messages, photos, videos, voice messages and files are secured.
Only the person you’re communicating with is able to read what you’re sending. End-to-end encryption also means that even WhatsApp is not able to read any messages, because it’s stored on their server in encrypted format.
And the best thing is that WhatsApp automatically encrypts every message by default and there’s no way to turn off the encryption.
Bill here from PixelPrivacy.com. My blog is all about making the world of online security accessible to everyone. I pride myself in writing guides that I’m certain even my own mom could read! Be sure to head over to my blog if you’re interested in keeping your private information just that: Private!
I regularly get people contacting me through LinkedIn to ask how I started being a virtual assistant (VA). In fact, the frequency and number of enquiries prompted me to write this blog post – after all, I’m all about boosting productivity and efficiency, which is why it made sense to write an informative post and direct wannabe VAs towards it.
First and foremost, before I started my VA business, I did huge amounts of research. I spent a lot of time online digesting as many free resources as I could and absorbing all the advice and tips I was finding – there was a lot!
Google is your friend
A quick Google search for ‘how to become a virtual assistant’ yields a whopping 8.4 million results (at time of writing). Even if you just take the time to go through the first page of results alone, you’ll glean a huge amount of relevant info (as I did more than six years ago).
Next, I looked to satisfy the avid reader in me and checked what books relating to becoming a virtual assistant were available on Amazon. There wasn’t actually that many (at the time), but one did stick out, so I placed an order. It was “The Virtual Assistant Handbook: Insider Secrets for Starting and Running Your Own Profitable VA Business” by Nadine Hill. It’s a great resource because it’s so easy to read. I couldn’t put it down once I’d started and read it from cover to cover in no time. It was definitely worth the cost as it contained information about things I hadn’t thought about.
Another great book written by an acquaintance of mine is How to be a Virtual Assistant: Start and run your own successful VA business by Catherine Gladwyn.
With my interest seriously piqued and my passion to learn more in overdrive, I joined the Virtual Assistant Forums. Like most Internet-based forums, this one allows you to post questions and discuss topics with people who are virtual assistants already or working towards becoming one.
A great way to gain some exposure in such forums is by linking your blog and Twitter accounts, then adding real value to the conversations that are going on. People will naturally look at your profile if they see you as someone who knows what they’re talking about and may click through to your website/social media accounts as a result.
I then joined the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA). It’s a non-profit organisation dedicated to VA development, education and raising public awareness of what VAs do. There are several different membership categories, all of which boast a number of benefits. Check out the IVAA website for more information.
There are two VA directory sites that I’d recommend to anyone looking to start out in this industry: Virtual Assistantville and BeMyVA. They are great places to advertise your services and potentially secure your first clients. Be sure to check out the membership benefits of BeMyVA, as there’s a chance you could feature on their social media accounts and have your articles featured in their newsletter.
Twitter lists featuring virtual assistants are great; all you’ve got to do is find some. The easiest way to do this is by using the Twitter search feature to find out profiles relating to virtual assistance, VAs, etc. One you’ve started following some of the profiles you’ve found, go through their accounts and look at any lists they’ve created and been added to. Chances are there will be some relating solely to virtual assistance, which can join or retrieve more useful contacts from.
Hashtags like #VA and #virtualassistant are also a great way to find tweets and profiles relating to the industry.
Last, but certainly not least, are all the virtual assistant Facebook groups out there. There are so many, each with their own benefits, that I would never be able to review each one separately. However, I have compiled this list of groups to get you started:
Two other Facebook groups I highly recommend are Freelance Heroes (great for general freelancing discussions and lead generation) and my own Online Productivity Tools & Applications group (great for insights into all the best tools and apps designed to boost productivity).
Over to you…
Are there any resources you use/have used that I haven’t mentioned? I’d love to hear about them. Drop a note in the comments or tweet me @JoHarris0n.
Chances are you’re already utilising Facebook to engage with the people who matter to your business and build a rapport with your followers. But have you ever considered using Facebook ads to further boost the visibility of your small business online? If you haven’t, maybe 2018 should be the year you give them a try.
With 2.07 billion monthly active users [source: Statista], Facebook is the most popular social network worldwide by quite a bit. In fact, the number two social network (if you exclude YouTube and the various instant messaging apps), Instagram, has (only) got 700 million monthly active users [source: Statista].
As you can see, given its immense popularity and reach, Facebook is a force to be reckoned with, which is why its native advertising platform is so powerful for businesses.
Still not sure?
Here are my top 5 reasons why you need to be leveraging the power of Facebook ads this year:
1. People eat, sleep and breathe social media
Today, Internet users spend a ridiculous amount of time on social media, especially Facebook. According to a study by influencer marketing agency Mediakix, people spend, on average, 35 minutes per day on Facebook. That equates to 1 year, 4 months on Facebook in a person’s lifetime.
There’s no denying that there are people who may be interested in your business on Facebook. All you have to do is find them with some clever advertising.
2. Potential reach is immense
As I’ve already mentioned, Facebook dwarfs the competition when it comes to monthly active users. Let’s put that into a bit more perspective.
Right now, it’s estimated that there are almost 7.6 billion people in the world. That means almost 30% (27.24%) of the world’s population has a Facebook account. Okay, so some people will definitely have more than one, but it’s still a staggering reality and highlights just how many people you can potentially reach on Facebook.
3. Audiences are laser-focussed
Facebook lets you laser-target your ads so they reach the people who matter. For example, you can target users by location, age, gender, ethnicity, education, interests, connections, behaviour and more.
This is possible because of the enormous amounts of data Facebook has stored about its users. Every time you share a post by your favourite author, Facebook knows and it logs that information for future use.
4. Facebook ads work
Because of Facebook’s massive user base and the laser-targeted advertising capabilities, your ads can reach people who are likely to be interested in your business and its products/services. The fact you can immediately exclude people based on their preferences or demographics means you’re not wasting your advertising budget reaching individuals who are not your ideal customers or are likely to have zero interest in what you have to offer them.
5. Organic reach is dying
Last but certainly not least, is the fact that organic reach on Facebook has been reduced significantly in recent times. It’s not surprising really when you consider how lucrative Facebook’s ad platform is for the social network. In fact Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement just last week about their aims for the future, which you can read here.
The good news, though, is that you can create Facebook ads that reach a large number of people with only a very modest investment.
With Facebook ads, you can drive more traffic to your business website, generate more leads, encourage people to interact with your page, expand your reach and secure more sales.
Want to know more? Follow me on Facebook and book a call with me today and get started on your Facebook ads journey.
It had always been a dream of mine to start my own business and I finally got the opportunity to do so back in 2011. That’s when I founded my VA business and started the most exciting and rewarding stage of my life so far.
Furthermore, starting my own micro business (one that has 0-9 employees) enabled me to fulfil another dream and move to rural France. My business allowed me to work from literally anywhere in the world and, therefore, enabled me to operate from France.
Now, when I look back at the past six years, I realise how lucky I am to be living in a place I love and enjoying the best work/life balance I’ve achieved to-date.
But it hasn’t always been plain sailing and I’ve had to work extremely hard to build my profile and establish a professional network of clients, partners and supporters.
You see, the problem that many micros businesses, like mine, have is that they lack the huge marketing budgets of some of the bigger players in the market. This is why having a supportive professional network is so vital.
For this reason, I grab with both hands any opportunity I get to help out other micro businesses and that’s why I’ll be happily supporting Micro Biz Matters Day on January 12, 2018.
Micro Biz Matters Day is the brainchild of Tina Boden and Tony Robinson OBE, who founded Enterprise Rockers back in 2012. The idea is that on January 12 people will spend 12 minutes of their day (roughly the time it takes to have a short coffee break) to help promote micro businesses.
Even if you don’t run a micro business yourself, you’ll undoubtedly have clients or people in your own professional network who may have certain requirements; requirements that could be satisfied by a micro business.
By promoting these micro businesses on your various social media channels, you’ll inevitably boost their profile and perhaps even get them seen by decision-makers from other companies.
You can even get involved now by using the #MicroBizMattersDay hashtag to raise awareness of the upcoming event. Then, on January 12, if you’ve got 12 minutes to spare, why not consider helping even further by taking one or more of these suggested actions.
Just 12 minutes of your time could make a huge difference to micro businesses that have a huge amount to offer but maybe aren’t getting the full exposure they deserve.
Find out more about #MicroBizMattersDay by visiting the website or following the Twitter hashtag.
Download the Souvenir Programme
You’ve probably read quite a few headlines recently relating to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). But how much do you know about the far-reaching implications of this new legislation?
If you’re feeling in the dark about the whole thing, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
According to the Close Brothers Business Barometer – a quarterly survey of more than 900 SMEs across a range of sectors and regions in the UK and Republic of Ireland – less than a third (31%) of businesses polled answered “yes” to the question: “Are you clear what ‘personal data’ means in a business context?”
What is GDPR?
GDPR is the result of four years of work by the European Commission to update data protection laws so that they address the new, previously unforeseen ways that data is now used today.
It will come into effect on 25 May 2018 and will apply to all EU member nations. That means any businesses operating within the EU, as well as any outside of the EU which offer goods or services to customers or businesses in the EU will need to comply.
In other words, pretty much every major corporation in the world will need to be in compliance when GDPR comes into effect – that includes me and probably you (depending where you are based, etc.).
Why is it important?
GDPR is important because it is such a major shakeup and will effectively give consumers more control over how their personal data is used by organisations.
Let’s not forget that existing data protection laws were enacted before technologies like the cloud were being used in anger and before the internet created new ways for data to be exploited.
Companies like Facebook and Google swap peoples’ data for access to their services and know everything from a person’s email address to who they are currently dating.
In addition, GDPR will simplify the legal environment in which businesses operate, by making data protection law identical across the EU.
How will it affect me?
If you are a ‘controller’ or ‘processor’ of data, GDPR will apply to you.
In a nutshell, a data controller is an entity that states how and why personal data is processed. A data processor is the party that actually does the processing. So, for example, a data controller could be an organisation (a charity, government agency or profit-seeking business), while a data processor might be a third-party IT company that does the actual processing of the data.
For a full definition of each, refer to Article 4 of the General Data Protection Regulation.
Under GDPR, the definition of personal data will be extended. So, in addition to covering things like names, addresses and photos, personal data will also include information like IP addresses, genetic data and biometric data.
Once GDPR comes into force, data controllers will also be obliged to report all data breaches to their data protection authority, unless the breach is unlikely to result in a risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals. This breach notification must occur within 72 hours of the organisation first becoming aware of the breach.
Furthermore, if a breach is serious enough, the organisation must also notify the affected individuals directly in a one-to-one correspondence. In other words, it won’t be good enough to inform people via a press release, company website or social media channel.
In the UK, the authority is the Information Commissioner’s Office. In France, it’s the Commission Nationale de l’ Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL).
While the European Commission says that GDPR will save businesses across Europe around €2.3 billion per year, the associated fines for non-compliance are rather hefty.
There will actually be two levels of fines under GDPR. The first is up to €10 million or 2% of the company’s annual worldwide turnover of the previous financial year (whichever is higher), while the second is up to €20 million or 4% of the company’s annual worldwide turnover of the previous financial year (whichever is higher).
For failing to notify of a data breach within 72 hours (and other data mishandling issues), the first fine will apply. For not following the basic principles for data processing, such as consent, ignoring individuals’ rights over their data, or transferring data to another country, the second, larger fine will apply.
The full list of circumstances under which each level of fine applies can be found in Article 83(4) and Article 83(5) of the General Data Protection Regulation.
Where can I find out more information?
The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has created a handy 12-step guide to help you get up to speed ahead of the changes coming into effect on 25 May 2018: Preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Likewise, the CNIL in France has also published a guide ahead of GDPR coming into force, Règlement européen sur la protection des données personnelles.
It’s pretty heavy reading, but the General Data Protection Regulation contains everything about the forthcoming data protection changes.
Edited 28/03/18 – I have found these resources below to be extremely helpful and I urge you to check these out too.