“The important things is not to stop questioning” – Albert Einstein

Todays quote is courtesy of Albert Einstein, “The important thing is not to stop questioning”.  For me there were a number of things that came to mind when pondering this quote:  

  • First up it tells us that it is okay to ask questions.
    I think many of us are somewhat shy when  it comes to asking questions, it is thought to maybe be a sign of weakness.  Actually it is the total opposite! – It not only grows our knowledge base, but shows strength of character too.           
  • I know for me when I find that new bit of information it gives me a massive boost.  I’m not really sure that this is true for all of us, but for some it can serve to energise, to give us this huge push forward.  This energy, this motivation can be what fuels success.            
  • There might be people we have come to know and respect through the legacy they have left; those people who have invented something, or done something great.  Or maybe even someone from today; a favourite Author, musician, or even a friend who’s business is going well.  If you really think about it these are the people that don’t mind asking questions, or taking risks.  

So the next time you are unsure of something make sure you ask – you never know, the outcome might just surprise you!




Now to look at positive versus negative statements

Below are some examples of where a negatively written statement could be transposed to a positive one:



…contrary to your…

…although your…

You failed to enclose…

You overlooked…

According to you…


Unless you return the…

When you return the…

You offer us no alternative…

We wish there were an alternative, but…

You always…

You usually…

Remember to scan your letters before you send them out for any negative statements.  Work to replace the negative statement with more positive words.  A letter that includes even one negative statement can cause a less than desired effect.  It could upset your relationship with a customer, friend or colleague when it was something that was simply overlooked.




Tightening the belt on your outgoing correspondence

Writers and business professionals today are expected to express themselves in a simple and direct way.  Thankfully the English language has plenty of alternative words to cover all situations.  An English Teacher from Indonesia came to stay with us last year.  He was amazed that we have so many ways in which to express the same thing.  He was also surprised that there are so many words in the English language spoken the same, but they mean totally different things (eg. sore/soar, there/their, won/one, sum/some, etc).
Use phone, voicemail, office memos (between staff) or electronic mail where possible.  Keep in mind that writing a letter is sometimes the best form of corresponding as it gives a person the extra time and space to work out exactly what they wish to say.  It also offers a permanent record.  You should also keep in mind that corresponding by ‘email’ adds an extra dimension.  Emails are so easy to send that they are sometimes too quickly written and then hastily sent.  They should be considered as an electronic form of writing a letter and therefore checked over just as stringently.  Here are some handy tips to help with your outgoing correspondence:
  • Plan to do your outgoing mail at the same time as your incoming mail
  • Follow the KISS (Keep it Simply Simple) rule. Keep to a minimum, if possible one page or less.
  • Get to the point. In the first paragraph state why you are writing.
  • The first paragraph should set a polite and positive connection between the reader and the writer.
  • The second paragraph should be the main content, the purpose. Here you might provide or request information, explain a situation, or request a meeting.
  • The third paragraph is a concluding statement. Here is your chance to make a powerful statement that sums up what you have spoken about in the body (middle part) of your letter.
  • Occasionally there will be a need to have two or more paragraphs in the middle. Make sure this is a need and not just needless waffling.
  • Avoid using complex/jargon words, or extra words that are not needed.
  • Do not enclose or attach unnecessary copies and reports.
  • Dictate rather than write.
  • Copy only what is needed.  File at the same time as you file the incoming mail.
  • Before you send out the letter or email scan over it to make sure the purpose is clear and the mood is positive. If the mood is not positive it might be a good idea to sleep on it and have a look again tomorrow.
  • Check that the sentences are complete and only one idea is spoken about in each sentence.  Or if you are able to ask for someone else to check your work.

Check out these other links for more tips and hints:
Wikipedia: Business Letter
Microsoft Office Templates

Write Express
Waylink English

Did you find this useful? Check back here in a few days for some positive phrases to replace the negatives when writing a letter, email or memo.

Making your intray work for you!

Do you have a separate intray for incoming paperwork?  As you work your way through your intray the rule of thumb is to act on each bit of paper immediately.  Here are some further tips to help you achieve your maximum efficiency when looking after your incoming correspondence:

  • At the same time each day if possible open your incoming mail.

  • Now for the big one – toss what you don’t need!

  • Are there tasks that are quick and will only take 5 minutes to resolve? Resolve these now!

  • Is it easy to resolve with a phone call? If you can completely finish with a piece of paper with one easy phone call, pick up the phone!

  • Or maybe you can add your reply directly to the incoming email, letter or memo and return.

  • Now onto those items that require follow up? Add these to your to do list now. Now you can be confident that they won’t be forgotten about which means you can file them away for a while. It might be a good idea to include on your to do list where you have filed these.

  • Create files to suit; maybe a ‘Reading File’, an ‘Important Project File’, a ‘30-days’ or whatever suits you and your business.  If you have clients you might want to create a working file for each of your clients. Working files can be kept in a step file on your desk, at the front of your filing cabinet, in your in-tray (but not too many in your in-tray or you will never find anything!).

Found these organisational tips useful? Check back in a couple of days for part two of the series ‘Tightening the belt on your outgoing correspondence’.

The Cold Coffee Syndrome

I came across this quote on the web today:

“As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.  ~Author Unknown” (http://www.quotegarden.com/secretary-day.html)

I thought this quote was very amusing.  It reminds me not only of working as a secretary, but also gives a clear picture of what it can be like being a parent sometimes.  Priorities are often put into some sort of order by our Children, just as someones priorities might be sometimes controlled by his or her work.  Our goals and priorities; those things that we aspire to are of high importance in our lives.  These are the things that motivate us and help us to feel complete in our lives. Without them we would simply just be.

The important thing is to think about what these priorities might be and put them in to some sort of order.  These priorities are what our life is about today.  They also determine what our lives will be like tomorrow, so we should work toward and take joy in fulfilling them.

Are you like that cold cup of coffee – cold and not so sweet anymore; or are you more like that hot steaming cup of coffee (which is sitting on your bosses desk maybe? – lol) enjoying the story you read with your Child, finding the good in that not so exciting chore, or even musing at that cold cup of coffee that seems to have been delivered with yet another days priorities.

Something that I have to work on is finding the good in each and every situation.  Maybe this is the case for you as well.  It is so hard to do sometimes, especially when it is something we have such a strong opinion about. 

The other thing of high importance in our lives is to continue to work towards that balance that is just right for you and the people around you.  Put life into perspective.  Life is here to work around us, not the other way around!

Introducing Rachel Reeves

Rachel Reeves, Virtual Assistant and owner of Proactive Admin Services signing in for the very first time.  I hope that you enjoy what I write and it is able to give you some useful tips, maybe inspiring information, or every now and then something that will make you laugh so hard that you almost fall off your seat.

Firstly I should give you the heads up on my website.  It isn’t far off being launched – it will be up and running in the next week or two.  Maybe you would like to check back later to see our progress. 

You might be asking the question, what is this all about… Virtual Assistant… her website?  Let me explain a bit more.  A Virtual Assistant (VA) is an entrepreneur who provides administrative support services via the Internet to meet the growing needs of small businesses worldwide.  It is a widely accepted industry and is becoming more and more well known and popular with each day. In particular it has become incredibly popular for small business owners as they are busy; too busy to get everything done on their own.  This option allows them to hire someone without the added expense or hassle of a full-time employee.

And how did I stumble upon this industry?  I was looking for an avenue where I would be able to do the work that I do without the need to travel into the city for work every day.  To escape the rat-race so to speak.  Becoming a Virtual Assistant (VA) is perfect for me as it offers plenty of variety.  And I always had a dream that I might one day own my own business.  And now here I am!!