Stay In Touch With Your Important Contacts with Punchbowl



As an entrepreneur, it’s important to not only know how to make great connections, but also to have resources in place to grow those contacts. It can be difficult to show your appreciation to those connections, especially when these connections are exclusively over the internet. I’ve found the service Punchbowl offers a great way to reach out to those connections with a personalized touch.

Punchbowl is a site centered around life’s celebrations. There are great party planning resources available there, but I personally make the most use out of their free e-cards that are offered. The e-cards are customizable and perfect for adding a personal touch to your follow-up and correspondence. You can even add an electronic gift card, if you want to include a little something special with your message.

I use these Punchbowl e-cards as thank you notes, birthday cards, and even holiday cards. I love that you can schedule cards to be sent out on the appropriate days and that you can receive confirmation when the card is opened. The website has a simple, but cute animation style that makes it feel like you are opening a real card, which is a nice touch. The site and many of it cards are free, but you can upgrade for some added features.

Not enough time to keep in touch with your important contacts? I’d love to help!


Calm Your Inbox with Gmail Filters



Our in-boxes can be a pretty scary place. Emails are like bunnies – you blink and they’ve multiplied right before your eyes. I’ve found a system that makes my inbox a little less scary through using Gmail filters. I want to share this process with you so you can calm your inbox too.

Using Gmail’s filter function you can already have the less important emails out of your inbox before you ever open it for day. This means your inbox will only have those most important emails that you need to deal with right away. Less time sorting means more time for other things!

It’s best to filter messages that don’t need your attention immediately. For example, I filter all email lists that I sign up and Facebook messages. I want to see these messages eventually, but they are not first priority when I open my inbox.  What to filter will likely be different for you than it is for me, based on your business priorities.

1. Select an email from a sender that you want to begin filtering. (Note: You can also filter by different criteria such as subject or who the message is sent to, but I find the sender to be the way I usually choose what I want to filter.)


2. Click “More” and then “Filter Messages Like These”


3. At this point Gmail will try to choose what you want to filter. Take a look at these settings and make sure it matches your criteria. As you see, there are a lot of options, but I usually keep it short and sweet.


4. Click “create filter with this search”.


5. Decide what you want the filter to do. To have it removed from your inbox, be sure to click “Skip the Inbox (Archive It)”.  I usually also apply a label for the messages (Email Lists or Facebook for example) so that I can easily find and read these messages when I have more time. You can choose to do other things with the email if you prefer, such as Star it for backup or delete it.


6. Click “Also apply filter to…” to have the current messages in your inbox filtered to this criteria.

7. Click “Create filter”.

Congratulations! You’ve created your first filter – easy as that! Your messages will now be automatically filtered based on your criteria and no longer a clutter in your inbox. You may notice that some similar emails pop through into your inbox. Usually this happens when a copy changes their emails address or uses multiple email addresses. Simply create another filter and those messages will be filtered as well.


Just not enough time to set up these email filters yourself? I’d love to help!


Skip the Flash Drive – Use Google Drive!



Gone are the days of my youth, when you needed Microsoft Office and a flash drive to handle professional documents on the go. It’s kind of a relief to me since those flash drives were so hard to keep track of! Now I use Google Drive for all of my professional word processing and spreadsheet needs.

Like most Google services, Google Drive is free. Which means that you can give the service a chance without having to pay a lot to try it out. Since Microsoft Office is typically over $100 and Apple’s iWork is typically over $70, free is a great price in my book!

If you already have a free Google account, you already have an account for Google Drive. All of the documents that you create will be linked to this account and you’ll have access to them whenever and wherever you log in to your account. You can even upload other files to store on Drive, so this can be your one stop for all of your documents. No more fumbling and trying to remember where you put your flash drive or other media device!

When Google Drive first started out, it didn’t have a lot of functionality. However, since then they have consistently added new features and now there is very little I miss from my Microsoft Office days. I can easily format documents, easily filter and process spreadsheets, and can even create feedback forms easily – all within Google Drive.

Probably one of the reasons I love Google Drive the most and suggest it to others that I work with is the way that you can easily share documents or even entire folders with other Google Drive users. Since sharing documents gives you the option to let them collaborate on the same file, it makes working on projects together easy as can be. No more keeping track of multiple revisions and trying figure out which is the most current copy that you need. As a virtual assistant, it’s the perfect way for my clients and I to be on the same page for their important business projects.

To use Google Drive today, simply visit

Do you use Google Drive in your business already? If so, what is your favorite feature?

3 Ways a Virtual Assistant Can Help Your Business Today



Even as recently as four years ago, the world of virtual assisting was unknown to me. Most people I speak to today aren’t familiar with what virtual assistants do. More importantly, many business owners don’t understand how someone in my profession can help them in their business. Here are three ways that a virtual assistant can help you business immediately!

1. Create more time I know, it seems impossible that you can create more time in the day, but it’s true! Virtual assistants can take important tasks off your plate, creating more time for you to spend on other areas of your business.

2. Save money Hiring help in your business typically includes a lot of costs that aren’t seen on the surface – like offering and handling office space, benefits, and taxes. By hiring a virtual assistant you avoid these costs. Virtual assistants work from their own home office and handle their own taxes.

3. Gain skills for your business While you’re fantastic at running your business, there’s a good chance you aren’t highly experienced in all the different roles you have to take as a business owner. Instead of spending hours becoming trained in areas you are not interested in, hire a virtual assistant who is interested and skilled in these areas. Free yourself to be able to pursue the skills you are interested in!


Interested in the idea? I’d love to be your Virtual Assistant! Check out my virtual assistant services here.

6 Ways a Cow Can Help You Be More Productive



It’s been nearly seven years since I first tried out Remember the Milk. Since then I’ve tried almost every productivity app or system out there (because I’m a sucker for trying new things like this), but I keep coming back to the smiling cow. Remember the Milk (RTM) is a simple, free productivity system that can be customized to meet any need you have.


Smart Add

There is nothing worse than spending more time on adding a task to your list than it might even take to do it! I’ve struggled with this in the past with other productivity systems, but not with RTM. You can easily add the due date, recurrence, priority, time estimate, and tags – all with just a few extra keystrokes after naming the task.


Smart Lists
One of the main reasons I don’t use a paper system is the amount of upkeep it takes to locate and move tasks from one list to another.  Smart Lists pulls your tasks based on due dates, priorities, tags – almost any criteria you need. Smart Lists are the core of what makes RTM a system that can fit almost any need. They keep you focused on what you need to do right now.


Easy Functions

Priorities can easily change in the life of an entrepreneur, even within the same day. RTM offers keyboard shortcuts that allow you to quickly change your task’s properties without ever leaving your keyboard. You can complete or postpone your task, change the tags or the due date, or even add notes within seconds.



Another shortcoming of other systems are the lack of reminders for your tasks. Not with RTM. You can set up your system to remind you through email, phone, even Google Talk. Having those tasks in front of you when they are due ensures that you won’t miss any important deadline.


Add to Google Calendar and Gmail

I live in my Google accounts, as many entrepreneurs do. RTM knows this and not only lets you access your tasks from your Gmail window, but also lets you add your tasks to you Google calendar. This is an invaluable function that lets you really see how your day is stacking up, both with tasks and appointments.


Free, With Upgrades Available

If you’re not looking to pay to keep track of your tasks, RTM is the place for you. The free account you get with RTM puts no limit on your lists, tasks, or any of the core functionalities of the service. However, if you do end up loving the service you can upgrade and get more functionality from your mobile device with instant syncing. I pay for RTM because I want to support a great service and team, but I used RTM free for many years and still thought it was great.


5 Ways Gmail Can Save You Time and Frustration in Your Business

5 Ways Gmail Can Help Your Business


Our email managers can be our on-the-go organized file cabinet or our sliding stacks of papers that make it impossible to find what we need when we need it. However, the list of options out there – Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook, AOL – can be overwhelming to any business owner.  Choosing an easy to use and functional email manager can save you time and frustration in your business.

I personally prefer Gmail as my email manager of choice. I’ve used Gmail for over seven years now and, while it’s not perfect, it’s the best email manager that I’ve tried. Here are five reasons I suggest Gmail to help you save time and frustration within your business:

1. Gmail is FREE! Business budgets are very important. Even small monthly charges add up during the year and take away resources from other areas of your business. I’m not against paying for great services (and I’d probably pay for Gmail if it was a charge service), but I really love when great services are also free. Gmail makes money off you via ads, however I find the ads to be unobtrusive to my email experience. The best thing about a free service is you can try it out without risk.

2. Gmail Integrates Seamlessly with Other Google Services. I use a LOT of Google services. Google offers great, free solutions to many business and personal technological needs. Gmail works well with services I use every day like Google Drive and Google Calendar. There are even add-ons that allow you to work with these other services, for example you can quickly add dates within your email to your Google Calendar.  Links to other Google services are right in the Gmail box for easy access. I like being able to access several services without having to login multiple times. Every little bit helps when saving time for your business.

3. One Word: Autosave.  I’m old enough to remember the days of lost reports due to crashed computers. Gmail’s autosave works lightning fast. I’ve been writing an email and accidentally hit the close tab button when using my laptop. After a brief moment of panic, I found what I had been typing sitting in my Drafts folder. This saves a lot of frustration and gives a great peace of mind.

4. Access ALL of Your Emails In One Inbox. As an entrepreneur, you probably need access to multiple email addresses. Gmail makes it super simple to receive all of your mail in the same inbox, even email from your domain. No logging in to multiple tabs or windows. No trying to remember which emails that message was sent to. Everything you need is within the same inbox.

5. Superb Searches.  While I do still use labels (the equivalent of folders in Gmail) to keep organized, I don’t stress about creating a ton of labels as I did in the earlier days of email. As one might expect of Google, Gmail has a fantastic search for you email. It’s rare that I can’t find an email in Gmail by putting just a few key terms within the search bar. It saves a lot of time on the front end and a great piece of mind on the back end when I’m looking for an email from years ago.

Why I Decided to Rebrand My Business



In 2013 I started my virtual assistant company, Elms Marketing. I loved the symbolism of growth behind the name and wanted to communicate my marketing specialties within the name as well. As a new virtual assistant I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started my business. I was blessed with many wonderful clients in the beginning of my business. People who were willing to give me a chance to prove my skills. I will always be thankful for the opportunity to work with such great people.


As my first year of virtual assisting wrapped up in early 2014, I took some time to review where my business had come, my current goals for my business, and, most importantly, what my clients need most from my business. In working closely with small business entrepreneurs, I’ve found that my target market didn’t need as much help creating marketing plans as I expected in the beginning. Many already have great systems of promoting their businesses to their target audience and have plans to grow that in the future.


What my clients DID need was help with the implementation of their plans. They need someone who can be trusted to manage parts of their business that they can let go of to free their time so that they can continue pursuing growth in their businesses. And, frankly, I LOVE being able to be that person for their company.


My focus has shifted, just slightly, to this new goal. I’ve decided it’s a good time for my business name to change as well. My business has shifted away from Elms Marketing and I decided to rebrand using my name. I wasn’t comfortable with using my name exclusively for my business when I first started virtual assisting, but I am at the point in my career where I am more comfortable with using my name only. I did a lot of research at some sites I really respect, like Amy Lynn Andrews and Andrea Dekker, and gave thought a lot about it before making the big decision.


It’s hard to leave the name Elms Marketing behind, however I know this is right not only for me and my business, but for my clients as well. Not much will be changing besides the name, but I’m excited for this new journey in my business as I continue to help others grow their businesses!