Monday, March 2, 2009

Finished digging out!

The snow has finally stopped!  I am in an area that averages about 5” of snow a year, but we haven’t had any in 3 years – I think it was catching up.  My son had to climb out the window to dig out the doorways – it was fun watching him – LOL.  I think the pool cover is shot….


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Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Online Marketing Tools for Today's Small Business" Author Interview

Wow! I've read Rita's eBook, and I can't wait to implement some of the tools that she shares. It was a great interview!

PZ: What qualifies you to write this book?
RC: Approximately 2 years ago, I started maintaining a blog and writing articles in order to implement the article marketing strategy. (I talk about using this strategy as a marketing tool in my e-book.) Also, while attending college, I learned how to write. I had to write. I remember my English professor saying I should be a writer, because he thought I had the skills. I didn’t take him serious. I was just trying to get through college.

In regards to the subject matter, my background and education in marketing and my experience from operating an online business provide me with the necessary qualifications to write this e-book on the topic of online marketing tools.

PZ: How long have you been an entrepreneur?
RC: I have been an entrepreneur since October 2002. Although I started out as a small business owner, I have become an entrepreneur. There are differences between entrepreneurs and small business owners. In fact, I wrote an article on the differences. It is titled, “Are There Any Differences Between an Entrepreneur and a Small Business Owner?” Ezine Articles is one of the article banks where you can find it.

PZ: What is the e-book about?
RC: This e-book contains information on various online marketing tools, along with some examples and in-depth descriptions of the tools. There is also a resource section that lists websites where you can find the online marketing tools, including “live” links to the websites. The resource section will save your readers a lot of time in Internet research when they are searching for information on online marketing tools.

PZ: What do you want the readers to get out of this e-book?
RC: I wanted to provide those readers, who have a shoestring marketing budget, with information they can use in their online marketing plan or, at least, generate new marketing ideas. Most entrepreneurs and small business owners do not have a large marketing budget. The marketing tools I discuss costs little to no money.

PZ: Can we look for more books from you in the future?
RC: Yes. One of my clients, who is a coach of Christian leaders, and I are currently working together on an e-book. It will be geared towards Christian leaders and Christian virtual assistants. So be on the lookout for that in the near future.

PZ: How can the readers contact you if they have any questions?
RC: Your readers can reach me at 760-631-1335 or toll free at 866-651-3073 or send me an e-mail at

PZ: Rita, thank you for stopping by my blog on your tour.
RC: You are very welcome. Thank you, Pat, for having me.

Rita will be stopping by today, so please feel free to post any questions you have for her. Thank you again Rita for sharing your knowledge and experience with us.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Online Marketing Tools for Today's Small Business" eBook Release

I've been very remiss in posting lately, but a fellow entrepreneur is releasing an excellent new eBook that I highly recommend and I wanted to share this great resource.

Rita J. Cartwright is a Virtual Assistant and owner of RJ’s Word Processing Services and has just released “Online Marketing Tools for Today’s Small Business”.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners in any industry can use this e-book as a reference guide. Whenever you need fresh online marketing ideas or need online marketing information, you can refer back to this e-book. Nowadays, we are so overwhelmed with information, Rita wanted to simplify the search for online marketing techniques by organizing some of that information together into one location, her e-book. Pick up your copy today at the low price of $3.98.

Rita J. Cartwright is a Virtual Assistant and owner of RJ's Word Processing Services and has been in business since 2002. In 1998, she received a Bachelor's of Science degree in Marketing from Arizona State University with a minor in Spanish. She is also a member of Virtual Assistant Networking Association and Oceanside Chamber of Commerce. In order to offer her clients quality service, Rita continues to enhance her skills through various teleseminars and webinars, as well as network online and offline with fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Rita’s background in marketing and experience in conducting her business online qualify her to write an e-book on the topic of various marketing tools and strategies. Having to operate on a shoestring marketing budget, provided her with necessary knowledge and skills, which were required in order to implement these same strategies into her online marketing plan. For more information on RJ’s Word Processing Services and Rita, please click here.

I will be hosting Rita’s Virtual Book Tour right on this blog on October 25th! Come back on October 25th to Inside Instant Office Assistant to find out more about Rita and the reason’s behind the release of her e-Book!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Quick and Easy Search

After watching a friend painfully scroll through 1,000 messages in her inbox trying to find one from the right sender, it occurred to me that a lot of people don't realize how easily you can use the keyboard to find a message in a sorted list, or how easy these lists are to sort.

Almost any list control in Windows will let you type the first couple of letters in order to focus the selection on the item that matches in the current column. It's not exactly a new technique, but judging from that experience I felt it was worth sharing.

For instance, in Outlook 2007 you can sort by the "Arranged By:" header by clicking on it…

Normally, Outlook sorts by date received. You can leave the sorting by date and still quickly find your e-mail by typing the first couple of letters in the Search box.

Suppose you have already filed the e-mail in a folder. Obviously the search won't find it because it's looking through your Inbox only. Just select "Try searching again an All Mail Items".

I know so many people that are given this tool at work and told "just use it for e-mail". They are never taught about the little tricks and all the powerful tools that can make their lives so much easier and more productive. For all of you that were thrown to the wolves out there, I hope these tips and tricks help.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spring has sprung…

It's a beautiful Sunday morning. Spring is coming. I can hear the birds and see my flowers and roses starting to sprout. We had massive thunder storms yesterday, so everything is bright and clean today. There is a big window in front of my desk that overlooks my back yard.

One of the reasons we bought this house 12 years ago was for the back yard. Sounds silly doesn't it? I remember clearly that it felt like owning 3 different houses. Walk out the front door and you enter typical suburbia – no curbs, everyone has kids and a dog, school buses….you know what I mean. Leaving by the side door allowed you to walk through the woods – peaceful and calm. Of course, the woods are long gone and have been replaced with other typical suburban houses, but at the time it was great. And here's the selling point - open the back door and you're at your favorite vacation spot. Large back yard with an in-ground pool, but close enough to the ocean so you can smell the salt water. You can even take a quick trip to the beach if you want something different. I love water and this was as close to perfection as I could get. The only problem is that for the last 11 summers I have had a J.O.B.! Every day I would leave at 7 in the morning, drive over 100 miles, and return between 7 and 8 at night. That doesn't leave much time for enjoying the back yard.

All of that leads to why I am so enjoying this beautiful Sunday morning. It doesn't matter that it's Sunday – it could be Tuesday or Thursday or even Friday and I would enjoy it just as much! As a virtual assistant, I now work out of my home (in my office with the big window that overlooks my back yard) and can enjoy both the view and the back yard whenever I want.

Shortly, I'll take my coffee, laptop and phone outside to sit on the deck. The pools not open yet, but if it was, I could take a quick swim before the phone starts ringing with clients needing assistance. And since I work virtually, and I've never actually met any of my clients face-to-face, I can work in my bathing suit if I want. No more business suits and heels – what a relief! Spring has sprung, I have a new business I love and I can fully enjoy my back yard…..does life get any better?

Pat Zappavigna is the owner of Instant Office Assistant, a professional administrative support services company. You can contact Pat at or through the website

Monday, April 7, 2008

View Multiple Windows on the Taskbar

If you are like me, you probably have dozens of windows open at any given point, so if you want to work with just a couple of windows you have to minimize everything and then hunt for the windows you need - over and over again.

Since I bill by the minute, spending time searching is not cost effective for my clients, but closing all the other windows I'm working with is not the most efficient use of time for me. Solution? Open the two windows you are working with side-by-side!

There's a simple trick that's been built into Windows forever… hold down the Ctrl key while selecting taskbar buttons and you can select more than one at a time. The benefit is that you don't have to minimize any other windows in order to tile them (or close them).

Hold down the Ctrl key while clicking on a taskbar button, and then while still holding down the Ctrl key, click on another taskbar button. You'll notice that they are both selected. (Note that you can click on a button again to deselect it.)

Now that they are both selected, you can right-click on one of the buttons and choose to cascade, stack or show the windows side by side.

I don't find cascading or stacking very useful, but side-by-side is something I use quite often.

This can be extremely useful when you are trying to look at two windows at once, especially when you've got a ton of windows open but only want to tile two of them.

Try it! It's fun and a real time saver!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Are You Joining Earth Hour?

For one hour this Saturday night nearly 200 cities around the world, will go dark in what the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is calling the largest planned power outage in history. This event is an effort to raise awareness about power consumption and climate change.

More than 2.2 million people participated in the inaugural Earth Hour last year, in which just one city – Sydney, Australia – went dark. The one hour outage produced a 10 percent drop in energy usage during the hour – double what had been predicted.

On March 29, 2008 at 8 p.m., join millions of people around the world in making a statement about climate change by turning off your lights for Earth Hour.

In the United States, we are a “throwaway society”. Because of the great economy we have experienced in the past, it was just easier to throw things away and buy new. This mentality applies to energy as well, and we don’t think twice about hopping in the car to drive to the store down the street. We are paying for this lifestyle now, though, with global warming and reduced natural resources. Unfortunately, it’s hard to change habits that have formed over a lifetime, and I find most people “allergic” to change. Two things that will go a long way towards changing this mentality is the fact that global warming can no longer be called a dooms-day prediction by hysterical scientists, and the very real recession we are facing in the United States.

Facebook has this new Facebook Footprint Calculator that I thought was very informative. If you’re not on Facebook, there’s also a One Minute Calculator. While this calculator is very general, and you may be instituting different things in your home and workplace to reduce your footprint, it is a real eye opener for people who have no clue how their daily living impacts our environment. To get even more detailed try this calculator, this drills right down to what state you live in.

According to the Facebook calculator, by becoming a Virtual Assistant, I reduced my carbon footprint from 23.08 to 7.21 tons per year – Wow! According to the more detailed calculator, my footprint is only 1.8 tons per year. The national average is 7.5 tons per year, and while I feel that I can do more to make a difference, I think it’s a good start.

The only difference that this calculator could determine was the driving. I used to drive 100 miles a day (at minimum) to get to work. I now work at home and reduce my footprint even more, since being a business owner I get to determine the standards and policies to implement. I use recycled paper, but in today’s technological world, I don’t have very many things I actually have to print. I use compact fluorescent lights in my office, and am in the process of changing my home lighting. I turn off the computer, printer, calculator, lights, etc. when I leave the office.
For those of you who are not aware of this term, a Virtual Assistant (VA) is a highly-trained independent entrepreneur who provides a myriad of business support services virtually via phone, fax and internet based technology to support and meet the growing needs of businesses worldwide. *Source:
Virtual Assistant Networking Association (VANA)

A few examples of lowering your carbon footprint in your home are:

  • Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs to save money and reduce emissions. Lighting accounts for around 5% of household greenhouse gas emissions, and compact fluros use 75% less energy than an equivalent incandescent bulb. Although the bulbs cost more up-front, you will actually save money through the energy saved and extended life of the bulb.
  • Turn appliances off while not in use. Unplug any appliances like mobile phone chargers, TVs, microwaves, MP3 players, which are not being used and are on standby. Appliances on standby consume up to 10% of your electricity bill.
  • Turn off anything that doesn’t need to be on. A good rule is to turn off anything not being used. When you leave a room or leave the house, turn off your lights or appliances like the TV or computer.
  • Use less hot water. This is not only a good water saving tip, it saves electricity too. Spend one minute less in the shower.

At work:

  • Get off standby. Speak to your office manager about turning off any equipment at work that is not being used, including computer screens, photocopiers and printers, particularly when you leave at night.
  • Turn off lights at the end of the working day. Before you leave your place of work remember to turn off any lights in your workspace and your computer if you use one at work. Remember to unplug your mobile phone or laptop charger when it’s not in use. Speak to your office manager about installing motion-sensor lighting after 5pm when most people have gone home.
  • Find out what’s happening in your workplace. Ask about your company’s emissions reduction policies and find out what’s already happening. Look for ways to reduce energy use in your workplace and encourage improvements. If employers know their employees are keen to make their workplaces environmentally friendly, they’ll be even more inclined to take action.
  • Encourage your organization to have measurable emissions reduction targets. Many businesses are committing to emissions targets and have plans to be carbon neutral by a certain date. Switching to green power, reducing and offsetting energy use and travel, and incorporating this into all areas of the business are critical to this process. Does your company have a plan?

Many companies are turning to more flexible schedules, allowing employees to work from home, and outsourcing some of the daily routine tasks. One huge retailer that I used to work for is actually making great strides in becoming “green”. That didn’t stop me from laughing 15 years ago when they announced to the staff that they were “going paperless”. For this company, which meant instead of using 10 reams of paper for daily reports, we only had to use 7 reams – per store. At the time, they had about 3,000 stores – you do the math. I do have to say, they keep plugging away and trying to lower their carbon footprint in different ways daily.

How will becoming more flexible with scheduling or outsourcing some of your administrative needs lower your carbon footprint? It’s worth thinking about.

Pat Zappavigna is the owner of Instant Office Assistant, an administrative support services company. You can contact Pat at or through the website