Monday, November 24, 2008

Want To Know How To Increase Billable Hours?

Has your firm set your billable hour goals for 2009? Are you wondering how you're going to reach those goals? Are you thinking it's impossible?

You need to know my seven secrets!

Seven Secrets That Will Increase Your Billable Hours launches on Thursday, December 11th at 4:00 p.m. ET (3 pm CT/2 pm MT/1pm PT).

Does quitting time come and you have no idea what you did all day? Do you scramble at the end of the month to get your time entered so bills can go out? Do you reach the end of the year and find you've fallen short of your annual billable hour goals? STOP! Stop the madness and stop the overwhelm!

Regardless of your experience or expertise, recording time and reaching billable hour goals is perhaps the most important thing you do. How do you reach those goals?

Do you have to work harder? NO!

Do you have to work longer hours? NO!

Do you have to sacrifice your quality of life? NO!

The seven secrets I will reveal are tried and true. All you have to do is take seven simple steps...form seven simple habits...and you'll be optimizing your'll be working smarter...the result will be an increase in total hours recorded and billed.

Join me Thursday, December 11, 2008. For more information and to register, follow this link.

Dedicated to your Success!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Issue of Paralegal Salaries

Paralegal salaries are always an issue for discussion. So many factors play into the the determination of salaries: productivity, gender, education, geographic location, and the value the firm places of the role of the paralegal. Follow this link to an interesting blog post that everyone should read regarding paralegal salaries.

Productivity in the form of total billable hours remains an important factor in determining salaries. Do we have to work longer hours to increase our billable hours? The answer is 'No.' More information about my brand new teleclass 'Working Smarter: Seven Secrets to Increase Your Billable Hours' will be available soon. For a sneak peak, send a request to ... put 'billable hours' in the subject line.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Who's Doing the Filing?

There is a saying that goes like this: If you want to know if the person you are hiring is truthful, ask if they like to file. If the answer is ‘Yes!’ do not hire them because they are not truthful. NO ONE likes to file! Unfortunately, like it or not, filing accurately and regularly is crucial in our business.

A filing system is really a finding system. This is your method for storing information today and finding it quickly and easily tomorrow.

Searching for a misplaced document or file is not only a waste of time and energy, it is also a waste of money. Assuming you work 48 weeks in a year and spend just five minutes of each hour of an eight-hour workday looking for lost documents or files, you will waste 160 hours per year. Using a billing rate of $95 per hour (insert yours here), the annual loss is $15,200. Usually this search involves several people and it delays getting your work done, so the cost increases proportionately. You also lose credibility and appear unprepared when you do not have information at your fingertips.

A good filing system can remedy all of this. Here are some tips to help you create a system that will minimize the time you spend (waste) looking for lost files and documents.

Begin by making some decisions. First decide who is responsible for the filing. This may be delegated to one or more employees or it may be that the person doing the work on the file is responsible for putting their work away and cleaning up any loose ends. Unless this is clear, papers will be thrown haphazardly into the file, if they make it there at all, creating a continuing nightmare. Second, decide when the filing will be done. Again, doing this as you do your work is really the most efficient. If that cannot happen, establish a policy that filing is to be done by the end of every day or at the beginning of the next. Do not allow papers to disappear into a filing tray, never to surface again.

Establish a filing system that is easy and flexible. Your mantra should be 'store it where you can retrieve it...file it where you can easily access it.' Visualize how you use files and set up a system that is both flexible and matches your situation. This system should include a policy on where the files will be stored (a central area or in the office of the person working on the file?) with an explicit rule that the floor is not a filing cabinet. Also, how do you want the files set up in the first place? How will the documents be put in the file? What kind of file folder will be used? How do you want them labeled? Even if all the filing is done perfectly, if the label is not visible, you will not be able to find the file.

Remember that bloated files are a waste of money and space. Statistics reflect that you will only refer to about 20% of what you file. The remaining 80% just takes up space. Generally waaaaaay too much paper is being filed in the first place. Aim to keep your files lean and mean. Do not save anything you will not need. Condense and purge whatever you can before filing. You do not need five copies of the same document. Before you put papers away, ask these questions:
  • Is this relevant?
  • Will I need this again?
  • Can I get this again if I need it?
  • What are the consequences of getting rid of this
  • What is the worst case scenario if I don't have this?

Depending on the answers to your questions, you may be able to get rid of the paper altogether.

Are you done? Move it out! Do the math: if you keep adding files to the filing cabinet and never move any out, the cabinet will soon be overflowing. When you are done with a matter, move the file to closed storage immediately. This is the only way to make room for new files. If more comes in than goes out, you have a problem. Your file drawers should have a minimum of two inches of free space or it will be too difficult to put anything away. Where will the files go? on your desk, on the floor...and the piles mount.

What about those files on your desk? A vertical step file organizer is your solution to the piles of files on the corner of your desk (or on the floor!) that become part of the landscape and soon forgotten. When the files are upright, they are easier to see and easier to locate.

Your challenge: Visualize your office: consider the flow of work and the best location for your files. Then design a policy for setting up the files, doing the actual filing, and moving the closed files to storage. This policy will include who will actually do the work, when they will do it, and how it will be done. Be very clear and concise. Remember that this is a lot like home: if everyone understands their responsibilities, does their fair share and picks up after themselves, the problem will be solved.

© 2008 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, e-zine or website? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, also known as The Paralegal Mentor, publishes the bi-weekly ezine ‘Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence’ where she offers tips for paralegals and others who want to create lasting success in their personal and professional lives. Get tips and information at no cost at

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Don't Forget to Delegate!

Do you have too much to do and not enough time to get it all done? Do you run out of day before you run out of list? There is a solution: delegate!

It may be difficult to give up control of some of your responsibilities but that's the only way you'll get off the merry-go-round and stop being a 'one man band.' Get over the idea that you, and only you, are capable of handling a job....that it will just not be good enough unless you do it yourself. While there may be critical issues that require your personal attention, remember that everything isn't critical. If you delegate, you'll take a giant step toward relieving the stress and overwhelm of having too much to do.

B. Eugene Greissman, author of 'Time Tactics of Very Successful People,' said: You should do only that which only you can do.' It's true: decide what you have to do that takes your unique talents and expertise and then allow someone else to do the rest!

When you delegate, there are several steps you can take to be more effective:

1. Plan. Review the work you have to do and map out the steps that need to be taken to finish the project. From that map, determine which steps 'only you can do' and which steps can be done by someone else. You'll find it easier to delegate if you use the 80% rule: you think that no one can do the job as well as you, so delegate when the job can be done to 80% of your satisfaction. Now, 80% of your satisfaction may not be perfect but remember that you now have two goals: 1) getting the job done and 2) taking some pressure off yourself.

2. Decide to whom you're delegating. Select the person who's ready to do the job...or someone you're willing to train so that they can ultimately do the job. You shouldn't delegate to people just because they're standing next to you. Consider their abilities, experience and eagerness. It's one thing if you impose your high standards on yourself, but you shouldn't impose them on someone who can't live up to your expectations. We all have different degrees of talents and skills. You can't expect yourself or others to operate beyond the current level of ability.

3. Give clear directions. Communication is the key here. If you don't give clear directions, you'll be setting the other person up for failure. The person you are delegating to must understand exactly what you want for you to get the results you're looking for. People can't read your mind. If you want a document or a file set up a certain way, let them know. Further, this clear direction should include deadlines for completing the work. If the work can't be completed by your deadline, that needs to be resolved up front.

4. Follow Up. Make notes in your planner (either electronic or paper) to remind you when the job should be completed and to schedule 'appointments' to check on the progress of the work. This will keep everyone on task and avoid any surprises when the deadline arrives and the work isn't completed.

5. Reward success. Praise is often the most effective reward. Some occasions even call for a thank-you note for a job well done. On the other hand, if you've had an unsuccessful, or just partly successful, result, you should use a positive approach to review the errors and make your expectations clear so that future results will be satisfactory. This is important if you expect this person to do work for you again. Always remember: praise in public and correct in private.

Your challenge: Resolve to stop thinking that you're the only one who can do a job that meets your standards. This may mean you have to reconsider your standards. Then look at all the work on your desk and determine what can be done by someone else. Remember that you should be working on things that only you can do. If the work can be done satisfactorily by someone else, you should delegate it. Follow the five steps to successful delegating and you'll be on your way to reducing your workload and relieving much of the stress in your life.
As always, I remain....dedicated to your success!

© 2008 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, e-zine or website? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, also known as The Paralegal Mentor, publishes the bi-weekly ezine ‘Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence’ where she offers tips for paralegals and others who want to create lasting success in their personal and professional lives. Get tips and information at no cost at

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What's In Your Wallet?

Would you pass up a raise? I'm sure the answer is 'No!' If you aren't taking advantage of benefits offered by your employer, though, you may be passing up a big pay hike.

Why should you be interested in those benefits? Some will result in a tax savings to you. Others will have a positive impact on your future, including your ability to transfer to a different practice area or department (which could result in an increase in salary) and the funds you will have on hand when you retire. Some will improve your quality of life. Here are a few possibilities you'll want to check for:

Health Insurance. This is a number one priority. Be sure to enroll your first day on the job.

401(k) Plan. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, be sure to enroll and make regular contributions, regardless of your employer's contributions. There are tax benefits. For many of us, these funds and our Social Security benefits will be our only retirement income. The Department of Labor requires that if an employer has a 401(k) Plan, it must be offered to you once you qualify for it. Don't let your employer 'forget' to offer it to you.

Section 125 Plan. A Section 125 plan provides tax savings by reducing employee medical premiums from gross salary prior to calculation of federal income and Social Security taxes. This is one I take full advantage of. It's difficult to predict your total expenses for the coming year (and you are stuck with your prediction, even if you didn't calculate having to have a root canal!) but it's still worth doing.

Paid Time Off. Many employers have a 'use it or lose it' policy. Don't give up that time! Even if you don't lose it, do use your vacation and personal days (whatever it's called where you work) because the break will do wonders for your attitude and mental health.

College Tuition. This is another gimme. Don't delay! Never pass up an opportunity to improve your skills and increase your knowledge. If you can get tuition reimbursement, be sure to go for that degree. Having it may mean you'll be able to advance within the firm or the company. It may mean that you can get a better job with a higher salary somewhere else. Without it, you may be stuck where you are forever. And don't tell me it's too late to start your higher education adventure. The years will pass whether you do it or not.

Certifications. Passing a certification examination doesn't always result in a higher salary, but it never hurts to have it. In some cases, you absolutely cannot advance without it. The certification will demonstrate your discipline, your level of knowledge, your professionalism, and your credibility. There are other certifications besides those just for paralegal, such as the CPCU (Certified Property Casualty Underwriter) and CRM (Certified Risk Manager).

Professional Association Memberships. Even if you don't anticipate being an 'active' member (and I do encourage you to take that route), this is a great way to stay on top of what's happening in your profession. You'll have networking opportunities, as well as opportunities for continuing education.

Continuing Education. Again, never pass up a chance to upgrade your skills and expand your knowledge. Perhaps a course isn't exactly in line with what you do, but you never know where your life will take you and what you'll be working on down the road. You may work in bankruptcy right now, but IP may be in your future.

Publications and Books. Will your employer pay for subscriptions to professional journals? How about books for your practice area? Notary Public Commission. This is another 'no brainer.' You probably need this in your present employment and it 'travels' with you if you move on.

Gym Membership. Healthy employees are happier and more productive. You can find time in your day to get in some exercise...especially if your employer is paying for the gym membership.
Equipment. Will your employer pay for your cell phone plan? A BlackBerry? A laptop? Don't pass those up!

Your challenge: Know your benefits package inside and out. Sit down with the person in charge of benefits where you work and make sure you understand everything that's available to you. Find out what steps you have to take for each one, how you enroll, get approval, get reimbursed, etc. If you're taking college courses or attending continuing education programs, be sure to provide a report for your personnel file and keep a copy so that you will have the information for your next salary review. Your benefits can add up to more dollars in your pocket. You don't want to miss out on that!

© 2008 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, e-zine or website? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, also known as The Paralegal Mentor, publishes the bi-weekly ezine ‘Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence’ where she offers tips for paralegals and others who want to create lasting success in their personal and professional lives. Get tips and information at no cost at

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

RU Vetting?

Vetting has nothing to do with horses and cows! This is a process of examination and evaluation. Used as a verb, 'to vet' means 'to subject somebody or something to a careful examination or scrutiny, especially when this involves determining suitability for something.' This often translates to performing a background check.

Why would you vet? There are many reasons, but two purposes come to mind immediately: (1) to assist in gathering information on potential and seated jurors, information that could be used to pick jurors, dismiss jurors, and possibly influence jurors during opening and closing arguments; and (2) to verify the background your expert witnesses, as well as those of your opponent. Vetting might also include finding details about your client that will help your case.

A crucial step in preparation for trial is the vetting of an expert's credentials. For instance, a jury verdict in favor of Merck & Co. in a Vioxx trial was thrown out by a New Orleans federal judge when it was discovered that a cardiologist who testified for the defense lied about his credentials. In Toronto, a psychiatrist's license was suspended when it was discovered that he misrepresented his credentials when he served as an expert witness in two trials.

What tools can you use for vetting? There are major research services that will check on someone's background. However, there are many resources available on the Web that can also assist with researching an expert's background...and also the background of a lay witness or a juror, as well as your own client. Assuming surprises at trial aren't something you like to deal with, here are a few resources you can use:

Background Check: When you need to locate background information about a person, go to

Blogs: People create a permanent record (as in 'once in cyberspace, always in cyberspace') when they post entries and participate in discussions in blogs. Go toGoogle Blog Search or Clusty to see if a person maintains a blog. Then check their blog to see what they're saying.
Newsgroups and Discussion Lists: To find postings, use Google Groups where current groups are hosted and there is an archive from 1985 forward.

Podcasts: If you want to know if your expert or juror has said something relevant to your case in a podcast, try Podzinger.

Networking sites: People post their profiles, pictures, and all kinds of miscellaneous information about themselves on social networking sites. There are several out there: LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter are good places to start, but there are others.

Corporate Records: For information about publicly traded corporations, as well as information about individuals such as investments, education and employment history, try The US Securities and Exchange Edgar Data Base. Note that the SEC unveiled a successor to the EDGAR database. It is a new system called IDEA, short for Interactive Data Electronic Applications. IDEA will give investors faster and easier access to key financial information about public companies and mutual funds. Information is freely available to investors to vie them better and more up-to-date financial disclosure in a form they can easily use. For the immediate future, searching should continue within the EDGAR data base. Information will slowly be transitioned to the IDEA system.

Associations and Non-Profits: When you want more information about an association, its tax return may be the key. Not only are returns required for non-profits, but they are also public information. Try

Public Records: There are several sources for public records. Try Search Systems, Virtual Gumshoe, and Public Records Online Directory.

Social Security Numbers. You won't have an easy time finding social security numbers on the Web due to privacy issues. However, you can verify that a number is valid by entering the number at the SSN Validator. You won't get the name of the person holding the number, but you will be able find out if, when and where the number was issued and if a death claim has been filed against the number. It works...I checked my number and I'm still alive!

Is Vetting Ethical? I'll begin by cautioning you to check your state's ethics rules and opinions, as well as the code of conduct, to see what applies to you. Provided you're clear there, all of the foregoing information (and much more) can be gathered legally and ethically. Of course, it's unethical to misrepresent your status or position to obtain information, and the information can't be used to bribe or blackmail. Further, you'll be gathering information that people consider confidential...there's definitely a conflict between your desire for information and a person's desire for privacy. The information you gather should probably be kept hush-hush. It can be used for peremptory strikes without indicating exactly why the potential juror is being dismissed. Information can be referenced subtly in closing arguments. Analogies to information can be used to gain sympathy for your client.

Your challenge: Take the 'no surprise' route in your work. Use the Web to search for useful information regarding potential and seated jurors, expert and lay witnesses, and even your client. If you find pictures of your client on his FaceBook page that would indicate he suffers no ill effects from his accident, you'll want to know that before you go into the court room. If you find your opponent's 'expert' is not qualified to give expert testimony, you'll have an important nugget for your case. If you learn that one of the jurors is a Little League coach, reference to baseball in closing arguments may result in a home run for your case.

© 2008 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, e-zine or website? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, also known as The Paralegal Mentor, publishes the bi-weekly ezine ‘Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence’ where she offers tips for paralegals and others who want to create lasting success in their personal and professional lives. Get tips and information at no cost at

The Case of the Mysterious Mentor

Have you ever thought about your impact on other people? How you influence their lives and their success? How you may not even be aware of doing something very simple that will help another person set their goals? How you may be a mentor and not even know it? Perhaps you'll better understand if I tell you a story that I call 'The Case of the Mysterious Mentor.'

In the year 1996 our son, Vince, was studying finance at Michigan State University. He would often bring friends home for a weekend in Charlevoix ... invariably they were named Mike or Tim. One weekend his guest was Mike Wardian, a tall, lanky, polite young man from Virginia who played Lacrosse for MSU.

Vince and Mike were having breakfast on Saturday morning as I was getting ready to go out for a training run with my friends. Mike remarked that “That looks like fun. Can you give me some information?” Even though he played Lacrosse, he had never done any serious running.

Did my doubt show? Did I roll my eyes? Did Mike know that deep inside I was thinking, “What a waste of time...this kid will never run!” Hopefully not! Despite my doubts, I made copies of training schedules and articles about running for Mike and answered all of his questions.

Off I went to Boston and what would be the last marathon of my running career. Off Mike went to begin his running career...he laced up his shoes and never looked back.

Mike was determined. He spent countless hours training and he never said ‘I can’t.’ He ran faster and faster and further and further. Before I knew it, he was running across the Sahara Desert! He qualified for his own Boston Marathon experience and started running ultra marathons. Then, bursting with pride, I found myself in Birmingham AL in 2004 (just eight years after I made those copies!) to cheer for Mike as he participated in the Men’s Olympic Trials.

You may have heard about Mike. In November 2007 he led the Men’s Olympic Trials in New York City for an incredible six miles! He pushed his son, Pierce, in a stroller for the entire Frederick (Maryland) Marathon, finishing in 2 hours 42 minutes and earning a place in the Guinness World Book of Records. More recently he’s won the 2008 50k and 100 K (roughly 32 and 62 miles!) National Championships and he’s now sponsored by PowerBar, and others. Mike is, quite literally, a running machine.

Would Mike have done all that if he had not been in Charlevoix that fateful day in 1996? Who knows? Perhaps...but perhaps not. Fate may have taken him in some other direction. You just have to believe, though, that everything happens for a reason.

Now, please remember that I’m the first to admit Mike’s success is all his own doing. He’s put in the hours on the road and made the sacrifices athletes make to be successful. He’s earned every medal and trophy he’s received. Even in his glory, though, he never ceases to thank me for planting the seed...for inspiring him...for being a mentor. The odd thing is that I did this unwittingly. I simply set an example. And I have continued to cheer for him and congratulate him as the years have passed ... because the sign of a true and good mentor is that you feel nothing but joy for the person you have inspired.

Your challenge: Remember that you never know when you'll influence and inspire someone to reach for the stars. You never know when you'll be the person others look up to and want to pattern their lives after. You never know who’s watching, learning and taking their inspiration from you. What do your actions say? How do you treat others? You may talk the talk, but you must also walk the walk. Choose your words carefully. Be lavish with your praise. Be cautious with your criticism. Be someone others know, like and trust. Share yourself, your knowledge and your talents. AND if someone has been your Mysterious Mentor, let them know that they've had a positive influence on your life.

© 2008 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, e-zine or website? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, also known as The Paralegal Mentor, publishes the bi-weekly ezine ‘Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence’ where she offers tips for paralegals and others who want to create lasting success in their personal and professional lives. Get tips and information at no cost at

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Conventions: A Paralegal Education Resource

Paralegals searching for quality continuing education programs offered over a brief period of time should consider attending conventions sponsored by professional associations.

NALA the Association of Legal Assistants-Paralegals offered this opportunity to paralegals from all over the country July 29-August 2nd at the association's 33rd annual convention in Oklahoma City, OK.

Not only do conventions sponsored by professional associations offer excellent continuing education opportunities, they also provide occasion for networking with peers. The five days I spent in Oklahoma City (July 29-August 2nd) at the NALA Convention were terrific! It was great fun to reconnect with long-time friends, as well as get acquainted with new friends from across the country. I encourage every paralegal to put a convention on their calendar!

The pictures below were taken following the installation of NALA's officers for 2008-09. Linda J. Wolf (Dallas TX) will serve as President for the coming year.

I spent some time chatting with Montana members Terry Halstead (left) and Barbara Bessey (right).

As a NALA Past President, I always look forward to reminiscing with other Past Presidents at Convention. This year I got visit with Brenda A. Mientka (Colorado Springs, CO) (l) and Tita A. Brewster (Las Cruces NM) (center). Past Presidents Patricia G. Elliott (Phoenix AZ) and Debra J. Monke (Bloomington IL) attended but were unavailable for a picture.

I was a very proud mentor when members from Michigan were elected to office! Sharon A. Werner (l) was elected Second Vice President and Kelly A. LaGrave (r) will serve as Treasurer. Congratulations to both of you!

Deb Elkins (r) (Tucson AZ) always has a smile for everyone! Deb has missed just one convention in the past 14 years. Quite a record!

Ann Atkinson (Omaha NE), NALA Secretary, shares a moment with Sharon Werner and me. Congratulations on your election, Ann!

Ruth Conley (Houston TX) (l) and Lorena Shingleton, Charleston WV (below), celebrated their 'graduation' from NALA's first LEAP Class.
I served as Lorena's mentor this past year. Ruth was instrumental in arranging my presentation 'Keys to Eliminating Procrastination and Perfectionism' to the Houston Paralegal Association.

Following the reception, I had dinner with NALA CEC Chair, Kathy Miller (Irvine CA) (l). Convention Chair, Chris Porter (Wilsonville OR) and Tita Brewster (Las Cruces NM) joined us.

Now I'm looking forward to NALA's 34th Annual Convention in San Diego CA, July 2009!


Saturday, July 26, 2008

How to Use Voice Mail to Organize Your Time

The key to getting more done in your day is to minimize interruptions. If you answer your telephone every time it rings, you'll have no block of time to complete your work. Controlling your phone time allows you to maximize your day and get more work done in less time.

The answer? Use voice mail to avoid disruptions. When you have a deadline to meet or need some uninterrupted time to think and work, let your calls go to voice mail and deal with them later. This will avoid calls from those people who need 'just a minute' of your time and end up talking for fifteen minutes. Your telephone will become one of your favorite time organization tools.

Your outgoing message should give your callers lots of information. Plan this carefully so you will know exactly what the caller wants when you retrieve their message. In fact, you may not have to return the call if you manage to get enough information from your caller. If you just say, "Hi! This is Vicki. Leave your number and I'll call you back." you've not helped yourself at all. Be clear and concise and give your callers as many details as possible. Let them know when they can expect to hear from you, how to bypass your message or speak with someone else, and let them know if there are alternative ways to reach you. Then ask them for a detailed message.

Voice mail is a two-way street so the message you leave must also be effective. Plan your return call and be concise. No one wants to listen to a message that rambles on and on. If you have to, make notes so there's no stammering, no lost train of thought, and no forgetting an important detail. Let them know the best time to reach you and then tell them precisely what you need. If you do a good enough job, you may even avoid exchanging phone calls. For instance, "This is Vicki calling. Please fax a copy of Dr. Smith's IME report for John Jones to me at 231-555-5555." should get the results you want without spending any more time on the phone. Remember, too, that you're not in a race to talk as fast as you can. Say your name and telephone number slowly...and then repeat both before you end the call.

Try to return calls all at once. In other words, do this in one chunk of time; don't drag the calls out all day long. Experts will tell you that the best times to return calls are first thing in the morning or immediately after the lunch hour. The last two hours of the day are also good. These are the times when most people are in their offices and you'll have a better chance of avoiding the dreaded game of phone tag.

One last thing: Your voice mail message reflects your image. Whether it's the message your callers hear or the message you leave for someone else, this is your opportunity to project a professional image. These messages may be for people you'll never meet face-to-face. Act accordingly.

Your challenge: Take control of your voice mail. Carefully consider the message your callers currently hear. Does it include enough information so that your expectations are clear? Prepare scripts for different situations (you're at a meeting or a seminar or on vacation, etc) and update your voice mail as needed. Then move on to the message you leave when you get someone else's voice mail. Be sure you are, again, including enough information so that they know why you're calling, when they can reach you and what information you want when they call back. If you take these steps, you'll be on your way to making the best use of every minute of your day.

Always remember that I remain...

Dedicated to your success!


Vicki Voisin shows paralegals and other professionals how to create lasting success by making small changes that will lead to big improvements in their personal and professional lives. Visit Vicki at for details, and her free special report "Is Your Computer Talking Behind Your Back?"

Thursday, February 21, 2008

If at First You Don't Succeed...

"If at first you don't succeed, try try again" was something my mother always said. This resulted in her four children never giving up until they succeeded. A good thing, I guess, except trying to do everything perfect is stressful, not to mention impossible.

This story is going somewhere, I promise! It begins with my friend, Glenda, who makes delicious hot pepper jelly and always gives us a jar for Christmas. If you've never had hot pepper jelly poured over cream cheese and served with Triscuits, you haven't lived! Anyhow, we got the pepper jelly for Christmas and, as usual, it was gone by the end of January. Oh, no!

Not wanting to wait eleven months to have pepper jelly and cream cheese again, I set out to make my own pepper jelly last weekend. It isn't difficult but making any jelly is tricky in that it doesn't always set up. Needless to say, I ended up with six jars of runny hot pepper sauce. Bummer!

Of course, my mother's message, "If at first you don't succeed, try try again" was rolling around in my brain so I was (note I said 'was') determined to keep making the pepper jelly until I had a perfect, successful batch. Then bring on the cream cheese!

But that quote was bothering me so I Googled it. My mother tricked us! The full quote is from W. C. Fields: "If at first you don't succeed, try try again. Then quit! There's no point being a damn fool about it!"

Hmmmm...maybe I'll just beg Glenda for another jar of that jelly!


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine_lunch_003_3Leave it to my friend, Anne (second from the right), to make a cold, snowy Valentine's Day warm and special by hosting a "Love Your Friends" luncheon.

It was so nice to get together (something Anne handles beautifully!) and enjoy a delicious menu of warm chicken casserole, carrot salad and dill scones. We finished lunch with a fabulous chocolate desert as Valentine's Day is a must-have-chocolate day!

Speaking of chocolate, the mason jars you see on the table were my gift to Anne and each guest. I filled them with my Spectacular Hot Fudge Sauce. Now my gift to my you is the recipe for this fabulous, sinful sauce...made even better by the fact that it is sinfully simple to make. My favorite way to enjoy it is warm over vanilla ice cream with a sprinkling of toasted pecans. My daughter adds Kahlua to hers to give it a hint of coffee flavor. Once you try this simple concoction, I'd love to her your favorite way to enjoy it, even if it's eating it straight from the jar!

Spectacular Hot Fudge Sauce In a medium saucepan, melt one stick butter. Add one 12-ounce bag of milk chocolate chips (Nestle's is recommended; be sure to use milk chocolate chips, not semi-sweet) and stir until melted. Stir in one can of sweetened condensed milk. Fill the empty milk can with light Karo syrup and add this to the chocolate mixture. Add one teaspoon good vanilla (Madagascar is my favorite). Stir well. Let cool a few minutes, spoon into jars and refrigerate. Totally yummy!


Saturday, February 9, 2008

My Favorite Tools to Keep Me on Track

I was asked recently, "What is your favorite organizing tool?" The answer was easy! My typo here, that is PLURAL as I have several of these must-have products.

Timers_002My timers are everywhere: my home office, my bathroom, the kitchen, and even around my neck. I consider them to be my personal memory cache! They prevent me from burning the bread I have under the broiler. They tell me when the cake is done and remind me to take clothes out of the dryer when I want them in for just a short time.

I often set a timer for 15 minutes and delve into a project that I've been putting off. It's easy to focus when you think, "It's only 15 minutes." Or I will use the timer to remind me that I've got to put down my needlework (something fun) and work on my next article or marketing project. It is not unusual for me to have more than one timer going at once.

My favorite (and also the most expensive) timer is the three-in-one clock/timer/stopwatch made by Polder. In addition to reminding me to move on or to check something, this timer also travels with me and doubles as a travel alarm. It gives me the time...and because the timer can be set up to ten hours, it makes a terrific, easy to set alarm clock. I know you are thinking that your cell phone is handy for this, but I find it simpler to decide how long I can sleep (five hours? six hours? thirty minutes?) and set the timer to go off when that amount of time has elapsed.

Speaking of my timers, one is going off right now, reminding me that the half hour I set aside to work on this post has been used up. When I set my timer again, I'll write about one of my other favorite organizing tools. Meanwhile, I'm wondering if any of you use timers as much as I do?