Search & Replace Episode S01E11: Marianne D’Alessandro

Keeping track of all your work is tough enough when you’ve only got one boss, Marianne D’Alessandro has dozens. She’s a virtual assistant, a job that’s all about helping people be more productive. Being stifled by task management overwhelm simply isn’t an option for Marianne or her clients – she needs all of her outstanding tasks in one simple place.

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Announcer: [00:00:00] Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialists at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode.
Joe Taylor: [00:00:11] How would your work change if all your outstanding tasks showed up in one simple place? I'm Joe Taylor Jr. This is Search and Replace.
Keeping track of all your work is tough enough when you've only got one boss, Marianne D'Alessandro has dozens. She's a virtual assistant, a job that's all about helping people be more productive.
Marianne D'Alessandro: [00:00:35] Most of my clients are solopreneurs and so they are running their business on their own and they like to focus mainly on their business growth. So what I do is, I'm virtually an executive assistant for them, or a secretary as it were called in olden days. And I would support them on a lot of the administrative tasks that you need to do in your business.
So we might decide on social media that needs to be posted at certain times. I may create their newsletters for them or schedule them to go out. I might update their database for them. I do some invoicing if needed. All those little tasks that you do as a small business owner are the pieces that I can jump in and help look after so that my clients can focus on their clients and growing their business.
Joe Taylor: [00:01:33] So over time, as Marianne's practice grows, she finds herself having to keep track of lots of routine tasks and special requests for all of her clients. It's a lot to manage. 
Marianne D'Alessandro: [00:01:44] So I used various to-do lists. I use some apps. I tried lists in One Note, I had paper lists. I would send myself emails. Just a whole bunch of different things.
I would try to plug things into my calendar with the deadline dates, but I found everything was all over the place. And I didn't have one streamlined system to keep all the information together. 
Joe Taylor: [00:02:14] Fortunately for Marianne, she found that streamlined tool. 
Marianne D'Alessandro: [00:02:18] The tool is Trello. And I love Trello for tracking work and deadlines, or tasks and deadlines that need to be done.
And also just tracking little bits of notes that I collect about different clients or different projects that I'm working on. And I use it as well for my own planning for my business. I'm a virtual assistant and I have multiple clients and it helps me plug in all of their data for the work that they require done with their deadlines.
And it also helps me to plan where I have space and where I want to grow my business. I can work for one client, or three or four or in a day, depending on what the deadlines are or what the tasks are. So, I like to batch my tasks. So if I'm doing social media for my clients, I like to batch them into one day after their posts for the week.
Or I might jump around and have calls with a couple of clients and then finish up a few last-minute things that they need done before I move on to new work that needs to be completed for them. 
Joe Taylor: [00:03:32] Trello has a free forever version and you can pay monthly to activate more storage, more boards and other additional features. But there's one thing about Trello Marianne likes the most. 
Marianne D'Alessandro: [00:03:44] It keeps me accountable. You know, you look at a piece of software or an app and you say, how can that keep you accountable? You actually have to do the work. And yes, I do have to do the work, which is the accountability part. But because all the information is together and I can put due dates in there and I can have those reminders emailed to me, it keeps all of my stuff organized and it makes it easy for me to make sure I hit all the deadlines and be able to reschedule that when I need to or move things around. It keeps everything in one place compact. So I can get it on my laptop, I can get it on my phone, I can get it on my tablet and I can get it wherever I am. I just log into my Trello account wherever I am and say, let me look that up for you.
Joe Taylor: [00:04:31] Marianne's got some advice for you, if you're facing task management overwhelm. 
Marianne D'Alessandro: [00:04:36] I would say that if somebody is really feeling that they just cannot keep up with all of the information that's coming to them to look for an app like Trello or one that they know that they will use effectively. And to start off small, just take one small project, put it on a Trello board and start working with them.
And I've done this with people I know, or I've encouraged them to do it. And once they've got a project on there and they start seeing the benefits and visualizing it, they're really anxious to get more projects and boards set up in Trello because it is that one stop shop for all the information. 
Joe Taylor: [00:05:20] That's virtual assistant Marianne D'Alessandro. We've got links to her practice and to Trello's free service in the show notes and on our website at 
Also in today's show notes, Trello's not the only game in town. So we're linking to a rundown of seven popular project management tools, including BaseCamp, the tool that we use to keep this show rolling every week, and some newer upstarts like Assana and Casual. 
We've also got a warning from psychologists to remind us that we're humans, not computers. We're not capable of multitasking, no matter what anybody tells you. We maybe can switch between tasks quickly, but at a cost. So whatever task management system you're using should help encourage you to achieve focus and flow, not just let you throw a bunch of stuff up in the air. 
Of course, if you do decide to go all in with Trello, recognize that it's a very simple and a very powerful tool. You might not realize how far you can go with it, so we're linking to an explainer from professional organizer, Mia Danielle. Mia walks us through how to optimize Trello and how to make sure your personality shines through so that if you've ever worried that an online task manager's going stifle your creativity, Mia's has got some evidence to the contrary. That's all over our website at 
Search and Replace was produced by Nicole Hubbard with support from Christine Benton, Connie Evans, Amelia Lohmann, April Smith, and Executive Producer Lori Taylor. Our theme music was composed by Alex DuFire. I'm Joe Taylor, Jr. 
Announcer: [00:07:04] This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production. Support for search and replace is provided by Johnson Taylor, user experience specialists, serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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