planning en-US The Simple Way to Save Enough Money for Your Dream Goals <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-simple-way-to-save-enough-money-for-your-dream-goals" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="motorcycle" title="motorcycle" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>My husband is a bit of a gear-head. In addition to our two practical commuter cars, he is the proud owner of a 1976 BMW 2002 (which is euphemistically known as a &quot;project car&quot;) and a vintage 1975 Honda 400 motorcycle (which does run). (See also: <a href="">Guide to Buying a Used Car</a>)</p> <p>Despite the fact that we have more vehicles than space to house them, my husband recently told me that he would love to buy a newer, larger, and more comfortable motorcycle so that he could take a big cross-country trip with his friends.</p> <p>He sounded awfully wistful talking about that potential trip &mdash; so I suggested that we start putting money aside now so that he'd have the $6,000 to $8,000 he'd need for a new bike in about three years. Then, he could plan on taking his big motorcycle trip with friends for his 40th birthday in the summer of 2017.</p> <p>It used to be that our plans for such big expenses would begin and end with the wistful conversation about &quot;wouldn't it be nice?&quot; But these days, my husband and I have figured out a way to plan for big future expenses without feeling deprived now. Here's what we do &mdash; and why it works. (See also: <a href="">Saving Is Easy With the Right Goals</a>)</p> <h2>1. Have a Specific Savings Account for Each Big Expense</h2> <p>The first thing I did to start making my husband's new motorcycle dream a reality was open a savings account for it &mdash; which I nicknamed &quot;His Midlife Crisis.&quot;</p> <p>My husband and I have both a traditional checking and savings account with our local brick-and-mortar bank, and over a dozen (linked) savings accounts with online bank Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct). (See also: <a href="">Best Online Savings Accounts</a>)</p> <p>That may sound like overkill, but each and every one of those online savings accounts has a specific purpose. For instance, in addition to the new motorcycle fund, we have an emergency fund, a vacation fund, a new furniture fund, a new car fund, etc. By opening a new motorcycle savings account, we have already motivated ourselves to save for it. That savings account is a tangible indicator to ourselves that we are serious about saving up the money.</p> <p>In addition, having each of our targeted savings accounts specifically named for each goal we're trying to reach means we are not tempted to dip into an account for anything other than the goal. If we simply had a large savings account with all of the money co-mingling, it would be easy to take money away for other purposes, since it's not specifically tied to something we want. Our <a href="">mental accounting</a> might allow us to &quot;borrow&quot; from an unspecified savings account without a second thought, but it hurts to think about stealing money from the future motorcycle.</p> <p>According to Jennifer Saranow Schultz of The New York Times, &quot;the basic idea [of targeted savings accounts is to] create separate physical and mental accounts for each pot of money, making it <a href="">less likely you'll tap into the funds before</a> you've achieved the set goal.&quot;</p> <p>Having separate, targeted accounts for each one of our future goals means that we are always working toward those goals. It's a lot tougher to forget to save for a goal if you have a specific account named for it.</p> <p>Of course, it's not enough to have a targeted savings account. You also have to figure out how to put money in it.</p> <h2>2. Make Your Savings Goal SMART</h2> <p>One of the reasons why grand plans fail &mdash; from <a href="">New Year's Resolutions</a> to saving for a down payment for a house &mdash; is because of a lack of specificity. You might know that you want to own a house one day, but you don't know how much house you can afford or when &quot;one day&quot; might be. You might spend time dreaming of what your house will look like, but you never actually crunch numbers to figure out how and when to make that dream house a reality. (See also: <a href="">How to Achieve All your Goals</a>)</p> <p>If you really want to save up for a big expense, you will have to commit to creating a <a href="">SMART goal</a> &mdash; one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.</p> <p>In our case, the specific goal is for my husband to purchase a motorcycle within the next three years. While he doesn't know exactly which bike he wants, he has a good sense of what types of motorcycles he likes and finds comfortable to ride and what kind of price range is reasonable. This &quot;research&quot; comes from him spending a great deal of time on gear-head websites and talking motorcycles with friends &mdash; which hardly felt like research for him.</p> <p>Since we know about how much money we'd need to have set aside ($6,000 to $8,000), we can regularly measure our progress as we save up.</p> <p>Our goal is both attainable and realistic because we are on the same page for it. Both my husband and I are agreed on setting the money aside and know that we are giving up other uses of that money &mdash; but that we are not endangering our budget or attempting to save for something that we can't realistically afford. (For instance, while we might be able to swing the purchase of a pony and fulfill one of my girlhood dreams, there is no way we could afford said pony's upkeep.)</p> <p>Finally, we decided on an end-date of his 40th birthday so that we have something in the not-too-distant future to be working towards.</p> <p>In particular, we know that we have to each put aside $75 every month in order to have enough saved for both the motorcycle and the costs of the trip as of June 2017.</p> <h2>3. Automate</h2> <p>Once we had set up the savings account, figured out each portion of our SMART goal, and crunched our numbers, it was time to do the real work of saving up: actually parting with the money every month.</p> <p>But in fact, because we live in the age of automation, this can actually be the most painless part of the entire process. As soon as you know how much money you need to put aside each month, set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your targeted savings account. That will keep the decision of putting money aside out of your hands &mdash; since most of us can't be trusted to make the long-term decisions we want when short-term temptations are staring us in the face. (See also: <a href="">Setting Up Automatic Payments</a>)</p> <h2>4. Find Extra Cash to Put Aside</h2> <p>Sometimes, however, you might crunch the numbers and realize that at your current budget, it will take you 40 years to save up for your big expense &mdash; at which point you might be a little too old to ride a motorcycle.</p> <p>You could find some ways to <a href="">earn more money</a> or <a href="">cut expenses elsewhere in your budget</a>. But my favorite method for increasing savings for big expenses is to stash any savings you see from making smart purchases. Basically, anytime you negotiate a lower rate with your cable company or pick up a pair of shoes for 25% off, you should bank the difference between the sale price and the full price.</p> <p>This is easier said than done. MP Dunleavy explains that &quot;making sure that <a href="">'mental savings' morphs into tangible cash in your account</a> is one area where your brain isn't your best financial friend.&quot; Just because you saved $100 on your car insurance doesn't mean that there's an extra $100 in your savings account. The money is entirely theoretical until you actually transfer it.</p> <p>So how do you spur yourself to make that transfer anytime you &quot;save&quot; money on a purchase or service? As soon as you get the lower price, immediately think about adding the &quot;savings&quot; into your targeted savings account. Once you have mentally added money to your goal account, you'll feel like it belongs there, making it easier to sit down and do the actual transfer at your first opportunity.</p> <h2>The Bottom Line</h2> <p>If you follow this method of saving for big goals, you'll find that big future expenses are really just small monthly expenses that add up over time. Before you know it, you'll have enough money set aside to make your motorcycle wishes and new house dreams come true.</p> <p><em>How do you plan and save for big purchases? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="The Simple Way to Save Enough Money for Your Dream Goals" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Emily Guy Birken</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance Budgeting long term savings planning saving Thu, 20 Mar 2014 10:09:09 +0000 Emily Guy Birken 1130641 at How to Move From Being Busy to Actually Getting Things Done <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-move-from-being-busy-to-actually-getting-things-done" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="man at desk" title="man at desk" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Today more than ever, we all seem to get busier and busier, with many feeling like they&#39;ve become so busy that nothing productive actually gets done. If you&#39;re feeling like you&#39;re running around in circles, here are some tips on how to move towards getting more things done in the same amount of time. (See also: <a href="">Do Less to Get More Done</a>)</p> <h2>Keep To-Do Lists</h2> <p>By having an agenda of items to do each day or week, you can focus your attention towards what actually needs to be done. Keeping track of tasks on a list also helps to prioritize things to do and can help you better understand what may be triggering any feelings of anxiety or &quot;over busyness.&quot; If you&#39;re a techie, there are apps for smartphones and tablets that are designed specifically as to-do lists, but if you&#39;re like me, there&#39;s no better satisfaction than being able to physically cross off completed tasks on your daily planner. (See also: <a href="">Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective</a>)</p> <h2>Have Specific Work and Play Times</h2> <p>Learning to discipline yourself by limiting your time for tasks can help your mind focus on what needs to get done. By having work deadlines (and leisure deadlines), you are able to put your tasks into a specific window of time. Doing this mental exercise can also give you perspective on what tasks are taking the most time and which ones are trivial. Also, allow yourself to quit once the deadline comes. Give yourself time to hang out and unwind; it can help recharge your brain and lower stress. (See also: <a href="">Want to Have Fun? Give Yourself a Deadline</a>)</p> <h2>And Have Specific Email Time, Too!</h2> <p>Tim Ferriss, author of the <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=0307465357&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">4 Hour Workweek,</a> made the idea of getting away from email famous. He really pushed the idea of allowing yourself time away from unimportant emails by practicing what he preached: He will only check email twice a day, at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Incorporating a disciplined email schedule into your work day can help you avoid distractions and getting caught up in mundane tasks that are taking you away from what needs to get done. Set specific times for checking email and make sure to let your colleagues know that this will be happening.</p> <h2>Back Away From Social Media</h2> <p>Unless social media is part of your job, it&#39;s probably one of the biggest drains of time in your day. Everyone needs a break here and there from work, but until you have the discipline to allot small windows of time to Facebook and stick to that, it&#39;s best to go cold turkey and avoid social media and games until after your work window has passed. Also, if you have an iPhone, use the &quot;Do Not Disturb&quot; function (and if you don&#39;t have an iPhone &mdash; there are plenty of Do Not Disturb apps available), so that emergency calls can get through, but distracting texts and push notifications won&#39;t. (See also: <a href="">How to Break Your Social Media Habit</a>)</p> <h2>Learn to Delegate</h2> <p>We all like to feel needed, but we probably aren&#39;t as needed as we think. Start to take a look at your daily responsibilities and see if there are tasks that can be delegated to other capable individuals. (See also: <a href="">How to Delegate at Work and Home</a>)</p> <p>Hiring a virtual assistant or bringing on a part-timer to do tasks around the office can free up your time to handle larger projects, which can help to close deadlines faster and help to pay for themselves in no time. Even if you don&#39;t have the authority to hire new employees or don&#39;t think you can bring on the expense of a virtual assistant, there may be tasks on your to-do lists that could be handled by a colleague or co-worker just as well as you&#39;ve done.</p> <h2>Cancel Routine Meetings</h2> <p>Status meetings are useful &mdash; if there are statuses to be updated.</p> <p>When I was a project manager for a website firm, the majority of my week was tied up in meetings about status updates for each client. Do you know what the majority of those meetings were actually about? Learning there weren&#39;t any new updates from the last meeting and that we were still on pace. It was frustrating to get pulled away from work for nothing. Having a meeting for the sake of having a meeting takes everyone away from their duties and stops the workflow.</p> <p>If you have the ability to schedule meetings, limit status meetings to bi-weekly at most and notify your team that you&#39;re adhering to the idea that &quot;no news is good news.&quot; If you can show your team that you trust them to do the job assigned, it will help them respect your position and know that you have faith that they can handle whatever comes their way. Just be sure to mention that you&#39;re there to help in emergencies. (See also: <a href="">7 Things to Change About Meetings</a>)</p> <p>If you&#39;re not able to cancel meetings, look at your schedule and decide if a meeting is important or if your time would be better spent working on your to-do list. Talk to your boss about your concerns regarding your use of time and ask if you could abstain from meetings where you don&#39;t feel you&#39;re able to contribute. If your boss doesn&#39;t budge, compromise with a request to stay for the first half of the meeting only.</p> <p><em>How have you gone from busy to productive? How did you do it? Take a moment (but only one!) and share it with us in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Move From Being Busy to Actually Getting Things Done" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Megan Brame</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Productivity getting things done planning productivity Fri, 17 Jan 2014 11:24:13 +0000 Megan Brame 1111398 at How to Make Your Fortune: Become Your Own Hero <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-make-your-fortune-become-your-own-hero" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="pilot" title="pilot" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I don&#39;t mean &quot;make a fortune.&quot; I mean, &quot;make YOUR fortune,&quot; like a character in an adventure story.</p> <p>The point is not to get rich. The point is to take charge of your life; to be responsible for your own future. It is no coincidence that predicting your future is called &quot;fortune telling.&quot; (See also: <a href="">Balance Living in the Now With Planning for the Future</a>)</p> <p>Viewed from this perspective, your life is like an adventure story.</p> <p>You wouldn&#39;t want your life to be too much like an adventure story, because that would suck. Adventure stories are often <em>action</em> stories, and people in action stories are usually in danger. They often have an adversary who is clever and highly skilled. They have to take terrible risks for high stakes &mdash; often their lives.</p> <p>But there are other kinds of adventure story, besides action stories.</p> <h2>Be an Adventure Hero, Not an Action Hero</h2> <p>You don&#39;t want to live like an action hero &mdash; always getting shot at and blown up. You want to approach life like an <em>adventure</em> hero.</p> <p>An adventure hero is ready to take risks and make bold moves. An adventure hero knows he or she might make mistakes, but knows that most mistakes can be recovered from. An adventure hero knows that failure is always possible, but that most failures can be survived &mdash; and that a hero who survives a failure can move on as a wiser hero. (See also: <a href="">How to Embrace Failure and Win</a>)</p> <h2>Shape Your Own Story</h2> <p>There&#39;s an arc to the <a href="">structure of a story</a>. It can be described many different ways, but certain pieces show up over and over again: traveling down the road of trials, gathering powers and allies, confronting evil, being defeated, and only achieving victory at the very end.</p> <p>For the same reason these structures resonate in stories, they also resonate in real life. Let&#39;s look at a couple of them.</p> <h3>Understand Your Motivation</h3> <p>Any story is driven by the motivation of the hero. Sometimes the motivation is something big: slay the dragon to save the village, thwart the terrorists to save the country, stop the mad scientist to save the world. Other times the motivation is smaller: find Mr. Right, reconnect with an old friend, rescue a puppy. (See also: <a href="">25 Ways to Get Motivated</a>)</p> <p>In this, stories are just like real life: a character&#39;s motivation might be <em>anything</em>. All that matters is that it be something the character cares about (and that, in the story, the writer shows the depth of feeling by the character&#39;s actions).</p> <p>Your own motivations grow out of your own values. A hero&#39;s actions seem true when the reader can see how they grow out of the hero&#39;s motivations. That&#39;s how things are in the best stories. A confusing mis-match between actions and values is the mark of a mediocre story.</p> <p>So, what motivates you? What are your goals and dreams? Once you understand those, you&#39;ll have no choice but to begin the adventure, just like an adventure hero.</p> <h3>Gather Your Powers and Allies</h3> <p>Your greatest powers in this adventure are the knowledge and wisdom that come with experience. The knowledge of what&#39;s a good deal and what&#39;s a bad one is hard to learn except through experience. Harder yet, but even more important, is the knowledge of what&#39;s a need and what&#39;s a want. (See also: <a href="">You Think You Need This, But You Really Don&#39;t</a>)</p> <p>Most important of all, in the adventure of making your fortune, is the wisdom to understand that satisfying just a few wants &mdash; if they&#39;re the right wants &mdash; is the difference between a life of drudgery and a life of joy. It&#39;s the difference between confronting evil and being defeated, and confronting evil and being victorious.</p> <p>Never forget that there are a lot of allies out there: your family, your friends, your colleagues, and many others whose own travel down the road of trials runs for a time along with yours. They all can help, even your adversaries &mdash; for what is an adventure story without adversaries?</p> <p>We here at Wise Bread hope you&#39;ll count us among your allies. Our pages here are filled to the brim with knowledge (and maybe even a little wisdom), and we hope that learning things here will be less of a trial than learning them through your own hard experience.</p> <h3>Travel Down the Road of Trials &mdash; With Enthusiasm</h3> <p>Most lives are filled with trials, big and small, so we might as well include them in the stories we tell ourselves.</p> <p>If you want to live large on a small budget, you have some particular trials to face. First, you have to earn enough money to cover that small budget (and a bit more, so you can save). Then you have to figure out the spending patterns that let you live well on that budget. (See also: <a href="">Find Your Hidden Spending Habits</a>)</p> <p>It&#39;s going to be an adventure however you do it &mdash; so you might as well do it adventurously.</p> <p>Adventure is uncomfortable &mdash; and can be dangerous. And yet, it has an eternal appeal.</p> <p>The appeal is that the hero of an adventure story is making his own fortune. Bad things will surely happen, and powerful forces will stand in opposition, but a hero on an adventure is in charge of his own future. His motivations come from his own values, and his actions are true to them. He is making his fortune.</p> <p>Seize that appeal, and put it to the service of your own life. Set out on your own adventure.</p> <p>Set out to make <em>your</em> fortune.</p> <p><em>Do you see yourself as the hero of your own story? Are you living with intent and direction? Tell us in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Make Your Fortune: Become Your Own Hero" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Philip Brewer</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Development goals motivation planning Thu, 16 Jan 2014 11:24:08 +0000 Philip Brewer 1108675 at Best Money Tips: Tips for End of Year Tax Planning <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/best-money-tips-tips-for-end-of-year-tax-planning" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="finances" title="finances" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Welcome to Wise Bread&#39;s <a href="">Best Money Tips</a> Roundup! Today we found some fantastic articles on tips for end-of-year tax planning, ways to reduce risk in 2014, and the basic principles for growing wealth.</p> <h2>Top 5 Articles</h2> <p><a href="">17 Tips for End of Year Tax Planning</a> &mdash; Before the year is over, remember to finalize your records and do an AMT analysis. [My Dollar Plan]</p> <p><a href="">Ways to Reduce Risk in 2014</a> &mdash; To reduce risk in 2014, save up for major repairs or purchases. [Three Thrifty Guys]</p> <p><a href=";utm_medium=rss&amp;utm_campaign=basic-principles-for-growing-wealth">5 Basic Principles for Growing Wealth</a> &mdash; If you want to grow your wealth, invest in yourself. []</p> <p><a href="">8 Job Market Myths and Truths</a> &mdash; You shouldn&#39;t rely on an employment agency to help you find a job because 93% of the available positions out there are not listed with employment agencies. [The Wisdom Journal]</p> <p><a href=";utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CoupleMoney+%28Couple+Money%29">Deciding on When is the Best Time to Sell Your House</a> &mdash; When considering when to sell your house, ask yourself why you want to sell your home. [Couple Money]</p> <h2>Other Essential Reading</h2> <p><a href="">68 Mostly Free Ways to Entertain Yourself at Home</a> &mdash; Keep yourself entertained at home cheaply by listening to a TED Talk. [PopSugar Smart Living]</p> <p><a href=";utm_medium=rss&amp;utm_campaign=how-big-should-an-emergency-fund-be">How Big Should an Emergency Fund Be?</a> &mdash; The typical rule of thumb is that you should have enough money saved up to last you 3-6 months. [Moolanomy]</p> <p><a href="">3 Ways an Auto Parts Store Can Save You Money on Car Repairs</a> &mdash; Did you know you can get a free battery check at an auto parts store? [MoneyNing]</p> <p><a href="">How sustainable are your financial habits?</a> &mdash; To determine how sustainable your financial habits are, consider whether or not you&#39;ve stabilized your housing costs. [Five Cent Nickel]</p> <p><a href="">Understanding the IPO Process</a> &mdash; The purpose of an IPO is to create liquidity for early investors and employees. [Get Rich Slowly]</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Best Money Tips: Tips for End of Year Tax Planning" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Jacobs</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Taxes 2013 best money tips planning tax taxes Fri, 27 Dec 2013 11:01:37 +0000 Ashley Jacobs 1102190 at Want to Have Fun? Give Yourself a Deadline <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/want-to-have-fun-give-yourself-a-deadline" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="friends hiking" title="friends hiking" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>&quot;Deadline&quot; is a word that has many associations, and most of those are negative. Most people associate deadlines with work, a late night scramble to finish a term paper, or a task that is so awful there's no way you'd do it if you didn't have to.</p> <p>With all of this negativity, why would you ever give yourself a deadline for something fun?</p> <p>Because actually, deadlines are great motivators. In fact, experts say that if you really want to get something done and <a href="">not put it off again and again</a>, a deadline is a great way to achieve success. When you look at it that way, why not make deadlines for all of those fun things you've been meaning to do? (See also: <a href="">Meeting Personal Deadlines</a>)</p> <h2>Make Yourself Choose a Goal</h2> <p>A key step towards achieving any goal is having a goal in the first place. That might sound simple, but think about how often you change goals, especially when it comes to fun things. After all, the trip to Europe sounds good when you're hearing about one your friends just returned from, but learning to whitewater kayak seems like it would be a blast when you're watching it on TV, too. (See also: <a href="">Goal Setting Defined and Deconstructed</a>)</p> <p>Giving yourself a deadline involves choosing a goal, because otherwise you don't have anything to set a deadline for. Setting a deadline makes us <a href="">clarify what we are really thinking</a> about and forces us to come up with an action plan for achieving that one (and ONLY that one) goal.</p> <p>Setting a goal can be terrifying and exhilarating, all at once. All of this emotion makes it hard for some people to settle on a goal, though. Fortunately, there are many good questions you can ask yourself that will help you <a href="">narrow down your goals</a> and pick the ones that are the most meaningful to you.</p> <h2>Put Yourself on the Line</h2> <p>Creating a deadline and telling people about it means that <a href="">your character and reputation are on the line</a> if you don't achieve your goals. If you tell everyone on Facebook that you are headed to Europe in the fall, people are bound to ask what happened if you never mention it again.</p> <p>You can even use social media to track your progress, by announcing when you've reached different steps towards your goal. Announce the percentage of money you've saved out of the total necessary to make your goal happen, or post updates as you do important things like booking hotels, getting plane tickets, etc.</p> <p>If you're a diehard procrastinator, putting your reputation on the line may not be enough. You may need to do something drastic, like giving a friend a prized possession and telling him or her to keep it if you don't achieve your goal on time.</p> <h2>Make Sure You Have Time for Fun</h2> <p>In our world of overwork and busy-ness, it's all too easy to let play time vanish by the wayside. We think that fun is something we can put off, simply because it doesn't always fit into our schedules. However, <a href="">fun is good for us</a>. It helps us maintain our balance as human beings, and it provides space for our minds to think creatively. (See also: <a href="">25 Ways to Get Motivated Today</a>)</p> <p>If fun isn't happening, we need to put it in our schedules and give ourselves deadlines to make sure that we're playing along with our work. We want to be healthy, and fun helps us do that. Anything, then, that makes sure we include fun in our lives, is worth the effort of doing.</p> <p>Even if you can't stomach setting a deadline for fun things, try setting deadlines for almost everything else in your life. When you have deadlines that you are achieving and you know when your next deadlines are and that you are working towards them, then <a href="">you know exactly when and where you can play</a>. Deadlines allow you to relax because you aren't always running from thing to thing. (See also: <a href="">Too Busy to Read This Post?</a>)</p> <p>Whether deadlines are something you're comfortable with or not, there's no denying the fact that they will help you get done the things that you most want to get done. It's counterintuitive to apply deadlines to fun, but the truth is that they can help you get what you want out of life in that category, too. Even if you feel tentative, try it! After all, the worst that could happen is that it doesn't work for you.</p> <p><em>Have you ever set yourself a deadline for fun? Tell us about it in the comments.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Want to Have Fun? Give Yourself a Deadline" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Sarah Winfrey</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Development deadlines fun goals planning Tue, 17 Sep 2013 10:00:03 +0000 Sarah Winfrey 981864 at Psychology of Money: How We Secretly Want People to Make Us Buy Things <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/psychology-of-money-how-we-secretly-want-people-to-make-us-buy-things" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="megaphone" title="megaphone" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>&quot;I wish someone would give me a couple thousand dollars and tell me I had to spend it on X.&quot; Ever feel like that? Yeah, me too. (See also: <a href="">It's All Your Money</a>)</p> <p>I say that even though it goes against my most fundamental principle of financial management &mdash; which is that you figure out what you most want and then arrange your life so that you get those things. To wish for money that somebody would make me spend on something else? That seems very wrong.</p> <p>I first became aware of this phenomenon when I was a kid, and my dad said something like this. He was talking about living-room furniture. But whether it's furniture or something else, I think everybody sometimes feels this way.</p> <h2>Spending Goals, in Theory and Practice</h2> <p>In theory, I disagree. In theory, I say: If you want nice furniture, go ahead and budget for nice furniture. Make a plan, save your money, and then (when you're ready) go ahead and buy some nice furniture.</p> <p>In practice, of course, when you allocate enough money to cover your needs, and then you line up your wants... Well, there are some that you get right away, some that take a little while, and some that take a long while.</p> <p>It's for those last items &mdash; the ones that take a long while &mdash; that sometimes this feeling kicks in. It's not all of them. It tends not to be the really expensive ones. I've never heard anyone say, &quot;I wish someone would give me $50 million and tell me I had to spend it on a private jet.&quot; This feeling kicks in for the things that aren't so speculative. It's for the wants that are entirely affordable, if only they were just a bit higher in priority, but you can see will always &mdash; at least until you're rich &mdash; be behind a couple of other, higher-priority wants.</p> <h2>The Problem:&nbsp;Transient Wants</h2> <p>Although it may seem contrary, I think this feeling &mdash; the desire for someone else to take control of your finances and tell you how to spend a big chunk of money &mdash; supports my theory. It happens because not all wants are fixed. Some wants are transient.</p> <p>I call my theory the &quot;one big lump&quot; theory of your money, in contrast to the &quot;bunch of little lumps&quot; of money pre-allocated to specific goals. I say all of your money should pre-allocated to satisfying all your goals. (See also: <a href="">The &quot;One Big Lump&quot; Theory of Your Money</a>)</p> <p>When you do that, you're in a position to optimally manage your money. You can use retirement accounts and college savings for their tax savings. You can choose your investments based on the time-horizons of the various wants in your plan.</p> <p>That's harder when you start pre-allocating money for this or that want &mdash; and it becomes impossible when you start letting transient wants make a hash of your plan.</p> <p>It's those transient wants that make you wish someone else would direct your spending. When you look at your shabby furniture and wish you had something a little more fancy &mdash; and then look at your budget and see that it's going to be years before you get to buy new living room furniture. That's when you wish for someone to make you re-prioritize that item. And that, I think, is a good enough reason to go back to basics. (See also: <a href="">Plan for Your Wants</a>)</p> <p>You don't have to make a plan and stick to it. It is perfectly fine to adjust your plan as your desires change. If a transient want rears its head and says, &quot;Forget about the next six things you were planning to buy and buy me instead,&quot; it's perfectly fine to plug the new shiny thing in your plan right near the top.</p> <p>Maybe it won't stay there. Maybe a night's sleep and a bit of cogitation will make you realize that its old spot, six slots down down in your plan, was the right place.</p> <p>Maybe it will. Maybe the new shiny thing is what you should have had at the top all along.</p> <p>These cases though &mdash; the cases where you find yourself wishing someone would take charge and make you buy something &mdash; are much more likely to be in the former category. Because the whole reason you feel that way is that you're in the thrall of a transient want. It won't last. Pretty soon your true values will come to the fore, and you'll end up back on your old plan (or one a lot like it).</p> <p>And if they don't &mdash; if it turns out that this new plan really is in closer alignment with your true values &mdash; that's okay too. Because it's your plan.</p> <p>In my dad's case, he did eventually get new living room furniture, but not until after I'd gone off to college.</p> <p><em>How do you prioritize your wants? Do you have a plan for them or do you satisfy them as they appear?</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Psychology of Money: How We Secretly Want People to Make Us Buy Things " rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Philip Brewer</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Budgeting budgeting planning wants Mon, 19 Aug 2013 10:24:30 +0000 Philip Brewer 981189 at Don't Panic! How to Meet a Deadline <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/dont-panic-how-to-meet-a-deadline" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="clock" title="clock" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I'm going to make this quick, because this article is due in 15 minutes. Just kidding&nbsp;&mdash; I've got some time. I decided not to leave this work to the last minute. It just leads to a lot of unnecessary sweating, compulsive hair pulling and, in the most serious cases, tears. Plus, it would be kinda hypocritical considering the advice I'm about to give. (See also: <a href="" target="_blank">10 Ways to Save Time by Spending Time</a>)</p> <p>Have a tight deadline to meet? Here are some tips on getting the job done.</p> <h2>1. Start Right Now</h2> <p>Seriously. Get to work. I get your desire to procrastinate. I'm all about procrastinating, too. Fortunately, I've done enough of it to know that it just isn't worth it. All that time you aren't working toward meeting your deadline is really just wasted life. You know, the kind where you're trying to be carefree and fun-loving, but really you're just all twisted up inside thinking about how much work you have to do. So ditch your friends, turn off the TV, and dig in. The worst that can happen is that you finish early.</p> <h2>2. Make a Plan</h2> <p>When I'm stressed about a project, my mind tends to spin in ever-tightening circles until my inner dialog sounds like a song by <a href="" target="_blank">The Chipettes</a>. It's about that pointless and repetitive, too. So, when I have something major to tackle and little time to do it, the first thing I do is sit down and make a list of each major component I need to complete. Then I systematically work my way down the list until I'm done. Call it a battle plan. Actually, call it whatever you want. Just do it. It works.</p> <h2>3. Budget Your Time</h2> <p>Teachers always say things like &quot;budget your time effectively.&quot; The problem is that as a kid, I had absolutely no idea what that meant, except that based on the way the teacher was looking at me (down her nose), I was totally failing at it.</p> <p>It actually took me a long time to figure it out, but what time management really means is looking at your battle plan, looking at how much time you have to accomplish your task, and settling on a rough time estimate for completing each part of your plan. When you have a really tight deadline, that can mean letting go of some perfectionism and accepting that you'll have to move on if you want to get the job done. It's just like budgeting your money. The key is to accept right up front that you may not be able to have it all.</p> <h2>4. Find a Place Where You Can Focus</h2> <p>When you need to work quickly and effectively, the last thing you need are distractions. So, when a deadline's looming, find that magic workspace that'll <a href="" target="_blank">give you razor-sharp focus</a>. That means different things to different people. In college I often ditched my friends at the library to hit up a noisy coffee shop. Complete silence creeps me out. (Plus, any place that bans snacks is not cool with me.)</p> <p>Find a work haven that works for you &mdash; or do your best to make one <a href="" target="_blank">in the workspace you have</a>.</p> <h2>5. Don't Panic</h2> <p>If there's one thing that can derail a rush for a tight deadline, it's letting the idea that <em>you'll never be able to finish this in a million years</em> run you over. If you have a <em>really tight</em> deadline, that one's going to be hanging over your head the whole time. Just keep calm <a href="" target="_blank">and carry on</a>. It's the only way to get there.</p> <h2>6. Be Willing to Let Go</h2> <p>I tend to overestimate what I'm capable of. Calling it ambition makes it sound like a good thing, but what it really means in practical terms is that my to-do list becomes like one of those unfurling scrolls that unrolls for several feet (the sound of trumpets is palpable). When I have a tight deadline, I have to throw my to-do list away and forget about it. If you're a perfectionist, meeting a deadline might mean letting go a little bit in other ways, too. It's always possible to do things better, but when time is tight you may have to settle for the best you can do right now.</p> <h2>7. Ask for Help</h2> <p>I'm not great at asking other people for help, but you'd be amazed at how helpful and sympathetic people will be if you just tell them how close to a total meltdown you actually are. If you're really struggling, ask for what you need, be it help with the dishes, a listening ear, or just some space. A tough job is a lot easier when it's a team effort.</p> <h2>8. Celebrate</h2> <p>If you've been under pressure for few days (or weeks...or years), don't forget to celebrate when the job's done. It's easy to be so overcome with relief when a project's over that you forget to be happy about it. Doing something fun helps put a more positive spin on all that stress. Plus, knowing that you'll celebrate your next big deadline will give you something to look forward when things get tough.</p> <p>Hitting a tough deadline is never easy, but I've done it enough times to know that there are a few things you can do to make it much less stressful, and doing those things will add years to your life.</p> <p><em>How do you meet tight deadlines? Hurry up and share your time-cheating tricks in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Don&#039;t Panic! How to Meet a Deadline" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Tara Struyk</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Productivity deadlines planning time management Tue, 23 Jul 2013 10:00:33 +0000 Tara Struyk 980596 at Achieve More With Goal Sequencing <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/achieve-more-with-goal-sequencing" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Finish Line" title="Finish Line" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>In the world of marketing and communications, there&rsquo;s a niche service we offer clients called &quot;communication mapping&quot; or &quot;sequence mapping.&quot; Briefly defined, this service helps clients visually bridge the gap between their business objectives and their strategy. Mapping outlines the path and answers the question, &ldquo;How do we get there?&rdquo; It reduces complex marketing and messaging plans into individual, digestible tasks and tactics &mdash; sometimes to a painfully granular level. Organizations love it. Companies can see the A-Z paths that support their business plans, identify cause/effect relationships early on, and streamline process before those processes even begin. Brilliant, right?</p> <p>Why don&rsquo;t we apply the same strategy to our own lives and, more specifically, to our own goal-setting? When it&rsquo;s time to lose weight, go back to school, or switch careers, why do we set a singular monolithic goal and let it lay there steaming in the hot sun of our inaction? I think it&rsquo;s because we&rsquo;ve always been taught that a goal is a singular thing instead of a set of sequenced processes. And since we don&rsquo;t know that our goal is just a distant Z in a whole A-Z process, we have no way to navigate our journey. We sputter and stall.</p> <p>Do you have a lingering list of goals that nips at your heels every birthday or on the eve of every new year? Here&rsquo;s how to give yourself a fighting chance at achieving a few by breaking each goal down into a series of sequential and simple tasks. (See also: <a href="">Trading in&nbsp;New Year's Resolutions for Life Goals</a>)</p> <h3>Realize There Are No Single Goals</h3> <p>Major goals in our lives actually consist of many incremental sub-goals that need to be achieved before we reach the primary one. An empty-nester who wants to go back to school for a <a href="">master&rsquo;s degree</a> needs to first organize her finances, take any necessary exams, brush up on her computer skills, narrow her school choices, and start the application process. And each one of those sub-goals can be divided further (studying for the SAT, taking an intermediate level computer class, visiting campuses, and exploring different graduate programs, etc). Understanding and defining all the sub-goals that feed into our primary goal is the key to success.</p> <h3>Map It Out</h3> <p>Mapping begins by working backwards from our primary goal and understanding the cause-effect relationships between sub-goals. If I want to change jobs, I first need to identify my ideal position. Then, working backwards, I can see any qualification challenges I might face, determine what classes to take or organizations to join, amend my resume, network with the right people, and choose where to apply. The sequence of each action should create a clear pathway to your primary goal. Map every step out visually to reinforce the process and keep you on-track.</p> <h3>Don&rsquo;t Dawdle</h3> <p>Mapping a goal might create 10 or 15 sub-goals or steps that need to be completed first. It&rsquo;s easy to lose focus and motivation by giving yourself too much time for each step. As you create your visual map, ascribe a reasonable time frame for each sub-goal and stick to it. Again, start with your main goal and work backwards &mdash; when do you want to achieve it? What time frame do you need to stick to for each step in order make that timing work?</p> <h3>Reassess and Reroute When Needed</h3> <p>Paths and processes are never as smooth or as direct as we expect in the beginning. Periodically review and reassess sub-goals based on new insights or information, always making sure that your new route still leads you where you want to go.</p> <h3>Don&rsquo;t Think Big-Picture</h3> <p>Contrary to popular opinion, <a href="">staying focused</a> on your primary goal is distracting and debilitating. As you work through your sub-goals, pretend each is your singular and final goal. By giving each task your undivided attention and laser-like focus, you&rsquo;ll achieve more and achieve it faster.</p> <h3>Reward Yourself and Move On</h3> <p>Don&rsquo;t be afraid to <a href="">celebrate success</a>. Working through even the smallest sub-goal supports your bigger plan and is cause for reward. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back, review your progress, update your map, and get back to work.</p> <p>In the end, even the biggest fire-breathing dragon of a goal can be slayed by dissection. Breaking down huge goals and seemingly insurmountable objectives into manageable tasks is the secret to success. The only difference between action and inaction, between achievers and non-achievers lies in the ability to reduce goals to a series of relatively simple steps. When we approach goals strategically and sequentially, taking the first step is no big deal &mdash; it&rsquo;s tiny.</p> <p><em>What big goals have you tackled through planning and process? How did breaking down your goals into small bits help?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Achieve More With Goal Sequencing" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Kentin Waits</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Productivity achieving goals celebration planning Mon, 24 Sep 2012 10:25:11 +0000 Kentin Waits 954667 at Free Online Tools That Help Organize People <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/free-online-tools-that-help-organize-people" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="People using computers and phones" title="People using computers and phones" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Organizing people ought to be easy. Tell your team members where to go, when to show up, when to leave, what to bring, and what to do. That approach usually works for work-related activities. But if you are corralling people for non-work-related functions, like field day at your child&rsquo;s school, snacks for sports practices, book club meetings, fundraisers, scout outings, dinners, and so on, organization can be daunting.&nbsp;</p> <p>Having been on both sides of the organizing fence (that is, having coordinated people for special events as well as having participated and volunteered with various groups), I know it&rsquo;s not easy to clearly communicate with a range of people, all with varying expectations, attention spans, and background knowledge.</p> <p>So, that&rsquo;s why I love free online tools that help organize people in ways that avoid miscommunications and misunderstandings. Here are some that are especially useful. (See also: <a href="">25 Easy Organizing Changes You&nbsp;Can Make Today</a>)</p> <h3>Organize Meals for a Friend</h3> <p>If you want to organize meals for a friend, perhaps someone who has recently had surgery, has delivered or adopted a baby, or is dealing with a serious illness, there are several websites that make this process easy:&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li><a href="">meal Train</a>&nbsp;</li> <li><a href="">MealBaby</a></li> <li><a href="">Take Them A Meal</a>&nbsp;</li> <li><a href="">CareCalendar</a>&nbsp;(This site also organizes chores that the friend may need, such as mowing the lawn or taking the kids to activities.)</li> </ul> <p>Most have features to specify this information:</p> <ul> <li>Dates that meals are requested</li> <li>Special dietary requirements and food allergies as well as likes and dislikes &nbsp;</li> <li>Number of people who will be eating the meals</li> <li>Delivery instructions, which can include directions to the recipient&rsquo;s home and best times of the day to bring meals</li> </ul> <p>Plus, the sites have capabilities to send email reminders to those who have volunteered to prepare meals.&nbsp;</p> <p>The meal coordinator (typically someone other than the person who needs help) sets up the schedule and invites people to participate. If you want to help, you can see what days are available and what other people are bringing to avoid serving the same thing (like chicken casserole for five consecutive days). And you don&rsquo;t have to bother the person who is trying to recover from surgery, giving birth, illness, etc. with questions about when to visit or where to bring the meal.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Share Info So You Can Coordinate Next Steps<b> </b></h3> <p>If you want to share detailed information so that you can coordinate activities with another person or a group of people, online tools are handy. Google Docs (or the upgraded <a href="">Google Drive</a>), <a href="">SlideShare</a>, and similar tools enable you to create, update, and publish documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, and then reference these files when communicating with other people.</p> <p>They typically have these features:</p> <ul> <li>Online storage for shared access and updating anywhere (home, office, on the road)</li> <li>Storage of most recent version&nbsp;</li> <li>Capabilities for publishing on the web publicly or privately</li> </ul> <p>Being able to access up-to-date information makes it easy for me to stay organized and coordinate with other people.&nbsp;For example, earlier this year I created a spreadsheet with details about scout families (names, positions, completed training, dues paid, etc.) and shared it with troop leaders so that we could develop a plan of action to alert people to requirements and deadlines.</p> <p>These tools are flexible, and you can use them for nearly any type of project that could benefit from sharing of detailed information. I love that only the most recently revised file is available, which helps to avoid confusion because everyone is looking at the same version. Plus, people who routinely <a href="">delete emails</a> can access the files easily.</p> <h3>Arrange Get-Togethers</h3> <p>If you want to organize a group outing, <a href="">potluck dinner</a>, book club session, etc. and need some sort of input from other people, then these types of tools can be useful:</p> <ul> <li><a href="">Facebook Groups</a> (public or private)</li> <li><a href="">Evite</a> (invitations)</li> <li><a href="">Doodle</a> (helps you to find the best meeting date and time for a group based on individual schedules) &nbsp;</li> <li><a href="">Perfect Potluck</a>&nbsp;</li> </ul> <p>Features on these sites vary but may include:</p> <ul> <li>Ways for the organizer to suggest times and agenda items<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Polls or checklist items with various options to help determine what works best for the majority of people<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Ways to interact with each other and/or see what other people are planning to do (such as what dates they are available or what item they'll bring to the potluck)</li> </ul> <p>Typically, there is flexibility in how you design and present options for, say, the day you&rsquo;ll have the group outing or the number of desserts you need for the potluck. You can give a few options or offer one choice, and you can ask for an RSVP indicating how many people will be attending with you.</p> <p>I like using online tools that provide visibility of what everyone is saying and how they are responding, rather than having to speculate about the content of private conversations among group members. That way, it&rsquo;s not up to the leader of an informal group to manage harmony; members can regulate interactions among themselves.</p> <h3>Organize Volunteers for Special Events</h3> <p>Among the online tools that I want to use (but haven&rsquo;t yet started using) are those that allow you to organize people for large events, recurring activities, and projects with lots of details.</p> <p>For example, if you need 10 people to chaperone a school event plus snacks for 115 kids for four consecutive Saturdays in October or 20 people to prepare and host a dinner for 400 people, then you could enter all the tasks and items needed in one place, and ask people to sign up on websites like these:</p> <ul> <li><a href="">Signup Genius </a></li> <li><a href="">VolunteerSpot</a></li> </ul> <p>Using such tools requires the organizer to consider and list all the details of the event or activity, not just send a general plea for help. Specifically, websites with volunteer sign-up tools prompt you to include this type of information:</p> <ul> <li>Name of organization and title of special event</li> <li>Date and time of the event</li> <li>Organizer&rsquo;s name and contact information</li> <li>Items needed such as supplies or food and drink items</li> <li>Tasks to be completed</li> <li>Duties to be performed and time commitments</li> </ul> <p>Generally, there are options to send email reminders to volunteers a few days before the event, which saves time for the organizer.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a volunteer, I am hesitant to sign up for assignments that may be vague in terms of duties and time commitments. Plus, I may not have time to respond when requests are made and sometimes feel uncomfortable asking for details a couple of weeks later even if the need might still be pending. With an automated signup system, I can check at my leisure to see what items are still needed or tasks still need to be done.</p> <p>Sure, emails are often the easiest way to communicate with large groups, particularly ones that have established routines and involve people who all know each other well. As an organizer, though, I know that there are invariably participants who:</p> <ul> <li>Fail to hit &ldquo;reply all&rdquo; and communicate solely with you when they need to share with the entire group (or vice versa, and share too much information with the group)<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Give responses that are out of sync with the request being made (for example, you ask for dates that they have available, and they tell you which ones they aren&rsquo;t available)<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Attempt to revise the entire course of action, causing confusion</li> </ul> <p>In such situations, naturally, group leaders and volunteer coordinators often think that their would-be followers are resistant to being organized. And, while it&rsquo;s true that other people sometimes make no effort to consider and respond to opportunities, very often they just <a href="">don&rsquo;t have the creative energy</a> to read, interpret, and act on requests, especially those that seem unappealing or unclear. The easier it is to understand what is being requested, the more likely someone will respond in the way that is useful.</p> <p><em>What are your favorite online tools for organizing people? </em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Free Online Tools That Help Organize People" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Julie Rains</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Organization Productivity Technology online tools planning sharing volunteering Fri, 08 Jun 2012 10:24:14 +0000 Julie Rains 915135 at For a Better Relationship With Money, Make Plans <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/for-a-better-relationship-with-money-make-plans" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="woman planning" title="woman planning" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Making a plan is one of the most simple and effective things you can do &mdash; not just for living frugally, but for living life. There are few great things that were not made with some sort of plan.</p> <p>I'll admit that talking about planning's awesomeness is easy for me. I am a natural planner. It's a quality that has both benefits and problems. On one hand, I love that it helps me get things done. But I also have to work to accept changes when a plan is modified for reasons beyond my control. I get jealous of people who easily adjust to the unexpected. (See also: <a href="">4 Tips for Living Spontaneously on the Cheap</a>)</p> <p>There are benefits to both sides, of course &mdash; and by learning to balance planning and spontaneity, we can all save more money and live better.</p> <h2>Make Small&nbsp;Plans</h2> <p>A lot of the common frugal living advice &mdash; bring your own lunch, don't go to the coffee shop &mdash; these are small plans.&nbsp;You have to plan ahead to buy the food for lunch, and plan the time to put that food together. When you make lots of little plans like this, the savings can really add up. And there are thousands of ways to save money with small plans, including:</p> <ul> <li><a href="">Buying products when they're at their cheapest</a></li> <li><a href="">Making your own coffee</a></li> <li><a href="">Preparing home-cooked meals</a></li> <li><a href="">Using daily deals vouchers</a></li> <li><a href="">Searching for the right travel deals</a></li> </ul> <p>...and many more.</p> <h2>Make Big Plans</h2> <p>Big plans often require, well, big planning. They can take time not just to achieve, but to simply plan. And making big plans can be challenging &mdash; I mean, some of the most well-paid people out there are essentially master planners, such as architects, engineers, and so on.</p> <p>But big plans also have the biggest payouts. Big plans are what make the most epic movies, the tallest skyscrapers, and elite athletes. These plans take time and commitment.</p> <p>In the world of personal finance, big plans are things like your budget and the steps to achieve your finance-related life goals &mdash; things like buying a house, sending your child to college, or creating a submarine that honks its horn and tailgates James Cameron as he <a href="">travels to the bottom of Challenger Deep</a> (OK, that's not really a goal I have, but I just think it would be hilarious &mdash; and cost a lot of money). Big plans are there to inspire you, remind you of what you're working towards, and give you concrete steps to reach those goals. And when you feel off track, big plans are there to help you get back.</p> <p>When it comes to saving money, big plans are like a calzone, with lots of small plans making up the delicious filling. If you already have all those small plans prepped, making that big plan is pretty easy.</p> <p>You might think that you can start saving more without a plan. And maybe, <em>maybe</em> you can. But honestly? It's not likely.</p> <h2>Make <em>Realistic</em> Plans</h2> <p>Whether your plans are big or small, they're not going to benefit you much if you can't stick to them. And I don't mean that in the sense that someone, somewhere could stick to these plans; I mean that <em>you</em> could stick to them. There is a person on this planet who is able to run faster than everyone else. But no matter how much you train, it's probably not going to be you&nbsp;(sorry, sport).</p> <p>Make plans that challenge you, but are doable in your situation. If your Mondays are absolutely crazy, and you simply can't make your own lunch that day, buy lunch on Mondays and bring it in every other day of the week.</p> <p>When your plans become habits, make more plans.</p> <h2>Don't Worship&nbsp;Plans</h2> <p>Plans are great.&nbsp;I'd even argue that they're necessary. But don't consider your plans to be holy word written in stone. We will always get curveballs thrown at us. And fastballs. And palmballs. And Vulcan changeups (which <a href="">Wikipedia</a> informs me is a delightfully named type of pitch).</p> <p>This is where spontaneity comes in.&nbsp;It can feel difficult, or even impossible to accept a change in a plan. But that doesn't mean it's a time to give up. Rather, it's a time to adjust what you're doing, move forward, and stay open to new opportunities.</p> <p><em>Your turn, readers </em>&mdash;<em> are you a planner?&nbsp;What role does planning take in your life?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="For a Better Relationship With Money, Make Plans" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Meg Favreau</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance Frugal Living money and relationship planning small changes Fri, 20 Apr 2012 10:36:11 +0000 Meg Favreau 922409 at 5 Reasons Not to Delete Your Emails <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-reasons-not-to-delete-your-emails" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="woman using laptop on grass" title="woman using laptop on grass" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Never deleting emails is a lazy way of keeping organized. By saving and archiving emails, I have information at my fingertips without having to figure out ahead of time precisely what I'll need and how I'll use these messages.</p> <p>Recently, my emails saved me over $300. When signing up for a new service, I captured information relating to service features, pricing, and contract terms via email, beginning with sending the content of a live chat to my email address and continuing throughout my conversations with company representatives. When the company failed to deliver as promised, I was able to reference emails with their commitments, address billing issues, and even get compensation for my troubles. (See also: <a href="">How to&nbsp;Get What You Want on Customer Service Calls</a>)</p> <p>But even when the emails don't save money, they help me to deal with situations like these below.</p> <h3>1. Finding Important Documents</h3> <p>Are you looking for a certain version of your resumé? Can you remember the date of your child's band concert or end-of-year picnic? Can you put your hands on presentation guidelines for an upcoming speaking engagement?</p> <p>Very often, these files are attached to an email that you sent or received.</p> <p>If you saved your emails, you can easily find the cover letter and resumé that you sent three months ago when the HR person finally calls and requests an interview. Instead of frantically searching on your computer for the precise version you prepared to apply for this job, you can spend your energy researching the company and getting ready to talk to the hiring manager. (Alternatively, limit the versions of your resumés as described in <a href="">The Case for Not Tweaking Your Resumé</a>.)</p> <p>Likewise, you may be able to locate guidelines for a contract assignment, calendars of events for professional groups, dates of your child's school activities, etc.</p> <h3>2. Remembering Promises Made</h3> <p>Are you trying to remember exactly what you committed to for a project, presentation, special event, or meeting? Did a coworker, boss, or friend assure you that she'd give you some information or handle a detail for that project? Can you spontaneously recall the details of these promises? Is there a conflict because you remember a conversation differently than your colleagues?</p> <p>The details of the commitments may be contained in one or several of your emails. You may be able to quickly find the following information:</p> <ul> <li>Description of the project, presentation, event, or meeting</li> <li>Requirements and suggestions of project components, venues, and agenda items&nbsp;</li> <li>Specific assignments of team members and groups</li> <li>Dates of planning sessions and project updates</li> <li>Important deadlines along with timelines for accomplishing certain tasks</li> </ul> <p>Just as importantly, you'll be able to recall conditions on promises. For example, I may state that I will be glad to edit your proposal by April 30 if you can forward the script to me by April 15. This record helps me to honor commitments without being taken advantage of, particularly when weeks or months pass between the time that the agreement was made and an action is required.</p> <p>When I have received a commitment, I feel more confident prompting someone to complete a task, send me a report, etc. &mdash; basically, adhere to her promises &mdash; if I can recall the details of our conversations.</p> <p>Having this information doesn't guarantee that others (or I) will behave in the precise manner promised. But it does help to remember what is expected, untangle any misunderstandings, and gain insight into who is reliable among friends, coworkers, bosses, etc.</p> <h3>3. Finding Documentation of Past Events</h3> <p>Do you need to prepare a report with a recap of events and activities? Do you want to pull up records of interactions with sales prospects, committee members, program participants, or volunteers? Are you looking for a receipt for the purchase of conference passes, theater tickets, school yearbooks, or something else?</p> <p>You can pull together all the information you need by looking at multiple email conversations that have occurred over time.</p> <p>For example, recently I learned that I needed to compile information about scout service projects. Sure, I could make several phone calls and extract this information from the organizers, who may then have to dig through their files before getting back to me. I could supplement this activity with a search of my own records, stored in a file folder labeled &quot;scouts&quot; and perhaps scattered amongst my son's school records and a few other places in my house or office. However, pertinent information about the projects are also stored in a few emails.</p> <p>Just as easily, you can access information about conferences, trade shows, business dinners, out-of-town trips, fund-raisers, etc. Typically, you will be able to find these details:</p> <ul> <li>Event and travel dates</li> <li>Names and contact information of clients visited, event hosts, and administrators</li> <li>Vendors you met at business meetings</li> <li>Guests at dinners that you'd like to meet again</li> </ul> <p>And you should be able to easily find receipts for purchases along with any warranties, return policies, and guarantees.</p> <h3>4. Locate Contact Information</h3> <p>Are you scrambling to find the phone number for a new friend who hasn't made your phone contact list yet, a client you are meeting for the first time, a recently signed-on volunteer, a contractor who is traveling to your home soon, or anyone else? Your acquaintances, prospects, etc. contact information (email addresses, phone numbers, Twitter handles, LinkedIn pages, etc.) are often stored on a email message. Sometimes, you may find what you need in a conversation directly with that person. At other times, this info resides on an attached roster or directory.</p> <h3>5. Give Yourself a Clue</h3> <p>Do you need some tidbit of info that you are absolutely sure is NOT in your email box?</p> <p>Much of my day-to-day life is captured in some way in my email box: conversations with clients and vendors; messages from scout leaders, youth leaders, coaches, and band directors; dinner plans with friends; or compilations of notes and files for a year-long project. But not everything is contained there. However, I can get clues to where a file, invoice, etc. is located based on information gleaned from an email.</p> <p>For example, you may not be able to remember the year in which you completed a certain financial transaction, so you can't easily locate a confidential document that you need. But you may recall that the transaction took place about the same time that you went to your cousin's wedding. You still have messages about the wedding, which then gives you the information you need to easily find the document offline.</p> <h3>Dealing With&nbsp;Inbox Clutter</h3> <p>One way that I deal with email <a href="">clutter</a> is to limit the emails landing directly in my inbox. I set up filters to send sale alerts, certain newsletters, etc. to &quot;Trash&quot; and then check my trash folder on a regular basis; in this way, these items are purged automatically every 30 days.</p> <p>The emails that I like to keep are the ones that deal with personal or work-related conversations. I delete emails that contain confidential or sensitive information.</p> <p><em>Do you keep all of your emails? Or do you have a better system for keeping up with loads of information? Share in the comments.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="5 Reasons Not to Delete Your Emails" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Julie Rains</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Organization Productivity emails personal information planning Thu, 15 Mar 2012 10:24:15 +0000 Julie Rains 909643 at My Personal Productivity Rules...What Are Yours? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/my-personal-productivity-ruleswhat-are-yours" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Man with post-its" title="Man with post-its" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>There's a problem with a lot of productivity advice out there, and it's this &mdash; your &quot;rules&quot; for personal productivity are often going to be different than mine. Sure, sometimes there's overlap. Sure, you can always learn from others.</p> <p>But if you want to see a dramatic increase in your productivity, spend less time reading and memorizing other people's rules, and more time figuring out what your own rules are. You'll be more productive, and in a way that works with who you are. (See also: <a href="">5 Efficient Ways to Boost Productivity</a>)</p> <p>So I'm sharing a few of my personal productivity rules. Maybe some of them will work for you, or inspire you to think of your own.</p> <h3>1. Small Daily Movements Become Big Accomplishments</h3> <p>I tend to think that I must have big blocks of time in order to get any forward movement. So I hesitate and procrastinate, waiting for that &quot;open time&quot; when I can really push and get a lot done on whatever the current project is.</p> <p>Turns out, that's a waste of time.</p> <p>Small daily movements add up. It's just that the movements or steps themselves are so small, I think they don't count. They do.</p> <p>I have to constantly remind myself that I don't need a whole day or a whole week to devote to some project. I just need to take the ten or twenty minutes I have here and there and use them. I need to achieve a little bit of forward movement every day. That adds up, and it builds momentum, and pretty soon there's been quite a lot accomplished.</p> <h3>2. It Helps to Be Ahead of the Game</h3> <p>I learned this one in college, and it's true for my freelance writing as well. In short, I find that writing is a LOT more fun when I'm not pushing the deadline. I do a better job. I take my time. I review. I give it a little more polish. I produce better work.</p> <p>I'm a pretty quick writer, and I can churn out the words when I'm up against a deadline. I operated that way for my first three years of college &mdash; procrastinating on each paper until the night before, then working until it was done, giving it a quick once-over, and turning it in.</p> <p>I've done that with freelance projects as well. It's not all bad, but it turns what could be interesting and fun into something pressure-filled and stressful.</p> <p>When I give myself a cushion, even if it's only of a day or two, I enjoy the process of writing much, much more. Maybe this is just me, but I bet that some of you folks who think you can only work to deadline would find you enjoy your work more if you didn't wait until the last minute.</p> <p>You should try it, maybe.</p> <p>There's a productivity aspect to this, of course. When you finish ahead of time, you have the extra time to handle any unexpected thing that may occur. You can find another expert to interview, do more research, find the source for that quote in your notes, reword that awkward paragraph, or rethink the conclusion. You can do better work, and you can surprise you client or editor by handing in your piece ahead of schedule.</p> <p>Trust me, that stands out.</p> <p>Staying ahead of the game gives me an advantage of being calmer, which makes me capable of seeing my options more clearly, making better choices, and being more creative and more efficient in what I do.</p> <h3>3. Planning Is a (Fun) Time Suck</h3> <p>Most planning is pointless, but I like to plan. I plan in order to procrastinate on doing, because I'm intimidated by some aspect of the project or just because it's tough getting started.</p> <p>But beyond a very brief plan that gives me some limits on what to do (thus helping me to focus and produce), I really don't need much detail. An editorial calendar, for example, is a huge help in staying on track with my writing.</p> <p>But a color-coded, alphabetized, uber-detailed, cross-referenced editorial calendar is overkill.</p> <p>Simple plans work because simple plans are flexible. They give me limits and a clear direction without locking me down into details that will inevitably change.</p> <p>So I remind myself &mdash; plan, but just enough. Then do. Earn more planning time by accomplishing some part of the first plan. Planning and Doing should be a pendulum. Plan, then Do, then Plan some more, then Do even more, and so on.</p> <h3>4. Do Anything, Just Do Something</h3> <p>This is what I remind myself of when I'm stuck.</p> <p>Just do something.</p> <p>I get in a rut of trying to figure out what's the most effective use of my time, energy, or day. There are always so many options. So many ideas, so many words, so many projects, so many books, so many lovely ways to procrastinate.</p> <p>When nothing seems to say &quot;ME! ME!&quot; then I just need to pick something and do it. It might not be the best thing, but it will be something done. Something (anything) done is better than nothing, which is what I'll get if I waste all my time trying to prioritize my task list.</p> <p>It's better to just tackle something on the list.</p> <h3>5. Work Is Satisfying; It's Just Tough to Get Started</h3> <p>I love writing, I do. But I have total amnesia about how much I love writing every time I sit down to write.</p> <p>Suddenly, anything is better than writing.</p> <ul> <li>Outlines are better.</li> <li>Twitter is better.</li> <li>Facebook is better.</li> <li>Picking that hangnail is better.</li> <li>Making more coffee is infinitely better.</li> <li>Reading blogs &mdash; better. By a mile.</li> <li>Cleaning out my Google Reader &mdash; better.</li> <li>Trying to see how long I can cross my eyes &mdash; better.</li> <li>Scraping up that <em>Dora the Explorer</em> sticker that's been on the corner of my desk for months &mdash; that's better, a worthy endeavor, compared to this &lt;spits, hisses&gt; writing business.</li> </ul> <p>This is what I have to remember that the work I do is so satisfying, and when I'm in the middle of working I don't want to be anywhere else.</p> <p>But getting started is always, always a tough thing. So I need to just start.</p> <h3>6. Give It Five Minutes</h3> <p>Getting started is tough, right? At least it is for me, even on projects I love and am excited about. It's just tough to get rolling sometimes. Okay, all the time.</p> <p>Five minutes.</p> <p>That's all it takes to get going on something, really. So that's what I tell myself when I'm stuck, avoiding work, and thinking anything is better than this thing in front of me &mdash; give it five minutes. It's a little bribe, really. My brain goes something like this &mdash; <em>look, you don't have to do it all. Just give it five minutes, then you can stop. Promise. You don't have to do anymore, and I'll quit bugging you about it, just give it five minutes.</em></p> <p>Every single time, I'm so into it in five minutes that I don't want to stop.</p> <h3>7. Divide the To-Do List</h3> <p>I should know this by now, but you may recall I have recurring amnesia. In this area, too &mdash; I keep forgetting I'm not actually Superwoman.</p> <p>So I sit down in my weekly planning session (usually on a Sunday night), and I write out my to-do list for the next day. (I love Mondays, by the way; I'm usually super-productive, high-energy, ready to kick butt, write stuff, and take names. Or something like that.). What I want to do next is write out a <a href="">to-do list for the day</a> after, and the day after, and the day after.</p> <p>Here's what I've learned &mdash; I take that &quot;Monday To-Do List&quot; and I divide it. By six days. So it becomes my week's to-do list, and I string the tasks out over the Monday through Saturday (I try to leave Sunday free and clear except for my planning session). And when I do that, I end up with a reasonable, realistic, and achievable set of daily lists.</p> <h3>8. Take Notes, Make Notes, Save Notes</h3> <p>For the GTD'ers out there, you'll appreciate the concept of getting all your mental stuff on paper. It's a quick and guaranteed way to help clear up your brain-space so you can focus on doing actual work, instead of just remembering all those details like <em>buy milk</em> and <em>call that one guy back about that one thing.</em></p> <p>This concept of making, saving, and reviewing notes is priceless in other ways too: in interviews, conversations, when reading blogs, reading books, listening to a speaker or webinar, at a conference, eavesdropping on that conversation next to you in the coffee shop, so on.</p> <p>You may remember a lot of what you hear (or think), but writing it down ensures that not only will it be there for you to remember, but your brain can actually be working on taking those thoughts a step further (creating, producing) instead of just focusing on holding those thoughts in safe-keeping.</p> <h3>9. Playing With Productivity Apps Is Not the Same as Being Productive</h3> <p>As much as I'd like it to be&hellip;</p> <p>And we don't really need additional explanation on this one, do we?</p> <h3>10. Get Up Early; You'll Be Glad You Did</h3> <p>I <a href="">get up early</a> (by which I mean 4 or 5 a.m.) on a fairly regular basis, but I don't hold myself to a daily regimen.</p> <p>Why?</p> <p>Well, a few reasons.</p> <p>First, I have four kids. The oldest is 5 1/2, the youngest is 8 months as of this writing. So it's more likely than not that my sleep will be interrupted by at least one kid, at least one time, during those precious hours of sleep.</p> <p>Second, I have a night-owl husband. Most of the time, I crash when I'm tired and don't worry about keeping him company. But every now and then, we have a date night, or watch a couple of movies after the kids are in bed, or end up doing our grocery shopping (with all the kids) at 11 p.m.</p> <p>Okay, it's more than every now and then. Late nights like that are frequent in our family. Whatever. Maybe it's terrible, but it is what it is. You can't control everything.</p> <p>So there are times when getting up early isn't something that's going to happen for me.</p> <p>This rule is just to remind me that I like getting up early more than I like sleeping in. Because that's true. I never regret getting up early, even at 4 or 5 a.m. Even when I didn't go to bed until midnight. Even when I have a full day ahead.</p> <p>I often regret sleeping in, because I don't always see the benefit (I still need gallons of coffee), and the early morning time is often the only quiet time in my day.</p> <p>So, if I can, when I can, which is pretty often, I get up early. And I'm glad I did.</p> <h3>11. Call It Done</h3> <p>I don't remember exactly where I ran across this concept, but it's a good one &mdash; the idea is to define what done looks like, so you know when you get there.</p> <p>Which is, I think, a really important thing to do.&nbsp;</p> <p>I simplify the concept just a bit, because in most cases, at least for me, it's not a problem of defining done. It's just a problem of not wanting to move on. I know it's done, or adequate enough to be done. I just don't want to move on.&nbsp;</p> <p>So that's when I need to remember this rule &mdash; call it done, and move on.</p> <p><em>Your turn &mdash; what are some of your personal productivity rules?&nbsp;</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="My Personal Productivity Rules...What Are Yours?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Annie Mueller</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Productivity get things done planning time management wake up early Tue, 17 Jan 2012 11:24:24 +0000 Annie Mueller 865216 at How to Stick to an Exercise Plan <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-stick-to-an-exercise-plan" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Runners in a race" title="Runners in a race" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I used to joke that they only time you&rsquo;d ever see me running would be if some big angry guy was chasing me. However, in the past few years I&rsquo;ve gone from dabbling in running to running very consistently. Here are the steps that worked for me.</p> <h2>Pick the Right Exercise</h2> <p>I&rsquo;ve tried various types of exercise &mdash; swimming, biking, racquetball, and others. But the one that works best for me is running. It&rsquo;s a low-hassle exercise. It doesn&rsquo;t require much gear, and it doesn&rsquo;t require a special facility &ndash; well, at least not for nine months of the year here in Chicago.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s also the exercise where I&rsquo;ve seen the clearest results. When I run consistently, I feel my best physically, emotionally, and in other ways. (See also: <a href="">Fitness for People Who&nbsp;Hate Exercise</a>)</p> <p>Ah, but how to become consistent?</p> <h2>Set a Challenging Goal</h2> <p>For over 15 years, I went through a routine of running regularly to not running to starting to run again. Each time I restarted, I promised myself I would never quit again because starting over is just too painful.</p> <p>But I kept repeating the cycle. I&rsquo;d get sick, or busy, or something else would happen and I&rsquo;d get out of the running routine.</p> <p>For me, the first step toward developing the consistent habit of running was <a target="_blank" href="">committing to run the Chicago Half Marathon</a>.</p> <p>It was a crazy goal. Up to that point, the farthest I had ever run was a 10k. When I trudged across the finish line at that event, I remember thinking I could never possibly run any farther. And yet, here I was signing up to run more than twice that distance.</p> <p>I just knew that such a goal would get me running consistently, at least for the months leading up to the event. I hoped that the discipline would continue.</p> <h2>Get an Accountability Partner</h2> <p>The one time in my life when I felt like I was in really good shape was when I had a workout partner. We met at the gym every other day. We did cardio stuff, lifted weights, and soon developed the habit of playing racquetball at least once a week.</p> <p>I dragged myself out of bed early in the morning because I knew he&rsquo;d be there waiting for me.</p> <p>This time around, my wife and I both signed up for the half marathon. Since we have three young kids, we were only able to go on one training run together. Still, pursuing the goal together made a big difference.</p> <p>We took turns off watching the kids while the other ran. We pulled for each other, and sometimes we pushed. She pushed me out the door when I didn&rsquo;t want to run, and I did the same for her.</p> <h2>Plan Ahead</h2> <p>If I wait until the start of each new day to decide whether to exercise, chances are good I&rsquo;ll find an excuse not to run. But when I know in advance that I&rsquo;m going to run on a certain day, I go. I plan my life around that run, making sure I get enough rest the night before, consciously choosing what I eat in the morning, and more. I&rsquo;ve gotten in the habit of putting running &ldquo;appointments&rdquo; on my calendar.</p> <h2>Have a Goal Beyond the Goal</h2> <p>My father died from heart disease. While he made it to his early 80s, things could have been different. He survived a heart attack and several surgeries.There&rsquo;s a lot he could have missed, like meeting his first grandchild.</p> <p>Taking care of myself is definitely about the many feel-good benefits that come from being in shape, but it&rsquo;s about more than that. It&rsquo;s about wanting to see our kids graduate from college, find their life&rsquo;s work, marry well, and experience the blessing of having children of their own.</p> <h2>Know That It&rsquo;ll Always Be a Daily Choice</h2> <p>Following the above steps has helped me become a very consistent runner. There&rsquo;s <a target="_blank" href="">more momentum</a> to my exercise routine than ever, but it's far from automatic. It still requires making conscious choices.</p> <p>And now that winter is here, I know I&rsquo;m especially vulnerable to the pull of the couch. I hate <a href="">going to the health club</a>. I much prefer running outside.</p> <p>So, I&rsquo;m following the steps above. I&rsquo;ve set a challenging new goal of running in a 10-mile event in late May. My wife hasn&rsquo;t decided whether she&rsquo;s going to run with me, but just going public with the goal in this post is a form of accountability. I&rsquo;m scheduling my exercise times, and every time I kiss our kids goodnight, I&rsquo;m reminded of the more important reasons to exercise.</p> <p><em>What about you? What have you found helpful in sticking to an exercise routine?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Stick to an Exercise Plan" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Matt Bell</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> General Tips Health and Beauty achieving goals exercise planning Mon, 09 Jan 2012 11:36:18 +0000 Matt Bell 856248 at 4 Tips for Living Spontaneously on the Cheap <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/4-tips-for-living-spontaneously-on-the-cheap" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Girls jumping into the water" title="Girls jumping into the water" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>By nature, I am not a spontaneous person. I&rsquo;m a worrier, a planner, and occasionally a make-sure-every-detail-is-just-so nutcase. But I have an airtight excuse for my lack of impulsivity &mdash; I don&rsquo;t have enough money. A big pile of money has always seemed like the ticket to freedom for me, and while I enjoy a simple life, some days I just want the whole world &mdash; more travel, more of a social life, more<i> stuff</i> &mdash; basically, just the ability to say &ldquo;yes&rdquo; any time the mood strikes. The problem is, this brand of carefree is at odds with most people&rsquo;s budgets &mdash; and certainly with mine. What to do? While you can&rsquo;t have it all, I think there are some simple ways to fit spontaneity into your frugal life. Here are my suggestions. (See also: <a href="">6 Ways Money&nbsp;Really&nbsp;Can Buy Happiness</a>)</p> <h2>Save Some Mad Money</h2> <p>If you want a chance at getting out of your rut when opportunity knocks, keeping a solid savings account is the best way to give yourself that chance. This doesn&rsquo;t mean you&rsquo;ll be able to jump at every upcoming concert ticket or vacation sale. But if you have some money saved just for fun, you&rsquo;re more likely to have options next time something fun and exciting is on the horizon. How much you can save will depend on your circumstances, but keep in mind that a spontaneous indulgence doesn&rsquo;t have be a four-week Mediterranean cruise; it might just be seeing something you really want in a store window and marching right in to buy it.</p> <h2>Remember, The Best Things in Life Are Free</h2> <p>When you&rsquo;re standing in the checkout line at the grocery store in the dead of winter it can be easy to wish you were one of the celebrities lining the checkout aisle in their vacation bikinis. Sure, their money affords them the privilege to fly to St. Barts and lay on the beach, but it probably also ties them to a fleet of bodyguards &mdash; and hungry photographers angling for a shot of their tanned flesh. I think it would be foolish to say that having money doesn&rsquo;t make a difference in how you live your life, but no matter how much money you have, there will always be limits on what you can do. Rather than assuming the limits to your ability to be spontaneous are greater than those faced by someone with a bigger bank account, just consider them different. Also know that spontaneous doesn&rsquo;t always mean spending. There are lots of things that are free (or nearly free) that you can do on a whim. Make the effort to capitalize on each and every one them, and you&rsquo;ll be less likely to feel like you&rsquo;re missing out.</p> <h2>Practice Your Balance</h2> <p>As with all things in finance, balance is probably the key to breaking loose without busting your budget. Depending on what type of person you are, it&rsquo;s probably either a struggle for you to spend money on something you enjoy, or you do it far too often &mdash; and to your own detriment. &nbsp;Find some middle ground between austere and ostentatious in all areas of your life. After all, if you don't allow yourself to get any pleasure out of your money, what are you working so hard for?</p> <h2>Make Every Dollar Count</h2> <p>For many people, being spontaneous means being able to say &ldquo;yes&rdquo; to something fun or out of the ordinary on a moment&rsquo;s notice. That&rsquo;s a tall order, but I think it&rsquo;s possible as long as you understand that those thrilling moments of spontaneity won&rsquo;t come often. What this means is that you have to choose the ones that will give you the biggest thrill for your dollar. If you&rsquo;ve always, always wanted to do something &mdash; such as <a href="">travel around the world</a>, start your own business, or retire early &mdash; save for <i>that</i>. If you accept a consolation prize, you might just find yourself with a golden opportunity you&rsquo;re in no position to cash in on.</p> <p>Spontaneity carries a notion of freedom, of being able to do what you want when you want. And really, who doesn&rsquo;t want that? The truth is, everyone faces constraints in life. If, like me, yours revolve around money, your finances might become an easy place to pin the blame when you feel like you&rsquo;re <a href="">stuck in a rut</a>. But spontaneity really isn&rsquo;t about getting everything you want when you want it. Almost no one has this luxury. Instead, it&rsquo;s about loosening the constraints you&rsquo;ve put on yourself and learning to welcome and celebrate the spontaneous moments in your life, whether they cost money or not.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="4 Tips for Living Spontaneously on the Cheap" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Tara Struyk</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Frugal Living fun planning savings Wed, 23 Nov 2011 11:36:52 +0000 Tara Struyk 794641 at The Ability To Execute Is Your Most Valuable Asset <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/the-ability-to-execute-is-your-most-valuable-asset" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="The Ability To Execute Is Your Most Valuable Asset" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>Ideas are cheap, but action is rare. Execution, from start to finish, is the most valuable item in business, any business. Here's why it matters and how to make more of it happen in your business.</p> <p><strong>The Herd Man vs. the Individual Man</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;There are two kinds of men, the kind that lives in the herd and the kind that has strong individuality that needs room to grow. The herd man exists in infinitely greater numbers than the individual man.&rdquo; &mdash;William Crosbie Hunter</p> <p>Moo.</p> <p>All those who don't like being crammed in a cattle chute, stand up and be counted. Ahem. There are lots of you. Lots of hands. Lots of people standing.</p> <p>Let's narrow this down.</p> <p>All those who like taking full responsibility for their choices, making the best use of their time, working way too hard and way too long, setting impossibly high expectations for themselves and then meeting them, trying a lot of things that fail in order to find the ones that succeed&hellip; you folks stand up and be counted.</p> <p>Hm. Small crowd this time. Just a few of you. It was that &quot;working hard and long&quot; that got most of those hands down, I'll bet.</p> <p>At any rate, you folks, the ones still standing: yes, you. You're the anti-herd. It's true, there aren't many of you. That's why you often feel like the world doesn't understand you, or, at any rate, your parents/friends/significant others don't understand you.</p> <p>Oh, there are plenty of people around who will nod and reiterate their own grand passions, but at the end of the day, they're chilling with a beer and the latest reality show, and you're cranking out the hours of more work, more work, and more work. They're talking about creating something, but you, anti-herd dude or gal? You're actually creating something.</p> <p>And that's the secret.</p> <p>The most valuable item in a business, any business, is the ability to execute. Anybody can have an idea or plan out a project. What separates the individuals and businesses who succeed from the herd is action.</p> <p>It's not just any action that makes the difference, though.</p> <p><strong>Getting It Done</strong></p> <p>Whatever it is, doing a thing, from start to finish, and doing it in a timely, professional matter&hellip; that's the key. Not just to know what to do, but to discipline yourself and get it done. What do you wish most for in your employees? How about that they would simply do their jobs?</p> <p>How about you? Do you make it a habit to take each task from start to finish, then move to the next? Or are you prone to distraction, bouts of procrastination, and a constant feeling of being a few steps behind? Do you feel like you start each day racing to catch up?</p> <p>This is not the way a business has to be run, and it's not the way you have to work or live. There are no magic pills or formulas, but there are some tools you should be carrying in your toolbox.</p> <p><strong>Tool 1: The Habit of Starting</strong></p> <p>Beginning something is half the battle, because it's at the point of starting that we encounter the most resistance. We put off starting a task because we think we don't have enough time, or we don't have all the resources, or we need some important feedback.</p> <p>Get into the habit of starting before you feel ready, before you have enough time, before you have all your ducks in a row. Start anyway. The thing about being &ldquo;ready&rdquo; is that, even if you feel ready, things rarely work <a href="" target="_blank">exactly according to plan</a>. You're going to have to improvise along the way, so go ahead and start now.</p> <p>Instead of trusting your preparation, trust your ability to analyze, adapt, and act along the way.</p> <p><strong>Tool 2: The Habit of Focus</strong></p> <p>Most of us spend too much time trying to minimize interruptions in order to get some work done. It's great to minimize the interruptions you can control, but most of them are out of your control.</p> <p>Accept that interruptions and distractions are part of life. Quit denying their existence or fighting a battle that is futile. Instead, cultivate the habit of focus. If you can learn to concentrate, you can learn to get stuff done despite the interruptions that will happen.</p> <p><strong>Tool 3: The Habit of Daily Progress</strong></p> <p>Big projects scare us because we really don't see how we can make significant progress on them. But small steps add up. If you figure out the actions you need to take to reach your goal, and then make a small version of those actions a daily habit, you'll get there.</p> <p>Daily, habitual action will get the biggest project done.</p> <p>Create a daily checklist of the actions you need to complete for your current project. Focus on only one or two big projects at a time. Keep that daily checklist front and center, check it off daily, and keep track of the progress you're making toward your goal.</p> <p><strong>Tool 4: The Habit of Finishing</strong></p> <p>You start. You focus. You act daily. And you get there, sooner than you might think. The final tool is the ability to call the thing done.</p> <p>Perfection has its place, but it needs to be something that serves you in the quest for quality, not something that controls you. Choose which parts of your project need to be perfect. Give them more time. But don't place the standard of perfection on the project as a whole.</p> <p>Instead, let done be done. Wrap it up, ship it out, and then focus on the next project. Take one task, one idea, or one project all the way to completion.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Annie Mueller</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center action business planning plan execution planning project execution small business Tue, 01 Nov 2011 18:06:04 +0000 Annie Mueller 764351 at