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Giving Thanks

It’s hard to believe, but another year has gone by and it’s time to start preparing for family and friends, hopefully some fun(?) and food. Lots of food. 

Holiday planning can be stressful, especially if you’re hosting. Feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to get started? Here are some helpful things we can do to help take some of that stress off of your, er, plate. 

 MEAL PLANNING

You’re hosting Thanksgiving- yay! Your sister’s vegan, your uncle is dairy-free and your second cousin twice removed doesn’t eat gluten. You’ve got this. Send us the dietary restrictions and we’ll come up with recipes to make the perfect meal for everyone. 

HOUSECLEANING: BEFORE AND AFTER

When you’re running around prepping, cleaning is the last thing you want to do. Let us help you find a reliable cleaning service to make your home sparkle before your guests arrive and after they leave. It’ll be so clean, even your mother will be happy. 

CATERING

Skipping the cooking this year? We don’t blame you. Send us your meal requirements and we’ll find and help you order a delicious, hassle-free meal. 

TRAVEL COORDINATION

 Oh yes, it is the middle of November already. Let us help you find the best deals on last-minute holiday travel and accommodations. Save yourself from sleeping on an air mattress in your childhood bedroom, which has lovingly been turned into your parents’ gym.   

BEING A GOOD HOUSEGUEST

 We’ll help you have a nice flower bouquet delivered to your family or friends. Or we'll find a nice wine to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. Whatever you want to bring, we'll find it. We can even arrange to have you pick it up on the way there so you arrive in style. 

There you have it: another Thanksgiving and you’re going to crush it. Now let’s get out there and have a good one, team! 

Client Post: 'How Delegating to Fancy Hands Personal Assistants Has Made My Life Easier'

Lawyer, entrepreneur and all around leader, Cynthia Conlin knows how to make the most of her time. Cynthia has been using Fancy Hands for around a year and she's written about her experience using Fancy Hands on her blog, Facing The Sun. Keep reading to see how Cynthia delegates to her assistants! 

I read about Fancy Hands in a blog a while back and figured I’d give it a whirl.  Since then, my life has changed for the better.  Fancy Hands is a team of personal assistants to whom you can assign specific tasks.  Now, they won’t come over and do the dishes (but please sign me up if someone launches that service), but they can accomplish anything that can be done remotely with a phone or computer.  They also do it in a friendly manner, and they are accessible via web browser, iPhone app, or email.

While I don’t use Fancy Hands for things that involve client confidentiality, I still have plenty of other uses for a virtual personal assistant, and I have truly put them to work!

Fancy Hands has four monthly plans, starting with the “basic” at $29 a month for 5 tasks per month.  If you do not use all the tasks, they roll over.  Plus they give you free extra tasks for things like connecting your social networks.  I have not yet reached a point where I need to upgrade but so far have gotten great value from the service.  Since I enrolled last October, Fancy Hands has, for me, processed a total of 46 requests, placed 262 telephone calls, sent 11 emails, and spent more than 17 hours on the phone.  This is a huge value for me, and I’ve been hooked.

Another thing that I love is the convenience of the iPhone app.  If I wake at 2 a.m., which I’m akin to do on occasion, suddenly remembering something that needs to get done, I can pick up my phone and delegate the task right then.  This ability has put me at ease on more than one occasion as I am able to fall back to slumber knowing that a particular task is sufficiently delegated.

Here are a few things my personal assistants at Fancy Hands have helped me out with:

Scheduled Appointments

I received a promotional postcard showing that if I test-drove a new Fiat 500X I could get a free tote bag, but it required me to call and schedule an appointment when the dealership was open.  In the late evening, I told Fancy Hands to take care if it for me.  The next morning, my personal assistant booked an appointment on my calendar, and I never had to pick up a phone.  (Fancy Hands has access to my calendar through Google Apps, so my personal assistants can review and book appointments directly onto my calendar. Awesome.)

Had a Ceiling Fan Replaced

I have a house I rent out, and the ceiling fan needed to be replaced.  I asked Fancy Hands to locate a competent and honest handyman in the area and coordinate a time for him to meet with the tenants and replace the fan.  They did this entire job seamlessly, and it saved me a lot of time searching the web and making phone calls.

Researched Transport Services

I had a client who needed to transport a car from Orlando to Georgia.  Now I know that this is not a legal issue, but sometimes when you are a lawyer, your long-time clients tend to come to you with all kinds of issues.  Practicing law is part legal analyzer, part counselor, part problem-solver.  So, when I can, I try to help my clients as much as I can.  For this issue, I asked Fancy Hands to search for transportation services, and, within a day my virtual assistant responded with a whole list of contacts and exact price quotes that I was able to relay to my client, which, in the end, makes me a better problem-solver.

Compared Prices

After buying a new color laser printer, I asked Fancy Hands to determine what company sells the most inexpensive toner cartridges and compare them with my existing vendors.  My Fancy Hands assistant researched prices and gave me a full report including my usual vendors and a few more, with direct links to the exact toner I needed.  I was able to click on the links and buy toner in about two minutes, and the new vendor’s rate was about $15/cartridge lower than my usual vendor, saving me a total of $60!

Tracked Down Garbage Men

One week, the city waste management service skipped our address and failed to pick up our overflowing recycle bin.  Normally, I would just have to suffer and be buried in recyclable garbage for another two weeks.  However, Fancy Hands took care of it for me by calling up the waste management company and asking them to send a truck over.  Within 24 hours, a truck came by, and the recycle bin was emptied.  Success!

* * *

If you’d like to try Fancy Hands yourself, please use this special referral link because you can get 50% off your first month, and they will credit my subscription with referral credits.  Super awesome deal.   They are not paying me to write this blog, but because the service has been so helpful to me, I am giving it a glowing review.  I cannot recommend this service enough.

See the full post here

Eleventh Hour Valentines

It’s here again: The time when you can’t walk into your local Walgreens without being tempted to buy all of the candy (two 64-oz chocolate hearts for a $2.99? I NEED THAT) or being bombarded by oversized teddy bears that seemingly stare at you as you walk through the door. Yes, I’m talking about Valentine’s Day, and it’s only a few days away. For those of us who are procrastinators (hand raised) you might be thinking to yourself “I need to get a gift, but I don't know what to get!" Luckily for you, I’ve compiled a few ideas for great last-minute gifts that’ll show you care, and that you totally had this planned a while ago. You’re welcome. 

Oh, and for those of you who are more into Anna Howard Shaw Day or Galentine’s Day (ovaries before brovaries!) I’ve got some ideas for you as well. 

Singing Telegram: 

What better way to show your loved one you care than sending a talented stranger to lovingly embarrass them through the gift of song? Singing telegrams are a fun and unique way to sing “I care for you.” If you're not into the idea of a telegram, why not hire someone to write and perform a song for your main squeeze? Either way, it’s sure to be a gift that will be remembered for years to come. 

Personal Chef: 

Since you’re likely not going to get a dinner reservation for Valentine’s Day at this point, you might as well have the restaurant come to you. A personal chef will be able to cook a meal designed by you and you’ll be able to have a romantic dinner without having to leave the house. Fancy, fresh and delicious food without having to put on pants? Sign me up. 

Customized Jewelry: 

Contrary to popular belief, it’s OK if you don’t go to Jared. Why not work with someone to have a special piece of jewelry made for your loved one? It could be a customized watch or a necklace that symbolizes an inside joke. Whatever it is, it will be one-of-a-kind and will be sure to bring a smile to their face. 

Scrapbook: 

It’s like a Facebook album, but tangible. This will be an enjoyable gift for you as well as you decide which pictures to add to your scrapbook. You’ll have a fun trip down memory lane together, and a thoughtful and fun book to look through in the future!

Spa Day: 

This can work for Valentine’s Day, Anna Howard Shaw Day or Galentine’s Day. You can treat yo’self (and maybe your loved one) to a spa day that will get you pampered and looking and feeling fresh. 

Recipe In A Jar: 

This is geared towards you, Galentines, but could work for any of the above holidays. Get a mason jar, fill it with the dry ingredients to your favorite waffle (or other baked good) mix, decorate the jar and voila! You have a memorable and edible gift. There’s no better way to show you care than giving someone food, IMHO. 

Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage: 

Ok, I guess this could be a useful gift for anyone, in general. Read up on “the most outstanding woman suffrage orator of her time” and prepare to drop knowledge on all those who haven’t read this book. Knowledge is power, y’all. 

Flowers & Chocolate: 

This is a classic and is sure to be a hit. *Please note that this is always a great gift and should be given in excess year-round. 

Well, there you go Valentines. Get out there and have the best February 13th and/or 14th ever! In the meantime, I’ll be anxiously awaiting one/all of the above from you. 

PS: If you need help finding any of the above, feel free to use Fancy Hands to get the job done. 

Too Cool For School

I feel the first line of one of my favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail, says it best:  “Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” (If you haven’t seen it, first of all: what? Second of all: get yourself to the nearest device with streaming Netflix, and get out the tissues!)

While Fall may not have officially graced us with its presence, the start of the school year certainly has! The beginning of the school year can be as stressful as it is exciting. Perhaps you’re a student embarking on that self-discovery journey we call “college”. Maybe you’re a parent sending your little cherub off to build a contraption that keeps an egg safe when it’s dropped off of a building in the name of science. You might be a teacher getting ready to mold the minds of the next generation. No matter who you are, your life is busy and there’s always going to be something you need to get done, but don’t have the time to do it.

That’s where Fancy Hands steps in and helps make the beginning of your school year slightly less stressful. Below you’ll find a few examples of what Fancy Hands can do to help you out now that school has started. Heck, these might even be things you need help with once you’ve gotten into the swing of things! Either way, we’re here to help make your life easier.

Parents:

  • Did your child go into the first day with an Anna backpack, only to find that everyone else had an Elsa backpack, and now they need an Elsa backpack too? We can find an Elsa backpack near you, and even purchase it for you. We unfortunately won’t be able to prevent you from hearing “Let It Go” for the millionth time this week.

  • Want to make healthy and creative lunches for your kids, but don’t have the time? We can plan out a menu for you, complete with shopping list, for the entire school week so all you have to do is assemble. Naturally, you’ll need to add in a bag of Cheetos for cafeteria trading purposes.

  • Extra-curricular activities can be overwhelming. We can help you add these and any other family events to your calendar so you never miss a beat.

Students:

  • Need to manage your extracurricular calendar, or maybe just your class schedule? You can connect your Google calendar and we’ll add events and classes so you don’t have to add them yourself. Now you can be social and on time for every class!

  • Are you having difficulty doing some research for an assignment? We can help find you resources that’ll help you ace that paper. We’ll pull the all-nighter for you.

  • Books for classes are expensive! We can help you find, purchase and ship you the right book for the right price.

Teachers:

  • We realize how exhausting lesson planning can be. Let us help you organize your lessons in a spreadsheet, so you can be sure you’re on top of your coursework.

  • School holidays are a time for you to relax! We’ll coordinate your school’s schedule with your calendar so you can look ahead and know when your next vacation day takes place.

  • As a teacher, you can take advantage of several discounts in your community. We can help you make a list of these discounts, so you know where you’re eligible and what the discount will be.

For more ideas on what we can do to help you, check out our Common Requests page. If you’re ready to take the plunge, you can do so here.

Here's to a great school year for everyone!





*In honor of the First Day of School and Throwback Thursday, here's a pic of me and my sister on our first day of school an undisclosed number of years ago. I mean, look at that color coordination. Seriously.*










Delegation Lessons

Phil Buckley is new to Fancy Hands and has graciously shared how he’s learning to delegate to his new personal assistants, one task at a time.

“Delegation has never come easy to me. It’s definitely not a strength. The first time I had access to an assistant, I didn’t know how to help this person help me.

My justifications for this poor time management cover the range of productivity misconceptions: it would take more time to explain what I want than to do it myself, I do this task really fast, I can do it the best, etc.

Starting a consulting business didn’t make delegation any easier. Often, there was only me to delegate things to and completing tasks myself gave me the satisfaction of keeping expenses low. I had no problem calling in experts to do work that I couldn’t do myself, but the small tasks remained areas of opportunity. My accountant offering to file my quarterly tax payments. I responded “No thanks, I like to do it.” Another productivity mistake.

I became interested in a virtual assistant when Michael Hyatt shared the benefits of and tips onusing this service. He made a compelling and pragmatic case, but I didn’t take action.

Last week, I was reading a blog post by Steve Scott about his Kindle book launch. He shared that Fancy Hands, a virtual assistant subscription service, had completed his research for a small fee. I clicked on the link and became intrigued by this service.

Fancy Hands offers most types of tasks including setting up appointments and conference calls on your calendar, booking services, admin tasks such as editing emails, making calls on your behalf, research, etc.

I decided to start with the basic 5 tasks per month for $25 package to test how much I would use the service. The set up process took minutes on their easy to navigate website. It was great to see a 50 percent discount for the first month adjustment to my invoice too. Every step of the process made me happier.

This year, I haven't had a lot of time to market 'Change With Confidence' or my consulting business. This seemed like a perfect area to get help with. I wanted to send copies of my book to professors to see if there was interest in including it on their course reading lists or to have me as a guest lecturer. I have had excellent experiences with a few profs, but have not had time to expand my connections.

My first Fancy Hands request was to compile a list of profs who teach organization development or change management courses in the US and Canada. In time, I will create another task for the rest of the world.

Once I hit send, a banner appeared saying "relax while we take care of that for you." I thought, this is also a de-stressing service.

I can't wait to review the results of my request. My guess is that once I get used to the service I will think of many other tasks that are better completed by Fancy Hands.  Delegation is easier than I thought.”

For more on Phil’s Fancy Hands journey, click here.




Time Management Myths: Uncovered

The Harvard Business Review blog just published a post entitled "4 Things You Thought Were True About Time Management" in which they discuss the various Time Management myths floating around.

"It’s about managing your time. False.

Time management is a misnomer, says Jordan Cohen, a productivity expert and author of “Make Time for the Work That Matters.” He says that it’s really about productivity: “We have to get away from labeling it ‘time management’. It’s not about time per se but about how productive you can be.” He likens it to the difference between dieting and being healthy. “You can diet all you want,” he says, “but you won’t necessarily be healthier.” In the same way, you can pay close attention to how you spend your time, manage your email, etc., but you won’t necessarily be more productive.

Teresa Amabile, the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and coauthor of The Progress Principle, whose expertise in this area comes from reading thousands of work diaries of workers who documented their struggles to get work done, says it’s more about managing your overall workload. Many managers simply take on too much. “If you don’t keep an eye on the commitments you’ve made or are making, there is no time management technique that’s going to solve that,” she says. Sure, this might be an organization-level problem — many managers overload their team members ­— but she says that most professionals have more control over their workload than they might admit. “It is possible to say no. It is possible to negotiate,” she says. Cohen agrees: “While your schedule may not be yours per se, you can be judicious about what you go to and how you manage it.”

You just need to find the right system or approach. False.

“Having a system can be useful, but it takes more than that,” says Amabile. “And what works for each person, like spending an hour and a half on focused work at the beginning of the day, will not necessarily work for another person.” The key is to continually experiment with techniques. “Some things may or may not work in a particular context or situation,” says Cohen. Try lots of different approaches — really try them. Don’t change the way you check email for a week and declare it a failure. Set metrics for measuring success, give the approach time, and consider involving someone else — your boss or a coworker — to help you evaluate whether it really worked.

You need to devote time to change. Somewhat true.

One person I spoke to said her biggest challenge was finding time to put time management systems into place. She didn’t have the day or two she felt she needed to set aside. Amabile says this may not be necessary: “Small tweaks can make a big difference. The best approach is to start out with a few small things. Progress in this context might mean that you find yourself with some additional time each day when you can reflect and think. Even if it’s just an additional 20 or 30 minutes each day, that’s progress.” But it depends on how bad your situation is and how desperate you feel. Amabile mentioned one person who decided to use her vacation week for a major overhaul to achieve less stress. She looked at how she was using her time, her level of commitments, and experimented with a few techniques that people had suggested. “She felt things had gotten so out of control that she wanted to give herself this gift. But that was an extreme measure that was necessitated by the extreme situation,” says Amabile.

It’s up to you — and only you — to get it right. Somewhat true.

This may be partly true. “There is no one who’s responsible for how productive you are,” says Cohen. In that sense, this rests on your shoulders. He is clear: “You’re expected to be productive, so you better take this puppy on yourself.” But Cohen and Amabile both say you can’t do it alone. “If you’re in an organization where there are pressures for immediate responses or turnarounds on all requests or there is no room for any kind of slack, it’s very tough to do time management on your own,” says Amabile. She points to Leslie Perlow’s research about small tweaks you can make in any work environment. Still, it may be tough. “Organizations unknowingly put a lot of barriers in front of you to get your work done — unclear strategy and clumsy processes, to name just a few,” Cohen says.

If this sounds like your company, Amabile suggests you make attempts to change the culture. “I would urge people to push back in ways that they believe will be effective,” she says. Raise questions like, “How can we be more productive around here?” This can often be more effective than focusing on getting out of your own bind. “You have a responsibility to push back on the organization,” she says. Cohen also thinks it’s worth talking with senior management, because it’s often bigger than any single manager. “It requires a redesign of how work gets done, where decisions get made, how they get made. There’s only so much that a system can take,” he says"

Are you managing your time efficiently? Find out here.  

Young Architect

Here's Mike showing his love for Fancy Hands!  

Not only is Mike Riscica an architect, a writer and an avid yellow labrador fan, he's also having Fancy Hands take over so he can manage the rest of his busy schedule. He's taken time out of his busy schedule to show his love for Fancy Hands on his blog Young Architect

"An Imaginary Friend

For the past few months I have had a little imaginary friend that does all the annoying things that I don’t want to do. Ya know thinks like: make appointments, research things on the web, call this person or place for me to find an answer on something and even copy and paste something over and over and over again.

After they finish each one of my little tasks they send me a neat little email with the summarizing results from whatever task I gave them to do.

Sounds crazy, but I can’t tell you how much more productive I have been by getting all these silly little things off my plate.

What the hell am I talking about?

Over the winter (shortly after I built this Young Architect website) I started using a little service on the web called Fancy Hands.   Fancy Hands is a virtual assistance subscription service that does small tasks, which take about 15 minutes. It works like this.

I send Fancy Hands a task either by logging into their site, email or by leaving them a voicemail. Just for an example say my task is something like:

Subj: Find exterior Pictures of a building in Portland Oregon

Hey Fancy Hands,

I am working on an architecture project. Can you find me as many pictures of the building located at 2023 NW Hoyt St, Portland Oregon? The building is also called the William Temple House. Shots that show as much of the exterior of the building are gold.  Interior shots are of no use to me.

Please send me the JPGS. Include the screen shots from google earth and maps, but also look elsewhere on the web.

Feel free to ask any questions.

Thanks so much.

- Michael Riscica

This request then sits on the Fancy Hands server where it waits for someone to pick it up, do the work and email me the results.

After the task is completed they send me an email, which sends a notification to my phone and updates my account on their website with the results from that task.

20 minutes later, I got back a .zip file containing the files I requested above.

Why?

Heres why I am using Fancy Hands for as much as I can.

I am insanely busy
In an average week, I attend between 5-15 meetings, make routine site visits at various locations, and meet with many different people. I need help. Often, I call fancy hands while I’m running from one meeting to the next asking them to make a call or look something up that I just don’t have time for.

I get distracted
Looking for pictures of a building on the internet? Sure it sounds simple enough. But I guarantee you it will take me twice as long to accomplish this task than someone who isn’t invested in the process. I’m a sucker for  being derailed by something while I am in pursuit of an answer. I have learned that letting someone else vet the information as a first pass is more effective process. These small 15 minute minutia tasks are derailing me from getting larger, more important work done.

Sometimes I need a fresh point of view
A lesson I learned a long time ago early in my architecture career is that when you have been working on and looking at the same drawing for many hours at a time there could be a very blatant and obvious error on the drawing, but because you have been looking at the drawing for long time You just can’t see it.Are you a bad Drafter or Architect? No! definitely not. But I bet if you walked away and came back a few hours later you would immediately notice that error.

Fancy Hands has been a great place for me to run something past someone with a fresh point of view to make sure that something I wrote makes sense.  (PS – that was just an example, I doubt Fancy Hands can check your Architecture drawings. But you can try it and let me know how it works out.)

My Small Tasks

Here is a short list of some of the things I have Fancy Hands doing for me.

  • Research the purchase of a laptop that meets 10 different requirements.
  • Create a list of quotes on various topics.
  • Find the lowest price of a product I am looking to purchase.
  • Find the number for the building department in this town, call them to see if they have building permit records on this property.
  • Find a local store that has a certain product.
  • Help me narrow down when to take my vacation by looking at the cost of flights.
  • Find me the cheapest non-stop flight that works best for my schedule.
  • Make a dinner reservation for 7:30pm, if that doesn’t work then call these 2 other restaurants.
  • Call the print shop, send them this PDF and tell them I want 50% scale prints in black and  white. Print and bind 4 sets. I will pick up tomorrow at 11am , they can bill my account. Give them my cell to call if they have any questions or problems.
  • Proofreading professional emails that I have spent a great deal of time crafting.
  • Fancy Hands has proofread all blog posts written on this site. Yep, even this one.
  • Search the internet for the office number of Mr. Engineer and tell him that I need to cancel our afternoon meeting, but reschedule for next week.
  • Search the web and find out who designed the building at 2023 NW Hoyt.
  • Call my 5 local art supplies stores and find out which one has this specific glue.
  • Research which dog food I should be buying.
  • Help me find answers to my never ending cell phone problems. "

But wait...there's more! You can check out the rest of Mike's post here: http://www.youngarchitect.com/2014/07/05/fancy-hands-review/

Working Smarter

 

Meet Nick Loper: Fancy Hands subscriber since 2012, head of the #1 virtual assistant company directory and review platform, and published author. 

Nick’s new book, Work Smarter: 350+ Online Resources Today’s Top Entrepreneurs Use to Increase Productivity and Achieve Their Goals is now an Amazon Bestseller, and we’re proud to say Fancy Hands helped. We asked Nick to weigh in on how he used Fancy Hands to help him write his newest book.

In his own words:

“How Fancy Hands built an Amazon Bestseller, 15 minutes at a time.

Recently I undertook a big project to find out what online tools and resources today’s top entrepreneurs are using to run their businesses.

My original idea was that it would make a viral blog post, but as the post grew past 10,000 words (10x the length of a typical blog post), I knew I had something bigger on my hands.

The final project became a book called Work Smarter: 350+ Online Resources Today’s Top Entrepreneurs Use to Increase Productivity and Achieve Their Goals.

In total, over 500 entrepreneurs contributed their favorite tools – which included Fancy Hands.

The book went on to reach the top of the Amazon charts during launch week, generating more than 20,000 downloads and earning dozens of positive reviews and a position as the #1 free business book that week.

As you can imagine, there was a lot of research and preparation that went into this project, and I actually relied heavily on Fancy Hands to build the foundation of the book.

For this book project, Fancy Hands:

**Built a spreadsheet of all the contributors and resources named.

**Categorized the resources.

**Found/wrote descriptions for the tools I hadn't heard of, which was a lot!

**Found links and pricing information.

**Transferred the spreadsheet data into sentence format.

**Found contact information for the contributors and the companies named.

**Submitted the book to free kindle promotion sites.

**Found relevant questions on Quora related to the book’s content.

Most of the work was done in shared Google Docs spreadsheets and document files. We could collaborate and have multiple people working on one file at the same time.

All said and done, I used 79 requests over the course of 6 weeks to research, build, and support the launch of Work Smarter. (I had to upgrade to Super-Premium after running out of tasks!)

At 15-minutes a pop, Fancy Hands contributed nearly 20 hours of work to the project, and proved that a non-dedicated VA service can still be an asset for larger projects.”

You can check out Nick’s new book, as well as his other books, here

In the meantime, we'll be awaiting Nick's tasks for his next book! 

Lessons from the Top.

(By Thorin Klosowski via Lifehacker

Many of us tend to look at certain types of financial or life advice—especially the kind that requires a little money—and disregard it because it doesn't feel like it applies to us. That's not always the case. We can all take a lesson or two from a wealthy CEO's playbook, whether it's about delegation, negotiation, or proper use of money. Let's take a look at a few of those tips.

Spend Money on Experiences, Not Goods

A lot of us equate wealth with material objects, and subsequently we try to save our money to buy things. That's usually not the best idea. In fact, according to The Washington Post, a number of America's wealthiest recommend spending money on experiences first:

You may be surprised to learn that among the monied set, expensive cars, yachts, houses, jewelry and watches come at the end of the list....

The rule of diminishing returns is a harsh mistress with luxury goods. Do you really think $100,000 audio speakers sound 20 times better than a pair of $5,000 speakers? (They don’t). Is a $250,000 sports car five times faster than a $50,000? (It is not). These days, you can buy quite a lovely home for $1,000,000 (and much less in the country’s interior). Those $10,000,000 manses are not 10 times roomier. Anyone who has owned a $10,000 Rolex will tell you that a $39 Casio keeps better time.

When discussing the benefits of wealth, I have heard again and again about amazing experiences, family get-togethers, vacations, shows, sporting events, weddings and other events as these people’s most important life experiences. While these things cost money, nearly every family can afford reasonable versions of them.

This certainly isn't the first time we've heard this. Researchers have known that experiences provide more of a psychological boost than material things, and new experiences completely change how we perceive time for the better. The good news for the rest of us is that shorter vacations are actually more memorable, so even if you can't afford to take a lot of time away from work, you'll still get a lot of out of the experience. Of course, taking a cheap vacation is easy too.

Delegate to Save Time and Avoid Frustrations

As the old saying goes, time is money. If you're running low on time, you'll benefit from a classic CEO trick: delegation.


Delegating tasks to others, or paying people to do things for you seems like a luxury that most of us can't afford. In reality, it's far less expensive than you think. We've talked before about how small expenses, like hiring a house cleaner, can make your life easier, and it applies in all sorts of ways.

For most of us, delegation means outsourcing your most annoying errands. You can outsource your chores and work to all kinds of places, like the team of assistants at Fancy Hands. Doing so doesn't cost you much money, and it saves you a ton of time. Likewise, you can get rid of most of your annoying errands with online tools like Amazon Subscribe and Save or Alice. Most of these options don't cost that much money, and while they're certainly a luxury, they're a luxury most of us can afford. I've used Amazon's Subscribe and Save for the last couple years to automate the bulk of my groceries, and while it make me feel like a king, it saves me money as well.

Plan and Track Your Spending

(Photo by CashCats

It's the simplest advice out there, but it rings true no matter how much money you make: the better you understand how you spend money, the better you are at saving it. Time is certainly money, but spending a little bit of time each week with your finances is worth it. Finance blog Get Rich Slowly explains why:

All this budgeting and goaling takes time, but millionaires are willing to spend it. Prodigious accumulators of wealth spend nearly twice as many hours per month planning their investments as under accumulators of wealth...

You don’t have to earn a big six-figure salary for planning to pay off. In a survey of 854 middle-income workers, [the authors] found “a strong positive correlation” between investment planning and wealth accumulation. This extra planning doesn’t just happen... “Most PAWs have a regimented planning schedule. Each week, each month, each year, they plan their investments.”

The key takeaway: everyone benefits from a little financial planning. We've shown you how easy it is to create a simple budget with a tool like Mint, and once you settle into your budget you can start planning better. In fact, you can create a personal financial plan without spending that much money, and doing so gives you a much better understanding of your money. If you're serious about learning financial planning, we like Learnvest because it combines a cheaper DIY alternative with access to experts so you don't mess things up. Set aside an hour each week to look everything over, see where you money is going, and try to spend it better. Once everything is set up, you can automate the whole process so you don't spend as much time thinking about it.

Negotiate Your Salary

We've mentioned before that not negotiating your salary costs you upwards of $500,000 in the long term, but salary negotiations aren't in everyone's skillset. Negotiations are hard and they're a little scary. That said, we all need to know how to do it.

We've walked you through salary negotiations in the past, and they're not nearly as terrifying as you might think. A salary negotiation is all about preparation, and after a little practice, you're ready to go. Even if more money isn't an option, negotiating for perks can make your job better. You can also take an old CEO trick and negotiate for a severance package instead of cash.

Give Yourself a Quest

We all know that goals are important, but it's hard to really wrap our minds around what we want from work or life in the long term. Speaking with Bloomberg, Evernote CEO Phil Libin describes his goals as quests, and it makes a lot of sense:

For Libin, "Lord of the Rings," the book by J. R. R. Tolkien and blockbuster movie directed by Peter Jackson, represents "the importance of having a quest," he said. He likens his mission of creating a tool to supplement people's memories to the journey Frodo and Sam embarked on to destroy the evil ring.

"Everything I needed to know in life, I learned from 'Lord of the Rings,'" Libin said. "If you're not on a quest, you're wasting your time."

It's a little silly, but Libin's point certainly rings true for all of us. If we don't have a quest that likely means we have no idea what we're doing. Figuring out what you want to do with yourself is no easy task, but we all have to do it at some point. What's nice about Libin's strategy is that the quest provides you with the long term goal you want to achieve, and it's up to you to figure out how you'll do it. We've heard this from plenty of other CEOs over the years, including Amazon's Jeff Bezos. It seems goofy, but take the time to actually sit down and think about your quest and how you'll get there. If you need a little help achieving that, we've certainly got you covered.

The fact is that whether you have $30 in your bank account or $3 million, managing your life and finances is tough. But we can all learn from each other, and when it really boils down to it, being a CEO or wealthy investor doesn't really change the game all that much.

Positive change.

How to Change the Song in Your Head

You've been singing the theme to The Love Boat for hours now, and it's making you nuts.

If a song is on an unfinished loop, "sing it through all the way, or listen to the entire song, to achieve completion," says James Kellaris, Ph.D., a professor of marketing at the University of Cincinnati, who studies why catchy tunes - called "earworms" - stick in your head. "If you can't remember all the words or how it ends, rewrite the ending. Sometimes appending a Beethoven coda or even just 'Shave and a haircut, two bits' will do the trick." If you can’t banish it, replace it. That works for Ron Dante, one of the lead voices behind the insanely catchy Coke jingle "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." "I substitute a Beatles song, like 'Help!' or 'Let It Be' - both of which say something about what we need at that moment," he says. If the eraser tune gets lodged in your brain, too, he adds, "listen either to complex music, like Mozart, or unfamiliar music that lacks a hook, like New Age."

How to Change Your Cell Phone Carrier

Yes, it's now possible to change cell-phone carriers without changing your number, but don't expect radical improvements. All five major American cellular companies offer similar rates and deals, says James Hood, president of ConsumerAffairs.com, which covers consumer fraud. Where they vary is in their coverage in certain areas. "Seek out people who get good service and ask what company they're using," Hood suggests. Before switching, make sure your existing contract is up or you'll be hit with an early-termination fee, which may be as much as a couple of hundred dollars, says Jennifer Walsh, a spokesperson for Sprint. For a smooth transition, don't cancel your old account before your new one is activated. "Once you close it," Walsh warns, "your number goes back into a pool, and you can lose it." And don't trust the new company to cancel your old account for you. "Often," Hood says, "they say they'll take care of it, and they just don't." 

How to Change Your Room Layout

If you want a new outlook, move some furniture. The first step is to create a new focal point, says interior designer Ron Renner, founder of Certified Interior Decorators International. Consider an armoire or a fireplace, and arrange chairs and side tables around it. Renner isn't a fan of rakish angles. "Putting couches on the diagonal wastes space," he says. When placing furniture, Natasha Younts, CEO of the Designer Society of America, follows the "three-feet rule": "If you want to put a drink down on a coffee table, you shouldn't have to reach more than three feet from the couch," she says. "And a pass-through area should be at least three feet wide." After you change a layout, observe how people use it. "We all flow toward the space that looks easiest and most appealing," Younts says. "If guests aren't entering the living room, maybe the couch is a barrier. If they're not using the path you created through the room, expand it to help direct them."

How to Change Your Sleep Schedule

If you're going to eat a balanced breakfast, go running, and save the world by 10 a.m., you really should wake up earlier. But don't try to change overnight. "Go to bed five minutes earlier each night and wake up five minutes earlier every day" until you reach your goal, says Timothy Monk, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School who is leading a NASA study to find the best way of shifting astronauts' sleep schedules. If you're changing time zones, "mitigate jet lag before you travel," says Margaret Rappaport, a sleep-training specialist. If you're flying from San Francisco (Pacific time) to Boston (Eastern time), "sleep on Central time in the days before the flight," she says. Once in Beantown, immediately adopt the local schedule. For a drastic change in routine - say, a switch to the graveyard shift - try to trick nature. "When you want to be awake, keep rooms bright," Monk says. "And minimize daylight exposure before sleep by wearing dark glasses outside and dimming lights inside."

How to Change Someone Else's Mind

The essential rule when trying to convert someone is: Don't - at least, not at first. "Just listen," says Dennis Ross, former Middle East envoy and author of The Missing Peace. "It shows respect and allows you to learn." This approach applies whether the subject is peace between the Israelis and Palestinians or that orange plaid sofa your husband wants to buy. After listening, show that you get it. "Tell your husband you understand he loves the couch because it's big enough for the whole family to watch movies from," says Catherine Cardinal, a psychologist and the author of A Cure for the Common Life. "If you're negative, he'll defend it more." Next, nudge the other person to see your side. "I used to ask the Israelis what the Palestinians might accept, and vice versa," Ross says, "to make them more sensitive to each other's thinking." Then gently, imperceptibly, introduce a new outcome. "Everyone needs an explanation to tell others," Ross says, "and it's best if the other person thinks he came up with it."

How to Change Your Career

Doing what you love is more practical than you think. If you're trying to find your calling, "the most important factors to look at are your natural talents and your personality," says Nicholas Lore, director of the Rockport Institute, a career-coaching firm in Rockville, Maryland. Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, suggests making two lists: one with your top five skills, the other with your five favorite fields. Show your list around zealously. "You'll typically get many job suggestions," Bolles says. For an intermediary shift, he says, "either change your title and keep the field, or keep your title and change the field." He cites an aspiring pilot with poor vision who ended up working for the airlines by making airplane seats. Anne Steiner, director of the Seattle office of the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation, which conducts aptitude tests, says to "volunteer or get a part-time job to learn from people in the industry you're interested in." Soon you'll be one of them.

(By Amy Spencer via Real Simple

Quality improvements.

Improve Your Life In 100 Days

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to make drastic changes in order to notice an improvement in the quality of your life. At the same time, you don’t need to wait a long time in order to see the measurable results that come from taking positive action. All you have to do is take small steps, and take them consistently, for a period of 100 days.

Below, you’ll find small ways to improve all areas of your life in the next 100 days.

Home

Walk around your home and identify 100 things you’ve been tolerating; fix one each day. Here are some examples:

  • A burnt light bulb that needs to be changed.
  • A button that’s missing on your favorite shirt.
  • The fact that every time you open your top kitchen cabinet all of the plastic food containers fall out.
Happiness

Write down 5 to 10 things that you’re grateful for, every day.

Make a list of 20 small things that you enjoy doing, and make sure that you do at least one of these things every day for the next 100 days. Your list can include things such as the following:

  • Eating your lunch outside.
  • Calling your best friend to chat.
  • Taking the time to sit down and read a novel by your favorite author for a few minutes.

Learning/Personal Development

Choose a book that requires effort and concentration and read a little of it every day, so that you read it from cover to cover in 100 days.

Make it a point to learn at least one new thing each day: the name of a flower that grows in your garden, the capital of a far-off country, or the name of a piece of classical music you hear playing in your favorite clothing boutique as you shop. If it’s time for bed and you can’t identify anything you’ve learned that day, take out your dictionary and learn a new word.

Stop complaining for the next 100 days. A couple of years back, Will Bowen gave a purple rubber bracelet to each person in his congregation to remind them to stop complaining. “Negative talk produces negative thoughts; negative thoughts produce negative results”, says Bowen. For the next 100 days, whenever you catch yourself complaining about anything, stop yourself.

Finances

Create a budget. Track every cent that you spend for the next 100 days to make sure that you’re sticking to your spending plan.

Don’t buy anything that you don’t absolutely need for 100 days. Use any money you save by doing this to do one of the following:

  • Pay down your debt, if you have any.
  • Put it toward your six month emergency fund.
  • Start setting aside money to invest.

Time Management

Track how you spend your time for 5 days. Use the information that you gather in order to create a time budget: the percentage of your time that you want to devote to each activity that you engage in on a regular basis. This can include things such as:

  • Transportation
  • Housework
  • Leisure
  • Income-Generating Activities

Make sure that you stick to your time budget for the remaining 95 days.

Identify one low-priority activity which you can stop doing for the next 100 days, and devote that time to a high priority task instead.

Identify five ways in which you regularly waste time, and limit the time that you’re going to spend on these activities each day, for the next 100 days. Television, video games, social media...

For the next 100 days, stop multi-tasking; do one thing at a time without distractions.

For the next 100 days, plan your day the night before (laying out an outfit helps, too). 

Health

Losing a pound of fat requires burning 3500 calories.  If you reduce your caloric intake by 175 calories a day for the next 100 days, you’ll have lost 5 pounds in the next 100 days.

For the next 100 days, eat five servings of vegetables every day.

For the next 100 days, eat three servings of fruit of every day.

Choose one food that constantly sabotages your efforts to eat healthier—whether it’s the decadent cheesecake from the bakery around the corner, deep-dish pizza, or your favorite potato chips—and go cold turkey for the next 100 days.

Your Relationship

For the next 100 days, actively look for a new positive quality in your partner every day, and write it down. At the end of the 100 days, give your partner the list you created. 

Social

For the next 100 days, make it a point to associate with people you admire, respect and want to be like.

For the next 100 days, when someone does or says something that upsets you, take a minute to think over your response instead of answering right away.

For the next 100 days, don’t even think of passing judgment until you’ve heard both sides of the story.

For the next 100 days, do one kind deed for someone every day, however small, even if it’s just sending a silent blessing their way.

For the next 100 days, make it a point to give praise and approval to those who deserve it.

For the next 100 days, stay in your own life and don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Now...ask yourself, has this 100 days been better than the days before them? If yes, keep up the things on this list that you feel helped you. 

(Adapted from an article in Lifehack by Marelisa Fabrega)

Create Yourself.

Creativity is not a gift bestowed to a select few before birth. Everyone is creative. But, for some of us, that creative spark may be buried under piles of bills, boring tasks, routines and responsibilities.

Creativity needs to be nursed, cultivated and practiced. And there are many simple - and fun - ways to let your creativity loose, whether you’re interested in nurturing your hobbies or your business. You can apply creativity to any endeavor.

Here, the people who live and breathe creativity share their best strategies for cultivating inspiration.

1. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Sometimes good ideas just pop into our heads. But more often, it takes effort. “You can’t sit and wait for a brilliant idea to come along, you’ve got to get your hands dirty,” said Veronica Lawlor, an instructor at Pratt Institute and Parsons School of Design and author of One Drawing A Day: A 6-Week Course Exploring Creativity with Illustration & Mixed Media. “Build up that discipline of action no matter what, and you open the window for creativity to fly through.”

2. Practice “creative grazing.” That’s what designer Jess Constable does on a daily basis. She makes sure to “pay attention to a lot of different ideas and perspectives.” Constable, who’s the designer and founder of Jess LC and author of the blog Makeunder My Life, keeps an eye out for “cool color stories” when she’s shopping or interesting images when she’s online. Then every few months, the “creative grazing” “turns into some intense design days.”

3. Respond to a need. “For areas of my business that aren’t visual, creativity is all about doing what I think best serves a need for my readers or customers,” Constable said.

Her consulting business was born out of increasing questions from readers about building and boosting their businesses. “So in order to accommodate these requests along with all of the other hats that I wear, I thought offering the consulting packages would be a great way to meet this need,” she said.

Also, when you’re brainstorming about needs, Constable suggested stepping “away from the usual sources” and considering “how you can fill [the need] in a way that feels fun and unique to your perspective.”

4. Make time for creating. According to Jessika Hepburn, editor of Oh! My Handmade and author of the workbook Cultivate Your Creativity: “It seems like such a simple answer but carving time out for creative adventures can easily be shuffled down the list of priorities.”

Fitting creativity into your life, whether it’s 15 minutes or several hours, has far-reaching effects. “I have realized that if I fail to make the time to play with my tools and materials, from crocheting to playing with pixels, that I am less productive or creative in the other areas of my life,” Hepburn said.

“Mak[ing] time for making” also can be restorative. “When I feel frustrated or overwhelmed by to-do’s, I make space for being creative. Whether I come out of it with a painting or a pot holder I am refreshed and ready to focus on other things with renewed clarity.”

Hepburn makes time for creativity on evenings and weekends, which includes everything from dyeing wool to painting to sketching to “tromping about with my two girls collecting leaves, rocks, and beach glass for after-school crafts.”

5. Set deadlines. While the idea of waiting around for inspiration to strike is nice, you rarely can postpone a project ‘til your muse finally wakes up. That’s why Laura Simms, a writer, speaker and career coach for creatives, suggested establishing deadlines. “You create because you have to, not because you feel inspired,” she said. “Nothing gets the juices flowing like a deadline.”

6. Learn from others. “Study the people who do what you want to do very well,” Constable said. And it doesn’t have to be people in your field. “I find that though graphic design and fashion are not directly connected to what I do day to day with the core of my career, I have become better at both as I’ve become inspired and aware of what others are doing well.”

7. Set limits. While creativity needs room to breathe, setting limits also is valuable. “Narrowing what’s available to you forces you to try new things” and think creatively, Simms said. “Perhaps you photograph only textures, write only 200 words, or cook only local, seasonal foods.”

8. Change mediums. Think of changing mediums as “creative cross-training,” Simms said. If you usually write prose, try poetry. If you paint, try pastels or pencil. If you do crossword puzzles, try Sudoku, she said.

“If you’re paying attention, you can almost always learn something that you can bring back to your usual medium,” she added.

For instance, for Gail McMeekin, author of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, watercolor painting “frees up creative energy and illuminates issues in my writing work too.” “Chang[ing] modalities [also helps her clients] to shake things loose,” said McMeekin, also president of Creative Success.

9. Seek out inspiration. “Your imagination is powerful, but it needs fresh fodder,” Simms said. So she suggested engaging in activities that inspire you, such as “[visiting] a museum, [attending] a live concert, read[ing] your favorite author, tak[ing] in a sunset.”

10. Take a break. Downtime is just as important as having a schedule and being productive, Simms said. Many great thinkers have understood the benefits of a break. For instance, “Charles Darwin is said to have taken several walks a day for ‘thinking time,’” she added.

11. Welcome mistakes. “Don’t worry about making it perfectly, doing it ‘right,’ or set unreasonable standards for yourself,” Hepburn said. McMeekin agreed: “Creativity is full of surprises, so you need to give yourself permission to try things, fail, make mistakes, and then begin again with new insights.”

12. Set up a creativity-boosting routine. McMeekin has a morning routine that helps her get centered and start creating. She begins by sitting quietly and studying her goals, which she’s recorded using a Treasure Map (a collage of images that you’d like to create in your life) and a mandala. Then she listens to music and spends 20 minutes journaling.

13. Carry a notebook with you—always. When on the go, Hepburn grabs a journal or sketchbook. “I jot down ideas while out or if I don’t have the time to pursue them, make quick sketches, staple fabrics/yarns or paste images, colors and textures that interest me.” When Hepburn is ready to create, she has “a treasure trove of thoughts and inspiration to draw on.”

14. Subtract “serenity stealers” from your life. McMeekin refers to “serenity stealers” as anything that sabotages your creative process, whether that’s “people, places, things [or] unsupportive beliefs.” Getting rid of these saboteurs leaves you “free to create.”

Similarly, only share your project with people who will be completely nonjudgmental and supportive, she added.

15. Shrink stress. “Stress is a creativity killer so you must avoid it and/or minimize it,” McMeekin said. Fortunately, there are many uncomplicated ways to cope with stress. (See here and here for tips.)

16. Create your own tools. You can develop your own tools to nourish creativity. McMeekin created a deck of cards she calls the “Creativity Courage Cards,” which feature affirmations and her husband’s photos. She draws a card from the deck daily for inspiration. As she said, it takes courage to be creative, and these cards help remind her to be “fearless and proactive.”

17. Make creativity a family affair. Hepburn and her daughters spend a lot of time creating together, which is no doubt inspiring for all of them. According to Hepburn, who worked almost a decade with kids and teens, “I never fail to be inspired by their innate creativity and lack of inhibition.”

She also sees firsthand the benefits of creativity (which we may overlook sometimes). For instance, Hepburn’s 6-year-old daughter came home from school crying because she said her heart had been broken. That day, she talked about her strong heart and drew a picture, which now hangs in her room. “Access to creative expression allows us to become more resilient and deal with life trauma or stress at any age,” Hepburn said.

18. Be inquisitive. Simms suggested that readers “question, wonder [and] explore.” Doing so, she explained, “wakes your brain up to new possibilities.” And you can start anywhere. You might wonder: How does “a Stairmaster work? What does that leaf smell like? What would happen if I added cumin instead of coriander?”

19. Be open. Creativity is being flexible and open to all kinds of ideas. Lawlor tries to let go of any preconceived notions and “allow myself to live in the realm of not being sure if a thing will work or not.” She admits that this isn’t so simple in our society where quick fixes are standard. “But sometimes, I think, you have to let things simmer and be open to the unexpected.”

20. Find activities that get you “in the flow.”We’ve all experienced a time when we were fully focused on an activity and even lost track of time. That’s what being in a state of flow feels like. Simms described it as “another sort of consciousness [that] takes over and you ride on instinct;” where “time is distorted.” She recommended readers “explore what activities let you work in the flow state and enjoy the effortlessness of working from there.” This can be anything from running to reading to drawing to dancing.

(By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. via Psych Central

Get Over It.

We've all a bad day here and there, where everything just seems to go down the drain. Bad moods happen for a reason, and it's often due to "ego depletion"—the idea that you've used up too much willpower to avoid something. The other thing that can make it worse? Thinking about the fact that you're having a bad day. In fact, believing in the concept of a "bad day" is likely to make your day worse. If you're having a short bout of stress, though, luckily there's a lot you can do to crush it right then and there. 

Eat: Theoretically, doing anything you like can improve your mood, but food works in a number of ways. First, it regenerates nutrients you've lost over the course of the day. If you're in a bad mood because you haven't eaten and your blood sugar level is low, you should already feel better after a few bites. As it turns out, there's also a chance fatty acids can have a positive effect on emotion. If fatty foods aren't your thing, eating spicy foods are known to release endorphins, the same boost you get from exercising. Basically, eating can often reverse a bad mood, but be careful not to overdo it.

Exercise: Exercise increases endorphins and can naturally switch a mood from bad to good in a matter of a few minutes. You can get an endorphin boost from exercise by exerting a moderate or high level of exercise. When your breathing starts to get a bit difficult, the body releases endorphins which can be associated with feelings of happiness. The euphoria isn't long lasting, but it should be enough to make you forget about the guy who cut you off in traffic.

Listen to Music: Music can trigger a release of dopamine into your brain. This is associated with a pleasurable feeling and subsequently can turn a frown upside down in the span of a three-minute pop song. Basically, as you're following a tune, you are anticipating what's going to happen next and the reward for doing so is a little shot of pleasure.

Embrace It: A bad mood can trigger more attentive, careful thinking and allows you to zero in on specific tasks. As we mentioned above, it gives you a sort of tunnel vision, which also means your focus is dedicated to one project. Since you can pay more attention to specific details it's a good time to get started on complex projects, rework old hair-brained ideas, or tackle a task that requires your total attention. It can even give you a slight competitive advantage because your focus is driven directly toward a task. It can also make you more persuasive because it promotes concrete ideas and communications styles. It might not be the most pleasurable way to deal with a case of the Mondays, but at least you'll get a bunch of work done because of it.

(By Whitson Gordon via Lifehacker

Control your time.

Can you remember a period in your life when, if you look back on it now, time seemed to stretch on forever? When a week seemed like four, or an hour seemed like it went on for days? What were you doing during that period?

Chances are, you were probably doing something (or a whole bunch of somethings) that was brand new to you and demanded your attention. The funny thing is, by focusing on what you were doing, you actually slowed down time (or how your brain perceived that time, anyway).

Neuroscientist David Eagleman used this great example to explain how time perception works:

Yet “brain time,” as Eagleman calls it, is intrinsically subjective. “Try this exercise,” he suggests in a recent essay. “Put this book down and go look in a mirror. Now move your eyes back and forth, so that you’re looking at your left eye, then at your right eye, then at your left eye again. When your eyes shift from one position to the other, they take time to move and land on the other location. But here’s the kicker: you never see your eyes move.” There’s no evidence of any gaps in your perception—no darkened stretches like bits of blank film—yet much of what you see has been edited out. Your brain has taken a complicated scene of eyes darting back and forth and recut it as a simple one: your eyes stare straight ahead. Where did the missing moments go?

Before I explain these time-bending powers you didn’t know you had, let’s back up a bit and look at how our brains perceive time normally.

How we perceive time

Our ‘sense’ of time is unlike our other senses—i.e. taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. With time, we don’t so much sense it as perceive it.

Essentially, our brains take a whole bunch of information from our senses and organize it in a way that makes sense to us, before we ever perceive it. So what we think is our sense of time is actually just a whole bunch of information presented to us in a particular wayas determined by our brains:

When our brains receive new information, it doesn’t necessarily come in the proper order. This information needs to be reorganized and presented to us in a form we understand. When familiar information is processed, this doesn’t take much time at all. New information, however, is a bit slower and makes time feel elongated.

Even stranger, it isn’t just a single area of the brain that controls our time perception—it’s done bya whole bunch of brain areas, unlike our common five senses, which can each be pinpointed to a single, specific area.

So here’s how that process affects the length of time we perceive:

When we receive lots of new information, it takes our brains a while to process it all. The longer this processing takes, the longer that period of time feels:

When we’re in life-threatening situations, for instance, “we remember the time as longer because we record more of the experience. Life-threatening experiences make us really pay attention, but we don’t gain superhuman powers of perception.”

The same thing happens when we hear enjoyable music, because “greater attention leads to perception of a longer period of time.”

Conversely, if your brain doesn’t have to process lots of new information, time seems to move faster, so the same amount of time will actually feel shorter than it would otherwise. This happens when you take in lots of information that’s familiar, because you’ve processed it before.Your brain doesn’t have to work very hard, so it processes time faster.

Interestingly though, that doesn’t mean doing something over and over again, can’t have a significant impact on your brain, in fact practice can fundamentally rewire your brain, too.

Eagleman described it like this:

The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. “This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,” Eagleman said—why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.

“Time is this rubbery thing,” Eagleman said. “It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, ‘Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,’ it shrinks up.”

The best example of this is the so-called oddball effect—an optical illusion that Eagleman had shown me in his lab. It consisted of a series of simple images flashing on a computer screen. Most of the time, the same picture was repeated again and again: a plain brown shoe. But every so often a flower would appear instead. To my mind, the change was a matter of timing as well as of content: the flower would stay onscreen much longer than the shoe. But Eagleman insisted that all the pictures appeared for the same length of time. The only difference was the degree of attention that I paid to them. The shoe, by its third or fourth appearance, barely made an impression. The flower, more rare, lingered and blossomed, like those childhood summers.

So if your brain got hit with loads of new information over the course of a day, and the following day received hardly any new information, the first day would seem much longer than the first, even though they were exactly the same.

New experiences also happen to improve how we learn and remember information, which I’ve explored before.

How age affects time perception

Of course, we don’t normally notice this process taking place; all we notice is the weird feeling of a day being really long, even though we know it was just 24 hours.

As we age, this process comes into play even more, making time seem to fly by much faster. This is because the more we age, the more often we come into contact with information our brains have already processed. This familiar information takes a shortcut through our brains, giving us the feeling that time is speeding up and passing us by.

For young children, it’s easy to see how this would work in reverse, since the majority of information their brains are processing would be brand new, and require more time to process.

How to make your day last longer

Learning about the brain is always fascinating, but it’s even better when you can put that learning into practice. That’s why I love this idea of time perception so much—we can use it to our advantage fairly easily.

According to the research, if we feed our brains more new information, the extra processing time required will make us feel like time is moving more slowly. And supposing it’s true that perception is reality, we’d effectively be making our days longer. How awesome is that?

Here are five ways you could put this into practice immediately. If you have more ideas, I’d love to hear them!

1. Keep learning

Learning new things is a pretty obvious way to pass your brain new information on a regular basis. If you’re constantly reading, trying new activities or taking courses to learn new skills, you’ll have a wealth of ‘newness’ at your fingertips to help you slow down time.

2. Visit new places

A new environment can send a mass of information rushing to your brain—smells, sounds, people, colors, textures. Your brain has to interpret all of this. Exposing your brain to new environments regularly will give it plenty of work to do, letting you enjoy longer-seeming days.

This doesn’t necessarily mean world travels, though. Working from a cafe or a new office could do the trick. As could trying a new restaurant for dinner or visiting a friend’s house you haven’t been to.

3. Meet new people

We all know how much energy we put into interactions with other people. Unlike objects, people are complex and take more effort to ‘process’ and understand.

Meeting new people, then, is a good workout for our brains. That kind of interaction offers us lots of new information to make sense of, like names, voices, accents, facial features and body language.

4. Try new activities

Have you ever played dodgeball on trampolines? How about jumped from a plane or raced cheese down a hill?

Doing new stuff means you have to pay attention. Your brain is on high alert and your senses are heightened, because you’re taking in new sensations and feelings at a rapid rate. As your brain takes in and notices every little detail, that period of time seems to stretch out longer and longer in your mind.

5. Be spontaneous

Surprises are like new activities: they make us pay attention and heighten our senses. Anyone who hates surprises can attest to that.

If you want to stretch out your day, this is a good way to do it. Try surprising your brain with new experiences spontaneously—the less time you give your brain to prepare itself, the less familiar it will be with any information it receives, and the longer it will take to process that time period. In fact, overwhelming your brain, which we discussed before, is one of the best ways to make time slow down.

(By Belle Beth Cooper via The Buffer Blog) 

Stay cool.

Surprise, surprise, it's summer, and that means it's hot. Here are 7 ways to keep a cool head: 

Cover your windows. 

40% of your home's heat enters through windows, especially ones that face east and west. Make sure that your window coverings are a light color and closely fit your windows. Then close them! It's not time to enjoy the daylight, it's time to batten down the hatches and save money on your AC bill. 

Phone fan. 

Silly? Perhaps. But worth a try! 

Cold cocktail.

The people next to me at the beach did this last weekend, and I was jeally jeals. Freeze orange juice in a thermos overnight. In the morning, pour a bottle of cold champagne on top of it. When you get to your picnic or concert or the beach- mimosa slushies! Drink plenty of water, too, because dehydration is definitely un-cool.

Spray the ones you love. 

If your dog is a water lover, keep a spray bottle in the refrigerator and give them a misting here and there. Go ahead and give yourself one, too. 

Stick it in the fridge. 

Soak washcloths in water, put them in ziplock bags, and keep them in the fridge (or freezer if you want to carry one with you and keep it cold longer). Pull those suckers out and rest them on your ankles, wrists, and temples when you're sweltering. 

It's also nice to keep lotion and moisturizer in the fridge to rub on your face, feet and/or back after a long, hot day. 

Head to a movie. 

If you don't have AC, now is the time to catch up on your cinematic knowledge. Movie theatres are usually so arctic that I have to take a sweater. 

Fan your sheets.

Use your handy spray bottle to lightly mist your sheets before hopping in for some shut eye. Point a fan towards your bed and you'll fall asleep feeling the kisses of a million snow-lipped angels.

You can be happy at work!

Working at a start-up can be stressful. Just ask Chade-Meng Tan, who, as Google's 107th employee, experienced the company back when it was a start-up instead of the behemoth it is today.

Tan was an engineer, and engineers at Google are famously given "20% time" to work on projects of their own choosing. Tan used his 20% time, working with experts, to create a course called "Search Inside Yourself," designed to help Googlers improve their emotional intelligence and mindfulness, making them happier and more productive employees, and better bosses. Ultimately, his goal is to make the world in general a happier place for everyone.

Tan, whose official Google title is "jolly good fellow (which nobody can deny)" has been teaching "Search Inside Yourself" for the past five years, and participants often report that it changed their lives–in fact one attendee reversed her decision to leave Google after taking it. Tan's book, distilled from the course, is now a New York Times bestseller.

Here are three mindfulness skills Tan recommends for every entrepreneur:

1. Learn inner calm.

Working in a start-up company often entails an endless stream of financial pressures and stresses. "The ability to arrive at a mind that is calm and clear on demand is very useful," Tan says. "The analogy is a deep ocean: The surface is choppy but the bottom is very calm. If you're able to go deep inside, you can access that calmness and exist in a world where you can be calm and in action at the same time."

Sound like a tall order? "Gaining this skill turns out to be very easy," Tan says. "It comes from mindfulness, and mindfulness is about the training of attention in a way that allows your mind to stabilize." One way to achieve this is with a brief daily meditation session, but Tan says you can also get there by quietly focusing your attention on your breath from time to time throughout the day. "Three breaths, every now and then," he says. "Or even every now and then be aware of taking one breath. You don't have to train very deep."

2. Increase emotional resilience.

"Entrepreneurs fail all the time, and if your job involves innovation, that always entails failure," Tan says. "Begin with the recognition that failure is a physiological experience in large part. For me, it's tightness in my chest, my stomach dropping, a lack of energy. I feel horrible. And the reason I feel horrible is because of the sensations in my body."

The first step, he says, is to recognize failure as a physical experience. The second step is to return to technique No. 1: Calm your mind by focusing on your breathing. "Calming the mind has the effect of calming the body as well," Tan says, adding that these steps calm the Vagus nerve, which regulates physiological stress reactions.

"Let go of the sensation," he says. "Consider emotions as simply physiological sensations, that is all. They may be pleasant or unpleasant, but they are simply experiences. Just let them come and go as they wish in a kind, gentle, and generous way. If you can do that, you can become more resilient to failure."

3. Develop the habit of wishing success to others.

"The premise is that if you have to convince someone to help you, half the battle is lost," Tan explains. "If you're going to help them succeed in a way that you also succeed, it's a lot easier. If you always frame things in those terms, people are more likely to want to work with you."

A related and very powerful habit is wishing happiness to everyone you come across, Tan says. "Looking at any human being: 'I wish for this person to be happy.'" You may not want to start with the person who cuts you off in traffic, he adds, but with people that you already like, and then people to whom you feel neutral. "The reason is to create a mental habit so that when you see someone, your first thought is, 'I want this person to be happy.' The people you meet will pick this up unconsciously."

It will also help you be a better boss. Tan recommends entrepreneurs strive to become what Jim Collins in Good to Great calls "level 5 leaders"–the kind who can propel their companies to greatness. "What's special about level 5 leaders is they're personally humble and ambitious at the same time," Tan says. "Their ambition is for the greater good, not for themselves. This type of leader is very effective in a start-up, where you want to inspire everybody. That's why the best skill a start-up leader can learn is compassion."

(Article by Minda Zetlin via Inc.)

Penny pincher.

Summer is the season when I'm the most strapped for cash. Every week brings more invitations for beach trips, rooftop barbeques, rafting adventures, and outdoor concerts. As fun as all of these things are, they require more than I've got in my piggy bank. 

I've been taking a look at how to save money at every turn, and here's what I've come up with: 

1. Clip virtual coupons. CouponMom will hook you up with deals.

2. Dip that rent. Visit Rentometer to evaluate whether or not you're paying reasonable rent. If the site determines that you're not, Google topics like "average rent in _____ (your city)" and schedule a meeting with your landlord, articles in hand, and attempt to re-negotiate. 

3. Be a bargain hunter. Check out Lowermybills for all kinds of help with bringing your overhead down.

4. Chop your cell. At Billshrink, you can enter your cell phone bill details and they'll find you a lower-priced plan. 

5. Skeep your peeps. Just in case you've been living under a rock for the past few years, Skype is by far the cheapest way to stay in touch with your friends and family out of the country.

6. Electrify your wallet. Check this article out for tips on reducing your electricity bill.

7. Say hey to AAA. Are you a member? Back when I was, I'd always forget to use my membership for its many possible discounts. Don't let that happen to you - check out their wide list of offers here

8. Pretty up your pearlies. If you don't have dental insurance, you'll need a low-cost plan before you start drilling. Get one here

9. Peruse the promos. Before you check out when making an online purchase, search "______ (Name of site) coupon codes". Often a site like Retailmenot or Couponcodes will share a discount code with you to try out during your check-out. I've received free shipping and up to as much as 25% off of my purchases using this trick. 

10. Take a bite out of the Apple. You can purchased discounted Apple products that have been refurbished and certified here

11. Boost your lift. Buy bargain lift tickets for your next ski trip at Liftopia

12. Swap your stuff. Title Trader is a community that encourages swapping your DVDs, CDs, and books. Swaptrees does all of that and video games, too.

13. Forage for food. The Co-op Directory helps you find and join natural food co-ops in your area - often cheaper than a regular grocery store, and healthier, too.

14. Play up your eyes. Zenni Optical sells insanely cheap, great-looking eyeglasses. 

15. Cut the cable. I did this 3 months ago and it's been great. I canceled my cable account, connected my computer to my TV, and signed up for Netflix Streaming. Between that, Hulu, and each networks' own websites, I get all the TV I can watch for much less money than I was paying before. 

16. Manage your music. Spotify is free if you agree to listen to commercials, $4.99 a month takes the commercials out, and $9.99 a month lets you access all of their music from your mobile as well as your computer. Compare that to the cost of buying per-song or album on iTunes, and, if you're an avid music-buyer, you could save a chunk of dough.

Have a great and afforable summer! 

39 Ways To Make Someone's Day.

1. Smile at a stranger

2. Put change in an expired parking meter

3. Mail someone a hand-written card

4. Hold a door open 

6. Give a friendly wave to a neighbor

7. Do a simple, free, quick kindness for a charity - eight examples here

8. Tell a friend why you appreciate them 

9. Walk instead of driving, and interact with the world around you

10. Teach a group in your community about something unique you do or enjoy

11. Drop off dinner or groceries to an elderly friend who can't get out much

12. Mentor someone - a child or an adult

13. Help someone get set up on social media so that they can connect with their loved ones

14. Call your family just to say hi and tell them that you were thinking of them

15. Invite a friend you haven't seen in a while to the movies or coffee or...

16. Sign up for an unusual class at a community college and make new friends 

17. Read a book on something new to gain new perspective, and apply it to the world around you

18. Make a Top 10 (or 25, or 100) list of things you're thankful for and share it

19. Ask someone for a recipe of theirs that you love - then surprise them by making it for them 

20. Ask someone for their insight, and tell them that you value their opinion

21. Sit down with someone eldery and ask them questions about their life

22. Give a stranger a sincere compliment

23. Say "Thank You" and "I Love You" often

24. Use your skills to do some pro-bono work

25. Organize memorable photos in a virtual or paper album for someone

26. Ask someone how their day was, and actually listen attentively

27. Treat someone you admire to lunch

28. Volunteer to speak on a topic that you know about to a group who wants to learn

29. Buy a magazine subscription and have it sent to a nursing home

30. Sell some cool stuff online and give the proceeds to charity: KarmaGoat.com

31. Read these 25 amazing social good blogs and pick something to do 

32. Share inspiring quotes and stories online

33. Donate your airline miles here

34. Pick up an errant piece of trash off the ground and throw it away

35. Offer to babysit for a single parent

36. Run an errand for a busy friend

37. Give a gift of a housekeeping service (or Fancy Hands!) to a new parent

38. Tell someone you see regularly at a business how much they make your day

39. Share something without being asked

(Via Amy Neumann at HuffPost)

Banish Bad Thoughts.

Our minds are so very powerful. Anyone who has been cured with a placebo can attest to that. They're given sugar pills, but because they believe that something positive is happening, their disease disappears. 

It stands to reason, then, that negative thoughts can cause you harm. They crowd your brain with doom and gloom, when what we all need is as much light and positivity as possible in order to be happy, creative, and productive. 

If you're having trouble ridding yourself of negative thoughts, try these techniques from Corrine Pikul to banish them for good: 

Show Them The Door 

We've all had the frustrating experience of going into another room to get something and then realizing that we've totally forgotten why we're there. What's happening, say scientists from Notre Dame University, is that the act of passing through the doorway serves as a cue (an "event model" in science-speak) to your brain, telling it that it's finished with the immediate task and to move on to something else, freeing up space and energy for new memories.

You can take advantage of this mechanism in order to help you "forget" more strategically: If you find yourself getting worked up about something while you're preparing dinner, stop and exit the room. And if you happen to have an open-plan layout, keep on walking right out the front door (just come back in before the water boils and the pot overflows).

Wash That Thought Right Outta Your Head

Decisive people have no idea how lucky they are to be spared the kind of second-guessing that can lead to sleeplessness, queasiness and general obsessiveness. But the rest of us now have a secret weapon against waffling: soap. Psychologists at the University of Michigan found that washing your hands with soap and water can help you stop questioning your judgment. The study authors explain that the act of washing up serves as a powerful metaphor of "cleaning the slate" and helps us mentally wipe away doubts and misgivings.

Go To Your Happy Place

When our brain insists on reminding us of that awful thing we said at the party last night, most of us react by suppressing the thought (and perhaps groaning). This often works, found British neuroscientists Roland Benoit and Michael Anderson, who used an fMRI machine to trace the brain activity of people who were trying to forget something. In a study published in the journal Neuron, they explained that when we push a memory out of our head, activity in the hippocampus, the region of the brain critical for remembering the past, is inhibited. However, there's always the threat that the thought will pop up again... and again.

One trick that the scientists tested was thought substitution: Whenever you start rehashing the night, tell yourself instead to think about your vacation to Aruba, or reimagine every bite of a meal you enjoyed. Doing this will induce frenetic activity in the parts of the brain that need to work to retrieve memories and along the pathways to consciousness. The two thoughts will literally compete for your attention, so make the substitution memory engaging and pleasurable enough to win.

Toss Them

Those troubled souls who vent their grievances on paper are on to something, found Ohio State University psychologist Richard Petty, Ph.D., and his colleagues. In one of their studies, high school students who were asked to write down thoughts about body image and then rate their own figures were only affected by their thoughts if they were asked to hold on to their papers and review them. Those who were told to chuck the papers in the trash showed no difference in how they rated themselves, regardless of whether they confessed positive or negative thoughts.

"By physically throwing away or protecting your thoughts, you influence how you end up using those thoughts," Petty said. So write them down and then—this is key—be sure to shred them, burn them, toss them in the compactor or drag them into the trash can on your desktop—and empty it.

Squash Them With a Challenge

You're surprisingly vulnerable to negative thinking when you're doing something that's practically second nature to you, says psychiatrist Rebecca Gladding, MD, coauthor of You Are Not Your Brain. When you're in the flow - say, knitting your 24th scarf - the brain's prefrontal cortex, which handles executive function, kicks back and lets the basal ganglia, or the habit center, take over. This is when the toxic thought sneaks in and gains control, while your knitting needles continue to clack away rhythmically.

Get your prefrontal cortex to refocus by turning your attention to a challenging activity that requires your full attention, like listening to Coffee Break French podcasts, playing Words With Friends with a responsive pal or whipping up a new recipe in the kitchen. Gladding says that it's important to do this as quickly as you can when you feel your bad thoughts approaching, because the more time you spend dwelling on things, the stronger those mental pathways become. "Then every time you get anxious, you'll automatically switch into obsessive mode," she says—and that's something you definitely want to avoid.

Work Them Out 

At any road race, you'll find dozens of running enthusiasts who have successfully kicked bad habits (as well as chronic bad moods) by following a regular training schedule. And intense physical activity has been shown in studies to raise serotonin and dopamine levels and lower the stress response. But while distance running, biking and swimming can boost general mental wellness, these solitary, repetitive activities can be the worst thing when you're dwelling on something specific and unchangeable. They can provide you with uninterrupted time to obsess, and that may reinforce negative thought patterns.

Consider seeking out physical activity that makes your brain work as hard as your body, like a class (spinning, Zumba, Bikram or Ashtanga yoga), a group sport (community soccer, pickup basketball) or a team activity (rowing, a running group, a master's swim team). 

Now Feel Like Yay!

The end. 

(Adapted from an article by Corrine Pikul in O Magazine)

5 Steps to Being a Leader.

Find Purpose

Purpose is the one thing all great leaders have in common. Great leaders have a clearly defined purpose, while average leaders just show up to work. Purpose fuels passion and work ethic. It is these characteristics that afford great leaders a competitive advantage over those who don’t understand the dynamics of this linkage.

People First

Leaders are nothing without people. People will make or break you as a leader. You’ll either treat them well, earn their trust, respect and loyalty, or you won’t. You’ll either see people as capital to be leveraged or humans to be developed and fulfilled. You’ll either view yourself as superior to your employees, or as one whose job it is to serve them, learn from them, and leave them be better off for being led by you.

The best leaders don’t put people in a box – they free them from boxes. Ultimately, a leaders job isn’t to create followers, but to strive for ubiquitous leadership. Average leaders spend time scaling processes, systems, and models – great leaders focus on scaling leadership.

Develop Awareness

Great leaders are self aware, organizationally aware, culturally aware, contextually aware, and emotionally aware. They value listening, engaging, observing, and learning over pontificating. They value sensitivity over insensitivity and humility over hubris. Leaders who come across as if they know everything haven’t fooled anyone – except themselves.

Great leaders avoid the traps, gaps, and blind spots average leaders so easily step into. Leaders who choose to live in the bubble of their own thinking rather than understanding the benefits of seeking others input and counsel make things harder on everyone. The willingness to allow your positions and opinions to be challenged is a sign of strength not weakness. I’ve often said the most powerful and overlooked aspect of learning is unlearning. Leaders never willing to change their mind ensure only one outcome – a lack of growth and development.

Shun Complexity

Complexity is a leader’s enemy not their friend. Great leaders live to eliminate or simplify the complex, while average leaders allow themselves and those they lead to be consumed by it. Complexity stifles innovation, slows development, gates progress, and adversely impacts culture. Complexity is expensive, inefficient, and ineffective.

I’m not minimizing the fact we live in a complex world, and I’m not suggesting that profit cannot be found in complexity. But great leaders understand opportunity and profits are extracted from complexity through simplification, not by adding to the complexity. While many think it was Einstein who said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” the statement was actually borrowed from Leonardo de Vinci – both gentlemen were correct.

Get Personal

If I only had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say, “It’s not personal; it’s just business.” Great leaders understand nothing is more personal than leadership, and they engage accordingly. The best leaders understand a failure to engage is in fact a failure to lead. Average leaders remain aloof and distant – great leaders look to know and care for their people.

The best leaders understand it’s not a weakness to get personal, to display empathy, kindness, and compassion – it’s the ultimate strength. Peak performance is never built on the backs of others, but by helping others become successful. Treat your people as if your life depends on it, bevcause it does.

(By Mike Myatt via Forbes)

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