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Fancy Fourth

Kick off your 4th of July weekend with a discount from Fancy Hands!

Get 15% off of your first month of service, or an additional 15% off of our already discounted annual subscriptions. Just use the code 'fancyfourth' when signing up, and you'll see the discount applied before you submit your payment. Click here to take advantage of this discount, now through the end of the weekend.* 

From all of us here at Fancy Hands, have a happy and safe 4th of July! 

*Discount good through 11:59 PDT on 7/6/14. Only applicable to new subscriptions. 

Payments Are Back

After a not-so-brief hiatus, we’re pleased to announce that Fancy Hands can now make payments on your behalf again!

We’ve rolled out a smoother payment process that will give you the ability to pay for the items you need through Fancy Hands, and increased the limit per purchase to $200.

How It Works:

Whether it’s flowers or a new gadget, let us know what you’re looking for and we’ll find you the best price on what you want to purchase.

Once we’ve found the item, we’ll ask you to approve the payment. 

You can approve the payment from your email:


Or from your Dashboard:

After you’ve clicked the ‘Approve Payment’ button, your assistant will be able to pay for the item on your behalf. 

What’s New:

We’ve revamped the payment process, which means there have been a few changes. We’ve doubled the payment limit, so we can now make payments on items up to $200. There will also now be a $0.99 transaction charge on every payment to cover Fancy Hands transaction costs. This will be rolled into the final total you see when approving the payment. 

What’s the Same:

We’ll continue to search for the best price on each item we purchase. We’ll also continue making high quality, secure payments on your behalf. There is absolutely no credit card information required when making your payment, and each payment will be charged to the card you have on file. 

Sit back, relax and let Fancy Hands make a payment for you today

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! 

Introducing: Recurring Requests

We’re excited to announce our launch of recurring requests!

Whether it’s a haircut, monthly expenses, or combing through all your new twitter followers, you can now create a task once and have it repeat on a weekly or monthly basis.

It’s super easy to do -- just click on the recurring request icon before sending your request.

You’ll then be able to choose how often you’d like the request to repeat on a weekly or monthly basis.

Once you’ve scheduled how often you’d like your request to repeat, click ‘Confirm’ and then ‘Send Request’ -- that’s it!

You’ll see that all of your recurring requests are marked with the recurring request icon, and you’ll also be able to see the next time the request will automatically send. You will also receive an email reminder before your task is set to recur, allowing you to reschedule.

If you want to stop the recurring request or skip the next cycle, you can click on your task and choose the option to skip or cancel the recurring request. This will not cancel the current request.

You can start scheduling your recurring requests now on your fancy new Dashboard. 

Rad Dad

Father’s day is right around the corner, and if you’re still looking for the perfect gift, look no further than Fancy Hands! We can help you find a gift that will show Dad how much you care. 

Is Dad's favorite place outside in front of the BBQ? We can help you find cookbooks, utensils, aprons, rubs, spices and sauces.

Does your Dad need to upgrade his bar? We’ll help him keep it classy with items like whiskey glasses and decanters, home brewing kits, beer and wine clubs and cocktail recipe books.  

Keep Dad hip with a new wardrobe. We can do all of the legwork and find you shirts and sweaters, ties, belts and hats, shoes and socks, and athletic, outdoor and swimming attire.

Need to update Dad’s entertainment system? We can get you the best deals on tablets and phones, stereos, speakers and Sonos, Set-top boxes and e-readers, and TVs and computers.

So, your Dad is a huge sports fan. We can scour the Web for gifts like golf gear, tickets to the game, autobiographies of sports legends and rare baseball cards.

Does your Dad love gear and gadgets? We can help you find popular new items like headphones, fitness tracking wristbands, watches and bags, backpacks and briefcases.

If you’re looking at this list and you’re thinking: “My Dad doesn’t want or need any of these things!” you can give him the gift of time with a gift subscription to Fancy Hands. You'll find gift subscriptions here.

In addition to helping you figure out a gift, we'll help you plan a special day for your Dad if you're going to be visiting.

No matter what you need this Father's Day, Fancy Hands has got you covered. 

Happy Father’s Day, from all of us here at Fancy Hands!

All In The Family

Jennifer and Felicia are a mother-daughter team based in Massachusetts that work as two of our Fancy Hands assistants. Felicia was first to become a Fancy Hands assistant, and, after learning the ropes, she immediately thought her mom would be a great fit for the Fancy Hands team. Felicia was right, and Jennifer became an assistant just a week after her daughter. Both ladies have been helping make lives easier since January 2014.  

We asked these two some questions to help you get to know them better: 

What has been the most memorable task you've handled?

Jennifer: My most memorable task was helping a gentleman propose to his girlfriend at the college they both met at.  It was so sweet.

Felicia:  Helping a Mom find educational toys for her young sons. I used to be a preschool teacher so I found it very enjoyable to provide some of my own insight, as well as the researched information.

What is one interesting fact you've learned from a task?

Jennifer: There are A LOT of possible masters and graduate programs to study at New York University.

Felicia: All of the wonderful websites available for finding vacation home/villa rentals.

What are your hobbies?

Jennifer: I walk daily. I also love to sing, dance, read/learn and spend time with family and friends. I am also an avid hula hooper.

Felicia: Painting and drawing, watching Say Yes to the Dress and HGTV, and going for walks.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Jennifer: Jesus. I am in awe of how loving, kind and inspirational He is.

Felicia: My mom. 

What is your favorite karaoke song?

Jennifer: "Love Shack" by the B52s

Felicia: "Picture" by Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock

Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world?

Jennifer: It would be great to go to Europe.  If only I could get up the courage to fly that far.

Felicia: The Caribbean

What is your go-to dance move?

Jennifer: That would probably be the Wop (bringing back the 80s). 

Felicia:  Hip shake

What do you want to say to the Fancy Hands community? 

Jennifer: I love working for Fancy Hands. I have always enjoyed helping people and learning in the process. Fancy Hands allows me to do both. In my time, outside of FH, I am a homeschooling mom.

Felicia: I absolutely love this job, helping people in a variety of ways every day! 

Life's a beach! Jennifer and Felicia catching some air on the beach

Always a Bridesmaid

Oh, May. The flowers, the warm weather (finally!) and... the beginning of wedding season.

While I'm still waiting for Prince Charming to swipe right on Tinder, I could not be happier for my many wonderful friends who have found someone equally as wonderful to spend the rest of their lives with.

What does all of this everlasting love mean for me? Let's just say that starting in May, I have (at least) one wedding to go to per month through December. It's just so difficult being wildly popular.

For one of these weddings, I'm not only an attendee, but I'm the MOH (for those of you not reading The Knot daily, that's code for 'Maid of Honor'). Being the MOH, I am responsible for planning the most incredible Bachelorette party the Bride-to-Be (let's call her 'B2B') has ever attended. No pressure, right?

Much to TLC's dismay, my real life thankfully involves a total of zero bridezillas. B2B let me know she wanted to go to Atlantic City for her party and she knew the exact hotel she wanted to stay in, as well as where she wanted to go for dinner. Being from New Jersey, I'm sort of ashamed to say I've only been to Atlantic City once in my life and I can't even remember the name of the hotel we stayed in when I went, so clearly I'm useless in this situation. So, when the B2B told me this, I was excited about planning but needed some help ironing out the details. That's where my Fancy Hands came through.

First things first. I had made the hotel reservation, but the website said check-in is at 4pm. I'm not sure if you've ever traveled with 15 girls, but 4pm is not nearly enough time for all of us to get ready for the big night. 

My request: 

"Call the hotel and make sure that a. we can check in early and, b. our rooms are next to/near each other."

Within minutes, my assistant had called the hotel I had booked, made sure that we could check in at 1pm instead of 4pm at no extra charge, and confirmed that our rooms were near each other, as it said they would be when I booked them.

One down, several to go.

Next request:

"Can you please call Margaritaville in Atlantic City and make a reservation for 15 people on the 16th at 7:00pm. (If this is not available, please make it for 6:30 or 7:30pm.) This is for a bachelorette party. They said on the website that they can't take reservations on Saturday evenings during the Summer, but if you can do this, it would be a big help.

Also, please get an email confirmation or have them call me to confirm the reservation after you've made it. Thanks!"

Response:

"Hello Lindsay,

I have called Margaritaville in Atlantic City and made the reservation on the 16 at 7:00pm for 15 people.

They can't send a confirmation e-mail and said to call back a week earlier to confirm the reservation. However, it is already in their system.

All the best,
Celine M."

It's a miracle! I can now rest easy knowing that lodging and food are taken care of, and that we don't have to try and squeeze a party of 15 into a restaurant without a reservation at dinner time.

Now, onto the fun part: drinking! Normally I know my way around bars, but as I said, I've been to AC once and my memories are fuzzy. Fancy Hands to the rescue.

Request:

"I know little to nothing about Atlantic City. Can you find some good, non-sleazy bars in Atlantic City (might want to look up reviews) preferably on the boardwalk near/around our hotel? If you can find 3-5 popular or well-liked bars, that would be delightful. Thanks!"

Christina really nailed this response. She came back to me with 5 bars that she had verified are popular with the local crowd, as well as visiting patrons. Not only are the bars well reviewed, but there is a diverse selection of bars to choose from that will make everyone in attendance happy. Christina also kept cheap drinks in mind, which is key. 

Lastly, the B2B has requested a jitney/rickshaw/bicycle taxi ride around the boardwalk. Sounds like fun! I know about as much about jitney-rickshaws, as I know about Atlantic City. Let me get my assistant on the case.

Request: 

"Hello! 
Can you please get as much info as possible on how much it is to rent a rickshaw/jitney (I'm not really sure what they call them) in Atlantic City? It would probably be for anywhere between 1-4 hours on a Saturday evening. Are there companies that own them, or are they just dudes on a bike with a wagon attached? Enlighten me. 
Thanks!"
Tiffany came back with a plethora of knowledge about these bicycle taxis and now I know more about rickshaw rentals in AC than I ever could have hoped. Just FYI, a one hour rickshaw ride down the boardwalk will set you back $40, but a 5 block ride will cost $5 (the same amount as a Fancy Hands task!). You don't have to reserve in advance, you can just hop on
I'm confident that I will enlist Fancy Hands to do more research for me in the coming months, but for now I'm feeling at ease knowing that most of the party has been planned and that Fancy Hands has my back if anything else comes up. 
I'll be sure to keep everyone posted on how that rickshaw ride goes. As for the rest of the party, well, you know what they say: what happens in Atlantic City, stays in Atlantic City. 
Wait, that's how that goes...right? 

Mother's Day Dilemma

Today my Dad called me in a panic. "I want to get your Mom tickets to a Broadway show for Mother's Day, but I don't know how long the star is going to be in it, and I don't know when we'll have time to go!"     

"Dad," I said. "First of all, when did you become so popular that you have such a packed schedule? Second of all, why don't you have Fancy Hands call the box office and figure out when the star is leaving the show? Also, you can have Fancy Hands suggest a good day to bring Mom to the show based on the calendar you integrated when you set up your account." 

"Oh," he said "That's a great idea! I'll go do that now. You're my favorite child."

OK, so he left out that last part. But, within about half an hour, Fancy Hands informed my father that the star was going to be in the show through August, and that he could take my mother to the show in July. As a bonus, they also found him a discount code for tickets. 

Operation Mother's Day Gift: complete.

Need help with your last minute Mother's Day gift? We can help

Birthday!

It's our birthday!

We're 4!

We've done an insane amount of things in the past four years.

Take a look!

Rollover: some big changes!

When we launched Fancy Hands almost 4 years ago, things were a bit different. There was only one person on the staff back then, now we've got considerably more. We had dozens of assistants when we launched, now we have thousands. Users could only submit tasks through email, now we have all kinds of apps and interesting ways to keep in touch. But for the most part, our subscription plans have stayed the same. But we're not done, we're super excited to announce a few big changes.

Rollover Tasks

The biggest change is that from now on, your tasks rollover from month to month! So if you're on the 5 task per month plan and only use three, you'll have seven when the next months starts. As long as you have an active subscription, your tasks will continue to roll over. (Once you cancel your plan, the tasks go away). 

Suggested Tasks, Reborn

We've also spent a ton of time working to help you anticipate what you need to do next. In fact, we've totally redone how we identify what you need to do next. Our algorithms have looked at your past tasks, and if you opted in, our system looked at your calendar to help figure out what you should be doing next. We're introducing a totally optional new integration that allows us to help you stay on top of your life. You can hook up your email with us and we'll automatically suggest what needs to happen next. So if someone says, "Hey, let's get drinks later" or "we're heading to Mary and Steve's anniversary next week" we'll take the lead and help you schedule, coordinate, research, and communicate with the right parties... all with just a click of a button. 

Shiny in Chrome

Users have seen these suggested tasks on their dashboard and in the iPhone/Android apps already. But today we're also rolling out a new Chrome browser extension that makes these suggestions available whenever you need them. On top of that, you can interact with your tasks without going to the site, and even get notified immediately when we're done.

Other Changes

With our integration with Google Calendar, we're still the absolute best way to schedule your appointments. However, scheduling is no longer free. Scheduling appointments will now require a task credit just like any other task you send in. However, since tasks rollover, you should have some to use!

Also, and it pains me to say it, because making purchases for our users has always been a popular feature. But we're putting a temporary pause on our ability to buy things for our users for the time being. However, we've had some issues with our partners and haven't been able to keep this feature running 100% of the time. So I made the decision to take it down until we know it will be available for everyone, at everytime, for larger purchases. I apologize about this, but we'll get it back! 

The Fancy Hands API

I'm excited today to announce we're launching the Fancy Hands API!

What is it? The Fancy Hands API enables people to make apps, add features to existing applications, and build businesses using our army of assistants. For a single developer, this means she can build insanely complicated apps in a weekend (since we have real humans do the heavy lifting).

What can you do with it? Well, lots. For example, one of our developers built a mobile app that allows you to book a car anywhere in the country. It's listed with source code, along with a bunch of other application ideas, on our developer examples page.

But it's not just the indie developers. A large sales organization could build an app to handle lead generation: when a new contact hits their Salesforce it could automatically have fancy hands reach out and look into it. Perhaps a third party company could spring up and automatically connect to these sales platforms and with Fancy Hands. They could easily charge on a per lead basis.

Currently, agencies are looking at the API to power promotions for brands. They're reaching out via social media to surprise and delight customers by helping them with shopping, travel, etc during the holiday season.  So if someone tweets about being overwhelmed with Thanksgiving planning, a brand steps in and says "We'll help!" and that's powered by Fancy Hands.

So head over to our developer page, the api explorer, our github account, and we'd love to hear your feedback.

For developers, we had some pretty specific goals:

  • People should be able to build businesses on the API (not just toys)
  • It needed to be super friendly for developers (RESTish)
  • We wanted the best interactive API docs around

What's next? Expect more endpoints and more examples. Want to get your app featured or chat about the API? Email us at api@fancyhands.com

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

4 Productivity Lies.

It’s easy to spot when people are lying to themselves—like when a co-worker confidently starts a huge project at 4:30, but has a 5 PM deadline. “Who’s he kidding?” you might chuckle. But when you’re telling lies to yourself, that’s another story.

When it comes to productivity, you may think you have it mastered. You check tasks off your to-do list, multitask like the best of them, and stay insanely busy from morning until night. But it turns out, your so-called “productivity” may actually be a jumble of popular myths that make you think you’re getting more done than you actually are.

Think you’re using your time wisely? Check out these four lies you might be telling yourself about being productive—and how you can free yourself from that false reality.

Lie #1: My Day’s Full of Activity, So I Must Be Super Productive

These days, there’s no shortage of digital time-fillers that can make you feel productive. You can easily spend all day emailing, tweeting, searching, instant messaging, texting, and whatever else it takes to stay in the online loop. But while your fingers are busy typing and your eyes busy reading, all you’re really doing is getting hits of information—over and over again—instead of working toward a goal.

Or, you might pack your schedule to the brim—coffee meetings in the morning and networking events after work—which forces you to spend all night responding to all the emails in your overflowing inbox. Sure, that makes you feel (and look) busy, but are you really getting anything significant done?

Solution: The Done List

To make sure you’re actually accomplishing substantial tasks each day, keep a “done list”—that is, a list of tasks you’ve completed instead of things you have left to do. When you stop to recognize each day’s accomplishments, you’ll be able to reflect more constructively: Did you spend your time wisely? Did you make any significant progress today? If “instapapered some super-useful articles” is the only item that made it onto your done list, you may need to reevaluate how you’re spending your time. 

Lie #2: Please, I’m a Multitasking Master

Multitasking can trick you into feeling like you’re a productivity superhero. After all, if you have the skills to simultaneously compile a budget, listen to a podcast, and catch up on your email, you must be running circles around your single-tasking co-workers, right?

Actually, multitasking can make you perform worse in whatever you’re doing. Studies show that when you try to focus on too many things at the same time, you’re less likely to be able to filter out irrelevant facts, switch between tasks effectively, and remember important information.

Solution: Practice Single Focus 

Try focusing on one task at a time. Why should you work against what you believe are your natural multitasking talents? Hear me out: It might feel less productive—or even be less enjoyable—to work on one thing at a time, but extreme focus will bring out your best.

To help you get out of your task-juggling habits, work in ones: Keep one simple to-do list. Complete at least one significant task toward the beginning of your day. If you’re really up for a challenge, try working in only one browser tab! When you single-task, you’ll boost your brainpower—and since you’re not spending partial attention on multiple tasks, you’ll get the task at hand done faster.

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Lie #3: Schedule, Schmedule! I Go With the Flow

Some people relish planning. I, on the other hand, tend to go with the flow and work from a mental to-do list, starting with whatever seems most appealing at the moment. Usually, this isn’t a problem, and I’m able to get my work done, but I’ve noticed that I get stressed from trying to hold everything in my head.

You may think that having a flexibile and open schedule can be conducive to creativity (and it can be, to a certain extent), but that doesn’t mean all forms of scheduling should go out the window. A little structure can help you clarify your goals and think more clearly—so you won’t waste time trying to figure out if you overlooked anything from your mental to-do list.

Solution: Get Into Rhythms Rather than Timetables

Don’t worry—if you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type, you don’t need to start scheduling out your day by the minute. But what you can do is create a more reliable rhythm for yourself. Instead of scheduling your day down to the very last detail and task, try working with broader goals in mind.

With this strategy, I still recommend to-do lists—but not necessarily filled with specific tasks. Instead, list categories of what you’re working on. For example, replace itemized tasks like “write one blog post” or “contact Beth,” with higher-level goals, like “complete one task that supports growing my network” or “do two things that will broaden my expertise as an analyst.”

This will allow you to work productively toward your goals without locking yourself into turn-by-turn directions. Then, set aside a dedicated block of time for you to work on each category, so you can minimize distractions and focus on actually producing.

Lie #4: No Worries! I’ll Do it Tomorrow

The power of procrastination is, well, pretty powerful. Without much thought, the top task on your to-do list can get pushed to tomorrow, and then to the next day, and then to the next. And in your mind, you truly believe you’ll get to it eventually—but “eventually” keeps getting pushed further and further away.

Solution: Find an Accountability Ally

The root of procrastination is often a lack of accountability—if no one knows what’s on your to-do list, no one knows that you’re not actually making any progress on it. To stay on track, partner up with a co-worker or group of peers—people who are committed to helping each other do what they say they’re going to do—and plan to check in with each other at least once a week. Whenever you meet (whether virtually or in person), review your progress, share your upcoming goals, and provide feedback and encouragement. You’ll be a lot more likely to finish your blog post if you have a friend who checks up on you: “I haven’t seen an update on your blog today—when are you going to post it?”

If you can’t find an accountability partner, technology can help you become your own coach. Check out apps like iDoneThisLift, and Email Game, which keep you updated on your progress toward specific goals—which can help keep you on track and motivated to stay productive. 

Admitting our productivity lies can be tough. In fact, you may even go through a mini-cycle of grief when you first hear them: denial (“I don’t procrastinate!”), indignation (“I get plenty done!”), bargaining (“I’ll start tomorrow”), and a bit of blues—all before finally accepting them and taking the next steps. But, those steps aren’t as hard as you think: With these solutions and a hearty dose of honesty, you’ll be on your way to unmatched productivity in no time.

(By Janet Choi via The Daily Muse

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)

Efficiency.

I'm a huge fan of Casey Neistat. If you don't know who that is, give yourself an hour or so to watch some of the short films he makes here. If you can only watch one, this is probably the one to go for. It always inspires me. 

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