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, 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.


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.


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.

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.


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). 


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. 


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)


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. 


Former FBI profiler Noah Boyd (not his real name), author of The Bricklayer, shares how to spot a liar:

"In my experience, there are no standardized 'tells' that prove you're being lied to. What the investigator tries to do is find, or cause, anomalies - those tiny deviations from the norm that indicate that a person's veracity is suspect. Most commonly used is the examination of the information given, but it can also be a physical manifestation, such as a tic of the inidividual's voice, a facial clue, or even body movement. I was once able to help solve a kidnapping/homicide because my experience told me that the person I was interviewing was being too polite. Each of these items listed is not soley a proof of deception, but if one is spotted, you may want to look for others. It's generally thought that these observable variations are caused by an emotional reaction to lying, and, even worse, being caught: 

1. Stuttering/slip of the tongue

The mind is distracted with creating the next lie, or considering the fragility of the one just told. 

2. Hesitation before answering 

This means that the person is considering any flaws in the deception about to be offered. 

3. Forced facial expressions, such as smiling too long 

Done in hopes of convincing the other party of their lack of worry.

4. Change in the rate of blinking of in the pitch of one's voice

This is an uncontrollable reaction to guilt or the worry of being discovered. 

5. Eyes that divert - no lasting eye contact 

This indicates worry that the other party is going to pick up a "window to the soul" signal.

6. Increased hand activity, like fiddling with objects or their fingers 

This is emotion manifesting itself as a phyical need to relieve the stress of lying. 

7. Sitting on their hands to stop their fiddling

They've realized this is a tell, and they are trying to stop it. 

(From Guyism

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

Do what you love.

You've probably read our philosophy on our site before: "Do what you love. We'll do the rest." 

We encourage everyone to do what they love - not just our clients. In fact, our founder, Ted Roden, created Fancy Hands by doing what he loves - building a website and company.  

Our developers launched a forum a while ago, so that our assistants can communicate with each other from all over the country. It's been a huge help for them to be able to share ideas and tips about how to get their work done, and it's connected people who were previously not able to speak to their co-workers. 

This week, one of our assistants, Allen L., started a thread with this:

I have been a Fancy Hander for a while now, and I love what I do. Fancy Hands came along at just the right time for me and has made a big difference in my life. I want to hear about your Fancy experience, so I thought I would start this thread and ask you all some questions. 

As we read the responses, we were reminded that our assistants are also doing what they love - working and learning while raising their children, caring for other family members, and enjoying the freedoms that being a Fancy Hands assistant allows them to have.

Here's what our team members had to say: 

What are the biggest benefits to working as a Fancy Hands assistant?

I have been a Estate Manager / PA for over 20 years and Fancy Hands has helped me keep my skills sharp. I had assistants in the past for some of the larger estates I managed and I never had to learn in-depth Excel spreadsheets, and I never seemed to have the time or interest to focus on it. With Google Docs (I am a G man all the way), I have been exposed to a lot, and I'm digging the learning experience. - Alan J. 

I was looking for extra work on top of my full-time job that involves long hours/lots of travel, and I found other PT work hard to schedule. I can do Fancy Hands tasks on my lunch hour, in the evenings when I've lost control of the remote, and on quiet Sunday mornings. I love getting to learn. I prefer tasks that are research/data entry based, and I've had the opportunity to learn some fantastic things! I've proofread great book chapters, I know every food truck in NYC, I've made lists of great blogs and websites that I never knew existed...sometimes I want to thank the clients for letting me help them! - Allison B. 

The biggest benefit to me is being able to work from home with my daughters. Before I started working from home, I was a teacher. It was really hard to leave something that I loved so much, but I just couldn't stand the thought of leaving my baby at daycare. I thought I'd only stay home one year and then go back, but we decided to have another baby! Also, with Fancy Hands, I'm able to put the the research skills I learned while earning my graduate degree into use! May as well get some use out of that - I paid enough for it. And the last benefit is the ability to do things that I can learn from. Education is my passion, and educating myself is part of that. I learn so much from the tasks I do as a Fancy Hand. - Courtney B. 

I have an OCD with Sensory Integration Disorder seven year old, and keeping up with him takes a lot of time and attention. The various appointments for him make working during the school year nearly impossible. I love to work - something, anything to keep that mind fresh. Fancy Hands gives me a chance to do what I am good at: research! I worked as a Reference Library Assistant for 7 years, and then 2 years as an Executive Assistant, and this puts all those skills to work. The occasional person needing help with Star Trek references makes the job even better! - Christina H. 

I get to stay at home with my son! And when we move around, because my husband is in the Army, I won't have to worry about finding a new job. - Joslyn S. 

You can work whenever you want to. The work is always changing. You can choose exactly what tasks you want to work on. - Heather D. 

I am able to stay home with my two kids (4 year old and 20 month old). I am currently three months pregnant with my third and have been so very sick and if I worked at an 8-5 job there is no way I would still be employed! Good pay is another benefit. You get what you put into it. That is a nice feeling, because it is rare these days to feel as though you are earning for the amount of work you put in. Another great benefit is the ability to stay current. The tasks I work on not only keep me relevant with the constantly changing technology and world events, it also allows me to keep my brain healthy and my grammar and typing skills up to date. - Jeanne-Marie M. 

IT IS SO MUCH FUN! I mean who can beat sitting in your recliner calling people all day? Not to mention you get to act out so many different roles. I own my own business in a way. I am the boss. Well...except for Scott, haha! YOU LEARN SO MUCH! I have learned everything from how to get major discounts on hotels, to negotiating tactics, and so many real world tools that will make my life so much easier. I love learning, especially when it's crazy odd stuff. This job never ceases to amaze me, and every day I learn something new. And Scott - I mean who doesn't like this guy? I love having a manager I can trust to the fullest. - Draconius G. 

I love the amount of knowledge that you learn and retain from various tasks. For example, I never knew there was a website dedicated totally to unclaimed property. I checked it the other day and, boom! A $75 check was sitting under my name, unclaimed for the past 6 years. Had I not had a task for someone that involved learning this interesting fact, that check would have just sat there forever! I currently work for a cable company that is going through several changes (buy-out and department shutdowns). Fancy Hands offers me the peace of mind that if my department shuts down,  I have an alternative (much more fun) full time position to go to. - Amber M. 

I quit working after I had my son in 2010; not because I had him, but because my husband got an awesome job offer in a different city and we decided to see how it would go with me not working. I make just as much here as I would working in the "real world" and paying for daycare. I love not leaving the house and dealing with difficult coworkers. I often get e-mails from an old friend at my previous job and things have gotten so bad for her since I left, I'm glad I don't have to deal with the office politics anymore. - Chris N. 

I was told 22 years ago I couldn't have children, which was fine with me since I never really liked kids...dirty little creatures, and there is just no reasoning with them. Anyhoo....wasn't I just a little (LOT) shocked that at 40 I find myself pregnant! I am now "that" woman who can not shut up about how amazing, smart, beautiful and did I mention amazing, her 2 year old little girl is. So I am an old dog learning new tricks, and FH allows me to be the stay-at-home mom I want to be without having my brain turning to complete mush. I love the flexibility that "my" company allows me. I can be my polished, professional self on the phone while covered in whatever manner of goop my daughter is finding fascinating that day. - Denise Q. 

My dad has serious health issues, and I am able to get him to appointments etc. plus spend some quality time with him while I can. I am so grateful for that! It's a gift for both of us. Second is the access to learning new things. I've seen things our clients are using and check them out - I am now on Evernote and I use Dropbox. I know I would never have learned about these great tools in my previous work environment. - Juls N. 

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a virtual assistant?

Always be professional in your contact with our clients, and go the extra mile. - Donna H. 

Take a chance. If this is the kind of stuff you do all day for your friends and family, then make the extra step to getting paid for it. - Christina H. 

It is a great job if you're detail-oriented and good at following directions. It is important to know your skill set and be clear about the things that you're good at and knowledgeable about. Some tasks will be out of your league, and that's OK - work instead on tasks that you know you can answer thoroughly and accurately. - Allison B. 

Brush up on grammar and punctuation rules. Learn how to use Zipping software. Learn how to use Google Drive. If you make a mistake, own it and correct it. - Susan M. 

I would warn someone considering becoming a Virtual Assistant that it is addictive. This was something I was going to try for a couple of months ... and well, I'm still here! I just can't stop myself! - Juls N. 

Give it your all! The interactions you have with the clients and the information you learn is awesome! - Jeanne-Marie M. 

Know what you're good at and do that. Leave the rest to someone else, or learn how to be good at that, too. - Courtney B. 

Wake up early. Don't get overwhelmed. It's all about balance. Do what you can. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Find out what you're good at and be quick in claiming those tasks. Get real with yourself and never be afraid to go that extra mile for clients. It pays off in the end. I love Fancy Hands! - Draconius G. 

Give it your all. This is your work product that you are producing for FH. Do go the extra mile, because the first time you get kudos from a client for a job well done, it will click. You are not just an anonymous person sitting at a computer. You are THAT person's personal assistant! - Denise Q. 

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.

Don't take it for granite.

"I could care less" and "I could literally eat a horse" are two of the most commonly misused phrases in the English language. While you may or may not be using them correctly, chances are you hear phrases being misused all the time — and it's probably one of your biggest pet peeves! Let's look at 17 of the most commonly misused phrases and learn the proper way to say them. We won't tell anyone if you forward it to a few people you may know.


Correct way to say it: It's a dog-eat-dog world.

Meaning: There's no such thing as a "doggy-dog" world. The expression goes all the way back to 43 B.C. when Roman scholar and writer Marcus Terentius Varro (comparing principles of humanity to that of animals) stated that even "a dog will not eat dog." A "dog-eat-dog" world is defined as ruthless behavior to get what you want... so look out.


Correct way to say it: For all intents and purposes… 

Meaning: "Intensive" means your purpose is intense. "Intents and purposes" means practical.


Correct way to say it: I'm supposed to go grocery shopping today.

Meaning: "Suppose to" is grammatically incorrect. Don't forget to add a "d" to the end.


Correct way to say it: The baby screamed for half the night.

Meaning: "Literally" implies that it's true. Don't say "literally" unless it's a fact!


Correct way to say it: The toddler spilled his milk by accident.

Meaning: Most people say "on" instead of "by." Surprisingly, "by" is grammatically correct.


Correct way to say it: A moot point.

Meaning: "Mute" means unable to speak; "moot" means irrelevant or obsolete discussion.


Correct way to say it: I nipped that problem in the bud!

Meaning: If you nip a plant in the "bud," you are preventing it from flowering. You simply can't nip problems in the "butt."


Correct way to say it: I ate too much today. Case in point, I ate out four times.

Meaning: "Case and point" is not a phrase. Instead, use "case in point."


Correct way to say it: Head toward the door and you'll see me.

Meaning: Toward never has an "s" at the end. Neither does "anyway." Keep in mind that "towards" is acceptable and correct in countries outside the U.S.


Correct way to say it: I should have worked out instead of taking a nap.

Meaning: "Should of" is never proper grammar. It's always "should have" or "should've." The same goes for "would have," "could have," etc.


Correct way to say it: Regardless of how the interview goes, I'm proud of you.

Meaning: Regardless means "no matter what" or "in spite of everything." Irregardless is not a proper word — plain and simple.


Correct way to say it: He was at my beck and call while I was sick.

Meaning: "Beck and call" means being made available, ready to obey. "Beckon call" is not correct usage of the English language.


Correct way to say it: She hadn't eaten all day, making her hunger pangs unbearable.

Meaning: Hunger "pains" do not exist; hunger "pangs" do. This is by far one of the most misused phrases of all.


Correct way to say it: You have another think coming!

Meaning: It's "think," not "thing." The phrase implies you have another thought (or think) coming. Over time, "think" became "thing," which is simply incorrect.


Correct way to say it: The weather will wreak havoc on our picnic.

Meaning: To "wreck havoc" means destroying chaos and adding more chaos — it just doesn't make sense. To "wreak havoc" means to cause chaos.


Correct way to say it: Yoko Ono is a famous scapegoat, often blamed for the breakup of the Beatles.

Meaning: A "scapegoat" is someone who gets blamed (possibly erroneously) for the actions of others. An escape goat is a goat that has escaped. Use it correctly!


Correct way to say it: I couldn't care less.

Meaning: If you "could care less," then you care and are capable of caring less. Make sure to keep it negative — meaning you don't care and couldn't care any less.

(By Sarah Brooks via She Knows)


Have you ever woken up in the morning and felt more tired than when you went to sleep? You’re not alone: It's estimated that 41 million American workers don't get enough sleep. Sleep is vital to help your brain function clearly and productively. Try these four things tonight to be your best tomorrow. 

1. E-Curfew: 30 minutes before you sleep. Tablets, phones, laptops, televisions and anything else that plugs into an outlet are bad before bed. A study by Applied Ergonomics showed that the brightness from iPad screens, when set to the brightest setting, can suppress melatonin by 22%, which can fake your body into thinking it’s morning when it’s really night. 

2. Eat breakfast early in the morning. This is one we've heard our whole lives, but a lot of people don't heed this advice. The bottom line is that people who eat breakfast are smarter and hotter. A study of 6,000 students found that the ones who ate breakfast had better grades and higher graduation rates. Breakfast eaters are also 40% less likely to develop fat around the belly than those you don't. Eating a protein-and-whole-grain-packed breakfast as close as possible to your wake-up time will keep you alert and focused throughout the day.

3. Cut caffeine out after lunch. A poll from Sleep in America stated that 43% of Americans are “very likely” to use coffee to fight afternoon sleepiness.  Late afternoon caffeine boosts can last anywhere from 3 to 12 hours and make it tough to fall and stay asleep. 

4. Exercise! But not close to your bedtime. A study done in 2009 by Oregon State University showed that people who exercised regularly - at least 20 minutes of cardio a day - slept better at night than those who didn’t. But do it three hours or more before bed, as the adrenaline rush may disrupt your sleep.

(Adapted from an article in Men's Fitness by Jennifer Cohen)

Happy camper.

Fancy Hands client Michelle, who works under the name Bombchelle (cute, right?) wrote a great article about how she's using our service.

I especially love one point that she makes about being specific with requests. The customers who click with us the most understand that Fancy Hands assistants, just like an employee that you would speak to in person, need details from you about exactly what you are hoping to achieve. They can then take that information and run with it to deliver exactly the results that you want!

The more general you are with your request, the more you're leaving it to individual interpretation - and we all know that each person has their own way of seeing things and doing things. You empower your assistant to do exactly what you want by being very specific! 

Here's Michelle's piece: 

You know how sometimes, you put off doing something that you know you need to do, or that you know is a really effing good idea? And you do that for ages, even though you know once you actually sit down and do it you’ll be kicking yourself for not doing it? 

That’s pretty much how I feel about Fancy Hands.

I started using them about 2-3 weeks ago and since then, I’ve heartily recommended them to other people at least three times…and I still get a thrill when I realize “OH WAIT, this is something Fancy Hands can handle for me!”

See, in my experience, there’s this weird niggly gray-area of tasks that are delegatable, but kind of a pain in the ass to delegate. Tasks that are so small that I feel weird handing them off to my assistant Tina, or that fall into more of a life-administrative area than a business-administrative area. Or sometimes, just questions I need a quick answer on.

Enter: Fancy Hands

The gist: they have a super-streamlined UI and a team of assistants working behind the scenes. It takes about 3-5 minutes, tops, to submit a task (which you can do by email, phone, from the website, or from their smartphone app). And then, they get to work and you go back to doing the important things in your day. The turnaround time is remarkably fast in most cases, to boot.

So far, for me, they’ve:

  • Called the IRS & sat on hold for me, patching me in when they actually got someone on the line
  • Rescheduled a doctor’s appointment and then called to verify it
  • Refilled prescriptions and called back to verify them until they were actually refilled (apparently, what happens is that my last name was misspelled in the pharmacy database – sigh)
  • Done apartment research for me (which I could have spent 3-4 hours on alone – with their help, I narrowed it down to two options with about 15 minutes worth of work)

That’s more of the life-type tasks I’ve sent them – here’s an example of a more business related one:

“Okay, I need some payment options researched. For each of these below, I’d like to know:

  • -what their fee structure is
  • -what their application fee is (if any)
  • -what the application process entails
  • -which 1-2 seem to come the most highly recommended for entrepreneurs delivering digital products

The payment options are:

  • Google Wallet
  • Stripe
  • Paymill
  • SagePay

Thank you!”

I had an answer within an hour. I’ve had them do some other research-related tasks for me too and been fairly impressed with the results.

As of writing, they’ve spent 319 minutes on the phone for me – which is damn-sure a better deal than me spending those minutes on the phone. (I signed up for the $45/month plan, and I still have 6 tasks left this billing month.)

Other features they have that you might be interested in:

  • Integration with Basecamp so that you can assign tasks from directly within Basecamp
  • They can make purchases on your behalf (So, for example, you can say “Find me a digital camera with these specs in this price range, with the highest average customer reviews; once you’ve found it, purchase it and have it shipped to this address.”)
  • Appointment scheduling/calendar wrangling is free. And they integrate with Google calendar. When I had them reschedule my doctor’s appointment, they automatically put in the new appointment without me even having to ask. *fans self* 
  • And it’s not just me benefitting – my clients are winning from this arrangement, too. The other day I was on Skype with one of my clients who was talking about how she needs to find a free or low-cost WordPress theme for a side project she’s working on, but she’s really busy preparing for a market this weekend. I tasked it out to FancyHands; I had results for the client within an hour of sending in the task (for what breaks down to $3 for the task – which is better than either of us could have done).

(In the interest of full disclosure: I’ve had nothing but a fabulous experience using FancyHands so far & I plan on keeping using them, so all links to them in this post are my referral link – which gets you 50% off your first month and gives me account credit.)

Why FancyHands is a borderline must-have for busy biz-owners:

It trains you to be really specific.

This is something I consistently see people struggle with with they start outsourcing. Instead of saying “Yes, I need a list of 3-5 WordPress themes within this price range, with these features, that have average user reviews of four stars or higher”, you say “I need some WordPress themes that’ll work for this project”. Which, depending on how much you’ve explained the project to whoever you’re delegating to, can work – but is more likely than not to just create a mess as they spend more time than necessary researching a ton of different options, since they don’t have the details & constraints they need to do a great job.

It gets you in the outsourcing/delegating mindset.

You start to see all of the little time leaks in your day that distract you from what you’re actually meant to be doing. Once you start handing them off, it’s addictive – I know for me it’s made a huge difference in the way I feel day to day and removed a burden of stress/annoyance that I didn’t even know was there. (Plus, on the more woo-woo side of things, I think it’s excellent training for the rest of your life – learning to ask for what you need, specifically, and then getting it. It’s an experience than many of us often-overworked biz owners aren’t used to, and it can definitely shift things & open them up for you.)

It frees up both you & your team’s time + energy.

Aside from it freeing up your time, it can also free up your team’s time. Delegating the little niggly gray-area things to Fancy Hands lets your assistant, or your coder, or your project manager spend their time on projects & tasks that’ll have a much bigger impact on your business, and helps to keep everyone in their zone of genius – not just you. Which is something that your team will appreciate, trust me.

That’s been my experience with Fancy Hands – I’ve loved it so much I can’t stop gushing about it, and I really think it’s a valuable tool that I’d love to see more biz-owners using. Have you given it a whirl yet?

(Note: In the interest of attempting to be unbiased, even as a happy customer, I did some research on employee treatment/wages on FancyHands to see if there was anything negative that came up that was worth including in this article – I couldn’t find anything.)

Botox, Kittens, and Santa.

Let's check in on our Fancy Hands assistants and see what interesting facts their research has led them to!

I learned that when bringing a new cat into your home, they should be provided with a "sanctuary room". Oh, if only we could all have one! - Denise Q.

While helping a client plan an itinerary for her trip, I discovered that Lapland (her destination) is the home of Santa Claus. - Karla D. 

I learned that to achieve basic Chinese literacy, you need to know 1,000 characters and the top 200 allow you to comprehend 40% of their basic literature. Love TEDTalks! - Tiffany J. 

Three units of Dysport is equal to one unit of Botox. - Allen L. 

Scary factoid: an estimated 50,000 fake PhD degrees are sold each year by diploma mills. By comparison, between 40,000 to 45,000 PhD degrees are awarded by accredited schools in the United States each year. - Lauri E. 

I learned that there is this awesome site that will take any website, turn it into a PDF, make it printer friendly, and/or email it with ease. Check it It's awesome! -Kelley P. 

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! 

Organize your life into peace.

Leo Babauta wrote this great article about why - and how - to stay organized: 

A trusted organization system that you actually use regularly can turn your day from one of chaos to one of focus, effectiveness and calm.

This is something I’ve learned through repeated failures, actually: when I become loose with my organized habits, my day becomes worse. It gets stressful and crazy, and I can’t focus on anything. Everything is on my head all the time, and I’m always worried that I’m missing something, that I should be doing something else.

But when I get my system down, and the habits are on track, things are smooth, I feel good about what I’m doing, and I’m much better able to let everything else go and focus on what’s in front of me, confident that everything else is in its place.

I’ll show you my system in a minute, but first let’s talk about what a good organizational system does and how it works.

Why Form Habits of Organization

Several important reasons:

  • Stress: An excess of stress very negatively affects your health. If you have good habits in place to deal with all the stuff in your life, you stress out about everything less. You feel less worry that things are slipping through the cracks. You feel trust that you are OK working on what’s in front of you.
  • Effectiveness: If you are able to externalize all the things you’re worried about into a trusted system, you can better focus on the task in front of you. You can single-task, and be more effective at each task, because it’s getting your full focus.
  • Relationships: I’ve found relationships to be about the most important thing in my life, personal but also business. And the best way to build relationships is to be trustworthy. And the best way to be trustworthy is to keep your commitments. If you’re organized, you are more likely to keep your commitments. Organizaton is largely about managing your commitments.

Building a Trusted System

So what does a trusted system look like? Honestly, there are a million tools and combinations of tools you might use, but there are a few things that are important in building a trusted system:

  • You find a place for everything — todos, passwords, appointments, repeating tasks, incoming info and requests, other info you need to store, documents, receipts.
  • You actually use the system and put things where they belong, as soon as you can (see next section, for the habits).
  • You recognize when things are sitting in your inbox or open browser tabs or computer desktop, and find a place for them.

With that said, here’s my current system (it changes over time)...just note that you don’t need to use my system, and there are lots of great tools for each type of item:

  • Incoming: Most of my incoming requests, tasks, info, and appointments come in through Gmail. Sometimes through other channels, but 90% of the time through Gmail. When I check Gmail, I try to take each thing out of Gmail and put it where it belongs — in one of the tools below.
  • Todos: Lately I’ve been using Trello. I stole this system from Ryan Carson of Treehouse: Create a tasks board in Trello, with lists for:
    • Most Important (my family, writing, reading, fitness, mindfulness)
    • Today (includes appointments and tasks), Incoming (for things I haven’t placed yet)
    • This Week (move tasks from here to Today each day)
    • Later (move tasks from here to This Week as needed)
    • Done (move things I finish here), and
    • Waiting On (for things I’ve requested but haven’t received yet)

Each morning I review this for 20 minutes, moving things as needed to the right places, so I know everything is in its place.

  • Other Work & Personal Info: I’ve been using Workflowy, which is a cool web app (with an iPhone app too) that allows you to store just about all the info in your life in one place. I used to put everything in Google Docs, but now I just dump it in Workflowy and it’s all together and searchable.
  • Passwords & secure info: I use 1Password, which not only stores (and generates) passwords, but bank info, credit cards, passport info, airline frequent flier numbers, and pretty much everything else I might need to remember.
  • Timed or repeating items: Google Calendar. Whenever I need to do something regularly, I create a recurring appointment in GCal. Reviewing my idea list (stored in Workflowy) twice a month, for example.
  • Receipts, financial docs, drafts, tickets: I’ve set up folders in Dropbox for these things — files which don’t fit into the other buckets.
  • Things to read later: If I have a tab open to read later, I put it into Instapaper, and open Instapaper when I have time to read.

That’s pretty much everything. What’s important is that everything has a place, and I know exactly where that place is.

Building Organized Habits

Of course, it won’t be a trusted system unless you actually use it — there’s the rub. We often forget to use our system because we have old habits that don’t die easily.

Luckily, we can replace the old habits with better ones, with practice. It takes about a week of very conscious effort to do this, and after that it gets more and more automatic.

Here are the habits:

  • Create a place for everything. I showed how you might do that above, but find whatever tools work for you. The habit, though, is noticing when something is sitting in your inbox or in an open browser tab or somewhere else, not in its place. And then finding a place for it — sometimes that means consciously designating a new bucket just for that type of thing.
  • Don’t procrastinate — put it away immediately: The old habit is to put it off (procrastinate) to be put away later. No. That procrastination is what leads to the system falling apart. For one week, make a very conscious effort to not put this off, but instead to take a few seconds to put information, tasks, appointments and other such things right where they belong, right now. It doesn’t take long, but you have to be very conscious about it at first.
  • Don’t live in the inbox: We have a tendency to keep the inbox open, or to open it often. That means you’re constantly responding, instead of focusing. Instead, open the inbox, and one by one, put incoming items where they belong, and archive them in your inbox. You might not get to the bottom of the list, but you save yourself from having to contstantly look through the same things in your inbox over and over.
  • Review the system every morning: Make it a habit to review your task list and calendar every morning for 20 minutes (set a timer), so you know things are in their place. Move things from the Today list to Done, from This Week to Today, from Later to This Week, from Incoming to the appropriate list, and so on. Put calendar items on the Today list. Know where everything is. Then get out and start doing.

With these four habits, and a trusted system, you can now relax, and focus!

Path to Productivity.

Joel Kelly, an enthusiastic client of ours and one of our favorite Tweeters, wrote this article on Medium and we'd like to share a part of it:


My path to productivity

Android App Alert!


Just in time for July 4, we're proud to announce the launch of our Android App!

If you're a new customer, coupon code "next-web-android" will give you 50% off your first month on monthly plans, this week only! 

Strategy Secrets for Powerful Productivity.

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” - Paul J. Meyer

Below, some of the most productive people - from successful investors to “always-on” executives - share their secrets on how to be your most productive self, despite the overflowing in-boxe, the constant buzz of the phone and the never-ending ping of meeting alerts.

Clear Your Mind, Define Your Focus

Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction and principal at The Chatham Group, shared two tips that keep her focused, energized, effective and productive both personally and professionally. “There are two things I do to get the energy, capacity and focus I need to not only be efficient, but effective. Personally, I take 15 minutes every morning for contemplation and to empty my mind. I take a bag full of thoughts I need cleared and each morning I pick one out, read it, and send it down the river near my house. Watching the thought float away really helps clear my mind, reorient things and increase my focus for the rest of the day,” said Lea, who successfully juggles several roles across various companies including CEO, investor, advisor, mentor and principal.

“Professionally,” Lea added, “I send an email to my team each Monday morning with the top five things I will be focused on for the week. This really keeps me on track and gives me the focus I need. These two things set the pace for me every day, both in my personal and professional life.”

Cut Back On Meetings

Randy Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB), said he keeps productive by being diligent about meetings--sticking to the allotted time and only scheduling in-person meetings when it’s absolutely necessary. “I leave meetings at their allotted end time regardless of whether they are finished,” said Komisar, who authored the book, Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model. “I do not reschedule an appointment for a more important one unless it is an emergency. If an email will do, I don't make a call; if a call will do, I don't have a meeting; if a 30-minute meeting is sufficient, I don't schedule an hour.”

Embrace Evernote

Dylan Tweney, the executive editor at VentureBeat, said Evernote, the popular note-taking and archiving service, is his go-to productivity tool. “I use Evernote to collect everything I might possibly need to save for later, with the exception of emails--Gmail is fine for that. I store all of my important documents--from notes to interviews--in Evernote. I also use Evernote tags as a kind of to-do list: I have a set of tags that I can use to prioritize things that need to happen immediately or that I'm waiting for someone else to finish: ("1-next," "2-soon," "3-later," "4-someday," and "5-waiting"). When I get an email that I need to act on but can't respond to immediately, I forward it to my private Evernote address and then prioritize it,” said Tweney. “Finally, I use Instapaper liberally to save articles that I run across during the day, but don't have time to read during the busy hours. It sends stories to my Kindle automatically, so I always have something interesting to read on the train ride home or in the evening. That helps keep me focused on work, even when people are sharing fascinating things on Twitter and Facebook all day.” (Fancy Hands integrates with Evernote!) 

Get Tunnel Vision

Kevin O’Connor, the serial entrepreneur who founded both DoubleClick and more recently FindTheBest, a data-driven comparison engine, said he makes an effort to focus on only the top few things that really are going to move the needle. “Most people tend to focus on the 100 things they should do, which can be overwhelming and result in the failure to actually accomplishing anything of importance. I try to focus on the three to five things I absolutely have to do. I don't get distracted by those ninety-seven other unimportant things that don't ultimately contribute to my success or the success of my company.”

Get Physical 

Patrick Dolan, the EVP and COO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), said what keeps him productive, focused and energized is going for runs in the morning. “I love to run in the morning before I get into work. Running clears my mind, gets the blood flowing and ultimately makes me much more focused and productive. During my morning runs, I try to come up with solutions to any unresolved problems at work, brainstorm new ideas, and really prioritize my work in terms of the top things I want to accomplish that day. By the time I get into work, I already have a set of focused priorities, and I also have the energy to make them happen.”

Police Your Own Internet Habits: Notifications Are Evil

Fred Bateman, the CEO and Founder of Bateman Group, said he uses a tool called StayFocusd to keep track of how much time he’s spending on various sites. “To stay ‘in the zone’ and increase productivity in today's digital age, I strongly recommend blocking all audio and visual notifications from Outlook, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I think all notifications are evil because they typically have both audio and visual distraction triggers, which can wreak havoc on your concentration. This extends to my iPhone, which is always, always set to vibrate with all notifications on all email accounts and mobile apps turned completely off, said Bateman. “I also have a tendency to begin earnestly researching something online with the very best of intentions and then get lost viewing irrelevant content and wasting way too much time. To limit this, I turn on a browser extension to Chrome called StayFocusd where I maintain a list of sites I can get lost on for hours--the New York Times and Facebook are my top two. StayFocusd alerts me after ten minutes have passed and then blocks the offending sites to help me resist temptation and stay focused on the task at hand.”

Put Email In Its Place

Anne-Marie Slaugher, a professor of politics and international relations at Princeton University and author of the popular article published last year in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” said basing your work day around the never-ending flow of incoming emails is a huge productivity suck. “My principal productivity tip is that if you are caught up on your email, your priorities are in the wrong place. An extra of hour of email will accomplish very little in the long run, but that hour could be spent reading to your kids before bed, cooking a meal, or taking a walk and clearing your head--all far better choices,” said Slaughter, who previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department. “More generally, email puts you in response mode, where you are doing what other people want you to do, rather than send mode, where you are deciding what you want to do and taking action.”


Let's not forget that most CEOs have an assistant or two to do their bidding. Having support when you're at your busiest is crucial. Can't afford to pay the salary of a full-time assistant? No problem. That's what we're here for. 

For a mere $25, this month, I've had my Fancy Hands assistants order a gift, sort out a problem with a flight I booked, get me a quote for a new phone plan with T Mobile, make my cat an appointment at the vet, find my favorite tomatoes, and get a credit from Time Warner. 

Having a Fancy Hands account keeps me focused on productivity at my job by taking the little "to-do's" off of my plate. 

(Adapted from an article in Fast Company by Grace Nasri)

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