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FANCY HANDS BLOG

Valentine's Day Made Easy

Roses are Red

Violets are Blue

Let Fancy Hands take care of you!

It's a special time of year to show your loved ones how much you appreciate them. Let us show how much we appreciate you by letting Fancy Hands make your Valentine's Day planning a cinch.

DIY: DIY homemade gifts are always a great way of showing someone how much you care. We'll help you find awesome DIY project ideas that'll blow Michael's away. 

DANCE WITH SOMEBODY: We'll help you plan a special Date Night. Whether it's dancing under the stars, a spa day or even a stay-cation at a nice BnB, Fancy Hands has you covered. 

THE KEY TO YOUR HEART: Reservations for 2? You've got that right! We can make dinner reservations at your favorite restaurant or at a new place in town. Let us know the place & time and we'll get you set up for an unforgettable dinner.  

SPECIAL DELIVERY: We'll help you find the best chocolates, fresh flower bouquets, tasty fruit bouquets...even a singing telegram! We'll have it delivered right to your loved one. 

GIVE THE GIFT OF TIME: If you're doing some last-minute shopping, there's always the option of gifting your loved one a Fancy Hands gift subscription. Easy, personal, unique and delivered right away or when you choose: https://www.fancyhands.com/gift 

We know, there is so much to do in such little time... no need to stress yourself out when you have helpful assistants at the click of a button! 

Last-Minute Thanksgiving

Yes! It really is the week of Thanksgiving. 

Whether you need help cleaning, figuring out a recipe or finding last minute accommodations, we're here for you. 

Here's a shortlist of last-minute Thanksgiving items we can help you with: 

  • Finding a cleaning service to come before (and/or after) Thanksgiving to make your home so fresh and so clean
  • Researching dietary-restriction friendly recipes of traditional Thanksgiving fare 
  • Putting together shopping lists based off of your recipes
  • Researching open restaurants and making a last-minute reservation for you and your Thanksgiving crew
  • Ordering pies and other sweet treats from your local bakery 
  • Helping you find last-minute hotel or AirBnB accommodations
  • Creating a menu for Thanksgiving dinner
  • Finding the best Black Friday deals 

We can help with all of these, plus a bunch more. Let us know what you need and we'll help make your Thanksgiving as easy as...pie. 

Suggested Requests for the Week of August 8th

The theme of this week’s suggested requests is planning, planning, planning! Make plans effortlessly with the help of a Fancy Hands Assistant. You have hundreds of assistants right at your fingertips that will take the stress out of your week. You’ll amaze yourself at what you can accomplish with just a push of a button.  

Monday: We'll help you schedule a dentist appointment

Tuesday: We'll help you plan a marriage proposal

Wednesday: We'll help you plan a birthday party

Thursday: We'll help you find a caterer for your barbecue   

Friday: We'll help you plan date night

Check out your dashboard for a new suggested request everyday. You may be surprised with what a Fancy Hands Assistant is capable of! 

Vacation Planning!

Summer is finally here and that means travel season! Whether you are looking to take a quick weekend trip or a long relaxing vaca we can help. The hardest part of taking a vacation is always planning one so let us take care of the details! Here are a few ways we can help:

  1. Not sure where exactly you would like to go? We can research the top travel locations in your area, in America, or around the world! What ever type of travel you are looking for we can help you make the best of your time off by helping to pick a sick location. After we can also help you pick the perfect hotel for your stay. 

  1. Okay, so now you know where you want to go… but how will you get there? We can help with that too! Our assistants are able to help you find car rentals, flight itinerary, or train schedules to get you out of work and in that beach chair as quickly as possible!

  1. Eating out can be a hassle especially in a place you have never been before. Allow us to help by finding highly recommended restaurants in your destination and make your reservations. Don’t waste your valuable vacation time on an hour wait list or even worse… at the joint that serves the fish tacos with a side of food poisoning! 

  1. Allow us to help you make the most of your vacation by researching any and all tourist attractions, events, or “off the beaten path” activities to personalize your days off. We can find the cheapest boat rentals around, find tickets to your favorite band you just found out will be in town, or compile a list of the top museums in your destination. 

  1. So you had a blast on vacation but now you’re back and reality has caught up to you! Allow us to help you call back those people who left angry voicemails, find someone to pick all those weeds that have seemed to grow exponentially since you left, and reschedule those doctor appointments you had put on hold. 

There is nothing easy about planning your vacation but allow Fancy Hands to make your life easier before, during, and after your time off!

Fancy Hands Year In Review: What You Delegated in 2015

"You spent how many hours on the phone with Comcast?!"- You, after checking out our Fancy Hands Year in Review: 2015.

Find out how many hours we spent on the phone with your least favorite cable company, plus tons of other stats and fun facts about what you delegated to us in 2015! 

Giving Thanks

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

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

 MEAL PLANNING

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

HOUSECLEANING: BEFORE AND AFTER

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

CATERING

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

TRAVEL COORDINATION

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

BEING A GOOD HOUSEGUEST

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

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

PRO TIPS

You may have noticed a little tab that’s now showing up on your Dashboard

What is it? Great question: This tab leads you to a page full of Fancy Hands pro tips. If you click ‘See More’ you’ll be directed to a page that has tons of tips for making using Fancy Hands like a pro. 

This page will show you everything you need to know about getting started with Fancy Hands. You’ll find information such as what types of requests you can submit, what can be contained within a request, and what our assistants can do for you. 

Interested? Check it out

Client Post: 'If You Don't Have An Assistant, You Are One'

Wilko van de Kamp is a best-selling author, award-winning photographic artist and long-time Fancy Hands client. He also runs a weekly magazine called Living By Experience where he shares helpful tips for making the most of your time. Keep reading to find out how Fancy Hands has prevented Wilko from becoming his own assistant. 

Time is the one currency we all cannot get more of. We’re all on borrowed time, which sooner or later will run out. Yet we fill our time with being “busy”, claiming we “don’t have time”. It’s time to get your priorities in order, and starting making time for the things you love. Get your time back, before it runs out!

If you don’t have an assistant, you are one (quote by Raymond Aaron)

I’ve had a few assistants in the past that have helped me with building certain parts of my companies, and there have been several situations where I would just delegate anything I didn’t want to do myself. Not because I didn’t have the time for it, but simply because I didn’t feel like doing it. The fact I didn’t feel like doing it was a form of feedback I was ignoring. Some things I didn’t feel like doing shouldn’t be done in the first place as they didn’t serve any purpose. When I started focusing more on my core business, my assistants got more productive too. I don’t just delegate for the sake of delegating, I delegate for the sake of saving time. True efficiency meanseveryone gets to focus on the important things.

When was the last time you scheduled a difficult meeting? How many times did you have to email back and forth to select a date, time, and location that worked for everyone? How many travel websites do you visit to research your next vacation, trying to make sense of it all? How much time do you spend waiting on the phone listening to annoying music and (even worse) on-hold messages? Did you know this can end today? Don’t worry about the back and forth of scheduling meetings anymore. Spend more time enjoying your vacations instead of planning them. Stop making phone calls you don’t want to make. And much more.

Having a personal assistant used to be something reserved for the rich and famous, but not anymore. Thanks to the internet you can enjoy the benefits of having a “virtual assistant”, saving you time every day. Your time and money are worth more when you are able to concentrate on what you do best and leave the rest to an assistant. Virtual office assistants work from their own home-based offices and are highly trained in their skill areas as well as a variety of technologies. Many of them have advanced degrees as well as years of professional experience. Not only can a virtual assistant relieve you of mundane, everyday tasks, but also in many cases, s/he can even help you grow your business.

One of the biggest benefits to hiring a virtual assistant is the ability to delegate work to people who have better skills, and can do work you don’t know how to do, don’t have time to do, or just don’t want to do. The next big draw (when considering virtual assistants over bricks-and-mortar assistants) is that virtual assistants only clock-in and work when you need them and use their own resources. In other words, they’re not charging you to sit there and play solitaire on a computer you purchased for them.

Is it time to hire your own Virtual Assistant?

 

Top 10 Ways Solo-preneurs Use Virtual Assistants

1. Your VA receives calls routed to his/her home office phone so a call from your prospective customer does not go to voice mail.

2. You need to confirm appointments for the week. Your VA calls the appointments and notes who is confirmed and who must be rescheduled. Your VA even updates your calendar online, if you’re using a mutually accessible calendar program.

3. By using online invoicing software, billing can be done off-site by your VA. You email information to the VA, who then does daily electronic billing or accounting services to get your billing done.

4. You are preparing a marketing plan and need further information. Your VA can contact possible advertising outlets on the Internet, magazines, periodicals, newspapers, etc. and acquire information on pricing, publishing dates, publishing deadlines, payment policies, etc. All information is compiled into a report for you to review.

5. You are preparing a direct mailing and need to verify your database. The database is sent to your VA via email attachment. Your VA telephones each name and verifies name, spelling, title and address. All corrections are made, old names are deleted, and new names are added. The corrected database is “zipped” and returned to you via email attachment.

6. You need a brochure, business card or flyer for your business. Your VA can design, type and print your advertising material using your own artwork or stock art. Your VA can also make the materials ready to print by a professional print shop and simply email the file to the shop for printing.

7. You have a blog or website, but do not have time to update entries regularly. Brief ideas and thoughts or links can be emailed to your VA, who then helps with research or even updates your site for you.

8. You dictate letters, reports, notes or memos and e-mail it to your VA the MP3 file of your recording. S/he transcribes the audio and emails the completed transcript back to you.

9. You cannot keep up with the volume of email and are missing important messages. You or your webmaster set up a general email account (info@). Your VA retrieves all email, sorts, responds to routine requests, and forwards items of importance to you at your personal email account (myname@).

10. You would like to write a book, but can’t get organized. Your VA can compile rough drafts, notes, fragments, letters or memoirs and get them into an editable form to begin the process of formatting the book, research publishers, and send out queries.

Virtual assistants are here to stay. The above shows that virtual assistants can and do work well for most small and home-based businesses and especially solo-preneurs. Over the next couple of years you can expect your conversations with regards to virtual assistants to go from “What is a virtual assistant and what does a virtual assistant do?” to that of “Who provides your virtual assistant services?”

Implementing the use of a virtual assistant, especially through a virtual staffing agency, is a low-cost, low-risk undertaking. If the virtual assistant doesn’t work out, you simply request another, perhaps for a better fit. What’s more, coupling the use of a virtual assistant (or several virtual assistants) with your already up-and-coming business can catapult your income and success to the next level and beyond.

To see the full post, click here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scheduled Appointments

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

Had a Ceiling Fan Replaced

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

Researched Transport Services

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

Compared Prices

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

Tracked Down Garbage Men

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

* * *

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

See the full post here

Text Me, Maybe

We are thrilled to announce that you can now text your requests to Fancy Hands

Yes, you read that right. 

Basic, Pro and Premier subscribers can text requests on-the-go and will be instantly connected to an assistant for real-time responses. 

How does it work?

Text your request to (646) 755-9298 and you’ll be connected to an assistant. Then you can text as you normally would with a friend. It’s that easy! Your assistant will be able to see your entire text request thread, as you would be able to with any text conversation. 

But wait...there’s more. Learn more about how texting is priced here.

Here’s an example of what a text request looks like:

A few things to know before getting started: 

You’ll want to make sure you’re texting from the number that’s connected to your Fancy Hands account. If you’re not sure which number is connected, you can view or change this here

We’d suggest saving (646) 755-9298 as ‘Fancy Hands’ or ‘Fancy Hands Text’ in your phone for easy access. It’s the same number you’d use to call in your requests. 

While we can access your calendar to schedule appointments, we can’t yet make payments on your behalf through text. Don’t worry -- we’re working on it! 

A good rule-of-thumb for sending in text requests: Anything that wouldn’t work in a text to a friend probably won’t work well in a text request to Fancy Hands. We’d suggest sticking to sending larger tasks through email, the mobile apps, or your web dashboard.

Here are some examples:

Any other questions? As always, feel free to email support@fancyhands.com for assistance with this or anything else Fancy Hands related. 

Happy texting!

Taking Some Pain Out Of Tax Time: Part 2

We proudly bring you Part 2 of 'Taking Some Pain Out Of Task Time' by Chris Remus. 

In Part 1 of this two-part series I talked about why we experience pain at tax time, how we can relieve that pain by making the tax information collection process easier, and how Fancy Hands can help with that process. In Part 2 of the series, I’ll introduce you to how the three principles of Tax Pain Relief and Fancy Hands can help you take the pain out of tax time.

Principle 1 - Establish a Single Digital Repository for your Tax Information

This is a single digital storage location that you send all of your tax documents to throughout the year. By establishing this digital repository, when tax season approaches, all the information you need is already in one place.

Having all the information in a single place saves you the trouble of scrambling around at the last minute, trying to collect all of the information you need, while hoping you’re not forgetting anything. If you setup the Digital Repository the right way, getting the required information into it should be simple, seamless and self-organizing. Certain information collection tasks can even be automated, if you integrate your Digital Repository with other online services. For these reasons, my Digital Repository of choice is Evernote.

Here are some ideas on how Fancy Hands can help you with Principle 1 -

1 - Setup your digital repository, e.g. an Evernote notebook if you only file personal taxes or multiple notebooks if you file personal and business taxes.

2 - Research and develop a checklist of the information you need to collect for each deadline. If you use an accountant to file your taxes, Fancy Hands can also contact your accountant for a list that they may have available for clients to use. This also makes your accountant’s life easier, since he/she will be getting the information he/she needs, without having to follow-up with you to fill in the gaps.

3 - Add the checklists to the reminders of key tax dates that Fancy Hands set up for you in Part 1 of this series. (Link to Part 1, preferably #2 “Reminding you…” of Part 1.)

4 - Integrate additional systems with your digital repository to automate certain tasks like expense receipt and financial statement collection.

Principle 2 - Use the Single Digital Repository throughout the year

How you setup the Digital Repository is important. However, if you don’t use it throughout the year, it’s not going to be too helpful to you at tax time. Make sure your Digital Repository:

1. Is available to you on whatever device you may have handy when you come across a relevant piece of tax information.

2. Has extensions to make it easy for you to get the document, whether digital or paper, into the Digital Repository.

Again, I’ve found that Evernote excels in each of these two areas. There are also tools that allow you to automate the collection of some aspects of expense receipts and financial statements. You can link those to Evernote too and have them feed the relevant information into your Digital Repository for you throughout the year.

Here are some ideas on how Fancy Hands can help you with Principle 2 -

  1. Check to see that your automated systems are correctly sending the right information to your Digital Repository on a Quarterly Basis and help you fix them if they’re not.

2. Run digital expense reports, using a system like Expensify, on a monthly or quarterly basis, to generate digital expense receipts for you. Add the reports to your digital repository.

3. Send your financial statements, that have been automatically added to your Digital Repository by a service like FileThis, to your accountant or bookkeeper for reconciliation on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Principle 3 - Use the Single Digital Repository at tax time

This is where you feel the Tax Pain Relief. As tax season approaches, everything you need is now in one place, in your Digital Repository. If you do your own taxes, everything is in one place for you and you can focus on completing the forms, reducing your chance of making costly mistakes, since you won’t be distracted by having to collect tax information while simultaneously concentrating on getting your calculations correct.

If you work with an accountant, you simply need to share the Digital Repository with your accountant, if your accountant is tech-savvy, or export and send the contents of the Digital Repository to them, if they’re not so tech-savvy :) Either way, everything’s where it needs to be and once you get the information over to them, you can focus on the more value-added activities like making key tax-planning decisions for your household and/or business.

Here are some ideas on how Fancy Hands can help you with Principle 3 -

1 - Review the information in your Digital Repository against the checklist developed in Principle 1 and let you know what’s missing.

2 - Share the Digital Repository with or export and send the information from your Digital Repository to your accountant, for a truly hands-off experience.

3 - Pat you on the back for a job well done :)

In conclusion, while these principles may seem simple at first, the real challenge is addressing and following them throughout the year. The fact that your Tax Pain Relief system is very easy to use should help you actually use it throughout the year, be better prepared and feel less pain at tax time as a result.  Using Fancy Hands to do some of the work and/or remind you of the things you need to do makes it even more likely you’ll follow these three principles and experience your Tax Pain Relief during this tax season and those to come for many years.

P.S. - If you decide to give Tax Pain Relief a shot, use code “FANCYHANDS” at check-out to receive 10% off the purchase price and access to a lifetime of free updates to the eBook.

About the Author: Chris used to really dread collecting all the information needed to file taxes. Since He was spending way too much time collecting various tax forms, bank statements, receipts, etc., this would lead to him being super-stressed and behind on a lot of other important things during tax season.

Over the past few years, Chris developed Tax Pain Relief to make the tax information collection process a lot easier and better for himself and is now excited to share that relief with others.



Taking Some Pain Out of Tax Time: Part 1

Chris Remus is a Fancy Hands aficionado, so much so, that he has figured out a way to take the pain out of tax season with the help of Fancy Hands. Chris has written a two-part guest post on how you can also take the pain out of your own tax season. Enjoy Part One below, and stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow! 

Updated 3/9/16: Chris is offering the entire eBook for free with the code "justrollingwithit"!

Just over one-third of us like doing our taxes, yep, really...at least according to a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2013. This post isn’t for those people.  This post is for the over 56% of us that either dislike or even hate doing their taxes. I fall into this category of people and am guessing you do too, if you’re still reading :)

For people like us, tax season can be a source of pain, that manifests as a combination of stress, tension, and anxiety. Because of this pain, we may find ourselves trying to avoid it as long as possible, by putting-off doing our taxes to the very last minute. As a result, we haphazardly rush to collect all the information we need to file and either complete the required forms as best and quickly as we can or dump the information on our accountant to do it for us.

This approach leaves us with even more (and now lingering) stress, since we’re afraid that in our rush to get the taxes done and off of our plate, at least until next tax season, we may have made a costly mistake along the way.

A few years ago, I began to believe there had to be a better way to approach tax season and reduce the pain resulting from stress, tension, and anxiety that would build along the way. OK, I thought to myself, if tax season is going to be painful, maybe I can make it less painful by being better prepared when it rolls around each year, or in my case, as a small business owner, multiple times a year.

Daily Worth reinforces what most of us already know, yet still rarely carry-through with, by reminding us that getting a jump on taxes is - 

Worth the Effort

What if just a few hours — or even minutes — of effort could result in hundreds, maybe even thousands, more dollars in your bank account? You’d make the effort, right?

Well, maybe. At tax time each year, many of us take shortcuts or overlook important items that cost us big bucks, payable to Uncle Sam. Next year, don’t pay more than you owe. Rather than waiting until the last minute then rushing to file your taxes on time, start early and put in a little time. Do more research. Plan ahead. And you’ll be able to avoid these costly tax mistakes.

What I discovered was that, by setting up a system to collect tax information throughout the year, collecting tax information became so easy to do, I actually did it in advance of each tax season. As result, I became better prepared for each tax season. Being better prepared meant spending less time on taxes during tax season, which also meant less tax season pain. This past April, for example, the time I spent on collecting my tax information and getting it to my accountant dropped from what used to be hours to under 30 minutes! 

After experiencing the wave of relief that came along with this pretty drastic reduction, I decided to document the system I used, in the hope of sharing this tax pain relief with others. The result is an eBook called Tax Pain Relief that is based on three very simple principles.

Fancy Hands has been instrumental in keeping me on track, as I developed Tax Pain Relief, while balancing a number of other projects, as well as a my personal life. Looking at my account, it turns out that January 30, 2015 marks my two year anniversary as a very happy client and heavy user of Fancy Hands. The stats on the Fancy Hands dashboard tell me that over the past two years I’ve made 885 requests and that Fancy Hands has placed 777 calls, spent 2.1 days on the phone, sent 167 emails, and scheduled 2378 events for me.

Everything that Fancy Hands has done for me allows me to focus on the things that I actually need to do myself, essentially the places where my time is most valuable. To me this is one of the biggest value-adds that virtual assistants provide and the Fancy Hands assistants excel at providing this value.

Another really big value-add is that Fancy Hands can do things for us that we may have an aversion to doing, however that still need to get done, in essence helping us fight through our own mental barriers and keeping us out of trouble :) Taxes fall squarely into this category for me.

For example, as a small business owner, one of the reasons I subconsciously delay doing my taxes is to avoid coming face-to-face with the reality that a lot of the hard-earned money sitting in my bank really isn’t mine, since a good chunk of that cash needs to be paid in taxes. This sub-conscious avoidance mechanism also would also contribute to me putting-off my taxes to the 11th hour, only compounding the stress, tension and anxiety I would experience each tax season.

So since taxes are something I really hate doing, wouldn’t it be great if Fancy Hands could help me get them done, while making sure I don’t put things off until the last minute in the process? Putting a system like Tax Pain Relief in place also opens the door to allowing Fancy Hands help you take even more pain out of tax time.

As a matter of fact, even before you get started setting-up your own system to take some pain out of tax time, Fancy Hands can help you prepare to make each tax season less painful by: 

1. Adding key tax deadlines to your calendar. Ask Fancy Hands to either research a good calendar of key tax dates for you or contact your accountant for one.

2. Reminding you about key tax deadlines throughout the year, with sufficient advance notice to address them. Ask Fancy Hands to add recurring reminders to your calendar events, set up the reminders in a service like Resnooze, or if you need some extra help, schedule recurring Fancy Hands tasks to remind you when key tax activities need to get done. I like this last option a lot, since if you’re experienced with Fancy Hands, you know they won’t quit reminding until you get done what you need to do ;)

In the second part of this series, I’ll introduce you to how the three principles of Tax Pain Relief and Fancy Hands can help you take the pain out of tax time.

P.S. - If you decide to give Tax Pain Relief a shot, use code “FANCYHANDS” at check-out to receive 10% off the purchase price and access to a lifetime of free updates to the eBook.

Check out Part 2 here. 

Too Cool For School

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

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

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

Parents:

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

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

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

Students:

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

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

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

Teachers:

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

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

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

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

Here's to a great school year for everyone!





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










Moving Tips from FlatRate Moving: Things Most Commonly Forgotten When Moving

If you are planning a move, you may hear this nagging voice in the back of your head telling you that you are forgetting something. Don't ignore it, because you probably are!

There are a lot of small details that go into a move, and there are a few that are constantly forgotten. Chances are good there is at least one thing on this list you are forgetting. Luckily for you, FlatRate Moving and Fancy Hands have teamed up to help make sure you don’t forget a thing. You can now get $25 off of your move with FlatRate Moving! Just use the code "FANCYHANDS" before requesting your quote to get $25 off.*

And, for after you've booked your move, here’s a helpful list of some of the most commonly forgotten things to keep in mind when planning a move.

Reserve Freight Elevator - You may not know it, but if you are moving into an apartment or condominium building with an elevator you may need to reserve the service elevator. In many cases, this needs to be done at least a week in advance. You definitely do not want your movers to arrive to the new building with all your belongings, if you can't use the elevator. No time to call? Don’t worry, Fancy Hands can reserve the elevator for you.

Trash and Recycling Bins - If you paid for your bins, don't leave them sitting behind the garage in their hiding spot. If you pay a fee to rent them through the waste company and will have a different provider in your new area, make sure the company picks them up before you move. Fancy Hands can call the waste company andschedule a pick up for these bins.

Memberships, Subscriptions, and More - When moving a considerable distance away, make sure you cancel your gym membership, and change your newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Use a Fancy Hands task to stop or switch your newspaper and magazine subscriptions. We’ll also take care of cancelling your gym membership!

Gathered Items - Everything from dry cleaning and shoe repairs to school transcripts and vet records fall in this category. If you have loaned out items to neighbors, make sure you get them back. It's a good idea to create a list of things you need to gather and check them off as you get them. Fancy Hands can help you organize this list, as well as help you schedule times to pick up the borrowed items.

Spare Key - You hid a key under a rock and in a tree somewhere. Now it's time to find them. These need to be left behind for the new owners or residents. While you're at it, take the garage door opener out of your car to leave, too.

Microwave - You are probably thinking it is pretty strange anyone would leave an entire small appliance behind. Well, in a lot of homes, these do stay behind intentionally, so movers will often assume they stay, especially if the fridge, stove, and dishwasher are remaining in the house. Schedule a reminder to have your Fancy Hands assistant call to remind you to take that microwave with you!

Mail - You know you need to change your mail. In fact, you have thought about it several times, but decide to do it later because there is plenty of time. Now it's moving day, and as the mail truck passes in front of your house, you realize you didn't take care of it. You can do this right online at the USPS site, or send Fancy Hands your

moving details to set up your mail forwarding.

Outdoor Items - Hoses, solar lights, wind chimes, and bird feeders are all commonly forgotten. Although, sometimes, some of these are nice to leave for the new occupant.

Odds and Ends Inside the Home - In addition to the microwave, household items commonly forgotten include floor lamps, shower lines, full length mirrors, plants, magnets, pet bowls, toilet bowl cleaner, plunger, and the coffee maker.





*The fine print: This Offer is valid only for moves booked through FlatRate Moving’s New York branch after the date of this Offer where both the ‘pick up’ and deliver take place between August 19, 2014 and September 30, 2014. This Offer is only valid if presented to FlatRate Moving prior to receiving a FlatRate moving quote. This Offer may not be combined with any other offers, discounts or promotions. Valid on moves valued at $1,000 or more.

Time Management Myths: Uncovered

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

"It’s about managing your time. False.

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

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

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

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

You need to devote time to change. Somewhat true.

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

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

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

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

Are you managing your time efficiently? Find out here.  

Young Architect

Here's Mike showing his love for Fancy Hands!  

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

"An Imaginary Friend

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

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

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

What the hell am I talking about?

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

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

Subj: Find exterior Pictures of a building in Portland Oregon

Hey Fancy Hands,

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

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

Feel free to ask any questions.

Thanks so much.

- Michael Riscica

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

My Small Tasks

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

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

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

Working Smarter

 

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

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

In his own words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For this book project, Fancy Hands:

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

**Categorized the resources.

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

**Found links and pricing information.

**Transferred the spreadsheet data into sentence format.

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

**Submitted the book to free kindle promotion sites.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

white

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

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. 

Sleepyhead.

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)

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