Christmas is a time of giving, but it doesn’t also need to be a time of crippling debt. Many people commonly spend more than they have around this time of year. It may be out of generosity, or it may be a lack of impulse control, but the result is the same: they start a new year with debt that can take months to clear.
Do you tend to fall into this seasonal trap? Here are some ideas that can help make this year a different story:
Start Saving Early
If you know there are a number of people you want to buy for, start putting some money aside each month early in the year.
Draw up a list of everyone you plan to buy for, plus how much you would like to spend on each person. Do you have enough money to cover that total? If not, go through it again.
Credit cards can be incredibly handy, but they also allow us to easily spend well beyond our means. Paying for things in cash helps to put a limit to that. If you must use a credit card, choose the one with the lowest monthly interest rate.
Watch Out for Sales
There are many great bargains out there this time of year, but make sure you allow yourself enough time to seek them out. Leaving Christmas gift hunting until the last-minute means taking what you can get, and that is rarely a good deal.
It can be extremely tempting to buy things for yourself at the same time, but don’t do it. ‘Tis the season to give, not receive.
Use Those Reward Points
Many stores and credit card companies now offer reward points as an incentive. If you have some, use them to get price reductions or free things you can use as gifts.
I really admire people who enjoy driving. They live for the open road and happily spend much time and money on their cars to ensure the best experience behind the wheel.
The rest of us consider our cars to be a costly piece of equipment that transports us from one place to another. Alas, the abilities of the people piloting those vehicles vary widely and when everyone decides to come out on to the road at the same time, well, let’s just say that my frustration factor increases dramatically.
I do want to feel better about driving, however, and have been advised that the following can help in that goal:
Taking the Scenic Route
I’m constantly stuck in a commuting grind where I have to see the same ugly highways and grey industrial areas day after day. The next time I get out of the city for a trip, I will make a point of taking the scenic route. Looking at nice fall forests and scenic farmland will no doubt help me to relax and provide some nice visual stimulation.
Taking My Time
Everything in life is rush, rush, rush these days. In my off time, I plan to schedule enough wiggle room that this aspect of driving can be more leisurely. I won’t have to speed or pass people just to get where I’m going on time. Taking my time will be a nice change from the norm.
Taking Another Look at My Car
Up until now, my car has been that thing I mentioned above: a means to an end. If I take the time to better maintain it, keep the interior clean, and regard as something more than just a tool, I will no doubt enjoy spending time behind the wheel. That will help to reduce any negative connotations that have arisen for me regarding driving.
As I write this, a team of workers is doing repairs on the church across the street. That does not sound like anything special, but there is actually quite a bit of danger involved as the repairs need to be done to the top of the church steeple. A couple of months back, lightning struck the steeple causing it to briefly catch fire and then fall off. This church has been here for over 100 years and to my knowledge, this is the first time that something of this sort has happened.
While a crane will be involved in lifting the steeple to its proper height, the rest has to be done by human beings. As someone who is afraid of heights, and feel queasy just watching the process from across the street, this got me thinking as to just what sort of inner strength is required to do that job on a regular basis.
Many years back, Native Americans were often hired to do bridge construction because they tended not to have the same phobia about heights as other groups. Safety standards were far more lax back then compared to what they are nowadays. People working at heights must undergo specific training to learn all of the risks and safety gear involved in the job. This training can only be done by people who have undergone special training and examination themselves. It is not acceptable for one worker to train another unless the worker doing the training has undergone the same level of certified preparation.
That makes me feel a bit better about the safety of the workers I am now looking at. However, this remains a job I simply could not do because I get queasy standing on top of a step ladder. Thankfully there are men and women out there with the mettle to do this sort of important assignment.
It happens to all of us: whether you have been writing for decades or even just a few months, there will be times when you cannot think of anything to write about. Times like this can be incredibly frustrating because as a creative person, you probably pride yourself on being able to come up with ideas on a regular basis. However, the only thing that can truly dredge up ideas all of the time is a computer, and despite all the recent advancements, machines are still lousy writers.
So, what can you do? Well, you can bang your head on the table or complain to the high heavens. However, we suggest something a little more productive and likely to bring about success.
Take a break
You know those nights when you cannot sleep? You lie in bed wishing you could go to sleep, but it rarely ever happens. The best thing to do is get out of bed and do something else. The same goes with writing; if the words are not flowing, do something else for a while.
Write about something else
Let us say you need to have a paper done about the French Revolution for your university history course. You have been struggling and not getting anything done. Try spending, say, an hour writing emails or doing your personal diary. That helps to take the stress off your assignment and you can then return to it having done some other kind of writing that may have got your fuse lit again.
Change your location
Sometimes we cannot maintain a level of concentration that is intense enough to write successfully. Are you finding it difficult to stay focused? The answer may be to try shifting to a new location. For example, if you are doing your writing at home and there are too many distractions, try switching to the library.
It is not unusual for a person to be bored at some point in the day, but that does not make it any more fun. Boredom is a real drag and if you have a lot on your plate, it can also be a real waste of time. Do you feel guilty because you feel unmotivated and are not getting anything done? Here are some things you can do about that:
Give your friends and family a call
Does your mother always complain that you that you never phone her? If you are not doing anything anyway, why not get on the phone? She will appreciate hearing from you. These conversations with her and others may even lead to something else that will keep you occupied for the time being.
Get some of those mundane chores done
Dirty dishes in the sink? Dirty clothes in the hamper? Junk lying all over the living room? It may not be fun, but here is a chance to get these tasks done and out of the way. That way, when you are feeling more motivated, you can put that energy toward something more much interesting.
Scratch one of your creative itches
Do you have a hobby? Time spent on hobbies is never time wasted. Do you paint? Draw? Have some other artistic hobby? Pull out that paint set, sketch pad, or easel and get cracking.
Plan ahead for the next time you are bored
There will likely come another day when you are feeling bored and unmotivated. If you have a list of things you could be doing already done and right in front of you, you will not have to waste any time wondering about what you could be doing right at this moment. Take a few minutes and draw one up right now.
Whether you write for pleasure or as part of your job, you likely wish to improve and expand your skills. There are a few different ways you can do this.
Yes, this is obvious, but many people don’t do it to the extent that they should. When practicing your writing, it doesn’t necessarily have to be for something important. Just jot down things that come to mind and revisit them later. This can be a great way to cultivate ideas that prove extremely useful later on.
It also helps to establish a time when you will practice. If the inspiration seems like it is not there, try anyway. You might be surprised by what you come up with.
Have the Basics Down
Programs like Word can help you with basics like spelling and grammar, but to truly be a good writer, you need to know these skills on your own. Also, there will be times when you will have to write and, horrors, not have a computer program to point out your mistakes!
Inspiration can be both fleeting and hard to come by in the first place. Don’t expect the magic to happen every time you sit down at the keyboard.
Also, learn to accept that your first draft often is not so hot. There may be good components there, but they need finessing. Accepting criticism with good humor and understanding also helps. View it as a learning experience that improves your writing.
Some writers whip through a draft and immediately send it to editing. First off, you should go over your work at least once before submission because it is not the editor’s job to refashion something that is bad. Second, self-editing allows you to clearly see areas where you are weak. Tightening your work can make a real difference and if you are the one doing so, you know it will not stray from your original intention.
Love of music is universal. Have you ever run across anyone who does not love at least one form of music? Probably not. In fact, it can be a truly huge part of a person’s life. You no doubt have many songs that you enjoy on a regular basis, but have you ever wondered just why music makes you feel so good?
Mood and Productivity Enhancer
During low periods, have you ever found yourself instinctively putting on some music that you love? Listening to energetic, upbeat music can help to improve mood. It can also make you more productive during times when you are not feeling sufficiently focused. You can also help to diffuse periods of stress with the right choice of tunes.
In addition to helping you do things you already know, music can also assist people in picking up some new skills. While loud, fast music can help people get things done faster, slower and lower is the accompaniment to choose when learning new things. In fact, even ambient noise works in this regard. Some crave total silence when working, but this may not actually provide the best results.
Motor and Reasoning Skills Improve When Learning an Instrument
Listening to music is great, but making your own may be even better. Scientists have revealed that children who learn to play a musical instrument at a young age do better in school than those who don’t play anything. They also demonstrated an above average vocabulary, plus better reasoning skills and superior visual attention.
Better Exercise Results
If you listen to music while exercising, you are less likely to heed your brain’s signals that it’s time to take a rest. Also, energetic music with a good beat is more likely to motivate a similar level of response from participants.
Are you unhappy with your current job? Thinking of quitting? Hold off on that. While it may seem odd, the best time to find another job is when you are still in the workforce. This is because it demonstrates to potential employers that you have skills and they are valued enough that someone else is making use of them. It also gives you an advantage: since you already have a job, you don’t necessarily have to sign on for a lesser one, which increases the chances of a better offer.
If you do decide to look for a different position while still working, here are some tips to consider:
Do It on the Sly
Don’t announce to your boss or even your co-workers that you are looking for another job as this will likely backfire on you. If your employer learns that you will be leaving in the near future, they will start looking for a replacement; when they find that person, they will let you go. Thus, you may be out of your current job before getting a new one. Also, keep this a secret from your fellow employees, unless they are longtime friends you know you can trust.
Don’t Perform Your Job Search While at Work
You want to keep your current job until a new one is secured, so you need to keep up with your current responsibilities. Don’t spend work time sending our your CV, filling out applications, or doing anything else related to job search. Getting caught doing so means awkward explanations.
Watch What You Say at Interviews
It can be tempting to badmouth your current boss and company at job interviews. However, this is a bad idea all around. Not only does it make you seem unprofessional, it can backfire: if you don’t get that job, word can get back to your employer. Avoid taking the low road and mention in your interview that you would like your job search to remain confidential.
Networking is a major factor in attaining success in both business and the everyday working world. Whether you are a high roller looking to engage partners for your latest venture or a regular working stiff interested in finding a new position, the ability to network effectively can open many doors and lead to new and exciting possibilities.
Not everyone has an innate ability to network. Some of us are better on paper than in person, while others are introverted and soft-spoken, finding it uncomfortable and alien to be aggressive in starting conversations. If you fall under either of those categories, the following tips can help you improve your ability to network:
When starting out, choose areas where you already feel comfortable and at home. For example, the gym, or clubs and organizations where you are a member. Talk to people there that you already know and then gradually expand your reach, based on the tips you get.
Whether it involves going to a get together with a lot of people or attending an actual networking event, don’t go overboard at first. Do what you feel comfortable doing. As you get more experienced and have successful encounters, your confidence will increase.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
When you are ready, start putting yourself out there. For example, instead of spending time with just one person at a networking event, push yourself to go out on your own and strike up conversations. If this is awkward at first, don’t worry, it will eventually seem more natural and effective for you.
People really appreciate when you remember their names and details of past conversations. It proves that you were interested and engaged; that will make them more likely to remember your details and pass along any leads they come across.
Attaining business success can mean trying out a lot of different strategies and discovering what works. Some of these can be quite specific to that industry, while others have general application across a number of different organizations.
Here are three success tips that will apply to most any business venture:
Capitalize on Your Strengths
Chances are it was a particular set of skills that set your down your current path. You saw an opportunity, realized that you had the ability to capitalize on it, and surrounded yourself with people who could help you achieve you goal. However, in the thick of things, it can be easy to forget that considerable resource. Unsure of how to proceed in a certain area? Talk to your team and solicit their advice. The best solutions are often crafted from multiple contributions.
Craft a Plan, but Be Ready to Improvise
No successful business venture ever arose from a plan that was completely inflexible. No one has a crystal ball that allows them to fully predict how the market or relationships with other businesses might change without warning. Come up with a master strategy, but supplement it with a contingency plan. Putting all of your eggs in one basket may seem feasible and cost-effective, but it’s very risky and displays a lack of forward-thinking that can trip you up down the line.
Don’t Forget the Big Picture
We always have a master goal when entering into a business venture and keeping it in mind throughout the development stages is important to ensure efficiency and overall success (e.g. how will each phase of development lead to the desired result?). Remembering your overall goal can also help during times when things are not going to plan. The problems and potential strife still have to be dealt with, but the pain you encounter during the process will be tempered, if you keep that final result in mind.