How to Be More Productive

by Stacy Tharp 7. January 2014

Productivity

As one year comes to a close and another year begins, one of the most common sayings you hear is “where did the time go?” Time is something that always seems to get away from us, and something we have absolutely no control over. We do, however, have control over how we use that time. We’d all like more time to spend with our family, our hobbies, or just relaxing. Here are some tips on how to be more productive and make the most of your time.

Set a Daily Schedule

The to-do list is not a new concept, but it is an essential ingredient to having a productive day. Whether you make your to-do lists on post-it notes or use an electronic tool such as Wunderlist or Todoist, it’s something that should be done daily. Not only is it important to list the tasks that need to be completed, you should schedule a specific and realistic time frame by which each task should be completed. Setting deadlines for yourself throughout the day will help you avoid procrastinating.

Examine Your Internal Clock

Figure out what time of day you are the most productive, and schedule your most challenging tasks during that time frame. Don’t confuse your most productive time for your most awake time of day. You want to be the most focused at this time. For the time of day that you are the least focused, schedule your most mundane tasks that don’t require as much thought.

Get Energy Boosts from Smart Sources

You lose energy when you are hungry and tired. Eat snacks regularly throughout the day, but make sure you choose the right ones. Foods high in simple sugars will zap all of your energy, but foods high in protein and fiber will give you a healthy, long-lasting energy boost.

Regular breaks are also necessary to remain productive. The sun is a major source of energy, so if you start to lose focus, take a break and head outside for a few minutes.

Exercising and getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis are other ingredients to a productive lifestyle.

Don't Multitask, but Batch Together Similar Tasks

Contrary to the popular resume skill of multitasking, it is more efficient to focus on one task at a time. However, it does make sense to batch together tasks that are similar to one another. For example, if you have several phone calls to make, make them all in a row. You should also set aside time to respond to emails rather than interrupting what you are doing every time you receive an email throughout the day.

Whenever Possible, Automate

Don't waste time doing anything that a computer can do for you. At work, set up email rules to help you sort through your email. At home, use online banking to set up automatic bill payments and transfers.

You should also use a personal finance manager to set a budget and savings goals. Once you set up all of your accounts, your personal finance manager will do the rest of the work for you.

At the End of the Day, Clean Up and Reflect on Your Day

Take a look at your to-do list at the end of the day. Did you get everything done? If not, why? Did you put too many items on your list? Did you spend too much time on Facebook? Then, put everything you were working on away until the next day. Walking into a room or office filled with clutter can be daunting, so make a new do-do list for the following day and repeat tomorrow!

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

An Easy Way to Stick with Your Financial New Year's Resolution

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Stolen (and Late) New Year's Resolutions

How to Master Holiday Entertaining on a Budget

by Renee' Anderson 10. December 2013

Holiday Entertaining

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Why not invite your friends, family and co-workers over?

What? You can’t afford to? Sure you can.

Here are some holiday party tips that won't hurt your budget:

1. Décor

Cut your tree yourself and use the trimmings! If you’re lucky enough to live close to farmland, drive around the corner to a small farm and cut your own tree down. Aside from being inexpensive, searching for and cutting your own tree down can become a favorite tradition for your family. Then, when you get home and your husband (or the designated tree trimmer) cuts those low branches off, be creative and make some decorations for inside and outside of the house. See our Pinterest page for specific ideas.

2. Drinks

Provide a “signature cocktail” and beer. There’s no need to offer a large variety of of wine, beer and liquor. Something sweet, sparkly and festive is perfect for those with a sweet tooth. Others will be happy with whatever kind of beer you can find on sale at your liquor store. Don’t forget to provide water, maybe some homemade iced tea (with sugar and lemon), and juice for the kids. Personally, I think buying soda is not necessary - more people these days aren’t drinking soda in an effort to be healthier. Visit our Pinterest board to see some fun signature cocktail recipes.

3. Food

Now let’s focus on the food. First rule: if someone asks if they can bring something, say “yes please.” You don’t need 25 different food options. You just need a well-rounded menu with enough of each dish. Whether you’re having hors d’oeuvres or a full meal, do as much as you can ahead of time. For a dinner party-style meal, pasta is usually a good way to go, for example, stuffed shells. Stuffed shells are easy to make ahead of time with no expensive ingredients involved, and are generally liked by most people. You could always throw some sausage in a crock pot with some easy homemade tomato sauce if you feel the need to have a meat option. Add some bread and salad (a Cesar salad is elegant yet doesn’t have many ingredients so remains it cheap - dress it up with a homemade Caesar dressing), and you have an elegant Italian meal! Check out our Pinterest page for more food ideas.

4. Mood

Don't forget to stream your free Pandora holiday station to really set the mood!

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

How to Keep Your Wallet Stuffed This Thanksgiving

Top Picks for Affordable Wines to Celebrate the Holiday Season

Tech the Halls with These 5 Money Saving Apps

Tech the Halls with These 5 Holiday Money Saving Apps

by Erica Starr 9. December 2013

Smartphones

"Appy" Holidays everyone! 'Tis the the season to not only Deck the Halls, but you might as well try to “Tech the Halls” with these holiday money saving apps that will not only help you save some money this holiday season but also some good ol’ sanity (which we know has infinite value this time of year).

Slice

Holy life saver, Santa! Rated one of the Top 10 Productivity Apps You Shouldn’t Be Without by Business Insider, the Slice app is the ultimate online shopping companion and package tracker. By syncing with your email inbox, Slice tracks of all of your purchases and e-receipts, notifies you when your purchases have been shipped, are out for delivery, and have been delivered, and even alerts you if the price drops on a recent purchase you made. To sum it up, this app is your right hand man for the holiday season.

Slice Cost: FREE
Available for: iPhone, Android
https://www.slice.com/shopping_intro

RedLaser & ScanLife

Have you ever made a purchase and then walked into the store across the street and found the exact same product for less? Or even worse, gotten to your car, checked your email and saw an offer from Amazon (let’s be honest, once you’ve visited Amazon.com once, Amazon knows everything about you and your shopping habits) for half the price AND free shipping? Yeah, me too. Fear no more friends! With the RedLaser and ScanLife apps, you are able to scan any product’s barcode right from your smartphone and find out if another store (either a local retail store or online) is offering that same product at a cheaper price. Better yet, if you are at a store that ad matches (Walmart, Best Buy and Target to name a few), you can walk up to the register, show them the cheaper price on your phone and 9 times out of 10 they’ll match the price. Viola!

RedLaser Cost: FREE
Available for: iPhone, Android, Windows
http://redlaser.com/

ScanLife Cost: FREE
Available for: iPhone, Android, Windows, BlackBerry, Nokia
http://www.scanlife.com/

ReturnGuru

Never again will you miss the deadline to return and item. With the ReturnGuru app, all you have to do is take a picture of your gift receipts and ReturnGuru will notify you before it is too late to return your unwanted item. But wait, it doesn’t stop there. ReturnGuru will also keep copies of all of your receipts along with each store’s return policy so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of all of your paper receipts.

ReturnGuru Cost: FREE
Available for: iPhone, Windows
http://www.returnguru.com/

Drync & Hello Vino

Ah, every wine drinkers dream. During the holidays, there always comes a time when you either have to pick up a bottle of wine to bring to a party, or being the host, you have to supply the wine. The Drync app allows you to scan your favorite wine labels (like a bar code) using image recognition, search for your favorite wines, read reviews and notes about differnt wines and even purchase wine, all through the app (some limitations apply).

Drync Cost: FREE
Available for: iPhone
http://www.drync.com/

Hello Vino is another wine app that helps you pick that perfect bottle of wine. You can search through its extensive library and pick out a nice bottle of vino based on price, region, year or even the type of food you are planning to pair with the wine.

Hello Vino Cost: FREE
Available for: iPhone, Android
http://www.hellovino.com/

Key Ring

Let’s play a game. How many rewards key tags do you have on your key ring right now? If it’s over three, you need this app. The Key Ring app allows you to scan and store images of all of your rewards key tags, enroll in new loyalty programs, and access exclusive coupons and discounts. Now you don’t have to lug around your 10 pound key ring and you can still reap the benefits of all of your rewards programs.

Key Ring Cost: FREE
Available for: iPhone, Android
http://www.keyringapp.com/

So now you are fully equipped to take on the holiday season. With these 5 apps, you’ve taken the power back from the retailers and gotten the best possible price on the best possible gift. And if all else fails, at least now you have a good bottle of wine (or five) to enjoy with family and friends.

For more money savings tips check out:

4 Free Money Saving Apps

4 Ways to Control Excessive Spending This Holiday Season

The Best Things to Buy in the Winter



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