Digital Tools That Help You Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

by Sara Seeger 13. January 2014

New Year’s resolutions are one of the hardest promises to keep. It’s not uncommon for us to surrender our commitment shortly after we start due to lack of energy, willpower, support, or a plethora of other lame excuses. Fortunately for us, there are convenient apps and digital tools that we can use to help us achieve our resolutions.

Healthy Produce

1. Dieting and Healthy Eating

After all of that holiday overindulging, many of us resolve to eat healthier or diet. MyFitnessPal has a free app and an online tool to assist us with a healthier lifestyle. This digital tool has an easy to use calorie counter where we can search for food and track calories from more than 3 million entries. Record what you eat and the app will calculate the number of calories you’ve eaten. The app also offers numerous exercise options and a motivational tool for you to share your progress with others who use the app. A little friendly competition to keep us on target can’t hurt.

2. Smoking Cessation

There are numerous apps that can help smokers nix the habit. One such app is called, Quit It Lite. Quit It is a free app that uses motivation to encourage and support smokers to quit and to motivate ex-smokers to stay away from tobacco. This app tracks the number of cigarettes a person doesn’t smoke, the amount of money a person saves by not smoking, and shows the health benefits of a tobacco-free lifestyle, all while calculating a ranking that is specific to the individual. So, if the health benefits aren’t enough to motivate a smoker to quit, the financial savings may do the trick!

3. Learn Something New

Tired of trying to achieve the same New Year’s resolution year after year? Why not set your sights on learning a new language? Duolingo is a free app and website tool that allows users to master up to six languages through engaging games that assess reading, writing, and speaking skills. You can choose to compete against yourself to maintain high scores, or if you need a little extra motivation, you can compete against friends. This app makes learning a language fast, fun, and convenient.

Organization

4. Get Organized

Do you have a lot on your mind? Do you forget important events like meetings, birthdays, or (yikes!), wedding anniversaries? EasilyDo Smart Assistant is a free app that proactively reminds you of important events. It also organizes contacts, checks traffic reports, sends bad weather notifications, and tracks packages- all in the convenience of one app. This app allows you to save time and stay on top of everything you need to remember so you can stay out of the “doghouse.”

5. Help Others

Interested in giving back to your community? VolunteerMatch is a free app and website tool that allows users to connect with great causes. Users can search more than 62,000 available volunteer opportunities to find the perfect match for them. The app enables users to search geographically to choose organizations near their home, work, or school. This option gives people the flexibility to volunteer outside of their own “backyard.”

6. Get Your Finances in Order

Many people resolve to manage their money better, specifically to spend less and save more. Mariner360, from 1st Mariner Bank, can assist with this goal. Mariner360 is an online individual money management tool that helps users develop, track, and continuously monitor their expenses and budgeting strategies. It is free to all Online Banking customers, and is robust enough to track all of your accounts, regardless of financial institution. Start your New Year off on the right foot and set solid financial goals with Mariner360.

Organization begins with Mariner360

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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!

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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!

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