13 June 2014

I was going through my favourites on my Etsy account, and I'm finding that I have returned to loving the rustic, neutrals that I loved once upon a time! Here are some recent favourites:

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11 June 2014

7 Ways to Save on Groceries without using Coupons

7 Ways To Save On Groceries Without Using Coupons

1. Take inventory.

Take inventory of what you already have at home. Often times we start writing up a grocery list without checking what we have first. If you see that you have spaghetti sauce, simply add pasta to your list for an easy meal. Just make sure you figure out what you already have and build your meals around it. My mentor, Dani Johnson, suggests that you empty your entire pantry before going to the grocery store. It's a sure way to clean out your pantry and eat the food that might soon go bad!

2. Make a meal plan.

This is a must if you want to save money on groceries. Make sure you take the time to write up a meal plan based on your current inventory and store sales. Once you know what you’ll be making throughout the week, you can easily create your shopping list. I know that anytime I make a “quick” stop at the grocery store without a list, I wind up spending way more than I wanted to. So planning is key if you want to see significant savings.

3. Use the same ingredients for different meals.

When I create my meal plan, I make sure that I plan meals that use the same ingredients to maximize my savings. For example; if I buy a large pack of chicken breasts, I’ll use it to make chicken quesadillas, rice with chicken and chicken alfredo. This also helps me save time since I’ll precook all of the chicken and freeze it to have it readily available for meals.

4. Eat meatless meals.

We all know how expensive meats can be even when purchased on sale. One way I reduce my grocery bill is by planning meals that don’t require any meat. Here are some examples of meatless meals: baked mac n cheese, vegetarian chili, broccoli cheddar soup, quesadillas and my favorite, breakfast for dinner. Get creative and include a meal or two that doesn’t require any meat to help keep your grocery costs down.

5. Stop being a brand snob.

I’m a huge Costco fan. Is not the only place I buy my groceries, but I do purchase a lot of my food items there. When I have mentioned this to others, I hear that they could never shop there because they don’t carry “XYZ” brand. I agree that cheaper is not always better. However, sticking to one particular brand is not going to help you save any money. I purchase my items based on what’s on sale for the week or I stick with store brands since they tend to be the cheapest.

6. Stock up.

If I find that an item we frequently use is on sale for a great price, I stock up. I know I’ll be using it eventually, so I’ll spend some extra money knowing that it will yield savings in the long run. Budget some of your grocery money for items that will be on sale so that you can purchase extra and stock up. Make sure you check out your local ads before you head to the grocery store to plan accordingly.

7. Know your grocery sale cycles.

Have you ever tried purchasing a ham in the summer? It’s probably going to cost you triple (or more) of what it would cost around Easter or Christmas time. Grocery stores have what’s called a sale cycle. Basically what this means is that certain items will go on sale during specific seasons or months of the year. This is a great way to know what to stock up on and when. Living Richly On A Budget has a great guide that you can print out for reference. Click here to check it out.

10 June 2014

How to Become More Productive

Ever feel like you’re just not getting enough done?
Do you know how many days a week you’re actually productive?

About three.

People work an average of 45 hours a week; they consider about 17 of those hours to be unproductive (U.S.: 45 hours a week; 16 hours are considered unproductive).

We could all be accomplishing a lot more — but then again, none of us wants to be a workaholic, either.

It’d be great to get tons done and have work-life balance. But how do we do that? I decided to get some answers.
Below are six tips offered by Tim Ferriss, author of the international bestseller The 4-Hour Work Week. (Tim's blog)
Below are six tips Tim offered, the science behind why they work, and insights from the most productive people around.
1. Manage Your Mood
Most productivity systems act like we’re robots – they forget the enormous power of feelings.

If you start the day calm it’s easy to get the right things done and focus.

But when we wake up and the fray is already upon us — phone ringing, emails coming in, fire alarms going off — you spend the whole day reacting.

This means you’re not in the driver’s seat working on your priorities; you’re responding to what gets thrown at you, important or not.

Here’s Tim:

I try to have the first 80 to 90 minutes of my day vary as little as possible. I think that a routine is necessary to feel in control and nonreactive, which reduces anxiety. It therefore makes you more productive.

Research shows how you start the day has an enormous effect on productivity, and you procrastinate more when you’re in a bad mood.

Studies demonstrate happiness increases productivity and makes you more successful.

As Shawn Achor describes in his book The Happiness Advantage:

Doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19% faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56%. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.

So think a little less about managing the work and a little more about managing your moods.

So what’s the first step to managing your mood after you wake up?
2. Don’t Check Email In The Morning

To some people this is utter heresy. Many can’t imagine not waking up and immediately checking email or social-media feeds.

Why is checking email in the morning a cardinal sin? You’re setting yourself up to react.

An email comes in and suddenly you’re giving your best hours to someone else’s goals, not yours.

You’re not planning your day and prioritizing; you’re letting your objectives be hijacked by whoever randomly decides to enter your inbox.

Here’s Tim:

Whenever possible, do not check email for the first hour or two of the day. It’s difficult for some people to imagine. “How can I do that? I need to check email to get the information I need to work on my most important one or two to-dos?”

You would be surprised how often that is not the case. You might need to get into your email to finish 100% of your most important to-dos. But can you get 90% done before you go into Gmail and have your rat brain explode with freak-out, dopamine excitement and cortisol panic? Yes.

Research shows email:
1.Stresses you out.
2.Can turn you into a jerk.
3.Can be more addictive than alcohol and tobacco.
4.And checking email frequently is the equivalent of dropping your IQ 10 points.

Is this really how you want to start your day?

Great, so you know what not to do. But a bigger question looms: What should you be doing?
3. Before You Try To Do It Faster, Ask Whether It Should Be Done At All

Everyone asks, “Why is it so impossible to get everything done?” But the answer is stunningly easy:

You’re doing too many things.

Want to be more productive? Don’t ask how to make something more efficient until after you’ve asked “Do I need to do this at all?”

Here’s Tim:

Doing something well does not make it important. I think this is one of the most common problems with a lot of time-management or productivity advice; they focus on how to do things quickly. The vast majority of things that people do quickly should not be done at all.

It’s funny that we complain we have so little time and then we prioritize like time is endless. Instead, do what is important … and not much else.

But is this true in the real world?

Research shows CEOs don’t get more done by blindly working more hours, they get more done when they follow careful plans:

Preliminary analysis from CEOs in India found that a firm’s sales increased as the CEO worked more hours. But more intriguingly, the correlation between CEO time use and output was driven entirely by hours spent in planned activities. Planning doesn’t have to mean that the hours are spent in meetings, though meetings with employees were correlated with higher sales; it’s just that CEO time is a limited and valuable resource, and planning how it should be allocated increases the chances that it’s spent in productive ways.

OK, you’ve cleared the decks. Your head is serene, you’ve gotten the email monkey off your back and you know what you need to do.

Now we have to face one of the biggest problems of the modern era: How do you sit still and focus?
4. Focus Is Nothing More Than Eliminating Distractions

Ed Hallowell, former professor at Harvard Medical School and bestselling author of Driven to Distraction, says we have “culturally generated ADD.”

Has modern life permanently damaged our attention spans?

No. What you do have is more tantalizing, easily accessible, shiny things available to you 24/7 than any human being has ever had.

The answer is to lock yourself somewhere to make all the flashing, buzzing distractions go away.

Here’s Tim:

Focus is a function, first and foremost, of limiting the number of options you give yourself for procrastinating… I think that focus is thought of as this magical ability. It’s not a magical ability. It’s put yourself in a padded room, with the problem that you need to work on, and shut the door. That’s it. The degree to which you can replicate that, and systematize it, is the extent to which you will have focus.

What’s the best way to sum up the research? How about this: Distractions make you stupid.

And a flood of studies shows that the easiest and most powerful way to change your behavior is to change your environment.

Top CEOs are interrupted every 20 minutes. How do they get anything done?

By working from home in the morning for 90 minutes where no one can bother them:

They found that not one of the twelve executives was ever able to work uninterruptedly more than twenty minutes at a time—at least not in the office. Only at home was there some chance of concentration. And the only one of the twelve who did not make important, long-range decisions “off the cuff,” and sandwiched in between unimportant but long telephone calls and “crisis” problems, was the executive who worked at home every morning for an hour and a half before coming to the office.

I know what some of you are thinking: I have other responsibilities. Meetings. My boss needs me. My spouse calls. I can’t just hide.

This is why you need a system.
5. Have A Personal System

I’ve spoken to a few insanely productive people. You know what none of them said?

“I don’t know how I get stuff done. I just wing it and hope for the best.”

Not one. Your routines can be formal and scientific or personal and idiosyncratic — but either way, productive people have a routine.

Here’s Tim:

Defining routines and systems is more effective than relying on self-discipline. I think self-discipline is overrated.

Allowing yourself the option to do what you have not decided to do is disempowering and asking for failure. I encourage people to develop routines so that their decision-making is only applied to the most creative aspects of their work, or wherever their unique talent happens to lie.

Great systems work because they make things automatic, and don’t tax your very limited supply of willpower.

What do we see when we systematically study the great geniuses of all time? Almost all had personal routines that worked for them.

(“Give and Take” author Adam Grant consistently writes in the mornings while Tim always writes at night.)

How do you start to develop your own personal system? Apply some 80-20 thinking:
1.What handful of activities are responsible for the disproportionate number of your successes?
2.What handful of activities absolutely crater your productivity?
3.Rearrange your schedule to do more of No. 1 and to eliminate No. 2 as much as possible.

So you’re all set to wake up tomorrow with a system and not be reactive. How do you make sure you follow through on this tomorrow? It’s simple.
6. Define Your Goals The Night Before
Wake up knowing what is important before the day’s pseudo-emergencies come barging into your life and your inbox screams new commands.

Here’s Tim:

Define your one or two most important to-dos before dinner, the day before.

Best-selling author Dan Pink gives similar advice:

Establish a closing ritual. Know when to stop working. Try to end each workday the same way, too. Straighten up your desk. Back up your computer. Make a list of what you need to do tomorrow.

Research says you’re more likely to follow through if you’re specific and if you write your goals down.

Studies show this has a secondary benefit: writing down what you need to do tomorrow relieves anxiety and helps you enjoy your evening.

So how does this all come together?
Summing Up

Here are Tim’s 6 tips:
1.Manage Your Mood
2.Don’t Check Email in The Morning
3.Before You Try To Do It Faster, Ask Whether It Should Be Done At All
4.Focus Is Nothing More Than Eliminating Distractions
5.Have A Personal System
6.Define Your Goals The Night Before
The word “productivity” sounds like we’re talking about machines. But the funny thing is that much of being truly good with time is about feelings.

How should you strive to feel when working? Busy, but not rushed. Research shows this is when people are happiest.
Once you are more productive, you’ll have a lot more hours to fill. So why not use them to make others and yourself happier?
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This article originally appeared hereCopyright 2014

06 June 2014

Staying at home

I've made the "official" announcement on my Facebook status, but I'll also share with you here, in case some of you aren't my friends on Facebook.
I have submitted my resignation to my boss. My last day of work will be June 13, 2014.
This was a very difficult decision, since I absolutely love working at SB Partners. It is a fantastic accounting firm - the partners and managers treat each and every one of their staff with respect and honour. There is no drama or emotional trampling by anyone. It's a great place to work, and it is a highly sought after accounting firm to partner with for all things accounting.
However, for the last six months or so, I've been feeling like I need to be at home with my kids. Alexander just turned six, and Isabel is three. Already they are growing up so fast. And in only a short while, they will be pre-teens and chances are they won't want to have anything to their boring ol' mom. And right now, they long for me to be with them all the time. So why would I not be with them, if that's what they want?
I can always go back to work later, when they don't need me around so much. Yes, Jeff is back on 100% commission with his work, but we've done it before and God has never let us go without what we need. We are totally trusting that God will sustain us.
I'm excited about this new chapter in our lives (I'll finally be able to properly clean my house more than once a week! - you wouldn't believe how difficult it is to do that when you only have two days off a week).
I'll still be popping by the office every once in a while with Jeff's triple layer bars - they are SO GOOD ... and my boss's favourite treat.
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