5 Keys to Staying Productive

It seems like the more I have on my plate the more productive I stay. It’s easy for me to hop from one thing to another and cross things off my list when there’s a lot to it. But when I have little to “do” I sometimes fall off the productivity grid because I have no outside force pushing me. But the crazy thing is that I’d actually rather stay productive doing my own thing rather than things other people put in front of me!

So the idea would be to be even more productive when I don’t have school or other things to do with getting things done that are important to me and will further my life for the better. So how do we do it?

1. Write it down. What do you want to accomplish? This is apart from finishing your homework or getting your oil changed. What is it that you want to take upon yourself to do or complete that will make your life or someone else’s life better? Get a clear picture of it and then take the time to write it down so you won’t forget. =)

2. Schedule out your day. One of the keys to staying productive even is to schedule your day (or even your week) even when it’s not scheduled for you! I’m not the expert here, but I want to get back into it because I’ve always felt the most fulfilled when I did. I sit down in the morning and write out what the next 24 hours will look like. Whether it’s the gym right after work or reading during lunch or making phone calls on my drive home. Whatever it is, I want to know how I am going to spend my non-renewable resource called time.

3. Stay involved. Those things you wrote down? Get into them and stay into them. Even if they are goals or things you’d like to do that will take several days or even weeks, don’t give up. Read them and think about them everyday. And actually DO something when you are scheduled to. This will keep you interested and keep your mind on the prize. If the goal is to weigh 10 lbs less and you are going to work out 4 times a week then don’t miss a workout! If you do, you’ll want to miss the next one too. 😉

4. Track progress. If you’re going to stay involved you might as well take the time to track your progress. Otherwise, you might feel like all that “involvement” is not paying off! Whatever it is you are working toward, track the progress you are making toward it. As you see yourself getting closer to the goal you’ll want to stick with it and see it to completion.

5. Cut out unnecessary time-consumers. Once again, I’m no expert here but I am realizing more than ever what an hour of TV watching could be. Or how I could grow even during a lunch break. The possibilities of using our time wisely are endless and so are the time-consumers! 😉 Choose what you want to spend your time on and then spend it on that. Simple, right? ha! I know other things try to cramp in on your time but the key is just to be protective of it.

What do you guys think? Do you have any other tips on staying productive?

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Retirement Doesn’t Have to be Your [only] Goal

Ever since I’ve started to read Personal Finance blogs I’ve realized there seems to be a common theme: retirement. And there’s definitely nothing wrong with that. Many people’s goal is to work, save and live in such a way to be able to retire earlier than most with more money than most. Now, what they are actually going to DO during retirement, I am not sure. It varies from person to person, I guess.

But regardless if that is the dream most people are chasing and working to achieve it does not mean that is the dream you have to work to achieve. Or at least the only one you work toward.

Maybe your goal is to save enough money to start your own business one day. Or to have enough to live on while you start blogging full-time.

I guess it all comes down to how you define, “retirement.” Sure, one day, I’d like to escape the 8-5 and “retire” but that doesn’t mean I want to sit around and do nothing. It means I want to be able to do whatever I want 24/7…whether that’s working, playing, relaxing or traveling. But with that definition of retirement we don’t have to wait till we’re older when we are able to cash in our 401(k)s or IRAs. It’s something we can work to achieve much earlier than that if we would like (while still funding those ‘retirement’ accounts for later on.)

Of course it’s hard enough to save enough to live on after the traditional “retirement” around the age of 60, so if you’re wanting to do some major things before then it will require even more focus and planning. But of course, as always, it’s totally possible.

If you’ve been stuck in the mindset that all you’re working toward is retirement but feel a little uneasy about it you should take time today or this week to sit down and write out the things you’d like to achieve before then. And then how you’re going to get there. 🙂

How to Start Off and STAY on the Right Course

We all know the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” But really, it’s only the “right” kind of practice that makes perfect. I can practice wrong over and over and I’ll be, well, perfectly wrong.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

When we start off on a new goal, whether it’s a new career path, a new financial goal, a new way of living, a new relationship, trying to better a relationship, or just starting “life” out right in general, it’s imperative we not start off in the wrong direction. If we do start off wrong, we’ll have to back-track which leads to waste of time and other valuable resources.

So what do we do? How do we start off right?

1. Take your time and count the cost.
Don’t jump to a conclusion about where you’d like to be without giving it some time. Consider it much like a large purchase. A large purchase will take a significant amount of money. And a big “goal” will also require a significant amount of resources. It’s not something to decide on a whim. If you do, it will probably fade quickly cause you haven’t counted the cost.

2. Write it down.
Okay, I’m sure you’re tired of reading it but it’s so true. There is so much power in writing things down. First write down the goal or end-product you’d like to see and then take the time to write down  the specific steps it will take to get there. Those steps will probably be certain actions you need to take with due dates. This will give you a clear blueprint of how to get and stay on the right course all the way to the fulfillment of your dream.

3. Invite the help of others.
Start off right by having some support. And keep the support all the way through. Friends who hear your passion about something will help remind you when the passion is running dry later on.

4. Take frequent pit stops.
Some people say that if you ever take a break from working toward your goal you’ll give it up all together. I disagree. Sometimes you need to step back and take an honest look at the situation. Take a rest and look over your blueprint again and see the big picture. Find yourself in it and remind yourself why you’re working toward it. You’ll feel refreshed and energized and ready to get back to work to reaching it.

That’s just a few things I thought of on how to start and stay on course toward any kind of goal you’d like to reach.

What do you guys think? Any other tips on starting and staying on the right course?

Juggling It All

I remember there was this time when I was young when I found myself whining, “I’m boooooooooooooooored” to my mom and dad. It usually happened about 2 weeks into summer when I was tired of doing all of the “out-of-school-summer-fun” already. But it probably happened on the weekends too. I just didn’t know what to do with myself!

My how things have changed! I can’t remember the last time I said those words now. There’s just so much to do! Always. I am fairly certain I could keep myself occupied for 24 hours out of the 24 hour day if I could. Sometimes I hate sleep.

Our hours are filled with working, playing, learning, relating, eating, sleeping and a thing I like to call bettering. 😉 But whatever our hours are filled up with there’s one thing that is for sure–we don’t want to drop any of these. There may be seasons when we have to focus a little bit less on a certain area but we have to keep them in our lives regardless of how busy we are because that’s why they are there in the first place: they’re important to us.

So we juggle.

I juggle.
Today I juggled the fact it was a Monday with the fact I am moving this Saturday with the fact I had to be at work for 8 1/2 hours with the fact I want to spend time with my family with the fact American Idol was on tonight with the fact that since I am moving this weekend I need to get all my homework done before then with the fact my eyes hurt from already looking at a computer all day with the fact it’s such a beautiful day I just want to go outside with the fact I didn’t write a blog this morning so I want to tonight with the fact I got a new cell phone and I just want to play with it!

It could seem like it’s all so much that something’s got to give. But…it doesn’t. Necessarily. All of it’s possible. And yes, it’s a struggle, but when you set your mind and heart to it you can handle anything. And you can handle it well.

But it won’t just happen. We have to make it happen.

We have to set priorities and plans. Even if that’s a quick jot-down in the morning of what you want to do that day and how you’re going to get it all done. When you get into a routine like this the juggling becomes less and less of a struggle and more and more of an enjoyment. You feel satisfied. Accomplished. Energized. Ready to move forward some more.

We don’t have to give up things we love for other things we love or certain goals for other goals. We can handle more than we think we can…and we can handle it with a smile and with poise. 😉

How do you juggle everything in your life and keep a right heart at the same time?

Financial Goals: Makin’ It Happen

So last week or so I posted some specific goals I’d like to reach by end of this year. There were some financial ones, health ones, education ones and relationship ones.

I was able to post them but not able to give a lot of specifics on how to do achieve those goals. Today I wanna discuss how I am planning on meeting my financial goals for 2010 and give you a small update on each of them.

Here is my list from February 24 and my thoughts below.

FINANCIAL
1. $1,000 in emergency fund by year end 2010
2. $2,000 in cash savings by year end 2010
3. $1500 for vacation in fall of 2010
4. $800 for school every semester
5. Open a 401(k) and Roth IRA and begin to fund

On the emergency fund…
I am currently 75% to my goal. I was going back and forth whether to just throw all my extra money at it at once to get it up to the goal more quickly but I’ve got a few other things happenin’ so I’m going a little slower than I thought.

On the cash savings…
This isn’t much yet. I’ll say this: there’s some in there. But I am not contributing to it currently so I can add more to my e-fund. (By the way, this is basically an extension of my emergency fund. I’d like to get my e-fund up to 6-8 months of living expenses because you never know what could happen.)

On the vacation savings…
I am all set to go on a vacation but the more I think about it sometimes the more I think, “If I put that money toward my e-fund that’d ROCK.” But…vacations are good things. And I haven’t been on one in awhile so I’m doing this. Though I am thinking of cutting the cost down. 😉

On the school savings…
I’ve got a plan in place that should rock this baby home! I’m thrilled.

On the 401(k) and Roth IRA…
I will open the 401(k) in November as that is when I am eligible for an employer match. And I’m shooting to open my Roth once I”m done saving for vacation (hopefully mid or late summer.) I know some of you may have just fallen down dead that I’d put off retirement savings for a vacation NOW but it is what it is and I’m happy about it! 😉

There you have it, kids. Short and sweet.

What are some of your financial goals and how are you reaching them??

Goals: Set, Keep, Reach

Goals are vital. I’m always telling myself and people around me that if you don’t set a goal I can guarantee you, 100% of the time you WILL. NOT. REACH. IT.

Of course, right? But we all tend to live (at times) as if we are going to do and reach everything we want to without actually telling ourselves exactly what that is. Yes, we all want to live a good life. Yes, we all want to love. Yes, we all want to be different and make a difference. But what does that look like? Really?

I’m not one to say that there is a certain thing I want to “be” when I grow up, but I do have dreams and desires. But those dreams and desires will only come about in the form of short-term goals. Yes, mid and long term goals are needed as well–and hopefully I’ll talk about those soon–but if there is no short term goal that I can see I am getting closer to reaching, I start to lose hope. And when it comes down to it, hope drives us.

So…because I want to be transparent and I want to share with you specifics about my life (and I want to know specifics about  yours!) I’m going to list some of my more short-term goals in a few different areas.

FINANCIAL (so supposedly you aren’t supposed to talk about your finances with people but….why not??)
1. $1,000 in emergency fund by year end 2010
2. $2,000 in cash savings by year end 2010 (this is gonna be a hard one.)
3. $1500 for vacation in fall of 2010
4. $800 for school every semester (the rest is going on a loan….I know, I know, everyone says loans aren’t good but we’ll talk about that in a later post.)
5. Open a 401(k) and Roth IRA and begin to fund (I’m 20 and I know that’s when you’re supposed to start saving for retirement but I want to get my cash savings built  up first.

There are some other shortER term goals like a mini-vacation to TX one weekend, a new cell phone, saving for some furniture, etc, etc. And in order to meet all these goals it requires a little more attention to be paid to your finances than just putting your paycheck in your checking account and then swiping you debit card a few times. But take heart! It CAN be done!

HEALTH
Well, this is a good one, right? Sure, it’s good to have goals in the health area of your life but they are soooo hard to keep. At least for me, they are. As much as I don’t want to blame things on my environment sometimes I feel it really is the reason I’m not keeping my short-term health goals. But regardless! Here they are….
1. Work out 4 times a week.
2. No caffeine.
3. One “sugar-extra” a week. (Are you kidding me, right now?!?)
4. At least 6 hours of sleep every night.
5. Lose 10 pounds by May 1

These are goals. They are things I’m working toward. The no caffeine thing I have been doing really really well on. The second week of January I decided to knock out coffee out of my diet completely, and it was a VERY good decision. I have no more caffeine-induced, artificial energy. Only the raw thing! The other things I’m still working on. =)

EDUCATION/TRAINING
1. Read smart/successful/entertaining people’s blogs daily. (I have a wide array of blogs I read–friends about their daily life, new entrepreneurs, older entrepreneurs, CEOs, smart professionals, LOTS of personal finance bloggers. I encourage you to start adding good blogs you come across to your google reader so you can look at all of them in one place.)
2. Read books often. (Right now it’s a lot of books for school but if I have any extra time I like to pick up books I’ve heard are a must to read. I keep a “wish list” on Amazon so I always know what I need. =)
3.  Finish my bachelor’s degree.

Learning is for everyone. Whether you have your bachelor’s degree or not, you can never learn enough. So whatever you’re interested in keep learning more about it. And whatever you WANT to be more interested in, you can be by just sticking yourself out a little and finding a few blogs or books!

RELATIONSHIPS
Ultimately, I don’t want my relationships to be “goals” but sometimes I have to internalize some certain things I want to do in the near future with certain people I love or want to reach out to. Here’s a few examples.
1. More hang time with my family.
2. More networking with those I haven’t talked to in awhile.
3. More talking to strangers.
5. Not be so uptight and learn to enjoy the spontaneous fun-ness that always happens in a house full of 7 people I love dearly.

Obviously goals are better set, kept and reached when they have some kind of “numerical” value to them…because then you can measure it easily. Relationships aren’t numbers though, they are faces, and I’d like to keep them that way. So when I go to “measure” these relational goals I just have to let my heart do all the thinking.

Ok. That is SOO enough of my goals.

Now my questions for you!

What goals have you set, kept and reached lately? What goals do you need to set now? How do you keep yourself on track?