Tag Archives: Skype

BOOK REVIEW: EASE Manage overwhelm in times of “Crazy Busy”

By Sheryl Smolkin

Most of the books reviewed this year on savewithspp.com have been about personal financial planning and retirement. However, it’s hard to hold down a job and save for retirement if you are always overwhelmed and crazy busy both at work and at home.

Does that sound familiar? Then Eileen Chadnick’s new book “Ease” may help you find the balance you need to break the cycle.

Chadnick is a leadership coach and principal of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto with more than 20 years of experience in diverse careers including coaching, public relations, fitness and writing. Her articles regularly appear in the Globe and Mail.

Are times of “crazy busy” the new normal? Chadnick says the season of “rush” is now year-round. Demands of work and life continue to accelerate to unprecedented levels. In Ease, she offers a toolkit to manage “overwhelm” in our daily lives.

Here are some of the tools for organizing your life Chadnick explores in detail.

  1. Get it out of your head: Write it down
    Making lists seems pretty basic to me because that’s how I’m wired. But lists covering short and longer term personal and work objectives can certainly help you stay focused.
  2. Get a grip on your schedule
    Don’t schedule two activities back to back in different parts of the city. Build in more responsible time margins. And schedule “white space” — time for yourself — into your agenda.
  3. Prioritize and triage
    Use priorities to establish boundaries but maintain appropriate flexibility. Having clear priorities will act as a compass for how to spend your limited time and give you a reassuring map when there is too much to do.
  4. Manage distractions
    Ah yes. Facebook, surfing the web and email are notorious distractions. But non-urgent interruptions by colleagues and family members can also throw you off course. Identify distractions, manage the expectations of others and create systems for handling email.
  5. Reign in the multitasking
    Being able to multitask is generally viewed as a positive attribute. But if you spend your entire day juggling tasks with little time to focus, you will likely use much more energy and feel more depleted than if you utilize the same amount of hours focusing on serial tasks.
  6. Learn to say no
    Learn to manage your reflexive “yes” habit and how to appropriately say no when it counts. Acknowledge the request. Share your reasons for declining. And where possible make another offer that is more doable. For example, “While I can’t participate in that project I’d be prepared to attend a preliminary brainstorming session so others can run with some of my ideas.”
  7. Managing the paradox of choice at the buffet of life
    Be aware of and take responsibility for the work and life choices you make. Just because you love to golf doesn’t mean you have to play two or three times a week and beat yourself up when you can’t. Take one course a semester instead of two. It may take longer to get your degree but you’ll have time to do other things.
  8. Tame your inner critics
    Do you have an inner voice constantly telling you that the job will never get done or you will never be able to manage? It often comes out when you are tired or can’t sleep. Know your triggers. Become masterful at self-observation so that you can recognize those inner-critic moments and transition to your resourceful, reasonable self.
  9. Climb your mountain one step at a time
    Step back from any project or task and break it down into pieces. Then attempt one step at a time. Remember — small steps add up to a solid journey.
  10. Clear the cache
    Experts say that sometimes the best way to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem is to walk away from it for some period of time. Taking breaks from an issue can trigger a switch that increases mental function, creativity and productivity. Take a walk, go to the gym or bake a cake. While you unplug and shift gears answers will come to you.

I particularly like the chapter on the importance of positive thinking. In one of my early jobs I had a hard time adjusting to the company culture and initially blamed my unhappiness on other co-workers. Shortly after when I decided to stop complaining and take a more positive, constructive approach, my work and my relationships became a lot more manageable.

Much of Chadnick’s advice is common sense and you have probably heard most of it before. However, taken together and with explanations grounded in neuroscience, her ideas form a powerful roadmap for getting your life in order. She is available for private coaching, to speak to book clubs via Skype and to present at conferences.

She can be reached at eileen@bigcheese-coaching.com. You can also check out her website. Ease can be purchased from Chapters/Indigo online for $12.24. In addition, it is available as an ebook for your Kobo or Kindle.

Eileen Chadnick

Free resources for business start-ups

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

In September 2012 CIBC Economics reported that as of the previous June, more than half a million Canadians were in the process of starting their own business. Regionally British Columbia has the greatest start-up activity followed closely by Alberta and Saskatchewan.

If you are thinking about starting a small business or already doing so, saving money is a big priority. You may be surprised to learn how many free or low cost software tools are available to help you deliver a professional product with little additional overhead. Typically, enhanced versions of these products with more features are available for a monthly fee.

Here are some of the free resources I have used or become aware of since I started a retirement career as a freelance consultant and journalist three years ago. There are many other products with similar functionality available online so I encourage you to look for alternatives best suited to your business needs.

  1. Blogging software: A blog is a great way to promote your new business. You can be up and running for free in no time using programs such as WordPress or Blogspot. Depending on your budget and technical abilities, a blog can be incorporated into a more comprehensive website. For example, Savewithspp.com is an easy to update and maintain WordPress blog.
  2. Long distance calls: Using Skype on your computer or telephone for long distance audio or video calls will save you a fortune in long distance calls. Many recruiters now routinely use Skype for interviewing candidates worldwide. It has become an industry standard in many other businesses of all sizes.
  3. Google drive: Google Drive has a whole suite of free tools that gives you access to your work from anywhere on virtually any device. The feature I have found most useful is the ability to create shared spreadsheets with several clients to track publication schedules, release dates and billing. I haven’t tried it yet, but Google Hangouts which allows you to start or join an HD video meeting with up to 15 participants from wherever you are looks really interesting. 
  4. Google doodle: If you think trying to schedule a meeting with a group of people is akin to herding cats then this tool is for you. It’s called Doodle and it allows you to create an event and invite people to fill in the dates and times they are available. Then you can go to the website and see how they all match up to select a common meeting time, or create an event that only allows them to select one time slot.
  5. Dropbox: Dropbox is another multi-faceted cloud-based solution. I use it for storing and sharing files with clients. It is particularly useful if you need to move large video or audio files which cannot be easily sent by email.
  6. Webinars: A WebEx basic account will allow you to set up meetings online with shared slides and audio for up to 100 people. A premium “for pay” account offers more features and can accommodate a larger group.
  7. Conference calls: Using this site you can set up free conference calls with a dial-in number. The only hitch is that the free product does not include toll-free (800) dial-in numbers Therefore, call participants out of the calling area will pay long distance charges. For pay services also offered on the site will set you up with a toll-free line and other features. 
  8. Audio editing: I frequently do podcast audio interviews using an Olympus digital recorder plugged into my landline (yes, I still have one). Recently I turned my recorder on too soon and there were several seconds at the beginning that had to be edited out. Free audio editor for Windows saved the day!
  9. Newsletters: Paperlii is an intriguing free tool that allows you to pick a series of online sources and search terms which automatically run every day and generate an online newspaper which is delivered electronically to your client’s inbox.

There are lots of other free tools for small businesses including accounting, project management and sales management tools. We invite you to share information about free software tools available on the web that help you to run a small business with low overhead.

And remember, money saved is money earned!

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is an easy way to save for retirement. There are many ways to contribute including via your credit card or automatic withdrawal from your bank account. Furthermore, as your company grows, Saskatchewan Business Plans are ideal retirement savings vehicles for small employers. Click here for more information.

Do you have any ideas for saving money? Share your money saving tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

Taking a road trip on the cheap

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

Even with the sky high price of gas, there are plenty of great reasons to take a road trip with your family. First of all, convenient trains or planes that go directly to your destination may be unavailable. Furthermore, if all you ever do is hop from city to city by air, you miss all the great people and places in between.

But a long car trip can be stressful particularly if you are travelling with young children. Here are some ideas to help you make sure your road trip is an economical vacation to remember, for all the right reasons.

Budget

Make a realistic budget for food, gas, accommodation and entertainment and stick to it. That way the afterglow from your family vacation will not be dimmed by unexpected credit card bills when you get home. 

Your car

Have your car fully checked and serviced before you leave. If you don’t already have Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) or some other form of roadside assistance, now is the time to sign up. Consider the more expensive package that will pay for your car to be towed for a longer distance in case you have a breakdown in the middle of nowhere.

Maps

Get maps and plot out your route. A GPS is useful, but there is nothing like a hard copy where you can see the whole route at the same time. The CAA sells maps and guidebooks. They will also create a TripTik® for you or you can create your own TripTik® travel planner online.

Food

The selection of food at highway stops is limited and expensive. Bring a cooler and pack a picnic and healthy snacks for the road. Most hotels or motels will freeze your ice packs and you can refill the cooler at local grocery stores before you head out each day. Of course ice cream at local dairy bars is a mandatory summer treat.

Packing

Packing a car with car seats, clothes, toys, food and sports equipment for a whole family can be a challenge. Do a dry run before the morning you are leaving to get a realistic idea of what will fit. Then take half out. You may also decide a car roof box is necessary to fit in all the essentials.

Accommodation

Trailer and tent camping can be cost effective accommodation for families. However, if you are not the outdoors type there are hotels and motels to suit every budget. Make a realistic estimate of how far you can safely and sanely drive each day and pre-book. A service like priceline.com allows you to bid on discount hotel rooms and pay for them in advance.

Entertainment

Summer is festival season in Canada. Inexpensive or free concerts under the stars are a treat for the whole family. Coupon books offering discounts for local amusement parks historical sites and sports events can be purchased for many Canadian and U.S. cities. Research local events on the internet before you leave, and where possible plan your stops around the things you want to see and do.

Technology

Bring a car charger for your cell phone and keep your phone, tablet computers etc. fully charged. Be aware that cell phone charges can quickly mount up when you are travelling, particularly if you leave Canada and roaming charges kick in. Use Skype on your cell phone or a computer to avoid expensive long distance calls.

Cross-border

Each member of your family needs a passport to travel to the U.S. If you cross at a busy crossing frequently it may be worth getting a Nexus pass to avoid line ups. Check out what you can bring back duty free, depending on the length of your stay.

Drive safely

Follow the rules of the road. Don’t drink and drive. If you are tired find a place to spend the night, even if it is earlier than your anticipated stop. Avoid picking up strangers or hitchhikers. It is dangerous and can put your family at risk.

Do you have ideas about how to have a successful road trip on a budget? Share your tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

11-Jul Travel insurance What you need to know about travel insurance
18-Jul Buying a home Mortgage insurance vs life insurance
25-Jul Telecommuting Jobs where you can work from home