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It’s Never Too Late for a Family Meeting – Here’s How to Do Them Well
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When there is a large inheritance at stake (or even when there isn’t), it’s a great idea to get everyone on the same page. A family meeting can make that happen, and it can even be enjoyable.
5 Smart Ways to Pay for Law School
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5 Smart Ways to Pay for Law School

When you realize that the average tab for law school tuition and fees approaches $50,000 a year and that most young lawyers report owing at least $150,000, your reaction might be as dramatic as a Perry Mason moment. How to pay for the privilege of adding J.D. to your name and bellying up to the […]

The post 5 Smart Ways to Pay for Law School appeared first on SoFi.

Productive, Happy, Focused—How Small Habits Bring Big Success
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Today’s episode is a conversation with Jeff Sanders, host of The 5 AM Miracle Podcast and author of the The Free-Time Formula: Finding Happiness, Focus, and Productivity No Matter How Busy You Are. Jeff and I discuss some simple strategies he has used to define and commit to the habits that have delivered amazing results for him.

Jeff’s success story begins with simply waking up at 5 a.m. one day to run. With no specific goal or intention, he decided to give it a try. Fast forward to today, and he hosts a podcast, has authored books, and runs a business all due, in part, to that simple habit change. Just imagine what his advice might help you achieve!

I'll summarize our conversation here, but I encourage you to click on the audio player above or listen to the show on your favorite podcast app to get every juicy bit of his sage advice on being productive through finding and forming habits that work for you.

Begin by choosing the “right” habits

Whether it’s flossing more, Insta-gazing less, or jumping on that Paleo train, we all know that changing habits can have big impacts on our health, families, and careers. But what if your challenge is that you’re not sure which habits to focus on?

It could start with knowing you want something—maybe a promotion, a new job, or to start your own business. Or maybe you’re not sure what you want. Maybe you feel bored or stuck or stagnant and you’re just looking for something to change. How can changing a habit help your cause? And what habit do you start with?

There is no right answer, so just pick something. Doing anything is better than doing nothing.

Jeff’s secret? There is no right answer, so just pick something. Doing anything is better than doing nothing. Try something on, see if it fits, and be ready to let it go if it’s not serving you.

Jeff likes the “tinker and try” method. He started with a 5 a.m. wakeup. He had no specific goal; he just needed a change. And he discovered that with this simple switch to his routine, he found time to exercise and then plan and prep his day before 9 a.m. This left him energized, focused, and ultimately more productive.

He also tried habits that didn’t suit him. Meditation, something we all know we’re “supposed” to be doing, just didn’t work for him. But rather than seeing his inability to meditate as a personal failing, he simply labeled the meditation habit as "not for me" and moved on.

Make a list of 5-10 habits you'd like to try. Rank them in order of the most compelling to the least, and then choose one per week for the next several weeks. By test-driving each habit, week by week, you're likely to find one that fits.

Build routines that support the habit

Choosing a habit and making it stick definitely aren’t one and the same. So how do we bring a new habit to life?

Jeff offers a number of strategies that have worked for him. Here are the highlights:

Pave the path of least resistance

When Jeff woke up to run that first day, he realized that, in his bleary-eyed state, it took a lot of effort to get dressed, fill his water bottle, lace up his sneakers, and cue up his music. So in preparing for day-two, he laid out clothes, water, and iPod the night before. Then, all he had to do was get up and go.

Make it so easy to say yes that saying no would feel ridiculous.

What’s your version of this? Maybe your goal is to read more business articles. How about starting by finding 10 you want to read. Digitally bookmark them (or print them out, if you prefer), and then prepare a retreat in your favorite reading nook with a notebook, pen, and your favorite mug filled with your hot beverage of choice. When the time comes to dedicate yourself to reading and absorbing those articles, you'll have made it so easy to say yes that saying no would feel ridiculous.

Rock your FBOTs

FBOTs is Jeff's acronym for Focused Blocks of Time. It’s committing yourself to do something by making (and protecting) time for it on your calendar. Think you’re not updating your LinkedIn profile because you don’t have time for it? Then schedule a time for it and consider that appointment with yourself non-negotiable pending true emergencies.

FBOTs are Focused Blocks of Time—committing yourself to doing something by making (and protecting) time for it on your calendar.

Take it a step further and schedule a weekly hour dedicated to developing your personal brand. Then, know that each week, whether it’s cultivating your social profile, updating your resume, or growing your network, you’ve committed an FBOT to developing you. That’s a beautiful habit to begin!

Know all of your selves

As proud as Jeff is of the 5 a.m. version of himself, he’s honest about how difficult the 9 p.m. version of himself can make things when it comes to his commitment to habit change. Getting up at 5 a.m. with the energy to run means going to bed at 9. But 9 p.m. Jeff doesn’t always want to do that. Because the siren song of Netflix is powerful.

So Jeff makes sure that all of his selves stay focused on the benefits of the habit change. Every night at 9, when Netflix is calling his name, Jeff has to recognize the temptation and recommit to his healthy habit. Reminding himself of how great it feels to run and plan—happy, healthy, and focused—generally helps 5 a.m. Jeff win the battle against temptation.  

Link up your identity

Don’t just be a person who gets up early to run—be a runner, and be proud of that.Maybe instead of being someone who reads an article per week you identify yourself as a lifelong learner. You’re not someone looking for a job; you’re an ambitious go-getter growing a lifelong career.

It may feel like semantics. But words and mindset matter. Who are you striving to be? How does the habit you've formed support you in that quest?

 

Keep a habit only as long as it works for you

One of Jeff’s secrets to success is a constant re-evaluation of what he’s doing and what he’s striving for. His goals may change over time, and so too might his habits.

This constant re-evaluation requires a time investment, but that investment has paid substantial dividends over the years. So many of us are “too busy to be productive,” he says. And when you feel like your calendar has overtaken you, it’s time to change.

Jeff does a weekly review during which he looks at the week behind and plans for the week ahead. He asks himself some simple questions:

  • What commitments to myself did I honor? (He celebrates those)
  • What new things did I try that worked well? (He repeats those in the next week)
  • What didn’t work well (He lets those go with grace. Those habits or actions just weren’t for him)
  • What outcomes does he want to achieve in the following week?
  • What habits or actions does he want to commit to in service of those outcomes?
  • What existing habits may no longer be serving him?

The process is simple and efficient, but it helps him maintain clarity, focus, and joy in his work and life. And that's pretty darn close to a perfect definition of success.

12 Smart Ways to Fight Price Inflation
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If you’ve noticed yourself spending more at the grocery store or to fill up your gas tank lately, chances are it’s not because you’re purchasing more food or doing a lot of extra driving. Consumer prices rose 5.4% in July compared to the year prior. It’s the greatest spike in inflation since 2008, although experts believe […]

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

9 Tips for Working Two Jobs and Keeping Your Sanity
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The number of Americans working two jobs — or more — is higher than it has ever been. Recent data from the Census Bureau reveals that an estimated 7.8% of U.S. workers work more than one job, up from 6.8% in 1996. The necessity of holding a full-time job plus one or two part-time jobs […]

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

10 Cheap School Lunch Ideas That Are Kid-Approved
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Is there anything more satisfying as a parent than having a lunch box come home empty? Here are 10 cheap school lunches that are easy to make and kid-approved.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Find Remote Jobs at These 32 Work-From-Home Companies
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Ready to ditch the cubicle and communal kitchen? This list of work-from-home companies will have you doing just that.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Where to Find Cheap or Free Tutoring for Your Kids
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Whether your kid is struggling to read or to understand advanced calculus, some additional one-on-one instruction can make a world of difference. That’s why parents hire tutors — to boost their kids’ academic progress beyond the constraints of the school day. But finding the funds to pay a tutor can be tough for a family […]

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Money Talk: Sara Fujimura on the Importance of Talking About Money
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Money Girl Laura Adams: When did you decide that you wanted to become an author (or other career)?

Sara Fujimura: Not until after college where I earned a B.S. in Public Health Education. My favorite class in college was Epidemiology, and deadly diseases used to be my jam…that is until March 2020. I am infinitely fascinated by the Spanish Flu and did several articles about it, including one for Perspectives in Health, published by an arm of the World Health Organization. While doing research, I came across all kinds of captivating stories in diaries, letters, newspaper articles, and even some video interviews (much later on) from survivors. I took these true stories and wove them into my young adult historical fiction novel Breathe, which came out in 2018 on the 100th anniversary of the pandemic. Who knew that only two years later, everybody would suddenly become an expert on the Spanish Flu and pandemics in general? While I was doing research (so much research!) for Breathe, I decided to keep going with my storytelling, slowly moving from magazine articles to young adult books full-time.  

MG: Do you write full-time?

SF: I do, but I am also blessed to have a spouse with a stable job and health insurance. I didn’t start writing full-time until after my children finished high school. Before then, I wrote part-time and donated a lot of time to my children’s schools/activities. I don’t regret this at all. It was a time of story-collecting and educating myself on writing craft.

Writing tends to be a feast-or-famine occupation, and the pandemic hit our profession just as hard as everybody else’s. COVID19 has been the great equalizer. Whether you were the Big Fish or the tiny minnow in your publishing house, NOBODY went out on book tour. This is where being an indie-pubbed author first saved my bacon. Tor Teen (publisher for my third and fourth books) can definitely do things that I can’t, like getting my book reviewed on NPR. But I can also do things that they can’t, like tapping into my local networks and keeping my books alive even when all of my in-person events went *poof* in 2020. Yeah, releasing a new book two weeks before the country goes into lockdown…1 out of 10 stars. Highly would NOT recommend it. With America slowly opening back up, I hope to combine my entrepreneurial spirit with Tor Teen’s fantastic marketing team to make an exponential jump in sales with my latest book, Faking Reality (July 13).   

MG: Did you study writing (or something else) or has it always come naturally to you?

SF: People are often surprised to hear that I do NOT have an English degree. It was my Public Health degree that led me to write. My senior year, one of my professors asked me to be his intern because he knew I could take complex topics and boil them down into accessible information for the general public. Fast-forward to the early 2000s when I received a call from an editor of a homeland security magazine who had seen my articles on the Spanish Flu. He wanted me to take cutting-edge scientific information and boil it down so that first responders could implement it into their jobs. Though I stopped doing magazine work so I could concentrate on book projects, in a way, I am still using this skill. You can enjoy my books as funny, sweet romances. Or, if you want to dig deeper, there is a lot of fact behind the fiction woven into them. I do Behind the Book posts on Instagram frequently to show readers how I brought my books to life.

MG: When you first started writing (or something else), were there any financial challenges? How did you manage them?

SF: Definitely! For most of my twenty years of writing, money has flowed more out than in. Granted, that was a choice. I could write on staff at a newspaper or edit for other authors to create some kind of financial stability in my business, but I don’t.

I reinvest my paychecks into my LLC and update my equipment, attend conferences, and pay for marketing. My first two books were independently published. To ensure that the final product was of the same quality as something found on a Barnes & Noble shelf, I had to spend money. A lot of money.

I hired content editors, copyeditors, experts, historians, and graphic designers. I also needed a large chunk of money for the business side of my book-making. That included everything from purchasing tax licenses, a tent and tables, bookmarks, KDP ads, travel to events, and more. It adds up very quickly, but it paid off. I’ve finally started turning a profit. If Netflix wants to make one of my books into a movie or series, that would definitely help my bottom line.   

MG: What advice would you give someone who's creative or wants to change their lifestyle about balancing passion for their art and earning an income?

SF: Start small and build. I had the safety net of my husband’s job and healthcare underneath me so I could experiment more than maybe some can. Keep reinvesting any income into your business and education. Take the time to build your community and lift up other creatives in your circles.

Talking about money always feels squidgy, but we need to do it!

MG: What productivity tips have helped you achieve success?

SP: My productivity hacks continue to evolve as I listen to a lot of productivity and entrepreneurial podcasts. I agree with the experts that success *doesn’t* come from time management but instead focus management. Not only do I have the usual distractions (social media, snacks, a toddler cat who will eat the couch if she’s feeling ignored), but I also have new ideas pinging around my brain all the time.

Success doesn’t come from time management but instead focus management. 

I often sing to my cat the line from the great contemporary poets/songwriters LMFAO…“Every day I’m shufflin’. Shufflin’. Shufflin’.” If I’ve been burning the midnight oil too much, Tiger Lily might even get some interpretative dance along with it. (For the record, she is not impressed by either.) Seriously though, I’ve yet to turn into the type of author who keeps the same strict writing schedule. I’m always out of balance, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I can write a complete (crappy) novel in two months, but it tears up my body, and I become a hermit. With a new book coming out on July 13th (Faking Reality with Tor Teen), launch prep and promo for the new book is my primary focus this month. This fall, I’m planning a long vacation to the East Coast to see my family and probably won’t work at all while I’m there. To help me decide where to put my time, focus, and energy, I use a couple of tools.

  1. I use Brian Moran’s 12-Week Year philosophy (https://12weekyear.com/)  to help me cull the ideas and decide where to put my focus each “year.” That way, I don’t have a big freak out every December. The system helps me go deeper on fewer things, and that’s how progress realistically happens.
  2. I use Todoist (https://todoist.com/) to park all the tasks. Granted there are days when I have 25 things on my list, but at least I know they are all captured somewhere, even if it isn’t that project’s “year” yet.
  3. I take my sometimes (okay, often) unrealistic To-Do list and pull a few of the highest-value tasks into a much more manageable list in my bullet journal. There are utilitarian bullet journals and ones that are mini art masterpieces. Mine is somewhere in between. My bujo contains To-Do lists done in colored pens in nice handwriting and decorated with washi tape. I will not be taking questions on the amount of washi tape I own. *cough*

MG: What do you like to spend money on that some people might consider a splurge or luxury?

Travel. I would rather live a modest retirement with thousands of stories to reminisce about than retire with a billion dollars after working non-stop until retirement age. Though I would be okay with having a billion dollars *and* going on multiple vacations around the globe each year. Netflix, call me!

Also, cute washi tape. Moving on.

SF: What’s the best thing you’ve bought in the last few months?

Renting an Air B&B up in Sedona for a long weekend with my husband and two grown kids. Being outside and hiking around the gorgeous red rocks recharged my spirit more than any expensive purse or shoes could have.

MG: What’s the biggest money mistake you’ve ever made?

Early in my writing career, I didn’t always write with a contract. I got burned so many times. Yes, it was for only a few hundred dollars each time, but the bigger issue was that I didn’t feel confident enough to insist on a contract.

SF: Tell me a financial rule that you never break.

Errr…how about I tell you the rule that has continued to plague me? It is the same problem as the previous answer, only in a different form: Undervaluing my work and giving away too much of my time, energy, and expertise. Yes, I want to be generous and helpful to others, but when a male counterpart is paid more than you for the same work (or worse, subpar work but done with chutzpah), you need to reevaluate your fee schedule. I get on my female friends regularly about undercharging for their products/services. I have lost count of the number of times I have overtipped or refused a discount because a businesswoman was undervaluing herself. This is where having a community is paramount.

You need to know what the going rate is in your area. If you have a mastermind group with other women in your field, then I challenge your group to set an agreed-upon amount so that your price becomes the area’s norm, not the exception.

My author mastermind group recently had a frank discussion about school visit fees, where I realized that my rates were way too low. Talking about money always feels squidgy, but we need to do it! 

14 Biggest Home Selling Mistakes & How to Avoid Them
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Looking to move out of your house? Learn these mistakes to avoid to help ensure you get a great offer and sell your property quickly.
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