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Lifestyle

How to handle grief during the holidays

Community Cares - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The holidays are meant to be a joyous time. But for someone dealing with grief, celebrations can be extremely difficult. If you are grieving over a recent loss, or one that happened years ago, experts say there are things you can do to make facing the demands and the expectations of the holidays a little easier.

“There are no rules on how to deal with grief during the holidays,” says South University, West Palm Beach Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program Director, Dr. Denny Cecil-Van Den Heuvel. “You get to decide what is best for you.”

Cecil-Van Den Heuvel speaks from both personal and professional experience. In addition to her university duties, she is also in private practice where she helps patients deal with loss and life’s struggles. She also experienced a great loss of her own. Twenty-six years ago, her husband was killed in a plane crash, leaving her to raise their 5-year-old son alone. She was just 31.

“It’s not easy being a widow or having a family member die, because people watch you and make judgments about you and about how you are coping with loss,” says Dr. Cecil-Van Den Heuvel. “You’re not supposed to get over it. You don’t get over loss. You integrate the loss into your life so you become stronger and wiser. You understand the value of life more from your losses.”

Cecil-Van Den Heuvel has advice on how to handle your grief during the holidays.

Honor your loved one

Finding a way to honor your loved one during the holiday celebration can be especially important, and meaningful, if the loss is recent.

“Honor the one who is not there, and embrace what no one got to experience about that person but you. That may entail going to the gravesite, or to where the ashes are spread,” Cecil-Van Den Heuvel says. “You can even do a ritual of saying one thing about that person that they would have brought to the holiday if they had been there.”

It’s O.K. to be sad

Pretending to be happy and cheerful, especially after a recent loss, can be a tremendous strain.

“If you choose to be melancholy and sad, that’s O.K. - you need to mourn. A lot people walk a wide circle around it, but everyone deals with grief and loss differently,” Cecil-Van Den Heuvel says. “You don’t have to do the ‘chin up - everyone has to be happy’ routine.”

She also recommends journaling if you are thinking a lot about your loss as a way to explore and express your feelings.

It’s O.K. to be happy

Don’t be afraid to take part in fun holiday activities, and don’t feel guilty if you do find yourself having a good time during the celebrations.

“Enjoy the presence of those around you,” encourages Cecil-Van Den Heuvel.

Don’t set yourself up

Cecil-Van Den Heuvel believes it is easy for those who are grieving to set themselves up to have a bad holiday. “People anticipate what they’re going to feel and set themselves up to some degree to have a horrible time,” she explains. “Do not set the stage for what the day is going to be like. Just allow it to be what it is.”

She speaks of her own experience dealing with the loss of her husband.

“There were many times that I thought ‘This is going to be the hardest year’ because it was the fifth anniversary of his death, or some other milestone. And, many times it turned out not to the hardest year despite those milestones - but it could have been a hard year if I’d pushed it. Don’t choose to go in the black hole and stay there.”

Be authentic to yourself

Being authentic to yourself is the most important aspect of grieving during the holidays, or anytime.

“Allow yourself to feel the pain so you can integrate it into your life and learn and grow from it,” she says. “Nobody wants to suffer, but suffering has its purpose, and that purpose is growth. There is always going to be life and death, and we need to grow from grief rather than being victim to it.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Business-boosting tips to help small businesses maximize holiday sales

Business/Careers - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - It’s that time of year again.

Small business owners are preparing for a lucrative holiday season – with nearly three quarters (71 percent) expecting consistent or better sales this year compared to last year, according to Capital One’s Q3 Spark Business Barometer.

At the same time, research shows many shoppers will be buying gifts online and using credit cards. In fact, more than a third of Americans plan to do their holiday shopping online, and more than half plan to use credit cards to make purchases.

With the growth of online shopping and credit card spending, how can local businesses, like yours, and entrepreneurs capitalize on these trends to maximize sales and boost bottom lines? Enhancing your e-commerce strategy and leveraging the latest mobile sales tools are great places to start.

Capital One Spark Business offers tips and tools to help small businesses grow and save, including:

* Embrace mobile technology to maximize sales and save cash. New point-of-sale technologies make it easy and affordable to accept credit card payments and market your business more effectively. For example, Spark Pay offers a simple pricing plan with no contract necessary and enables businesses to send customized holiday offers and promotions to shoppers for free.

* Simplify your online shopping cart process and optimize your landing pages. Did you know that 68.06 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned? Give the customer plenty of choices by offering as many payment methods as possible. For smaller businesses competing with online giants, cart simplification technologies can be critical. You’ll also want to make sure your landing pages are fully optimized to meet all your customers’ needs. The last thing you want to do is increase your bounce rate and waste your marketing efforts.

* Make shipping and returns as painless for customers as possible. It’s important to customers: 70 percent of U.S. e-commerce shipments during the 2014 holiday shopping period could include free shipping – a 3 percent increase over 2013. 

* Invest in new marketing methods and focus on your online capabilities. Small business owners are already expressing a desire to do this. According to the Capital One Spark Business Barometer, 18 percent indicated that, besides attracting and retaining new customers, their most popular business goals are improving advertising and marketing tactics and streamlining expenses. E-commerce solutions can help them achieve both goals.

* When it comes to business expenses, use credit card programs that offer reporting and cash management tools, plus rewards to help increase margins. Capital One Spark Business Cards make earning and redeeming rewards easy, with no: rewards expiration; travel blackout dates; limit on the amount of cash you can earn; redemption tiers; and the list goes on.

Categories: Lifestyle

Learn why workplace benefits help provide financial security

Business/Careers - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Every year, employees with company-sponsored health plans are asked by their employers to select benefits for the following year. This process is called “open enrollment,” and it is an important event that is happening across the nation. While many view this as a chance to merely review and update health care coverage, such as medical, dental and vision, it is actually about much more than that.

According to the 2014 Workplace Benefits Study conducted by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), 74 percent of middle-income employees derive the majority of their financial security from the benefits they receive at work. Guardian suggests that families review their voluntary benefit options, such as life or disability insurance, in order to fill any gaps in coverage that could cause financial trouble in the wake of a crisis or medical event.

Here are some important benefits that are often overlooked when making elections during the open enrollment period, along with a brief explanation of how they can help you protect your income and preserve your savings:

Disability insurance - Your most important asset is your ability to earn an income. If you and your family rely on your income, disability insurance can help provide you with a stream of income if you are unable to work due to an illness - such as cancer - as well as accidents.

Life insurance - Life insurance is a great foundation of a smart financial plan. It’s about protecting your family and the life you work hard to give them. Having the right amount of life insurance can give you peace of mind that your loved ones will be taken care of if the unexpected was to happen. It can help them stay in the same home, pay off debt, or pay for college and anything else they may need if you are not there to support them financially.

Critical illness – Critical Illness insurance lets you focus on recovery, not finances. A serious illness such as stroke or heart attack could strike at any time, with no warning. You can use your benefit to pay for daily expenses and outstanding bills. Protect your savings; payments go directly to you - not the hospital.

Accident Insurance - No one sees an accident coming - but if you are in one, it can be devastating for your finances. An accident can bring unexpected expenses such as deductibles, emergency room fees and transportation costs. Accident insurance can ease the burden by helping you pay these additional bills.

Cancer Insurance – If you get a diagnosis of cancer, the last thing you need to think about is paying for treatment. Cancer brings many out-of-pocket expenses that your insurance may not cover and can cost you and your family thousands of dollars. Cancer insurance can help you pay for unexpected costs such as travel to treatment centers, loss of income, deductibles, co-pays and more.

It’s important to be aware of all the benefits offered to you at your workplace. Review all available options to make certain you are fully covered for your current situation – and for life’s unknown events. Check out Guardian’s two-minute videos that reinforce that good financial health and security begins with the benefits offered at the workplace at www.guardiananytime.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

Parents: 3 holiday tech gifts that can help your kids in the classroom

Education - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Toys and games are sure to be on kids’ gift lists this holiday season. Many parents will hope to mix in something practical with all the fun, aiming to give a gift that can help children of any age do their best in school. With technology in common use in classrooms across the country, many parents will shop for laptops, notebooks or other devices that can help facilitate learning.

Fifty-eight percent of students use a laptop, notebook or Chromebook for school at least twice a week, according to the 2014 Pearson Student Mobile Device Survey. In fact, 71 percent of elementary school students, 67 percent of middle school students and 56 percent of high school students would like to use mobile devices more often in the classroom than they do now.

With the wide range of learning tasks students tackle daily, it’s important for parents to choose devices with maximum flexibility. Windows is the most commonly used operating system in the workplace and a vast library of educational materials are Windows compatible, so it makes sense for children to learn on Windows 8-enabled devices with Intel inside. Three types of devices stand out for parents looking for computing flexibility:

Notebooks

Smaller, lighter and more economical than full-sized laptops, today’s notebooks still pack a great deal of computing power in their compact frames. Products like the HP 210 G1 Notebook PC allow students to perform basic word-processing tasks, access online learning tools, and share notes and assignments with peers and teachers. Durable yet lightweight, their typical small size allows them to fit easily into backpacks and be used in classroom settings without taking up too much space.

Tablets

With their versatile touchscreen interface, tablets inspire creativity and facilitate collaboration among students and educators. Teachers who use tablets in class are able to personalize lessons to appeal to the learning styles and interests of multiple students, rather than approaching a lesson as one size fits all. For younger students who have not yet mastered a keyboard, touchscreen tablets provide an easy way to accomplish tasks. Styles like the Dell Venue 11 can also feature handwriting recognition, making note-taking fast and easy for older students and helping younger pupils practice handwriting skills.

2 in 1s

For older students who do more typing, 2 in 1 devices like the Lenovo Yoga or Asus Transformer provide the convenience of a notebook and the flexibility of a tablet. These devices are lightweight with a touchscreen interface, like a tablet, but can be also used like a traditional laptop through a detachable, flippable or rotating keyboard. Having both functionalities within one device facilitates creativity, note-taking and collaboration.

Not sure which of these device types might best suit your student’s needs? Consult with your child’s teacher. In many classrooms across the country, teachers are already using technology in their lessons. Your child’s teacher may be able to advise you on what type of device would best mesh with what he or she is already using in the classroom. To learn more about how educators are using technology to enhance student success or about the best device for your student, visit www.k12blueprint.com or follow @IntelK12Edu on Twitter.

Categories: Lifestyle

Expand your career options with a global perspective

Education - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The business world is constantly changing and growing, becoming more culturally diverse and interconnected than ever before. Companies are looking for employees who are globally minded – even if the company does not do business on an international scale – because chances are it employs and serves a diverse population. Employees who recognize and understand different business opportunities, cultures and strategies can help a company successfully negotiate diverse situations.

Colleges and universities are recognizing how important it is for students to have a global perspective as part of the degree they earn.

“More and more, the best universities are choosing to include deep and integrated instruction on global issues,” says Dr. Benjamin S. Pryor, provost and senior vice president of Western International University (West). “By preparing students to think about their surroundings in the context of international situations, we have found they are better equipped to participate fully in an increasingly complex world in which everything from accounting to human resources is touched by global trends.”

West integrates a global focus into courses taught through all degree programs for this exact reason. If you are thinking about going back to college to earn a degree, or if you are considering a graduate degree to help enhance your career, keep in mind how a globally focused education can help you:

* Almost every business has a cultural connection. Even the smallest locally owned and operated companies need to obtain materials to do business, and there is a good chance those materials are not available in the local community. They might not even be available in the same country. Having employees who understand how to navigate complex negotiations with people who may not share the same cultural values and backgrounds can help the company make great business deals with businesses in all parts of the world.

* Employees who are able to adapt quickly and easily to changing business environments can help the business stay current and grow as the economic environment fluctuates. These changes do not necessarily need to be international in nature. They can be caused by social, political and economic trends, and an employee who knows how to adapt is a valuable asset.

* Often cultural diversity is present within the workplace, especially as families become more mobile. Employees who have the ability to understand and recognize diversity among coworkers and with business partners may be able to blend better in the work environment. They may also be strong team members who can contribute solutions that encompass a variety of perspectives.

* The world is growing smaller as technology becomes more advanced and international dealings become the norm for many businesses. Because of this, companies are setting up partnerships with foreign-established businesses. Employees who have a global cultural awareness may have better success as the international business sector grows.

“By creating opportunities to think about diverse cultures, as well as the practices and business environments they sustain, we give our students a better view of their own roles in our world,” Dr. Pryor says. “In addition, students who think globally offer an additional skill set for employers.”

As you look into the degree opportunities available to you, learn whether the degree is taught with a global perspective. It may help you take your career – and the company you are working for – much further.

Categories: Lifestyle

Expand your career options with a global perspective

Business/Careers - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The business world is constantly changing and growing, becoming more culturally diverse and interconnected than ever before. Companies are looking for employees who are globally minded – even if the company does not do business on an international scale – because chances are it employs and serves a diverse population. Employees who recognize and understand different business opportunities, cultures and strategies can help a company successfully negotiate diverse situations.

Colleges and universities are recognizing how important it is for students to have a global perspective as part of the degree they earn.

“More and more, the best universities are choosing to include deep and integrated instruction on global issues,” says Dr. Benjamin S. Pryor, provost and senior vice president of Western International University (West). “By preparing students to think about their surroundings in the context of international situations, we have found they are better equipped to participate fully in an increasingly complex world in which everything from accounting to human resources is touched by global trends.”

West integrates a global focus into courses taught through all degree programs for this exact reason. If you are thinking about going back to college to earn a degree, or if you are considering a graduate degree to help enhance your career, keep in mind how a globally focused education can help you:

* Almost every business has a cultural connection. Even the smallest locally owned and operated companies need to obtain materials to do business, and there is a good chance those materials are not available in the local community. They might not even be available in the same country. Having employees who understand how to navigate complex negotiations with people who may not share the same cultural values and backgrounds can help the company make great business deals with businesses in all parts of the world.

* Employees who are able to adapt quickly and easily to changing business environments can help the business stay current and grow as the economic environment fluctuates. These changes do not necessarily need to be international in nature. They can be caused by social, political and economic trends, and an employee who knows how to adapt is a valuable asset.

* Often cultural diversity is present within the workplace, especially as families become more mobile. Employees who have the ability to understand and recognize diversity among coworkers and with business partners may be able to blend better in the work environment. They may also be strong team members who can contribute solutions that encompass a variety of perspectives.

* The world is growing smaller as technology becomes more advanced and international dealings become the norm for many businesses. Because of this, companies are setting up partnerships with foreign-established businesses. Employees who have a global cultural awareness may have better success as the international business sector grows.

“By creating opportunities to think about diverse cultures, as well as the practices and business environments they sustain, we give our students a better view of their own roles in our world,” Dr. Pryor says. “In addition, students who think globally offer an additional skill set for employers.”

As you look into the degree opportunities available to you, learn whether the degree is taught with a global perspective. It may help you take your career – and the company you are working for – much further.

Categories: Lifestyle

Don't wing it: tips to help prepare for your next interview

Education - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - So you put together a stellar resume, wrote a winning cover letter and landed an interview for your dream job. The hard work’s done, right? Wrong. Don’t think you can just rely on your dazzling personality to win over your interviewer. There’s no substitute for being prepared, and with some expert tips, you’ll ace the interview and be one step closer to a job offer.

“Research, research and research. The more you research the more prepared you are,” says Ricardo Estevez, career services director at The Art Institute of Washington, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta. Having a firm understanding of the job description and job duties allows you to practice answers associating job duties with positions you’ve had in the past.

“This helps make sure your answers are succinct and helps connects the dots for the employer,” says Kristin Frank, career services director at The Art Institute of Phoenix.

Estevez adds that research can help you take charge of an unstructured interview and bring it back to home state. It also enables you to have questions to ask at the end of the interview. He says: “Without research, it’s hard to realign the interview and get out of uncomfortable spots.”

Along with getting a better understanding of the job, your preparation should also include getting a better grasp on your own skill set. “Be confident with your accomplishments, and be prepared to share them with multiple people who could be interviewing you,” says Frank. “I always say practice with your best friend. They are your biggest cheerleader. They will help you come up with some of your big statements about what you did.” Also having an outline of key points and clean, concise messages is going to benefit the entire process.

“Tell me a little about yourself” is usually the first point of discussion in an interview and is often one that can easily trip up the interviewee. “Usually, at the beginning of an interview, you really should keep it about the job, about your past experiences in relation to the job you’re applying for,” says Estevez. “Keep it hyper-focused on the position you’re interviewing for.” He adds to listen to how the question is asked. If the interviewer says “tell me more about you,” he or she usually wants to know more about you personally. People shouldn’t shy away from this but also not get too personal.

Another question that can be tricky to navigate is why you are leaving your current position. Both Estevez and Frank agree that the key here is keeping it 100 percent positive. For most people, the answer should be about opportunity, challenge and growth. “Having this answer planned out ahead of time is really going to be key,” says Frank.

If you are changing careers, Estevez recommends talking about how you are passionate about the new field you are entering. He also cautions about mentioning how a current employer doesn’t offer a flexible schedule. Make sure to keep things positive and career or passion focused.

If there is a gap in your resume, it will most certainly come up during the interview, and the HR representative or recruiter will always be a bit sensitive to this. “Be genuine,” says Frank. “It is up to the candidate to articulate in a way that’s genuine and not implying that something negative happened. Be really positive and be sure you are focusing on what you can bring to the table.” The same goes for any unfinished education.

While you are doing your research on the company, your interviewer is also doing research on you. “Many employers Google people before they come in for an interview or research them before they even become a candidate,” says Frank. She stresses you need to protect your image on social media and be aware of what is on the internet and ensure the information reflects your goals and experience.

“If salary comes up and they really want an answer and really want to know your number, everyone should know what their bottom-line number is. Add a bit more and negotiate down,” says Estevez. Once this question is asked, it is ok to then ask what the budget is for that position. If there is a big disparity, ask if there is an opportunity for a higher salary later.

Depending on the job your are interviewing for, demonstrations of your skills or job shadowing could be required. Skype interviews are also becoming more common, says Frank. These help interviews see how well a candidate can work with technology.

The biggest mistakes that Estevez sees is not being in the interview mindset as soon as you leave the house. Each person you see from the receptionist to the people you pass in the lobby or elevator, could potentially be part of your interview panel. Treat them all as such.

For more information about The Art Institutes, visit artinstitutes.edu.  

Categories: Lifestyle

Don't wing it: tips to help prepare for your next interview

Business/Careers - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - So you put together a stellar resume, wrote a winning cover letter and landed an interview for your dream job. The hard work’s done, right? Wrong. Don’t think you can just rely on your dazzling personality to win over your interviewer. There’s no substitute for being prepared, and with some expert tips, you’ll ace the interview and be one step closer to a job offer.

“Research, research and research. The more you research the more prepared you are,” says Ricardo Estevez, career services director at The Art Institute of Washington, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta. Having a firm understanding of the job description and job duties allows you to practice answers associating job duties with positions you’ve had in the past.

“This helps make sure your answers are succinct and helps connects the dots for the employer,” says Kristin Frank, career services director at The Art Institute of Phoenix.

Estevez adds that research can help you take charge of an unstructured interview and bring it back to home state. It also enables you to have questions to ask at the end of the interview. He says: “Without research, it’s hard to realign the interview and get out of uncomfortable spots.”

Along with getting a better understanding of the job, your preparation should also include getting a better grasp on your own skill set. “Be confident with your accomplishments, and be prepared to share them with multiple people who could be interviewing you,” says Frank. “I always say practice with your best friend. They are your biggest cheerleader. They will help you come up with some of your big statements about what you did.” Also having an outline of key points and clean, concise messages is going to benefit the entire process.

“Tell me a little about yourself” is usually the first point of discussion in an interview and is often one that can easily trip up the interviewee. “Usually, at the beginning of an interview, you really should keep it about the job, about your past experiences in relation to the job you’re applying for,” says Estevez. “Keep it hyper-focused on the position you’re interviewing for.” He adds to listen to how the question is asked. If the interviewer says “tell me more about you,” he or she usually wants to know more about you personally. People shouldn’t shy away from this but also not get too personal.

Another question that can be tricky to navigate is why you are leaving your current position. Both Estevez and Frank agree that the key here is keeping it 100 percent positive. For most people, the answer should be about opportunity, challenge and growth. “Having this answer planned out ahead of time is really going to be key,” says Frank.

If you are changing careers, Estevez recommends talking about how you are passionate about the new field you are entering. He also cautions about mentioning how a current employer doesn’t offer a flexible schedule. Make sure to keep things positive and career or passion focused.

If there is a gap in your resume, it will most certainly come up during the interview, and the HR representative or recruiter will always be a bit sensitive to this. “Be genuine,” says Frank. “It is up to the candidate to articulate in a way that’s genuine and not implying that something negative happened. Be really positive and be sure you are focusing on what you can bring to the table.” The same goes for any unfinished education.

While you are doing your research on the company, your interviewer is also doing research on you. “Many employers Google people before they come in for an interview or research them before they even become a candidate,” says Frank. She stresses you need to protect your image on social media and be aware of what is on the internet and ensure the information reflects your goals and experience.

“If salary comes up and they really want an answer and really want to know your number, everyone should know what their bottom-line number is. Add a bit more and negotiate down,” says Estevez. Once this question is asked, it is ok to then ask what the budget is for that position. If there is a big disparity, ask if there is an opportunity for a higher salary later.

Depending on the job your are interviewing for, demonstrations of your skills or job shadowing could be required. Skype interviews are also becoming more common, says Frank. These help interviews see how well a candidate can work with technology.

The biggest mistakes that Estevez sees is not being in the interview mindset as soon as you leave the house. Each person you see from the receptionist to the people you pass in the lobby or elevator, could potentially be part of your interview panel. Treat them all as such.

For more information about The Art Institutes, visit artinstitutes.edu.  

Categories: Lifestyle

It's better to give than to receive: 5 ways you can give back this season

Community Cares - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - What are you thankful for this season? Your loved ones? Your health? Your possessions? You probably have plenty of reasons to feel thankful but in your community and around the world there are others who may not be as fortunate, and need the help of those willing to give, especially during the holiday season. So if you’re ready to give back this year, here are 5 ways you can help people in your local area and beyond.

* Donate or organize a clothing drive. Cold winter temperatures and blistering winds aren’t so bad when you’re safe behind a warm jacket. Unfortunately, many people do not know the joy of having adequate clothing. You can help by contacting your local church, community center or school and asking about hosting a clothing drive. Contact the local media to get your message out, print fliers and place them around town, and spread the word on social media. If a clothing drive already exists in your area, look through your clothes to see what you can donate. If you haven’t worn the item in a year, it would make a great donation. You can also purchase new clothes and donate them to the drive. You could do the same with food or toy drives as well.

* Give back while getting fit. Every day 650 babies are born to HIV-positive mothers. Turn Your Miles (RED) is an eight-week campaign that empowers walkers, runners and fitness enthusiasts worldwide to save lives and affect change. Use Nike’s free Nike Running app and for each Nike Running mile pledged to (RED), Bank of America will donate 40 cents – up to $1 million – toward the fight to eradicate mother-to-child HIV transmission. Forty cents is the cost of two lifesaving pills called antiretrovirals which, when taken daily, can prevent an HIV-positive woman from passing the virus to her unborn baby. You can learn more about the project at Nike.com/onestep4red.

* Become a Secret Santa. You may participate in a secret Santa program at your work or in your family circle, but not all secret Santa roles have to be directed to people you see every day. There are many opportunities to purchase goods for families in need, right in your community, allowing you to feel just like Santa Claus without that dangerous trip down the chimney.

* Make it a work affair. Discuss the idea of giving back at work and organize a team of fellow employees to volunteer at the homeless shelter or a senior living facility. In addition to giving back to your community, this could also be a helpful team-building exercise.

* Lend a helping hand. There are plenty of simple ways you can give back right in your own neighborhood. Help people shovel their driveways, run errands for seniors afraid to drive on icy roads or bake cookies for children in a struggling family. Even the simplest gesture can help you spread holiday cheer in your community.

Sometimes the best gifts don’t appear on any list. By applying a little creativity and initiative, you’ll see there are numerous ways you can enact positive change in your community and beyond. To learn more about Turn Your Miles (RED) and how you can give back by being active and staying fit, visit Red.bankofamerica.com and click on “Pledge Your Miles.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Simple steps can keep you and your family healthy

Community Cares - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Pay attention to the news headlines and you may be wondering if you and your loved ones are safe from unseen perils like germs, bacteria and viruses – even in your home. There are things you can do to protect your health but it’s also good to know where germs linger. Some of their hangouts may surprise you.

According to WebMD, there are likely more germs in your kitchen sink than in your toilet. You’re probably using a bowl cleaner to disinfect your toilets, but is the kitchen sink getting equal treatment?

Your salt and pepper shakers dispense salt and pepper, but they also dispense cold viruses and other nastiness. A University of Virginia study tested the salt and pepper shakers of 30 adults who were showing signs of a cold, and every one of those shakers tested positive for the cold virus.

Now add your TV remote (also the dirtiest thing in your hotel room), your toothbrush, your computer keyboard and mouse, and your bathtub, and you have a good list of the dirtiest places in your home. And your floors? According to University of Arizona researcher Charles P. Gerba, PhD, they can have up to 4,000 times more germs than a toilet seat.

So, what can you do to reduce your risk of exposure to germs? Here are a few ideas to help reduce the risks and keep everyone healthy.

* Wash your hands. Your hands come into contact with each of the surfaces mentioned above and they can move viruses and bacteria to your nose, eyes and mouth. This means it’s important to keep them clean. It may seem like a long time to be washing them, but the 20-second rule is for real. Hand sanitizers are useful but not a substitute for good hand washing.

* Sanitize commonly used items. Remember the germs on that salt and pepper shaker? Wiping them off is very beneficial, as is more frequent cleaning of the kitchen sink. And for a deeper clean, consider using products that use UV-C light to kill germs, bacteria and viruses on surfaces. Verilux offers several sanitization tools that use UV-C light to kill up to 99.9 percent of these undesirables – quickly and easily – without chemicals. The 21-inch CleanWave Sanitizing Wand, for example, can be passed an inch above the area you wish to sanitize, be it the keyboard, the remote or those salt and pepper shakers.

“UV-C is a type of ultra-violet light with a shorter wavelength than visible light,” says Verilux President Nicholas Harmon. “The light penetrates a microorganism’s cell membrane and damages its DNA. This prevents growth and kills the organism. These products are the ideal chemical-free cleaning solutions for people who are concerned about their environment, particularly in light of recent headlines.”

* Cough smart. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is just a good habit. But doing so with your hands is a bad health habit. Next time you feel the urge to cough or sneeze, use the bend of your elbow instead. This will keep germs from transferring to your hands.

* Keep the carpets clean. Millions of allergens and germs camp in the carpets and floors of your home. Evict them with the CleanWave Bagless Vacuum and its portable version, the CleanWave Portable Vacuum. These devices use UV-C light to kill germs, viruses and bacteria, as well as microscopic pests like dust mites and flea eggs. You can use the portable vacuum to kill bed bugs before they hatch on mattresses.

* Avoid close contact. You don’t want to be anti-social but a little separation this time of year can be beneficial to your health. Avoid sharing items such as water bottles, glasses or food with others, and don’t be afraid to sit a seat apart whenever you can. You’ll be healthier in the long run for doing so.

Germs and allergens are part of everyday life, but that doesn’t mean they should be able to dominate yours. Keeping your home clean and practicing good health habits can reduce your risk of getting ill and keep you and your family healthy and happy. To learn more about the products available from Verilux, visit www.Verilux.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

Now's the time to go back to school [Infographic]

Education - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - College graduates earn approximately $17,500 more than adults without a degree according to the Pew Research Center, and they are more likely to be employed than their less-educated counterparts. Despite these advantages, more than 31 million people started college in the last 20 years, but did not graduate. Family or personal responsibilities and military service are just some of the reasons students “opt out” of their education. As the value of a college degree continues to rise, for adults planning to complete their degree, there’s no time quite like the present.




Categories: Lifestyle

6 surprisingly common student money misconceptions

Education - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - From sports teams and extracurricular clubs to first jobs and first cars, high school students learn new lessons every day, many away from the classroom. But when it comes to balancing their obligations, many students learn some tough lessons for the first time as they dip their feet into adult life, particularly with their finances.

“Only 7 percent of high school students are financially literate and fewer than 30 percent of adults report being offered financial education at school or college,” said Brian Page, finance teacher and personal finance adviser to H&R Block Budget Challenge. “Personal finance can be an overwhelming subject to learn, so many students have developed money misconceptions.”

According to Page, many students share these six common misconceptions when it comes to money:

1. A person can save what is left over at the end of the month. Those who save by making automatic savings deposits right from their paycheck save four times more than those who only deposit directly into one account, according to CFED.org.

2. College is unaffordable. Most teens are well aware of the surge in college costs. However, many teens don’t realize that, by comparison shopping, seeking financial aid and looking at alternative pathways to earning a degree, college costs can be more manageable.

3. All debt is bad. “Borrowing now to improve your future self can be a good idea,” Page said. “Student loans not exceeding your first year’s anticipated income makes sense for most everyday Americans.” To find information on anticipated salary, check out PayScale.com.

4. Overdraft protection is free to use. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found the typical overdraft situation is comparable to a small-dollar loan with a 17,000 percent interest rate.

5. I don’t need to budget right now. Teens annually spend nearly $100 billion, reports the University of Illinois. Yet only 17 percent of teens maintain a budget, states an H&R Block survey. Budgeting is important now as small expenses can add up and get you into trouble – for example, the average American spends more than $2,500 a year dining out, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Properly monitoring your spending habits can help avoid overspending.

6. Never use credit cards. It depends. “If you’re unable to control credit card spending, steer clear,” Page said. “However, they can be ideal credit building tools for young consumers who use them responsibly.” Consider starting with a secured credit card, avoid borrowing more than 30 percent of the credit limit each billing cycle and always pay the balance in full and on time.

Having these misconceptions doesn’t mean teens are doomed to have a damaging financial future. Proper education through programs like the H&R Block Budget Challenge help teens prepare for the real world so they can correct any misinformation received in the past.

Categories: Lifestyle

Fighting post-military unemployment on the home front

Education - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - As the Department of Defense continues its drawdown of American military personnel after decades of major troop deployment, tens of thousands of American troops are preparing to transition out of the military and back into civilian life. The transition will be easier for some than others; but with a solid plan and access to helpful resources, returning heroes can find success and satisfaction in a post-military career.

“Military service members learn important on-the-job skills that make them valuable civilian employees,” says University of Phoenix Military Relations Vice President, retired Army Col. Garland Williams. “Knowing how to market those skills correctly helps ensure a smooth transition into a rewarding job after military service is complete.”

Despite mastering in-demand skills, hurdles often remain. According to a University of Phoenix survey, when past service members were asked about their first civilian job after separation from the military, less than one-third (29 percent) say that they used their military skills to that extent in the civilian workplace. This suggests that while the veteran unemployment rate continues to decline, many veterans may actually be underemployed.

To help transitioning service members maximize the career resources available to not just get a job, but start a viable post-military career, Col. Williams recommends tips to help service members get started:

1. Start early and get connected. Begin the transition process as early as possible. Talk to peers who made transitions and network with as many people as possible to learn about employers who are hiring and who could benefit from your skills. Create a profile on professional networking sites to keep in touch with professional contacts and learn about possible career opportunities. Conduct informational interviews with veterans who are working with companies that appeal to you.

2. Research your education and career options. Use free online tools to investigate degree programs and possible career paths. The Phoenix Career Guidance System can help you research a degree program based on your interests, skills and experience, and provides insight on local job market trends and industry demands. Also, the Military Skills Translator Tool takes your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) code and suggests a list of related civilian occupations.

3. Brush up on your job-searching skills. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s Transitional Assistance Program (TAP), which provides soon-to-be discharged or retired service members helpful information and workshops on job searching, resume and cover letter writing, interviewing techniques and career decision-making. Look for veteran hiring fairs and local hiring events that are taking place across the country. Each year, there are hundreds of Hiring Our Heroes veteran events that help transitioning service members, veterans and their families find viable career options.

4. Speak the language. Communicate military experience and training to hiring employers with words, not acronyms, which may not translate on a resume. Promote skills such as leadership, management, cooperation, teamwork and strategic thinking. Mention these attributes in the cover letter and resume alongside all technical skills. Give your prospective employer specific examples of how you utilized these skills in your various assignments during your military tenure and how they will translate to the job for which you're being interviewed.

5. Don’t sell yourself short. While job searching, remember the valuable skills you learned in the military can make a real difference for employers. Identify a mentor – preferably someone with a military background who has transitioned successfully and can help guide the job search process and remind you of your strengths and transferable skills.

“Service members have a wealth of resources available to them, but knowing where and how to start the transitioning process can be overwhelming,” says Col. Williams. “However, it’s similar to being in the military – developing a plan of attack can set these jobseekers on a path to future career success.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Fighting post-military unemployment on the home front

Community Cares - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - As the Department of Defense continues its drawdown of American military personnel after decades of major troop deployment, tens of thousands of American troops are preparing to transition out of the military and back into civilian life. The transition will be easier for some than others; but with a solid plan and access to helpful resources, returning heroes can find success and satisfaction in a post-military career.

“Military service members learn important on-the-job skills that make them valuable civilian employees,” says University of Phoenix Military Relations Vice President, retired Army Col. Garland Williams. “Knowing how to market those skills correctly helps ensure a smooth transition into a rewarding job after military service is complete.”

Despite mastering in-demand skills, hurdles often remain. According to a University of Phoenix survey, when past service members were asked about their first civilian job after separation from the military, less than one-third (29 percent) say that they used their military skills to that extent in the civilian workplace. This suggests that while the veteran unemployment rate continues to decline, many veterans may actually be underemployed.

To help transitioning service members maximize the career resources available to not just get a job, but start a viable post-military career, Col. Williams recommends tips to help service members get started:

1. Start early and get connected. Begin the transition process as early as possible. Talk to peers who made transitions and network with as many people as possible to learn about employers who are hiring and who could benefit from your skills. Create a profile on professional networking sites to keep in touch with professional contacts and learn about possible career opportunities. Conduct informational interviews with veterans who are working with companies that appeal to you.

2. Research your education and career options. Use free online tools to investigate degree programs and possible career paths. The Phoenix Career Guidance System can help you research a degree program based on your interests, skills and experience, and provides insight on local job market trends and industry demands. Also, the Military Skills Translator Tool takes your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) code and suggests a list of related civilian occupations.

3. Brush up on your job-searching skills. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s Transitional Assistance Program (TAP), which provides soon-to-be discharged or retired service members helpful information and workshops on job searching, resume and cover letter writing, interviewing techniques and career decision-making. Look for veteran hiring fairs and local hiring events that are taking place across the country. Each year, there are hundreds of Hiring Our Heroes veteran events that help transitioning service members, veterans and their families find viable career options.

4. Speak the language. Communicate military experience and training to hiring employers with words, not acronyms, which may not translate on a resume. Promote skills such as leadership, management, cooperation, teamwork and strategic thinking. Mention these attributes in the cover letter and resume alongside all technical skills. Give your prospective employer specific examples of how you utilized these skills in your various assignments during your military tenure and how they will translate to the job for which you're being interviewed.

5. Don’t sell yourself short. While job searching, remember the valuable skills you learned in the military can make a real difference for employers. Identify a mentor – preferably someone with a military background who has transitioned successfully and can help guide the job search process and remind you of your strengths and transferable skills.

“Service members have a wealth of resources available to them, but knowing where and how to start the transitioning process can be overwhelming,” says Col. Williams. “However, it’s similar to being in the military – developing a plan of attack can set these jobseekers on a path to future career success.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Tips to make the daily drive easier for commuters

Automotive - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - It’s a tough job driving to work – just ask the millions of Americans who commute every day. The average commute takes 25.5 minutes one way, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, 10.8 million people drive an hour or more to work each way. Some have it worse: approximately 1.7 million Americans commute 90 minutes or more each way.

The key to driving to work is getting there on time and that means having a trustworthy vehicle that’s in tip-top shape. “Tires are often overlooked but they should be a priority,” says Bob Abram, product planning manager for Yokohama Tire Corporation, maker of a variety of truck and car tires. “They have an enormous effect on braking, steering, comfort, handling and fuel efficiency because tires are the only parts of a car or truck that actually touch the road.”

Commuters would be surprised at how today’s high-tech tires can help drive down the costs of driving, says Abram. “There are so many new, innovative technologies, such as the use of orange oil in our tires, which saves drivers money either by having tires that last longer or tires with increased fuel efficiency. We now incorporate orange oil in everything from light truck/SUV tires – like the GEOLANDAR H/T G056 – to the ADVAN Sport V105 for luxury and high-performance vehicles.”

However, no matter how much technology tires pack these days, nothing can take the place of proper maintenance in getting the most out of them. No matter what your daily commute is, the more driving you do, the more you should check your tires regularly, especially the air pressure. “By keeping the right tire pressure, you can begin cutting down on your annual fuel costs, which will pay dividends,” he says. “Tires that are under-inflated by 8 pounds per square inch can reduce vehicle fuel economy by as much as 2 percent. For the best gas-saving results, take five minutes each month and check your tire pressure.”

Abram recommends checking tires when they are cold (at least four hours after the vehicle has been driven). Check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge and make sure the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep out dirt, water and foreign objects. You can find the tires’ proper inflation level (as recommended by the car maker) on a placard in the glove box, on the car door or in the owner’s manual.

Abram offers commuters more tips that will keep tires road-ready and wallet-friendly. For additional tire care and safety tips, visit www.yokohamatire.com or www.rma.org.

* Tires that are balanced correctly will provide a smoother ride and help prevent improper wear. You can get your tires balanced at the same time as your regularly-scheduled rotation.

* Rotating your tires will also prevent uneven wear and promote a better ride. Because the weight distribution on your car or truck can vary, it’s best to rotate your tires a few times a year, such as every time you get your oil changed.

* Check tire alignment once a year. Misaligned tires create unnecessary tire wear and higher fuel consumption.

* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch (the lowest legal limit) to prevent skidding and hydroplaning. Best to replace before 2/32 depending on your drive (geographically and type of streets). Winter traction and wet traction start getting compromised well before 2/32. For example, rural streets that aren’t regularly plowed would be different than city streets that are regularly plowed.

* Checking tread depth: place a penny upside down into a tread groove. If part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, you’re driving with the proper amount of tread. If you can see all of his head, you should buy a new tire.

Categories: Lifestyle

Drive safely with your newborn by following these tips

Automotive - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Babies change everything. Their arrival means that new parents need to become educated - quickly - on cribs, strollers and most importantly, child-safety seats and all their rules. And as federal recommendations on car seats continue to evolve, parents have one more thing to stay on top of.

The family car safety experts at Cars.com, in partnership with Toluna QuickSurveys, recently conducted a poll that asked parents what they worried about most when bringing a newborn home from the hospital. Results revealed that 93 percent of new parents listed the fear of other drivers on the road as a top concern when driving with a newborn.

“Every new parent wants to cover the car in protective bubble wrap when driving with their baby. I know my husband and I did,” says Cars.com editor and expert mom Jennifer Newman. “That isn’t realistic, but there are a few things you can take control of that will help ease your anxiety when driving with your newborn."

Instead of bubble wrap, Newman suggests:

* Car seat check: Make sure a certified child passenger safety technician inspects your car seat installation before the baby arrives.

* Practice safe driving: It’s going to be tough, especially if your newborn starts wailing, but remember to keep your eyes on the road. If you can’t stop yourself from turning around to check on the baby, pull over and then make sure everything is OK with your wee one.

* Keep the baby in the car seat: If one parent rides in the backseat with the baby, remember that it is never OK to remove the child from a car seat while someone is driving. The safest place for a baby - even one that’s screaming - is in a rear-facing car seat when the car is moving.

* Keep your car properly maintained: Take your car in for regular, scheduled maintenance to ensure everything is in working order and all fluids are topped. Keeping a safe car can create a safer ride for your little one.

These steps allow parents to focus on the road and should lessen some of their concerns about their child’s safety in the car. In addition, Newman also suggests parents skip using items such as a baby mirror in the car. Mirrors and other items like toys that hang from a car seat’s handle can become dangerous projectiles in a crash and harm your child or you.

For more information, visit Cars.com to learn more tips on child driving safety.

Categories: Lifestyle

Are your car seat fears founded?

Automotive - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Driving your newborn home from the hospital is when you know your life has changed. Car safety before kids is relatively simple, but after your first child is born, it becomes more complicated, especially when it comes to proper car seat installation.

More than 50 percent of new fathers and 40 percent of new mothers expressed concern over mastering the proper car seat installation as one of their top fears when bringing home a newborn from the hospital, according to research from Cars.com and Toluna QuickSurveys.

Since the majority of newborns spend multiple hours in the car, knowing how to properly install a car seat is essential, and all too often done incorrectly. Seventy-five percent of children ride in car seats that aren’t properly installed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although car seats (and the children in them) are all unique, Cars.com editor and expert mom Jennifer Newman offers these simple steps that are generally applicable to most car seat installations:

* Once you purchase a car seat, perform a car seat check in your own vehicle to see if your new car seat and car are compatible. Some stores will even let you try it out in your car before you buy.

* Make sure you’re using a car seat that meets the latest federal safety requirements and the height and weight of your child.

* Read both the car seat’s owner’s manual and your car’s owner’s manual to make sure you’re following the recommendations regarding installation.

* Locate your local child car seat inspection station, offered throughout the country to teach parents, both new and experienced, how to properly install any car seat.

* Car seats can be installed with either the latch system – the lower latch and tether anchors often found in the backseat – or with the seat belt. Use whichever is easier for you but never use both at the same time – this setup hasn’t been crash-tested and it could put too much stress on the car seat.

* After connecting the seat, using either method, make sure to push down on the seat as you tighten the latch straps or seat belt. The seat shouldn’t move more than an inch at the belt path.

* Register your car seat with the manufacturer and sign up for recall emails to ensure your child is not riding in a defective car seat.

* Visit Cars.com to learn more tips on child driving safety.

“Even seasoned parents should take some time to learn how to properly install the new car seats on the market. This will lower the risk of any injuries and will help keep your child protected if you ever get into a car crash,” Newman says.

Although many precautions should be taken by any parent before driving with a child, new parents should not be worried to take their child for a ride. By taking the proper steps parents should feel comfortable and confident while driving with their newborn so they can focus on the road and keep their child protected.

Categories: Lifestyle

5 tips to keep your child's school days from becoming sick days

Education - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Studies show that children in daycare or attending school can catch up to 12 common viral infections each year and that each of these infections can last seven to 10 days. Getting sick is commonly seen as part of growing up but the good news for parents is that you can help support your child’s immune system.

Here are five things you can do to potentially help reduce the 12 viral infections a kid can encounter in just one year.

* Review hand-washing techniques. This classic practice still remains one of the most effective ways to eliminate germs. You’ve probably already taught your children how to wash their hands, but are they finishing too quickly? Each hand-washing session should last about 20 seconds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s long enough for children to sing the ABCs twice. Children should also know to wash their hands before eating, making food or handling a baby, and after going to the bathroom, playing outside, touching an animal or sneezing.

* Are your child’s vaccinations up to date? Vaccinations won’t prevent your child from catching a cold, but they can protect him from more serious illnesses like the flu. You can find more information on the proper immunization schedule for your child by visiting the CDC’s website.

* Support their immune system. Research shows deficiencies in zinc and vitamins A, C, D and E can reduce the overall function of the immune system. Zarbee’s Naturals immune support supplements with ingredients such as Elderberry can help support your child’s immune system when he or she is most susceptible. Created for children ages 2 months to teens, there’s an immune-system supplement for children of any age. There is even an immune support option for parents.

* Avoid exposing your child to others who are sick. If your child’s best friend is sick, the play date will have to wait. Remember, children are contagious before their symptoms actually show and distancing your kids from those who are physically coughing or sneezing lowers their risk of getting sick.

* Sometimes it’s good not to share. OK, this probably isn’t a life lesson you want your child following most of the time, but some things are better kept to themselves. Bottles, utensils and cups should not be shared between children, as bacteria is easily transferred through saliva. Make sure your child has his own lunch and that he knows not to share with or borrow from other students at mealtime.

While cooler temperatures and the continuing school year increase your child’s risk of catching an illness, your child can reduce his risk for getting sick. Employ the tips above and you can help your child stay safe and healthy this school year. To learn more about how Zarbee’s Naturals can support your child’s immune system, visit www.zarbees.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

The secret to achieving better work-life balance

Education - Thu, 11/06/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If you're feeling overworked and finding it a challenge to juggle the demands of your job and the rest of your life, then you're not alone. Achieving the elusive work-life balance may be getting harder with today’s connected lifestyle, but it is still possible.

A better work-life balance doesn’t just happen overnight. It requires a lot of patience, careful thinking and attention toward understanding what is most important to you and your family. First you must focus on prioritizing your personal and professional life. Consider all the things that compete for your time. Then decide what to keep and what to discard. Think of it as streamlining your priorities, sorted by the activities that are the most important.

“No matter how hard you try, you can’t squeeze more hours into your day,” says Dr. Nancy Aragon, professor of industrial organizational psychology at Argosy University, Online Programs. “What you can do though is make more efficient use of your time. It takes persistent planning to get a management system started, but keeping a time diary helps you to become more aware of where your time is being spent.”

Aragon recommends a weekly block schedule coupled with a daily to-do list. The block schedule should be a fairly permanent, regular weekly plan that allows adequate time for necessary, recurring activities such as cooking, exercising, homework, grocery shopping, work, etc. A critical element to include in the block schedule is “flexible time” or free time that is purposely built into your schedule. Scheduling flexible time is a way to account for unexpected, but inevitable events to be worked into your life with minimal disruption to your regular routine. In effect, you plan for the unexpected.

And although technology has the potential to improve the quality and efficiency of your daily life, it also has the potential to encroach on your work-life balance. “Set boundaries when it comes to technology,” says Aragon. “Schedule time for you and your family when it comes to accepting calls, texts, or emails. Make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of what acceptable technology use is, and what crosses the line into technology abuse.” In other words, technology doesn’t have to be eliminated, but its use does need to be purposefully managed and monitored.

Also keep in mind the power of attitude. Learn to monitor your attitude and its impact on your work performance, relationships and everyone around you. A positive attitude can make a big difference in your energy, your focus and your pace toward achieving balance. You can’t always change your circumstances, but you certainly can change how you react to them.

In addition, do not try to live up to other’s expectations. “Work-life balance is a very personal matter. If you seek to find your own balance by emulating the ideals, priorities and expectations of others, you are doomed to miss the mark,” adds Aragon. “It can require some courage to live by your own values and ideals rather than what seems to be the prevailing social norm, but the payoff is worth taking that venture out of your normative comfort zone.” This is an important truth to keep in mind for not only improving your work-life balance, but also finding success.

In the end, you need to find the right balance that works for you. Celebrate your successes and don't dwell on your failures. Life is a process, and so is striving for balance in your life.

Categories: Lifestyle

The secret to achieving better work-life balance

Business/Careers - Thu, 11/06/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If you're feeling overworked and finding it a challenge to juggle the demands of your job and the rest of your life, then you're not alone. Achieving the elusive work-life balance may be getting harder with today’s connected lifestyle, but it is still possible.

A better work-life balance doesn’t just happen overnight. It requires a lot of patience, careful thinking and attention toward understanding what is most important to you and your family. First you must focus on prioritizing your personal and professional life. Consider all the things that compete for your time. Then decide what to keep and what to discard. Think of it as streamlining your priorities, sorted by the activities that are the most important.

“No matter how hard you try, you can’t squeeze more hours into your day,” says Dr. Nancy Aragon, professor of industrial organizational psychology at Argosy University, Online Programs. “What you can do though is make more efficient use of your time. It takes persistent planning to get a management system started, but keeping a time diary helps you to become more aware of where your time is being spent.”

Aragon recommends a weekly block schedule coupled with a daily to-do list. The block schedule should be a fairly permanent, regular weekly plan that allows adequate time for necessary, recurring activities such as cooking, exercising, homework, grocery shopping, work, etc. A critical element to include in the block schedule is “flexible time” or free time that is purposely built into your schedule. Scheduling flexible time is a way to account for unexpected, but inevitable events to be worked into your life with minimal disruption to your regular routine. In effect, you plan for the unexpected.

And although technology has the potential to improve the quality and efficiency of your daily life, it also has the potential to encroach on your work-life balance. “Set boundaries when it comes to technology,” says Aragon. “Schedule time for you and your family when it comes to accepting calls, texts, or emails. Make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of what acceptable technology use is, and what crosses the line into technology abuse.” In other words, technology doesn’t have to be eliminated, but its use does need to be purposefully managed and monitored.

Also keep in mind the power of attitude. Learn to monitor your attitude and its impact on your work performance, relationships and everyone around you. A positive attitude can make a big difference in your energy, your focus and your pace toward achieving balance. You can’t always change your circumstances, but you certainly can change how you react to them.

In addition, do not try to live up to other’s expectations. “Work-life balance is a very personal matter. If you seek to find your own balance by emulating the ideals, priorities and expectations of others, you are doomed to miss the mark,” adds Aragon. “It can require some courage to live by your own values and ideals rather than what seems to be the prevailing social norm, but the payoff is worth taking that venture out of your normative comfort zone.” This is an important truth to keep in mind for not only improving your work-life balance, but also finding success.

In the end, you need to find the right balance that works for you. Celebrate your successes and don't dwell on your failures. Life is a process, and so is striving for balance in your life.

Categories: Lifestyle
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