Category Archives: Tips

Time Management Tools: So You Can Do More

time managementDeveloping time management tools are key in your professional life, personal life, and just to keep your sanity in the crazy of it all.

Almost everyone has felt at some point that there wasn’t enough time to get it all done.  If only you could have just 2 more hours in your day.  You could get your to-do list done, have more time to spend with family, cook more homemade meals, and sleep the recommended eight hours a night.

However learning time management tools will help you achieve more in just 24 hours. The first thing you have to do is give your time a monetary value.  They say time is priceless, invaluable if you will.  But if you do not know how much your time is worth then it is easy to let the unimportant tasks consume your day.  The value can be whatever you want or feel is appropriate.  For me, my day job bills my time out at $100 per hour.  Now that might be way too much for my personal time, but that’s what I am use to so that is what I use.

After you have valued your time then decide how much you are willing to “pay” for each activity that you want to do.  Is hand wrapping Christmas gifts worth an hour of your time over putting everything in a bag with tissue or paying someone $5 to wrap the gift for you.  Now do not get me wrong, I love living a frugal life.  I like to save my money and spend it wisely.  However, the time I could be wrapping gifts is time I could be spending writing a freelance article that will pay me money.  That’s how you have to look at your time.

I tend to work on merelynne.com during the evenings, after J has gone to bed and it’s just me with the two pups sitting downstairs.  For me that time of day is my discounted rate.  I can’t do too many other activities at 10pm.  J is in bed, most businesses are closed, and my friends are at home with their families.  Therefore, it’s perfect to spend an hour or two pouring over articles to learn how to grow my little blog.

Next, I work a day job from 8-5 so that time is pretty valuable.  Because if I am taking off work to do something else than I am missing out on my pay.  This activity that requires to be done between 8-5 better be worth it.  It takes a lot for me to miss out on actual money.

Finally, early mornings are the worst for me.  I am not a morning person. At. All.  I despise the mornings.  I mean the idea of getting up to go to the gym early in the morning is similar to going to get a root canal.  It’s just not worth it.  That means that if I am having to get up before the sun rise then it better be one of the most important tasks.

Driving to see my family is one thing I will get up early for.  Taking the dogs to vet.  Spending time with J.  You may notice a trend here.  Morning tasks are usually strictly saved for family.

Time management tools are important to have.  When you value your time and then value your tasks you will see what is important and what can be done at another time.  Next up on the time management series we are going to talk about getting organized.  If you’re just joining in on the time management tools series then you can read the first post here to learn all about it.

Time Management Tools Series

time management tools

Welcome to my series on developing time management tools.

I’ve been tossing around this idea for the past few weeks to talk about time management tools.  Not just talk about it, but also share what I’ve learned from trial and error, from others, and from all the books I’ve read.  I’ve mentioned here how I love to read books that make life easier.  Developing time management tools will make your life so much easier and you will be so much more productive.

Now for a little confession, you see time management is a touchy subject for me.  I haven’t always been good at it.  I can still hear my Dad’s voice in my head saying “You are burning the candles at both end.  You are taking on too much.”  Yet, I would never take his advice.  In the end, I would wind up sick and exhausted.  In high school I would plan in one day what should have probably been done in two.  Just because I hate missing out and I want to get every memory that I could.

As I’ve gotten older I still hate missing out, but have learned how to be better at time management.  That way I can take on a lot, still have fun, and get things done without getting myself sick.  It’s a pretty good feeling to know that you have a lot on your plate and have it all under control.  I guess I thrive in those situations or get something weird out of them.  I am not sure which, but my brain is hard-wired to be busy.

Sitting still was never fun for me.  Ever.

In this series I am hoping to share some time management tools that can help you do more and be more successful.   I plan on sharing tips so you can get organized, do more, and boost your efficiency.  Can’t wait to get this party started!

Advice To My 21 Year Old Self

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Older and wiser seem to be true with each year that passes.  I can look back on my years in high school, college, in the graduate degree program with fondness.  Each section of my life is better than the last, and for that I am happy.

I’ve written a post about going back to college and what I would do differently, which you can read that here and I’ve written a letter to incoming college freshmen, which is here.  But there are so many facets to that time of your life that maybe we should just keep it simple with the advice.

Here is what I would love to tell my 21 year old self:

1) take risks
2) go to Taco Bell at 3am
3) say yes more to adventures
4) love yourself
5) be your biggest fan because your professors, bosses and sometimes even friends won’t
6) wear better shoes, your future feet will thank you for it
7) start running, it’s harder to get in the habit when you work full time
8) don’t get wrapped up in the small stuff, if you won’t remember it in 5 years then don’t stress
9) intern more, get more experience in a variety of fields
10) tell your parents you love them every chance you get

Cheers!

10 Tips To Start Your Day Off Right

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I love advice from others, but sometimes you just have to learn things the hard way.  Most of the time when it comes to sleeping, or not sleeping enough, you come across ideas that tend to stick out.  At this point in my life with everything I am striving for, such as working hard to start a career, having this lovely blog that I post on, being married, loving two dogs unconditionally, and having a passion for DIY projects it’s hard to get enough sleep.

But the biggest tip I ever received was never to get more sleep, but it was to start your day off right.  So, here are my 10 tips to start your day off right:

1) wait to check your email
2) give yourself time to decompress in the morning
3) plan the night before – what is the biggest thing you have to get done tomorrow?
4) know what you are going to wear before you get out of bed
5) pack your lunch the night before – saves money and stress of having to do it before you leave
6) eat breakfast
7) take care of urgent tasks as soon as you get to the office
8) pick 3 things to get done for the day whether it be work related or personal – what will you be the most upset with if it doesn’t get done?
9) say good morning to your coworkers – it won’t kill you to be nice and it might be recipricated
10) leave in plenty of time to get to work on time

Cheers!

What I Would Do Differently As A College Student

In college you have friends, professors, advisors and mentors that you follow and look up to.  With all of that help and guidance it’s hard to say that you ‘missed’ anything.  But for me there a few things that I wish I could have done differently.  Now that I am older and maybe a little wiser I would like to pass down that infinite wisdom to other college students.  I wrote a letter to incoming freshmen a few months ago, but there are always new areas to learn from.

First, take more pictures.  Back in my day I didn’t start college off with some fancy iPhone that could snap video and pictures with a click of a button.  Nope, I had to carry around a digital camera in my clutch.  Sometimes that oversized wristlet did not go with my outfit and I wasn’t about to leave my ID, money or phone at home so the camera was left behind.  Man, if I could go back to some of my favorite memories and just have a camera in my hands – that would be awesome!  I would love to have documentation of those crazy, awesome, never happening again moments.  Mainly for proof that it actually happened and then secondly so that I don’t forget 30 years from now.

Second, intern more.  I had one real intern throughout college.  It was for a local advertising firm.  I liked it just fine.  It was not what I dreamed of, which is probably why I am not pursuing advertising today.  I learned the hard way, real fast about office politics and why Ms. Big Client’s kid got all of the good assignments even though they were a complete screw up and had no idea what responsibility was.  While I sat at the front desk answering calls and designing the boss’ personal Christmas party invite.

If I could go back, I would have found an internship each semester to do and possibly a second one during the summer months.  I would have not worked so much at a job I no longer have so that I could have experienced more in fields I was interested in.  I could have built my resume to be pretty strong and made a lot of connections in the real world.

That’s it.  Two simple pieces of advice for today’s college students.  Read it, learn it, and then go do it.  Don’t regret your actions so that you can not move forward, but simply learn from others so that you can better yourself.

Cheers!

Having An Emergency Fund Pays

J and I have been talking money lately, working on saving money, and paying off debt.  Luckily we have been able to listen to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University before we get married (if you haven’t heard of FPU, you have to check it out!).  The first baby step is $1,000 in the bank.  Seemed easy enough, right?  It took budgeting and being diligent, but we reached our goal at the end of September.  Awesome!

Then comes the first Monday of October… dun dun dun and my tooth starts to ache.  I try to “live” with the pain, but it just got worse.  I caved by Friday and had an appointment with the dentist.  The outlook of my teeth was not so great and the final cost for the repairs – $1,050.

Without our emergency fund, we would not have been able to take care of this bill without sacrifice.  We do not have to give up food for the month or better yet, I do not have to live in pain!  It’s hard to see that $1,000 we worked so hard to achieve walk away so quickly, but at the end of the day that is why we have it.

We did not plan for my teeth to have a meltdown, but things happen.  Life happens.  We must adapt, take care of ourselves, and move on.  That is exactly what we are doing.  Starting with our first paycheck of October we will commence the rebuild.  In a short time we will have our emergency fund back to full again and start working towards paying down our debt.

I have to admit that it feels pretty good to be able to take care of this medical bill without help from family and without having to put it on a credit card to pay interest on.  It feels real good.

Want to know something that I find humorous?  The week after we get married is when J can apply for insurance through his work and since we will be married, so can I.  His work has basic dental coverage and if only my teeth could have lasted a bit longer that $1,050 may have only been $700.  But that’s the way life goes and we keep moving.

If you do face a dental emergency like me then do not be afraid to ask questions:

1) does this office do payment plans?  Most would like payment up front since the work is done at that time; however, there might be a Care Credit option that you can apply for.  That way you get the work done and pay a minimal amount of interest.

2) does this office offer a discount plan?  My dentist does!  It was great to learn about it.  For a small annual fee they discount all of the procedures.  I asked for an example – my cleaning and exam that day would normally be $300, but with the plan it was only $175.  The plan more than paid for itself in that moment.  I looked through my costs of what I need done and without the plan it would have been $1,700 or more!  That’s crazy!

3) does your work have to be done right away?  A lot of dentists will be honest with you and tell you what are emergencies and what aren’t.  Those are nice dentists.

It pays to talk to the office staff to learn more.  Each place is different and at the end of the day they need your business.

Cheers!

5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Graduating College

The other day I was having a conversation with my parents about life, childhood, and the fact that I am getting married, which blows my mind.  We were talking about life in college and how I could always hear my parents advice in the back of my mind, which guided me.  Or as I like to think kept me from having too much fun, until that one day at a local bar where a friend of mine got drugged because she took a drink from a cute guy.  The cute guy’s friend offered me a drink that looked eerily similar to my friend’s and I turned it down because I heard my Dad’s voice telling me not to take a drink that I didn’t see get made.  At that moment,  I couldn’t understand why the guy instantly lost interest in me… I was cute, I was funny, but why did he stop talking to me?  The next day as my friend was really sick and couldn’t remember the night… it hit me, I know he lost interest because I turned down his drugged drink.
5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Graduating CollegeI really think that with their guidance I have made it pretty far in life with not many bad moments or memories.  My parents always helped and were there for me, sometimes they would let me figure things out on my own; and those moments were harder for me.  Once I graduated with my Masters and started really thinking of my career is when I realized I still had quite a bit of learning to do.

I always hear advice from family, friends, and sometimes even strangers about life.  Sometimes their advice is solicited and sometimes it is not.  So I listen to learn.  There are times that their advice misses the intended target or I have to learn on my own.

Here are 5 things I wish I would have known about before graduating college:

1) Trust your gut when it comes to your career.

it’s important to know that it’s okay to walk away.  Do not waste time in a career that is not right for you.  Now I am not suggesting quitting a job without any source of income or another job.  So, bide your time, look for a new job and when the time is right for you, make your exit.

For example, I thought retail was the answer.  My major in undergrad was Marketing – Retail/Merchandising.  That must mean I wanted to work in retail, right? No.  H-E-double hockey sticks No.  I tried it after college, full-time.  The hours were not great, I missed J in the evenings and on the weekends, and the part that determined my exit was being tossed around and had smoke blown in places that it should not be blown.

2) Don’t lose your best friends.  

My mom always said that there will be friends that go with that phase of your life, but then there are special friends that you will carry through every phase of your life.  It’s important that you keep those people you love, and to keep them, you have to be willing to work at those relationships.

3) Getting an A or a B really doesn’t matter.


I wrote about this in a letter to the incoming freshman class awhile back.  I wish I would have taken it a bit more seriously in college and would have had a bit more fun.  I am not saying that I never had fun, but there are moments that I missed out because I was worried about getting that A.  It didn’t matter.  I’ve never been asked for my GPA or class rank.  I think the degree I earned speaks for itself.

4) Don’t replace the busyness of college with an overwhelming workload.


In college I was actively involved on campus with several clubs and my sorority, and I always had something to do or people to talk to about something.  After college I felt the need to keep myself busy and threw myself into my job.  I wasn’t getting paid that great and there was really no room for me to grow, and I had just set the precedent that I would be available at 10pm Monday-Friday and anytime on the weekends.  When the time came for me to get a life outside of work and I met J, it was hard for my coworkers to swallow that I would only be working 45 hours a week and not 60.

5) How much work it is to be an actual adult without the label of being a student.

I never realized during college how much work and planning it takes to be an adult.  There are responsibilities that come the moment without any hesitation once you walk across that stage and receive that empty leather diploma holder.  I am not talking about bills being due or needing food and shelter; I am talking about the social responsibilities.

Don’t get me wrong being an adult is 1000x better than being a student, but sometimes I wish I could go back to that irresponsible student if only for a moment.

Cheers!

The Perfect Gallery Wall

tips for creating a gallery wall

I love a good gallery wall, they are eclectic and a good way to express my personality. Which obviously consists of a whole lot of mis-match items that when combined create something beautiful.

Now that we are FINALLY in our new place and most of the boxes are unpacked, it was time to hang some pictures.  I promised J that I would keep his beloved fish that was caught by grandpa and passed down the family.  I needed items that can balance out the fish and make it look like it belongs on the wall.  Not like I just stuck it in the corner, behind a door to say that I was good partner because it was on a wall.

create a gallery wall Here are some tips for creating a gallery wall that is perfect:

1) find pictures that are unlike each other – either having different frame types, coloring, or are pictures of landscape, sculptures, and people.
2) lay your arrangement on the floor.  Play with it and make sure you love it.  It took me awhile to get it just right.  A lot of frames came in and out of this arrangement.
gallery wall tips3) get someone’s opinion.  I asked J what he thought before  putting one nail into the wall.  Not that he actually cared what it looks like, but it was nice to have that affirmation.
4) start nailing it! We measured out the wall space to find the middle, then measured out the arrangement to find the midpoint.  Match those two up and start hanging.
5) stand in awe of your awesome gallery wall.

creating a gallery wall

Cheers!

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Budgeting To Have Freedom

Budgeting Tips

I never wanted to be someone that lived paycheck-to-paycheck or had to ask my Husband if I could take a trip to the mall just because.  I learned early on, thanks to my awesome parents, that two people working together to build a life could still have freedom to do what they wanted.  J and I are working towards financial freedom and are taking steps before we are even married.

 For me it was important to not have to ask permission to go to the mall, just like J didn’t want to have to ask permission to grab a beer with friends while watching the big game.  I truly felt like that would ruin us.  I did not and do not want a life where we have to answer to one another about spending money.  It’s not for me. 

We budget everything, including our no-questions-asked-blow money.  Each month we get $50 handed to us that we can do whatever we want with, for you it might be $200 or it might be $25.  That is what we can comfortably afford.  We can save it or we can blow on the first day – the best part is that it does not matter.  It is my money.  It is his money.

It’s nice to have some freedom when we are being careful with every other dollar we make.

Cheers!

15 Super Easy Ways to Save Money Without Thinking

I’ve learned saving techniques from my Dad at a young age.  I mean, what 12 year old was given “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason as a free-time read?  I was.  And… I loved it.  

Easy Ways To Save Money

I learned at an early age that saving was important.  You want something, you save for it.  You want to go somewhere, you save it.  It is a no brainer.  I have learned to trick myself into saving money on top of the obvious ways to save.  Let’s get it started: 15 Super Easy Ways to Save Money Without Thinking

Savings in the Bank

1) Transfer 10% of each paycheck into a savings account off the top.

2) Get any bonuses or work overtime? Put directly into savings.  You have live off an income without the bonus, so why not save that extra dough?

3) Cash in spare change. J has the worst habit of leaving spare change everywhere.  I find it on the coffee table, the kitchen table, the dresser, the washing machine – everywhere.  It adds up.  Right now we have about 2 steins and 1 change jar full of coins.  It’s about time to wrap it and trade it in for some cold-hard cash.

4) Tag-along on a yard sale.  I will be the first to say that throwing a yard sale just seems like too much work for me.  However, I am happy to bring my items over to a friend who is hosting.  She gets the joy of my company all day and I do not have to find folding tables, hang flyers, or post on Craigslist.

Spend Less

Easy Ways to Save Money

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5) Pay cash.  On average people will spend less when eating out, buying groceries and just about anything when they pay cash.  It hurts more to hand over that green bill then it does a ‘magic’ card.

6) Calculate your grocery List.  When I go into a grocery store I have my list, a pen, and my iPhone in hand.  As I put items in the cart, I look at the price tag and enter it into my calculator.  We budget $75 a week in groceries and ever since I started calculating the prices, I spend on average $65 a week.  That’s a savings of $10 a week … or $520 a year!

7) Find a coupon site.  I have been known to get an entire dinner table to download a coupon app to save a few bucks on a meal, so it should come as no surprise that I search for coupons to almost everywhere and for almost everything.  I work on our grocery list for a few days before we go and look for printable coupons on the brands we buy.  The savings can add up.

Vehicle Savings

8) Save on miles per gallon costs.  For the first week or two in our new home I had the opportunity of working from home and J had to drive about 20 miles to work.  One day as we were heading to meet family, I had the light bulb moment and asked J why he was not taking my car.  My little SUV compared to his big ol’ truck saves quite a bit in gas.  My car sat in the driveway most days and even when I do go into the office it’s not as far away as J’s work.  Now he drives my car to work and if I need to go in I take his truck.

9) Shop for lowest gas prices.  I downloaded the app GasBuddy.com for my iPhone and check local gas prices before I fill up.  Usually driving an extra mile will save me $.05 a gallon and we fill up J’s truck that’s a big savings to us!

10) Improve your gas mileage.  Have you air-filter changed, make sure your tires are inflated properly, and don’t have a lead foot.  Simple, small changes can help add up and make your gas last longer.

Around the Home and Bills

11) Turn off lights.   This one was a big one for me to learn.  J used to clap for me whenever I would leave a room and remember to turn off the lights – that’s how rare it was!  The longer we have lived together, the better I am getting about turning off lights.  The savings from turning off lights and not leaving every single light on for hours and hours will add up.

12) Stay on the family’s cell phone plan.  It’s no lie that a family plan is the way to go when looking at phone plans.  J’s work provides his cell phone at no charge, which is great for the budget but also means that he is on call at all hours of the day.  My parents are willing to let me stay on the family plan for a while longer.  My portion is cheap compared to a plan by myself.

13) Become healthier.  By picking up healthy habits you can avoid getting sick often and that means less doctor appointments, and in turn less co-pays.

Eating Out Savings

Easy Ways to save money

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14) Pack your lunch.  It may seem easy to just run through a drive-thru and eat off the dollar menu every day, but that adds up.  Let’s do the math – $3.50 a day for lunch is about $17.50 a week, which is about $910 a year!  Most grocery stores will have deals on lunch meat and bread each week, plus any coupons you can find.  Let’s say a pack of lunch meat for $1.80 and a loaf of bread for $3.50 will make about 7 sandwiches, give or take a sandwich.  For all of the work days throughout the entire year you will have to buy 45 packs of lunch meat and loaves of bread, which is only $238.50 a year for sandwiches.  That’s a savings of over $670 a year! Whoa!

15)  Share dinners when eating out.  Restaurants’ portions are outrageous and most of the time, they can feed two people comfortably.  Use the the portion control and size guide for an idea.  Some restaurants may have a plate sharing fee but typically that’s just $1 or $2.  So, order one entree and split it.  It’s the right portion for your stomach and your budget.

Cheers!