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excited kids looking at a computer

A couple months ago, I wrote a blog titled Accomplish MORE in LESS Time. I was tired of feeling like I was so busy at times, yet not feeling like I accomplished as much as I could or should. I wanted to make some changes to my schedule and my work habits. I started researching proven strategies for increasing productivity. I am going to review my progress and provide some additional information about productivity.

Since I denounced the concept of multitasking in my last blog, I have reduced the amount of time I spend trying to multitask. I check my email in batches: first thing in the morning, mid-morning, before and after lunch, and later in the afternoon. Logging out of email has helped reduce disruptions in my work flow. The downside is that I have been late getting on to Zoom meetings because my calendar did not give me the 15 minute warning. So, I have learned to set the alarm on my phone for these times. This allows me to keep email closed, yet not miss other obligations.

Another thing I have been doing, is avoiding ‘visiting’ with my co-workers first thing in the morning. More people tend to be productive and creative in the morning, rather than later in the day. This one has been challenging since I am a people person. At first I felt like I was not being friendly, so I explained my rationale to my co-workers so they would not think I am just being antisocial. This has been helpful for my own productivity. I have intentionally been designating morning time to work on projects like blog articles, webinars, and other “thinking” work and saving my socializing for the afternoon, unless my co-workers initiate a conversation.

While, I have been doing things that I learned from my research on productivity, I still have a lot of room for improvement. I want to get better at taking breaks from my work. I have a treadmill desk, so I often think I don’t really need to go outside or for a walk since I am able to walk anytime I want to right at my desk. This could not be further from the truth. According to MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Bob Pozen people who take regular breaks FROM their work are more productive. He suggests the question to ask yourself is not how many breaks you should take in a day, but “what is the appropriate time period of concentrated work you can do before taking break?” Pozen suggests between 75-90 minutes of work followed by a 15 minute break is a good ratio.

I am going to be more intentional about taking breaks FROM my workempty officein the next couple months. I have used socializing with my co-workers as one of my breaks from work, but I have not incorporated many other breaks aside from the occasional web-surfing in to my day. I want to incorporate LEAVING my office and/or building for at least a short walk or just to sit outside and enjoy the outdoors as my next goal for increased productivity.

I welcome any tips, tricks, or suggestions you have for increasing productivity since this is a journey for me. Feel free to leave your comments below.

Photo Credit:

https://pixabay.com/photos/children-win-success-video-game-593313/

https://pixabay.com/photos/simpolo-india-morbi-tiles-ceramics-2020200/

Sources:

Griffin, J. (2017) 4 Ways Multi-Tasking Decreases Productivity (And How to Avoid It). Northeastern University Graduate Programs. Retrieved from: https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/why-you-shouldnt-multitask/

Harmon, M. (2019). Accomplish MORE in LESS Time. Live Healthy Live Well Blog. Found at:  https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/03/28/accomplish-more-in-less-time/

MIT Sloan Executive Education. (2017). Want to be more productive in 2018? Take more breaks. MIT Management Executive Education. Found at: https://executive.mit.edu/blog/want-to-be-more-productive-in-2018-take-more-breaks#.XOL8RSB7lhE

Wharton School. (2013). Productivity in the Modern Office: A Matter of Impact. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved from: https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/productivity-in-the-modern-office-a-matter-of-impact/

Written by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jami Dellifield, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hardin County, dellifield@osu.edu

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America Saves Week, February 25 to March 2, is a chance to remind all of us to start saving a little more – be it for an unexpected crisis, retirement, for a family vacation or home, or just saving an unexpected bonus or gift. Savers with a plan are twice as likely to save successfully for things like retirement or educational advancement. By taking the America Saves Pledge this week you can win up to $750. Sign up for the Pledge at http://go.osu.edu/ohiosave. On the site you can discover saving tools, set goals, sign up for text tips, and share your own saving stories for a chance to win even more money. Let’s look a little closer at these resources –

  • Check out the section with Goal Savings Tips – Includes tips to help you save for emergencies, retirement, a new car, education, or a home. The automobile section for instance has sections to help you decide how much you need to save for the down payment, if you should buy new or used, and tips about car loans.
  • The Money Saving Plans Section – Includes tips to find ways to save money, like reminding yourself to always order water when eating out. Just a couple of drinks will add $10 on to your bill.
  • The Debt and Credit Section – Includes hints to help raise your credit score and ideas for ways to reduce debt and accumulate wealth.
  • The Savor Story Section – Provides stories from other American’s who took the Pledge and just like all of us, are working to get a handle on their spending and save more. Hopefully they will inspire you to save too.
  • Tools and Resources Section – Links to a number of financial resources from trusted sources includes: a Saver Checklist, Personal Wealth Estimator, Retirement Resources, and resources for Youth.

This is the perfect time of year to save if you are getting an Income Tax Refund this year. Think of that refund as a “Windfall” and consider saving half your refund. There is an additional Save Your Refund Pledge found at http://saveyourrefund.com, up to 100 people who take this pledge will win money. Budget out how you plan to use your refund this year, rather than paying one bill and then blowing the rest away without a plan.

If you think, I don’t make enough to save, you are wrong. Just saving $10 a month will get you moving in the right direction. Then the next time you have a windfall – like a win at the fundraiser 50/50 you can add to it and begin to build your nest egg. This savings will provide you with peace of mind for the next unexpected expense.

 

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ross County, barlage.7@osu.edu.

Reviewer:  Pat Brinkman, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Fayette County, brinkman.93@osu.edu

 

Sources:

America Saves, https://americasaves.org/

Save Your Refund, https://saveyourrefund.com/home/

University of Illinois Extension, More for Your Money: Using Your Money Wisely, https://extension.illinois.edu/money/spendingplan.cfm.

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Could you use a little more money? Perhaps, you spent too much over the holidays or your spouse has been impacted by the government shutdown..? Did your teen just wreck the family car? For a variety of reasons, many of us find budgets tight this time of year and we need to find ways to cut expenses.  Here are a few saving tips:

  • Save windfalls – don’t spend them on bonus things. Deposit them in the bank or put them towards a bill. (Did you get cash from a family member for your birthday? Get a bonus or work overtime? Win the 50/50 at the school ball game? Don’t spend it with nothing to show for it.)
  • Cut food-shopping costs – be sure to use regular or online coupons, purchase store-brands, get rain checks, and watch the prices at the checkout. (Also, try to shop alone since each additional person adds things to the cart.)
  • Save your loose change – put all change in a jar and save it towards vacation or deposit it every few weeks.
  • Use the 24 hour rule – think about a purchase for 24 hours (or over-night) before hitting submit on the shopping cart (for online) or buying unnecessary items. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should wait to buy medication, but do you need that cute top or those boots that were marked down?
  • Unsubscribe to marketing emails – just hit unsubscribe at the bottom of the email and cut out temptation. You can always add yourself back when your budget is stronger.
  • Take credit cards out of your wallet – put them in the freezer or your desk, so it is inconvenient and you have to plan to use them.
  • Make a big deal out of a stay home family or friend night – cook at home (taco bar, homemade pizza, breakfast for supper), play games, eat popcorn, or watch a family/comedy together instead of everyone running off to their own rooms.
  • Sell things you don’t need – clothes you don’t wear anymore, sports equipment, tools, collectibles, toys, or baseball cards. Make sure the items you sell are your own of course. Resale shops or social media buy/sell sections both are options.
  • Drink water or iced tea – stop buying disposable water in bottles, use refillable ones and make your own iced tea or coffee. You can save hundreds each year.
  • Don’t buy snacks from machines – measure your own pretzels, nuts, or fruit in a small container rather than paying vending markup. Bonus: you control what’s in your snack.
  • Take leftovers for lunch – even doing this a couple times could save $15 or $20 a week.
  • Cut utility costs – make sure you are using a low-flow showerhead, turn off appliances and lights, unplug charged devices, and lower your water heater to 120 degrees.
  • Eliminate plastic – don’t use disposable plates, plastic forks/spoons, or plastic storage bags. While you may have to do a few more dishes, you help the environment and cut an expense.

Almost everyone has a way that they have found to save money or something they can sell to add a little extra income – feel free to share your favorite in the comments. For additional information go the Personal Finance section of eXtension.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County.

Sources:

America Saves: https://americasaves.org/for-savers/make-a-plan-how-to-save-money/54-ways-to-save-money

North Carolina State Extension, Take Control of Your Future, https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/ideas-to-help-you-save-money-at-home.

eXtension: https://articles.extension.org/pages/16136/stretching-your-food-dollar

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simplify

2019 is here. January is the perfect time to focus on the creation of a simpler life. The hustle and bustle of the holidays is over, there are no outdoor chores such as yard work to worry about yet, and the cold weather allows us the opportunity to slow down and reflect. Imagine having more time to do the things you enjoy with less stress!  Simplifying allows you to have more control of your life, reduces wasted time, incurs less stress, and increases opportunities for more happiness.

Learning to simplify your life can completely change your life for the better. We are all trying to manage life, work, finances, family, etc.  This can be overwhelming and exhausting.  Why not create a plan to simplify this year by choosing one or more of the following suggestions to begin with:

  • Simplify your Commitments
    • Look at your calendar. Is there an activity every single day? Reevaluate these activities, based on their value and reduce them.
  • Simplify your Shopping
    • If you are overspending due to impulse shopping, create a shopping list and stick to it.
  • Simplify your Entertainment
    • There are hundreds of channels to choose from as well as websites, podcasts, YouTube channels, and video games. Make it a priority to spend at least some of your time detached from technology. Do you really want to look back on 2019 and know that your biggest accomplishment for the year was how many shows you binge-watched??
  • Simplify your gadgets
    • We all have an abundance of gadgets, cleaning supplies and digital services. Downsize and use what you determine is absolutely needed. Only use one type of calendar for schedules.
  • Simplify your budget
    • Reduce expenses, create a spending plan, and stop unnecessary spending.
  • Simplify your health
    • Eat healthy food
    • Get enough sleep
    • Exercise
    • Get outside every day
    • Drink plenty of water
    • Reduce intake of sugar/junk food
    • Reduce stress
  • Organize one section of your home
    • Choose one area of your home or workspace to organize. It will make a huge impact on your peace of mind every time you enter it to see the clutter and possessions reduced.

Enjoy 2019!

Written by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201807/5-ways-simplify-your-life

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prescriptions-life/201901/change-your-life-pick-one-thing-and-do-it

 

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Do you need to purchase a gift for the person who has it all? Are you trying to avoid the crush of busy stores? Or maybe you aren’t great at cyber shopping? If one of these describes you or you’re just intrigued, let’s look at a list of “Outside the Box” ideas for gifts this year.

  • Custom Photo Book – Put photos from the past year, a vacation, family events, or even family pictures over time in a custom book you design. These are available online or from pharmacy photo departments. This is a great gift for older family members who don’t really need anything and who perhaps aren’t as involved with social media. ($10 – $25)Bag of gifts
  • Make a Donation in their Name – Think about what really matters to your friend or family member – shelter pets, the local school, their church, the pee wee football program, cancer prevention/treatment, or a youth organization like 4-H or Scouts. Make a donation in their honor to sponsor a future event.
  • Pass on a Family Heirloom – Do you have cookbooks that belonged to Grandma or Grandpa’s military records? Often family or friends would like to have gifts of these items – and you as the giver can make sure they go to someone who really appreciates them.
  • Give the Gift of a Special Day – Present a certificate describing a day at the beach, zoo, water park, Geocaching, or learning to make their favorite cookies. You can pay the fee for you both to attend a sip and paint night at a craft center or some other activity they will enjoy.
  • Make Your Own Coupon Book – Present a coupon book with things your spouse, child, friend, or parent will like. It might include: a lawn mowing, a favorite meal, a back rub, control of the radio station in the car for the weekend, a trip to the ice cream shop, free babysitting or dog walking, a car wash, movie night, game night, nature walk, or a date night (even children enjoy this with just mom or dad).
  • Give a Game – Give the gift of a new game (or classic) with a package of local popcorn or some mini prizes. Play the game together over the holiday. (Both sides of my family do this and it is a great way to cut the kids’ screen time and it promises lots of laughs).

We can’t wait to hear unique gift ideas you have tried, so be sure to comment below with ideas you would like to share. While you try to think of an “Outside the Box” gift idea this year – remember that the gift of our presence just might mean more to your family and friends than the gift of presents.

Sources:

University of Arkansas Research and Extension – https://www.uaex.edu/health-living/personal-finance/Think%20Outside%20the%20Gift%20Box.pdf.

Iowa State University, Extension and Outreach – https://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/scienceofparenting/tag/traditions/.

 

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Misty Harmon. Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County.

 

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There are times when I feel overwhelmed with my to-do list and the amount of time I have to do it. I have found that meal planning is extremely helpful. When I started living in the country I quickly learned that the grocery store was no longer ten minutes away and I would have to plan what I wanted to fix for meals. Delivery was no longer an option, nor was running into town last minute, to grab  buns or ketchup. I have found that if I put in the time of planning my meals I stay on budget and my evenings are less chaotic. Below are some tips that I have found helpful to stay time and money before going grocery shopping.

  1. Create a grocery game plan for your week. Plan your meals for the entire week including snacks. Planning for the whole week means one list and one shopping trip. You will spend less than if you were going to the store every day or several times a week. If planning for the whole week seems overwhelming, start with three or four days and then work up to a full week. Using MyPlate as a guide will help you achieve balance with your meals as you write a menu plan.  You can find a two week sample menu plan on the MyPlate website. On their menu, lunches are designed to be packed or use leftovers. Customize the menu to make it work for your family. Meals can be moved and switched to fit family schedules and preferences.
  2. Have your freezer and pantry stocked. Pantry staples are going to include condiments, spices, dry/canned goods and baking supplies. By doing so you can see what items you already have on hand that can be incorporated into your “game plan”. This will also help you know what ingredients you already have at home vs. what you need to buy at the store.
  3. Utilize grocery store sale ads/coupons. Pick items that are in season or have been marked down while making your “game plan”. Find grocery sale information at the store entrance, in the newspaper or website. Coupons can be found as inserts in the newspaper, downloaded from the internet or digital coupons to add to your store loyalty card. Signing-up for the store’s customer loyalty program will help you receive discounts and free rewards.
  4. Consider your schedule for the week. Plan easier meals on busier days when you know you won’t have a lot of time.
  5. Make a list and stick to it. You can use scrap paper, type it up on a computer, add to the notes on your smartphone, or use a grocery app. Don’t be tempted by convenience items that could be more processed and more expensive.
  6. Plan for leftovers in your menu. Leftovers can be eaten for lunch the next day, repurposed into something else later in the week or frozen for a quick meal at another time. Using a recipe with larger quantities can reduce the number of ingredients you need and can save time on prepping another meal. You could also double a recipe to freezer for later in the month to make dinner a breeze.

Jones, T. (2016, August 8). Grocery shopping game plans save you time and money. Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2016/08/08/grocery-shopping-game-plans-save-you-time-and-money/

Meehan, A. (2017, June 5). Meal Prepping, How to Plan for your Week Ahead. Retrieved from http://livesmartohio.osu.edu/food/meehan-89osu-edu/meal-prepping-how-to-plan-for-your-week-ahead/

Author: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu

Reviewer: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

 

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“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  – Audrey Hepburn

We’re moving into fall and eventually those long winter days and nights, so what better time to “Plan” a Vegetable Garden?”  According to Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator, Agriculture/Natural Resources, Wayne County Ohio State University Extension, “The potential benefits of home vegetable gardening are numerous.  Successful gardens are the result of good planning, management, and careful workmanship.”

Interested in learning more about the various activities required for a successful home vegetable garden?  If you said “yes,” then you’ve come to the right place!

Why Have A Garden?

  • A well planned and a properly cared for garden can provide considerable food for family use from a small plot of land.  planting garden
  • Most home gardeners agree that “home grown” vegetables, freshly harvested, prepared, and eaten are the ultimate in fine vegetable flavor.
  • Fresh or preserved homegrown vegetables can help reduce family expenditures for food and make a valuable contribution to family nutrition.
  • Vegetable gardening can be an educational and fun activity for all individuals, families, and communities.
  • You can create real-life experiences and connections between gardening, health, cooking, food preservation, local foods, grocery stores, farmers markets, and community kitchens.
  • Good gardening results can be shared with others through vegetable exhibits at local, county, and state fairs. Gardeners find these activities exciting, fun, and challenging.

The “Favorite Fives” for a Successful Home Vegetable Garden!

  • Location – A good location provides adequate plant exposure to sunlight, fertile and well-drained soil, a nearby source of water, is close to the house, and is appropriate to the service area of the home landscape.
  • Soils – Vegetable plants grow best in a fertile, well-drained soil of loamy texture. However, most gardeners do not have such soil. Don’t overlook the aspect of soil preparation as less desirable soils can be modified with soil conditioners such as peat moss, compost, sawdust, or other available organic materials.
  • Garden Size – The garden should not be so large that the crops fail to receive proper care. Often times more high quality vegetables are obtained from small, well cared for plots than from large, neglected gardens. Don’t have any available ground?  Don’t forget about container gardening and/or community/rent-a-garden space.
  • What to Grow – More than 40 different vegetable crops can be grown in Ohio. If you’re from another state or location, check with your local cooperative extension service and/or agencies to see what’s available to you. The choice of crops depends largely upon the needs and tastes of the family and the amount of available growing space. If space is limited, consider planting crops that will be more productive.
  • The Fall Garden – Late summer or early fall plantings of vegetables that make rapid growth and mature crops before extremely cold weather sets in will enable the home gardener to extend the gardening season and get best use of the garden area.

Please refer to an excellent publication titled “Planning for the Garden” by Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator, Agriculture/Natural Resources, Wayne County Ohio State University Extension.

Adapted by:  Janet Wasko Myers, Program Assistant, Horticulture, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, myers.31@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Jami Dellifield, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Hardin County, dellifield.2@osu.edu

Sources:

Planning for the Garden.  Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator, Agriculture/Natural Resources, Wayne County Ohio State University Extension.
https://wayne.osu.edu/sites/wayne/files/imce/Program_Pages/ANR/Garden/Planning%20and%20Planting%20%20the%20Garden.pdf

Ohioline.  Ohioline is an information resource produced by Ohio State University Extension. Through Ohioline, you have access to hundreds of OSU Extension fact sheets covering a wide array of subjects such as agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community development, and 4-H youth development.
https://ohioline.osu.edu/about

Food Safety in Gardens.  Sanja Ilic, PhD, Assistant Professor and Food Safety State Specialist, Department of Human Sciences, Human Nutrition and Melanie Lewis Ivey, PhD, Assistant Professor, Fruit Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology.
https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-1153

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