3 Ways to Be More Productive

employee asleep at his computer

We live in a society of multitaskers. For decades, we believed multitasking was the way to achieving productivity. However, recent studies are beginning to suggest that multitasking actually makes you less productive.

It makes sense if you really think about it. We are bombarded every hour of every day with a hundred different things, between emails, social media account notifications, phone calls, etc. Not to mention, all of the new information that’s thrown into our faces as we respond to each of these different stimuli. Staying focused is next to impossible.

Monotasking. It’s the new multitasking, and it’s the answer to the problem of low productivity. Doing one thing at a time actually helps you stay focused on that one thing. By minimizing the number of potential distractions you may encounter throughout a single period, you’ll accomplish more. With that in mind, here are 3 ways to increase your personal productivity:

Batch Your Work

One technique, called batching, is what a lot of writers use to get a lot done in a short time. Batching is defined as completing multiple related tasks in a single work period – whether it’s a day or a few hours. Sitting down to write 10 blogs that will be scheduled out for the next month is one example of batching. Another example is writing multiple chapters of an ebook. You basically commit to doing one task (or a series of related tasks that may be classified as a single task) until it’s finished, without switching activities. And that means no checking email, no checking Facebook, and no answering phone calls until that task is finished.

Take Breaks.

This is especially hard for workaholics, and if you work at a corporate office, you don’t want to take too many breaks or make them too long, since the boss is likely watching. But try taking shorter, more frequent breaks for one week. If your boss says anything to you about it, let them know you’re trying a new experiment that you believe will increase your productivity, and that you’ll stop if it doesn’t make a difference within two weeks. Once they see how much more you accomplish in that time, they won’t care how many breaks you’re taking. Taking breaks gives your mind and body time to rest and recoup, so that when you get back to work, you actually get more done.

Plan.

A to-do list or calendar will help you prioritize your work and stay on task. With your work planned out ahead of time, you’ll simply be able to press go and move forward, rather than wasting valuable minutes thinking about or trying to remember what you need to accomplish. Long-term, this will result in much more work getting done.

Continue Reading

4 Tax Write-Offs You Probably Didn’t Know About

taxes calculator

It’s tax season… yay. I spent most of yesterday going through bank statements, credit card statements, bills and receipts and adding up my business expenses to try and save on the amount of money we’re going to owe the IRS this year. Did I mention that this is my first year doing taxes as a self-employed citizen? It was a major headache, but I’m proud to report that I saved over $4K on my estimated tax bill, so I’d gladly do it again!

Over the last few months, I’ve been doing a lot of research on tax write-offs, and I’ve discovered a few little gems that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. There are some smart ways to save on that April bill, (including buying an expensive item for your business before Dec. 31 hits so you can write it off — I plan to buy a computer at the end of 2016 to offset my self-employment income by a few grand.) Here are 4 more interesting tax write-offs that you may not have known about:

Exchange Student Tax Credit

My mom used to host exchange students, so she probably already knew about this one. But it was new to me. You may be able to get a tax credit of up to $50 a month if you host exchange students from foreign countries. But only under certain conditions:

  • The student must not be a family member or relative of the host.
  • The student must be enrolled full time in a high school or secondary program.
  • The program sponsor and the taxpayer must have an official agreement in place.
  • The program organization’s sole or primary reason for existence must be to provide educational opportunities and experiences for its students.

National Debt Contributions

Just like you can claim deductions for contributions you make to charity, you can claim a deduction on any contributions you make toward paying off the U.S. National Debt. We all know Uncle Sam could use our help with that $20 trillion dollar bill, right? To contribute to the deficit, you just mail a check to the address below:

Bureau of the Public Debt
Department G
P.O. Box 2188
Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188

Alternative Medical Treatments

When I learned this, I was like “whaaaa?” As someone who is a huge fan of alternative medicine, it got me pretty excited. I had previously thought that only conventional medical treatments like prescription drugs and hospital bills were eligible as write-offs, but apparently, you can also deduct less common treatments like acupuncture and herbal remedies. Who knew?! Our chiropractor is basically our doctor for everything, and she refers us to other alternative medical experts when needed, so this was great news for me!

Childcare Expenses

As a mom of one (who’s about to be a mom of two), this was pretty exciting to hear! The Child/Dependent Care Credit covers childcare costs for working or job-seeking parents, you can also deduct babysitting costs incurred while doing volunteer work or work for a charity. Isn’t that awesome news?

Unfortunately, I was unable to use claim any of these deductions for this past year, but I’ll definitely keep them in mind for the next tax season!

What other tax write-offs have you taken advantage of in the past? Share your little-known tax-savings tips with us in the comments below.

Continue Reading