An Argument Against Early Retirement

RetireIt sometimes seems as if everyone wants to retire early, or maybe it just seems that way on financial blogs. Most people seem to agree that it’s a good thing to do, but we’re going to be contrary today and consider reasons why you might not. In fact, there are arguments against early retirement, solid ones at that.

1. Early retirement preparation will impair your early years.

Relatively few people retire early in life. The simple explanation for that: Early retirement requires far more sacrifice early in life than most people are willing to make.

Truth be told, in order to retire early, you won’t be able to make it happen by saving 10% of your income, or even 20%. You’ll almost certainly have to save something more like 40%, 50%, or even more. And that’s not just for two years or three or even five – you’ll have to do that for at least 20 years, probably more like 25 or 30.

Not everyone has that kind of discipline. What’s more, most people aren’t willing to trade off their youth for a better life in middle age. To illustrate the point, if you want to retire at age 50, you’ll probably need to become a committed saver no later than age 25. Most people haven’t figure out exactly what they want to do with her lives, or even how they want to live their lives at that age. Making that kind of commitment – which involves giving up a quarter of a century of your life, and most of your youth – is more than most people can stand.

2. Your best efforts may not be enough to get you there.

Let’s take that last point a step further. Let’s say that you spend 25 years preparing to retire at age 50. You do everything that you need to do – you live beneath your means, you live one step above a homeless person, you save more than 50% of your income, and you invest it faithfully. What happens if there’s a stock market crash when you turn 45?

Your grand retirement at age 50 may get pushed back to 55, or even 60. At that point early retirement is starting to look like normal retirement. That may not be a bad thing, but if you gave up the best years of your life to make it happen, you’ll have paid a high price for something that’s fairly normal.

There other factors that can derail the best laid early retirement plans. For example, it’s one thing to plan early retirement if you are either single, or married and childless. But if a child or two come in to the picture, the plan may go right out the window.

Even apart from children, you could get snagged by a career crisis that drains of some of your resources. You can also have a major medical event – either for yourself, your spouse, or a close loved one – that will soak up big chunk of your savings.

The point is, no plan – no matter how well carried out – is guaranteed to work. If you’re working diligently to provide yourself an early retirement, you’ll be giving up more than money to make it happen – you be giving up a big chunk of your life.

3. Early retirement increases the chance of outliving your money – dramatically.

The thought of out-living their money is a serious consideration for all who would retire. But if your plan is early retirement, that issue becomes even more complicated.

If you retire at age 65, you’ll probably have to provide for yourself for something like 20 years. But if you retire early at 50, you’re looking at covering 35 years. Unless you are a financial wizard, it may not be possible to provide for that many years on the strength of investment income alone. Markets rise and fall, and sometimes you’re distracted by other events that interfere with your investment success.

Many people who retire early in life find that their exit from the world of work is only temporary. Five, or 10, or 15 years after early retirement, they find themselves back in the workforce.

4. The need for a purpose in life.

Some people talk about early retirement as though they hate their work and want a way out. Early retirement becomes the default path to freedom.

But what if you don’t hate your work? In fact, what if you actually like your work?

That’s a complication in the early retirement scheme. We don’t just work to pay the bills – our work often fills other roles in our lives, emotional ones that we don’t fully understand. For example, work is a form of contribution to the human race – it’s our contribution. It’s also our connection to the world around us. Oh sure, there other ways to connect with the world, but work has a way of making a connection more intimate than other methods. It’s a form of interdependence between us and the world around us.

There are even some among us who feel that we have something to contribute to the world, something maybe extraordinary. Our work is our way to bring it about. Early retirement would short-circuit that desire.

Early retirement could remove those silent advantages that work provides.

5. Balance is always the key in life.

We all have opinions, and mine is no more valid than anyone else’s. But I tend to think that the recent emphasis on early retirement is way overblown. At its deepest level, it’s trading youth for a large enough pile of money to not have to work for the second half of your life. You can engage in something like that, but you have to carefully consider the cost of doing so.

I think that balance should be the real key in life. That means you live your life – and youth – as well as you reasonably can, while making a provision for the future. That’s similar to what people normally do by saving money in emergency funds, and for retirement – but at a more reasonable rate (the more typical 10% or 20% pay).

By doing that, you are enjoying the benefits of today, while making preparations for tomorrow. You’re trying to live a good life now, rather than delaying everything into your later years. In a way, early retirement is a form of back-loading your life, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Given that we never know how long we’ll live – or what the quality of that time will be – it doesn’t seem that building your finances around early retirement is entirely worth the trade-off.

But that’s just me. What’s your thought on early retirement? Is it worth what you’re giving up to get, or do you agree it’s best to find some kind of balance over the course of your life? Leave a comment!


Should You Pay Off Your Student Loans Early?

Student LoansWith more than $1 trillion outstanding in student debt (some of it mine!), it’s no surprise that many college grads and others are trying to figure out how to repay their loans.

For those with jobs that allow it, the next question is whether or not it makes sense to pay off student loans early. If you have student loans, carefully consider your own situation, as well as the general pros and cons associated with repaying your student debt early.

Saving Money on Interest

The first consideration is how much you could save. By putting extra money toward your student loans each month, you can pay them off earlier, and save money in interest. Cutting the term of your loan in half can save you thousands of dollars in interest. That’s a strong argument in favor of paying off your student loans as early as possible.

However, before you tackle your student loan debt, it’s a good idea to look at other types of debt. If you are paying 13% interest on credit card debt, it makes more financial sense to pay off that debt first, before attacking your student loan with 7% interest. Make sure that any student loan pay-down plan takes into account your other debts. Your student loan debt reduction should be coordinated with the rest of your debt pay-down plan.

What Else Could You Do With the Money?

If you have a student loan that has a higher interest rate, of between 6% and 12%, it does make sense to pay it off early. However, my student loans were consolidated back in 2005. Not only were interest rates on student loans much lower then, but my servicer knocked down my rate when I signed up for automatic payments, and dropped it again after I made 36 on-time payments. As a result, my rate is locked in at less than 2%. Even counting inflation and taxes, my investment portfolio is doing better than that. Instead of putting extra money toward paying down the student debt, I’ve increased my retirement account contributions. Over time, putting that money toward investing makes more financial sense than paying off my student debt early.

Another consideration is the fact that I also get a tax deduction for the interest I pay on my student loan. With higher-rate student loans, that tax deduction isn’t really worth it, unless you use it to your advantage while you pay off other, higher-rate debt. In my situation, paying off the student loans isn’t a priority because of the low rate and the tax deduction. I have other things to do with the money.

Peace of Mind

Of course, there is no price that can be put on peace of mind. Even with the financial advantages I see to not rushing to pay off my student loan debt, others couldn’t live with it hanging over them. Instead, they would feel better with the idea of being completely debt free. And there are risks to keeping the student loans around. My income situation could change, and then I wouldn’t be able to make payments. However, I have emergency-type funds, and with federal student loans, it’s a little easier to get a deferment than it is for other types of debt.

In the end, you need to look at your situation and decide what works best for you – what you are most likely to be comfortable with. Paying off your student loans early is a big decision, and it is one that you should carefully consider.

How about you? Are you going to pay off your student loans early? Leave a comment!


6 Must-Read Tips for Assimilating into Your New Job

new jobAfter you finish your job search and are ready to start at your new position, it’s important to assimilate to the situation. Sometimes, integrating into the company culture can be difficult. It’s important to jump into your job and become a part of your new position so that you fit in, and can quickly become an important part of the team.

Ford R. Myers, a career coach and author of Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring, offers six tips that can help you assimilate to your new job within 90 days.

1. Establish and Maintain Positive Relationships with Your Coworkers

First, do your best to establish positive relationships with your coworkers. But it doesn’t stop there. “Develop good communication habits to maintain those relationships,” Myers suggests. This is one of the best ways to become part of the company culture and begin finding allies and partners in your new work environment.

2. Produce Tangible Results and Keep Commitments

Next, look for ways to produce tangible results. Show that your contributions are valuable to the company, and keep your commitments. This means that you need to know your limits, and avoid making promises that you can’t keep.

3. Communicate Well With Others

This goes beyond just maintaining positive relationships with your new coworkers. You need to be able to communicate with your superiors as well. And your communication goes beyond just keeping them informed. You need to carefully communicate the progress you are making as well, so that your bosses can see that they made a good decision in hiring you, and so that you feel the sense of accomplishment that will allow you to continue enjoying your work.

4. Build Your Network

“Begin building your in-house contact network by cultivating connections with everyone,” says Myers. This doesn’t mean that you have to be everyone’s best friend, but it does mean it’s a good idea to find common ground, and develop professional connections with as many people as you can. Integrate yourself into the team, and be helpful. You’ll gain a good reputation and others will want to work with you.

5. Balance Your Work Life and Health Life

Myers understands that part of enjoying your new job is maintaining your work/life balance (classic article link, think about smartphones . . . ). While you do want to give a good portion of your energy and effort to your new position, it’s also important that you remember to enjoy life. You will be more productive and happier at work if you take care of your life needs as well. Plus, you can avoid burnout if you are careful about maintaining that balance.

6. Review Your Job Description with Your Manager

Finally, make sure you have a meeting with your manager a couple weeks into your job to evaluate where you stand. You can also work on fine-tuning your job description and responsibilities. That way you can fit yourself into the job better, and maybe even work on helping the job fit you. This discussion can ensure that everyone is happy with your integration into the company.

Ultimately, though, says Myers, you need to move beyond the day-to-day work tasks. “This is the approach that is so essential, not just to maximize your chances of success within the first 90 days, but also for successful, long-term career management.”

How are you assimilating into your new job? Is it going okay? Leave a comment and let us know!


How to Find the Right Credit Card for You

right credit cardWith so many options out there for credit cards, it makes sense to shop around and find the card that works best for you. The good news is that the Internet provides you with opportunities to find the right card for you, based on your own preferences. Here are some tips for getting the best result when you look for a credit card:

Make Sure You Have Good Credit

The first thing to do is to make sure that you have good credit. You are more likely to get the credit card you want when you have good credit. Those with excellent credit get access to the cards with the best rewards programs and signing bonuses.

Make it a point to make your payments on time and in full, and to keep your credit utilization fairly low. That way, you can manage your credit in a way that provides you with the best possible outcome for your finances.

Know Your Current Situation and Financial Needs

The reality is that you shouldn’t have a rewards credit card unless you have no consumer debt, and you don’t carry a balance. If you have debt, you might be better off with a balance transfer card. You will need to have a plan to pay off the balance before the interest rate rises, though.

Be realistic about your situation. If you know that you will pay off your balance each month, then a rewards card can be right for you. However, you need to be honest with yourself. If your interest charges will habitually offset your rewards, rethink the rewards card.

Also, think about which rewards would be most useful to you. This includes your signing bonus. If you travel frequently, and can get a card with a generous miles program, it makes sense to sign up for the big bonus, and then earn more points as you move forward. This can result in free trips. I know people who don’t ever pay for airfare because they can get it with their rewards.

Others find that cash back cards make more sense for them, since they regularly spend on things that offer cash back. Rotating category cards can require that you pay attention, though, so if you aren’t likely to sign up for the categories each quarter, these might not make sense. If you do most of your spending on everyday items like groceries and gas, it can make sense to get a card with tiered rewards so that you can get more cash back for the things you spend on anyway.

And don’t forget about perks and protections. Many cards offer rental car insurance coverage, or extended warranties on items you buy.

Ask for Better Terms

You can use the Internet to find a card that works for you, or even call an issuer. Card aggregators allow you to enter your preferences and can help you find what works for you. You can also talk to someone at an issuer to get an idea of what might fit your needs.

While you’re at it, though, see if you can get better terms. One of my card issuers has permanently waived the annual fee – just because I asked. Others might be willing to give you a lower rate, or waive other fees. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and you can use a deal offered by another issuer or on another card to help create the perfect card for you.

What are you looking for in a credit card? Leave a comment!


Why Self-Employment May Be the Best Option After a Layoff

LayoffsThe average unemployed person in America has looked for work for 39.7 weeks, or more than nine months. That is the longest average unemployment spell since the Labor Department started keeping track way back in 1948.

So, how long have you been without work? Does it seem as if there are no jobs available at all? Has the idea of starting your own business crossed your mind? Maybe it should. Self-employment may be the best option after a layoff. And sometimes, it’s the only option.

1. Your layoff may be part of an industry-wide slowdown.

What’s going on in your industry? Is it possible that management was really telling you the truth when they said there’s no work? Sometimes – and in some industries – that’s exactly what’s happening. It isn’t anything you did or didn’t do.

If your job loss was the result of an industry problem, there may be no job to return to. Your only choice may be to leave the industry entirely, and to start fresh somewhere else. If you have to make that big of a career transition, you might want to consider self-employment.

2. Industries that layoff people are often looking for contractors to fill the void.

Even if there is an industry wide slowdown in your area or field, that can help you along with self-employment. Employers who lay off regular employees often make liberal use of subcontractors to complete the work that they no longer have employees to cover. This could be the beginning of your own business.

Contact employers in your industry and offer your services on a contract basis. This may be especially productive if you try to work with smaller employers. They have specific jobs that need to be done, and they may welcome your offer to work as a contractor. This can be especially beneficial to them as this will avoid the need to hire someone on a full-time basis, with the built-in requirements of payroll taxes, insurance and benefits.

Once you land one client on a contract basis, you can work on finding a second, and then a third. At that point, you’ll be self-employed. Mission accomplished!

3. Hedging your bets against a job that may never appear.

If you have been unemployed for more than a few months, and finding very few solid prospects, you may need to confront the reality that you are done in that field or industry. Unfortunately, this fact often doesn’t make itself clear until well after the fact, when many months have passed and you realize that your attempts to find a new job were never going anywhere.

Don’t be willing to give up on the search too easily. But you can use self-employment as an alternative strategy, just in case there really are no jobs. If you build a business while you’re looking for a job, you’ll be setting yourself up for two potential options. Either you will find the job that you’re looking for, or you will create a viable business that will eliminate the need for a job.

And if it turns out that the job you were looking for was never actually there, you’ll have already done what you need to in order to deal with the situation.

4. You may not have anything better to do while you’re looking for a job.

The reality in virtually any job field is that there are only a limited number of potential employers. And there’s only so much that you can do in an attempt to reach them. What do you do with the rest of your time?

Well, you can sit around and worry – but that’ll be completely counterproductive. You can fill your days with busy work, but that won’t get much done either. You can also spend your time applying for a bunch of jobs you’re not qualified for, and that will just get you a great big pile of rejection letters.

Or you could use it to do something productive.

By working on building your own business – while you are looking for a new job – you will be developing skills and building new contacts. You’ll also be learning a lot about yourself – you may come to realize that you’re capable much more than you’ve ever shown in the past.

And even if you do find a new full-time job, you may decide to keep your business as a side venture. You never know when you may need it again in the future, and in the meantime, you can always use a little bit of extra cash.

Converting Your Job Skills Into A Business

Probably the biggest dilemma for most people to start their own business is deciding exactly what kind of business they’ll go into. This can be a tough decision, but you should start with what you know and go from there.

Create a list of all of your salable skills – it doesn’t matter that you’ve never sold direct to the public in the past. If an employer has paid you to do a certain job, that represents a skill that you can convert into an income. Review your resume, and determine exactly what skills you have that found favor with employers in the past.

The key to starting a business is to begin with the skills that you already have. You may need to perfect those skills, or even to add some additional ones, in order to make them salable, either to the public or on a business-to-business level. So be it – these are your strengths and that’s what you need to play into.

You can also take a different approach. Start by thinking long and hard about what it is you want to do for the rest of your life.

Once you make that determination, look at your skills and see which of them will help you in that business. You may be surprised at what you find. And even if you don’t have all the skills that you need, you might be able get where you need to go by adding two or three new skills.

Once you can match your career passion with the necessary skills, you’ll have all that you need to start and run your own business. In the meantime, what do you have to lose?

And if you’re unemployed, that’s something that you need to seriously think about.

Does self-employment sound like a good option to you? Why or why not? Leave a comment!


Want to Start a Career? Consider Moving to One of These Cities!

careerIt’s a tough job market out there. Trying to start your career can be a difficult proposition these days.

However, there are some places where it’s a little easier than others to start a career.

If you are struggling in your current job market, it might be time to move to a different job market.

Top 10 Cities for Starting a Career

A recent report from Wallet Hub offers a look at where you might be able to find better job opportunities. Here are the top 10 cities for starting a career:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Denver, CO
  3. Irving, TX
  4. Seattle, WA
  5. Minneapolis, MN
  6. San Francisco, CA
  7. Austin, TX
  8. Dallas, TX
  9. Charlotte, NC
  10. Houston, TX

It’s not surprising to me to see so many Texas cities on the list, mainly because Texas has long been seen as an up-and-coming state for professionals. And, indeed, the Wallet Hub list combines professional opportunities with quality of life to put together a picture of where it might make sense to start a career. Washington, D.C. is at the top, with a quality of life rank of 3 and a professional opportunities rank of 3.

I also think it’s worth noting that Salt Lake City, UT, which is near where I live, did make it in the top 20, with a rank of 13 (15 for quality of life and 45 for professional opportunities). The number one city for quality of life is Atlanta, GA, but it is only ranked at 16 overall because it is at number 106 for professional opportunities. The number one city for professional opportunities is Aurora, CO, but its rank of 106 for quality of life puts it at number 17 overall.

Should You Move to Look for Work?

One of the questions you have to ask yourself before you move, though, is whether or not it would be worth it to move to look for a new job. Sure, Washington, D.C. tops out WalletHub’s list of best cities to start a career. However, it’s an expensive place to live – especially if you want to live in a nice area. Will your new job be able to support your lifestyle? The same question has to be asked of a city like San Francisco. It might rank high on the list, but the cost of living is also very high.

When deciding where to go to look for work, you should consider how far your money will go in a new area. A city like Denver might be a good choice since it has high rankings and is high on the list. Plus, the cost of living isn’t as high as a coast city.

You should also think about the things that are important to you as a person and a family. Cities tend to have an attitude and a style. You want to be somewhere that fits your values and ideas. Otherwise, you will feel out of place, and you might not be able to cope as well with the situation.

There are a number of reasonably priced cities on the list, between an overall ranking of 10 and 35. These can be reasonable places to look for work – although you might want to hold off moving until you actually land a job.

Which city have you been thinking of moving to? How quickly do you think you’ll find a job? Leave a comment!


How to Know It’s Time to Quit Your Job

Quit JobWe often refer to the traditional workplace as the “rat race.” As the name implies, it’s often seen as a place that we want to escape. However, it’s not always best to simply walk away. In many cases, due to the fact that you are likely using your job as your primary source of income, it makes more sense to carefully consider whether or not it is truly time for you to quit your job.

Do You Have a Backup Plan?

The best scenario is to quit when you have a backup plan. When everything is in place, that’s when you quit your job. This might mean that you have a side hustle that can replace your income, or you have a large emergency fund. In some cases, you might actually have another job already lined up.

As soon as your ducks are in a row, from having another source of insurance to knowing you can support yourself for a few months if you have to, that’s the time to move on.

You Feel as Though There is No Career Advancement

If you want to advance in your career, but you don’t see any potential for that in your current position, it might be time to quit your job. If you are continually frustrated by your job, since you can’t grow and improve as a person, you might want to quit.

However, this doesn’t mean that you just walk out one day. If you think that you are ready for bigger and better things, you want to start your job hunt for a new position before you quit your current job. You can also take the step of talking to your supervisor about your situation, and asking if there is a way to get different job responsibilities, or become involved in more challenging projects. In some cases, you don’t really need to quit – you just need a different role.

If you can’t work it out with your own company, though, it can make sense to go ahead and look for a new job with a new company. Just make sure you line up as much as you can before you make your move.

You are Concerned about the Company

In some cases, a company will offer severance packages ahead of layoffs. The idea is to encourage people to quit voluntarily in order to avoid layoffs. If you are concerned that your company could be in trouble, or that downsizing is a possibility, it can make sense to take the severance package and look for a new job.

Even if you aren’t being offered a package, you might still want to carefully consider the company. Do you get the feeling that a change is in the air? Have scandals impacted the company? If you think that there might be problems with your employer in the relatively near future, it’s a good time to at least start looking for a new job, even if you don’t quit.

If you are especially concerned about legal or ethical issues, though, you might want to quit sooner in order to avoid being associated with the company. This works best, though, if you have a backup plan and you are prepared for the possibilities going forward.

Quitting your job is rarely easy. You want to make sure that it makes sense for you right now, and that you have the support system – or at least another job lined up – so that it doesn’t result in problems for your finances.

Are you thinking it’s time to quit your job? Leave a comment and tell us what you plan on doing.


Do You Have a Plan for a Career Setback?

career setbackThe idea of losing your job, or experiencing a large cut in your hours, is probably not one that you want to think about. However, the reality is that the economy is changing, as is the job landscape. I’m a freelancer, and I don’t have to worry about being “laid off,” but even I think about what might happen with a career setback.

A couple of years ago, one of my major clients was acquired by someone else, and after more than five years of working with this client, I suddenly saw a dip in my “regular” monthly income. I was fortunate in that I had other options and was able to recover fairly quickly, but I’ve thought about preparing for financial setbacks related to my career since then.

While it isn’t pleasant, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan in place.

What Resources Do You Have?

The first step is to consider your resources. What options do you have? What financial resources can you call on? Some of the financial resources that you might have include emergency funds and other assets.

You might also consider whether or not you can borrow money from friends and family in a pinch. If your hours are cut dramatically, you might not be able to qualify for unemployment benefits. However, if you are laid off, one of the first things you should do is take advantage of the local unemployment resources.

Get a full picture of the assets you have available to you, and your resources. From the ability to get a part-time job if needed, to a job that your spouse might have, or to a side business you have started, consider alternative sources of income.

Look at your resources, and consider boosting them so that you have something to draw on if you do experience a career setback.

Do You Know What You Will Cut from Your Budget?

When I lost that client a couple of years ago, I immediately began thinking about which items needed to be excised from my monthly expenses. Looking through your bills, you might be surprised to find that you have wiggle room to cut things like eating out, outsourced cleaning and yard care, extracurricular activities, cable, and other costs.

Now is the time to take a hard look at your expenses. You might be living within your means right now, and you might be able to afford what you spend your money on, but it doesn’t hurt to know what you could do without if you had to. As a result of my little scare, I know exactly what I would cut first if I needed to. I have a list of priorities that need to be funded (like my mortgage and insurance premiums) in order to maintain my long-term financial viability, and I know what I would cut back on.

Because I already have these items identified, the hard decisions are already made, and I can move into emergency mode quickly.

Are You Providing Yourself with Ongoing Improvement?

One of the best things you can do as you plan for the possibility of a career setback is to keep your options open. You can do this by constantly improving your skills and knowledge. Develop marketable skills, and you will have an easier time transitioning to a new job if you need to.

You should also make sure that you keep your resume and cover letter up to date, and that you connect with members of your career network regularly. When you keep up with these activities, you are always ready at a moment’s notice. You will be ready to identify and seize opportunities if you keep your options open.

In the current climate, it pays to be prepared. Look at your finances, and your career, and make sure that you are ready for the possibility of a setback.

Have you completed these tasks? Would you say you’re ready for a career setback? What are you going to do to get ready? Leave a comment!


How to Be Productive – Even When You Don’t Want to Be

ProductivitySome days, I don’t feel like doing anything productive. I want to sit around with a book and not worry about getting things done.

While it’s nice to take a break sometimes, and while we need to take breaks on occasion, the reality is that sitting around in a stupor isn’t going to help anything. There’s a difference between taking a break for half an hour to regroup and accomplishing nothing all day because you’ve been sitting in front of the TV in a daze.

When I feel like succumbing to a complete lack of motivation, I do my best to be productive – even though I don’t feel like it. Here are some tips for getting something done, no matter how much you’d rather not do anything:

Get Started on Something

Get started with something. It can be as simple as making your bed or straightening your workspace. The idea is to start moving. Once you are moving, and once you’ve started to do something, it’s easier to keep going.

If you can just get started with something simple, you might find it easier to work up to something more complex. Plus, the fact that you’ve accomplished something can push you to accomplish still more with your day.

Switch Gears to Something Else Productive

I might feel like curling up with a book, but if I want to be productive, I make it a point to curl up with something other than my favorite fantasy adventure series. Instead, I look for a book that can teach me something, or that I plan to review for my blog. In either case, I’m accomplishing something productive.

Another tactic is to look for something else that needs to be done. If I don’t feel like working, I’ll clean the house, or volunteer at my son’s school, or gather up items to take to the food bank. I’m still getting something worthwhile accomplished, and I’m making myself a better person overall. Later, when I feel like working, those good vibes can translate to better concentration and productivity.

Power Through

Of course, sometimes you just need to power through. Rather than being overwhelmed by everything you have to do, and choosing to do nothing, choose the most important thing you need to do. What has to be done? Focus on that one thing. Stop worrying about the piled up work – at least for now.

This is one of the ways that I overcome procrastination when I’m paralyzed by the amount of work that I need to do. I take a deep breath, find the most important task, and just power through that task. At the very least, the most important thing is done. Often, though, I find that just accomplishing the most important task gives me a sense of accomplishment, and I’m in work mode, so I move on to something else.

While you don’t always have to be productive all the time, it can help your emotional well-being – as well as improve the rest of your life – if you make it a point to be at least a little productive. Take a break, but don’t forget to accomplish a few things, too.

Editor’s Note: Now that you know how to be productive, learn about some common productivity mistakes you should avoid.

What are some other ways to be productive and stop procrastination? Leave a comment with your own!


How to Fill the Hours After a Layoff – Constructively

Layoff AgendaAfter the shock of a job loss wears off, you must put your free time to effective use. Just as every dollar of assets is precious, so is every hour of your free time. Using each wisely is a key to your future survival. To stay in control of your situation – to the degree that is possible after a layoff – you have to set up and maintain a regular and productive lifestyle.

Create a Daily and Weekly Agenda

Each night before you go to sleep, write down your plans for the coming day. Keeping your mind active means not treating your layoff as an extended vacation.

Look at your tasks and prioritize them. Make the goals realistic. Put the more difficult ones first; getting them out of the way will give you incentive to move down the list. It will also insure that you get the most important tasks done, even if you don’t have time to do the rest.

To-do lists are no good if they just keep getting longer. There may be too many chores to complete in one day. Review the list to see if you are being realistic. Plan on developing a weekly agenda of repetitive duties. You want to make sure you have something going on all the time. As the saying goes, nothing gets going until you do. Make that your mantra.

Set deadlines – and keep them! You don’t have time for procrastination. Face the challenge of the chore and resolve to see it through to the end. This discipline not only will bring results, but it keeps your mind in training for the day when you will return to work.

As items drop off the list, replace them with new ideas or a re-visit accomplished tasks. Don’t throw away the agenda; go back and review it for new approaches and ideas.

Your New Job: Finding Another Job

Being unemployed doesn’t mean you don’t have a job. You actually do – and it’s finding another job. If fact, it may do you well to get a job while you’re looking for a job.

Even if a job is part-time or temporary, you’ll still be doing something productive, earning some money and making contacts. That’s better than sitting in front of a computer all day applying for jobs. You need to do that of course, but working part-time could put you face-to-face with some people who might hire you full-time.

Make sure your day is conducted just as it would if you were in a job. Don’t sleep late. Get up at the same time you did when you were working. Shave, bathe, and dress. Keep regular business hours – be at your computer working no later than 9 a.m. Plan to apply for at least two or three jobs by lunch time. Have a quick lunch, then get back to work.

If you have a job interview, get back in front of your computer as soon as you get home and start looking for more leads. Never assume the interview will lead to an employment offer. Part of your “job” now is to continually build a stream of job leads that will create more interviews. You’re in sales now, and your product is you!

Constructive Distractions

With no restraints, find ways to positively use your time. Keeping physically fit is essential. You must devote a portion of your day to exercise. Now is the chance to get serious about jogging or putting in time on that treadmill in the basement. It has been proven that physical stimulation correlates to mental agility. It keeps the mind sharp and the spirits high.

Seek out motivational activities. Go to the library and read magazine articles on how to job hunt. Explore the networks nearby and attend their meetings. Leads are often shared and you can learn valuable tips from other job seekers and speakers.

Be careful about the groups you visit; make certain their purpose is positive and not strictly social. Local libraries often have “lunch and learn” events for a modest charge. Think of yourself as a sponge, ready to soak up information and opportunity wherever it may be.

Network with Positive People

Keeping your self “up” emotionally isn’t easy when you’re out of work. You’ll need a steady diet of motivation. You can do this by reading motivational books – I personally recommend anything by Anthony Robbins. You can also get some motivational tapes or CD’s to listen to. The idea is to keep your mind focused on the positive so that you won’t drift in the other disastrous direction.

Get close with any friends or contacts you have who are positive people. It’s often said that you are the average of your five closest friends; make sure those friends are positive ones, and you won’t be able to keep from adopting their enthusiasm.

Acquire New Skills on the Cheap

Seek ways to learn new skills . . . inexpensively. You may have many marketable talents, but adding some can be beneficial. As part of your recreational browsing, look for free online classes. YouTube.com and sites like eHow.com have dozens of instructional videos. State labor departments offer training for unemployed people who want to re-enter the workforce.

Many community colleges offer evening adult education courses on emerging job opportunities. Often there are training classes on basic software to hone your computer skills. Additionally, these classes can develop into informal networking. Sometimes all you need to land that next job is an extra skill or two. Now that you’re unemployed you have the time to learn them.

How you fill your hours after a layoff will have a direct impact on how quickly you get your next job, and even on the compensation you’ll get when you do. Make sure you’re using it constructively.

Editor’s Note: If you’re unemployed, try out some free resume tools to get you going in the right direction!

How do you fill your free time? Do you tend to view free time as an opportunity to find a job, or as an opportunity for play? Leave a comment!



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