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Journaling for Personal Development

December 24, 2013
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The days when keeping a diary was for tween girls are over.  Since the advent of blogging in the late 1990s, people have been documenting their lives on the internet, creating multi-media journals of their life, an up-to-the-minute memoir sometimes providing more information than their friends and family want to know.

journalingPrivate journaling can be an effective tool in personal development because it allows for a level of self-reflection and observation that is not possible using memory alone.  While some people choose to journal as a way to record their thoughts and feelings over time, others focus their journaling on a specific area of life.  They may keep a journal of their creative process, thoughts, and inspirations or record their spiritual journey through life.  Many therapists ask clients to keep a journal to work through psychological issues or to help heal from a traumatic or painful life event.

A good idea is to keep a journal of personal and career development.  This type of journal can offer countless insights into patterns of thought and behavior that may be sabotaging success.  It can also help journalers identify fleeting ideas and moments of inspiration that can lead to new career paths or influence personal choices.

If you plan to begin a personal development journal in the New Year, here are the main steps.

1. Identify Your Purpose

There are a plethora of reasons to keep a journal, even in personal development.  Will you be recording and reflecting on your dreams? Writing about self-esteem? Tracking your progress on specific goals? Chronicling an important project? How about keeping track of moments of thankfulness and gratitude in all areas of your life?

2. Define Your Process

This involves not just choosing the type of journaling you want to do, but setting a process for your practice.  Will journal in the morning, before bed, during lunch? Are you going to journal in a hand-written notebook, a document file on your computer, or make use of online journaling sites?  Will your journal be completely private or will you share it with a select circle of invitees or the public at large?  Will you re-read your earlier entries once a month, once a quarter, every year?

3. Experiment with Form

Most people think of a journal as words written on under a date heading. There are, however, other ways to approach journaling.  Some people fill their journal with doodles or illustrations. Others take the scrapbook approach of attaching ephemera from daily life along with written text.  Others use collage or photos to supplement their thoughts.  Being creative is an important part of achieving personal and professional goals, so let that creativity run free in the journal.

4. Stick to It

A journal is only useful if it becomes a regular habit.  It’s okay to miss a day here or there, especially when starting out.  In order to get the most out of the process, journaling has to be a regular practice. Then when it comes time to reflect, there will be enough data accumulated to make patterns and cycles of behavior visible.

One last thing.  Many journalers focus their writing on their thoughts and reactions.  It is important to take into account the setting of events.  An inspiration thought in the shower is different than an idea that comes out of attending an motivational speech.  When noting important thoughts and feelings, include a description of the setting in which it occurred, or even take a quick snapshot make a sketch.  Additional patterns associated with place may suddenly make themselves clear.

Doris Timmons is a retired teacher and personal coach.  She has written guest posts for lifestyle and personal development blogs.  She has also helped develop lesson plans like the one found here and shared her teaching experiences on educational blogs.

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Basic Accounting Skills Can Relieve Money Stress

October 23, 2013
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It would be difficult to find someone in this day and age who is NOT stressed about money.  It is practically a fact of life in this post-Recession era.  Even those people who have been able to recover from lost jobs, income drops, or falling home values are still worried about their financial security.

And there are hundreds and hundreds of articles and blog posts out there that talk about the dangers of stress and the anxiety that people feel about money. While there is probably no single cure-all for money stress, following at least a few of the tips and suggestions offered on any of webpages will help alleviate that stress, at least a little.

Virtually every article offers similar advice: know you situation, address debt, save money, and create and stick to a budget.  This is all good advice. The question is, how to do that.

The answer is learn a few basic accounting skills.

Now, some people may be put off by the formality of accounting, but in truth, most people already have some of the basic skills used by accountants.  Simple things like making a budget, using a spreadsheet, or even writing income and expenses long-hand on paper in separate columns are forms of accounting. Mastering a few of the basics of accounting will just make that easier.

For those who are still scared, think of it this way. If you have an illness like diabetes you learn just enough about medicine to manage your disease.  So, if you have money stress, learn a little about how to manage income, expenses, investments, and savings and that stress will go down.

Luckily, in the age of the internet it is possible to learn these types of skills quite easily.  There are plenty of articles, webinars, and even videos that will teach the basic skills.

Here’s a video on how to set up a home accounting system:

And here’s one that teaches basic accounting in 10 minutes:

 

Holly Carpenter writes about finance and money management for a variety of blogs and accounting websites like this one.

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Learning Auto Repair

July 15, 2013
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With the growing rates of products and increasing inflation people are trying to save money and cut corners wherever possible. When it comes to cars people try to maintain and service their vehicle as much as they can to make sure that their car will provide them good service and remain in a good shape. However the car is a machine and automobiles tend to break down at times when one cannot even imagine. Auto repair costs have escalated and therefore it is better that one learns to repair car by themselves. There is little or no point in spending money when one can learn a skill and save on costs.

Ways to Learn Basic Car Repair

Learning basic car repair is not a hard job and there are many ways through which one can easily be trained. Due to the increasing number of people who want to learn these things there are community centers and programs that help in easy learning. There might be a fee for these short courses whereby they are based on work shop in order to teach things in a practical way. These courses do not take up much time and are known to be very useful.

fixing a carIf you do not want to go for courses then you can always ask a friend or family member who has this technical knowledge to help you learn. However, if you do not find these helpful, you can always use the internet to search for videos and instructions that will guide you to learn the basic skills of auto repair in the easiest way. You can even purchase online repair manuals from sites like http://www.haynes.com. This also gives an added advantage that you can learn from home at anytime that is convenient for you.

Do It Yourself

Not only will learning auto repair help you to save money but it is something that will also make you feel proud. You do not have to call for help in case of need or an urgent situation as you yourself will be skilled enough to take care of things. Once you learn these basic skills and start doing your own auto repairs, you will gain a sense of accomplishment that only comes when one has performed a job quite successfully. By mastering these skills you would be able to do repair your car quickly and even detect faults before they eventually lead to breakdown. You would also be able to guide others and save some of your hard earned money.

Marc Pencelle is retired race driver who now writes about American racing by following teams like Scott Tucker Racing for race magazines and sports blogs.  He also writes about car models and auto repair for all sorts of blogs and websites.

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Does Driving Increase Stress Levels?

May 22, 2013
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Stress is a major contributor to certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. It can also have immediate effects on daily life such as increased fatigue, poor concentration and a drop in cognitive function.  Plus, it doesn’t feel good to be constantly stressed.

Does driving, one of the major activities in daily life, actually increase that stress?

A recent study in the UK compared stress levels of commuters while driving to those taking the same (or nearly the same) route to work on a bus.  The conclusion was that drivers experience 33 percent more stress than passengers as measured in heart rate and EDR (electro-dermal response).

Causes of Stress

drivingResearchers break the stress down to three causes

  1. Heavy traffic is proven to cause the brain to have to work harder, causing physical and psychological stress
  2. Congestion and traffic jams cause anger to build up, sometimes leading to actual incidents of road rage. However, even low levels of unreleased anger will significantly impact stress levels.
  3. Time spent in traffic produces frustration that time could be better spent doing other things. The sense of “wasting one’s life” only increases with longer commutes and increased congestion in the larger cities.

The Flip Side

Once the commute is over, many people actually consider driving to be a way to relieve stress.  While there may not be physiological data to back it up, there are circumstances where driving is relaxing or cathartic.

  1. Leisurely drives through beautiful scenery can relax the mind and, provided there isn’t too much traffic, requires less concentration and risk.
  2. Highway driving during off-times offers a chance for drivers to go fast for long distances, escaping their daily cares in the speed and physical distance achieved.
  3. Race tracks offer the chance for amateurs to learn to handle race cars like a professional driver or offer time on the track to see how fast their own car can go. By removing all the distractions of traffic, congestion, traffic laws and the need to be somewhere on time, racing on a track can be extremely exhilarating and even cathartic.
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Famous People with M.S.

May 21, 2013
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If you hear the names Annette Funicello, Teri Garr, and Lena Horne, and think that they have a lot in common, you’re right.  They’re strong role models who have had time in the limelight, and garnered the love and admiration of millions.  They also have M.S.  You’ll also find that Chrissy Amphlett, the lead singer of the Divinyls, the drummer for Iron Maiden, and the recently deceased Captain Beefheart are also on the list.

It’s very extensive, and there are many more celebrities and very accomplished people, many who would doubtlessly be rather surprising.  Changes in treatments in the recent years have made it possible for people to lead pretty full lives with the illness.  There are also more resources available now, with bulletin boards on msworld.org that can connect those who have it with others, so that they can share experiences.  Some alternative treatments are showing some promise, and places like prohealth.com offer supplements that might work to alleviate some of the related symptoms.

There are some studies on therapies with substances such as methylcobalamin which are also promising.  The complexity and severity of the illness does make it much more reasonable to maintain the recommended treatment very closely, but there are always new products and new scientific achievements that might suggest that it’s not as ominous a diagnosis as it once was.  This is, in very large part, due to the activism and example set by the people who are living full lives with Multiple Sclerosis.  They do prove that one does not have to stop enjoying life, even when the disease is in its more chronic and active stages.

Like anything that might be unfamiliar to a general public, the challenges here have to do with communication and information.  In the case of M.S., the challenges might be a little bit more extreme, because it is such a misunderstood illness.  A generation ago, the medical community at large was fairly baffled, and misdiagnoses were very common.  What are only now coming to light as related symptoms were one considered to be entirely unrelated, and this left a lot of sufferers in the dark, wondering if they might be suffering from something else as well.  Now, because of the increase in information, the more common issues, such as unexplainable fatigue, or slurred speech, are on the table, or at least making their way into public consciousness.  This could go a long way toward helping those who suffer from it, as well as those around them, as the challenges become a burden which everyone can begin to share.

Gina Kirk is a health and exercise blogger whose work has appeared on sites like www.dazadi.com

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The Move: Micromanagement and the Big Picture

May 15, 2013
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homeChanging residencies, or moving the location of a business, is certainly one of the most challenging moments in a life. Although it certainly contains all the excitement that a new prospect for experience can offer, it also contains an enormous potential for stress. It’s a bit of an adage, however, to note that the vast majority of things that people worry about never happen . It’s also true that having some anxiety about a move is perfectly natural, because there are many unknown factors. With the help of companies such as HybridAir, these unknowns are minimized.

This gives people the opportunity to really focus on what’s necessary, so they can devote their time to what’s truly important. In the midst of so much change, those who have a tendency to micromanage have more experience with new anxieties than anyone else. There are too many details to consider, and too many unknowns. But online resources are there to help answer these concerns, so that the mover can find out about the neighborhood , and know more about the building that they may have ever imagined. With a prominent profile on sites like flickr, companies like this can give the potential mover a visual display of information, so that a mental picture can form, and they can start to focus on the bigger picture.

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photo by: Unitopia

Managing Financial Responsibilities for Continued Business Success

February 27, 2013
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Achieving milestones in business requires time and much effort. Once you’ve attained a certain level of success, the work doesn’t stop there. With success come more financial responsibilities. Identifying what these responsibilities are and how to manage them properly will help grow and sustain your business further.

One of your responsibilities as a business owner is to maintain accurate financial records that are necessary for a variety of reasons from securing financing, drawing investors, tax payments and other legal requirements. To this end, it’s critical to have a good bookkeeping system. You can do either cash-based accounting or accrual-based accounting. Some businesses are able to combine both systems successfully.  You will also need to decide whether you will adapt a manual bookkeeping system (books or ledgers) versus an electronic system (software or web-based program).

It is also critical for a business to have accurate and updated financial reports, which are important when seeking loans or making business decisions. Some of the most important reports that a business needs include a cash flow statement, income statements and a balance sheet. It’s also necessary to create a quarterly or yearly budget to help in allocating money for various known expenses. Creating a monthly forecast based on previous and current financial statements will also help avoid financial mistakes and arrive at a more accurate budget.

However, your financial records, reports and budgets will be useless if you don’t protect your business. You must have insurance from business interruption and for income protection to protect your finances during difficult situations. Make sure you have secure networks for online transactions. Don’t be a victim of fraud. Always secure your checkbook, keep track of financial activities, and work only with a licensed financial professional.

annual reportOne of the most difficult aspects of owning a business is preparing taxes but this is one area where you want to do it right. Your type of business will determine which form to use to file your returns. Aside from using the correct forms, you also need to fill out the forms accurately and attach the required documents such as your company’s balance sheet or income statement. As a small business owner, you would also be required to pay a self-employment tax. Income tax returns can be filed by mail or online.

Without any background on business finance or taxes, it would be a huge challenge if not downright impossible to manage all of your financial responsibilities on your own.  It is usually necessary for business owners to hire professionals such as a bookkeeper, accountant or a tax return preparer. It is very important to the continued success of your business to choose an honest professional with verifiable qualifications.

By educating yourself about your financial responsibilities as a business owner and seeking help when necessary, you’ll be equipped to keep your business growing and financially healthy.

Alex Parker is an accountant who specializes in Phoenix insurance fraud and forensic accounting.  She also provides financial advice as a guest blogger and frequent contributor to financial and business sites.

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Improve Your Life in 2013 with Software

January 2, 2013
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January is here, and with it come those dreaded, or excitable New Year’s Resolutions. If you’re like most people, you likely find it challenging to truly get through all your New Year’s resolutions as you work on improving yourself, be it learning a new language, losing some weight, or doing anything else to promote your own development and self-growth.

The good news, though, is that there are a variety of apps, social networks, software downloads and more available for you to be able to meet your resolutions, improve your life, from these language apps, to weight loss helpers, calorie-counting apps, online college potential, and more.

Learn A Language

From Rosetta Stone to a variety of other smaller, less intense apps and software purchases, you can learn a language in the New Year from the comfort of your home with an app that works on both your computer and mobile device. With language assistance, lesson plans, pronunciation guides, examples of speech, and more resources, learning a language has truly never been easier when it comes to personal development, and that makes 2013 the best year to learn a new language from the comfort of your home. Pick a language, commit to doing it, and boom! You’ll be there before you know it with a little bit of hard work.

calorie appCrush Some Calories Online

From the Livestrong websites full of resources, to Nike’s Run Fit apps, and other personal trainer and calorie counter apps like MyFitnessPal and more, you can lose some calories in the New Year with the assistance of your phone! Lean on the apps when it comes to creating a plan and providing sound medical information, and enjoy all the good that comes from it as you drop the weight and improve your health in the New Year.

Go To College, Too

Maybe you can’t do this on an app, alone, but there are countless software programs out there and opportunities to go to college online with both for-profit and traditional schools, ranging from Boston University and Liberty University in the traditional model, to Everest, ITT Tech, and others online as for-profit schools. Either way, though, it’s never been easier to better yourself online and from the comfort and familiarity of your own home than it is right now, today. There are really no excuses when it comes to improving yourself, heading to college, and earning that degree using something as simple as your own computer and all sorts of digital resources and assistance!

All in all, it’s a great time to make a New Year’s resolution, as it’s never been easier in so many ways to develop and grow yourself from top to bottom. Good luck in 2013, and may the new year bring you success both online and off as you use software, apps, and other digital tools to improve yourself and your quality of life in the New Year and beyond, for both yourself and your family!

Heather Boone is a journalist and blogger who covers everything about technology and its impact on individuals and society. She also writes about how business uses technology, from computer reviews to explaining how lead management software works.

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Apartment Decorating Ideas for Small Spaces

August 29, 2012
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Knowing how to make use of space wisely is important. Especially to those who are renting, or who are planning to rent an apartment, you will soon realize how space costs and why it’s important to be able to make use of space efficiently and wisely.

Living in small spaces, is actually quite cool. Small spaces often costs less or are situated in prime locations, either of which, you’ll win. Small spaces are easier to clean and maintain saving you time, money, and effort. And best part is that it will not cost much for you to give the place a total make-over to create a living space that will reflect your style.

When decorating small spaces, you have to take into account factors that deal with form, function, and style. Here are a few decorating ideas for small spaces:

Add Color to Your Space

Walls and partitions of apartment units for rent often come in neutral colors like beige, cream, or off-white. As long it is not specified in your contract of lease that you are not the alter wall color or paint, it doesn’t mean you have to stick to that color scheme within the duration of your stay. Adding color to your living space by changing the colors of the wall can create a dramatic effect.
You may also add color to your space by placing objects and decorations that can highlight or contrast various color schemes, not only will this add to the aesthetic aspect of the space, it also allows you to embellish the room with your own style and character making the space more interesting.

Storage Space

Plan storage spaces well. Draft a floor plan to determine where to place or store items. Shelves, bed boxes, tables, or even a staircase can be transformed into multi-functional features that you can use to showcase or store your items. DIY boxes and shelves offer the flexibility to help you customize storage units within your space.

Make Use of Vertical Space

When floor area is limited, make use of vertical space. Install open shelves and bookshelves on walls just right above work tables. Make use of walls to mount your television set, you may even make use of the ceiling for install contraptions where you can hang your kitchen utensils, pots, and pans.

Design Rooms to be Multi-functional

Good space planning will enable you to design and decorate a single room to serve multiple purposes. Your den, for instance may also be a home office, a study, and a guest room all in one.

Use Space Saving Furniture

Buy furniture that is designed as space saving solutions. Examples of these are beds designed with computer work-station, bookshelves, and closets. Compact furnishings for the living room, den, or kitchen will give you more floor space while still have the functionality needed to be organized.

Be Creative

Everyone has different tastes and style, know which design will be most suitable for your lifestyle and your needs to help you plan and come up with the perfect make-over for your space.

It is easier to decide on make-over or renovations when you own the place. For rented spaces though, you might need to refer to your contract of lease or ask you landlord which type of renovations will be allowable for your unit. You have to also consider that costs used for renovations and improvements in rented spaces can be offset as rent. Evaluate first before spending money to renovate rented spaces.

Molly Banks is a design columnist and writer.  Her work focuses home design and apartment living — two of her passions in life — and has appeared on on sites like www.starlightinvest.com.

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Psychologists and Psychiatrists: The Differences

March 22, 2012
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When it comes to selecting psychologists and psychiatrists, many people are confused. This is not surprising since both of these healthcare professionals treat a broad range of conditions from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and other, more severe types of mental illness. In fact, many people suffering from mental illness see both types of practitioners in order to achieve the full scope of treatment. However, you should be aware that these two do have differences and it’s important to know which you need. As always, make sure that you are open and communicate with your primary healthcare provider to make sure that you receive the proper care.

Psychiatrists are considered medical doctors and psychologists are not. Psychiatrists start in medical school and once they complete their degree, they attend four years of mental healthcare residency. Typically this is done in a hospital’s psychiatric department. Many can go on to receive in more specific treatment to deal with children, adolescents and teens or other specific groups. Psychiatrists are licensed practitioners that can prescribe medication to their clients.

Unlike psychiatrists, psychologists complete up to seven years of graduate study, ending in a doctorate degree. They may complete their studies and graduate with a PsyD or PhD. Licensing requirements for psychologists vary from state to state but all must be licensed before practicing.

Many people believe that psychiatrists only treat very severe forms of mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This is not the case.  In fact, many individuals with moderate depression must see psychiatrists in order to receive medication that helps them work through the symptoms of their condition. Again, it’s important to know your diagnosis and work with these mental healthcare providers to make sure you are receiving the appropriate medication and treatment.

Many individuals will actually see a psychiatrist for their medications and to make sure that they are taking the proper dosage for their condition and also see a psychologist to work through cognitive behavioral therapy or talk therapy. Most psychiatrists are now focusing most of their time on the medication component of treatment and work together with partnering psychologists for their patients. Psychologists focus on psychotherapy which refers to the practice of sitting down with a patient and work in a variety of forms—often cognitive behavioral therapy—to help the individual establish more positive internal thought processes that will help them, in addition to medication, overcome their illness and manage the symptoms associated with their condition.

If you are experiencing symptoms associated to mental health conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor immediately. Any medical professional will be able to help refer you to the most appropriate doctor for your symptoms. Remember that unlike physical conditions, it’s important to be patient and cooperate with practitioners—whether they are psychologists or psychiatrists—to find the treatment options that work best for you. Often psychiatrists must try different types of medication before finding the one that works best. This is because mental health medications work differently on different people. Similarly, it may take trying different psychotherapy forms before finding one that works best for you and your particular condition. Keep an open mind and always be honest with your doctor throughout the entire process. Once taking medication or treatment, make sure to let your friends and family know so that they can help you monitor your emotions and behavior.

In summary, determining whether or not to seek a psychologist or psychiatrist should be a conversation had between you and your primary healthcare provider. Several insurance companies—although not all—require referrals as these practitioners are considered specialists.

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