Fall asleep faster — no sheep required. Read More...

It’s that time of night: you’ve counted all the sheep. All that’s left are the lambs that won’t stop crying.

You’ve tossed.

You’ve turned.

You’ve fluffed and flipped, but you haven’t dozed.

Once is bad enough. But night after night? Soon you’ll really know why the lambs are crying.

Sleep shouldn’t be the most stressful time of your day — and it doesn’t have to be.

Check out these 13 recommendations to start getting sleep when you’re in a pattern of not getting sleep.

1. Go yellow.

It’s a very modern problem: today’s technology is all about the blue light. It’ll keep you up like the green light kept up Gatsby.

Blue light is high-energy light, and it’s amazing and serves wonderful purposes, such as increasing alertness, memory, and cognitive function.

As you know, though, those are some of the last effects you want when you can’t fall asleep.

About two hours before bedtime, shift your digital devices to yellow. Windows has the Night Light. Mac has its Night Shift. For phones and tablets, there are f.lux and Iris. These will help your brain calm down with lower energy light — and you can start getting sleep.

2. Go dark.

In our caveman days, the light went out automatically out for us.

Over millennia, humans were conditioned to grow more tired as the sun went lower. Then Edison put a wrench our natural sleep cycle. With modern technology and Netflix’s string of hits, it’s impossible to get to bed some nights.

Let nature work in your favor, sending your brain signals that it’s time to wind down. When the yellow filters start to show on your digital devices, start to turn down and then turn off your lights and television.

As your body adjusts to these signals, you’ll start getting sleep more easily.

3. Get regular.

Yes, that’s important, too. But, for our purposes today, we’re talking about creating a regular pattern of habits before going to bed each night. The right pattern will condition your brain to learn that bedtime is coming.

Here are some of the bedtime habits you can foster to help provide the right cues for your body:

  • Turn off your technology.
  • Start turning down the lights.
  • Brush your teeth.
  • Wash your face (or, if you shower at night, take your shower).
  • Drink a warm liquid.
  • Do a little light reading.
  • Stretch.

Figure out a bedtime routine that works for you, and try to stick to a schedule when possible. You might not always get to bed at 10:30 p.m. exactly, but when you time things, you can perhaps get to bed at a range from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and that consistency can help you.

4. Calm yourself.

It’s hard shifting from our fast-paced, constantly connected culture to lights-out.

With all the messages we must process and all the decisions we must make, these can all come flooding back as soon as we put our heads on the pillow.

Any type of meditation that helps you calm down and clear your mind is perfect.

However, Qi Gong meditation is specially designed to help alleviate stresses of all kinds. It’s the perfect meditation to help you forget that important email you read just before leaving work or that minor altercation you had on the highway.

After turning off all distractions, find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. Sit however is most comfortable for you. Then, close your eyes and simply pay attention to your natural breaths. If a thought crosses your mind, no worries. Just push it away.

Or, if you prefer, get comfortable on your bed and meditate yourself to sleep.

5. Write.

The act of putting pencil to paper is calming for two main reasons:

  • First, it’s an organic experience that’s naturally calming.
  • Second, journaling is a reflective process. This means it’s an exercise in self-awareness. You can examine your experiences of the day and put them behind you.

If there’s something important to remember or a problem to solve, writing these down is great for clearing the mind. Once you’ve written down what you must remember, you can forget about it. When you’ve worked out your problem, you can move onto the next task — start getting sleep.

6. Read.

I love to fall asleep while reading in bed.

Don’t get in the habit of staying up long nights in bed reading books from cover to cover like a college student. Instead, crawl under the sheets, put your head on the pillow and read few pages.

Studies show that reading in bed reduces stress levels and beat many other recommendations for falling asleep fast. An entertaining book is a good way to get distracted from what’s keeping you up at night. It’s also a good primer for what dreams may come.

If you can read more than a few pages before falling asleep, your book is either too entertaining or you need to complement your reading with other tips on this list.

7. Talk it out.

Remember how hard it was staying awake in that English Lit class? The professor droned on endlessly like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Yeah, that’s what we mean by getting talkative.

The key with this tip is to finding calming, soothing voices. So, maybe that political radio show isn’t your best choice.

If AM and FM can’t help you, download stories on Audible. If you’re like me, listening to anyone talking when the lights are out is enough to help me fall asleep.

If you can’t find the right story or voice, download the Sleep with Me app. It has over 600 hour-long sessions with people talking about nothing important. Its sole purpose is to bore you to sleep.

Is the Sleep with Me app is more likely to bore you to death than to bore you to sleep? Try the Classic Tales app to have some of history’s best tales read to you to help you fall asleep.

You can even use guided meditations to help in your efforts to start getting sleep.

8. Go white.

If you can’t fall asleep because you hear every bump in the night, go white.

White noise is to sound what white light is to color. White noise is the combination of all the sound frequencies brought together. That means it’s great to use to mask other sounds, like the neighbor’s barking dog or the guy upstairs who won’t stop pacing.

Amazon is replete with white noise machines, many of which are reasonably priced. You can save yourself some money, though, by bringing your old fan down from the attic. A simple desktop fan can have the same effect as any fancy white noise machine. That is, of course, if the fan works properly.

9. Go smooth.

Not unlike white noise, smooth, chill meditation music can put you in the mood to start getting sleep.

If you already have a meditation app on your phone or you have a favorite meditation station on Spotify or iTunes, use it to fall asleep at night.

Meditation music and noises, along with journaling and reading, reduce stress. Likewise, repetitive music helps dozers forget about what’s keeping them up. Music with about 60 beats per minute helps lower a sleeper’s heart rate and can, consequently, help you fall asleep faster.

10. Get sexy.

If getting smooth isn’t doing it for you, get sexy. Just before, during, and after an orgasm, the body releases prolactin, oxytocin, and melatonin. These hormones are a perfect cocktail for fast sleep.

But, sorry ladies! Your bodies don’t release as much prolactin as men’s bodies do, and prolactin helps suppress dopamine, the stimulating hormone. So, this may not be your solution, but it’s fun nonetheless.

And maybe it will help you get just tired enough to drop off to sleep when you’re done.

11. Get warm.

It’s traditional to give their children a glass of warm milk to help them fall asleep.

That’s because milk has the amino acid L-tryptophan, which we associate with the annual sleep-inducing Thanksgiving dinner. But it can help you, too. A warm drink can help you drift off faster.

If you’re lactose intolerant or avoid dairy, try chamomile tea. Chamomile has flavonoids with sedative effects that will help you sleep. It’s commonly advised to drink warm chamomile tea about 90 minutes before bedtime.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol won’t help you start getting sleep. You may fall asleep, but the quality is probably going to be poor if it’s alcohol-induced. Stick with the milk or the tea.

12. Get fit.

Many studies show that regular exercise, over time, can improve one’s ability to have a good night sleep.

Exercise, too, reduces stress, which is a major deterrent to good sleep. It’s also been shown to improve circadian rhythms by making exercisers more alert during the day and then letting them get deeper sleep at night.

So, go for a walk or a bike ride. Hit the gym. Develop a healthy exercise habit, and it could be your ticket to start getting sleep.

13. Get dry.

Constantly going to the bathroom at night keeps some people from ever falling asleep, especially from into a deep sleep. If this is you, then drinking too many liquids at night is not recommended.

Drink enough liquids throughout the day to get your daily dose but slow your drinking after dinner. If you must, limit your liquids after dinner to a single cup of warm milk or tea. Beyond that, you’re asking for frequent interruptions that’ll keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Mix and match to find your combo to start getting sleep.

One of these tips probably isn’t going to solve all of your sleep problems. Instead, try different combinations of these tips to help you fall asleep on time and more deeply.

As you improve your practice, you’ll get better sleep — and you can stop worrying about those damn sheep.

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Good news: you can be happy and productive without getting up at an unholy hour. Read More...

I’ve seen a lot about the “miracle morning” recently. It seems to be everywhere.

Basically, the idea is that you wake up an hour earlier than normal. You spend that time journaling, meditating, and exercising. The miracle morning is a pretty cool concept. I like it in theory:

  • Get up
  • Set your intention for the day
  • Exercise to take care of your body and mind
  • Eat breakfast
  • Start your workday energetic and focused

The result, of course, is supposed to be getting more done overall. Increased productivity through a better start to your morning — all by getting up an hour earlier.

But what if it doesn’t work?

I tried the miracle morning — and failed.

In an effort to wrest control of my life back from my schedule, I thought I’d give the miracle morning a try. After all, it’s supposed to transform your life.

An hour a day to change everything?

Sign me up!

However, it didn’t go as I expected. First of all, getting out of bed an hour earlier proved almost impossible. I tried going to bed earlier, to no avail.

My son’s activities and the realities of having a teenager didn’t mesh with going to bed as early as I needed to in order to get up at a miracle morning time.

On top of that, when I did succeed in getting up an hour earlier, it didn’t actually help me with my productivity. I often wake up ready to work. It was hard for me to spend an hour journaling and meditating. Plus, about the time I finished with my miracle morning regimen, it was time to get breakfast and eat with my son.

By the time my son was off to school, my day was taken over by meetings and phone calls and unexpected little issues drawing off my attention. I felt just as harried as ever.

So I decided it was time for a new approach. Rather than focusing on my morning routine, I decided to look at the way my internal clock functions. I know you can shift your clock over time to become a morning person, but I was tired of trying to fight it. So, I didn’t.

Check in throughout the day.

First, I started by paying attention to how I felt at various points during the day. I noticed that I often woke ready to get something done. On top of that, my afternoon slump effectively made me useless for work.

As part of this exercise, I factored in time with my son before he left for school, as well as our afternoon and dinner commitments and obligations.

I kept notes about how I felt throughout the day, and when my work flagged. Additionally, I paid attention to when I had standing meetings and when others were most likely to interrupt me. With this information, I was able to identify patterns.

After about two weeks, I had a pretty good idea of when I was likely to work most effectively — and when it was better for me to just stop trying to force it. I was also able to figure out which times were likely to be good times for things like exercise and self-improvement.

I was ready to take a new approach to my days.

Starting work first thing.

My first main change was that, instead of trying to exercise or meditate first thing in the morning, I would just get to work on the most challenging item on my to-do list.

Because my son changed his school schedule recently, there are now three days a week when I basically have two hours in the morning before I needed to start breakfast. The other two mornings, I have about an hour.

My new morning routine looks like this:

  • Wake up
  • Sit up and stretch in bed
  • Drink some water
  • Use the restroom
  • Take three to five minutes to do a little “wake up” yoga
  • Immediately start work

My whole get up and get started takes less than 10 minutes.

And I get to work immediately on the most challenging thing I have to work on that day. Essentially, I follow the advice in the book Eat That Frog! However, while the book assumes you’ll be at work after a morning routine, I’m actually getting my biggest “frog” out of the way before I really start my day.

After getting some work done, I then turn my attention to breakfast and seeing my son off to school. I get dressed, and then start in on the rest of my day.

Now, though, meetings and phone calls aren’t pulling me away from the big thing on my plate. It’s already done by the time all these other things start demanding my attention.

Scheduling exercise in the afternoon.

After getting my new morning squared away, I decided to schedule exercise in the middle of the day. It’s true. I head to the gym between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Before, this was time spent in a stupor as I either tried to power through the afternoon brain fog or gave up and took a nap. Of course, the nap usually ended up being longer than it should have been and resulted in sleep inertia — making me feel worse.

Now, though, I have my exercise scheduled on my calendar. It’s an item I’m reminded of and that is blocked off so that appointments can’t be made during that time.

Instead of trying to make myself be productive during a time when I’m not really wired for productivity, I use the time to reinvigorate myself with exercise. Usually, when I’m done, I’ve received enough of a boost from the activity that I’m ready to tackle items that require a bit of thought (although they aren’t as energy-consuming as what I work on in the morning).

At times I feel a little tired and sleepy after my workout. On those days, I meditate in the afternoon. In fact, I find that meditation helps me most just after lunch, or soon after a workout. I still meditate most days, just not in the morning.

Creating my “excellent evening.”

Rather than a miracle morning, I’m working on creating an excellent evening. While my son is getting ready for bed, I answer a few final emails and finish up some of my loose ends.

Once he is in bed, it’s time for my own wind-down routine. I put the phone and laptop away, done with them for the day. If there are things still bothering me about the day, I write them down. I also take this time to identify my first move in the morning. It’s a great time to decide what my first focus should be. I tidy my work area and get things set up for the next morning.

With everything resolved on and ready for the coming day, I engage in 15 to 20 minutes of gentle stretching yoga. Then I take my shower and go through my bedtime routine. Often, I read a book for pleasure during this time. It’s a great way to relax and unwind and get my mind ready for sleep.

Finally, I can just go to bed. Sometimes, if I’m struggling a bit to fall asleep, I use a guided meditation designed to help.

Do what works for you.

Maybe the miracle morning works well for you. I know a lot of people really like it. Getting up early and centering themselves ahead of the day is perfect for them. I even know folks that get up at 4:30 a.m., do the whole miracle morning routine, and then get started on work sometime around 6:00 a.m.

And that’s fine.

But that’s just not going to cut it for me. I’ve tried.

Instead, it works better for me to get up around 6:30 a.m. and immediately get into my work. I suppose I could get up at 5:00 or 5:30 and still accomplish much the same thing. But until I’m able to go to bed much earlier, that’s not practical in terms of making sure I get enough healthy sleep each night.

Rather than getting hung up on what everyone else is doing with their morning routines, think about what makes your day better. Consider a schedule that makes sense for you. Maybe it’s more work at night, or perhaps it’s exercising after dinner (like my parents do).

The important thing is to pay attention to your own internal clock and the realities of your situation so that you can create a schedule that works around your various commitments, your family, and helps you start working toward your goals.

What helps you in the morning? Or the evening? Have you tried arranging your schedule around your internal clock? Let us know in the #Adulting community on Facebook.

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Slow down. Experience. Your vacation isn’t about what you show your friends on Snapchat. Read More...

Have you ever come back from a vacation and felt like you needed another vacation?

This is pretty common when you’ve packed in a lot of stuff in one trip. For many of us, a vacation seems like the perfect time to do as much as possible.

See all the sights!

Do all the things!

After all, who knows if you will ever be back to this place again?

Unfortunately, taking this approach to a vacation can mean a lot more stress and a lot less relaxation.

If you aren’t going to relax and have a good time, what’s the point of a vacation in the first place?

Before you embark on your next “vacation,” take a step back. Will it really be a vacation? As you plan, keep the following strategies in mind to have a lot more fun and a lot less stress.

Plan fewer activities.

When I was growing up, there were times that the vacation was just a rushed and stressful mess. We ran from activity to activity and site to site without really experiencing anything. My favorite vacations were those that didn’t involve quite as many activities.

When you have a chance to slow down and experience life, you are far more likely to enjoy what you are doing, even if you do a little bit less of it.

You might be surprised at the memories you make when you slow down and actually make them.

Don’t forget: you can always come back again.

Even if you don’t, you’ll still make better memories if you truly experience a small part of something rather than getting a superficial view of lots of things.

As you plan your vacation, figure out which activities are most important, and which site you want to see more than the rest. Focus on the most important activities and don’t worry about cramming everything in. You can move slower and feel like you’re on a real vacation.

Take your time.

If you plan a real vacation with fewer activities, you will have time to slow it down. This can help you relax more and feel like you really are on vacation.

This effect can be enhanced if you plan longer vacations. When you have the time to take more than a day or two, you can enjoy yourself more.

During the last couple of years, my son and I have been lucky enough to be able to take longer vacations. One year, we spent two weeks visiting different Canadian cities. Spending between two and three nights in each place allowed us breathing room and time to explore.

We also spent several weeks with Philadelphia as a home base. From there, we could plan shorter trips to New York City and to the surrounding area.

It worked out really well. Not only were we able to enjoy ourselves, but there was also time to just recover. Instead of having an activity for every second of the day, we could have a real vacation and spend some time doing nothing but reading or sitting by the pool.

Having a large chunk of time and a home base can help you move slowly and relax more.

Being gone for three to six weeks doesn’t work for everyone, though. This vacation strategy works best if you are location independent with your work or if you have the ability to bank vacation days with your job.

Choose shorter trips.

So, what if you can’t just head out for several weeks? Can you still have an amazing vacation?

Yes, you can!

Another way to plan a real vacation is to make it shorter.

Your shorter vacation can be a weekend getaway that doesn’t take you very far or some other short trip. When you choose a shorter trip, it should be more about seeing only one thing or just relaxing in a new place.

Don’t try to pack a bunch of stuff into your trip. A short trip jam-packed with activities and craziness pretty much turns into a nightmare. If one little thing goes wrong in these scenarios, everything gets thrown off and the whole thing derails.

No matter the length of your vacation, be prepared for hiccups. Just realize, though, that the longer the trip, the less likely the hiccups are to impact the rest of the vacation. When you have a shorter time frame, it’s easier for things to get thrown off.

One of the things I like to do is go camping. I pick a place within four hours so that I only spend a half day of travel each way. Then it’s usually possible to spend two whole days in the woods. It’s very relaxing and I feel refreshed when I get home — especially after I take a shower.

Travel light.

How to Plan a Real Vacation

There’s nothing like having to put away a ton of stuff to ruin the end of your vacation. That’s why I like to travel light.

I have one medium-sized suitcase and that’s it. If I will be gone longer than a week, I plan to do laundry. I don’t get bogged down in packing a lot of outfits or shoes or makeup. I don’t even bring a carry-on beyond the backpack I use to hold my laptop and other tech gear.

The fewer things you bring with you, the less you have to worry while you travel and the less you have to put away when you get home. Plus, you can have a real vacation, rather than spend a lot of time lugging stuff around or trying to unpack and re-pack all your things.

Traveling light can also apply to souvenirs. Don’t get bogged down with buying a lot of fancy stuff. What is that stuff good for anyway? It takes up space in the luggage, is expensive, and then when you get home, you have to figure out where to put it.

My son and I have a tradition of getting one magnet for each place we visit. This allows us a nice, cheap memento that doesn’t take up space. Plus, we know exactly where to put it in when we get home — on the fridge.

Plan time to relax.

As you plan a real vacation, don’t forget to schedule time to relax. Keep your schedule clear enough that you can sleep in, just sit in the hot tub, or read on the balcony. Plan a spa day. Take a long dinner.

Be willing to play it by ear a little bit. Sometimes, I like to cancel a plan so that I can keep doing something I enjoy.

Don’t plan out every minute of every day. Leave room for spontaneity or to just discover something new. You’ll be glad that you didn’t fill every single second with some sort of planned activity.

If you don’t time to relax while on vacation, you’ll come home and feel like you didn’t get a real vacation at all.

Put the camera away.

Finally, as you plan a real vacation, consider putting the phone away. Yes, your phone is probably your camera, but if you send all of your time trying to get the perfect shot for Facebook, you’re not really enjoying the moment.

I’m in the middle of a spring break trip right now. Even though I’ve caught a couple fun moments with my phone’s camera, for the most part, I’ve kept it put away. I love that I’m able to just soak in the moments on this trip.

Leave the selfie stick home. Take a couple pictures of what you see and a couple pictures of you and your loved ones. All you really need are a few pictures to trigger your good memories. You don’t need a ton of pictures to try and impress your Instagram followers.

Plan a real vacation like a boss.

As you learn to handle vacation like a boss, you’ll be surprised at how much happier you are when you travel.

While there will always be inconveniences and issues that crop up, it’s much easier to handle them when you’re not already frazzled from a tight schedule or a lot of baggage.

Slow down. Take your time. And pack light. Don’t worry about whether your vacation is worthy of Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, or Instagram. Belive it or not, enjoyment sometimes has to be learned.

But once you learn how to plan a real vacation, you’ll get the most out of wherever you go.

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Remove the phone from in front of your face, and engage. Read More...

Everywhere I go, I have my phone.

It’s practically a part of me.

When I don’t have my phone with me, I feel stressed. What if I miss something?

It seems crazy, but it’s sort of a legit fear. I like to point to the time I missed a call from my son.

I left my phone at home by accident. While the phone was stuck at home, my son tried to call me. He needed to pick him up due to illness. I finally got him. Two hours after he called. The school nurse was not amused.

This works as a “reason” to be obsessed with keeping my phone nearby. I can just tell everyone my sob story about how my son was sick that one time.

But let’s be honest: most of us are just addicted.

Are you addicted to your phone?

What you do — and seeing who acknowledges you — on social media is addictive.

When you see the likes, the messages, the replies, and all the signs that someone sees what you’re doing (and perhaps approves?), the rewards centers in your brain trigger.

In fact, your addiction to your mobile phone is probably due, in part, to the fact that you can enjoy a reward whenever you want just by checking your social media.

And it really can be addicting, with the brain patterns of compulsive social media use remarkably similar to the brain patterns of drug addicts.

Part of that is by design. Facebook engineers built the platform to suck you in and take up your time and energy. All the social media platforms are designed, in some way, to take up your headspace and encourage you to maximize your time there.

In fact, you aren’t really considered a user or a consumer. You are the product. Social media networks sell your information to other parties. Additionally, they make money off advertising that delivers you to businesses and others.

It’s not just about the addiction, though. I noticed that I experience life better when I’m not totally attached to my phone. Moving away from the phone as my default allows me to experience life more fully.

Now that I’m making a conscious effort to step away from the phone, including time to unplug on the weekends and evenings and to put my phone in DND mode at night (with the exceptions of my parents, my son, and my ex), my life has improved dramatically.

Here are 5 good reasons to unplug at least some of the time — so your phone doesn’t run your life:

1. Boost your creativity.

When you’re constantly consuming media, you aren’t creating anything. And you don’t have to be creative all the time. I specialize in writing uncreative non-fiction. My attempts at fiction suck.

But I still take time to try my hand at creative efforts, including music and sad attempts at fiction. I’ve even started adult coloring. And I never really liked coloring. I also crochet, even though I’m useless at anything more complicated than a scarf. But I find these efforts oddly satisfying.

Creativity is a process. Our creative “muscles” can strengthen or weaken. When all you do is consume, consume, consume, your creative muscles atrophy.

Not only that, but creative endeavors can help you be a better problem solver and find innovative ways to move forward. It’s perfect if you want to be an entrepreneur. Creativity is one of the most important traits of a business owner. No matter how you slice it, you’ll improve in life and in your business with the help of creativity.

If you want to be more creative, put the phone down, and work on something else. Even if you don’t think you’re very good at it, it can offer you a huge boost when you stop letting your phone run your life.

You might be surprised at how the time flies, and at how you are less bored than you could have imagined.

2. Feel better about yourself.

Constantly checking your phone and being on Facebook can actually make you feel bad about yourself, and trigger feelings of envy. The problem is that you compare yourself with how others present themselves online.

That’s one of the most insidious things about social media and phone use. Standing in the grocery line? Check out what’s happening with your buddies on social media. And immediately feel like you’re missing out.

The reality is that, in many cases, people present idealized versions of themselves on social media. You are comparing yourself on your worst day to someone’s best day. That’s not a fair comparison, and it can lead to anxiety about how your life “should” be.

Don’t fall into that trap.

Spend some time away from your phone and put things into perspective. Recognize that there are some pretty great things about your life. It’s hard to do that when you’re obsessed with everyone else’s life.

3. Stillness is good for you.

5 Reasons to Stop Letting Your Phone Ruin Your Life

Even if you aren’t using your phone for Facebook and other social media all the time, it can still cause serious problems in your life.

Are you constantly playing games? Do you check your phone, even if you don’t have messages?

In a world where distraction and stimulation are all around, stillness is falling by the wayside.

However, stillness can be beneficial. Do you ever just sit, without the need to accomplish anything? We consider boredom as the worst thing ever, but the truth is that our bodies need to recharge.

Meditation, good sleep, and just sitting and taking in life are all good for you. They help your mind. Plus, constant stimulation from your phone can add to feelings of anxiety and reduce your ability to contemplate your options calmly and make better decisions.

Put the phone away and sit in stillness. Meditation can help with this. You can even benefit from better sleep if you stop playing games or checking your email or reading on your phone or doing whatever it is you do before bed.

Stop letting your phone run your life, take in a little extra stillness, and unplug a couple hours before bed. You might be shocked at how much you better you feel about everything in your life.

4. Take back control of your time.

Who’s in charge?

You, or your phone?

Be honest. Do you have to answer every text immediately? Do you feel frazzled because there’s always a notification for a new email calling off your attention?

That’s not healthy behavior. Not only does it put you at the beck and call of your phone, it can also strain your relationships. What message does your child get if you’re always staring at your phone, getting distracted by the “ding” instead of paying attention to them?

What kind of message are you sending to your life partner when an Instagram notification is more important than they are?

You don’t have to let your phone run your life. You don’t have to answer every call or text immediately. Turn off the push notifications on your phone. That way, you won’t be distracted by feeling that you have all these things to do because Instagram or Facebook or your email are always intruding on your time.

Just turning off my push notifications changed how I feel about things. My son has his own text and phone alert tones and if I’m in the middle of something, I ignore the phone unless it’s my son. It was hard at first, but I find it empowering now.

Today, we expect instant responses from everyone, and we think we have to respond instantly as well. That’s just not true. You can control your time. You don’t have to let your phone control your time and attention.

5. Experience life.

When I attended my son’s first fencing tournament, I was so engrossed that I didn’t take a single picture.

At first, I felt bad, but then I realized that I had paid better attention to him because I wasn’t fumbling around with my phone. I could give all my attention to him, and truly experience it because I saw it with my own eyes.

I don’t record recital performances, either.

Usually, when I go to a game or a concert, or even see a new vista in nature, I take a few pictures first thing. I get the pictures out of the way so I can fully enjoy the rest of the time.

The truth is that life doesn’t look the same when viewed through the phone. The phone gets in the way. I like taking pictures. I like having them. But I try to get it out of the way at the beginning of any event so that I can fully experience it going forward.

Don’t miss out on life.

Instead of letting your phone run your life, put it down and experience your life.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get rid of your phone and never use it again ever. Like so many things in life, this isn’t an either/or proposition. Instead, it’s about moderation. It’s about recognizing that, while your phone is an amazing device that can do a lot of good, it’s not a replacement for actual life.

It can’t replace true experiences, and it can’t replace the people you love. So, use it. It’s a tool. But it’s not the same thing as actually living.

There’s a lot going on around you. There are so many amazing people to connect with.

But when you let your phone run your life, whether you are constantly checking for messages or trying to accomplish something in Bejeweled, you really are missing out.

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Put down the phone and step away slowly. Read More...

I’m not quite old. But I’m not young, either.

I’m old enough to remember the excitement when our family got an extended phone cord, so I could have a private conversation in the coat closet.

However, I’m also young enough to be able to claim that I have three laptops, two tablets, and a smartphone. These technology tools that today’s digital natives for granted help me manage more of my business, personal life, and home every year.

I never went on a road trip with my family and had the luxury of watching movies from start to finish. Today, though, I don’t fly without writing an article, catching up on email and managing my business from takeoff to touchdown.

The timing of my entrance into this world means I understand the value of spending time away from the digital world. And I know how to survive the real world.

I, also, love – even rely on – being on the grid.

My life is increasingly digital.

I find myself more and more on the grid year after year. Being online allows me freedom and flexibility in the way I make money, the way I travel, and the way I enjoy my life.

It’s set me free from the mundane and offers entrance into worlds of thoughts and ideas that I don’t always see IRL.

I assume if you’re reading this article on this blog that I wrote on my laptop, you relate to at least some of what I’m saying.

You probably know exactly what it’s like to have an online presence, even if it means that your ability to survive the real world is a little hampered.

I also don’t get bothered by seeing people with their faces in their phones. I assume that most of them are like me and building something.

But I also know it’s possible to get too carried away. There is a real solid world out there, and we all need to be connected to it.

It’s important that we all manage our digital lives and not let our digital lives manage us. So, here’s what my household does to fight the robots from taking over before their time.

Embrace everyone, not everything.

All electronic devices are not equal. I wholeheartedly love my electronics, but some of them aren’t worth the time, money or hassle. Take, for example, ereaders.

I tried to buy into them. In fact, I bought two even though I saw the limitations of my first ereader quickly. Ereaders were all the rage for readers. My husband got me one of the first, and the first time I flew I was told that I had to put my ereader away until the plane took off.

For the ten to 50 minutes until we were safely in the air, as a reader, I was bored. I was once stuck on a tarmac for what seemed like hours and couldn’t read or go to the bathroom.

(Editor’s note: you can use ereaders during takeoff and landing today. In fact, I love my Kindle Paperwhite. Don’t leave home without it — especially when I fly. A full library in the palm of my hand; I can read whatever I’m in the mood for without weighing myself down with several tomes.)

As time passed, I realized that I missed my tangible books with their bent edges, scuffed covers, and bookmarks that always fall out of place. I missed the option of highlighting and taking notes in the books I bought for learning. I missed the ease of sharing a book I loved.

I know there are digital solutions for all the voids from my short-lived ereading days, but there’s something to be said for the tactile, tangible, and rudimentary.

I don’t want to make Jeff Bezos poor. I’m just suggesting that you pick and choose what digital devices you let into your life and which you don’t. They don’t all provide more value than what you have or had.

Enjoy the art of the start and a happy ending.

A while ago, my husband and I started to turn off and disconnect at 8:30 pm. The blue light, the surround sound, and all the flashing are too stimulating to the brain. In fact, studies suggest that you should turn off your devices at least an hour before bed so you can fall asleep at a decent hour and rejuvenate for the next day.

We have the Blue Light Filter for all our devices, but we still feel more ready for bed at bedtime when we turn everything off. It’s the perfect way to unwind and relax.

We’ve, also, found that what there is to read online or on social media is less relaxing than most books — yes, old school books — that we read. In fact, you’re likely to find something on social media that gets your heart rate going and your blood boiling. That’s not a recipe for a peaceful night’s sleep.

Recently, we’ve imposed the limitation of not turning on our devices until we’ve completed our morning meditation, journaling, and exercise. So far, we like it.

Before this new policy, we found ourselves turning our phones on first thing in the morning and letting Facebook or email decide how our day started. We didn’t like that. We now turn on our phones or laptops at about 7 am. Ironically, we don’t get any less done than when we turned our phones on as soon as we woke.

In fact, we are a little more productive because we’ve started the day focused and happy.

Get human2human.

As with disconnecting from the digital world and connecting with nature, humans benefit greatly from social interaction. Let’s face it, we’re not that much evolved from our cave brothers and sisters.

Regular human to human interaction has been shown to help people live longer, maintain and improve people’s physical health, maintain and improve cognitive skills, and reduce the risk or effects of dementia.

Meet a friend for coffee. Walk with your special someone around your dream neighborhood. Go to a ballgame with your best friends. Hang out with, talk with, and enjoy other people without being more concerned about what’s happening on your phone than what’s happening around you.

Put the phone away and put the people standing in front of you first.

While human-to-human contact is best, you can also connect with those far and away by making an old-school phone call or using Skype or FaceTime. Don’t settle for a quick text that you can then ignore.

Seeing someone’s face on video, or hearing their voice over the phone, will lift your spirits, help maintain or improve your mental and physical states, and keep you connected with loved ones beyond the character limits that often come with electronic text.

Master the art of doing nothing.

You know what people don’t know how to do anymore? Nothing!

We’re over-stimulated, multitasking zombies who occasionally need a break from everything. We often worry about how to survive the real world — the time spent in a grocery line or commuting on the train — without the aid of our devices. But the truth is that you could probably use a little time without them.

Stare out your living room window or sitting on your front porch alone and without any distractions. Time yourself to see how long it takes you to get antsy. If you can’t go a few minutes without feeling anxious, you need to do nothing more often.

There is great value in downtime. These days, we complain if there isn’t something entertaining right in front of us all the time. We don’t need to be constantly entertained. Let your brain get in some relaxing.

Go outside naked.

I knew this was the point you’d want to read most, which I why I put it at the end.

Don’t strip down to your birthday suit and log a run around the block like you’re to your neighborhood what Mark Roberts was to the PyeongChang Olympics. My point is to go outside and experience nature without a single digital device.

Trust me! You’ll get to the park and home again in one piece without Google Maps. You don’t need Spotify to walk down the street. Rather, listen to the soundtrack of your life — it’s the one playing in your head. You’ll hear it if you listen.

Studies suggest that being in and naturally experiencing nature will improve your mood and lower your blood pressure, your heart rate, muscle tension, and stress. Some studies even suggest it reduces your chance dying earlier.

That’s worth a walk in the woods and off the grid.

Being disconnected will give you the opportunity to hear the birds chirp and the leaves rustle. You’ll more attentively experience the sun, snow, and rain.

You’ll hear silence, and silence is truly golden.

You’ll also have the chance to connect better with yourself and your thoughts. A walk outside in nature, even a walk down the block, is a great form of meditation.

Survive the real world without devices.

These are a few of my recommendations to help you stay connected with your natural self and the environment. Digital is good but a little less digital won’t hurt you. In fact, striking the balance between digital and living IRL will probably help you a ton.

When you start paying attention to how often you’re connected, you’ll start to see the value in disconnecting sometimes as well.

When you start managing your digital work, you’ll feel, be, and do better in the real world — and we need the real world to be a whole lot better than it is today.

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Warning: this post is a little heavy.

At the time that I’m writing this post, I (like millions of other Americans) have just learned that, yet again, there has been another horrifying school shooting. And, as this is only the second month in 2018.

It was all over social media. It is still all over social media as people debate the causes and solutions — often without doing more than screaming talking points and increasing the negativity in the world.

I find myself wondering how many times we will be alerted to this type of news throughout the year and how many times we’ll go through this cycle.

In fact, by the end of 2017, I found myself dreading the news, social media, and any form of media whose sole purpose was to inform me about what was going on in the world.

Sometimes, you just don’t want to know. And, sometimes, you don’t need to know. By October 2017, I began formulating a plan to take a social media break. One free from the constant notifications, angry comments, scary news, and political fighting. And, in December I managed to stay off of social media for a month.

I was damn glad. It was the most peaceful month of the entire last year.

Wonder how I did it?

First, I had to acknowledge that constantly being “in the loop” was driving me crazy and stressing me out.

On top of that, the stress began affecting my ability to live my life happily. Once I owned the fact that I needed time to not care about anyone but me and that I wasn’t being selfish, the social media break was easy to do.

Plus, social media can be distracting. It’s easy to sucked into a discussion. Before you know it, an hour has passed — and you’ve accomplished nothing to enrich your life. I could have spent much more time on my business and made more money without the time spent on social media.

Of course, my social media presence was a huge deal, so I needed to keep people in the loop.

I began prepping the people in my life who were used to communicating with me via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Each day, I would post a message that would pique my friends’ interest. I kept these messages pretty cryptic so that they would engage with the post.

My friends began asking me questions about what was going on. Those questions gave me the opening to say “Hey-I’m taking a break soon from social media!”

Preparing my friends for this break was important because people take social media so seriously nowadays! You don’t want to unintentionally upset someone who reaches out to you but has no idea that you’re completely offline.

Leave a “bye Felicia” post.

Seriously, leave a post on your social media profiles letting people know that you are on a break. I literally left post letting telling my friends and followers the following:

  • What I was doing: “Taking a social media break” and how that break would affect the people that I typically connect with online.
  • I shared my “why.” This type of post is optional, but I found that by sharing my “why” other people would share that they were feeling the same way that I was and were thinking about taking a social media break too.
  • Share when you plan to return to social media. You’ll find that if you slip and get back on social and your friends notice, they will call you out on it!

Now that you’ve left notices and shared what’s going on, it’s time to take your break.

The logistics.

First, figure out which social media platforms you’re using. Because I run a blog, I am on basically all of the platforms. But you might only be on a few platforms that you use regularly. Identify those.

Next, get rid of the apps. I removed all of the apps from my cell phone. It was that simple. You might be surprised at how easy it is to avoid social media when it’s not staring you in the face on your phone. 

I also decided to stop watching the news. Interestingly, I actually found that to be a little more difficult than breaking up with social media.

Staying away from the news and constantly checking the headlines on my phone was a challenge. However, I didn’t miss the negativity involved with all that news.

What surprised me.

You’ve heard that  “ignorance is bliss.” I  100% agree.

The month of December was a blissful experience of being purposefully out of the loop. And, in just in case you’re wondering, if anything really crazy came up, people were sure to let me know what was going on.

My productivity shot through the roof, my anxiety levels went way down, and I existed in a state of complete calm.

By removing the anxious anticipation of waking up in the morning and wondering “What in the hell happened last night?” Each morning became something that I looked forward to.

And I also stopped checking my phone obsessively throughout the day. In fact, several social media related habits became apparent to me during my break. A few habits included: checking my social media right when I woke up, obsessively reading my feeds to see what was going on, and commenting constantly.

All of these things had been happening when I could have been working on something meaningful instead.

By the end of my experiment, I was surprised to discover how much I used to be involved with checking things on social media and in the news.

Would I do it again?

And, just in case you’re wondering, I am back on social media.

But I’ve become very attuned to how it makes me feel — and the minute it starts stressing me out, I’m taking a break.

The social media break was so enjoyable that I’ve actually scheduled breaks throughout the year and will take the entire month of December off again.

It made the holiday season so much more enjoyable.

You might be worried about what you’re missing by not being constantly connected. FOMO is real. But it doesn’t have to control your life.

In fact, once you go on break, you’ll realize that your FOMO isn’t really that bad after all.

Don’t worry about FOMO — embrace it.

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Look your best — for less! Read More...

If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve had an existential crisis while cleaning out your bathroom cabinet or toiletry closet.

As you sort through individual makeup and skincare items, you start tallying up how much each one costs. Soon you find yourself well into the triple digits — and vow to never buy beauty products again.

It’s a vicious cycle, made all the more difficult by societal pressure to always look your best. If you work in a highly social or competitive field, taking a day off your beauty routine just isn’t an option. It would be like a man showing up to a traditional office job in shorts and a tank top.

Being a woman can be expensive, but it’s possible to maintain a flawless beauty regimen without breaking the bank.

The key is finding ways to cut corners, find suitable replacements and locate the best deals. Here are my best low-cost beauty tips:

Shop in unexpected places.

If you’re used to buying beauty products at Sephora or your closest drugstore, prepare to have your world turned upside down.

I love buying my skincare goodies at…Costco.

Yep, that’s right. The bulk superstore carries my favorite CeraVe body lotion and face wash — at a better price than anywhere else I’ve seen. You can also find razors, vitamins, and contact solution for great deals. Your biggest problem will be finding the storage space for all your items.

Plus, Costco has a great return policy. If you try a new lip balm and hate it, you can always bring it back with the receipt — no questions asked.

Yes, you have to pay an annual fee to join Costco. But the reality is that the money you save on low-cost beauty and personal products more than makes up for that fee.

I’ve also bought hair, makeup, and skincare products at TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack, where you can find high-end shampoo and conditioner for 50% off the retail listing. I buy my 33 oz. Redken and Joico products at Nordstrom Rack where they cost $15 each — instead of buying them at a salon or other retailer for $25 to $35 a bottle.

Try the places I mentioned, but you can also ask friends and look around for your own secret spots. Maybe there’s a bulk beauty supply store in town. Perhaps a friend can get you a special deal. You might be surprised where you can find reputable products for a drastic markdown.

Sample products beforehand.

How often do you hear about a great face scrub or eyeliner and buy it? Only to find out that it gives you a bad reaction or ends up running all over your face?

That’s why I sample products before purchasing. It’s one of the best low-cost beauty tips I can give you. Even though many stores do have a return policy if you’re unhappy with a product, it’s easier (and less wasteful) to sample beauty products before you buy them.

It’s also important to keep in mind that some retailers won’t take something back if it’s been opened. Even if you have a bad reaction, you might not be able to bring it back (unless you got it at Costco). Some stores like Ulta are stingy about returns and can deny your claim, even if you have a good reason.

Before you get too far, though, it’s just better to take a step back and make sure you’re getting what works for you.

Department stores and specialty beauty shops usually let you try products with no problem. This can save you the time and money you’d spend buying something and returning it later. In fact, one thing to try is to give something a try at the Macy’s or Sephora counter, and then see if you can find the same thing elsewhere — for much less.

Find duplicates of your favorite products.

If you’re like me, you have certain things you just love. And that’s great. But what if the thing you love is just so expensive? What if you have a favorite lipstick that you can’t bear to let go — but you also can’t justify the $25 price tag?

Find its doppelganger. That’s right. This is the low-cost beauty tips version of shopping generic. It works when you shop for groceries, and it will work as you figure out which beauty products to use.

There are countless beauty bloggers like Temptalia who do the work of comparing drugstore brands to high-end versions to see where you can save money.

Sometimes the more expensive item really is better quality. More often, though, you can find a suitable counterpart that costs a lot less. And that counterpart probably won’t be noticed by anyone else. It does the job, helps you look amazing, and costs much, much less.

When I was really struggling financially, I visited Temptalia all the time to find drugstore versions of my favorite high-end products. Even now that I earn a decent living, I still use many of those products instead of their expensive alternatives.

True story: if you want more money to travel, or enjoy other things in your life, saving money on beauty and skincare products is one of the best ways to go. Simply by saving 50% a year on beauty, makeup, and skincare items, it’s possible for me to fund at least one weekend getaway (and sometimes two).

Do your research.

I’m meticulous when it comes to shopping for new beauty products. I’ll ask my friends, read reviews online (MakeupAlley is my favorite), and look at photos in Google’s image search. I also like searching through Reddit forums Skincareaddiction and Makeupaddiction.

This probably sounds like a lot of work, but I rarely buy makeup or skincare products that are new to me. If I like something, I’ll keep using it until it stops working or gets discontinued. And that’s why putting in the time to do the research is one of the best low-cost beauty tips. A little time now can go a long way later.

By doing my research thoroughly, I’m more likely to be satisfied whenever I make my next purchase. I try not to get lured in by deceptive online advertising, and I’m not a brand snob. I don’t mind buying a $5 eyeshadow palette from Wet ‘n Wild if the reviews are good — and if it looks great on me.

There’s no reason to spend $50 on something when the $5 version works just as well. By doing plenty of legwork, I’m more likely to find a frugal option that suits my needs. And, of course, once you find that low-cost beauty version that works for you, you can keep buying it at a discount.  The upfront investment of time yields dividends for years to come.

If you’re reading this article, you’re already on the right path.

Use it up.

I’m the type of person who will buy five different products for the same problem. If I have a pimple, I won’t hesitate to buy a new acne cream — even if I already have three in my medicine cabinet. This is an area where my frugality is severely lacking.

And that problem means that I spend more money — and waste more product — than I need to.

Instead of buying a new product whenever you feel like it, try to use up what you already have. Most skincare and beauty products have an expiration date, so many can go bad if they’re just sitting in your drawer. Also, if you use a product consistently for a significant period of time, you’ll have a better idea if it actually works for you.

Before rushing out to buy something new, use what you already have. Whether it’s overnight face cream, a serum, or a tube of lipstick, make sure that you are completely using up what you already have.

I’m trying to get better about this, and you should too.

Treat your body right.

This sounds like a given, but simply having a healthy lifestyle will negate the need for many products. That’s right: one of the best low-cost beauty tips is to just take care of yourself by engaging in healthy habits.

When I sleep well, I can skip using concealer. Think about it: good sleep leads to fewer dark circles. Being well-rested can also boost your mood — which in terms means fewer frowns and the lines that come with them.

When I drink enough water, my face is more dewy. Remaining hydrated can help you maintain smooth skin and help in other areas. Drinking enough water can reduce your need for some skin care products. If you get enough sleep and drink a lot of water, you might not need serums. Or maybe you won’t need to use as much moisturizer or toner.

On top of that, some researchers claim that a poor diet can cause outbreaks and other skin problems. When you eat healthily, your body gets the nutrients it needs to look its best. Foods with antioxidants can help as well. Reduce the amount of processed foods you eat and limit the sweets. Replace the junk food with healthier choices. You don’t have to never eat junk food again, but be realistic about how much you consume — and cut back on it.

If you binge drink regularly or smoke cigarettes, consider cutting back —both for your health and for your appearance. You might be surprised at how many years hard drinking and smoking can add to your life (and your looks).

Finally, adding exercise to your life can help you reduce the need for beauty products. Exercising gives you a healthy glow overall. It also promotes circulation, which helps get nutrients cycling through your body. Maintaining flexibility and health can help you feel less stress, and that means a better look overall.

It takes time to change these habits, but by slowing changing your lifestyle can reduce the amount of time and money you spend on your beauty regimen.

Wait for sales and coupons.

I get a lot of my makeup at Sephora nowadays, which is one of the most expensive places to buy skincare products. One trip to Sephora can be totally brutal on your pocketbook.

To save money, I try to wait until April and November when the store has their semi-annual sale. I know that I’ll be able to save money during these time periods and my expensive care products will suddenly be less expensive.

Ulta also has sales around the holidays for their high-end products. Understanding these cycles can help you plan your purchases throughout the year. It’s not something that just works for best beauty tips, either. It can work when you’re buying food, clothes, and other items. When you know what to expect, you can plan ahead and save money in the long run.

On top of seasonal sales, you can find weekly coupons for drugstore brands. These types of deals can help you out on a regular basis. First of all, you’re already spending less by choosing these stores. Then, you save even more because of coupons and sales.

Stores like Target often have sales in the makeup and beauty departments, so look at the weekly ad before you shop.

If I’m shopping online, I use the browser extension Ebates to get cash-back on my purchases. You can also use an extension from a site like Swagbucks to turn your purchases into gift cards for stores you prefer.

Another strategy to save money on beauty supplies is to buy a discounted gift card from CardPool or Gift Card Granny to save even more. These types of sites allow you to buy gift cards at less than face value and then spend them at your favorite store. Consider: get a Sephora gift card at a discount and then use it during a sale. Use it online and you could see even bigger savings as you stack strategies and discounts.

Skip the subscription boxes.

I’ll never forget when I got my first beauty subscription box. My friend Danielle had been raving about how they had introduced her to seriously life-changing products, so I decided to give it a go.

I signed up for Ipsy, which costs $10 a month and promises at least five products along with a custom-designed pouch. I filled out the Ipsy questionnaire, which asked what kind of products I wanted and what my biggest skincare and makeup concerns were. My first package arrived a few weeks later in a hot pink envelope.

I eagerly tore into it — and was instantly disappointed.

Inside, I found gold eyeliner, scented lip balm, hair oil, blush, and a purple eyeshadow. I sampled all those products, but in the end, I only really liked the blush. Had I accidentally said on my questionnaire that I wanted to try bold colors like purple eyeshadow and gold eyeliner? Didn’t I tell Ipsy I was looking for a “natural” look?

I got one more package before I canceled my subscription. Even now when I hear my friends rave about a beauty box, I ignore them. Beauty boxes are fun, but since you can’t return the products you don’t like, they can often be a huge money sink. Plus, if you don’t like and use the products, you still have to go out and find what you do like.

I recommend skipping them and trying products in person at Sephora, where you can sample for free. And, if you like the idea of getting beauty products regularly, check to see if what you like is available through programs like Amazon’s Subscribe & Save. You set it and forget it — and it comes each month, no problem.

Sign up for the rewards program.

I love shopping at Sephora for many reasons, but I especially love their rewards program. If you’re a Sephora Beauty Insider, you earn one point for each dollar you spend. You can redeem points for trial sizes of popular products.

This is a good way to test products and even get solid mileage out of them before paying full price. I usually save my points until I find something I really need, like a cleanser I can take with me on a flight or a 3 oz bottle of hairspray. You even get a free item on your birthday. I’ve gotten Tarte blush, Philosophy body wash, and Fresh soy cleanser.

Ulta also has a rewards program which lets you redeem points for coupons on your purchases. If you spend more than $450 a year, you’ll earn more points every time you shop.

This strategy works best with brand loyalty, though. And it can still cost you. If you really want to keep it to low-cost beauty tips, steer clear of the loyalty to stores and brands and get what’s cheapest that works well for you.

Swap with friends.

If you’re like most women, you probably have some makeup or skincare items you bought, tried once, and didn’t return. They probably sit in the back of your closet where you eventually forget about them entirely.

Try to swap those long-forgotten products with your loved ones and acquaintances. One of my good friends got a concealer sample from Ipsy that was far too light for her complexion, so she gave it to me. It ended up becoming the best concealer I’ve ever used. My mom and I often swap products with each other since we have a similar skin tone.

You can even set up a fun swap party where everyone has to bring gently used items they no longer need. This is a great way to clean out your medicine cabinet and get more product without wasting items or spending a lot of money.

Decide when to splurge.

The makeup and skincare products in my cabinet vary between drugstore and high-end. My goal is to buy the best product I can that also fits my budget. Sometimes, I get lucky and find something at Target that works. Other times, I have to go to Sephora.

I splurge on my foundation, eyeliner, and acne products. I’ve found that my $40 foundation looks better and lasts longer than the Maybelline one I had before. I also know that my $8 Aquaphor ointment works better than anything I could find at the mall — just like my $15 CeraVe cleanser. For lipstick, I try to buy Sephora-level products, although I can usually find decent doppelgangers at drug stores.

Sometimes the most expensive products work no better than their cheaper counterparts — or if they do, the quality is negligible. Saving money is almost always about making sacrifices, so just decide where you want to draw the line.

Keep your routine simple.

I’ve always envied women who could contour, applying foundation and concealer like an artist. I’d love to create the illusion of cheekbones, but I could never master the technique. Or, rather, I never took the time to practice the technique long enough to become good at it.

Instead, my routine is simple. Foundation, concealer, blush, eyeliner, mascara, and — on special occasions — eyeshadow. By keeping my normal routine simple, I negate the need for extra products like a highlighter, bronzer or setting powder. Plus, it takes me less than 10 minutes to put it all together.

My skincare strategy has grown more complex as I’ve added anti-aging serums and lotions to the mix, but I try to keep things as simple as I can while still meeting my needs. Overall, I try to avoid buying a new type of product unless I’m sure I need it — and will actually use it. The fewer products you need, the less you’ll have to buy. And the more money you’ll save.

The same goes for your hair. If you don’t dye your hair, there’s no need to worry about paying for touch-ups or special shampoo. No matter what part of you you’re trying to enhance, the simpler your routine, the more money you save. Along with adopting healthy habits, keeping it simple is among the best low-cost beauty tips.

Compare bottles fairly.

If you’ve ever tried to downsize your grocery bill, you know the need to compare prices per ounce to get the best deal. Smaller bottles are typically more expensive per-unit, so it’s usually cheaper to buy the larger size.

Beauty products are the same. The smaller the bottle, the more it costs. What’s also annoying is that one bottle of foundation might be 1.5 ounces, while another is 1.9 — and unlike your local grocery store, Sephora won’t list the cost per ounce on the label. If you can’t decide between two similar products, do the math before you buy to make the best decision.

Remember that the price-per-unit on most products will scale down as the size scales up, but that’s not always the case. That’s why it’s so important to do the math yourself (use the calculator on your smartphone), so you’re not stuck with a huge tub of lotion that actually costs more than the regular size.

Save hundreds a year with these low-cost beauty tips.

By combining these low-cost beauty tips, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars a year. Plus, you’ll look and feel like a better, more natural you.

What are your favorite beauty products and tips? Let us know by joining the #AdultingHALP Facebook group.

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Ghosting is the ultimate passive-aggressive avoidance behavior. Here’s what to do when it happens to you. Read More...

Things have been going great: you’re texting daily, flirting over social media, maybe even Netflix and chilling every now and then.

At least, you were.

Recently, the texts have slowed to infrequent, one-word responses. Your DMs don’t seem to be going through. You watched The End of the F***ing World alone last weekend and spent waaaaaay too much time on YouTube.

To the objective observer, it’s clear what is going on. He (or she) is just not that into you and wishes you would take the hint.

In other words, you’re in the middle of being ghosted.

Or, just maybe, you’ve already been ghosted.

Have you really been ghosted?

Unfortunately, attraction turns even the most logical individual into an optimistic idiot.

Maybe he’s just really, really busy. Perhaps she had a family emergency. You’ll hear back when everything gets straightened out — but let’s send another text just in case the previous 15 somehow weren’t received.

While attempts to rationalize the situation after weeks of radio silence might be foolish, those feelings of hurt and betrayal are not. The act of ghosting is a growing phenomenon that can be confusing and painful for the person left wondering what happened.

But with growing reliance on digital means of communication, ghosting is becoming a popular strategy for ending a relationship while avoiding conflict. In fact, if someone thinks they can honestly avoid bumping into you for a few months (and hopefully forever), they will likely go ahead and ghost you.

We live in a world where people hide behind semi-anonymity all the time. We don’t like dealing with unpleasantness, and a real, actual break-up is the definition of unpleasant.

When you’re on the receiving end, though, it’s brutal. Here’s your survival guide for being ghosted:

Stop trying.

Sure, it’s possible there are exceptional circumstances preventing the person in question from getting back to you. As more time passes, your desire to find out what’s wrong increases.

You tell yourself you need closure. Can’t they just get back to you and tell you why? You try to convince yourself that you’ll be fine if it’s over — as long as they just explain everything. After all, they owe you the courtesy.

Just stop. If they really wanted to talk to you, they would find a way. A sudden, prolonged halt in communication is a strong sign they not only want to break things off but don’t respect your feelings enough to tell you in person — or at least over the phone.

Real talk: they’ve probably moved on to someone else (who they will likely end up treating the exact same way).

In the long-run, you’ll come away with your dignity intact if you stop trying to make contact after one or two follow-ups. Obsessing over it isn’t doing you any favors. It doesn’t hurt them, and all it does is sap your emotional energy and bring you down. They’re not worth your energy, so stop giving it to them.

And if it turns out they were trapped in an abandoned mineshaft for two weeks with no cell service, I’m sure you’ll get a call as soon as possible.

Understand it’s them, not you.

So You've Been Ghosted

“It is a form of avoidance,” said Lisa Bahar, a marriage and family therapist based in Newport Beach, CA. Bahar explained that ghosting is a behavior meant to communicate that the person doesn’t want any more contact for now — without actually having to communicate.

In other words, the act of ghosting is one of immaturity. A person who ghosts is overwhelmed by either a crippling fear of confrontation or a shameful lack of empathy for others.

Either way, it’s not a good look — for them.

That lack of emotional awareness would like have manifested in other ways throughout a prolonged relationship. Trite as it might sound, it’s better to find this out somewhat early on, before you’ve put too much of your life, time, energy, and (possibly) money into the relationship.

It’s important to understand that being ghosted is nothing personal. People who ghost simply lack the basic social skills that dictate we show consideration for others.

Focus on yourself.

So screw them. You are no less attractive, intelligent, or interesting because someone didn’t have the balls to speak to you directly and honestly. That’s their problem and it’s not your responsibility to fix it.

Really, don’t try to fix it.

Don’t concoct elaborate emotional revenge schemes and don’t think about what you’ll say to them when you run into them at the bar. Don’t think about how you’ll teach them a lesson. It’s not your job to turn someone into a decent human being.

Bahar recommended processing your feelings with a therapist or trusted confidant while giving the ghoster space.

“Avoid asking for explanations,” she said, and instead find healthy outlets for releasing your frustration and anger.

Then move on with your life. After all, what’s greater payback than not giving a shit?

Actually, scratch that. You don’t want to even think about payback.

Instead, get to know you. Enjoy yourself doing things you like. It’s ok to spend time alone and like it. In fact, you might be happier single once you get to know yourself.

Bottom line.

Adult relationships are hard. They require candor, compromise, and the acceptance that sometimes it’s just not going to work out. But the hardest things in life also tend to be the most rewarding in the end.

When someone ghosts you, it’s clear that they weren’t willing to put in the work. Instead, if you want a relationship, you deserve to be with someone who puts in the same amount of work you do. Don’t waste your time on someone who can’t be bothered with your feelings.

Ghosting happens, but that doesn’t make it okay. You don’t like to be ghosted, so show others the same courtesy if you’re not feeling it.

Don’t give in to the temptation to go dark on someone just because you’re afraid to talk to them. Treating others with compassion — even if the actual passion is gone — is the easiest way to receive the same in return.

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Your lateness is annoying everyone around you. Stop. Read More...

I’m late, I’m late for
A very important date.
No time to say hello, good-bye,
I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.

– The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland

You don’t have to be The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. You can be punctual. You don’t have to rush. You can arrive easily. It’s not impossible to stop being late.

The occasional tardiness is acceptable and expected. That urgent phone call just when you’re walking out the door. The kids simply refuse to behave that morning. The dog eats the neighbor’s bunny (sorry white rabbit).

On the other hand, being perpetually late is a sign of your poor planning or your disinterest. Neither reflects well on you. This can cost you the respect of your friends and colleagues. It can either consciously or unconsciously lead those who might be pivotal to your success think negatively of you. If you’re up for a promotion and it’s neck and neck, your perpetual lateness could mean the loss of the job.

There’s a saying in business: “Five minutes early is on time; on time is late; late is unacceptable.”

So, how can you plan to be punctual? I’ve got some tips to help you turn into the most reliable person in your social circle.

Plan earlier.

People who are perpetually late often blame their circumstances for their lateness. The easiest way to stop being late is to plan to do everything earlier that you think you must.

This means setting your alarm clock to go off earlier, hopping in the shower sooner, maybe skipping the morning news or newspaper and getting in your car and leaving earlier. If you have children, this means waking them earlier, getting them dressed earlier and dropping them off at school earlier.

This may sound harsh, but other people who are punctual have jobs, children, and demands. They still make their appointments and deadlines on time.

Plan to do less.

If planning earlier doesn’t make you more punctual, maybe there’s another problem. It’s hard to decline invitations or to say no to a request for help. We want to help everyone and meet everyone’s expectations. Those are noble goals, but they could be sabotaging you.

If you’re overcommitting, over helping, and over-promising, maybe you need to put less on your plate. Learn to say, “Thanks but no thanks.” You’re simply putting too much on yourself, which means you’re neither helping yourself nor giving those you’re helping your best self. Again, neither reflects well on you.

Learn your limitations, understand your expectations, and give in moderation. You’ll be surprised at how this can help you stop being late.

Plan better.

There are skills to getting more done in less time. If mornings are a challenge for you, pack your lunch, prepare your breakfast (as much as you can), lay out your clothing, and place everything you need to take with you for the day by your door. This way, you can wake up, get ready and many of your menial tasks are done.

What happens if you’re at work and your colleagues are distracting you? If you’re late for meetings and deadlines because others’ lack of preparation slows you down, take drastic steps. Don’t answer the phone, decline meeting requests, and avoid the morning chatter your first hour at work. Use this time to plan your day or prepare for your most important task.

Another way to get more done in less time is to do your most important or most challenging task first. This way you’re tackling this responsibility during the freshest part of your day. It’s easier to get more done when your synapses are firing on all cylinders and you have enough time to do what you must do.

Finally, focus. If you need to prepare for a meeting or it’s important for you to complete one responsibility, ignore those distractions that prevent you from focusing on the task at hand. Ignore emails, phone calls, and text messages that don’t serve your need. If you need to help the kids with their homework so they can get to bed on time, Facebooking and texting your friends are distractions.

Plan to plan.

Some people are more laid back, and that’s great. Honestly, I wish I were more laid back. However, that becomes a problem when it starts affecting other people or other people’s perception of you. If people start thinking you’re unprofessional or incapable, you have a problem.

The resolution to this is planning to plan. If you hit the snooze button over and over, plan to wake up the first time your alarm goes off. Mel Robbins’ 5-4-3-2-1 strategy is helpful for this.

Plan to make being punctual fun. If you don’t want to be late for a party, plan to show up early to spend one-on-one time with the host or to have a quiet drink alone before the party starts. If you have a meeting, plan to arrive early with coffee or cupcakes. The others will appreciate your thoughtfulness and timeliness. They’ll be happy you learned to stop being late.

Plan to care.

You may simply not care to be punctual. You may be the most important person in your life, but if you’re not the most important person where you’re going, you’re hurting yourself. The most important person and your peers will start to think less of you. Those who are less important than you will become cynical about you.

Resolve this by looking for the value of being on time for them. If you’re habitually late because you don’t like your boss, see how being on time and being a better employee for them could get you a lateral or upward job change. If you’re going to a party or event you don’t care about, if you plan to go at all, go early so you can leave early. Plan to care before you no longer have a job or friends to care about.

Plan to remember.

If you find it hard to remember what you must do, set up systems to help you. That’s easier to do today than ever. Once you get these systems in place, you will find it’s easier to stop being late.

I live and die by my to-do list on my Any List app. It’s an easy, portable place to list my daily to-dos and get the enjoyment of crossing them off. I also live by my Outlook calendar and meeting reminders. Outlook offers a phone app, and this gives me push notifications for upcoming meetings and deadlines. Depending on the meeting or deadline, I request notifications between 15 minutes to one week prior.

The iPhone will also send you push notifications at a certain time or when you’re at a certain location. If you need to pick up the milk on the way home, you can tell your iPhone to remind you at a certain time, when you leave work or when you’re near the grocery store.

There are numerous other apps to help you plan and remember — so you can stop being late. Find what works for you.

Plan to stop procrastinating.

Some people think they work better under pressure. Studies show those people are wrong.

Tim Pychyl, director of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University and author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, says, “there is not one study that supports the claim that people perform better under the gun of a fast-approaching deadline.” If you’re one of the people who think you work better under pressure, stop lying to yourself.

Get real and create a schedule that allows you to tackle big projects a little at a time. Don’t put off projects until you’re almost late. It just stresses you out and it increases the chances you’ll miss your deadline. Whether that project is helping your child with a science project or getting something done at work, you’ll feel much better when you stop being late because you’ve taken your time.

Start to see the value, including less stress and more time to do better, by being on time. Put forth your best effort and get your best results.

Take it from someone who hates being late and who hates when others are consistently late. It’s not good for you or others if you’re never on time. It may be an antiquated belief, but even today for many being punctual is important to you and to them.

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Have you thought about what it means to live a purposeful life? Read More...

“Follow your bliss.”

“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

What does any of that mean?

Sure it would be nice to just hang out having fun and making money for doing whatever. The reality, though, is that most of us have to work for a living.

Besides, even if we love what we do, some days are just crappy. As much as I enjoy writing, there are days I just don’t really “feel” it.

But I do it anyway because I like eating, and I think my son should wear clothing to school. Does the fact that some days aren’t bliss-filled and there are times I have to write shit I don’t care about mean I’m on the wrong path?

Of course not.

You’re not supposed to be in a state of blissful happiness 24/7. If you were in that state all the time, it would cease to be bliss. Once it becomes normal, there’s really no point. It’s the ups and downs that make those precious moments worthwhile.

The real key is figuring out what your bliss happens to be and then incorporating that bliss in your life.

That’s the journey I’m on right now. Rather than setting a bunch of quasi-meaningless goals for the new year, I’m making this a time of exploration for me. What do I want my purpose in life to be? How can I figure it out so I can follow my bliss?

Map it out: What does your bliss look like?

If you want to follow your bliss, the first step is to think about what it looks like. And be honest: would you really be happy lying on a beach somewhere doing nothing all the time? I know I wouldn’t be.

In fact, most of us don’t want to be stuck doing nothing. There’s a reason research indicates that early retirement can lead to an earlier death. There might be a correlation between not having a purpose after you quit work and a premature death. While there’s still plenty of research to be done, and the data isn’t conclusive, you can see why losing your purpose might mean mental and physical health problems.

But I’m not anywhere near retirement. I just want to figure out what matters to me so I can follow my bliss on a more regular basis.

So, inspired by Harlan’s life map, I created my own.

Miranda Life Map

I named my map “Living with Passion and Purpose” because I decided that my bliss involves things that allow me to follow some of my passions while also living with a sense of purpose.

Many of us like to feel as though we can make a difference. Chances are when you think about how to follow your bliss, part of that is working in a capacity that allows you to help people, whether that means volunteering or cultivating career opportunities that allow you to feel as though you are contributing to something worthwhile.

You can figure out what your own bliss looks like by going through the exercise of creating a life map as well. Sit down and think about the kinds of things you would be doing for work and in your leisure time if you were able to follow your bliss.

One of the reasons that phrases like “follow your bliss” get so much play is due to the fact that, for most of us, money isn’t the driver that makes life interesting.

Here is what Rosabeth Moss Kanter at Harvard discovered about what makes work worth doing:

In research for my book Evolve!, I identified three primary sources of motivation in high-innovation companies: mastery, membership, and meaning. Another M, money, turned out to be a distant fourth. Money acted as a scorecard, but it did not get people up-and-at ‘em for the daily work, nor did it help people go home every day with a feeling of fulfillment.

Follow Your Bliss -- Or At Least Figure Out What It Looks Like

Where does money fit when you follow your bliss?

Money is on my life map, but mostly as a subject I write and podcast about — as well as the Thing that allows me to follow all my other interests.

In order to fulfill the items at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid, money is necessary. You can’t buy food, water, or shelter without money. Even on the second level up, with safety needs, some sort of funds are necessary.

You can’t keep moving up the pyramid without the basics that often have to be bought. And, even as you progress up the pyramid, money can help you feel other things. I like to use money as a means to my ends. Many of the activities I have on my life map — items like travel and providing opportunities for my son — require money.

But I don’t like earning money just to have moar money.

Chances are that money isn’t your main motivator, either. Even if you don’t have same passions I do or hope to impact the world around you in the same way (I prefer small-scale, local efforts), you are probably motivated by something other than just piling up the benjamins in your bank account.

Add bits of bliss to your life.

Once you know what your bliss looks like, you can start adding it to your life. It doesn’t mean that you have to drop everything you’re doing right now to follow bliss. You can start looking for meaning in what you do, even if it is a crappy job.

Find other ways to add purpose to your life. Start a side gig. Volunteer. Take music lessons. Play with your kids. Netflix and chill. Join a book club. Spend the night in a hotel. Look for a way to make a small change that adds to your quality of life.

A few years ago, when I felt trapped in my life, I made time to take guitar lessons. For half an hour each week, I met with a teacher. I practiced for 15 to 20 minutes each day.

Is that enough to become a good guitar player? Nope. But it’s enough to find some enjoyment and passion in the day, learn something new, and get to the point where I can accompany other people. It wasn’t much, but it added something to my life — a spark of joy.

Today, I still like to get out the guitar on occasion. Just like I enjoy playing the piano. I’ve also added short, 10-minute lessons with Duolingo. I purposely carve out a half hour for lunch to read a chapter in a novel while I eat.

These are simple things that don’t take a lot of time. However, they bring a bit of bliss into my daily life. They give me a sense that I don’t always have to be involved in the daily grind or working on something productive. Sometimes it’s okay to just live.

Little by little, reduce the amount of time you spend on things that don’t bring you happiness and shift toward what adds purpose and passion to your life.

Don’t expect everything to change at once.

It would be great to snap your fingers and have everything figured out. But that’s not how it works. In fact, it can take months — and even years — to finally shift all the pieces of your life.

You don’t have to upend your life to follow your bliss. And you don’t have to stop what you’re doing just because you have a bad day.

However, you can make a plan. Use your life map as a guide to figure out which areas you want to focus on first. Consider how you can create a new career strategy that allows you to gradually change course and love your work.

Slowly find time to yourself, doing what you want. Maybe it means finding five minutes to do yoga or scheduling 20 minutes to read each day. I recently added exercise to my calendar. It’s something that is now blocked out and I’m committed to it. While it’s not exactly my bliss, I do feel better when I exercise and I also expect to reap the health benefits.

Your life will never be absolutely perfect. But it can be pretty damn good.

Look for the little ways to enjoy life, and you’ll be surprised at how it all adds up until eventually you really do get to live the life you (mostly) want.

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