Entries Tagged 'For Better Life Tips' ↓

How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice. – Meister Eckhart

Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present. In addition, behavioral and psychological research has shown the surprising life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude. Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and it reduces stress.

Research Shows Gratitude Heightens Quality of Life

Two psychologists, Michael McCollough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis, wrote an article about an experiment they conducted on gratitude and its impact on well-being. The study split several hundred people into three different groups and all of the participants were asked to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day without being told specifically to write about either good or bad things; the second group was told to record their unpleasant experiences; and the last group was instructed to make a daily list of things for which they were grateful. The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. In addition, those in the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.

Dr. Emmons – who has been studying gratitude for almost ten years and is considered by many to be the world’s leading authority on gratitude – is author of the book, “Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier”. The information in this book is based on research involving thousands of people conducted by a number of different researchers around the world. One of the things these studies show is that practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. This is significant, among other things, because just as there’s a certain weight that feels natural to your body and which your body strives to maintain, your basic level of happiness is set at a predetermined point. If something bad happens to you during the day, your happiness can drop momentarily, but then it returns to its natural set-point. Likewise, if something positive happens to you, your level of happiness rises, and then it returns once again to your “happiness set-point”. A practice of gratitude raises your “happiness set-point” so you can remain at a higher level of happiness regardless of outside circumstances.

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In addition, Dr. Emmons’ research shows that those who practice gratitude tend to be more creative, bounce back more quickly from adversity, have a stronger immune system, and have stronger social relationships than those who don’t practice gratitude. He further points out that “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.”

Notice and Appreciate Each Day’s giftGifts

People tend to take for granted the good that is already present in their lives. There’s a gratitude exercise that instructs that you should imagine losing some of the things that you take for granted, such as your home, your ability to see or hear, your ability to walk, or anything that currently gives you comfort. Then imagine getting each of these things back, one by one, and consider how grateful you would be for each and every one. In addition, you need to start finding joy in the small things instead of holding out for big achievements—such as getting the promotion, having a comfortable nest egg saved up, getting married, having the baby, and so on–before allowing yourself to feel gratitude and joy.

Another way to use giving thanks to appreciate life more fully is to use gratitude to help you put things in their proper perspective. When things don’t go your way, remember that every difficulty carries within it the seeds of an equal or greater benefit. In the face of adversity ask yourself: “What’s good about this?”, “What can I learn from this?”, and “How can I benefit from this?”

There are Many Ways to Practice Gratitude

A common method to develop the practice of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal, a concept that was made famous by Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book “Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude”. This exercise basically consists of writing down every day a list of three to ten things for which you are grateful; you can do this first thing in the morning or before going to bed at night. Another exercise you can try is to write a gratitude letter to a person who has exerted a positive influence in your life but whom you have not properly thanked. Some experts suggest that you set up a meeting with this person and read the letter to them face to face.

Last year millions of people took the challenge proposed by Will Bowen, a Kansas City minister, to go 21 days without complaining, criticizing, or gossiping. To help condition the participants to stop complaining, they each wore a purple No-Complaint wristband. Several authors in the self-improvement genre have suggested that people do something similar to help condition themselves to be constantly aware of the things in life that they’re grateful for.

A variation of the wristband concept is to create a gratitude charm bracelet, with either one meaningful charm or different charms representing the things you’re most grateful for. For example, you could have a charm shaped like a heart to symbolize your significant other, figurines to represent different family members, an apple to represent health, a dollar sign to symbolize abundance, a charm that represents your current profession or a future career, and maybe a charm that makes you laugh to represent humor and joy.


Once you become oriented toward looking for things to be grateful for, you will find that you begin to appreciate simple pleasures and things that you previously took for granted. Gratitude should not be just a reaction to getting what you want, but an all-the-time gratitude, the kind where you notice the little things and where you constantly look for the good even in unpleasant situations. Today, start bringing gratitude to your experiences, instead of waiting for a positive experience in order to feel grateful; in this way, you’ll be on your way toward becoming a master of gratitude.

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Ways to increase your feeling of self worth

Self worth comes from within,you won’t find it by having more money, having more friends, having a fancy car or a big house.  It is something intrinsic(adj.内在的) and something we can’t gain extrinsically, meaning we won’t find self worth from external factors.  Here are some things you can do to increase your feeling of self worth.

1.Write down several minor goals for the week and tick one off(用记号划去) each day as you achieve it.
2.Read a book a month.  Reading a book is actually an achievement in this technology and media driven world and reading a full book is a great way to achieve a sense of accomplishment(成就感).
3. At the end of each day before falling asleep write down something you feel proud about, either on the day or in the past.
4.Say no! Learn the skill of saying no without offending(v.冒犯) the person asking.
5.Dress as smart as you can for each occasion, whether it be work, meeting a friend, or going for an interview.  Take pride in your appearance.
6.Speak up for yourself in every area of your life, this might be hard to do at first(起先) but the first time you do it will be immense(adj.[]非常好) and if you carry on your self esteem and feelings of self worth will soar.
7.Forgive yourself!
8.Work on your strengths.  A lot of people focus on building up their weaknesses, instead get better at what you are good at.
9.Listen to other people and what they are saying.
10.Reward your successes. As soon as you achieve something reward yourself.
11.Don’t be afraid to accept help from other people, it means they respect you enough to help you with something. 12.Start changing your thinking to be more optimistic(adj.乐观的,积极的) about yourself, instead of ‘…I can’t do that….’ say ‘..I’ve never tried it, but I’ll give it a go…’
13. Face your fears.  Nothing will send your self esteem soaring more so than facing your fears and eventually conquering them.

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1. 每周写下几个小目标,每天把已经实现的目标去除掉。
花一个月的时间读一本书。在这个由技术和传媒驱动的世界,阅读一本书着实算是一个成就,阅读完整本书的确是获得成就感的一个很有效的途径。 3. 每天临睡前,将当天或者之前发生过的你感到骄傲的事情写下来。
在生活中的各个领域,试着大声地表述自己的观点,第一次尝试的时候可能会有点艰难,但是当你第一次去做的时候,就真的很棒。如果你坚持这样做,你的自尊和自我价值感会迅速上升。 7. 学会自我原谅!

I love his kindness, his puerility and so on. But I love his sprit best! He said:” Every time I face a job, I always want to go all out to complete it.otherwise, i prefer not to do it.” Though he has passed away, i remain can touch him. And I am convinced that only if I work harder, I can succeed like him。
Michael Jackson’s biography  wander on the moon

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How to Realize Your Dreams

We all have hopes and aspirations for our lives. Fulfilling or walking the path to fulfillment of just one of our dreams can infuse our lives with deep meaning and happiness.

The subject of this article is a strategy that is as powerful as it is simple. I call this strategy “compartmentalization” and it is something you can use daily for the achievement of your wildest dreams no matter their size or scope.

It was Thomas Carlyle who expressed the following wisdom:

“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

Simple, isn’t it? How, though, can we each apply this wisdom in our daily lives with the view to achieving our greatest dreams?

Navigating the Seas of Life

I would like you to imagine your life as a ship, a great ocean liner navigating the stormy seas of life. Within this ship, which is your life, are three compartments. The first compartment at the rear is your past. It contains all your yesterdays, regrets, and could-have-been’s. The middle compartment is today. It is the endless right now of the present moment. The final compartment at the front of your life-ship is your future. It contains all your hopes, dreams, worries and paralyzing anxieties.

You will notice, as you picture your life-ship, that between each of these three compartments are enormously strong bulkheads. Right now those impenetrable steel doors between each compartment are open and cracks in your past compartment and your future compartment are causing your today compartment to flood. Because the bulkheads are open you are frantically working the pumps to keep your life-ship from sinking, to keep your head above the waters of the stormy seas of life.

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Picture now, those impenetrable steel bulkheads closing and locking tight. Sealing off the torrent of worry and anxiety that was roaring into your today from the past and the future. You don’t have to worry about either of them any more. You’re safe and secure in the compartment of today. You no longer have to man the pumps. Instead, you can get down to the very pressing business of today. You can set to the things that you can do today that will bring you that one step closer to your dreams.

An Example: Blogging

When I first started my blog I set very ambitious monthly traffic goals. I did this because if I hit those targets it would show me that blogging was something worth pursuing further. Then I wrote down what methods I would use to bring in that traffic. I called this The How. Then I chunked down each point on The How list to daily activities. For example, each day I would write three helpful forum posts and make two insightful blog comments. At least every second day I would write a new blog post.  Every week I would write a guest article for another blog and every two weeks I would make blog carnival submissions. This way each day I knew what I had to do and I could just set about doing it, confident that what I was doing was taking me one more step closer to what I wanted.

By living in a day tight compartment I didn’t waste time and energy thinking about whether this would work out of not. There was no need to dwell on the price of failure such as whether starting a blog is going to be wasted time and effort. I didn’t think about the other things I could be doing instead of pouring my heart and soul into my blog. I didn’t dwell on how if I had gotten into blogging earlier I would be so much further ahead then I am now. All that represents water flooding in from the past and future compartments. Instead I closed the bulkheads and got down to the business of achieving my dreams. Otherwise I would have been stuck endlessly manning the pumps while my life-ship slowly sank, taking me with it.

Realize Your Dreams

You can see that I planned for the future. The difference between what I did and what so many of us do is I put down the burden of anxiety about tomorrow and regrets about yesterday. By living in day tight compartments you free yourself from slowly drowning in a paralyzing sea of anxiety and worry. Realizing your dreams will be impossible if you constantly live in such a state. Rather, take time to think, make a careful plan, then each day take the action that is a necessary step towards the fulfillment of that plan.

As Thomas Carlyle said, be concerned with and do what clearly lies at hand, each and every day.

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爱的越简单越深 (佳文推荐)




他总是对我虚寒温暖,呵护有佳,我记得他跟我说过唯一一次浪漫的话:我不能给你整个世界,但是我能给你我的全部!我始终相信这句话,因为那不是花言巧语, 是我们用两年的时间去印证的美丽的誓言。而我也尽力扮演好我的角色,我学着做他最喜欢吃的面条,一次又一次的用心去做;我学着理解,理解他总是需要出差的 工作;两年多了,我们在为彼此一直的付出。明年,等我们攒够了钱,就可以结婚了,举办一个简单又温馨的小婚礼,最重要的是那个婚礼里有你还有 我……


时常想起他会问我的依据话:你觉得是我爱你多一点还是我爱你多一点? 我问他为什么这么问,他说如果我回答是我爱他多一点,那么说明他的爱还不够,要更加爱我..其实,这份爱很沉重,所以我同样要用一辈子去爱他,不离不弃……

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10 Keys to True Happiness

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Top 10 Keys to True Happiness

Better living through science is possible. Over the last 70 years or so, researchers have been probing happy and unhappy people, and they’re finally zeroing in on the factors that make a difference. What follows are the top ten. By the way, the experts think your genes account for about 50 percent of your disposition; the other nine factors make up the rest.

1. Wealth
Money can buy a degree of happiness. But once you can afford to feed, clothe and house yourself, each extra dollar makes less and less difference.

Whenever and wherever they look, scientists find that, on average, wealthier people are happier. But the link between money and happiness is complicated. In the past half-century, average income has skyrocketed in industrialized countries, yet happiness levels have remained static. Once your basic needs are met, money only seems to boost happiness if you have more than your friends, neighbors and colleagues.

“Dollars buy status, and status makes people feel better,” says Andrew Oswald, an economist at Warwick University in Coventry, England. This helps explain why people who can seek status in other ways — scientists or actors, for example — may happily accept relatively poorly paid jobs.

2. Desire
How much stuff do you need to feel good? In the 1980s, political scientist Alex Michalos, professor emeritus at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, asked 18,000 college students in 39 countries to rate their happiness on a numeric scale. Then he asked them how close they were to having all they wanted. He found that the people whose aspirations — not just for money, but for friends, family, job, health, the works — soared furthest beyond what they already had, tended to be less happy than those who perceived a smaller gap. Indeed, the size of the gap predicted happiness about five times better than income alone. “The gap measures just blow away the absolute measures of income,” says Michalos.

This “aspiration gap” might explain why most people fail to get much happier as their salaries rise. Instead of satisfying our desires, most of us merely want more. In surveys by the Roper polling organization over the last two decades, Americans were asked to list the material possessions they thought important to “the good life.” The researchers found that the more of these goods people already had, the longer their list was. The good life remained always just out of reach.

3. Intelligence
Only a few surveys have examined whether smart people are happier, but they indicate intelligence has no effect. That seems surprising at first, since brighter people often earn more, and the rich tend to be happier.

Some researchers speculate that brighter people could have higher expectations and thus be dissatisfied with anything less than the highest achievements. “Or maybe scoring high on an IQ test — which means you know a lot of vocabulary and can rotate things in your mind — doesn’t have a lot to do with your ability to get along well with people,” says Ed Diener, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He speculates that “social intelligence” could be the real key to happiness.

4. Genetics
Are some people born happy or unhappy? David Lykken, a behavioral geneticist and professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, believes our feeling of well-being at any moment is determined half by what is going on in our lives at that time and half by a “set point” of happiness, which is up to 90 percent genetically determined and to which we eventually return after dramatic events. “While our happiness set point is largely determined by our genes,” says Lykken, “whether we bounce along above it or slump along under it depends on our — or our parents’ — good sense and good training.”

Lykken found that genetic variation accounted for between 44 and 55 percent of the difference in happiness levels. Neither income, marital status, religion nor education accounted for any more than about 3 percent.

But whether you trudge through life on the low side of your set point or skip along on the high side is up to you. Many studies have shown that extroverts tend to be happier than most people, and a lot happier than introverts. And research has found that putting people in a good mood makes them more sociable. Michael Cunningham at the University of Louisville in Kentucky showed that people were more talkative and open with others after watching a happy film than after watching a sad one. Theoretically, even someone with a low set point can boost his or her outlook.

5. Beauty
First the bad news: Good-looking people really are happier. When Diener got people to rate their own looks, there was a “small but positive effect of physical attractiveness on subjective well-being.”

Perhaps the explanation is that life is kinder to the beautiful. Or it could be more subtle than that. The most attractive faces are highly symmetrical, and there is evidence that symmetry reflects good genes and a healthy immune system. So perhaps beautiful people are happier because they are healthier.

You may be able to cash in on beauty’s emotional high even if you aren’t gorgeous — if you believe you look great. Unfortunately, studies show that women tend to think they are too fat and men worry about being puny.

6. Friendship
It is hard to imagine a more pitiful existence than life on the streets of Calcutta or in one of its slums, or making a living there as a prostitute. Yet despite the poverty and squalor they face, people with these lives are much happier than you might imagine.

Diener interviewed 83 people from these three groups and measured their life satisfaction using a scale for which a score of 2 is considered neutral. Overall, they averaged 1.93 — not great, but creditable, compared with a control group of middle-class students in the city who scored 2.43. And the slum dwellers, who were happiest of the three disadvantaged groups, scored 2.23, which is not significantly different from the score the students had.

“We think social relationships are partly responsible,” says Diener. He points out that all three deprived groups got high satisfaction ratings in specific areas such as family (2.5) and friends (2.4). Slum dwellers did particularly well, perhaps because they are most likely to be able to cash in on the social support that arises from the importance of the extended family in Indian culture.

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7. Marriage

In an analysis of reports from 42 countries, U.S. researchers found that married people are consistently happier than singletons. The effect is small, but that still begs the question: Does marriage make you happy, or are happy people simply more likely to get married?

Both answers may be true. In a study that followed more than 30,000 Germans for 15 years, Diener and his colleagues found that happy people are more likely to get married and then stay married. But anyone can improve his or her mood by getting married. The effect begins about a year before the “happy day” and lasts for at least a year afterward. For most people, satisfaction levels do return to their baseline, but the researchers say this conceals the fact that a good marriage can have a permanent positive effect. Furthermore, people who are less happy to begin with will get a bigger boost from marriage.

And it seems there’s something special about signing that piece of paper: The research shows that you can’t get as much benefit from simply cohabiting. “My hunch is that cohabiting couples lack the deeper security that comes with the formal band of gold, and that is why they are not quite so happy,” says Oswald. “Insecurity, we know from all data, is bad for human beings.”

8. Faith
Karl Marx was fairly close to the mark when he described religion as an opiate for the masses. Of the dozens of studies that have looked at religion and happiness, the vast majority have found a positive link.

Believing in an afterlife can give people meaning and purpose and reduce the feeling of being alone in the world, says Harold G. Koenig at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., especially as people get older. “You really see the effect in times of stress. Religious belief can be a very powerful way of coping with adversity.”

Religion also brings social interaction and support. But Koenig believes it is not just about receiving. “Studies have shown that people who provide support to others are better off themselves. They even live longer.” This, researchers agree, makes religious involvement a source of greater satisfaction than other socially inclusive activities such as book groups.

9. Charity
Several studies have found a link between happiness and altruistic behavior. But as with many behavioral traits, it is not always clear whether doing good makes you feel good, or whether happy people are more likely to be altruistic.

James Konow, an economist at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, tried to tease apart cause and effect in a lab experiment.

He recruited subjects to answer questionnaires, and toward the end of the session gave half of them $10 and half, nothing. He then told the subjects who had been paid that they could share their money with those who hadn’t been compensated. Konow found that the happier students were overall, the more likely they were to share the money. However, being in a happy mood on the day of the test did not make them any more generous, and students who gave did not report any immediate increase in happiness. In fact, they were slightly less happy.

But those who shared their money were more likely to show the personality traits of a “self-actualizer” — they were concerned with their own personal growth and improvement. Konow thinks that while a single act of generosity did not make his subjects happier, the cumulative effects of being a generous person did.

10. Age
Old age may not be so bad. “Given all the problems of aging, how could the elderly be more satisfied?” asks Laura Carstensen, a psychology professor at Stanford University in California.

In one study, Carstensen gave pagers to 184 people between the ages of 18 and 94, and paged them five times a day for a week, asking them to fill out an emotions questionnaire each time. Old people reported positive emotions just as often as young people, but they reported negative emotions much less frequently.

Why are old people happier? Some scientists suggest older people may expect life to be harder and learn to live with it, or they’re more realistic about their goals, only setting ones that they know they can achieve. But Carstensen thinks that with time running out, older people have learned to focus on things that make them happy and let go of those that don’t.

“People realize not only what they have, but also that what they have cannot last forever,” he says. “A goodbye kiss to a spouse at the age of 85, for example, may elicit far more complex emotional responses than a similar kiss to a spouse at the age of 20.”

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Top productivity apps that will improve and simplify your life

Our relationship with new technology is funny. Try watching old clips about the future from the 1950′s and 60′s, and you’ll find innovative and exciting new technologies that make everyday life simple and better. Yet, today a significant portion of folks have a smartphone in their pocket — a device as powerful as a computer, that connects us to all of the information ever known by man —and most of us just use it to play Words With Friends, Candy Crush or catch up with our exes on Facebook.

But the fantastical and awe-inspiring futuristic dreams of generations past is also available, today, on our smartphones. Ignoring the incredible applications like Siri, so overlooked for how they change our relationship with not only our computer devices but also with the world around us, these five productivity apps innovate tasks that will improve and simplify your life … simply.

1. 30/30


Photo Credit: 30/30

Billed as a task manager, but much more than that, 30/30 allows you to define your day and stick to it. We all know the things we need to do, and how long it should take us to do them. But as Parkinson’s Law states, work expands to fill the time allotted to it. If you’re just bouncing from one task to the next, with no sense of how long it is taking you, it can spiral out of control. By the end of the day, you’ll look at your to-do list and realize the first couple items took you all day.

That’s where 30/30 comes in. Define a task, establish how long you want to work on it, and go. When the time is up, it notifies you that it’s time to move on to the next task. But it’s also built for reality, so if you need a little more time on what you’re working on, you can add more in 5 minute intervals right from the app’s home screen.

It’s also a great way to build your breaks into your day. Guaranteeing you give yourself those moments to refresh and recharge that are often skipped because you’re already behind. And 30/30 is free in the App Store.

2. Today


Waking up in the morning is not a pleasant experience. But we have the technology to make it better. Portrayed in endless sci-fi films and inspired by J.A.R.V.I.S. in Iron Man, Today gets your morning off to a great start. Waking you with the current weather forecast, top news headlines, most recent emails, upcoming calendar events, as well as other customizable options like Facebook and Twitter feeds, Today speaks to you with uncanny clarity and realism with the advanced speak technology of iOS.
You can construct your perfect wake up call in whatever order you’d like, including soothing ring tones and current time. Today gets your mind working, allowing you to wake up more smoothly, while also providing the current important information you’d have to manually check later. Today is $2.99 in the App Store.

3. Paper by FiftyThree

Paper by FiftyThree

Notebooks like Moleskines are the idea lockers of the most successful creative and business individuals. Paper by FiftyThree takes that experience and beautifully translates it to your mobile device. Offering six different writing and drawing tools, and an expandable palette of colors, Paper by FiftyThree allows you to get what’s in your brain onto paper for mind-mapping, ideating, and cataloging. I find it works wonderfully on an iPad with a stylus.

Create any number of individual notebooks to keep thoughts organized for work, home, or any other separation your workflow needs. Paper by FiftyThree is free in the App Store!

4. Genius Scan

Once only the fantasy of Cold War-era spy thrillers, the pocket document scanner is now a practical and cheap reality for anyone with an iOS device. Genius Scan isn’t just a camera app – it’s truly a full mobile scanning solution. It corrects for perspective, detects page edges, uses post-processing to enhance the scan for readability, allows you to catalog and tag your Dell latitude d830 battery documents, as well as share them with a long list of cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote.

The uses are endless. Scan expense receipts while traveling for work, archive hand-written notes, capture whiteboard sessions during meetings or classes, or simply have a photocopier no matter where you are. GeniusScan is $2.99 in the App Store.

5. Doable

Doable is sort of the opposite of a to-do list: It keeps track of all those things that you want to do again and again. Want to exercise three times per week? Call your old high school friend once per month? Limit your fast food intake to twice per month? Clean the bathroom once per week? Doable allows you track, chart, and stay on top of your recurring life goals.

When you’ve completed one of your goals, just swipe on the item and it will mark it as ‘done’ and move it to the bottom of the list. Now when your mom complains you don’t call enough, you can see she’s right. Doable is $0.99 in the App Store.

Most popular tech tools that change the way you study

Academic success comes to the students who study smarter, not harder. Successful students utilized technology to achieve their academic goals. Today Battfast rounded up seven tech tools to help you study smarter this semester. And best of all for the college student on a ramen-noodle budget, many of them are free.


The internet provides limitless distractions for the would-be scholar: YouTube, Reddit, Facebook, etc. One of the biggest challenges in studying is avoiding these timewasting websites. Leechblock, a plug-in for the Firefox web browser, makes blocking timewasting sites a breeze. Simply tell Leechblock which sites you want to block and when you want them blocked and Leechblock does the rest. Now when you try to surf over to your favorite timewasting site, instead of the page, you’ll see a message from Leechblock telling you to get back to work. This is a fantastic plugin. It helped me stay focused while I was in law school.

Cost: Free

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC1 QuietPoint Noise-Canceling Headphones


ath_anc1_3_sq sized

When a cacophony of noises is distracting you from studying, a pair of noise-canceling headphones can bring silent, sweet relief. Unfortunately, most noise-canceling headphones on the market aren’t in the price range of the average starving student.  Audio-Technica ATH-ANC1 QuietPoint headphones are an exception. While the QuietPoint noise-canceling headphones won’t give you complete noise cancellation like their $200-$300 cousins, for $80 you can get an 85 percent reduction in ambient noise. Not too shabby.

Cost: $80


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If you don’t have the scratch for a pair of noise canceling headphones, but would still like some distraction-free studying, try listening to some white noise. White noise combines all the sounds of the different frequencies a human can hear into a single noise. You’re left with something that sounds like hissing radio static.

There are hundreds of white noise generators out on the web. Some paid, many free. The one I used on a consistent basis while in school was SimplyNoise. Just open it up in a tab in your browser and enjoy hours of free, distraction-smothering white noise.

Cost: Free



Smart students take notes. Smarter students take their lecture notes using Evernote. Evernote is a robust note-taking application that allows you to remember and organize everything your professor throws at you.

Evernote is crammed with features that will help you upgrade your note-taking experience. Notes you take on the Evernote desktop app automatically sync with your Evernote account online. If your laptop crashes or gets lost, you’ll still have your notes sitting safely in the cloud. If you like to handwrite your notes, but would like to store them digitally, Evernote makes it possible. Just scan your handwritten notes into Evernote, and Evernote will use the magic of image recognition technology to allow you to search for your handwritten notes within the app.

Evernote works across operating systems and also has smartphone apps that allow you to take notes while you’re rushing from one class to the next. Best of all, Evernote is free.

Cost: Free

Livescribe Digital Smart Pen

live scribe

Upgrade your handwritten notes with a Livescribe Digital Smart Pen. Livescribe pens, when used in conjunction with special Livescribe notebook paper, allow you to digitally record everything you write during a lecture. When class is over, just upload your notes from your Livescribe pen to your laptop with Acer as07b41 battery. Not only does the Livescribe pen record what you write, it also records whatever your professor says with its digital microphone. Instead of trying to frantically write down everything that comes out of your professor’s mouth, you can now focus on actually listening and understanding what she says.

Livescribe works seamlessly with Evernote.

Cost: $99

Focus Booster

focus booster

Focus Booster is a cross platform application that helps you stay focused and get some learning done by utilizing the Pomodoro Technique. In a nutshell, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that involves breaking large periods of work into several shorter intervals with breaks in-between (for example, working for 45 minutes straight, followed by a 15 minute break). Some studies indicate working in shorter bursts with frequent breaks can improve mental performance.

Focus Booster allows you to set up how long your working and break periods will be. After that, just hit start. As soon as your work time is up, an alarm sounds telling you to take a break. Surf the web, take a walk, do whatever. When the break is up, the alarm sounds, telling you to get back to the books. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

Cost: Free



Wouldn’t be cool if you could just download information into your brain like Neo in The Matrix? Until technology develops something that will allow us to hook our brains up to computers, Headmagnet is probably the closest you can get to mimicking Neo’s speedy learning.

Headmagnet is a free online app that not only helps you learn information quickly, but more importantly, store it in your long-term memory so you can hold onto the knowledge and access it come test time. Simply create sets of flashcards within the app and review them. Using algorithms based on research by cognitive scientists, Headmagnet predicts what bits of information in your flashcard set you’ll likely forget and brings those up automatically for review. Instead of wasting your time reviewing information you already know, Headmagnet helps you focus on what you’re struggling with.

Cost: Free

Great ideas for an Inspiring Home Office

Herman Miller Sayl Chair header_cropped
Your home office should be the most inspiring room in your house. It is the adult’s playroom, a creative think tank and a place of productivity that makes work feel less like an obligation and more like “fun” time. With a few smart investments, your home office can do the same. These seven items can turn a stuffy home office into a creative playground, where inspiration and productivity come naturally.

IdeaPaint – Dry Erase Whiteboard Paint


The accent wall in your home office can also be a creative canvas. With IdeaPaint, you can turn any flat, paintable surface into a dry erase board. You can customize your color at the paint store or apply it as is to your wall. Then the surface of your choice becomes a massive dry erase board, ready to receive your notes, calculations and drawings. Done with your doodles? Just erase with a standard cloth eraser and your uncluttered canvas is back.

Crate & Barrel Strut 70-inch Work Table

Crate and Barrel Strut 70 Work Table

A home office is only as good as its work surface, so it’s wise to make the right investment in a desk or table that suits you. If you’re like me, you’ve got multiple monitors, a tablet device, speakers, a keyboard, a mouse and a camera taking up desk real estate. A bit of extra space for books, paperwork or otherwise is always important too. The Crate & Barrel Strut 70-inch Work Table is a prime option, given the spacious surface on top and the stylish base below. It’ll hold plenty of gadgets and other components and look great doing it.

HP SpectreXT Touchsmart Ultrabook


Creative freedom is an important value for any home office, and the ability to take your work elsewhere is a necessary kind of freedom. An Ultrabook like the HP SpectreXT Touchsmart Ultrabook provides desktop-class HP hstnn-db42 battery power and the option to take your show on the road. A home office should be a privilege, not a prison, so it’s important to be able to get-up-and-go when things start to get stale. In this case, having a multi-touch display, Intel Core i7 processing and solid state storage just makes the whole experience that much more fluid and productive.

Starry Light Pendant Lamps by Anagraphic

Starrylights Lamp

It’s rare that a lamp can provide inspiration, but this is a very special kind of lamp. The Starry Light Pendant Lamp by Anagraphic features a perforated shade that projects a map of constellations on your ceiling and upper walls. Flip a switch, and the night sky is projected throughout your home office in a way that creates a mystical environment. It’s a great tool for brainstorming, relaxation and personal peace, as well as a design item that improves the look of your home office.

Herman Miller SAYL Chair

Herman Miller Chair

You’ve likely heard of the famous “sitting on air” Aeron Chair by Herman Miller. The SAYL Chair takes the comfort technology of the Aeron Chair but gives it a progressive new look. This chair is the product of design superstar Yves Behar, who turned a utilitarian office object into museum-worthy piece of furniture. It’s comfortable, contemporary and cool, a great mix for making your home office more inspiring.

WindowFarms Indoor Garden

Window Farm

Every inspiring room needs some greenery, but this idea goes the extra mile. The WindowFarms indoor garden is designed to grow herbs and small vegetables from available light in your window space. It uses hydroponic technology to grow plants quickly and abundantly without soil, needing only a bit of water, nutrients and a power source. It is a joy to watch these plants grow just a few feet away from your desk, a fun and inspiring distraction when you need it.

OfficePOD Prefab Office Space


Not every home has the space for a home office, but that shouldn’t necessarily stop you. If you have space in your back yard or patio, you could try the OfficePOD prefab office. It’s a stylish, site-assembled unit that has plenty of space for a home office. Simply set it up, wire it to your power and Internet and you’re ready to go. It can be a pretty costly option, but few home offices look as attractive as this one, and at the end of the day, you can leave your work behind when you lock it up for the night.

How To Use Your Ultrabook to Stay Creative

Whether you’re a full-time artist, photographer, designer or a person who just likes to stay creative, now more than ever you have magnificent, modern day tools like the sleek Sony Vaio Duo Ultrabook to help you in everyday life. Not only is the Duo 13 beautifully designed, but the versatile device packs a one-two punch as it seamlessly changes from a touchscreen tablet to a full HD laptop. The Duo 13 comes with a digitizer stylus that lets you write or draw to your heart’s content, and the pen is so responsive that it allows you to adjust line weight and brush size just by pressing harder or softer. Touch sensors turn off the pen when it’s near the screen so you can write comfortably, resting your hand on the device. Today, we’ll show you six great ways you can use this Ultrabook, and all its great features, to take on a variety of creative projects.

1. Brainstorm Ideas using OneNote and the Digitizer Stylus

Every important invention started with an idea and that’s why it’s so important to write everything down. With a large 13.3-inch screen and a digitizer pen it’s now easier than ever to brainstorm or jot down your next big idea. College students, entrepreneurs, business owners, and graphic designers can all benefit from using the stylus with OneNote, Microsoft’s program that acts like a digital notebook by letting you capture, store and share information. If you’re working on a project with multiple people, you can easily collaborate or, if you’d like to share your important notes from a meeting, OneNote makes that a snap, as well.

2. Create Art Using ArtRage Studio Pro

Pre-loaded on the Sony Vaio Duo 13 are many exciting apps including ArtRage Studio Pro. New to digital painting? For beginners, ArtRage has a Tracing Image system where you can import a photo as a guide for your painting. Traditional artists will find ArtRage’s software intuitive and easy to use as it lets you lay down blobs of color and blend them with a palette knife, much like you would if you were actually painting. The program even lets you pin a reference image onto your canvas while you work. Finally, digital artists will enjoy this program immensely as they’re able to add natural paint to their images, like oils and watercolors, while still working with familiar digital tools like layers and blend modes. All in all, it’s powerful digital painting software that lets you create natural looking art on your computer.

3. Make a Movie Using VAIO Movie Creator

What better way to assemble all the photos and short videos you’ve taken of your friends and your family than by making a quick movie with them? VAIO Movie Creator comes with 45 design themes and music so you can enhance your short films. It also lets you easily add transitions and effects so your home movies look like professional productions. When you’ve finished your project and you’re ready to share it, you can upload your creation to Facebook, YouTube or a number of other social networking sites in a snap.

4. Clip Images for Your Inspiration Board with Active Clip

Putting together an inspiration board for your next design project? Active Clip lets you cut out any image that you see on the web. Using the digitizer pen, you just have to trace or draw a freehand outline around the image and the intelligent edge detection will let you crop it. You can save your image to any of your desired programs like clipboard or Note Anytime where you can then write notes on it, save it or send it to a colleague or friend.

5. Shoot Travel Photos and Share Them Quickly

As a photographer, when you need to pick up and go there’s nothing like a light, compact device to handle both your creative and professional needs. Both professional and amateur photographers will love how portable and light this Ultrabook is. The Duo 13 weighs a mere 2.2 pounds but it has everything you need to take pictures and then share them with your fans. The display is incredibly clear, providing true shades of colors that are brilliantly natural.

6. Snap a Picture of a Document, Then Write Over It

One of the final features we wanted to highlight is called CamScanner. The VAIO Duo 13 is your own portable scanner. Using the 8M pixel rear camera, you can take a picture of any document, photo or whiteboard note and then convert it to a digital format for writing on or sharing. Keystone correction automatically straightens the document or picture for you. This comes in particularly handy if you’re working on a team project and need to quickly save it for working on later.

Good Partner Power in Your Life

I was growing by leaps and bounds.  My weekends were spent in various staff development seminars or sitting at the kitchen table planning lessons.  I received The Teacher of the Year award. Every year, I received glowing reviews. One year, I received a promotion.  Ah, the good life.

Meanwhile, my partner CJ navigated carefully around the prickly, often frigid, and always exhausted person he did not marry.  The old me had left the building, and it seemed I had taken fun with me.  While we still loved each other, our relationship revolved around work and talk of work.


By Tammy Renzi

Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. – Dr. Seuss

My pant size increased while my enjoyment of life steadily decreased.  I justified staying late and working weekends with shoulds and oughts.

I continued to hop on that hamster wheel year after year.  What else could I do?  This is life.  Deal with it.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Model

Six years ago, I was curled up on the couch most of the hours I was away from school.  A medical mishap, a toxic reaction to an antibiotic, wreaked havoc on my nervous and skeletal systems.  For a year and a half, I did little but work, attend doctors’ appointments, and fight with the insurance company about approving MRIs.

Yet, here on the same couch sat a man who took back his life.  Two years prior, CJ declared he had enough and left an elementary music teaching position to start his own guitar studio.  He cut his work hours in half, and I was so excited for him.  Although the money was trickling in, I loved having clean laundry, prepped meals, and shiny floors.

Only now, as a 35 year old who ambulated as if I were 80, did I admit what I had been denying for several years.  Something had to give.  In addition to my poor health, I was bigger than I ought to be, our sex life was non-existent, and my anxiety was through the roof.

Complacency was no longer an option.  I had to make a change.  And I was scared to death.

Collaboration and Conversation

I loved being with CJ more than anything in the world.  Our conversations satisfied everything from my desire to my intellect.  The obvious solution was to move toward more time with him and less time with work.  But how?

We took our conversations from bitching to action.  During any free moment, we talked about how we would make a life together and still afford to keep the lights on.  There were wild schemes, lame schemes, and everything in between.

A coffee van for teachers!  We could under-price Starbucks and drive their morning cup right to them!

You’re a guitarist!  Compromise your principles and write the One Hit Wonder.  We’ll live on an island like…

Eventually, we found the answer in a closet.

One afternoon, I was talking with CJ about how a colleague wanted me to tutor her son.  School policy forbids teachers from making extra money on their property, so I needed another place.

What about the guitar studio? 

Guitar and reading.  Um, probably not going to work, honeykins.

Not in the same room. What about that closet off the waiting room?   It’s kind of small, but so are your kids.  You only need a little table.

And so it came to be.  Now in its sixth consecutive year, we enjoy the fruits of an idea born out of conversation.  No incompetent coworkers.  No staff meetings.  Decreased pant sizes.  Good health.

Doing Whatever Works

The facts are a bitch and so hard to deny.  In fact, to this very day, I occasionally slip into rationalizing my past behavior.  I had to stay late.  I wanted to advance in my career.

But I got sick.  Only then did I change.  While the catalyst for CJ was anger, mine was pain. Different strokes.

What I realized in this transformation from merely existing to living is what everyone keeps saying ad nauseam.  Change takes time.   What some fail to mention is that it is fun.  It is damn fun to change and craft yourself into a better you.

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