TIME faith

13 Ideas for Being a Better Human

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Hatefulness has seeped into our everyday existence. Here's how we can bring back common decency

There’s nothing like a campaign season to remind us of the worst of humanity. It’s not unusual to catch a bit of a stump speech and think, is that person part of the same human race that I am?

What’s happened to us that we’ve become such a people of hate? What’s happened to us that we live in such fear and hatred instead of love and kindness toward each other? And I start to wonder, further … when did it become so unusual to be kind and decent toward one another? I mean, the simple act of smiling at someone you don’t know almost seems old-fashioned and ridiculous these days, doesn’t it? When did that happen?

It’s times like these that I find myself doubling down on kindness. It’s my instinctual response to hate; my way of reminding myself that the little choices we make all day long are stabs back at the darkness.

I’m reminded of a good friend whose wife, when my friend would start to get in a big huffy hurry to get out of the house, would intentionally slow down. Her slowness boldly challenged his hurry, and usually forced him to surrender. Now, I’m not so naive to think that my small acts of kindness, combined with yours, will fell the haters of the world … oh wait, yes I am. I am that naive. I think it comes with the faith territory.

When hate is raging, intentionally bring the light. Remember what it means to be a human being. Here are some very, very simple ideas for increasing the light and reminding ourselves each day that we’re human again. (Bonus aside: watch how kindness has a crazy way of transforming the energy around you, healing others, and going freaky viral (google “Starbucks chain of kindness.”))

1. Say hello to someone in the elevator. You might even wish them a good morning. (I know, crazy, right?)

2. Open a door for someone who has their arms full.

3. Pull your elderly neighbor’s trash cans in for them on trash day.

4. Compliment a co-worker on a project or a good idea.

5. Thank your waiter, or the person who bags your groceries, or your kid’s teacher. When you thank them, look them in the eyes and mean it.

6. Give someone a hug (check out the research on the healing power of hugs).

7. Let someone into your lane on the freeway. (Just do it already, as a rebellious act of kindness!)

8. Buy a big box of granola bars and hand them out as you drive past the beleagured souls on street corners.

9. Attend a church service in another part of town with people who don’t look like you.

10. Get someone a drink of water (that’s from Anne Lamott).

11. Read a poem by David Whyte, or Mary Oliver, or Maya Angelou, or the Persian mystic Hafiz. (This is more for you than anyone else, but you know what they say — when one person finds inner peace, thousands around them are saved.*)

12. Apologize to someone you were short with yesterday.

13. End your day by looking back over the last 24 hours and noticing where you felt most connected to yourself, others, and the world. Give thanks for the big and small moments of connection, of kindness, of decency you showed or received this day.

Simple, right? That same good friend with the ‘slow’ wife also told me once that Christianity is really quite simple — we’re just supposed to love each other. That’s it! So simple, he said with a smile, and yet oh-so-hard to practice.

Let’s stack the deck in favor of kindness versus hatred. It’s time to double down and bet big on the power of small gestures of love, practiced intentionally and in increasingly regular intervals, to win the game.

*St. Seraphim of Sarov said it first.

Deborah Arca is the Director of Content at Patheos.com. She joined the Patheos team in 2009 after serving as the Program Manager for the Programs in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Deborah belongs to a progressive United Church of Christ Church in Englewood, Colo. She is also the managing editor of the Progressive Christian Channel and Book Club at Patheos.

This article originally appeared on Patheos

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TIME advice

These 9 Uncomfortable Tasks Can Change Your Life

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Try paying for everything you can with cash

What makes someone uncomfortable depends on the person, but what’s universally true is the value of recognizing boundaries and continually pushing them.

As Quora user Joos Meyer explains in response to the question, “What uncomfortable things such as cold showers can improve your life?” pushing your comfort zone is the key to self-betterment.

“I think the best methodology is to every day or week set a task or find a situation that makes you slightly uncomfortable. Do that thing. This will incorporate the experience into your model of ‘normality’ and hence expand your ‘comfort zone,'” he writes.

Here are some uncomfortable things that other Quora users have found helped them grow:

1. Question everything

“The most uncomfortable thing one can do is to question everything that is taken for granted and seek answers,” writes Malli Gurram. “Try to see the other side of the norm.”

2. Be honest

Being the most honest you’ve ever been with someone in your life will be one of the most uncomfortable things you can do, Ryan Brown says, but it could also be the most valuable.

To do this, he suggests writing a list of all the people to whom you have something — good or bad — to say; writing down the honest feelings you need to convey to them in a letter; handing the person the letter; and writing down what happened and how the experience affected you and the other person.

“If you’re being really honest, each letter you write should make you quite emotional as you are writing it,” Brown writes. “That is how you know you have tapped into your actual emotions and feelings — that it actually means something to you.”

“Don’t forget what you have learned from the experience,” he suggests. “Let it be with you forever.”

3. Wake up extremely early

Ekin Öcalan loves to wake up before sunrise because it provides the perfect study-and-work environment. While everyone else sleeps, waking at 5 a.m. is the perfect, albeit challenging, way to begin the day in silence, he writes.

4. Watch your pennies

From auto repairs and life insurance to coffee and french fries, keep track of every penny you spend for several months, suggests Bruce A McIntyre.

And try paying for everything you can with cash. “If you have to reach in your wallet and pull out cash, you will often think twice about how much you need something.”

You’d be surprised how much debt you can pay off when you literally watch your pennies.

5. Track what you eat

Keeping track of all the food you eat and all the exercise you do in a day can be challenging, but Tina Marshall says using her MyFitnessPal app helped her see the harm she was doing to her body.

“I didn’t realize how little of some nutrients I was getting and how much sugar and fat I was getting daily until I started to do this regularly,” she writes.

6. Eat only nutritious food

After you track your food, start eating only what is truly nutritious — Doug Whitney says this will change your life forever.

“The short answer here is to prepare your own food, eat organic as much as possible — yes, it’s expensive, but it’s cheaper than the medical bills and lost performance — focus on lean meats and veggies, avoid grains (they’re disastrous for most of us), and when you do eat something that isn’t good for you, notice the difference in how you feel. This is key!”

He says this will be uncomfortable for a number of reasons: It’s hard; it’s socially limiting; it can be more expensive if you are used to eating off the dollar menu; it’s not as tasty when you start, and it takes more time.

But he says the outcome is 100% worth the effort. “Being a weird health nut and outperforming everyone else is so much more fun than blending in — and that’s not just athletically. It’s mentally as well.”

7. Practice public speaking

It may be scary to think about, but you never know when you may be called upon to speak in public. Practice, while daunting, is the key to improving your communication skills.

Gurram recommends joining a nearby Toastmasters group or an improv group in your city. “Its scary as hell until you realize that everyone around you feels the same,” he writes.

8. Accomplish an almost impossible goal

The most uncomfortable thing you can do, according to Rizwan Aseem, is to set and achieve a goal that’s harder than something you’ve ever done before.

To do that, he suggests you think about a thing you’re comfortable doing every day and amplify it until you get to a point where you become really scared of doing it. If you run a mile every day, the idea of running seven might terrify you. Set this as your one-year goal.

“The hardest part is to actually go out there and take the actions steps that will help you achieve this goal,” he writes.

“You will have to use all your mental and physical strength to actually get yourself to achieve this goal. But here’s the thing: Something very cool happens in your mind, your physiology, your internal makeup when you actually do this. You become invincible. You will be able to set any goal for yourself and then achieve it.”

9. Pick just one thing to master at a time

Your approach to self-betterment might be trying as many things as possible and seeing what works. But Rob Hanna says using the opposite tactic, though uncomfortable, is key.

“Intention is the key to mastery,” Hanna writes. He explains this requires calling your shots and hitting them.

“The problem with most improvement seekers in life is that they really don’t know what they’re looking for, and then they keep casting about capriciously for the next new thing.”

If you’re constantly changing interests, he says, you’re never going to discover your own internal progress. “So pick one thing and become progressively committed to mastering it. It doesn’t matter what it is, anything will do, as long as you do.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider

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TIME psychology

5 Things You Need to Know About Habits

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

5 tips with links to the research that backs them up:

  • The secret to breaking bad habits is to not try to eliminate them but to replace them.

For more on the scientific way to build good habits, click here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Advice for 20-Somethings From Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Geniuses

Warren Buffett at Squawk Box interview on May 4, 2015.
Lacy O'Toole—CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images Warren Buffett at Squawk Box interview on May 4, 2015.

"Help your community, help other people"

If you’re young and your career is in its early days, you’ve likely been privy to plenty of career truisms and clichés.

But if “follow your passion,” “give 110%,” and “be true to yourself” just aren’t cutting it for you anymore, perhaps advice like, “don’t work too hard” and “relax” are more up your alley.

These successful people have offered some of the best — and oftentimes unconventional — advice for people in their 20s:

Warren Buffett: Exercise humility and restraint.

In a 2010 interview with Yahoo, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett said the best advice he ever received was from Berkshire Hathaway board-of-directors member Thomas Murphy. He told Buffett:

“Never forget Warren, you can tell a guy to go to hell tomorrow — you don’t give up the right. So just keep your mouth shut today, and see if you feel the same way tomorrow.”

During this year’s Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting, Buffett also told a curious seventh-grader that the key to making friends and getting along with coworkers is learning to change your behavior as you mature by emulating those you admire and adopting the qualities they possess.

Maya Angelou: Make your own path.

In her book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got,” Katie Couric quotes author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer Maya Angelou:

My paternal grandmother, Mrs. Annie Henderson, gave me advice that I have used for 65 years. She said, ‘If the world puts you on a road you do not like, if you look ahead and do not want that destination which is being offered and you look behind and you do not want to return to you place of departure, step off the road. Build yourself a new path.’

Richard Branson: Never look back in regret — move on to the next thing.

Richard Branson’s mother taught him that.

“The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures, rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me,” The Virgin Group founder and chairman told The Good Entrepreneur. “I have fun running ALL the Virgin businesses — so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.”

J.K. Rowling: Embrace failure.

J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling children’s book series “Harry Potter,” knows a lot about achieving success — and failure.

“I don’t think we talk about failure enough,” Rowling recently told Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today” show. “It would’ve really helped to have someone who had had a measure of success come say to me, ‘You will fail. That’s inevitable. It’s what you do with it.'”

Before Rowling became one of the wealthiest women in the world, she was a single mom living off welfare in the UK. She began writing about her now famous character, the young wizard Harry Potter, in Edinburgh cafes, and received “loads” of rejections from book publishers when she first sent out the manuscript, The Guardian reports.

“An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless … By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew,” Rowling said during a 2008 Harvard University commencement speech.

She went on to say that she considered her early failure a “gift” that was “painfully won,” since she gained valuable knowledge about herself and her relationships through the adversity.

Eric Schmidt: Say yes to more things.

In her book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got,” Katie Couric quotes Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt as advising:

Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids.”

Marissa Mayer: Pick something and make it great.

In a 2011 interview with the Social Times, current Yahoo president and CEO Marissa Mayer revealed the best advice she ever received:

My friend Andre said to me, ‘You know, Marissa, you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself to pick the right choice, and I’ve gotta be honest: That’s not what I see here. I see a bunch of good choices, and there’s the one that you pick and make great.’ I think that’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten.

Steve Jobs: Don’t just follow your passion but something larger than yourself.

In a recent Business Insider article, Cal Newport, author of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” referenced Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, who recalled an exchange he had with Jobs shortly before he passed. Jobs reportedly told Isaacson:

Yeah, we’re always talking about following your passion, but we’re all part of the flow of history … you’ve got to put something back into the flow of history that’s going to help your community, help other people … so that 20, 30, 40 years from now … people will say, this person didn’t just have a passion, he cared about making something that other people could benefit from.

Suze Orman: With success comes unhelpful criticism — ignore it.

In a LinkedIn article about the best advice she ever received, motivational speaker, author, and CNBC host Suze Orman wrote that success has often made her a target of nasty criticism “entirely disconnected from facts.” At first these attacks made her angry, but she eventually learned to ignore them.

“A wise teacher from India shared this insight: The elephant keeps walking as the dogs keep barking,” she wrote.

“The sad fact is that we all have to navigate our way around the dogs in our career: external critics, competitors, horrible bosses, or colleagues who undermine. Based on my experience, I would advise you to prepare for the yapping to increase along with your success.”

Bill Gates: Keep things simple.

In a 2009 interview with CNBC, Microsoft cofounder and chairman Bill Gates admired Warren Buffett’s ability to keep things simple.

You look at his calendar, it’s pretty simple. You talk to him about a case where he thinks a business is attractive, and he knows a few basic numbers and facts about it. And [if] it gets less complicated, he feels like then it’s something he’ll choose to invest in. He picks the things that he’s got a model of, a model that really is predictive and that’s going to continue to work over a long-term period. And so his ability to boil things down, to just work on the things that really count, to think through the basics — it’s so amazing that he can do that. It’s a special form of genius.

Arianna Huffington: Don’t work too hard.

In a LinkedIn post last year, The Huffington Post president and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington revealed that she’s often asked if young people pursuing their dreams should burn the candle at both ends?

“This couldn’t be less true,” she writes. “And for far too long, we have been operating under a collective delusion that burning out is the necessary price for achieving success.”

She says she wishes she could go back and tell her younger self, “Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard but also unplugging, recharging, and renewing yourself.”

Stewart Butterfield: Have an ‘experimental attitude.’

Stewart Butterfield, the cofounder of Flickr and chief executive of Slack, one of the fastest-growing business apps of all time, recently shared his best advice for young people with Adam Bryant of The New York Times:

“Some people will know exactly what they want to do at a very young age, but the odds are low,” he said. “I feel like people in their early- to mid-20s are very earnest. They’re very serious, and they want to feel like they’ve accomplished a lot at a very young age rather than just trying to figure stuff out. So I try to push them toward a more experimental attitude.”

George Stephanopoulos: Relax.

“Almost nothing you’re worried about today will define your tomorrow,” “Good Morning America” coanchor George Stephanopoulos told personal finance website NerdWallet.

“Down the road, don’t be afraid to take a pay cut to follow your passion. But do stash a few bucks in a 401(k) now.”

Maria Malcolm Beck: Remember that you won’t end up where you start.

Marla Malcolm Beck, CEO of Bluemercury, said in an interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times that she always reminds students that “nobody ends up in the first job they choose out of college, so just find something that is interesting to you, because you tend to excel at things you’re interested in. But just go do it. You have nothing to lose.”

Her other piece of advice: Go into tech. “If you look at all the skill sets companies need, they involve a comfort level with technology,” she told Bryant.

T.J. Miller: Work harder than anyone else around you.

T.J. Miller, comedian and star of HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” told personal finance website NerdWallet this is truly the formula to success. “It worked for me, and I have mediocre talent and a horse jaw.”

Alexa von Tobel: Get up, dress up, and show up.

What Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest and the author of New York Times bestseller “Financially Fearless,” means is that it’s important to wake up excited for what’s coming, dress the part, and always show up ready to go.

“As a new hire, you will likely find yourself in tons of new situations, and it’s up to you to figure out how to navigate them,” she wrote in an article for Business Insider.

“Remember that your manager is strapped for time, so know when to ask questions. Are you unsure of the objectives for an assignment? Asking her to clarify is crucial, since it’s pretty hard to make the mark if you don’t know where it even lies.

“On the flip side, avoid bombarding your manager with petty questions that could be answered by your peers or a quick Google search.”

Mark Bartels: Map out a timeline for yourself when you start a new job.

“We talk about budgets; we talk about planning your finances; but what a lot of people don’t do is plan out the next 12 to 18 or 24 months of their careers,” StumbleUpon CEO Mark Bartels tells Business Insider.

He says that lack of planning can be costly, both professionally and existentially, while having an agenda provides a metric for evaluating your success.

Hermione Way: Start your own business.

“There has never been an easier time to start a business,” Hermione Way, founder of WayMedia and star of Bravo’s “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley,” told personal finance website NerdWallet.

“There are so many free online tools. Just start, and if you fail you can always go and get a normal job, but you will learn so much along the way it will be a great experience.”

John Chen: Being a ‘superstar’ can hurt your career.

“Most employees think that the best way to show value to their boss and get promoted is to aggressively claim credit and ownership over everything they do,” BlackBerry CEO John Chen wrote in a LinkedIn post earlier this year.

“While it’s important to be recognized for what you do and the value you add, grabbing the glory is going to turn off your coworkers.” It can also turn off your boss, he warns.

“Trying too hard to show you’re a superstar tells me that you only care about what’s best for you, and not the company as a whole.”

Salli Setta: Never eat lunch alone.

Red Lobster president Salli Setta tells Business Insider it’s important to get out from behind your screen at lunchtime because lunch is a prime networking opportunity.

The benefit of always having lunch plans with someone are two-fold: You can get information that will help you “think about your job differently,” and you also get on your companion’s radar.

“It isn’t about saying ‘hi, what are we going to talk about, let’s talk about sports,'” Setta says. “It’s about identifying the object of this lunch in your mind” and going in armed with “a couple of things that you want to ask, and a couple of things you want to share.”

Deepak Chopra: Embrace the wisdom of uncertainty.

In a LinkedIn post last year, Deepak Chopra, popular author and founder of The Chopra Foundation said he wished he embraced the wisdom of uncertainty at a younger age.

“At the outset of my medical career, I had the security of knowing exactly where I was headed,” he wrote. “Yet what I didn’t count on was the uncertainty of life, and what uncertainty can do to a person.”

“If only I knew then, as I know now, that there is wisdom in uncertainty — it opens a door to the unknown, and only from the unknown can life be renewed constantly,” he wrote.

Cynthia Tidwell: Be patient enough to learn, but impatient enough to take risks.

Cynthia Tidwell, CEO of insurance company Royal Neighbors of America, told Business Insider her favorite piece of advice for young people is be patient enough to learn, but impatient enough to take risks. “I encourage taking risks,” she said. “What is the worst thing that can happen? You can go back and do what you were doing before.”

Brian Chesky: Don’t listen to your parents.

Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, said in an interview with The New York Times’ Adam Bryant that recent grads shouldn’t listen to their parents.

“They’re the most important relationships in your life, but you should never take your parents’ career advice, and I’m using parents as a proxy for all the pressures in the world,” he told Bryant. “I also say that whatever career you’re in, assume it’s going to be a massive failure. That way, you’re not making decisions based on success, money and career. You’re only making it based on doing what you love.”

David Melancon: Ask 3 important questions at the end of every interview.

When a hiring manager turns the tables at the end of an interview and asks, “do you have any questions for me?” David Melancon, CEO of btr., a corporate-rankings platform that focuses on holistic performance, says there are three questions far more important for you to ask than what the salary is or what the job requirements are.

The questions are:

1. What qualities will a person in this role need to be successful in your company culture — as an individual and as a worker?

2. What’s the company’s position on education and development, including student-loan reimbursement and tuition assistance?

3. How does the company keep employees excited, innovative, and motivated?

Diane von Furstenberg: Keep it real.

In a recent interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg says she has learned that trusting yourself is the key to success.

“In order to trust yourself, you have to have a relationship with yourself,” she told Bryant. “In order to have a relationship with yourself, you have to be hard on yourself, and not be delusional.”

Rick Goings: Be nice to everyone.

Rick Goings, CEO of home-products company Tupperware Brands, which brought in $2.6 billion in revenue last year, shared his favorite pearls of wisdom for young people with Business Insider. One of them was be nice to everyone when you go on a job interview.

“I like to check with the driver, our receptionist, and my assistants on how the candidate interacted with them. How you treat others means the world!”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Research-Backed Habits of People Who Never Skip a Workout

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Here's all the motivation you'll need to move

The first few weeks of a new fitness routine, you couldn’t be more stoked. You practically pop out of bed to hit the gym—rain or shine, snow or sleet. And then life happens. A colleague calls an early-morning meeting. A nasty cold strikes. You start to feel deflated, and your willpower fades.

Sound familiar? It’s a “vicious cycle of failure,” according to Michelle Segar, PhD, director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan. For 20 years, she’s been studying motivation to figure out why so many of us struggle to keep it—especially when it comes to healthy habits.

Her new book, No Sweat ($17, amazon.com), reveals how to make one of those key habits, exercise, a part of your life—for good. (Hint: It involves banishing “should” thoughts.) Here, Segar, who also coaches clients, shares five simple tips that make perfect sense:

Count everything—and add it up

Physical activity doesn’t have to be time-consuming or intense to count as exercise. “Many of the things you’re already doing qualify as healthy movement,” says Segar. So give yourself credit for crossing the parking lot (2 minutes), walking the dog (10 minutes), playing tag with your kids (15 minutes), gardening (20 minutes), even pushing a cart around the grocery store (25 minutes). “Virtually all of my clients have told me that the notion that ‘everything counts’ has been transformative for them,” Segar adds. “It makes them feel successful every time they move, which leads to higher energy levels all day long.”

Focus on the now

Once you start counting all the physical activity in your day, you realize it’s possible to squeeze in a little more (without changing into workout clothes). “Rather than thinking, I don’t have time, you start thinking, I can fit this in!” Segar explains. Whenever you have a small pocket of time—even if its just five minutes—ask yourself, What can I do right now? You might end up jogging the stairs 10 times, or knocking out a series of ab moves on the floor.

Do what feels good

“Our brains are hardwired to respond to immediate gratification, and to do what makes us feel good,” says Segar. This is one of the reasons we tend to give up on chore-like workouts. Segar’s advice: Choose a type of movement that feels good to you, and you will want to choose it again and again—whether it’s as simple as hiking or as trendy as Buti yoga (think power yoga fused with tribal dance and plyometrics). Research backs up this advice: A Portuguese study from 2011 found that enjoying exercise was among the strongest predictors of whether a person continued exercising and maintained weight loss for the next three years.

Take ownership of your fitness

There are a lot of voices proclaiming that you “should” exercise—from your friends and family to your doctor and the media. But the most important voice is your own, says Segar: “Research suggests that a behavior change is more likely to ensue when you’ve identified what you really want from it.” You may be seeking better moods or stress relief, or maybe you just want to catch up with your workout buddy—it doesn’t matter, as long as you know what you’re after. (Not sure? Segar’s book can help you identify goals that will really work for you.)

Make one change at a time

Many of us feel so excited about “getting healthy” that we try to do multiple things at once, Segar says. “We decide to simultaneously work out more, learn to meditate, and start a new diet—and that’s a recipe for burnout.” Try focusing on just exercise first, Segar says. And above all else, remember to keep it fun, because that is the true secret to lasting motivation. As Segar puts it, “Do the physical movement you want to do, when you want to do it, for the amount of time your life allows.” That’s the best way to keep from lapsing altogether.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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TIME advice

6 Mosquito Repellent Plants to Keep Pests Away

From basil to lavender

Summer means it’s time to fire up the grill and invite friends over for a barbecue, but it seems like unexpected guests always crash the party. No, not your in-laws — we’re talking about pesky bugs.

There are ways to keep mosquitoes and other insects away besides drowning yourself in bug spray. For a more green approach, try installing some of these insect-repelling plants around your yard.

  • 1. Marigolds

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    Not only do they make your landscape more attractive, but marigolds also have a distinct smell that repels mosquitoes. Plant from seed or get a starter plant from a nursery or floral department. Place potted marigolds near mosquito entry-points, such as doors and windows, or on a deck or balcony where you spend a lot of time outdoors. They also deter insects that prey on tomato plants — an added bonus for gardeners.

  • 2. Citronella

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    Citronella is one of the most common ingredients in insect repellents, due to its strong smell, which masks mosquito attractants. The perennial clumping grass grows 5 to 6 feet, and can be planted in the ground or kept in large pots. Citronella plants thrive best in full sun and areas with good drainage.

  • 3. Catnip

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    Warning: Your catnip might bring all the cats to the yard. The perennial herb, related to mint, is easy to grow. While it repels mosquitoes in close proximity, some people apply crushed leaves for more protection.

  • 4. Lavender

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    In addition to smelling lovely, aiding in relaxation and promoting restful sleep, lavender dissuades mosquitoes and gnats from invading your outdoor dinner party when planted in the garden or in pots placed by windows, doors and entertainment areas. The dried flowers can also be placed in wardrobes to repel moths.

  • 5. Basil

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    Enjoy delicious pesto dishes, and keep mosquitoes at bay, with this insect-repelling herb. Basil is one of the few herbs in which you don’t have to crush the leaves to reap its benefits. Lemon basil and cinnamon basil are the best varieties to prevent unwanted pests.

  • 6. Lemon Balm

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    Also known as horsemint, lemon balm’s aroma wards off mosquitoes, but attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies. It’s fast growing, drought resistant and reseeds itself, so consider planting in a pot rather than in your yard to avoid a lemon balm takeover.

    This article originally appeared on Angie’s List

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TIME Culture

How To Fix Work-Life Balance for Constantly Connected Millennials

Agree on goals and core values, and then trust employees to complete their work in whatever ways suit them

There’s a paradox sitting at the heart of the issue of work/life balance at the moment.

Research shows that people are increasingly seeking 24-7 digital connection while driving; in the bedroom; and in social and family lives.

More and more people sleep next to their phones, take devices on dates and digitally connect at meal times. Many people want to be “always on.” But when you’re open and available, it’s hard to choose to ignore it when the emails happen to be from the office or the tweets are coming from the boss.

Old rules

The concept of work/life balance largely precedes the advent of digital technology. The term was first coined in the 1970s, but 100 years ago, employees were taking papers home their work finished up.

Round-the-clock digital response and connection is much more pervasive. Research suggests that many millennials want their home life to be just that, in fact, 100% that. One global study of full-time workers in eight countries conducted by Ernst & Young finds that millennials — and particularly millennial parents — are so serious about finding work/life balance, they’re willing to relocate if it means they can move into a job that offers it.

This is only one snapshot, but there’s a lot of research around at the moment about work/life balance. Employees want to bring their own devices to work, and enjoy social media connection in whatever way suits them. But they want to close the door on work when they get home and not be pestered by work at home. And they are serious about it. The Ernst & Young study found:

Millennials in the survey are also more willing than other generations to pass up a promotion, change jobs, take a pay cut, or even change careers in order to achieve more flexibility.

So, here’s the paradox: People are encouraged to bring their own devices to work and yet many of those people who want to check personal updates at work don’t want it to work in the other direction. But it is hard to resist: the technology is an enabler of a poor work/life balance, and precedents are quickly established.

Digital natives

The digitally native generation are more than able and used to taking devices home with them. A survey by Workfront found that 22% of baby boomers in the 55-64 age bracket thought it was OK to answer a work email during dinner. Ask 18-34-year-old millenials though, and that shoots up to 52%. More than half of adults questioned in a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair survey, meanwhile, said monitoring emails outside office hours was routine.

And so it seems that millennials who have become used to this constant digital connection are increasingly pushing back, even to the point of stepping away from the organisations who force it upon them. Evidence for dissatisfaction is growing.

Almost two-thirds of fathers who have youngsters under school age do not have a work pattern that suits them, according to a Guardian survey). Half the respondents were worried that requests for flexible or home working would be seen as a “lack of commitment”.

Left to their own devices

This offers a challenge to employers, particularly as it makes offering staff a work/life balance – in an age when it has never been harder – a key weapon in staff retention and attraction, at least, according to the Randstad Award employer branding research study. Finding and retaining the best millennial talent requires a genuine adaptability and sensitivity to the issue, and an ability to navigate a way past the “always-on” ubiquity of technology.

So, how are leaders and business owners attempting to resolve this paradox? My own research suggests that an increasing number of businesses are no longer managing staff by clocking their working hours but instead by co-ordinating by what organisational Canadian writer Henry Mintzberg calls “standardised outputs and values.” We agree goals and core values with employees from the outset and then leave it to them to complete their work in whatever ways suit them.

This is a very “millennial” way of working. It isn’t that millennials don’t want to take work home. It is more that they want to decide their own work/life balance. They don’t want taking work home to be the default position. According to a new survey of nearly 10,000 workers in eight countries by Ernst & Young’s Global Generations Research: “Younger workers see that technology frees them to work productively from anywhere.”

Maybe it is the attempt to incorporate this modern approach into traditional working patterns that causes the problems? It might just be a case of all or nothing to make it work.

Boundary review

We can address the paradox by putting the control of working flexibly into the hands of workers after agreeing the underlying values and goals. Work/life balance then becomes about freely working in different physical places, whilst mobile, on different devices and via flexible platforms. Just because we can bring our own devices to work, doesn’t mean we have to bring our work home.

In practice that means higher degrees of trust. It isn’t about micro-managing staff time and physical place, but current research suggests that is still largely going on. To succeed here, and for companies to get the right levels of performance out of their staff, it becomes about plug and play work processes, about porting content across platforms and devices, about respecting the boundaries between home and work and designing business processes that embed that respect. It means going the whole hog. Total flexibility to get the best out of agile technologies and trust to empower your flexible workers.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Smartphones

Here’s How to Battle Your Smartphone Addiction

There is bad news, but there is also good news

Can you see a smartphone right now? Is it yours or someone else’s? Where is your smartphone? In your bag? In your hand? You probably lost it!

If reading that paragraph just made you a little anxious, then congratulations, you are a human alive today. And if reading those questions made you palpitate and sweat like a perp in a lineup, then don’t worry, you’re not alone. And you’re probably not very old, either.

In a series of polls related to smartphone use released last week, Gallup found that about half of smartphone users check their phones several times an hour or more frequently; 81% of people said they keep their phones near them “almost all the time during waking hours” and 63% do so even when they’re sleeping. The condition is especially severe among the young, one-in-five of whom cop to “checking their phone every few minutes.”

While that might elicit a “tsk, tsk” from grandparents appalled by such behavior, all this checking doesn’t just come at the cost of neglecting the world around us. Researchers have been building a body of disheartening-but-fascinating research about the mess of mutual dependence that is our relationship with our smartphones. They’ve connected it to anxiety and stress and our increasing state of distraction.

There is, however, a way we might break the cycle of addiction, even if we all have to go through our own withdrawal montage.

But first, the disturbing news. In a 2015 study conducted at the University of Missouri, media researcher Russell Clayton found evidence that some people feel their phones are part of them—kind of like a leg or an arm. In a clever ruse involving word search puzzles and a blatant lie about signal interference, Clayton was able to get a snapshot of about 40 college students’ physiological states when their iPhones started ringing across the room but they were unable to answer them.

“Their blood pressure and heart rate increased. Their self-report of anxiety and unpleasantness also increased,” says Clayton, now an assistant professor at Florida State University. The students also became worse at doing word search puzzles, suggesting poorer cognitive performance. Yet his eeriest finding — beyond evidence that future generations will probably go straight into anaphylactic shock when separated from their devices — was that people reported a physical lessening of themselves when they did not have their phones.

“They reported feeling a loss of identity,” he says. “When objects become possessions, when we use them a lot, they’re potentially capable of becoming an extension of ourselves.” When digital natives born today grow up to be toddlers who are crying because a parent takes their iPad away, Clayton says that could leave us with interesting questions: “Are they upset because they can’t play their game? Or are upset because they don’t have the iPad, the object, the possession?”

Perhaps the person who has done the most work in this field is Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University. Rosen is in the middle of writing a book on our technology-addled brains. In his research, he’s found that if there’s a phone around—even if it’s someone else’s phone—its presence tends to make people anxious and perform more poorly on tasks. These effects, he’s found, become more acute among heavy users, those people checking their email and social media every 15 minutes or walking around with their hand tucked snugly around their phone. In a 2014 study, he separated college students from their phones. “The heavy users, 10 minutes in they’re already anxious and their anxiety kept going up and up,” he says. “And who are the heavy users? They’re the young people.”

Technology tends to “overact” our brains, draining us of unfettered, daydreaming-type creativity, he says. Today’s average college student, a member of the first generation to really grow up digitally native, now focuses and attends to one thing for about three to five minutes before feeling the need to switch their attention to something else, he says: “It makes us very tired. It makes us very miserable. It overloads our brains. … It is not good for us.” In his work, Rosen has referred to these gadgets by using an acronym for Wireless Mobile Devices — or WMDs, for short.

It might seem like going cold turkey is the best approach, but Rosen says that taking kids’ phones away or other forms of digital detox—like going away for a week to a place with no signal—aren’t sustainable solutions. “The real world comes back and crashes in,” he says of kids whose parents separate them from their devices. “And then they realize they have 400 emails, they have 30 text messages and they’ve got 100 posts from Facebook friends that they have to go back and like and comment on. So taking the phone away or restricting them is only going to create more anxiety and not really solve the problem.”

The good news is that Rosen does have a plan: weaning off devices bit by bit and making a public statement that you’re going to do so. This second part is key. Only if you’ve warned your parents and friends that they shouldn’t take it personally when you don’t text them back or like their picture right away, he says, will you be able to actually relax, no longer in fear of offending anyone who expects you to be on all the time. Meanwhile, you must wage an internal battle against your own FOMO.

“You announce to the world that you’re only going to check your phone once a half hour,” he says, “and then you allow yourself a minute or two every half hour to check in, return a call, text back, and then turn it off and put it away.” Then perhaps get bold and go up to an hour. Then perhaps two hours, in an attempt to eventually make the phone less like the limb it has become and more like the really cool toaster it could be.

“A lot of it,” Rosen says, “is self-induced anxiety.”

Read next: Try These Apps and Sites for Selling Your Old Stuff

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TIME apps

Try These Apps and Sites for Selling Your Old Stuff

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Garage sale goes online

Looking to get rid of some old junk? Your unused stuff could be someone else’s treasure.

Depending upon what you’re trying to sell, some services are better than others. We scoured online markets big and small, looking for the best ways to help you unload anything from your fridge to your Fendi bag.

Regardless of the service, selling your old stuff isn’t exactly a get-rich-quick scheme. Well-lit photos that show different angles of an item are key to drawing interest, as are setting fair prices and crafting descriptive titles with keywords buyers are likely to search for.

We considered the following factors while researching services:

  • Ease of use: Is the website or app interface newbie-friendly?
  • Amount of work: From settling on a good starting price, to responding to buyers, to shipping items, some apps make selling stuff online more work than the profit is worth.
  • Fees: Expect to pay at least 10% of an item’s selling price to the marketplace you use – and up to 40% if you use a concierge service that takes care of listing and shipping the items for you.

eBay

Since its launch in 1995, the online-auction kingpin has steadily added features to its marketplace, attracting professional e-sellers and real-world store owners to its original base of regular folks looking to clear out their junk.

A comprehensive selling interface lets you experiment with different selling models – the $1 auction is unbeatable for attracting interest, while setting a specific Buy It Now price can help shift items that the buyer may prefer to get immediately, such as clothing. You can also add in a Best Offer feature if you’re up for some haggling, or put a reserve on auctions so that items won’t sell unless they hit particular prices.

Best for: eBay works for just about everyone, although its listings policy officially rules out “intangible items,” specifically noting that souls can’t be sold. At any given time, there are around 110 million worldwide listings spanning clothing, furniture, antiques, collectibles and more.

Ease of use: While listing an item on the desktop site involves a lengthy form that asks for time-consuming (but not mandatory) details such as the length of a shirt sleeve, posting via the eBay app is much quicker.

How much work do I have to do? Just posting an item for sale is pretty quick when using the app. Snap a few good photos of the item, find a keyword-friendly title, and type up a couple descriptive sentences. If you’ve got a lot for sale, eBay offers features for more experienced sellers, including estimated prices and in-depth analytics for tracking your sales. The flip side is that you can end up spending an inordinate amount of time trying to craft the perfect listing.

If you just want to get rid of your things, the eBay Valet service lets you mail in certain types of items — including like-new designer clothing — for eBay staff to sell. The service commands a fee up to 40% of an item’s selling price. However, eBay is waiving the fees through June 30, 2015. So if want to give the service a try, do it now.

Fees: Your first 20 listings are free to post whether you go for auction or fixed pricing (though upgrading with bigger photos or premium visibility in search results costs extra), after which each listing costs 30 cents. eBay also takes 10% of the final selling price of each item (before shipping costs). If you use PayPal – and eBay makes it a requirement for certain listings – it charges an additional 3% onto that.

eBay is waiving all fees on its eBay Valet service through June 30, 2015.

Good for getting rid of old stuff? There’s a good market for broken electronics, so if you have a smartphone with a busted screen, or a laptop older than your niece, chances are another eBayer will want to strip it for parts.

Overall: Selling on eBay takes the most effort, but can turn the most profit. However, the site has gotten some flack for its seller-unfriendly buyer protection policy, where sellers foot the refunds for items that don’t arrive or are claimed to be significantly different from the description.

Find it here: ebay.com, iTunes, Google Play

Gone

This iOS app sits between sellers and buyers to take care of the entire listing process, including determining the highest selling price based on similar products and sending you boxes with prepaid mailing labels for a UPS pickup. If you live in Austin or San Francisco, you can arrange for a real live person to come over, pack your item, and ship it.

Gone works with online marketplaces including Amazon and eBay, using algorithms that analyze transactions on these sites to determine the highest price for your item before posting it on the most profitable site. Users can track the progress of their items through the app.

Best for: If you prize convenience over profits, Gone works well for selling electronics in good condition.

Ease of use: Getting your stuff into the marketplace is all done via the app. You snap at least two — and up to four — photos or videos of the item to be sold, add a quick description, and upload it to Gone for price appraisal.

How much work do I have to do? Not much. Once you upload items to Gone, you’ll get an estimated earning (minus packing, posting, and other costs), at which point you can either reject or accept the listings. After that, you’ll receive boxes and mailing labels to ship items to the Gone warehouse, where they’ll be inspected then put up for sale within a day. If you allow it to access your email, the app can scrape your inbox for receipts of stuff you bought online in order to automatically populate the items’ description boxes with the pertinent details.

Fees: Convenience comes at a cost: a 32GB iPad Air received an estimate of $235, compared to $317-$370 for Buy It Now listings on eBay. Once your item sells, you receive your earnings as a PayPal transfer or check, minus 7%-15% in fees, depending on the final value sold.

Good for getting rid of old stuff? No. Gone only takes on consumer electronics – think computers, tablets, smartphones, or headphones.

Overall: If you don’t want to go through the laborious process of spit-shining your gadgets, photographing them, and stressing out over how much to sell them for, Gone does it all for you through in an easy to use interface – and charges less in fees than eBay’s similar Valet service.

Find it here: thegoneapp.com, iTunes

OfferUp

If Craigslist is an online version of the classifieds, OfferUp is a tech-savvy version of Craigslist. It sports a gorgeously intuitive, picture-heavy interface for buyers to find anything from appliances and antiques to clothing to electronics in their respective locations.

Like eBay, both buyers and sellers are rated after transactions, and like Airbnb, both can opt for additional validation through real-world ID scanning, as well as linking Facebook and email accounts. The service encourages sellers to stay local with face to face transactions, and avoid shipping items without the buyer seeing them first.

Best for: Just about anything in your home, from heavy appliances to small decorative items.

Ease of use: Modern, fresh-looking Android and iOS apps make it especially easy to stroll around taking pics of all the things you don’t want before uploading each with a keyword-friendly title and short description. Buyers can then browse by neighborhood – which can give you an edge when hawking an old electric kettle that could sell simply because it’s the nearest one to a prospective buyer. Buyers can message you from within the app – a good idea in case of disputes.

How much work do I have to do? It takes about half a minute to post a listing, and you don’t need to bother with shipping. As with Craigslist, for the sake of staying safe when meeting with virtual strangers for the transaction, it’s a good idea to meet buyers in a public location.

Fees: Selling can be more profitable for certain items than other sites, as there are no fees, and you can be paid cash in hand.

Good for getting rid of old stuff? Yes. With thousands of new posts every day – compared to eBay’s hundreds of thousands – there’s less competition for your old stuff, and many neighborhood buyers may pick your everyday junk over someone else’s simply because it saves them gas or shipping fees.

Overall: OfferUp is like a cross between eBay and Craigslist, with no-fuss, in-person transactions, and trust features such as seller ratings and user validation.

Find it here: offerupnow.com, iTunes, Google Play

Vinted

There are dozens of fashion reselling sites out there, but Vinted offers an additional feature: the option to swap items without incurring any fees.

If you prefer to make some cold hard cash, it’s also an easy option for putting stuff up for sale. Where high-fashion-centric sites such as Vestiare Collective require sellers to send in their prospective items for checking before sending on to the buyer – thus lengthening the time before you get paid – Vinted lets sellers and buyers conduct their own exchanges, with seller ratings and the option to follow particular sellers and brands.

Best for: Clothes that are in good condition, from mass market fashion to designer brands, though the bulk of listings seem to be for mainstream fashion.

Ease of use: You can post items for sale via the web and iOS and Android apps by simply uploading a few pictures, inputting the brand, size, and condition of an item, and then writing a short description. If you’re up for a swap, you can add that as an option, allowing other swappers to get in touch for a fee-free exchange.

How much work do I have to do? You’ll have to figure out the best price for your item, buy postage materials, and ship items yourself.

Fees: Listing items is free, but if you sell instead of swap, you’ll incur a 19% fee (which is fairly standard for fashion reselling – similar secondhand clothing sites take 20-40%). However, Vinted hangs on to payments until the buyer confirms they’ve received the order and it’s as described, so you may end up waiting a week for money to be deposited into your account. A nice feature is that if you buy an item on Vinted but don’t like it (and can’t return it), you can relist that item for sale without incurring the fee.

Good for getting rid of old stuff? If you clean, iron, and shoot good pictures of your clothing, you could turn a tidy profit, though that 19% transaction fee can make sales of less expensive items more trouble than they’re worth.

Overall: A low-fuss way to sell mainstream fashion for a teen-to-twentysomething audience.

Find it here: vinted.com, iTunes, Google Play

Tradesy

This sophisticated clothes reselling marketplace focuses on branded fashion, with items displayed in a magazine-esque design that showcases editor’s picks and categories such as “unique and surprising shoes.”

Sellers can compile a personalized homepage or “closet” showing items for sale as well items they’ve liked from other sellers. Users can follow sellers and brands in order to keep track of new items.

Best for: Designer bags and accessories, with somewhat lesser demand for high-end clothing and shoes.

Ease of use: The site and iOS app are streamlined and stylishly designed, with a simple interface for uploading photos, noting brand, size, and color, and setting the price, including a calculator to show what you’ll earn after fees. Listings are active until they sell, without the time limit that some other sites impose.

How much work do I have to do? It’s minimal. You take a few photos of each item (which Tradesy edits and cuts out onto a white background for that pro storefront look), select the brand and category, and either choose Tradesy’s proposed price for the item or set your own. When a sale goes through, you’ll be sent a prepaid, pre-addressed mailing label and box to mail items directly to the buyer.

Fees: Items can sell for anywhere from under a hundred bucks to thousands of dollars. There are no listing fees, but the site charges an 11.9% commission (or 9% if you keep your earnings on Tradesy to spend on-site). Its refund policy is seller-friendly – if a buyer returns your item because it’s the wrong fit or style, you’ll keep all your earnings and Tradesy takes care of the refund.

Good for getting rid of old stuff? Only if it’s branded and in good condition.

Overall: It’s great for selling your pricier items to fashion-savvy shoppers, however Tradesy has a smaller user base than eBay, so you may get fewer interested buyers.

Find it here: tradesy.com, iTunes

Chairish

This beautifully designed site and iOS app focus on the reselling of unique or designer homeware, as well as antiques and jewelry. The site’s homepage shows timely curations of the available products, such as barware in time for Father’s Day, or items from “New Miami Sellers.” A couple hundred new items are posted each day, with the site’s catalog filtered by designers, styles, and cities, so that buyers can hunt down anything art-deco in Chicago, for instance.

Best for: Vintage or antique furniture, house accessories, or jewelry in good condition.

Ease of use: The online form for posting items contains helpful fields for first-time sellers, with options for noting the condition of your item (anywhere from “excellent” to “needs work”), its dimensions, your description of it, and whether you’ll allow local pickup – handy for minimizing the odds of fickle buyers returning items for no good reason.

How much work do you have to do? You’re the one to set an asking price, as well as a minimum price, but if you can’t decide, Chairish can suggest a price that’s likely to help you sell your item quickly. You can’t just list any old item, either: Chairish must approve the listing based on your pictures and whether there’s demand for the item’s particular style. After that, the listing will be live within five working days. If an item doesn’t sell after 30 days, you’ll be encouraged to drop the price.

Fees: There’s a 20% commission fee, and buyers have 48 hours to return shipped goods. Payment isn’t credited to your account until the return period ends. (If a buyer picks up in person, then the return period ends at the time of pickup and you’ll presumably have been paid cash in hand.)

Good for getting rid of old stuff? Not unless it’s quite valuable: there’s a minimum listing price of $75 for each item.

Overall: Good for selling high-value homeware to people who are likely to appreciate it.

Find it here: chairish.com, iTunes

Craigslist

Over 60 million people use Craigslist every month, posting anything from jobs to event listings. The buying and selling of secondhand goods represents a brisk trade on an overflowing marketplace that still looks like a 90s-era message board (the iOS and Android apps are much more polished). It’s often the place to pick up a bargain from people who just want to get rid of their stuff.

Best for: Nearly anything in your house, particularly big things such as appliances and furniture. Smaller items like clothing or accessories are better suited to other sites.

Ease of use: Without the need to fuss around with lengthy posting interfaces or a middleman to give you the thumbs-up on a listing, Craiglist is an extremely easy way to get your stuff out to prospective buyers. As long you write a descriptive title with the keywords a buyer is likely to search for and choose a fair price, you’re likely to be able to move your stuff.

How much work do you have to do? If you’re keen to sell, you’ll have to be on the ball with responding to interested buyers, some of whom may test you with low-ball offers that seem designed to insult. Choosing a fair price may also be tough for some, though you can always note that you’re open to haggling in order to draw more interest.

Fees: There are no fees for listing items for sale. You may have to price your items a little lower than you think, though, as buyers are often expecting a good bargain when they head to Craigslist. But cash in hand coupled with a no-refund policy makes a convincing case for posting here.

Good for getting rid of old stuff? Yes. And if you just want to get rid of stuff, you can list it for free.

Overall: Craigslist is still the juggernaut for getting rid of bulky items, with no listing fees and less businesslike transactions.

Find it here: craigslist.org, iTunes, Google Play

This article originally appeared on Techlicious

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TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Business Leaders on Creating a Productive Lifestyle

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Set one priority for the day

Productivity tips come in all shapes and sizes.

Just look at Warren Buffett, a man considered one of the best investors in the history of human civilization. But what might be more impressive than his track record is his schedule. It is the exact opposite of what you’d expect out of the CEO of a $350 billion company. It has been reported that he generally reads for 80 percent of his day and spends the rest having one-on-one conversations with long-time friends who happen to be CEOs of the companies that Berkshire owns, according to the book The Outsiders. This has been his schedule for decades.

Warren avoids investor events, industry conferences and other activities that take up the time of most CEOs, according to the book. Instead he’s created a lifestyle where he can focus on what he does best and loves to do, control his schedule and work with people he respects and admires.

But this regimen doesn’t work for everyone. So I interviewed 10 leaders and asked them how they stay productive.

 

1. Create a checklist for decision-making matters

It’s very easy to accidentally overcommit. Our brain wiring causes us to have trouble remembering all of our commitments or perceiving how long tasks take. To overcome this, I set up strict checklists for taking on any new projects:

  • Do I have the time, money and resources to get it to completion?
  • Is there an easier or faster way to make it happen?
  • Will it delay anything I’ve currently green lighted?
  • Does it lead to my Vivid Vision? A vivid vision is a strategic, detailed picture of the company in the future.

If all the answers check out, then I go forward. Simple checklists are a proven tool for consistently applying what we already know

Cameron Herold, author of Double Double, CEO coach and renowned speaker

2. Only have one priority

First thing every morning, I ask myself, ‘What is the one thing I need to do today to help my company’s vision that would make everything else easier or unnecessary?’

When you compound this process over days, months and years, the impact is truly astounding. It is the 80/20 rule on steroids.

Simplifying many priorities to one priority gives you a deeper understanding of what’s really important and increases the odds of completing that one thing. Studies have shown that focus on a singular vision is one of the key themes of successful companies.

Ryan Simonetti, co-founder of Convene

3. Time block your entire day

Similar to Bill Gates, I focus more on my calendar for managing my priorities than my to-do list.

I time block my entire day hour by-hour on my calendar. Most people make the mistake of only time blocking their meetings and phone calls. I also time block my planning, time off, key daily priorities, emails that need longer replies and social media (so it doesn’t creep in other times).

Time blocking works best if you don’t allow the constant barrage of daily interruptions to ruin it. Studies show that the drop in one’s productivity is especially drastic if you’re doing complex tasks. So I let my team members know not to interrupt me by closing my office door, and I have my assistant answer unscheduled phone calls.

Sevetri Wilson, CEO of Solid Ground Innovations

4. Constantly reevaluate what your focus is

I’ve developed a unique approach, one that was inspired by researcher A.J. Burton’s Reflection Model, to constantly staying aware of what’s most important, prioritizing it and saying no to everything else.

Every day when I’m presented with new opportunities or challenging situations that require critical thinking and could have a big impact on how I spend my time and money, I ask myself the following questions:

  • What? What exactly is the opportunity or challenge?
  • So What? What is its potential impact (positive and negative)?
  • Now What? What should I do about it now?

This approach is powerful, because it keeps me focused on what I should do now and helps me plan for the future. Research shows that better, more holistic decisions are made by systematically evaluating the situation one aspect at a time. Also, by having a simple three-step decision-making framework that allows me to immediately simplify my thought process on the spot, I avoid decision fatigue. I make a decision once and then I’m done with it.

Rohit Anabheri, founder of Circa Ventures

5. Say no by default

In 2013, I wrote two bestselling books, made the Inc. 500 list and sold one of my companies for seven figures, all within a 40-hour work week. These were my only big goals, and I blocked out most of my time everyday to make sure I moved toward them.

A key to my approach is being good at saying no to tasks unrelated to my goals, even when they are extremely tempting or easy to do. This took me years of practice. The fastest way to get good at saying no when being pressured to commit is to say something like, ‘If you need an answer from me right now, I’m sorry, but I would have to say no. If you can wait until I have my goal setting time later this week, I may be able to say yes but no promises.’

I then review these decisions bi-weekly in the context of my existing goals and commitments.

Benji Rabhan, founder of AppointmentCore

6. Focus on the clouds and dirt

My company now has more than 350 employees. One of the reasons we’ve grown so large is that I work on the business rather than in it.

Just as Gary Vaynerchuk recommends, I spend as much time as I can in the ‘clouds and dirt’:

Set a clear vision and goals (the clouds). I focus on creating clear, measurable and inspiring goals, so my team is empowered to create their own processes and systems — and I can hold them accountable.

Experience the result for yourself (the dirt). As a business owner, my focus is the result, so I make sure to experience the result first-hand, where it touches customers and employees. For example, once a month, I go on a moving job with the staff and then give feedback to our managers on how to improve the system overall.

Aaron Steed, CEO of Meathead Movers

7. Get in touch with nature

I start just about every day with a 15-minute walk through Central Park in New York City. It is peaceful, beautiful in all seasons and helps to bring focus to the day. My intention on the walks is simply to enjoy nature. I call these walks my ‘pocket vacations.’

In a fascinating study performed in Scotland, researchers read the brainwaves of subjects as they walked through different environments such as busy urban streets or parks. In the urban environment, the subjects were more alert and frustrated. In the parklands, their brainwave readings became more meditative. Nature engages and relaxes the brain, which makes it a great environment for reflection, and it makes it easier to concentrate later in the day.

Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Network and Syfy

8. Establish a minimum hurdle rate

In a study of the most successful CEOs of the last 50 years, each CEO (including Warren Buffett) knew the minimum return on investment, or hurdle rate, they were willing to accept and never accepted any opportunity that they predicted would not hit their minimum.

When I acquire an asset with my business, I do the same thing. I look for something that I can invest in once and then have it create value perpetually. It’s been an incredible wealth-building strategy, and I think it applies to my time as well.

I recently noticed that my personal life was suffering because I was chasing too many business opportunities, so I increased my hurdle rate in the business, so I’d have more time in my personal life.

Jason Duff, founder and CEO of COMSTOR Outdoor

9. Start your day over

When I struggle with focus in the middle of the day, it’s usually because I’m feeling overwhelmed. To counter this feeling, I mentally start the day over again.

I get out a blank piece of paper, make a list of my commitments and circle the three things that have the biggest impact on driving the business forward. I leave the rest behind, so I don’t feel guilty about not getting stuff done. A psychology study shows that we improve our work performance when we write down tasks, because it frees us from being mentally preoccupied.

Before I jump in, I remove any distractions, especially my number-one distraction: email.

Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, You Move Me and Wow 1 Day Painting

10. No more yes: It’s either ‘Hell yeah!’ or no

When deciding whether I should commit to anything, I use my philosophy of ‘HELL YEAH! Or no.’. Facing any potential commitment, if I feel anything less than, ‘Wow, that would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ then my answer is no.

For example, when hiring people, I had a lot of candidates for a long-term project but none blew me away. So I rejected everyone, started a new search and then I came across the ideal candidate. For conferences, instead of obligatorily going to three music conferences that I had said yes to, I realized that I didn’t feel ‘HELL YEAH!’ so ended up with 12 free days on my calendar, which I used to get a new business launched.

I recommend Steve Pavlina’s approach of rating your satisfaction in each area of your life from 1 to 10 and then replacing any areas below 9 with 1s.

Derek Sivers, founder and former president of CD Baby and author of Anything You Want.

Special thanks to Ian Chew, Luke Murray, Sheena Lindahl, and Marc Busko who volunteered their time to edit this article and do research.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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