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Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 @ 4:25 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 @ 4:25 PM
Whether we’re overwhelmed by that never-ending to-do list or simply distracted (thanks, Facebook), sometimes it feels like we just can't get enough out of the day. Until 30-hour days are invented, follow these easy, effective tips for getting more done in the 24 we have.
1. Get enough sleep. Whoever coined the phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” didn’t have all the facts straight. Not getting enough Zzz's could hinder productivity at work, so try to get those recommended seven to nine hours of snooze time !
2. Create routines. Make a habit of, well, sticking to habits.Schedule actions like writing emails at a certain time or hitting the gym after work, and try to do them daily. Soon that routine will happen on autopilot.
3. Wake up earlier. As long as you're still able to squeeze in enough sleep, try extending the day by getting up an hour earlier—when it’s still quiet and there are fewer distractions.
4. Step away from the inbox. Incoming emails can be a nuisance. Make a habit to only check the inbox at certain times of the day to avoid getting sidetracked with requests and responses.
5. Make a daily to-do list. Stay away from huge to-do lists. Instead, create a daily list of realistic jobs to tackle, like folding laundry, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, or paying the cable bill. Break up big goals into micro-tasks, like going to a yoga class over getting six-pack abs, or writing a page over completing a thesis. Soon, the small things will add up to big accomplishments.
6. Take a midday workout break. Got writers' block? Can’t fathom cleaning the bathroom? Try hitting the pavement. Working out during the day could actually boost productivity, so the time spent exercising could actually help us get more done later .
7. Don’t multitask. Our brains aren’t wired to juggle too much at once, and we can work nearly twice as fast if we do only one thing at a time . (And nope, we’re not talking LOST time-travel.) . So remember those childhood manners and finish tasks one at a time.
8. Silence the phone. When it comes to getting stuff done, sometimes silence is key. Turn off email alerts and the cell phone ringer—that’s what voicemail is for!
9. Make a to-don’t list. Bad habits are just as significant as good ones. So make a list of things not to do because they make you unproductive (we’re staring at you, Netflix), and stick to it.
10. Brainstorm. Take some time to sit and get those creative juices flowing. Without distractions, brainstorming may be the way to come up with killer ideas in record time. Bonus: Creativity can make you happier.
11. Do those MITs. Nope, this isn’t college talk. MIT stands for most important tasks, and it’s a way to highlight the items that matter most on that to-do list. At the start of each day, write down a few things that must get done. Commit to tackling those tasks, and let the rest of the chips fall where they may.
12. Hit inbox zero. Sort every email once that inbox is open. Respond, file, draft, or delete. Keeping the inbox clean is key to staying organized and on point. (Just remember not to keep the inbox open when you aren't organizing it.).
13. Stay healthy. Just like… don’t get sick. (It may be easier said than done.) But health and productivity go hand in hand, so be sure to maintain good health habits, like eating well and washing up after hitting the gym !
14. Keep a pen and pad on hand. Make like Richard Bransonand carry pen and paper (or your smartphone) to catch any useful thought that may come to mind. Up the creativity ante and make your own moleskin DIY style.
Published: Friday, June 08, 2018 @ 8:21 AM
Updated: Friday, June 08, 2018 @ 8:21 AM
— Forget about "Snakes on a Plane," we're more concerned with snakes in the yard. Even though snakes are nowhere near as prevalent as our irrational fears would have us think (assuming you don't live smack dab in the middle of rattlesnake territory), if you're a homeowner with a bit of landscape or yard under your direction, you may encounter snakes on occasion.
That should be no biggie, according to experts at the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.
"As a general rule, snakes are just as frightened of you as possibly you are of them and often they move as quickly as possible in the other direction," the extension noted. Venomous snake bites are rare and you can readily take steps to treat them. If you're an avid gardener, you may even want snakes in your slice of the great outdoors, since they diet on rodents and insects and can actually help protect you from garden pests.
Not buying it? You can try to keep snakes out of your home life. Just understand that even the best measures are not 100 percent foolproof, according to America's Wetland Resources, which is based in the South.
"There are no magic or absolute solutions," AWR asserted. "There are no poisons or repellents that work, though some new 'breakthrough' is occasionally advertised. Horsehair ropes and trails of mothballs have consistently tested negative, and pest control operators have no answers."
Seal crevices. Closer to your home, seal the openings where snakes like to set up house. "Check the clearance of door bottoms, weep holes, openings where pipes enter, cracks and spaces under eaves," AWR recommended. "Don't neglect storerooms and sheds."
AWR added that sealing enough openings to make a difference is much more difficult if you own a raised wooden home.
Tidy up the yard. Snakes might choose to live on your property or simply travel through, according to AWR. You want to make your property as inhospitable as possible, so concentrate on ridding it of any places snakes would consider good spots to hide. Remove debris, from piles of boards, tin, sticks and leaves to flat boats on the ground and piles of bricks or stone, AWR advised, and keep vegetation cut back.
Stop serving the snake's preferred menu. It's a win-win. When you take away potential hiding places for snakes, the spots where rat and mice families like to congregate are also eliminated. But take this one step further, AWR advised, and take further steps to get rid of the rodents that snakes like to snack on. You may want to involve a pest control agent, but you definitely want to practice anti-rodent hygiene, including not leaving pet food out for more than an hour or so, closing trash cans tightly and securing compost in a sealed container.
Combat the climbers. If limbs from a neighbor's yard hang over your fence, snakes may use them as an entry to your place. Consider working with your neighbor to get them trimmed.
Consider the snake-proof fence. If you live in an area where one or more venomous snakes are common, you may want to invest in a snake-proof fence, according to NCSU. "Small areas where children play can be protected from all poisonous and most harmless snakes with a snake-proof fence," it noted. "However, the cost of the fence may make it impractical to protect an entire yard."
Make a fence by burying 1/4-inch mesh wire screening 6 inches underground and building it up 30 inches, instructed NCSU.
"It should slant outward at a 30-degree angle from bottom to top. The supporting stakes must be inside the fence and any gates must fit tightly. Tall vegetation must be removed along the fence, both inside and outside."
It's costly, but you can snake-proof the entire yard with a concrete chain wall that extends six inches or so below the surface, noted AWR.
"If you already have a wooden fence and the boards are very close together, a good solution is to snake-proof the bottom."
One fairly cheap way is to use 1/4-inch hardware cloth cut in strips wide enough to overlap the bottom of the fence so it can be tacked securely and extend down into a narrow trench six inches deep.
AWR added another word of caution for either snake-proof fence design (spoiler alert: it's nightmare inducing.) "Many snakes climb by looping over objects and the above described design may virtually eliminate their entry," it noted. "Others, however, can crawl up vertical surfaces if they are rough, such as the trunk of a tree or a brick wall (including the side of a house)."
To overcome this creepy climbing capability, you can place a foot-wide ledge made of wood or metal flashing along the outer side at the top. "This structure makes the snakes lean out away from the wall and it will lose its grip and fall."
After all this snake talk, AWR does have one bit of great news. "Snakes are rarely abundant in any one location."
And if all your efforts fail and snakes do make their way into your yard, AWR recommended the ultimate failsafe.
Published: Thursday, May 03, 2018 @ 3:37 PM
— Deciding when to shop for your first home can be a big decision.
Maybe you've been holding down the rent payments on your apartment for a few years and you're ready to invest in a place of your own. Maybe you just got married and you're looking for a house with a backyard for your two dogs. No matter what your motivation for taking this step, it's important to start by figuring out how much you can spend on a home without breaking your budget.
The problem is, for first-time home buyers, understanding how mortgage payments are calculated can be about as clear as mud. To help you navigate the numbers, here's a breakdown of what you'll need to think about when estimating your monthly payment:
1. Property Price
The starting off point to figure out your mortgage payment is the property price. Once a buyer and seller agree on a sale price, almost all mortgage lenders will use the results of an appraisal to find out how much the house is actually worth. According to an article on Zillow, lenders might not issue a loan for more than the appraised value, but you can always put up your own money to cover the difference.
2. Down Payment
The amount of your down payment can vary based on a few factors. When shopping for your first home, you want to be realistic about how much cash you will have available for your down payment and closing costs. Speaking to a mortgage lender ahead of time will help you figure out how much you should save for the down payment on the house of your dreams. Once you're ready to get started, here are some tips on how to save for that down payment.
3. Loan term
Your payment can go up or down depending on how much time you have to pay off your loan. MortgateCalculator.org ranks 30-year home loans as the most common.
4. Interest Rate
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, your interest rate is based on things like your credit score, the economy, how much you're looking to borrow, and where your house is located. Because these rates change with the market, it's impossible to pinpoint exactly where they might be on the date of your closing. You want to speak to your lender to figure out how to get the best rate at the time you're ready to buy.
5. Property Taxes
Property taxes are set based on where your house is located. Certain metro Atlanta areas have higher property tax rates than others so you might want to do your research to see how local counties compare. Also, property taxes can change over time so you'll probably see a slight difference in your monthly payment amount from year to year.
6. Other Factors
The monthly payment on your home sometimes includes some other factors. Here are a few you might want to keep in mind:
Homeowners Insurance: Your annual homeowners insurance premium is usually rolled into your mortgage payment.
Private mortgage insurance: Private mortgage insurance (PMI) may be added to your mortgage payment depending on your lender's requirements.
HOA Fees: If your property is a part of a mandatory Homeowners Association, you will have to pay annual fees to participate. HOA fees are paid separately from your mortgage, but should be included in your payment estimates because they are typically paid monthly.
Here's a quick example of a mortgage calculation using the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices app for Georgia properties:
Sale price: $195,000
Down payment: $6,825 (3.5 percent)
Loan term: 30 years
Interest rate: 4.5 percent
Property taxes: $1,200/year
Homeowners insurance: $700/year
HOA dues: $125/month
Based on these numbers, a ballpark guess for your mortgage would be about $1,417 per month.
Published: Saturday, April 28, 2018 @ 4:07 PM
Central State University will host its 27th annual Plant Extravaganza, and money raised at the event will benefit students.
The sale will happen Tuesday from 3-6 p.m. and again Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. in the CSU Greenhouse in Wilberforce.
Students majoring in Sustainable Agriculture and volunteers started in January to plant seeds and propagate houseplants, annual flowers, perennials, herbs and vegetables. The community outreach effort is sponsored by the Department of Agricultural Sciences in the College of Engineering, Science, Technology and Agriculture.
The greenhouse specializes in seed geraniums, coleus, tomatoes and peppers, but there are more than 50 varieties of plants available. Cost per flat is $10, mix or match. Additional donations are accepted.
All proceeds are donated to the CSU Greenhouse Fund, which helps pay for supplies, scholarships, student research and campus beautification.
The public is invited to come early for the best selection. Cash or checks accepted only.
Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2018 @ 10:36 AM
If you think possums are funny-looking, threatening pests that should be destroyed if they set so much as a paw on your property, you're probably in the majority. However, you are still sorely mistaken.
Granted, with their 50 sharp teeth − more than any mammal in North America − and naked tails, possums certainly do look strange, but their other negative qualities are sometimes exaggerated.
Although, a recent report of an opossum breaking into liquor store and getting “drunk as a skunk” doesn’t support the theory of the animal’s positive qualities.
Still, as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife attests, in urban areas, possums are beneficial as rodent and eaters of carrion (flesh of dead animal).
Mother Nature Network lauded possums for their pest control attributes, explaining, "Since their diet allows them to indulge on snails, slugs and beetles, they are a welcome addition to the garden. Opossums also keep rats and cockroaches at bay by competing with them for food. In fact, it's common for opossums to kill cockroaches and rats if they find them in their territory."
Not only do they take care of pests, they do so without spreading disease to humans.
"They are far less of a health risk to you or your children or pets than nearly any other wild animal," according to The National Opossum Society (which is run by human advocates, not the marsupials themselves).
Possum or Opossum?
Technically, the North American animal is called an opossum, while possum refers to a similar Australian species. According to Garner's Modern American Usage, however, the terms are used interchangeably. In fact, "possum" is twice as likely to appear in print and is even more common in speech.
Possums are North America's only marsupials
That means the undeveloped young they give birth to just 12 days after breeding then crawl into their mother's pouch and attach to a teat, according to WDFW. When they're 80 or 90 days old, the young start riding on their mother's back, sometimes five or 10 of them, with feet and tail firmly attached to her fur.
Possums are smart
Sure, they're not so great at looking out for cars, but they have a remarkable memory. According to MNN, when possums were tested for the ability to remember where food is, they scored better than rats, rabbits, cats and even dogs. They can also make their way through a maze more quickly than either rats or cats.
When they're just hanging out, possums constantly groom themselves, sort of like house cats, according to WDFW.
Possum tails are cool
Their tails are able to wrap around and grasp tree limbs and can support the animal's full weight for short periods. Contrary to myth, opossums do not hang upside down by their tails when sleeping.
As for "playing possum," that's a real thing
"When threatened, opossums run, growl, belch, urinate and defecate," according to MNN. "And when all else fails, they 'play possum' and act as if they are dead. It is an involuntary response (like fainting) rather than a conscious act. They roll over, become stiff, close their eyes (or stare off into space) and bare their teeth as saliva foams around the mouth and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from glands. The catatonic state can last for up to four hours, and has proven effective as a deterrent to predators looking for a hot meal."
How to prevent human-possum conflicts
While you may benefit from possums' pest patrolling skills, that doesn't mean you want them in or around your house. According to WDFW, there are fairly simple ways to prevent possums getting too close.
It recommended these steps:
And if one of these critters does end up in your house or too close for comfort in the yard, WDFW reminded people that as long as you limit their interactions with your pets, possums are not dangerous. The fish and wildlife experts suggest staying calm if an opossum gets too close. If necessary, homeowners can use a broom to coral possum outside.