5 Tips to Help Simplify Your Life

  1. Make a list of your five most important goals. You can’t achieve your goals if don’t know what they are. Do you wish you had more time for your family, your friends, or your faith? The act of reflection can create insights and opportunities toward achieving what matters most.
  2. Turn it off. Just because you have a phone, a television, a computer, a PDA, etc., doesn’t mean you need to have them on all the time. Even short breaks from incoming media can shift your perspective. Take a walk, meditate, read, or reflect.
  3. Invest your time. Spending money is easy. Anyone can buy presents on-line, but a phone call, coffee, an evening of board games, or tray of home-made treats will create memories that last longer than any purchase.
  4. Leave work at work. Don’t let your work routine take over your life. Try not to take work home everyday. Take lunch breaks and leave on time. Use all your vacation time: see what type of flex-time arrangements you can make with your employer.
  5. Count Your Blessings. You don’t need to have the newest version of every product on the shelf. Countless millions of people on our planet live on a dollar a day or less. We have more than our grandparents could have even imagined. Don’t take your blessings for granted. Count them and be thankful for what you have.

Protect Your Peace of Mind With a Home Inventory

Friends of ours were at work, one day a couple of years ago, when they received a phone call they didn’t want. Their house was on fire. They live in a newer neighbourhood where houses are close together. The fire started in a neighbour’s house and quickly engulfed two others.

Our friends lost everything. Insurance covered rebuilding the house and replacing contents, but it couldn’t bring back mementos and personal itmes.

Every day we see news reports of homes being destroyed by fire or devastated by flood waters. Even more numerous are the unpublicized instances of break-ins and home thefts. For the most part, these accounts fade into the background as we think to ourselves – ”it’s okay, I have insurance.” And while the peace of mind that property insurance provides allows us all to sleep at night, most don’t realize what a traumatic experience these events can be.

“Trying to remember all the items in your home can add to an already stressful event. Having an inventory of items in your home is one of the best ways to prepare yourself,” states Stefanie Hay, insurance and claims expert with Aviva Canada.

Besides helping ensure you have the right amount of insurance; an inventory will help settle your insurance claim faster and verify losses for your income tax return.

Sure, but who has time to go through every item in their home? The task need not be onerous and can be as easy as taking a video account of each room in your home.

Many insurance companies also prepare content lists that can act as a helpful starting point. AvivaCanada.com recommends separating the contents into categories:

  • Clothing, books, tools, toys, bicycles, and other items
  • Jewelry, silverware and other valuables
  • Computer equipment, gaming consoles and software

Whether you conduct a video or written inventory of your home, don’t forget to keep your inventory in a safety deposit box or at a trusted home. That way you’ll be sure to have something to give your insurance representative if your home is damaged. You should also keep a record of legal documents, such as birth certificates and passports, and financial documents, such as bank account and insurance policies on your inventory.

Make a Choice to Live Your Life

Life is About Choices and the Decisions We Make

Life is a road. It may be long or short; smooth or rocky; crooked or straight, but you’re on a journey. Occasionally, you reach a crossroad. With a choice to make and no guarantee where the road leads, which road do you choose?

There are no guarantees.

You will not know where a road will lead until you take it. There is no guarantee the choices you make will lead to happiness, fame, fortune or contentment. There are always circumstances beyond your control. You only control decisions you make, and your response to what happens.

Wrong decisions are seen in hindsight.

If you knew you were about to make an unwise decision, would you continue? Perhaps not—though certain destructive behaviours work that way. Why decide if you knew from the start it was incorrect? It is only after you have decided and experienced the consequences that you realize the decision was right or wrong. If the outcomes are good for you, then you have decided correctly. Otherwise, your decision was wrong.

Take the risk: decide.

Since life offers no guarantee and you won’t know if your decision will be wrong until you have made it, take the risk, and decide. It is better than going nowhere because you can’t make up your mind. One wrong turn might get you lost. However, it could lead to opportunity or new roads. It is all a matter of perspective.

However, do not make you decisions haphazardly. Taking risks is not about being careless and stupid. Here are some pointers that can help you choose the best road:

  • Learn as much as you can about your situation. The less you know about your situation, the more difficult it is to make a confident decision. Ask the 5 W’s: what, who, when, where, and why. What is the situation? Who is involved? How did it happen? Where is it leading? Why are you in that situation? These are some of the questions to ask to learn more about your situation. This is a crucial step. It’s difficult to move forward if you don’t know where you are.
  • Identify and create options. What options does the situation give you? If you can’t find options, create your own. From the simple to the complex, examine all ideas. Your most outrageous idea could prove to be the right one in the end.
  • Weigh each option. Assess each option by looking at the pros and cons. In this way, you gain some insight into the consequences of each option.
  • Trust yourself and make a decision. Now that you have assessed your options, trust yourself. You won’t know the outcomes until you move on a decision.

Once you have decided, face its outcomes: good or bad. The road chosen may take you to a place of opportunity or to a land of difficulties. The important thing is that you have chosen to live actively, instead of being a passive bystander. Do not regret the outcome. Instead, learn from it and make better decisions in the future.

Personal Objectives for Life Balance

More than ever before, we play many roles in our lives. We are workers, parents, spouses, friends, caregivers, and volunteers in their communities. We also try and make room in our lives to take care of our own well-being. Not surprisingly, achieving balance among all these competing priorities can be difficult. Here in Canada 58% of people report overload associated with their many roles.

While you can’t control all the factors that impact your work/life balance, there are some things you can control. Life is made up of several parts working together to bring the balance needed for optimal wellness:

  • Physical: nutritious food, safe water, healthy air, exercise
  • Mental: intellectual challenges, knowledge, thoughts
  • Emotional: feelings, belonging, security
  • Philosophical: authenticity, spirituality, meaning, attitudes
  • Social: relationships with others, friendships
  • Career: finances, fulfillment
  • Recreational: leisure, fun, sports

Finding the ideal balance between work and life is rare. The nature of that balance is different for every person and can change over time. We shouldn’t try for perfection, but constantly be aware of making choices that will benefit all aspects of our lives. Achieving work/life balance is an investment – it takes time and effort to implement. But it’s worth the effort.

Optimize Your Equipment for an Energy-Smart Office

Computers, printers, photo-copiers, fax machines and scanners are essential equipment in the office and in many cases, the home. They are tools we rely on each day to do our jobs effectively and efficiently and it is difficult to imagine working without them. However, there is a price to be paid for the convenience offered by current office technology, and it’s a price that goes well beyond the purchase cost.

Computers and other types of office equipment represent the fastest-growing use of electricity in commercial buildings and homes in the United States today, and there is no reason to believe that the situation is any different in Canada. Twenty years ago, office equipment accounted for only about 1 percent of the total energy consumed in a typical office. Today it accounts for as much as 20 percent of office energy consumption.

With the cost of electricity on the rise, this increase in energy consumption by office equipment is no small matter. However, it can be a difficult one to pin down. Although business is aware of the purchase price of different types of equipment, ongoing energy costs—the so-called “second price tag”—often remain hidden because they are rolled into one large utility bill at the end of the month. Depending on the type and model of equipment you purchase, your electricity expenses could exceed the purchase price, over the life of the machine.

The good news is, the situation is not hopeless—in fact, it’s well within your control. By understanding how office equipment affects your utility costs and what you can do about it, you can plan today for an energy-smart, environmentally-responsible office that will be just as efficient and productive as it is today—perhaps even more so!

How Office Equipment Increases Your Utility Costs

Each machine in your office increases your electricity bill in three ways:

  1. uses electricity while operating or when sitting idle. Although things are changing for the better, many office machines are not built with energy efficiency in mind, which means they use more energy than is required to complete a task.
  2. adds to the total electricity demand in the office during peak daytime hours, when utilities charge a premium for higher demand.
  3. generates heat, which causes indoor temperatures to rise and increases the demand for air conditioning in the summer months. By some estimates, energy consumption by cooling systems may increase by as much as 40 percent to counteract the heat generated by office equipment.

There are other costs associated with operating office equipment:

  • In older buildings, increases in power density (watts per square meter) caused by an abundance of office machines can lead to expensive upgrades of electrical systems.
  • In new buildings, electrical systems are being installed with higher load capacities, at a higher cost.
  • Taxes and electricity rates may rise if demand reaches the point where new electricity-generating and distribution facilities are needed.
  • The cost of consumables (e.g., paper and toner for copiers and printers) will increase proportionately the more the equipment is used.

Usage Habits Also Affect Energy Consumption

How a piece of equipment is designed and manufactured has a significant impact on its overall energy consumption, but usage habits can be even more important.

The easiest way to save energy and money is to simply turn off equipment when it is not in use. Another is to adjust settings to shut off a computer, monitor, printer, and other equipment after a user-specified period of inactivity. Activating power management for your office equipment can do more than save energy, it can extend operating life.

Another key to an energy-smart office is to manage information rather than paper. Communicating electronically is fast, efficient and uses far less energy than producing text or images on paper. Storing information electronically, rather than on paper, can also save vast amounts of money and space. In short, reducing your office’s use of paper will lower your energy, operating and capital costs and increase your competitiveness, productivity, and profitability.

This may require a “culture change” within your organization. Even though e-mail, networks, and electronic data-storage devices (high-capacity hard drives, diskettes, CD-ROMs and tape backup/restore systems) have been around for years, many people still print documents as a matter of habit. In many cases, this is simply a waste of paper, energy, money, and time. Although paper can be a valuable communications tool in some situations, it is often an overused one.

Addressing the “human factor” can be difficult—old habits are hard to break. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to implement basic policies to minimize energy consumption in the office. Whatever steps you take, explain what is being proposed, why, and, most importantly, show leadership by example.

Office Equipment and the Environment

Climate change is a serious global issue, and we all need to be part of the solution. The production of greenhouse gases and pollutants that cause urban smog can be minimized by reducing our use of electricity and other forms of energy, not only in the office but in factories and institutions, at home and on the road. Also, by controlling demand for electricity, we can help avoid the environmental damage caused during construction of new generating facilities.

There are other links between office equipment and the environment. The production of paper has a direct impact on the environment, both in terms of the energy expended in the production process and in the loss of trees, which provide the fiber needed to make paper. Trees also help address the greenhouse gas problem by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. When trees are harvested, the carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere.

Despite recycling programs and initiatives, a great deal of used paper goes into landfill sites. Unless you have a recycling program in place, chances are your discarded computers, monitors, printers, and other equipment also end up in a landfill at the end of their useful lives. Attention to detail can help you purchase long-lasting, energy-efficient equipment and recyclable office products.

Tips for Growing a Lawn the Green Way

Despite the bit of May snow falling, lawns are greening and needing care. Lawns are the most resource-intensive form of landscaping. However, there are ways to reduce the environmental impact of lawn maintenance.

If a lawn is a must for you, here are some green tips for a green lawn:

Watering

Watering lawns and gardens accounts for up to 50% of domestic water consumption during the summer. It’s no wonder, during peak summer months, watering restrictions have become almost commonplace. Cutting down on water use isn’t about obeying a municipal ruling. Saving water also decreases the amount of energy used to treat and pump clean water to your home. You’ll also save money on your water bill. It’s simple to keep your lawn green.

  • Water once a week. One long (an hour) watering is better than several short ones. Perhaps a bit more frequently if your grass gets hours of full sun. If it’s been raining, cut back. Consider getting a rain gauge to measure rainfall and act as a guide.
  • Measure the amount of water your sprinkler leaves on the lawn. It’s easy, put out a container such as a measuring cup the next time you water and see how much water accumulates. As a rule, lawns need about one inch of water for each watering.
  • Get a timer. Once you know how long to leave the sprinkler on to give your lawn enough water, use a timer. Most of them fit between the outdoor tap and the garden hose and have a dial with both an on/off setting and a shut-off feature.
  • Install a rain barrel. Your eaves trough downspout must be able to drain directly into the barrel. Rain barrels are inexpensive to purchase and can provide you with free water. The runoff from an average roof will completely fill a 60-gallon rain barrel after only 0.2 inches of rain fall.
  • Keep grass at around 2-3 inches high to promote deeper roots, which reach down further into the earth to find moisture. Cutting the grass shorter will promote shallow roots and dry out the lawn more quickly.

Fertilizers

For a healthy lawn and your own health, don’t use pesticides. Use natural fertilizers instead. Many environmentally friendly products are easy to use and highly effective. They often contain minerals, the natural by-products of partly decayed organic matter. All these ingredients encourage your grass to grow healthy and strong.

Insecticides

Diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic, safe insecticide made from fossils of freshwater organisms and marine life. Crushed to a fine powder, it is deadly to any insect but won’t harm humans, animals, fish, fowl or plants. For plants, you can use it in spray form, mixing 1/4 pound per 5 gallons of water, making sure to keep the mixture well agitated. Or you can dust your plants—after you’ve watered or it’s rained (so the earth will stick to the leaves).

Weed Control

Instead of using chemicals, try regular white vinegar. Vinegar can help get rid of such weeds as Canada thistle, broad-leaf plantain and English plantain, but you have to spray them while they’re seedlings. Once they’ve matured, the vinegar will kill the exposed plant, but won’t kill the root. The best natural way of getting rid of dandelions, crab grass and other weeds that show up in lawns is to remove them manually. Soap-based products, in liquid spray form, can also be effective in spot-treating some weeds such as bindweed.