10 Tips For Planning A Great Family Vacation

Family vacations are fun for everybody except the one who plans them. Between the planning, the packing, and the traveling, it can be exhausting for the one in charge.  But it doesn’t have to be.  With a few simple tips, you can take the worrying stress out of the planning process.

Here are 10 tips for planning your next vacation

1. Start early

The earlier you start planning your vacation, the better. This will give you more time to research different destinations and find the best deals on flights and hotels. We also suggest getting the family’s input early on.  Getting them excited about the choices and finding out what options are most exciting to each member of the family.

2. Set a budget

Family vacations can be expensive so it’s important to set a budget before you start planning. This will help you determine how much you can afford to spend on airfare, lodging, activities, and more. Knowing what you can spend can help you avoid the stress of worrying about money.  Staying within the budget is one of the easiest ways to set boundaries for yourself and your family.

3. Choose a destination

Once you have a budget in mind, it’s time to start choosing a destination for your family vacation. Consider everyone’s interests when making your decision. If you have young children, a beach destination may be ideal. For older kids or teens, a city with lots of activities may be more appealing. But don’t forget that you count too.  And because you are the one who will be working on vacation, be sure you include plenty of fun activities for yourself as well.

4. Book your flights and lodging

Once you’ve chosen a destination, it’s time to book your travel arrangements. Look for deals on airfare and hotels to save money on your family vacation. Booking early will ensure you get what you want and it may save you money as well.  But be sure to look for refundable options.  Easy cancellation matters when you are planning a vacation for several people. 

5. Plan activities

No family vacation is complete without some fun activities planned. Whether you’re visiting a theme park, going on a nature hike, or exploring a new city, be sure to include some family-friendly activities in your itinerary. If you are looking in a bigger city you may find that a City Pass is a good option.  The one in Philadelphia offers 2, 3, or 4-day options with museums and attractions all over the city included.

6. Pack wisely

When packing for your family vacation, be sure to pack essentials like clothes, toiletries, medications, and any other items you may need while away from home. It’s also a good idea to pack snacks and drinks for the trip. Although you may want to check behind the children, consider letting them pack for themselves as well.  Use a checklist to help them.  You don’t have to take on every task.  Accept the help where you can get it.

7. Travel insurance

Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before your family vacation. This will protect you in case of any unforeseen circumstances, such as lost luggage, medical emergencies, or cancelations. Consider what just happened with the pandemic and you will realize that we never know what might cause our plans to fall through.

8. Do your research

Be sure to do your research before traveling to your family vacation destination. This includes reading up on the local culture, customs, and laws. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the area’s map so you know where you’re going. One of our friends was stuck in Dubai for two days on her way to New Zealand because she didn’t realize she would need a Visa to enter New Zealand.  Knowing these things ahead of time could have saved her time and aggravation.  This is a good time to mention that using a travel agent will not cost you extra and it could save you time and money because their job is to know these things.

9. Stay safe

The most important thing to remember when on vacation is to stay safe. This means being aware of your surroundings, following safety guidelines, and not taking any unnecessary risks.

10. Have fun

Last but not least, make sure to have fun on your family vacation! This is a time to relax, bond with loved ones, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Keep in mind we said have fun.  Yes, you want your family to have fun but you deserve to have fun as well.  Don’t let the whole vacation be about the family.  Make sure you arrange some time for yourself as well.

As always, we have to remind you that the iStratus app can come in handy when planning.  When you put the flights in the calendar, you can insert your tickets and boarding passes right on the appointment so you aren’t hunting around for them each day.  Having a copy of your passports encrypted on your phone might help you in case you were to lose your passports. Also, having each of your activities with reservation numbers right in your calendar can relieve a lot of the stress of your trip.

Download the iStratus app today!

Activities For Summer

June marks the beginning of summer. Schools will be out soon and the kids will be hankering for something to do. Are you already anxious about filling the days? 

Summer is the perfect time to get out and enjoy some quality family time. There are so many great activities to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of our ten favorite summer activities for families.

10 Summer Activities For Families

1. Go camping

Camping is a great way to bond with your kids and enjoy the outdoors. It’s also a great opportunity to teach them about nature and wildlife.

In the past few years, camping has become increasingly more popular.  So, plan ahead.  Reserve your camping spot ahead of time.  Use the iStratus app to plan fun meals by the fire and even keep a list of the campfire songs and stories you want to share with the kids.

2. Visit a local farm

Spending a day at a local farm is a fun way to learn about where food comes from and how it’s grown. Plus, it’s a great excuse to eat lots of delicious fresh produce!

You may find that there are multiple farms to choose from in your community.  That’s great.  Find out what each offers and plan your farm visit based on themes.

3. Have a picnic

Picnics are a classic summer activity for a reason. They’re simple, they’re fun, and they’re a great way to enjoy the warmer weather. Let the kids get involved too.  Give each one a task, making the sandwiches, making the lemonade, or gathering the utensils so they can feel like they are a part of the process.  This will help you avoid the, “Is it time yet?” remarks from the peanut gallery.

4. Go swimming

Swimming is a great way to beat the heat and have some fun at the same time. If you don’t have a pool of your own, many public pools offer family swim times where kids can swim with their parents. If you are lucky enough to live near a lake, ocean, or river, be sure to take advantage of those as well. 

5. Play in the sprinklers

This one is sure to be a hit with the kids! Set up some sprinklers in the yard and let them run through them to cool off. This is a great way to include the neighbors as well.  Is there anything more fun than sitting on the front porch watching all the children run through the sprinkler?  Oh, yes, that’s right.  Running through the sprinkler is way more fun.

6. Make homemade ice cream

Homemade ice cream is a delicious summer treat. It’s also a great activity for kids, as they can help to measure and mix the ingredients. If you really want to involve the kids, consider the Ice Cream Ball

7. Go berry picking

Berry picking is a great way to spend a summer morning or afternoon. Even your littlest ones will love it. The bonus is that after you’ve picked your fill, you can use the berries to make pies and jams, or just eat them plain.

8. Go on a nature hike

Nature hikes are a great way to explore the outdoors and get some exercise at the same time. They’re also perfect for little ones who might not be able to handle a long walk. One fun way to spend your time in the woods is by identifying local birds or plants.

9. Have a water balloon fight

Water balloon fights are always a hit with kids of all ages. They’re perfect for hot summer days when everyone is looking for a way to cool off. And filling the balloons alone can take up a good portion of the day.

10. Build a fort

Forts can be built inside or outside, depending on your preference. They’re a great way to encourage imagination and creativity, and kids will love spending time in their own special space.

You know it wouldn’t be an iStratus article if we didn’t remind you to use our app to schedule these activities.  Having them on your calendar ahead of time will give the kids something to look forward to and it will give you the opportunity to plan ahead.

Here’s to a wonder-filled summer for you and your family. Download the iStratus app today!

Make Your Mental Health A Priority

May is Mental Health Awareness month. At iStratus, we specialize in helping you simplify your life through our 6-in-1 app. But did you know that we are big fans of self-care as well? That’s right. One of our favorite ways to use the app is to schedule our exercise, our meals, and even our downtime. Now, we are going to share 10 mental health self-care tips to help you make your mental health a priority.

1. Get enough sleep

Most people need around eight hours of sleep per night.  Consider going to bed and waking up at the same time each day to help regulate your body’s natural sleep rhythm. If you have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, consider changing the environment.  Add a white noise machine.  Close your shades to make the room darker.  Turn down the temperature or add a fan.  Do whatever it takes to get to sleep.

2. Eat healthy

Eating nutritious foods helps your body to function at its best.  Make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. One of the ways we use the iStratus app to help with this is by tracking our food.  Especially the last meal of the day.  We found that certain foods made sleeping more difficult.  Now we avoid those foods before bedtime.

3. Exercise regularly

Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects.  A moderate amount of exercise is the key to maintaining mental health and well-being. Keep in mind that even a relaxing 30-minute walk can help.  Don’t think you have to get a gym membership, buy fancy spandex outfits, or invest in a coach. Nope. All you need to do is go for a walk.

4. Take breaks 

When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take a few minutes to yourself to relax and rejuvenate.  Take a hot bath, read your favorite book, or take a walk outdoors. In our last post, we wrote about meditation.  Spending a few minutes of your break to meditate might be just what you need.

5. Connect with loved ones

Spending time with loved ones can help reduce stress and promote positive mental health.  Whether you stay in touch via text, social media, or in person, quality time with those you care about is crucial for a healthy mind. And might we suggest you avoid those energy vampires.  You know the ones who suck the energy right out of a room.  You deserve people who lift you up, not tear you down.

6. Do something you enjoy

Make time for activities that make you happy.  This could include hobbies, listening to music, playing sports, or anything else that brings joy into your life. Not sure what you love, start being adventurous, and try new activities until you hit exactly the thing for you.  It might surprise you. Underwater basket weaving, anyone?

7. Volunteer

Helping others has been shown to improve mental health and overall satisfaction with life.  Find a cause that is important to you and consider giving your time to make a difference. We recently met a lovely lady at Charity Connect who pairs people with the charity that makes their souls happy. If an organized volunteer position doesn’t suit you, look around.  Find someone who needs your help.  You might be surprised to find the number of people who are just dying for an extra set of hands to help with handyman work, grocery shopping, or mowing the lawn.

8. Reduce stress

Stress can have a negative impact on mental health.  Identify activities that help you relax and make an effort to incorporate them into your daily routine.  This could include yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. It could also be singing, dancing, or even just saying no to some of the things that are overwhelming you.  Remember, you are worth it. 

9. Seek professional help

If you are struggling with mental health issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for help.  Therapy can be an extremely effective way to address mental health concerns and promote wellbeing. If you had a sore throat or a fever, you would go to the doctor. Mental health is health.  It’s okay to seek help.

10. Take care of your physical health

Physical health and mental health are interconnected.  Make sure to schedule regular checkups with your doctor and get adequate exercise and rest.  By taking care of your physical health, you are also taking care of your mental health.

Mental health month is only one-twelfth of the year.  Don’t let it be the only time you make your mental health a priority.  You deserve to be taken care of.

Live life and roll well with iStratus. Take care of your mental health and download the iStratus app today!

Is Meditation The Answer?

At iStratus, we talk a lot about productivity, cybersecurity, and efficiency. Our app is meant to help with all of these. But we also know that people who use our apps are looking for ways to simplify their lives. They are looking for ways to bring a little peace to their hectic schedules. So, today we are taking a different approach. Today, we want to talk about taking just a few minutes every day to add meditation, why you will be glad you did, and how to get started.

Why You Should Meditate

1. Meditation is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety.

Today’s world can be busy. Some of our customers tell us that when they wake up, they feel like a starting gun has gone off and they won’t stop again until they get back in the bed at the end of the day.  This constant sense of busyness can lead to too much stress and anxiety. When you meditate, your body releases feel-good hormones like serotonin that help to calm and relax your mind.

2. Meditation can improve focus and concentration.

How often do you find yourself struggling to find the words to finish a sentence, looking everywhere to find your phone only to realize it’s in your hand, or late for an appointment because you simply forgot. Regular meditation can help with that. Meditation can boost mental clarity, helping you stay focused on the task at hand, and more easily avoid distractions.

3. Meditation has been shown to improve memory and cognitive function.

Research has found that regular meditation can enhance various aspects of brain functioning, such as learning, memory, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. We can all use a little help in this area, right?

4. Meditation can increase empathy and compassion towards others.

Whether you are a mom trying to juggle a thousand tasks, an employer trying to manage a growing business, or a college student trying to cram for exams and still have a social life, chances are you have found yourself overwhelmed by the busyness of life that you have snapped at a friend or loved one out of pure impatience.  By practicing mindfulness during meditation, you not only feel less stress but are better able to understand the perspectives of others and approach challenging situations with kindness and compassion.

5. Meditation can help to regulate emotions and reduce negative thinking.

Through meditation, you can learn to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and how to better manage them. This can lead to a more positive outlook on life overall.

6. Meditation supports physical health by promoting relaxation.

When you meditate, your body enters a state of deep rest that helps to improve circulation, lower blood pressure, and decrease the production of stress hormones.

7. Meditation can boost immunity.

Research has shown that regular meditation can help to improve immune function by increasing the activity of antibodies and white blood cells that fight infection.

8. Meditation can ease pain and discomfort.

By helping to focus attention away from physical pain, meditation can provide relief and promote healing.

9. Meditation can help you sleep better.

By calming the mind and reducing stress and anxiety, meditation can help to improve sleep quality and duration.

10. Meditation is easy to learn and practice, no matter your age or experience level.

Whether you choose guided meditation, a silent practice, or a simple breathing exercise, there are countless benefits to be gained from adding regular meditation into your routine. So what are you waiting for? Start meditating today!

How To Start Meditating

If you are interested in learning how to start meditating, there are a few steps that you can follow to get started.

1. The first step is to find a comfortable place to sit or lie down and relax your body.

This may involve using cushions or blankets for support or simply finding a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed.

2. Once you have settled into a relaxed position, begin by focusing on your breathing.

You can try taking deep, slow breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, paying attention to how your body feels with each inhale and exhale.

3. As you continue to focus on your breathing, allow any distracting thoughts or feelings to pass through your mind without getting caught up in them.

Instead, simply observe them and then let them go.

4. If your mind begins to wander, gently bring your focus back to your breath.

Over time, you’ll find that it becomes easier to keep your attention on the present moment.

5. Once you feel ready to finish, gradually open your eyes and take a few moments to orient yourself before getting up from your meditation space.

With regular practice, you will eventually be able to extend the length of time that you can meditate. In the meantime, even taking just a few minutes out of each day to focus on your breath can have benefits for both your mind and body. So why not give it a try? You may be surprised at how much better you feel.

Live life and roll well with iStratus. Download the iStratus app today!

Happy Hobbies

Humans are social beings, whether it’s with friends, family, or solo. It’s beneficial to engage ourselves in a happy hobby. According to an old cliché: “Hobbies help develop our tastes and our passions in life.”  The best part is they can be just about anything one enjoys. Diversity is the spice of life. 

Few hobbies are ever considered as being productive unless you’re fortunate enough to have incorporated your hobby into your work.  Those types of jobs usually allow one to become more effective and achieve greater happiness in life.

As you probably know, iStratus loves to enhance your proficiency and productivity.  We thought we’d share a list of happy hobbies that you could explore and perhaps schedule into your iStratus calendar.

Hiking or Exploring Trails

Hiking and adventures are usually weekend hobbies for people with a passion for experiencing the beauty of nature and wonder around us. There is much evidence readily available to indicate physical activity has positive effects on mental health. It can have a beneficial effect on your overall productivity at work and home. These types of hobbies allow us to clear our minds of worries and focus on the present.

Paint a Picture

Painting permits individuals to release their creative side. Painting allows connecting to thoughts, feelings, and aspirations. It can lend to some wonderful perspectives towards life. It can also even convert goals into something physical, even within the workplace. Grab a paintbrush! You may not be a master painter, but it’s still something creatively tangible and truly authentic of you.

Cooking Up a Storm 

Not everyone is destined to be the world’s greatest sous chef.  However, cooking culinary delights is one of the most beneficial hobbies out there and an experience everyone should consider dabbling in. Cooking is an escape from daily stresses as it forces us to focus entirely on the product and process at hand. Using iStratus, you can help plan your grocery list and meals well in advance. As a bonus, preparing food ahead of time also means you’re more productive than you thought.

Write. You Don’t Have To Be a Wordsmith

Writing with passion is an incredibly powerful and important form of self-expression. It can help to channel your energies into things you feel fervent about. Pour out your inner thoughts and dreams! Write anything, unlock your creative side, and be as productive and strong as possible.

Knit. It’s Not Just a Hobby For Grandma, Celebrities or Social “Influencers”

Grandma knew knitting was good stuff. Truthfully, Hollywood celebrities have nothing on her. There are plenty of knitters circles in the world – with good reason. Not only is knitting a satisfying pastime, but also it is a superb tool for improving productivity. It encourages planning skills that a modern-day workplace will utilize. Knitting promises a warm and cozy product at the end of your endeavors.

Woodwork is Craft of Creation

Whether it’s a mahogany bookshelf, a fancy pencil holder, or something truly beautiful, woodwork helps boost your self-esteem once the project is started and completed. It also helps increase your productivity in creating a focused vision of the product. Constructing something out of wood that is useful not only helps make life easier but also can make you happier in the process.

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

It’s awesome to get into the groove. Dancing may not be considered the most useful hobby of all time. However, when you consider the amount of hard ward, sweat, and diligence that go into it, dance is no doubt a rewarding and beneficial hobby.  Learning routines and practicing movement highly helps promote mental and physical productivity. At the end of the day, it increases your happiness in your daily life.  

Garden Greenery

Hand in hand with cooking – is there anything honestly more inherently relaxing, and worthwhile, than gardening? Gardening is not only a productive pastime but also allows you to bring food from the ground to the table. What a marvelous way to boost your productivity!

Gardening allows you to unwind, letting you conserve your energies for other busy days ahead. It also connects us with nature. We’ve only got one amazing world. Let’s treasure and build upon it.

“You never lose a dream. It just incubates as a hobby.”

~ Larry Page

Daydreaming is Not a Waste of Time

Some people may not technically regard this as a ‘hobby’.  However, daydreaming is another thing that stimulates one’s creative side and encourages the exploration of ideas. This process could potentially evolve into the solution or “Happy Hobby’ you’ve been searching for.

Resting the mind can provide clarity, reduce stress, and keep you even more focused and productive with your batteries fully recharged and ready to tackle just about anything.

Begin recording some of your desires with us today. Live life and roll well with iStratus.

On The Move

A Travel Checklist. The Goal: Fun-filled, likely stress-free, or at least less, on adventures. Simplifying what you need before and during your trip can be the difference between delight and disaster. A checklist provides less stress for preparation to your trip and more time for relaxing once your get to your destination. 

Traveling provides us with an insight into the world. While going with the flow is important, a little organization goes a long way towards ensuring you have the best time possible. 

Of course, every traveler has their preference and approach to things.  iStratus hopes to help you with this checklist for a safe, active, and enjoyable trip that will create memories to last a lifetime. 

Firstly, Know Your Personality

No matter where you choose to travel, feeling comfortable is central to enjoying the overall experience. How you choose to travel is completely your preference. However, setting your goals and your needs are paramount for quality time and feeling at home away from home.  

So, what brings you the most joy and comfort? Do you enjoy a toasty room? Snoozing in a stiff bed or would you prefer sleeping on a cloud? It’s the little things that truly make a difference. How you experience the world around you matters most.

We all have different tastes as does the company of those who join you on this experience. Some may love a foodie tour while others may enjoy being on the beach with a packed picnic from sunrise to sunset. Whatever your choice, for balance, that’s where using iStratus for a trip checklist and schedule comes in handy.

Be Prepared with a Plan

People may have decades of travel experience behind them and there’s nothing quite like the thrill of adventure a new place. Regardless of the type of experience, the more thorough a plan is, the smoother the logistics are likely to be. Whether an “expert or novice” adventurer, using iStratus can be fundamental to your trip.

Essentially, planning allows the right fit. Perhaps you have a preferred restaurant that requires booking in advance or you require accessible options, such as elevators. Needless to say, there are tons of spontaneous or unplanned experiences that can occur.  However by being organized and planning early, choices and experiences are more likely attainable.

The Right Time of Year Makes a Difference

The key to quality adventures is understanding what and how you want to experience your destination. What factors are most important to you and your family, or your travel buddies? You can plan a fantastic trip by using iStratus to making notes of preferences, goals, and needs. The “best time” of the year may vary as it may not necessarily be set upon a generic timeline or season.

If you are not limited to a certain time of year, different times on the calendar could be set. iStratus can easily help you layout your plans with various options and alternatives so the diversity of any destination can be experienced, regardless of the calendar. Do what works best for you as to when you wish to visit. For instance, you might be a person who prefers to hit sunny warmer places during cooler winter months. 

Pack Smart, To Stay Sharp

Packing is an essential part of travel which can also be challenging. Let’s face it!  No matter where we are, we are creatures of habit who enjoy a few comforts of home. It is easy to overpack, which can add to the overall cost of the trip. It’s not always the best feeling having to lug heavy luggage between transfers, accommodations, or destinations.

Lighter luggage lends itself to better travel. Consider all essentials required and create a packing list that accounts for weather conditions or special requirements at your destination (such as Passports and so forth). Think about what you truly need versus what you want to take. Your items can quickly become more than essentials.

Regardless of where you wish to explore the globe, iStratus recommends keeping packing lists versatile and straightforward. Copies of important documents are important. Keep your cell phone handy as these things can be stored in iStratus and at a tap, things are there as needed. Also, portable battery chargers make things easier as power is with you wherever you go. 

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

~ Miriam Beard

It’s a big, wide world out there. Traveling does not have to be lost with all the changes of recent years. It is good to discover new places. Let iStratus help you organize things to a tee, reduce stress, and explore the wonders of the world. 

Go ahead and starting preparing for your next travel experience today! Live life and roll well with iStratus.

Weigh It Up: Making Decisions with a ‘Checklist’ Approach

Analysis paralysis” (Yes, it exists!) can hit us all when faced with a challenging decision. Often, we wish to avoid making the “wrong” choice so we expend a huge amount of energy analyzing every possibility or potential disaster.

On the flip side, sometimes we are convinced that we know what the best solution is. Decisions are quick and subsequently. Sometimes, we can omit poignant alternatives.

Weighing up the “pros and cons” is a simple but effective decision-making strategy. It is well known for highlighting different angles, solutions, and assured choices. This article will address using iStratus to analyze the pros and cons of a choice quantitatively for all-around well-informed decisions.  We hope this process will help you become more productive and efficient at decision making. 

Quantitative Pros and Cons –  What Are They?

Weighing up the pros and cons can improve your understanding of a situation and help avoid decision-making paralysis. Using a simple “pros” and “cons” list encourages objective decisions without those “gut feelings” impacting choice. It boosts perspective and can help one reach a balanced, informed decision.

One side is likely to feature more points than the other in countless situations. Thus, making the decision-making process easier. iStratus’s Checklist feature easily highlights your thoughts. When constructing a “Pros and Cons list, select the format that works best for you. 

Creating a Pros and Cons List Effectively

To achieve the best results from a pros and cons list, iStratus suggests organizing and undertaking the process as follows:

  • Choose a way of populating your desired list
  • Brainstorm and list the pros of each decision
  • Examine and note the risks or cons associated with the decision
  • Include any potential third-party pros and cons

Applying Quantitative Pros and Cons

Weighing up the pros and cons of a decision is a quick and easy process with iStratus. In simple terms, it is one side versus the other by listing all of the possible positive outcomes of the decision and all the negative ramifications.

We suggest assigning a positive or negative value to each one with all factors considered and recorded. A score of 5 on a scale of 1 to 5 may be strongly favorable while 1 may be unfavorable. The intention is to try to score as objectively as possible not leaning with bias!

Once your rating scale is complete, total the score in each column and subtract the amount of “cons” from the “pros”. Ultimately a more positive overall score indicates a benefit while a more negative indicator suggests to scrap it.

Remember, common sense is also vital. These lists aren’t necessarily definitive right off the bat. If you suspect the overall solution isn’t appropriate, commit some further time towards identifying factors likely to have been missed or omitted.

Some advantages could be obvious immediately whereas others are potentially discovered following meticulous thought and reasoning. Posing certain questions can also underline the benefits associated such as:

  • What are the fundamental benefits of this decision?
  • What favorable outcome would be accomplished that you don’t currently have?
  • What could be further accomplished?
  • How will this contribute to your current goals? 
  • How does this option impact other people in your life?
  • How does it position you for success in the future?

The cons chart should include reasons why a decision is not in the best interest. It should also list in potential consequences or undesirable outcomes.

Once more some indicators will be obvious, such as distances or the amount of time and investment required. While other cons will require examination of your intended goals. Questions to assist in determining specific cons might include:

  • What are the risks correlated with this decision?
  • What are you sacrificing?
  • What significant challenges does this decision present? Are they conquerable?
  • How would this position or choice impede other goals?

Tip:

Set a time limit for decision-making. This encourages brainstorming issues without over-analyzing the “nit-picky” details.

Set Your Direction But Be Flexible 

Weighing up pros and cons is a quick, simple way to make objective, considered decisions. Quantifying options helps you to weigh your decisions and come to thoughtful conclusions. Each decision is important so must be processed throughly. Seeing some sort of total will help you to decide whether it’s worthwhile going ahead with something or not. 

“Good plans shape good decisions. That’s why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true.”

~ Lester R. Bittel

Mastering these skills and using the simple checklist tools within iStratus, can help your future decisions flourish, regardless of what the context is. We must emphasize all of this advice doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the choice you MUST stick like glue with. Be flexible, go easy on yourself, and take time. There are pluses and minuses to everything decision. Direction and planning simply provide a sense of balance in what can be a crazy world.

Live life and roll well with iStratus.

Eight Time Management Tips for the Busy Person

Time Management.  How can I manage something that I never seem to have?  Have you ever looked at your weekly calendar on Sunday evening and cringed?  You have work deadlines, a repair person coming, kids to get to practice, a spouse who’s traveling, and, to top it off,  your mother needs a ride to the doctor.

Have you ever gotten to the end of a week and wondered what you’ve really accomplished? Or wondered if what you’ve accomplished really was the most important?  As our lives get busier and more complex, managing how we spend our precious time has become increasingly important.

You Can’t Stretch Time, But You Can Make the Most of Every Minute

Making the most of every minute does NOT mean that you never slow down to engage in your favorite activities…or to simply relax.  In fact, by implementing time management strategies, you can actually “find” time. Not only will you use your time more efficiently and effectively at work and at home, the time you “find” can be used for that extra hour of reading your favorite author or walking to the park.

Get Started With Time Management

SELF-ASSESS

  • HOW IS MY TIME MANAGEMENT NOW?
  • Do I procrastinate?
  • What are my time wasters?  (social media? office chatter?)
  • During what hours do I feel most focused and productive?  
  • How do I keep track of my schedule, and is it working for me?

Once you’ve taken a few minutes to honestly assess your current time management, you’re ready to consider the following:

LIVE BY THE LIST

List, List, List.  Can’t be stressed enough.  The process of making a list forces you to account for all that needs to happen on any given day.  Plus, by writing a list, you’ve effectively downloaded that information from your brain. That frees up your brain power to get things done.  But, be ready to edit. List making can be tricky at first.

  • Make a realistic list.  Making your list too long can set you up for disappointment and frustration.
  • Prioritize.  What is truly MOST important for you to accomplish today?  This might not necessarily be the same as what is “talking” to you the most and getting your attention. Top of your list should be the MOST important item for you to complete, not someone else’s priority.  The iStratus task manager is a great way to start prioritizing your to-do list.
  • Commit to the list.  We all know the unexpected happens, but consistently commit to following your list in order of importance to meet priorities most effectively.  If you’ve committed and life throws you a curveball, at least you’ve worked towards the top priority first even if you can’t complete it.
  • Write it today.  Write your list for tomorrow at the end of your day today so you enjoy your evening with a clear head. Plus, with your list written, you’ll start tomorrow with your plan of action ready and waiting.  

STOP PROCRASTINATING

We’ve all done it.  We’ve worked diligently on our To Do List.  We’ve promised to dig in right away with task #1 first thing in the morning.  Morning comes, and task #1 seems daunting. How do I get started? How am I going to finish this?  Then it starts.  I’ll just clear my inbox first.  Or I’ll just knock off task #4 first—it’s quicker. STOP.   This is where strategy #1—Live by the List—can save you.   You’ve prioritized. You’ve committed. Feel the power of sticking to it!

If task #1 is completely overwhelming, break it into more manageable sub-tasks that you can complete more quickly.  More quickly completing that first sub-task can provide the much-needed buzz of accomplishment to spur you on to the next sub-task.  

GET HELP—DELEGATION IS YOUR FRIEND

You are focused on your task #1, but there is another task distracting you.  Successful time management doesn’t mean you must do everything yourself. Nor should you. If there is someone in your sphere capable of handling the distractor task, ask for help!  This is not a weakness, but working smart. Perhaps your co-worker can lead that meeting. Or your child can get dinner started. To truly be productive, you should consider delegating. Delegating keeps you focused and builds capacity in others.

MULTI-TASKING IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

You’ve got three balls in the air—you’re cranking and feeling productive.  But are you? At first glance, multi-tasking seems like the perfect solution to an over-stuffed schedule.  

However, when your brain’s focus is switching among multiple tasks, you are less able to fully attend to any one task, often sacrificing quality.  The time your brain spends to re-focus on each task as you shift among them, actually wastes time. But even worse, over time, the brains of frequent multi-taskers often become less able to filter out distractions to truly focus on one task.

SCHEDULE—THE MUST DO’S AND THE WANT TO DO’S

You’ve got a long list of Must Do’s on your schedule.  But don’t forget about those routine tasks that can eat up a big chunk of time, but never make it onto your calendar. Catching up on email, returning calls, face-time with co-workers are all sneaky time users that should be scheduled into your day like any other commitment.  If they are scheduled, you’ll be less likely to address them through multi-tasking.

When you schedule tasks is also important. If you are not a morning person, tackling your #1 task first thing, when you aren’t your most alert and productive, might not be the best choice.

With those Must Do’s accounted for, you can now schedule the Want to Do’s.  Whether it’s extra time at the gym, lunch with mom or a movie with your spouse, if you treat it like any other time commitment and add it to your calendar, you are more likely to make it happen.

USE A MASTER CALENDAR—MASTER YOUR UNIVERSE

You’ve got your work calendar, your personal calendar, you kids’ calendars, your spouse’s calendar, maybe a parent’s calendar to consider. If you must keep it all in mind when scheduling your time, then you must keep it all in one place.  Whatever your style–the giant chalkboard in the kitchen, a day planner, or a digital calendar tool—keeping all relevant events in one place keeps you from the annoying time suck of re-scheduling tasks later.

GET REST AND EXERCISE

With all this talk of prioritizing lists and making schedules, and your actual WORK, how can you possibly have time to get enough rest and exercise?  The fact is, you may become the expert at time management. But, if you’re chronically over-tired or rarely exercise, you still won’t be as effective and efficient.  Too little sleep chips away at your ability to focus and maintain attention on tasks to bring them to successful completion.

Regular exercise (even just 10 minutes a day) improves sleep quantity and quality and increases mental alertness. Spending time exercising can help you find time as you rest better and approach each task with more clarity and focus.  Schedule your rest and exercise on your Must Do list!

By practicing these eight time management strategies, you’ll be well on your way to becoming your most productive (and less stressed) you.  Plus, you’ll find more time for fun and relaxation.To learn more about tools to help you in your pursuit of skillful time management, visit istratus.com.

Guarding Our Time

Time is one of our most precious resources and often the most challenging one to protect as life begins to return to post-pandemic “normal”.

We might have felt more productive while isolated and working from home.  As it turns out most of us worked longer, but somewhat less efficiently. 

Let’s face it, emails, messages, news articles, and social media continued to hack our attention.

The new “hybrid” phase of balancing in-office and remote work adds even more complexity. There is pressure to address things such as responding to emails quickly, check out the latest news on Twitter, or even walk the dog. 

Ultimately, the distractions that can imitate productive uses of time, are far less productive than we think.

The iStratus App aims to protect your time against noise and distractions. In this article, we will provide some practical ideas to optimize your time and stay productive as well.

Define Your Goals 

Outlining distractions is rather challenging and varies with each individual. Thus we suggest beginning by identifying your goals. 

A goal might be to finalize a pressing project or search for a new job. Essentially a distraction is anything that sidelines you from achieving that core goal.

Use iStratus to evaluate your “To Do’s” and record reminders of ways to moderate your work time and objectives against your goals and the distractions that become immediately obvious. Could emails, for instance, be moderated? These can easily begin to merge into looking a lot like someone else’s checklist if you allow it.

Identify Focus

Defined goals are one thing, however, the reality is, it’s unlikely you allocate the time to address your priorities. You’re not alone. It happens to the best of us.

Thus to discover what’s working and what isn’t, perhaps adding undue stress, we suggest creating a list in iStratus of everything you undertake at work and how much time you usually spend addressing each item. 

Do this for at least a week to track details. This process should help to identify the specific distractions that evaporate time you could otherwise spend working towards your main goals. This helps us stay motivated to keep taking one step at a time.

The Social Media Diet

The algorithm of “likes, comments, clicks, and click bait” of other users within our social media networks determines what emerges in our feed. 

Automatically, this becomes your information diet. 

Do you find this a distraction that eats into your time? 

Use this tool to network amongst experts. Quality journalism has high expectations to clear. It’s not a newsflash that random news posts across social media don’t follow this same protocol. 

To help you avoid the distraction blues and advice on how to maintain productivity follow us at, iStratus on Facebook here.

Routines Reduce Distractions

Often people think productivity equates to motivation. However, establishing strong habits and routines is just as central to the process of combating distractions, as motivation is. Even the most disciplined, ambitious people succumb to their devices. No doubt you’re tempted to check certain apps every time you grab the phone. 

  • Set those time blocks and reminders in iStratus, before you pick your phone up to check that email app or Facebook. 
  • Try your best to check off those necessary slots first.
  • Perhaps, create a folder known as “distractions.”

Be OK, With Saying NO.

“No” is an important word. We’ve mentioned this a couple of times in previous articles. However, it is worth repeating because it truly is a central rule for success and depletion of distractions.

By saying “No,” you are saying “Yes” to important goals and leaving more time available to execute them. 

Use iStratus to define workplace goals, and redirect and brainstorm objectives easier amongst all team members. Having a clear direction helps to easily identify when saying “no” to a new project or task that competes with or overrides those higher priorities.

“Working from home meant we could vary snack and coffee breaks, change our desks or view… meet to gossip or share ideas.

On the other hand, we bossed ourselves around…demanded longer hours than office jobs usually entail.

It was the ultimate “flextime”, in that it depended on how flexible we felt each day, given deadlines, distractions, and workaholic crescendos.”

 

~ Diane Ackerman

So, if you have read this article through and take no action, you will have lost about ten minutes of your day. The pandemic bubble arrived and in many ways became a guard. However, we must embrace this world we’re in. Be social and schedule instances to do the things that are important in your life. Set the bar high for the value of your time. By focusing on what matters, you’re more likely to experience improved outputs and maintain productivity. 

Set some new goals and ruthlessly protect them from those distractions around you.

Live life and roll well with iStratus.

Multitasking Mania 

It’s crazy how life takes hold of us – really, truly – it is. Today, it has become commonplace to feel the need to reach a certain level of “multitasking mania” of whatever, to be “successful” or productive. 

Let’s rephrase, we have gotten into the mentality that we have to be achieving 15 things at once for the day to be truly made worthwhile. 

Why do so many of us still insist on undertaking multiple things at once as a way of increasing our productivity? 

Technology was supposedly invented to make our lives easier, not motivate us to simultaneously communicate, engage and work across six different platforms or technologies. Yet, that’s exactly what’s happened.

There are numerous studies, which have explored the effects of how multitasking fundamentally increases the stress and anxiety within our daily lives, which then of course, negatively impacts our mood, motivation, and productivity.

To this end, it all becomes counterproductive! 

The crux: iStratus is here to help reduce your need to multitask. Prioritizing is always key to avoiding the mind boggle. In this article, we’re going to address 5 worthy reasons why you should begin switching your multitasking habits more towards “solo-tasking” instead.

  1. Multi Tasks = Multi Mistakes

Logically, when undertaking several things at once, your mind is divided between them all, so it’s a typical knock-on effect that errors will multiply. According to research in the UK, multitasking makes filtering out irrelevant information difficult. In the end, there will undoubtedly be some cross-firing and mental mix-ups between tasks.

Can we afford these mistakes? Likely not. Thus, each task should have full attention, solo.

  1. Your Brain is in Overload Mode

By juggling multiple objectives at once, your mind simply isn’t fully focused on any given task. Have you ever been introduced to someone new and then instantly forgotten what their name was? 

– Hands up folks.

This happens because our mind is distracted by something else and doesn’t retain that new piece of information provided.

This inability to concentrate can indeed impact your professional life but there are implications upon the personal aspects as well. When we’re not living in the present, we are essentially only half-available.

  1. Creativity is Stifled

You may recall, we’ve mentioned in previous iStratus articles focussing on too many tasks at once, your working memory is left conjuring up ideas and concepts. 

When that overload occurs we stop accessing other areas of our frontal lobe that are there to be used for critical thinking and creativity.

  1. Multitasking is a Waste of Time

In an attempt to complete small, seemingly insignificant tasks while trying to close out a larger one, the mind has to reset itself each time it shifts from task to task.

Therefore we are unable to maintain what’s known as our “flow states”. You have probably experienced this before. For example:

While reading an email working from home, the phone rings, kids require feeding or the dog needs a wee walk that cannot wait. 

An hour and a half an hour later, you find yourself back at your laptop having to re-read that email, surprised by how much you’ve already forgotten due to the interruption. 

Increasing that feeling of anxiety, which habitually plagues people who regularly have to divide their attention multiple ways.

Professionally, maintaining flow states undeniably increases productivity!

  1. Are You Living?

The truth is: Connecting with your immediate surroundings or interacting fully with other human beings is what gives us can that sense of deep fulfillment.

By considering the reasons listed above it’s quite easy to see why the idea of effective multitasking is a bit of a myth.

“Energy is the essence of life. Every day you decide how you’re going to use it by knowing…what it takes to reach that goal, and by maintaining focus.”
~ Oprah Winfrey

As humans, we want to accomplish things that matter. 

So, what do you do from here? iStratus recommends these methods to strengthen productivity and cut back your stress levels:

  • Keep your work routine structured as best you can throughout the day. For instance: Undertake those more creative tasks in the morning, then take a short coffee or tea break, before proceeding to address each task you need to complete. (Separately of course)!
  • Share some of your weekly goals and accomplishments with family and friends. When you publicly commit to achieving certain priorities it often motivates you to finalize things on your To-Do List. Acknowledging achievements helps too.
  • Pause checking your emails every hour or three. Avoid “running” to answer your emails immediately. Sometimes it’s necessary to “train” people (yourself included) not to expect immediate responses. You need time and space to focus on the things that require addressing in the now!

Are you still convinced multitasking is productive? We’re not so sure it is. Why not try letting iStratus become your one stop-app for avoiding “multitasking mania”?

Live life and roll well with iStratus.