10 ideas to increase productivity and get more done

Imrprove Productivity

“How do I increase productivity?”

“How do some people get so many things done?!”

“24 hours in a day is not enough!”

“I’m so busy that I don’t even have time to sleep!”

How many times have you heard people say those things?  Perhaps you are making the same statements and asking the same questions?

Achieving better productivity seems to be on everyone’s wishlist.  But very few people actually get to master the science of productivity and get things done on time and with little stress. That’s why knowing how to be productive will get you ahead of most of them.

Today’s article will offer you 10 ideas on how to increase productivity that you can implement immediately.   It doesn’t matter what you are trying to achieve and in what area – it could be in sports, work or personal life – the principles are all the same.  Make a few simple changes – and you will be amazed to see how much your productivity surges and how much you will get done!

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HELOC: get better investment returns and accelerated portfolio growth

It has been a while since we discussed money matters – so today we are going to quickly talk about home equity loans (HELOC) and how you can use them to maximize your returns.

The readers of The Ultimate Alpha Project know that, alongside with maintaining exemplary health, physical strength and mental capacity, financial success is a major part of being an Alpha and kicking butt in all areas of life.  You also know that I consider real estate one of the very few investment vehicles that are worth your while.  Let’s see how HELOC loans fit into the bigger real estate investment picture.

Life before HELOC

Because banks do not lend 100% of the value in question, a typical buyer ready to purchase an investment property needs to come up with at least some down payment – typically around about 20% or so.  The actual amount of such down payment depends on where you live and what types of properties you specialize in.  Let’s say that a “starter home” in a densely populated and otherwise promising suburban area that satisfies other investment criteria, would cost you $300,000.  This might mean at least $60,000 as a down payment.  Add legal, land transfer tax and other closing costs – and you are potentially looking at more than $65,000.

What do most people do? They save up first for that down payment.  But what if you run out of personal funds or simply want to accelerate the process?  Naturally, your only other avenue is borrowing to invest (using other people’s money to generate profits for you).  We have briefly touched upon the benefits of a properly managed debt in one of the previous articles – borrowing to invest in a profitable project is always a better option because it generates an infinite return on investment (ROI), because there really is NO initial investment out of your pocket, only the return.  Essentially, you are creating money from nothing.

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Planning my retirement: future value of present decisions

Retirement

I am planning my retirement future.  Not in a traditional sense, such as preparing for austerity, downsizing my living space, restricting spending and depending on others, including the Government (we have seen in the article on tax-deferred plans that this could be a bad idea).  By contrast, my plans have some grandeur, financial freedom, and ever-increasing quality of life.

I do not plan to be forced to significantly reduce my spending after retiring at the risk of having to eat cat food otherwise.  I do not anticipate being involved in the typical cliché retirement pastimes, like playing bingo, doing gardening and living off some modest investments with no aspirations and occasional trip to a tropical location in the cheap part of the Caribbean (at most).

Unfortunately, this typical post-retirement scenario is what most people will face.  A lot of soon-to-be retirees will have to face this harsh reality – not the perfect lives filled with smiles, walks along the beach in Bali while holding hands, luxury cars and multiple cottages, as painted by investment companies who want your money – but the actual struggle to live from pension cheque to pension cheque and living in hopes that the money they have managed to accumulate in the past doesn’t run out too soon.

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On Time Management and Setting Priorities

So many people wish they had 48-hour days to be able to do more.  “Time Management” – a term that was unheard of several decades ago – is, all of a sudden, a very hot topic because of the demands of the modern era and its information overload – these days you are expected to be able to handle more things than ever before.

Not having enough time (or not being able to find time when truly necessary) is one of the most important reasons for not reaching your true potential.  You wish you were fit, but you can’t find time to go to the gym.  You wish you learned a new skill, but can’t find time to study, because [insert your own reason].  You have an important project due at work, but between your current tasks and emergencies – don’t know how to squeeze in the hours needed to work on it.

Your to-do list keeps growing and growing and soon enough – you have so many items that you are stressed even thinking about them.  How many times did you find yourself lost because you had to tackle a huge list of activities, all of which seemed equally important, and didn’t know where to start?

Well, how about starting with these few tips as your guiding principles?

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Does investing in tax-sheltered retirement accounts make sense?

Ahh, sweet retirement…  Many of us dream of that blessed day when we can finally escape the rat race and enjoy the freedom to travel, enjoy time with family and live life to the fullest, while collecting benefits from pension plans that we so diligently worked to regularly contribute – sometimes for 45 years or more.

But today I am going to give you a piece of some very uncommon advice – consider eliminating conventional tax-haven retirement savings accounts (RRSPs, IRAs, 401(k), etc) altogether.  Wait, what?!  But aren’t these considered the holy grail of saving for retirement and the best way to make sure you don’t end up eating cat food when you retire?  I have to admit – this is not for the faint at heart.  It requires careful analysis of your personal situation and a bit of bravery.  But remember, the goal of an Ultimate Alpha is to maximize returns.

My personal opinion is that with these retirement accounts you might be leaving a lot of money on the table (that is, if you don’t lose money in them).  This article will discuss the reasons why I am not a big fan of locking your money in a tax-deferred retirement savings plan.

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When debtor’s prison becomes a first class hotel

Being in debt historically never seemed to be a good thing. It appears that since the beginning of time, it has been cultivated and ingrained in the brains of people that as long as you are in debt – you can’t sleep well.  Some noble men of the distant past would rather commit suicide rather than declare bankruptcy and admit that they have amassed a lot of debt.  Debtor’s prisons up to the middle of the 19th century used to be a common way to deal with unpaid debt.  In some early states of a distant past, if you couldn’t pay debt you could even become a slave of a creditor.

Things have changed quite a bit since then. Bankruptcy laws in most countries generally protect debtors from suffering the consequences of unfortunate events.  Aggressive marketing of credit products in our day and age encourages us to take on more debt.  Starting from their late teens, people are being aggressively targeted by credit card companies and banks offering starter accounts. Student loans are available in many countries to people who are just starting their adult lives – and wouldn’t mind starting it with a large debt.  These days it is almost impossible to find a person who doesn’t have credit in some shape or form.  And most people do not consider this wrong or immoral.

At the same time, compared to reckless spenders who amass expensive credit card debt and never seem to be in control of their own finances, there are people on the other end of the spectrum who would do anything possible not to owe anything to anyone, for whom being debt-free is still considered the ultimate goal.  Many people celebrate paying out their mortgage in full (possibly, the largest debt every person has), as if it were some very significant achievement.  Personal finance gurus preach from pages of countless books that being in debt is bad and you should do anything possible to repay it sooner.  Scared of the uncertainties, a lot of people still prefer to buy stuff with cash or not buy it at all.  Whipping out a wallet and paying for everything upfront seems to be give some people the ultimate pride of being in total control.

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Setting financial goals

New Year’s Resolutions

We all know that around these days in early January, a lot of people start working on implementing their New Year’s resolutions – apparently, there is something special about “starting clean” on January 1.  To be honest – I could never understand why people don’t make important decisions immediately instead of waiting – sometimes for several months!.  I’m sure you’ve heard many people say about some bad habit “OK, starting from the New Year… [I will stop doing that]” – even if the New Year was months away!

The sad part is that most of the goals enthusiastically set at the end of the previous year will not be reached.  The energy will fizz out in a couple of months and most people will be back to where they started – and keep making promises to themselves to re-start again, starting the following January.  Hey, I get it – most people have very busy lives.  But “busy” doesn’t necessarily mean “productive” – very few are aiming for meaningful results and end up being trapped in an endless rat race.

Making New Year’s resolutions appears to be a big thing in North America specifically.  Interestingly enough, certain cultures that celebrate New Year do not have resolutions – they have New Year wishes (as I, being a representative of one of such cultures, vividly recall from my childhood memories).  You’d be surprised, but some are actually surrounded by funny superstitions of unknown origins, such as – to make sure your wish comes true, you have to start opening and pouring Champagne only when the final countdown to midnight begins, then quickly make a wish and drink it before the countdown ends – and some similar nonsense.  The other day I came across an article that teaches you, step by step, how to make a New Year wish come true).

Silly, I know.  I want to think that in our day and age, nobody really believes that there is some special New Year’s Eve magic that would make your wishes come true, but somehow these traditions continue.  Here is the interesting thing, though – when it comes to most people, there really isn’t much of a difference between these two approaches, because most resolutions never graduate past being wishes and dreams.

Take money, for example.  Read more