Category Archives: Blog

Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice

This delicious, healthy slow cooker recipe is as easy as it is versatile. This flavor-packed chicken is perfect for burrito bowls, lettuce wraps, or over a bed of flavorful cilantro-lime rice, and topped with creamy cilantro-lime sauce (recipes below).

Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Chicken

Tip: Don’t skip the squeeze of fresh lime juice after cooking. It really brightens the flavors and pulls them all together.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 3–8 hours
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 10-oz. cans Rotel fire-roasted diced tomatoes & green chilies, undrained
  • 2 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, finely diced
  • 1½ T. hickory-flavored liquid smoke
  • 2 t. ground cumin
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1 t. smoked paprika
  • 2 t. dried oregano
  • 1 t. cayenne pepper
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 limes, quartered
  • ¼ c. fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:

  1. Unroll and add chicken thighs to bottom of a 5 or 6-quart slow cooker crock. Top with tomatoes, black beans, garlic, jalapeno pepper, liquid smoke, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Stir to combine, making sure the chicken thighs are coated and submerged in the liquid.
  2. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. 30 minutes before done cooking, remove lid and shred chicken while in the slow cooker with two forks. Stir to combine shredded chicken with other ingredients. Cover and cook for remaining 30 minutes to allow chicken to absorb the flavors.
  3. Remove lid and squeeze fresh lime juice into the crock. Add cilantro and stir to combine. Season with additional salt and black pepper, if desired.
  4. To serve, spoon chicken mixture over plain brown rice or cilantro-lime rice. Top with cilantro-lime sauce (recipe below) if desired. Serve with remaining lime wedges. Enjoy!

Cilantro-Lime Rice

Transform boring, basic rice into something extraordinary with the addition of a few fresh ingredients. In this recipe, lime and cilantro are paired to create a classic flavor combination that brings added depth to your dishes.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 45-55 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 c. cooked rice*
  • 3 T. fresh lime juice
  • 2 t. lime zest
  • 3 T fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

* Can use white, brown, or jasmine rice. (Brown rice is shown in the images).

Directions:

1. Prepare rice according to package directions.

2. Fluff cooked rice with a fork and stir in fresh lime juice, lime zest, and cilantro until blended. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste, and serve immediately.

Creamy Cilantro-Lime Sauce

For best results, prepare the cilantro-lime sauce the night before you need it to give the flavors a chance to blend. Planning ahead will also save time on those busy nights you want to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: n/a
Serves 4

Tip: You can also prepare the fajita seasoning in larger batches and store in an airtight container for later use.

Ingredients:

Homemade Fajita Seasoning:
  • 3 T. chili powder
  • 1½ T. smoked paprika
  • 2 t. onion powder
  • 2 t. garlic powder
  • 2 t. ground cumin
  • ½ t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 t. dried oregano
  • 2 t. sea salt
Cilantro-Lime Sauce:
  • 1 c. plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1-2 T. homemade fajita seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 2 T. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 T. fresh lime juice
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Prepare the fajita seasoning by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and stirring until thoroughly blended. Store any excess in an airtight container for later use.

2. Prepare the cilantro-lime sauce by thoroughly combining all ingredients in a medium glass or other non-reactive bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.This easy Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice is a breeze to fix and so delicious!

Check out a couple of my other recipes:

This dessert has the consistency and texture of a softer apple pie. Don't be frightened by the name. It's delicious. Click through the image for the recipe!

This Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps are perfect for those busy nights! They came together in minutes, are low carb, and keto friendly!

 

 

 

4 Things That You’re Probably Paying Too Much For

Have you ever received a bill in the mail to renew a service and you realized that

1) you were already paying for that same service with another company and

2) you were already covered for the same service by an even different company?

Here’s an example: Are you paying for towing assistance through a company like AAA? Take a look at your car warranty. Are you paying to include that? Now check your automobile insurance policy. Are you covered for towing? If you so then you’re already paying for that service.

Here’s a list so you can do your own inventory and find some savings in your budget where you too, can cut the fat!

Road-side Services

So, we’ve discussed this. But start here. Take a look at what you are currently paying for, what might have duplicate coverage and what you’d be able to drop altogether. You can save money by not renewing your road-side service and dropping the monthly towing and car rental package on your insurance because it might be covered under your car warranty. Before you drop anything, make sure the service you keep is what you truly need, you don’t want to be under-prepared, but you also don’t want to be double-paying for services you already have covered elsewhere.

TV Services

Here we’re talking about – Netflix, Redbox rentals, Hulu, Roku, Dish, Cable, Direct TV. All of it. Many people have multiple subscriptions but a quick analysis of your viewing habits can show you what your true needs are. It doesn’t make sense to keep two services when one does the job. You can save $1,022.40 this year by dropping an $80/month satellite service and skipping a $2.40 weekly trip to the big red box. Instead, just keep the streaming movie and TV series subscription. You might have to wait for a few weeks to watch the latest movies, but you probably won’t hate all that extra money you saved!

Phone/Internet/TV Services

We all know this, but how many of us actually DO this? Bundle, Bundle, Bundle! If you are going with a TV service as listed above, and you have internet or phone services, then be sure to get a bundle price. ALSO- never feel bad asking for a discount. If you see a new customer offer, (especially when you are out of contract) be sure to ask if they will extend the deal to you. You will have to speak to the customer retention department (rather than customer service) but they will likely offer to give you the same deal if you express your desire to go elsewhere if they can’t extend the offer to their loyal customers.

Internet

Unless you work from home then perhaps you should investigate using your cell phone as a hot spot to provide internet service for your devices. For just a little more a month (and sometimes it is a provided service, depending on your cell plan) you can use your cell phone service to also stream the internet. Make sure to check into this before forking over a monthly internet service.

 

Alternatively, you could cut the data service from your cell phone provider and use Wi-Fi on your phone instead. Think about how and where you use the internet and make the choice that will work best for you and your family.

 

Use these tips to start reviewing areas where you may be over paying, and start saving today! And don’t stop there! Make a list of other areas you thought of and get to work, saving your hard-earned dollars. Your piggy bank will squeal in delight!

 

Dollar Store: Deal or No Deal?

Everyone loves to get something at a discount. I mean, who doesn’t seriously L-O-V-E a good deal? However, one thing we all need to learn is how to discern if a deal really is the good bargain it seems to be.… A good deal has to actually be a good deal.

If you like to shop at a dollar store you might be making the mistake of assuming any item for a dollar is a good deal but that might not be true.

Here are a few tips to review before your next trip to the dollar store to make sure you are getting the real deals that are offered.

Make a List.

How many times have you run into a dollar store to pick up a couple of items and $76 later, you come out, hands full, with stuff you never intended to buy. You need a list of items to buy so you can avoid mindless shopping and blowing your budget on items you just don’t need!

 

What items should be on your list:

  • Office supplies
  • Art/School project supplies
  • Books
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Home Décor
  • Party Décor
  • Small Door Prizes
  • Stocking Stuffers
  • Hostess gifts (bath & body lotion, wash, pretty scented items)
  • Beauty Products (shampoo, soap, hair accessories, hair spray, cotton swabs, and etc.)
  • Batteries (they seem to last just as long as more pricey brands

What should NOT be on your list:

  • Medicine, (from a financial perspective alone, 8 pills for $1 isn’t a good deal!)
  • Toys
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Paper products like paper plates, cups, toilet paper- quantity and quality issues make this a no deal.

 

Something else you should not have on your list is any item you have not priced out prior- for example, food.

A can of vegetables seems like a great buy- it’s just a $1, right? But had you shopped at your grocery store, you could have gotten them for .50 cents or less on sale. It turns out that isn’t such a great deal after all. Another great example of this is meat. Our local dollar store sells bologna, ham, turkey, etc. for $1. But it’s a 1/8 of a pound so I am paying $8 for a pound of meat! No. Again, any item that you have not calculated at a comparable price at another store should not be bought at the dollar store. Chances are you will be overpaying.

 

Something to remember; always check the quantity of any item you are buying. $1 for a product simply packaged smaller is not a good deal, even when it feels like it! Run the numbers before you shop!

Super Easy Ways to Manage Bill Time

Bills and Pills; Bills and Pills” to quote Disney’s Pollyanna. No one likes them! But they are just some of life’s necessary evils.

While I can’t give you a pain-free experience when paying your bills, I can help you make the actual mechanisms of paying bills a breeze and sometimes, that’s half the battle.

In this wonderful word of technology, we have great tools available to us but in most cases, they are categorically under used! Below, we’ll discuss some tools in the toolbox of bill paying that you can use to make the process easier.

We’ll also address their pros and cons so you can decide which are right for you. Having a system, no matter what you choose, is the most important thing you can do to make your life easier.

Tool #1- Auto Pay.

Pros

Set it once and forget it! Often the vendor itself will have an auto-pay option on their website.

You simply enter the amount you want to pay, your routing and bank information, and date of debit, and you’re set up.

Your bills will be automatically debited each month.

Cons

If you run into some cash flow issues, you have to be sure to go in and change or cancel the debit date within the allotted period they allow you to change it, OR you will overdraft your bank account.

If you have irregular pay dates, this may not be a good option for you.

Hints: You can set your payment within the grace period even if it is after the due date without needing to request a payment date change. It’s usually 10 days, but don’t assume!

Make sure you check that you’re not accruing late fees or bad pay history by over-staying your grace date. Also, if you need to, vendors typically allow one due date change per account history, so if you know the due date won’t work for you, change the date. But choose wisely- typically you get only one shot!

Tool #2- Online Bill Pay.

Pros

This system is typically offered through your bank, although some vendors offer the one-time pay option as well on their websites.

Done right, you can spend an hour or so once a month, and set up the dates that you want the vendors to debit your account for that month’s bills.

This is a great system for those with irregular pay dates because you have more control and insight into your budget and cash flow for that month!

Cons

You have to invest time monthly to set up these payments.

Tool #3 – Banking Apps.

Pros

This is basically the mobile version of #2, but many people don’t remember to use the apps for their bank. You can do all the things on your app that you can do on their website in most cases, but they are more user-friendly.

The mobile banking app is convenient because you can utilize it while on-the-go (think lengthy medical appointments waiting room times, and dead times at the soccer field, etc.) so if you’re a multi-tasker, this is a great tool!

Cons

If you lose your phone or it’s stolen, you run the security risk of someone having access to your banking info. These days though, our phones are an extension of our wallets and we all know to treat it as such!

Just be sure to include security measures as you would for any other information you don’t want shared with a thief. (password protection, lost phone locator apps, and etc.)

With a little planning each month, your bill paying nightmares can be a dream! Don’t delay! Get a system in place today.

 

What Does Being Frugal Mean

There’s been a lot of talk about being frugal and being thrifty. Ever since the US economy took a downturn it’s been a popular topic in media and around the web.

Living frugally has also become a necessity for many of us. Let’s talk about what it means to be frugal, dispel some myths and misinformation and look at what it means to live frugally.

Being Frugal Doesn’t Mean You’re Poor or Cheap

There are two common misconceptions about frugality. The first is that people who live frugally are poor. It’s actually the opposite. People who live frugally are smart with their money and use it wisely.

As a result they aren’t drowning in debt and their bills get paid on time. Yes, you can live frugally on a small income, but many frugal people earn a decent living. They chose to live well below their means and spend money on what’s important to them.

Being frugal also doesn’t mean you’re cheap. Not having the biggest house on the block or the fanciest car in the neighborhood doesn’t make you cheap, it makes you smart.

Yes, it can be a fine line between being frugal and being cheap, but there is an important difference.

Being cheap often involves hurting someone else, while being frugal means you decide to forgo something so you can spend your money elsewhere or save it for a rainy day.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re going to your favorite fast food place and grab a burger and some fries. A cheap person will grab a big handful of ketchup packets to use at home later.

A frugal person will save any leftover ketchup packets and use them later so they don’t go to waste. It’s a fine line, but there’s a difference.

Being Frugal Means You’re Smart About Spending

The main thing I want you to understand about being frugal is that it means you’re smart about how and where you spend your money. It’s a conscious decision and often requires a bit of planning. Instead of giving in to impulse buys (be it groceries you don’t really need or a new pair of pretty shoes), a frugal person decides she doesn’t need those items and saves the money instead.

As a result she can then turn around and enjoy a fun vacation or make a down payment on a home. Or it may mean she can stay at home with the kids. Being frugal means you have options and that’s a beautiful thing to have.

Tips for Garage Organization and Storage

Garages have a tendency to become a catch all for things that don’t have a home elsewhere. It quickly can become a cluttered mess ad a place that you can no longer use it for its intended purpose, keeping your vehicle.

Because you don’t often spend much time in your garage and it’s a place that you tend to come and go it’s not a wonder that it can become the catch all for so many things and quickly turn into a cluttered mess. It doesn’t have to be that way though.

It can be a great place for storage of the proper items while also still being a place that you can park your car overnight. Here are tips for garage organization and storage.

* Zones. The garage is a multi-purpose room of your home so to speak. Its primary function is to store your vehicle, but you also probably keep yard supplies or gardening tools in there, bicycles, outdoor toys for kids, and maybe this is even where the laundry is located in your home. So to really organize this area you need to divide things into zones.

* If you are storing your vehicle in the garage (as you most likely are) then you need to be aware of how much clearance you need to be able to give yourself so that your vehicle can safely fit inside your garage and you’ll still be able to close the door.

You’ll want to make sure that you mark off on the floor with some tape where the end of your car has to go so you don’t end up finding that you can’t fit your car in the garage when all is said and done.

* Use freestanding units where you can. Metal cabinets are a nice way to store things especially if you want it out of sight.

* Shelves hung on the wall or shelving units themselves to put large and small storage bins on are a good storage solution in your garage.

* Flooring space might not be at a premium in your garage, especially when you park your car in there. This is why you must make good use of the walls and ceiling of the garage for storage.

Adding hooks and pegboards to the ceiling and walls will provide useful additional storage for gardening tools, bikes, and multiple other items. This will keep everything in its place.

* Don’t forget about the corners. You can really use a lot of storage space in the garage if you remember that you can put things in the corners.

When you begin the project of organizing the garage space and storing items, make sure you recognize what space you actually have to use to store your items. You might have to get creative in what you do. It also will be good to do some decluttering before you start.

No sense in trying to store things that are broken or that you are never going to use. If you get an idea of exactly what you need to store in the garage before you start it will go a long way to helping you fully utilize all of the space you have in your garage.

Paying Off Your Debt- QUICK!

Debt is a serious problem. According to a recent Gallup survey (source: Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/168668/americans-rely-less-credit-cards-previous-years.aspx) the average American has 3.7 credit cards with a whopping 71% of us having at least one card.

Furthermore, according to a survey by Bankrate.com (Source: Bankrate http://www.bankrate.com/finance/consumer-index/many-americans-living-paycheck-to-paycheck.aspx) a shocking 32% of us say we live paycheck to paycheck, and that staying current or getting caught up on bills is our main financial concern. In uncertain economic times like these, we need a plan and we need it fast.

Here are a couple quick reasons why you pay your debt off as quickly as possible. Don’t like mine? Get a paper out right now and make your own. Write out your personal why.

Increase Your Credit Score

Reducing your balance-to-limit ratio on your credit cards can increase your credit score. Your credit utilization should be no more than 30% but the lower the better! Paying off your cards each month is ideal.

More Financial Security

Having no debt leads to greater financial security. Monthly payments tie up a good portion of your expendable income. You could be spending the extra money on things you want instead of just things you need.

You could be saving for college, retirement, or a down payment for a house or car. You could begin building wealth by making smart investments. No amount is too small.

Now that you’ve got ample motivation to get started eliminating your debt how are you going to do it? Get out the paper you wrote you’re the reasons you want to get out of debt and now add the part about how you’re going to get that accomplished.

It’s been proven that if you write down your financial plans and goals you are more likely to reach them. Let’s get started!

Review Your Budget

Find ANY area you can cut back. I would strip back that budget to what Finance Guru, Dave Ramsey, calls “beans and rice”. You get the idea?

Strip back your budget to the items you have to pay, and get the expendables to as little as you can. Cut out and turn off ALL non-essential-to-life items. These would be the “wants” like cable, manicures, dinners out, vacations, etc.

List Your Debts

All of them! It doesn’t matter if it’s a $3 library fee, or a $10 loan from Mom or even a $20,000 car loan write them down from lowest to highest.

Note: for the purpose of this exercise we are only dealing with consumer debt in this article- do not include your mortgage at this point.

Take all of the money that you have from stripping back your budget to essentials and start putting it towards your lowest (dollar amount) debt paying the minimum only on the rest.

Paying off your littlest debt first will give you a sense of immediate freedom. Once that debt is paid off take the increased money you now have and apply to your next biggest debt.

It’s called “Snowballing” and it works well. The snowball gets bigger as it rolls. In the same way, the more funds that become freed up, the more you will be able to add to the next debt and so on.

Make a Plan

Plan out (on a calendar) how long it will take you to pay off each debt. Build in little incentives in your budget for each debt paid off, (or if you have a lot of debt, or will take a long time, celebrate ¼ milestones, or ½ milestones on debts).

It will help you to see progress. Don’t go crazy though. Only use $10, or $50 (whatever is reasonable) of your snowball debt money to treat your family (maybe dinner, maybe more grocery money, a movie, etc.) when you have hit a goal. Your family will be sacrificing for a period of time so it’s good to reward them for short-term goals to keep the long goal in view.

Look for Extra Money

Find ways to add more money to help your snowball grow so you can pay off your debt sooner. Have a yard sale, get a paper route, or deliver pizza, or start an Etsy shop (don’t spend a lot of money on supplies, etc.) to sell your hobby, or start with a direct sales business for a season (one that doesn’t require a huge investment- do your homework!) or _________. Figure it out! You can do this!

With dedication, hard work, and sacrifice, you can get out of debt- quick! And then work a plan to stay that way.

Staying Organized at Tax Time, (Or Any Time)

If tax season brings you dread every year, it’s time to get that under control. There is no reason to be stressed, worried or dreading tax time each year. It’s not good for your mental health, or physical health, either, to be stressed out.

The reason you probably feel this way is that you have not taken the time to be organized throughout the year. However, with just a little bit of preparation, and a simple system through the year, you can regain control of our emotions and make tax time a cinch.

There are basic components you will need for tax season- receipts of payments (think receipts and paid invoices) and records of payments (think bank and credit card statements). If you have a system for filing and obtaining these items, you’re 90% done with tax prep.

For receipts of payments, you need a file for invoices and receipts you pay throughout the year. This system can be whatever works best for you.

Paper Files

Some people prefer keeping a physical paper trail. For physical paid invoices and receipts, you need a physical filing system that works for you. Something like an accordion-style file folder would work just fine, or a filing cabinet with folders, if you tend to have larger volumes.

How you file your receipts and invoices is up to you. There is no wrong system as long as you keep them organized and you know where to find them when you need them. Standard filing practices include categories by month, vendor name, or expense category.

Paper Recording

If you also keep paper records (rather than a software bookkeeping system) you will want a way to track your expenses so you don’t have to spend hours at tax time adding up the totals. Whatever you use, at the end of each month, just be sure you total the expenses in each category and keep that total handy.

You could even staple the receipts for said category to the tally paper. You will only need the receipts for an audit, but you will need your totals so you can calculate your annual expenses at tax filing.

E- files

If you have a software system for bookkeeping, the application often has a mechanism for attaching receipts directly to the payment inside of the program. (i.e. .pdf or .jpeg images can be attached to the payment for easy reference) Alternately, you can set up a filing system in files on your PC, similarly to the paper files above. Receipts and paid invoices that have been received can be saved to the file.

E-Recording

The easiest form of any type of electronic bookkeeping system is accounting software, but for those who are on a budget, this may not be feasible. You can use a basic spreadsheet in Excel or similar program to track expenses. Again, you will need just the annual totals for your tax filings, but you may want to track these monthly for easy tax tracking.

For records of payments, you will need a file (as explained above- either e files or paper files will suffice) to store your bank and credit statements, (and ideally, you should attach your reconciliations to each statement) that you will also need at tax time.

Following these easy steps, you can breeze right through tax time, stress free.

5 Ways To Add Storage To Your Home

Keeping your home ready for guests can be challenging, to say the least. Depending on how cluttered or “lived-in” your home looks, you have probably played the “hide the junk game,” more times than you can count. You don’t have to play this game as often as you do or at least, not in the same way. For you die-hard “hide the junk” players, here are 5 ways to add storage to your home.

1. Stair Storage:

This area is often overlooked. If you don’t already have a closet under the stairs, create one. Store tools for quick cleanup there. For more storage, use the actual stairs themselves. Turn each step into a drawer, either inside the closet, or outside. If the drawers are accessible from outside the closet, make sure they are always closed tightly. You may want to use a magnetic closure to ensure that the drawers close.

2. Top Shelf Storage:

Create ceiling shelves, high shelving, inside your closets to provide additional storage for things you want to keep out of sight or to hold seasonal items. Ceiling shelves added around the perimeter of the room provide you a wonderful storage or display area for your collectables, old books, and other items that you prefer people didn’t touch.

3. Furniture Storage:

Ottomans that open up are a great place for storing things like blankets, toys, or clutter. Coffee table storage areas are wonderful. Just add drawers and/or shelves underneath the tabletop. This is a nice place to store magazines and books. You can also use this storage area to quickly baby-proof or pet-proof a room. These multi-function storage spaces are great ideas for keeping things safe, neat, and organized.

4. Corner Storage:

Corners are often considered dead space, meaning that very little will fit in the area. However, they can provide excellent storage areas, with a little imagination. Because corners meet at a right angle, this means that any square table or shelving, preferably wooden, will fit nicely, at least on 2 sides.

If you don’t want a corner sticking out into the room, you may want to modify the square item. For example, you can cut a square tabletop in half (diagonally, making a triangle) to get a flat edge that can face outward or simply round off that corner. Keep in mind that if you cut the tabletop into a triangle, you may also need an additional table leg for support. You can get a lot of storage area out of one tiny little corner, especially if the storage area goes from floor to ceiling.

5. Bed Storage:

Mother always wanted me to clean under the bed. However, this is a great storage area. Loft and bunk beds almost instantly provide a great work and/or storage area. For standard beds, you can create a frame for drawers that will slip easily under the bed. If closet space is minimal, or the bedroom is small, adding drawers and/or shelves under the bed is a super way to add more storage space.

Are you tired of playing the “hide the junk” game when someone drops by unexpectedly? Give the things you hide regularly a new hidden home in the room where you use them the most. Use these 5 ways to add storage to your home as inspiration.

The Science of Motivation and How to Get More Of It

Need more motivation? I can relate! This article features the science of motivation, and how to get more of it!

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The Science of Motivation

When it comes to success, there is one key component that may be more important than even such factors as talent, intelligence, money or connections. That elusive piece of the puzzle is motivation. After all, without motivation, nothing can be accomplished. You won’t reach your goals or meet your self-imposed deadlines without the motivation to take action toward them.

Unfortunately, that motivation is often what is lacking in the fulfillment of desires. We all have lists of things we hope to accomplish. These lists contain big goals, daily tasks and everything in between. Learning how to increase your motivation will boost the likelihood of checking more items off your list. Let’s take a look at the science of motivation and the ways to harness it to your advantage.

An Improved Approach to Motivation

Author Dan Pink writes in his best-selling book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, that the there are three components of motivation that compel individuals to get things done. His premise is that the traditional method of motivating ourselves and others using a carrots and sticks type of reward system is ineffective.

Instead, he argues that the scientific approach to understanding the makeup of motivation provides a far better lens from which to view the subject. By understanding the factors that tangibly affect motivation, we can then develop strategies to increase it.

Three Elements of Motivation

The three elements of motivation Pink discusses in his book are autonomy, value and competence. It is these components, according to researchers, that drive people to become motivated. Autonomy refers to the amount of control or independence one feels over a task or action. It has been shown that when you feel that you have a significant amount of input regarding that task, you are more likely to follow through to completion.

The second component of motivation, value, is the amount of personal significance or importance you place on a matter. In essence, if something matters to you on a personal level, you will feel more motivation to take it on than if you are simply given an assignment to which you feel no connection. Competence has been found to come from an individual’s feeling of mastery as it relates to practice and hard work, not necessarily to one’s natural abilities. If you spend time developing competence toward a particular goal, it is predicted that you will be more motivated to complete said goal.

Strategies to Increase Motivation

Now that you have an understanding of what matters most with regard to what motivates us, it’s time to consider some strategies to increase motivation. Using the concept of autonomy as a guide, let’s consider ways to add a sense of control or involvement into activities that need to be completed.

One way to do this is to take ownership of a chore or add some aspect of self-direction to it. If you are having difficulty starting a project such as submitting a paper for review, it may help to think of all the ways doing so will set you apart as an expert in your field. In doing so, you’ll see that turning in the paper is a necessary component to sharing your unique views with your colleagues.

To add value to your task, you want to make it meaningful or personal. Find a way to add purpose to that item on your to-do list. This involves changing your perspective or the way you look at that item. Completing your taxes is a dreaded chore for most of us, but you can add purpose to it by focusing on the work you’ve done that comprises the numbers on the page or the contribution you’ve made to your job and community through your efforts. Paying taxes is a symbol of good citizenry.

Finally, there’s competence. Feeling mastery over an act requires practice. Try to look at the job at hand as one in which you are working toward an end goal of skillfulness. For instance, you’ll soon see the treadmill as less of an adversary the more workout sessions you endure. So, along with the ultimate goal of getting fit, you’ll soon see each session become easier, leading to a feeling of accomplishment.

Motivation is not always easy to come by. However, with this knowledge of the science behind it, you can now pursue the steps required to achieve your dreams more effectively. Soon you’ll be mastering your goals, which will fuel your motivation toward future endeavors.

Best Ways to Improve Your Motivation Fast

Sometimes you need to get started on a project right away. Maybe you’ve been procrastinating for days, or even weeks, and now you’re down to the wire on an unforgiving deadline. The threat of not completing the job on time should be enough to motivate you to get moving, right? Wrong.

Often, even knowing the consequences that exist for not completing a task aren’t enough to push us forward. Fortunately, there are some tangible steps you can take in order to give yourself a boost when your usual routine isn’t working. Keep reading for some of the best ways to improve your motivation fast. Adding even a few of these to your bag of tricks may help you to overcome that slump when you need a motivational jumpstart.

Look Ahead

One way to convince your brain that an activity is worth starting is to look ahead to the end result. Think about the money you’ll make a from a freelance gig, the feeling of satisfaction you’ll get from handing in your portion of the monthly report to a nagging co-worker or the freedom to begin your two-week semester break when your last paper is submitted.

No matter what the project, visualizing the result of your efforts can improve your focus and motivation. Consider adding an actual visual such as a photo, magazine clipping or other image to motivate you.

Get Moving

If you’re feeling sleepy or even restless, you won’t be able to focus on that pressing task. A solution can be to move your body. Exercise has been shown to increase mental clarity and decrease stress, just the combination for working on a complex project with a looming deadline.

Taking a brisk walk or heading to the gym for a quick step aerobics class on your lunch hour can be just enough of a jolt to get you in prime thinking mode. Be careful not to overdo it or you’ll be too exhausted to do much of anything.

Take a Rest

It’s also possible that a quick rest can restore your clear thinking. If your brain is feeling cloudy or your thoughts are cloudy, a short nap might be a better course of action than exercise.

Put your head down on your desk or stretch out on the sofa in your office for 10 or 20 minutes. When you wake up from this power nap, you should be feeling rejuvenated and ready to work.

Listen to Music

Upbeat tunes might be a solution that leads you to start tapping your toes and feeling more alert. If you are able to work with background noise, you can keep the music going.

Perhaps changing to a mellower playlist or instrumental songs might be a better option for you than fast beats. If you require silence in order to concentrate, put on just a few of your favorites to shift your mood, and then get to work.

Start Small

A method that is often successful in tricking the mind to move on a task is to start with a small portion of the whole. Using the above example of the monthly report, you might wish to begin by gathering your data and other supplies necessary for completing the job.

This small action can put you in the right mindset to keep working on the rest. Getting started truly is half the battle.

These suggestions can, and should, be tailored to fit your personality, preferences and lifestyle. Experiment a bit. Use the ones that work for you, and throw out the rest. You’ll likely be surprised by the significant effect a simple action can have on your productivity.

Goal Setting for Motivational Success

There is a strong connection between setting goals and maintaining the motivation required to successfully attain them. In fact, in the 1960’s, behavioral research led to an understanding of the relation between these concepts, and theories were developed to shed insight on the concrete ways one influences the other.

Let’s take a look at the basis of these theories and then at some of the reasons to utilize goal setting for motivational success.

Theories of Goal Setting and Motivation

The first researcher to study the relationship between goal setting and motivation was Dr. Edwin Locke. He published his findings in 1968l. Locke’s Goal Setting Theory concluded that specific goals provided more motivation than vague ones.

Along these lines, goals that provided a challenge were shown to be better motivators than easier ones. In addition, Locke discovered that positive feedback was highly influential toward increasing motivation. Essentially, the very act of creating a goal leads to better performance.

Decades later, in 1990, Locke paired up with Dr. Gary Latham to develop the Goal Setting and Motivation Theory, whose main premise is that five fundamental principles influence effective goals setting and that goal achievement is more likely when higher numbers of these principles are in place. The five fundamental principles of the theory are:

  • Clarity
  • Challenge
  • Complexity
  • Commitment
  • Feedback

In essence, your goals should be clear and provide you with enough of a challenge to entice you to reach them. However, it’s important that these goals not be so complex as to cause frustration or overwhelm; this would be counterproductive.

Goals that inspire motivation also should include an aspect of formally committing to them and have a check-in method in place to determine satisfactory progression.

Provide Reference

By developing objectives through the framework of goal setting theories, you are providing yourself with a tangible reference point to keep you on track. Thus, your motivation is likely to endure. You are able to look at the points you’ve written down in order to remind yourself of your purpose and to validate that you are moving in the right direction.

Add Manageability

Proper structure of your goals can also make your overall plan seem more attainable. By assuring that your goals are challenging, you’ll keep your brain stimulated.

Breaking things down into short-term and long-term targets, along with similar strategies, can help you to avoid becoming overwhelmed by one big goal that is simply too complex to be achieved. Motivation is better sustained when you feel some agency over your goals.

Instill Accountability

By adding a check-in mechanism of some sort, you will be instilling a sense of accountability to your goals. It’s easy to toss a goal aside when you don’t really have to answer to anyone, or even yourself, with regard to progress.

Find an accountability partner to share accomplishments with or build assessment dates into your calendar in which you self-check your progress.

Increase Confidence

Challenging, yet realistic, goals that allow for the monitoring of progress can do a lot for your sense of mastery. Seeing your goal becoming closer to reality through hard work and skill is empowering.

Hearing praise from your network is also motivating toward fulfilling an objective. Confidence is increased through all of these things.

Improve Life Quality

Essentially, having well-developed goals can lead to a more fulfilling life. By taking the time to proactively define what you want and working toward that desire, you are living with purpose.

Those who know what they want and feel they are on track to achieve it are generally more motivated and satisfied individuals.

As you can see, there is a strong relationship between goals and motivation. In order to sustain motivation, you must not only set goals, but your goals need to have structure.

Following these guidelines can increase both your motivation and your chances of reaching your intentions.

Increase Your Motivation Even When Anxious or Depressed

Motivation is an elusive concept for many people. Despite having big dreams or desiring to accomplish a particular goal, taking the steps necessary to reach the end objective can seem impossible. Sometimes just completing the bare minimum feels like all you can do.

Forget the idea of accomplishing anything greater. This is especially true if you suffer from anxiety or depression. These mental health conditions zap the energy, happiness and sheer will from from your core. You may find yourself unable to accomplish even the basics of day to day living, let alone going above and beyond.

If you have been diagnosed with these issues, or feel that you may be dealing with them, the most important aspect of overcoming their toxic effects is to seek help. Therapy and medication have shown to be effective in treating anxiety and depression, but even these powerful components may not be enough to move you toward your goals.

However, there are some strategies you can take to increase your motivation even when anxious or depressed. Continue reading for some tangible ways to help you move past survival mode.

Do It for Someone Else

While personal goals generally need to come from within in order to be meaningful, anxiety and depression can make generating any kind of internal feeling beyond despair difficult. Intrinsic motivation, or the kind that comes from inside you, simply may not be something you can muster right now. One way to “trick” yourself into becoming motivated is to think of ways your goal may benefit others.

For example, if you’re having trouble just getting out of bed, it may help to think of those who depend on you for their care. Whether it’s a child or even a pet, the desire to complete the basic necessities for those you love may be enough motivation for now. This approach can be applied other aspects of your life also. While it shouldn’t be a long-term solution, it can sometimes be enough to get you moving and lead to fueling further motivation.

Outsource Dreaded Tasks

Deferring your most-dreaded tasks onto someone else may be especially effective for those dealing with anxiety. Many anxiety sufferers fear talking on the phone. If possible, request that a significant other or friend make important phone calls on your behalf. You don’t have to put yourself through unnecessary stress in every situation.

Some things can be outsourced in order to make everything else more manageable. If finances allow, you can pay professionals to bear certain loads for you. Otherwise, some creativity may be in order. The relief you’ll experience is worth the initial expenditure of energy required to generate creative outsourcing solutions.

Do the Fun Stuff First

Many life coaches or other experts will recommend that you tackle the tough or boring items on your list first in order to get them out of the way. The theory is that you’ll feel more accomplished, and finishing the rest of your project or goal will be easier. When you have depression or anxiety, this approach is unrealistic.

Depending on the severity of your condition, simply making any forward movement on a task is asking a lot of you. Therefore, turn the advice upside down and start with the easiest part first. Another way to look at things is to do the absolute bare minimum or smallest part first. Once you’ve summoned the motivation to just get started in some way, continuing on will be a more likely prospect.

Be Gentle With Yourself

If you were helping a friend in your situation, you’d likely have all the compassion in the world for them. You’d probably offer words of encouragement for the small achievements your pal made and be there to take up some slack when they’re feeling unable. In order to foster motivation, you absolutely must show yourself this same level of compassion. Reward or praise yourself for every small accomplishment.

This can be taking a break to watch your favorite show or purchasing a simple indulgence like a bottle of perfume. Even praising yourself for your efforts can be effective. Along that same vein, be sure not to chastise yourself for perceived faults. Instead, focus on what you were able to get done or remind yourself that you are currently facing some tough obstacles and you’re doing your best. Negative self-talk is self-sabotage and kills motivation.

Incorporating these steps into your daily routine can significantly increase your motivation, despite anxiety and depression. Your mental health issues are a challenge, but they don’t need to be the end of your dreams.

The Benefits of Meditation for Motivation

Waning motivation is a problem for many of us. The stress and strain of a busy life can overwhelm you, making even the most basic of tasks seem difficult. The downward spiral of low motivation can seem like an impossible cycle to break.

Once you lose your spark, productivity and accomplishment can seem like unattainable goals. There is one simple tool you may not have considered before that can get you back on track, and that’s meditation.

This exercise of the mind goes well beyond providing just relaxation. You can gain a host of good things through its practice. Continue reading to discover the benefits of meditation for motivation.

Strengthened Focus and Concentration

Focus and concentration are essential elements of motivation. If you can’t force your mind to center on the things you need to do, your motivation will also go out the window. Meditation is all about focus and concentration.

No matter which of its many forms you practice, chances are you will be engaging in focusing your mind in some way. Engaging in regular meditation will naturally strengthen your ability to concentrate and focus in your everyday life.

Increased Happiness

We all get down now and again. More and more individuals are being diagnosed with depression in modern times. Regardless of your mental starting point, it’s a known fact that happy people often have more energy and higher self-confidence.

Fortunately, motivation has been shown to increase happiness by stimulating the release of the brain’s “happiness hormones.” When you’re feeling more positive, you’re likely to have more internal desire to get things done.

Less Stress

Meditation leads to a more relaxed state due to the way in which it allows the brain to slow down as it receives sensory input. This relaxation and improved processing leads to reduced feelings of stress and overwhelm. With less stress comes a feeling of more control, which then fuels your motivation.

Positive Thinking

One of the biggest killers of motivation is negative thinking. A pessimistic view can come from many sources such as depression, poor habits or general life difficulties. The beauty of meditation is that it “rewires” brain patterns that naturally elicit more positive thought patterns, giving you the reset you need to be more motivated.

Clarified Goals and Purpose

Taking time each day for meditation gives you a great deal of person insight. This self-reflection can be the catalyst for reassessing what’s truly important in your life. When you have a better picture of your priorities, your goals and life’s purpose become clearer.

Knowing where you want to go kicks your motivation into high-gear, and you’ll feel a greater urgency to take the steps necessary on the path to your dreams.

The benefits of meditation for increased motivation are extensive. These are some of the main ways in which this daily mind practice can jumpstart the actions required for reaching your goals. There are many different types of meditation. You can begin to research on your own or find a skilled teacher who can help you develop a practice that works for you.

What’s most important is that you get started and maintain consistency in your meditation practice in order to see the most effective results. Soon you’ll be tackling your to-do list and pursuing the life goals that matter with renewed vigor.