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Denise and Chris Arand

Denise and Chris Arand

Executive Vice Presidents/Financial Strategists

2011 Palomar Airport Rd
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Carlsbad, CA 92011

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November 16, 2022

Should You Listen To Music While You Work?

Should You Listen To Music While You Work?

There are some workplace distractions that we all know torpedo our productivity.

We don’t need an article to tell us that social media and break room chatter hinder us from getting things done. But what about music? Afterall, that’s what we use to block out distractions and get in the zone. Do our favorite tunes actually make us productive or do they slow us down? It turns out that the answer to that question depends on why you listen, how easily you get bored, and what you’re playing.

The goal: avoid multitasking

The golden rule of music and productivity is that you must avoid multitasking at all costs. There’s no better way to hamstring your productivity, torpedo your IQ, and potentially damage your brain than by trying to divide your focus between two tasks.¹ So if you’re listening to music to drown out your talkative co-workers or that weird noise the AC makes, you’re on the right track. If you’re jamming out to tracks that make you think about highschool crushes and epic concerts, you might be doing yourself more harm than good.

Complexity and distraction

But it gets more complicated. Some people respond better to working while listening to music than others. A study discovered that boredom-prone individuals performed both simple and complex tasks better in silence, while the opposite was true for the less boredom-prone.² The researchers hypothesized that the jobs at hand were engaging enough to keep the easily bored occupied. The music was unnecessary external stimulation that dragged their attention away.

This means that there isn’t a one size fits all solution for using music for productivity. If you’re easily bored and distracted, you might want to avoid music while you work altogether. Noise cancelling headphones might come in handy, but be sure not to pump music through them. By contrast, more naturally focused individuals might find soft background music helps them zone out the noise and laser in on what they need to do.

What makes good focus music?

So let’s say you’re not distraction prone and you like working to some tunes. What music should you listen to? Despite what your uncle in the orchestra would have you believe, there isn’t a single best genre of music to stimulate your brain (sorry, Mozart). What you’re looking for is music with certain qualities.

First, find music that’s the right tempo. You’re shooting for around 60 beats per minute to minimize stress and promote focus. No dance music or break-neck metal! Second, avoid words. You’re probably listening to music in an attempt to cancel out conversation, not distract you with lyrics chock full of hidden meaning and symbolism that may catch your curiosity. Choose instrumental music over your favorite lyrical genius next time you need to work. A third option is to find something to listen to that’s not even music: nature sounds. Weirdly enough, trickling streams and the soft fall of rain are all random enough sounds that your brain doesn’t even bother with attempting pattern recognition. It’s a great way to mask office noise if music just isn’t working for you.

Ultimately, you’re looking for music (or nature sounds or white noise) that reduces diversions without becoming a diversion itself. Make this an opportunity to explore new kinds of music and try listening to them next time you need to focus on a project. And let me know if you find any hidden gems of slow classical music being performed in front of a gurgling mountain stream!

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¹ “Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest,” Travis Bradberry, Forbes, Oct 8, 2014, https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2014/10/08/multitasking-damages-your-brain-and-career-new-studies-suggest/#22ceaf9956ee

² “Does Classical Music Help Our Productivity?,” Adi Gaskell, Forbes, Mar 11, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/adigaskell/2019/03/11/does-classical-music-help-our-productivity/#89f9fc411bba

May 30, 2022

Time Management 101

Time Management 101

We never seem to have enough time.

So often it feels like we’re balancing a million things at once with no wiggle room. We also probably feel guilty when we “take a little break” and burn some time scrolling through social media or chatting with co-workers. There never seems to be a balance between getting all the things done but enjoying some rest every once in a while.

Fortunately, time management isn’t something that requires a total life overhaul. It just takes a little discipline. Here are a few beginner tips to help control your time and use it wisely.

Tackle your biggest task first thing

You might be surprised by how much time wasting comes from being intimidated by a task. Maybe you don’t know where to start, you’re nervous that you’ll mess everything up, or you don’t know who to ask for help. The list goes on.

The best solution for overcoming this fear is to take on your most important assignment when you start your day. That gives you a few advantages. First, you’re closer to peak performance in the morning, meaning your best efforts are going towards the most difficult work. Second, just making a dent in a big project can give you the confidence boost you need to knock the rest of your day out of the park. It’s an easy way of proving to yourself that you’ve got what it takes to get things done!

Use a time limit

There’s nothing worse than setting aside a few hours to work on something only to find yourself overwhelmed and drained before lunch, and not having accomplished what you wanted to do. That’s why setting timers can be so useful. It means that you can work on a task, accomplish what you can, and move on to the next thing before getting burned out and bogged down. Try dedicating an hour to each item on your list and cycle through them. You might be surprised by the difference a fresh perspective makes!

Don’t multitask

This seems so simple, but we all need to hear this from time to time. It’s tempting to take the edge off a boring job or task with your favorite podcast or YouTube videos playing in the background. Worse yet, you might decide to try writing an email to a superior, hosting a webinar, and filling out paperwork all at the same time! What a simple way to boost your efficiency, right?

But you’re probably not boosting anything except the time it will take to complete any one of those tasks. When you try to multitask, chances are you’re actually slowing yourself down and making more mistakes along the way.¹ A much better solution is to turn off your phone, put on some classical music or white noise instead of a YouTube video, and knock out your tasks one at a time.²

Remember that the key to making these tips work is discipline. Setting a timer won’t make a difference if you check your social feed for two hours during the workday or can’t say no to last-minute lunch invitations. But these suggestions are easy places to start once you’re committed to making more effective use of your time!

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¹ “12 Reasons to Stop Multitasking Now!” Amanda MacMillan, Health, Jul 14, 2016, https://www.health.com/condition/adhd/12-reasons-to-stop-multitasking-now?slide=c12a3886-4ff2-4fbe-88fa-3216a321d642#c12a3886-4ff2-4fbe-88fa-3216a321d642

² “These 6 Types of Music Are Known to Dramatically Improve Productivity,” Deep Patel, Entrepreneur, Jan 9, 2019 https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/325492

May 2, 2022

A Simple Trick to Turbocharge Your Productivity

A Simple Trick to Turbocharge Your Productivity

Today’s productivity lesson is brought to you by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

As the commander of the Allied forces in WWII and president of the United States during the Cold War, his time was at a premium. And among his greatest challenges was discerning between the urgent and the important. When reflecting on his years of leadership, he said,

“… Whenever our affairs seem to be in crisis, we are almost compelled to give our first attention to the urgent present rather than to the important future.”¹

Lots of little fires can distract from the overarching goal. Sound familiar?

That’s where the concept of the Eisenhower Productivity Matrix comes from. It’s a simple tool to help you prioritize your focus on what really matters—your goals.

Here’s how it works…

Write four headers on a piece of paper:

Important and urgent

Unimportant and urgent

Important and not urgent

Unimportant and not urgent

Typically, this is done on a square like this…

But it also works if you leave it in list form.

Now, add tasks to each category.

Delivering that time-sensitive and critical document to your client? That’s important and urgent.

Positioning yourself to ask for a raise next year? Important, but not urgent—there’s no impending deadline for getting it done.

Restocking the office goodie bowl with treats for an unexpected client visit? Urgent, but not important—there’s a hard deadline, but there are likely more significant tasks on your to-do list.

Color coding your sticky-note drawer? Unimportant and not urgent (and you know it)!

Once you’ve got all your tasks written down, it’s time to start working.

Start with the tasks in the important and urgent category. These are your top priorities.

Then move on to the tasks in the important and not urgent category. These can be scheduled for later, but they’re still crucial to your success.

Here’s your secret sauce: The tasks that are unimportant but urgent can be delegated. This is what interns, newbies, assistants, and third-party contractors are for!

A big stress reliever can be to just delete unimportant and not urgent tasks. These are distractions from knocking out items in the other categories unless you have nothing else on your plate.

The Eisenhower Productivity Matrix is a powerful tool because it can help you see the big picture. It allows you to focus your attention on what’s truly necessary to accomplish, and it gives you permission to let go of the rest without feeling like you’re dropping the ball.

So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list, try using the Eisenhower Productivity Matrix to regain a sense of clarity. It may be what you need to refocus on making your vision become a reality.

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¹ “Is Eisenhower a Productivity Myth?” Brian Dordevic, Alpha Efficiency, https://alphaefficiency.com/eisenhower-productivity-myth

December 13, 2021

Digital Nomadism: What You Need to Know

Digital Nomadism: What You Need to Know

Ever wish you could travel the world AND earn a living at the same darn time?

Of course! Building a digital income source under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, in a cozy cabin in the Alps, or among majestic Sequoia trees sounds like a dream.

But it’s becoming a reality for many. Think about the travel influencers you follow, or your college friends sitting on a beach with their laptops enjoying a beer. They’re all digital nomads.

You’re not imagining things—digital nomadism has exploded since the COVID-19 pandemic first began, growing 49% from 2019 to 2020.¹

If you’re considering ditching the cubicle for the open road, here are a few key facts and figures you should know!

83% of digital nomads are self-employed.² The majority of self-employed nomads are entrepreneurs (66%), while the remainder are freelancers (34%). It’s not impossible to work and travel while keeping your day job. But there’s a clear connection between the independence of the road and owning your own business.

49% of digital nomads earn the same income or more as their office job.³ In addition, digital nomads often enjoy a lower cost of living. With the wonders of Wifi, they can host meetings with clients in the US and Europe while enjoying lower cost locations like South America or South East Asia.

80% of digital nomads prefer to stay in one place for 3 to 9 months.⁴ It’s no wonder—setting up shop in one location can help nomads establish routines and boost their productivity. Plus, it’s the best way to truly soak in a new culture and experience.

The #1 reason digital nomads return home is loneliness.⁵ Distance from family and old friends can become hard to cope with. And finding community among an ever-shifting sea of locations and new acquaintances can be even harder. It’s the reason why nomads have established co-working spaces around the world. They serve as hubs for nomads to socialize and build friendships.

Time will tell if digital nomadism is a pandemic fad or a seismic shift in how we work. But if you’ve longed for a work/travel lifestyle, there’s never been a better time to make it happen.

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¹ “15 Digital Nomad Statistics and Exciting Trends 2021 Update,” Project Untethered, 2021, https://www.projectuntethered.com/digital-nomad-statistics/

² “63 Surprising Digital Nomad Statistics in 2021,” A Brother Abroad, Nov 23, 2021, https://abrotherabroad.com/digital-nomad-statistics/

³ “15 Digital Nomad Statistics and Exciting Trends 2021 Update,” Project Untethered, 2021, https://www.projectuntethered.com/digital-nomad-statistics/

⁴ “63 Surprising Digital Nomad Statistics in 2021,” A Brother Abroad, Nov 23, 2021, https://abrotherabroad.com/digital-nomad-statistics/

⁵ “63 Surprising Digital Nomad Statistics in 2021,” A Brother Abroad, Nov 23, 2021, https://abrotherabroad.com/digital-nomad-statistics/

July 29, 2020

Tips For Working At Home

Tips For Working At Home

You’ve most likely become a work-at-home pro over the last few months.

At this point you’re probably perfectly comfortable with your routine and feel like you’re highly productive!

But you also might need a refresher on some working at home basics. Even at the office—where you’re more likely to be held accountable—it’s easy to slide into bad habits. Here’s a quick rundown of some tips to help you get back in your groove!

Start strong <br> Sleeping in is almost always a temptation. Crawling out of bed, hitting the snooze button until it breaks, and rushing out the door just feel like a routine to many of us! Working from home can compound this. Suddenly, you have the luxury of peacefully sleeping until 8:55am, making some tasteless instant coffee, and booting up your laptop in your PJs right before your 9 o’clock video call. Sounds like the life, right?

But this ritual of jumping right from your mattress to your dining room table/temporary desk can have serious drawbacks. Staring at a computer screen while barely keeping your eyelids open is an incredibly uninspiring way to start a day. It’s much better to do things that help you wake up and get your mind focused. Make breakfast! Go for a walk! Meditate! Use that time you would normally spend looking at brake lights for something productive.

Make a workspace <br> Homes are (hopefully) relaxing. They’re where we go at the end of a long, stressful day to binge watch shows, eat delicious food, and spend time with our families and friends. Those associations can make working from home tricky. You might notice that the temptations to watch TV, talk to a roommate, or reorganize your kitchen for the 100th time are interfering with your job performance.

The solution to this problem is to create a workspace in your home that is dedicated to being productive. Remind your family that you love them, but that you’ll need some space when you’re in your home office. Move TVs and other distractions out and create a place where you can focus. And it’s probably wise to avoid setting yourself up in your bedroom unless absolutely necessary!

Always communicate <br> One of the biggest downsides of working at home is that it can strain communication with your coworkers. On one hand, that’s probably not awful. Less chatter with your office buddies about the latest reality TV show might be a welcome productivity booster! But collaborating with your team, getting approvals from bosses, and receiving feedback are essential parts of getting projects done and growing your skillset.

So don’t go off the grid. Stay in touch with your colleagues. Ask your boss for feedback. Get advice from your mentors. Staying vocal keeps work moving forward, it keeps you socialized and feeling accomplished, and it reminds the higher-ups that you still exist!

Whether you’ve finally decided to upgrade your work-at-home game or you just needed a reminder, try out these tips and let me know how it goes!

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June 10, 2019

Money Woes Hurt More than Your Bank Account

Money Woes Hurt More than Your Bank Account

How do you handle job stress?

Sticking to a solid workflow? Meditation? A stress ball in each hand?

Whichever way you choose to lessen the stress (that 80% of American workers experience), there’s another stress-relieving tactic that could make a huge difference:

Relieving financial stress.

Studies have found that money woes can cost workers over 2 weeks in productivity a year! And this time can be lost even when you’re still showing up for work.

This phenomenon is called ‘presenteeism’: you’re physically present at a job, but you’re working while ill or mentally disengaged from tasks. Presenteeism can be caused by stress, worry, or other issues – which, as you can imagine, may deal a significant blow to work productivity.

So what’s the good news?

If you’re constantly worried and stressed about financing unexpected life events, saving for retirement, or funding a college education for yourself or a loved one, there’s a life insurance policy that can help you – wherever you are on your financial journey.

A life insurance policy that’s tailored for you can provide coverage for those unknowns that keep you stressed and unproductive. Most people don’t plan to fail. They simply fail to plan. Think of a well-thought out insurance strategy as a stress ball for your bank account!

Contact me today, and together we’ll work on an insurance strategy that fits you and your dreams – and can help you get back to work with significantly less financial stress.

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