Ian Barbour/Flickr

I'll admit it. I am a master procrastinator. I have a huge tendency to put things off. It can definitely be an issue. Plenty of people suffer with me. But even if you aren't a procrastinator, it can be difficult to focus in today's modern working environment. With email, texting, messaging apps, meetings, and phone calls, it can be difficult to find the time and space to get things done. This is exactly what the Pomodoro Technique was built to counteract.

The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity method intended to improve concentration. When you're faced with a big task or series of tasks, break them down into smaller time blocks. These blocks are called “Pomodoros" and are spaced out by short breaks. The traditional time period is 25 minutes of work followed by a short 5 minute break. But you can set your sessions to any length you like. The main goal of these timed sessions is to hyper focus on one specific task. This is much more effective than constantly flipping between tasks. Multitasking actually hurts your productivity. The Pomodoro Technique is a great addition to a single tasking methodology.

So, let's see how this thing works in real life. Before I opened up this document to write this piece, I went to my favorite timer app Forest (but there are plenty of other apps more suited the technique on the marketplace) and set up a Pomodoro session. (I usually work for longer periods, around an hour.) As I write, the clock ticks down on the amount of time I have left. When the session is up, I usually have a new piece finished. If I don't, it's no sweat. I just set up another session and continue after a short break.

As someone who was intensely stressed about timed multiplication tests in elementary school, this method at first seemed counterintuitive to me. But beating the clock isn't the point of the system. The point is to set aside a specific amount of time to completely focus on a single task. Knowing that I don't have anything else going on lets me zero in on what I need to do and actually get it done. During a session, your only goal is to get as much done as you can. This is your time to work. Turn off all your social media and messaging apps and just focus. If you need more time after your session is up, take a short break and then set up another session. I cannot tell you how much more productive I have been with the Pomodoro Technique than without it.

So Pomodoros can increase focus, but how does the technique beat procrastination? Well, the best way to beat procrastination is to just start on your task— even if it's just for five minutes. Setting up a Pomodoro session allows me to get over the hurdle and actually begin. And I often find once I've started, I am propelled forward to finish. Every time. If the Pomodoro Technique can work for me — a serial procrastinator — then it can definitely improve your own workflow.

PayPath
Follow Us on

Developing further skills can boost your career at any stage.

Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.

Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.

But what's the best way to invest in yourself without breaking the bank? Some certification programs can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We are going to walk through six of the best certifications you can get for $100 or less.

Tableau

Tableau's data visualization capabilities are comparable to Domo and Power BI.

Who is it best for: Those who work with analyzing and presenting data.

Cost: $100 for Tableau Desktop Specialist; additional certifications are available for a larger fee.

More companies than ever see themselves as data companies. Being able to understand data and use it to guide decisions at your company is often critical to taking on a leadership role. Not to mention, being able to present the data in a clean, attractive, and compelling way can help get buy-in from others in your organization or clients. That's why Tableau is a great tool to have in your toolbox.

Tableau allows you to create interactive visual analytics dashboards. In layman's terms, you can take data; create graphs, maps, or charts; and then allow end-users to interact with these graphics to better understand the information. It's a fantastic tool allowing non-technical users to gain insights for data-driven decision-making.

Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.

Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.

The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

Getty Images/Maria Stavreva

Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.

Keep reading Show less