It’s easy to get sucked into the “busy” trap, stuck in a constant state of catching up. If you have a couple of days off during the holiday break, it’s a good time to hit the reset button, get around to tasks you’ve neglected, and start the New Year on the right foot.

Tackle Some Home Maintenance Projects

Now is a good time to get a head start on Spring cleaning and de-crapify your home. Start with a closet decluttering session. Identify your unwanted junk and sell, donate, or toss it. Then start cleaning, one room at a time.

Also, now is a good time to winterize your home. (Actually, a couple of months ago was a good time to do it, but if you didn’t get around to it, then now is the second-best time.) Here are a few things you can do to protect your home and keep it warm as temperatures get even colder: Weather strip, seal, and curtain your windows. Insulate your outlets and switches. Get rid of the draft under your door. Wrap your outdoor pipes.

While you’re at it, might as well tackle a little preventive maintenance, too, and keep your home from falling apart. A few common home repairs you can avoid with a little maintenance: Check for proper drainage to avoid foundation problems. Inspect old sewer pipes to prevent a sewage backup. Inspect your roof to avoid leaks.

It’s not the most thrilling way to spend your time off, but when else will you have time for these projects? Plus, you can clean and binge-watch Gilmore Girls simultaneously.

Finally Start That Book You’ve Wanted to Write

You probably won’t finish your entire manuscript over the holiday break, but it’s a good time to at least get started. Put a few words on the page, then come up with a writing schedule you can stick with for the rest of the year. Start the “don’t break the chain” system and steal this calendar to help you visualize the process.

While you’re at it, you can research what it takes to produce a book from start-to-finish, including the self-publishing process. Writer’s Digest is a useful resource for questions you might have about the process.

Similarly, if you’ve been thinking about launching a blog, you can use your downtime to do that, too. Research and set up the technical details: pick a platform, register your domain, and sign up for hosting. then come up with a regular writing schedule to stick with your goal.

Reach Inbox Zero

For some people, Inbox Zero isn’t just a fantasy. It’s possible to get through your massive amount of emails, it’s just takes some time and planning. The problem is, during regular business hours, for every email you delete, two more pop up in your inbox. The holidays are the perfect time to attempt Inbox Zero because, chances are, you have fewer emails coming through.

First, you can use a service like Mailstrom or Unroll.Me to clean up your subscriptions and remove yourself from unwanted mailing lists. Then, get your inbox organized. Use a tool like Sortd or switch to Inbox by Gmail to help automatically sort your emails according to category, like tasks, social, promotions, and so on. From there, come up with a system for maintaining this structure. If you really think Inbox Zero is a pipe dream, though, you can at least use your time off to come up with a system for organizing and managing your email flow so that it works better for you.

Get Your Finances in Order

Getting started with personal finance can be intimidating, particularly when your finances need a complete overhaul. You might not even know where to start. You don’t have to learn everything about money overnight, but if you have some down time, you can squeeze in a few lessons in Money 101.

There are a handful of super useful (and free!) online courses you can start during your time off. There’s the Family Finance course at Utah State University, for example. It consists of fourteen sessions at 100 minutes long that teach you budgeting, taxes, managing credit, and more. Purdue University has a whole course dedicated to Planning for a Secure Retirement, too. If you’ve been meaning to jumpstart your retirement savings, that course is a good place to start. Depending on how much time you have, you might even finish the course.

We’ve also created our own useful guides to help you learn personal finance basics, and you can find them here: How to Start Managing Your Money, For Those Who Never Learned Growing Up Adult Budgeting 101: How to Create Your First Budget In the Real World How to Build an Easy, Beginner “Set and Forget” Investment Portfolio The Start-to-Finish Guide to Buying a Home No Matter What, Building Wealth Always Comes Down to These Four Pillars


Again, you won’t learn it all at once, but while you have some free time, you might as well take that crucial first step toward better money habits.

Cross an Item Off Your Reading List

If you’re anything like me, you have a long list of books you’ve been meaning to get around to reading, you just never have the time to dig into them. Take out your reading list and pick a title.

Block out some time to get it done, pick a cozy area, and dig in. Alternatively, you could pick an audiobook and get your “reading” done while you’re tackling chores or other activities that don’t require much cognitive work.

If you don’t have a long reading list, and you’re just looking for a good book to start with, check out these novels that should be required reading for everyone.

Look for a Better Job

If you’ve been complaining about your job for a while now, why not use your time off to look for a better one? Aside from the possibility of finding something better, you may also dread going back to work a little less, too, knowing you’ve submitted some resumes and officially kickstarted your job search.

If you don’t have a resume, you can use a tool like Sumry or recently-mentioned Resume Beacon to help you create one. Then, review job boards specific to your field. LanceList is a great tool for freelancers, and MediaBistro is great for anyone in the writing, journalism, or media industry. If you’re looking for a new job in the healthcare or medical field, try HealtheCareers.

Even if you’re not actively looking for a new job, it can still be useful to search for one. It helps you stay up to date on the in-demand skills for your position. Plus, you never know what you’ll find.

Do Absolutely Nothing and Love It

Finally, there’s a case to be made for thoroughly enjoying your time off by not doing a damn thing. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing you can do for your productivity. You know that regular breaks are important when you’re focused on a task. You have to get up and shift your mind a little bit so you can come back to the task with a fresh perspective, reenergized. For that same reason, it’s important to take long breaks from your day-to-day routine. It’s crucial to self-care, and self-care is an important part of the process because: It prevents “overload burnout.” It reduces the negative effects of stress. It helps you refocus

Not everyone has a job that lets them take extra time off during the holidays. If you do, you might as well use that time productively, even if that means not doing anything at all.

Author:  Kristin Wong

Source:  http://lifehacker.com/seven-ideas-to-make-the-most-of-your-time-off-during-th-1790333637

Categorized in Others

There isn’t much time left—hours, in fact. Maybe you forgot something, or maybe there’s a surprise giftee on your list you didn’t know about a few days ago. Either way, here’s how to pull a rabbit from your hat and give them something great this year.

10. Give Favors Instead of Objects

You might remember this from when you were a kid—if you didn’t have a gift to give, you could always give a “coupon book” of favors like doing the dishes, taking out the trash, or cleaning your room—stuff that you probably should do anyway, right? Well, those things make great last minute gifts too, and even work for those people who are infamously hard to give for.

Whether it’s the gift of helping them take down all of their holiday decorations, or the gift of help around the house in the New Year or help moving when they need it, a favor can go a long way—sometimes much farther—than yet another gift card or phone charger ever could.

9. Give them an Experience, or Plan One

Speaking of intangible gifts, don’t overlook the gift of experiences and memories. Ultimately, they matter more than the material things, and while they’re great if you’re low on cash, they’re also useful at the last minute, when all the shops are closed and it’s Christmas Eve.

A handmade card promising lessons in something you can happily teach, or a promise to do something awesome together, like take a cooking class, go on an awesome road trip, concert tickets or an evening at the opera, or some other activity or experience that matters to both of you, makes an incredible gift. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, consider services like previously mentioned Unstuff, which can help you come up with good ideas.

8. Hit the Grocery Store for Packaged Gifts (or Assemble Your Own Basket)

Alternatively, if all the shops aren’t closed, there’s one place you can probably go that’s full of last minute gift ideas—if you know how to package them. The grocery store.

From simple fruit baskets for a neighbor or colleague to gourmet packaged candies and other goodies, the grocery store is full of food options that may just need a little dressing up, a fresh gift tag, and you’re good to go—plus, if you find something tasty, you know it’ll be appreciated and enjoyed, even if it was a quick gift. Of course, gift cards are easily available at the grocery store as well, so that’s worth considering too (but we’ll get to those—and their digital options) later.

7. Give the Gift of Fancy Food or Coffee

While you’re at the grocery store, you could pick up something gourmet and fancy, like the fanciest coffee on the shelves, or some super limited edition box of candy—and those are great options. You could also do just as well and give the even more last-minute gift of a coffee subscription service, like the ones offered by previously mentioned MistoBox, or Boxo Coffee, which I’ve tried and enjoyed.

If a coffee subscription isn’t your style, there are subscription gifts for all sorts of people, likes, and tastes. You have plenty of choices, from fun little themed boxes to regular shipments of cheese, wine, or meat. If you’re still not sure, Cratejoy is a service designed to help you find the right one to give. Then sign up and pay for a subscription in your friends’ name, and give them the printout or a card that explains what the subscription is. Then they’ll enjoy your gift all year long, and look at you—you bought it online the night before you gave it.

6. Give the Gift of a Museum Membership

If your giftee isn’t the eating and drinking type, but instead the cultural, spends-the-weekends-out type, consider giving the gift of a museum membership. Even in places where museums are largely free admission (like my old town of Washington DC,) a subscription entitles you to a world of benefits, including special events, screenings, book signings, late night tours, social events, and other fancy affairs that everyone else would either never hear about or have to fight for tickets to get.

Plus, considering museum memberships often mean free or reduced-cost admission, special gifts, and discounts at museum stores, your gift won’t just support the museum you buy it from, it’ll also keep giving to your friend or loved one all year round. Just make sure they use it!

5. Give the Gift of Premium Web Apps and Services Everyone Loves

Since digital gifts are definitely some of the best last minute gifts, maybe instead of picking something a little further out of left field, you should consider giving the gift of the premium or paid version of a service they already use. Maybe you have a Pandora or Spotify junkie on your list, but they’ve never wanted to pay the subscription fee. Maybe you have a Netflix fan on your list who really wishes they could watch more old TV shows, and Hulu is right up their alley. Either way, we have a great list of those premium web apps and subscription services right here, and any or all of them would make great gifts—best of all, you can buy many of them online, right away, and have your gift subscription electronically delivered. You don’t even need to buy a card.

4. Give a Charitable Donation in Their Name

This may not be for everyone, but one great gift you can give—especially to someone who has everything, as it were—is a charitable donation in their name, ideally to an organization they love and support, or would support anyway. After all, there are plenty of very deserving charities and groups that could use a lift right now, and giving a gift in your friend or loved one’s name can really mean a lot.

Of course, it’ll also mean leaflets and address labels and more mail, but as long as you do your homework on the charity before you give, you can easily make sure that your donation will actually go to the organization’s mission and help the people it intends to help. If you need more suggestions, we have some specifically holiday-themed ones here.

3. Give Ebooks and Audiobooks

Always a great, quick gift, ebooks and audiobooks are easy to buy online at any time, easy to give to a friend or loved one (all you need is their email address), and just about anyone will appreciate them. Best of all, over at Amazon you can give either electronically and even specify the date they’re emailed to your recipient—so they can wake up on Christmas morning to an inbox with something good in it for a change, and not just the usual spam.

If you need a few tips, try this list of life-improving books we put together, and of course, check out these audiobook services for some suggestions—all of them have gift subscriptions and promotions you can take advantage of.

2. Gift Cards Always Work, both Physical and Virtual

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without gift cards. Sure, you could run over to the grocery store and pick up a few like we listed above, but you could just as easily buy your gift cards online, with electronic delivery, so you don’t have to leave the house. Best of all, this way you can send gift cards for virtually anything you want—whether it’s a bigwig like Amazon or a specialty, niche store that only your recipient will know and love.

Just make sure you grab gift cards that are worth having (and don’t have crazy fees or slowly depleting value over time) and include a personal note either with the card or in the gift email, just to make it a little more heartfelt.

1. Just Give Cash, but Make It Pretty

Finally, there’s always cash. Open your wallet or hit the ATM, grab a blank card, and go nuts. Make sure to include a personal note, just to make the gift a little more personal, or even a suggestion on how to spend it, like a well-earned bottle of wine or luxurious meal, or gas money for a road trip they’ve always wanted to take. It can make a simple cash gift way more personal.

If you’re the crafty type, well, you can get whimsical there too. Happy holidays!

Author:  Alan Henry

Source:  http://lifehacker.com/top-10-absolutely-last-minute-holiday-gift-ideas-1790278286

Categorized in News & Politics

Search, more so than any other tool, plays a pivotal role when it comes to travel bookings. Travellers use Google at almost every stage of travel planning, from destination selection to booking a local taxi. It stands to reason then that Google pays special attention to the travel industry and just last month launched its own travel dashboard, sharing consumer search trends publicly for the first time.

But how can travel agents make the most of the tools made available by Google (some specifically available for the travel industry only), as well as other factors such as seasonality and unplanned world events, to enhance their position on Google and ensure they are standing out from their competitors?


One of the most interesting things about this industry is that it is fantastic for showcasing all possible pay-per-click extensions (when a search engine allows businesses to buy their listings in search results). These range from sitelinks that are perfect for highlighting destinations to price extensions that can be used to promote special offers.

Keyword Planner

The keyword planner that Google offers will suggest bids for a range of generic holiday search terms, which indicates a highly competitive market. But it’s worth noting, these estimates can be conservative at best, so you should expect actual cost-per-clicks to be higher in reality, especially around the key booking periods of the year.

This makes it imperative to ensure that pay-per-click accounts are well optimised and bids managed on a regular and seasonal basis to ensure efficiency. It also makes “niche” spotting or exploiting your unique selling points imperative; long-tail expansions (low-volume, obscure, infrequently searched-for keywords) are vital to make campaigns commercially viable.

Search Engine Results Pages

The travel industry is unique when it comes to pay-per-click because there are ad formats available in this vertical that aren’t open to other markets. One that has rolled out to most countries now is the “3 pack” ad, which will suggest three different channels to book a room when a potential customer is searching for a hotel on Google. The “Book a Room” ads are shown below the main hotel information; clicks on these ads direct you to the advertiser’s landing page. Previously these ads were shown in the knowledge card on the right of Google, however after various tests (and probably falling revenue) Google has decided to move these into the heart of the page.

The “3 pack” is only showing on hotel results at the moment. These ads are powered by the Hotel Ads API; they need to be feed-based and work dynamically in order to serve accurate availability and pricing.


Marketers need to be on top of the seasonal trends that are particular to their brand to ensure they drive maximum volume during the periods of highest interest. Forecasting against trends and seasonality for your brand and allocating budgets to capitalise on surges in interest or changes in the weather are an important consideration when working to maximise cost efficiency and return on investment. Seasonal copy is also imperative within the travel industry. In a highly competitive market it is crucial to stand out and the cheapest way to do this is with quirky and seasonal copy.

Be agile

Agility is crucial when it comes to preventing wastage and protecting brand reputation. Global events have the ability to scupper the travel industry in an instant. Natural disasters, airplane crashes, terrorism threats and health crises all have a dramatic effect on searches and bookings. For example, searches around “Turkey” in July would have been driven more by the coup rather than people looking for holidays. In this instance it would have been crucial to remove Turkey-based copy and ads promoting holiday deals to the country or at the very least to have added negative terms such as “coup” or “uprising”.

Source : tornosnews

Categorized in Search Engine


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