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Effective Time Management

Effective Time Management

Effective Time Management: How To Make The Best Use Of Your Time

For people who are trying to accomplish things, there are never enough hours in the day. Time. We just need more time! If I didn’t have to sleep, I’d get so much more accomplished, right? If you can’t make the day longer, then the only other way to do more is to figure out how to make the best use of your time.

What Are You Trying To Accomplish?

First things first. Before you can make a time management plan, you need to have clear objectives. If you don’t have your goals worked out, then go do that first. Once you know what it is that you’re trying to accomplish, then you can use your time management processes to make sure you’re doing all the right things to achieve your goals.

I recently wrote a blog about goals, and if you haven’t read that one, you can find it here. Essentially, you should have 1-2 goals for the year. Your daily, weekly, and monthly goals should be the incremental steps you need to complete to reach your annual goal.

Effective time management is when you organize your activities each day such that all of your effort is directed towards achieving your goals. There are plenty of daily activities that don’t directly contribute to meeting our goals, but still must be attended to. In The Four Disciplines of Execution, author Sean Covey calls these things “The Whirlwind.” It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of daily activities and never actually accomplish anything.

Delegation

One of the most important time management tools you have is delegation. This is simply the art and science of doing what you need to do, and putting people in place around you to do all the other things that take away from your ability to accomplish your goals each day. Oh, and most importantly, actually letting them do those things.

Many of us are control freaks. We don’t trust anyone to do things for us, because they won’t do the task to our specification, or they don’t know as much as we do, or they will take too long, or any number of reasons. It’s important to overcome this hurdle and empower others to do things to free up our time.

Delegation might sound like one of those time management techniques that only apply to someone in a management-level position in a big company. In reality, everyone has the power (and the responsibility) to delegate all kinds of tasks to others. For example: The grass needs to be mowed at our veterinary clinic once a week most of the year. I’m quite capable of mowing it, but that is not productive use of my time. It’s much more sensible for me to pay someone else to do that, so that I can focus that 4 hours a week on things that contribute directly to my goal.

For the man who mows the grass, it’s a different situation, but the same principles apply. His daily goal is to mow X number of lawns to meet his financial goal for the year. Therefore, his time is best spent mowing and gaining new clients, and he should delegate tasks that take away from his time to do that.

We often use the excuse that we can’t afford to pay others to do things. While this might be true, it’s a temporary condition that can be overcome with diligence. If you can save enough money to start paying someone to do something for you, then you have the opportunity to be more productive with that block of time that you’ve freed up. By being more productive and efficient with that block of time, your revenue should increase more than the cost of delegating whirlwind tasks. If you do it right, it’s ultimately cheaper to pay others than it is to do it all yourself.

Know Thyself, and to Thine Own Self Be True

Once you have delegated everything you can delegate, then it’s time to work on Effective Time Management. This requires you to know yourself, and how your body and brain tend to function on a daily basis.

I’m a morning person. I do my very best thinking, both creatively and analytically, between 5 am and 11 am. I have a semi-crash period around lunch, a second wind, and then a hard crash around 4 pm. I get a third wind around 7 pm, but it doesn’t last more than an hour.

So, because I know this about myself, I can make a list of things I need to work on each day, and schedule them according to when I will be most effective. The best way for me to do this is to write my To-Do List, and then rate each item by how much brain power I need to do my best at that task.

Here’s an example, and the rating scale is 1 – 10, with 1 being “I can do that in my sleep” and 10 being “Maximum Focus.”

To Do List, and Focus Rating

Write 3 emails to new clients – 9

Write 2 emails to vendors – 5

Phone Call with client to discuss project – 10

Enter last week’s credit card charges into Quickbooks – 8

Finish website job for M. Jones – 8

Create invoice for M. Jones – 4

Make bank deposit – 2

Run website updates on Client List C – 2

 

I have my Time Optimizer Template below, which tells me what time I should do each task. Green is my best time, blue is okay time, red is my worst time.

5 am     1 pm

6 am      2 pm

7 am     3 pm

8 am     4 pm

9 am     5 pm

10 am     6 pm

11 am     7 pm

12 pm     8 pm

 

 So, effective time management for my day would be to schedule the things that require the most focus in the morning when I am at my best. I can write my client emails early in the morning, finish building the website, and still be fresh for the client phone call during morning business hours. I know not to schedule that call during any of the red times on the schedule, because it’s really important that I am at my best for that conversation. I can do the vendor emails, invoicing, updates, and run to the bank in the afternoon when I’m not on my A game.

Not everything has to happen between 8 am and 5 pm. Of course, the details depend on your job, and if you work for yourself vs someone else, and so on. However, if you work for yourself, or you have a side hustle that you are trying to grow, then you can use all the hours of the day to their best potential and get a lot more accomplished than you can by doing the hardest tasks at bad times.

I know that data entry into QuickBooks takes me twice as long in the afternoon as it does in the morning, so I always try to do that in the mornings. It’s the most effective time management for me. The same goes for writing. If I’m working on writing a book, I schedule my writing time in the mornings.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Create your own Time Optimizer Template based on your peak and trough times and develop a routine where you schedule your activities using the template every day. After a while, this will become second nature to you.

The more you understand what you are trying to do, what you need to do to make that happen, and how to practice effective time management, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. You will surprise yourself at what you are capable of, and your goals will get bigger as you start achieving new levels of success. You are your own biggest inhibitor, and once you learn how to manage yourself, then there are no limits to what you can do. What are you waiting for? Go do something great!

Justin B. Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

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Life Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone

Life Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone

Life Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone

Living VS Existing

Do you ever meet people who seem to have an amazing life, with exciting activities and various things going on all the time? Most of us know someone like that. Now, let’s look at the other end of the spectrum: do you know anyone who doesn’t do anything other than work (if they have a job), watch TV, and sleep? Most of us know lots of people like that. For some people, existing is enough; it’s all they want out of life. For some of us, existing isn’t enough; we need more.

Life happens outside your comfort zone. If you want more out of life, then you have to be ready to step away from the same old, same old; you have to be willing to do things you’ve never done before, learn knew things, meet new people, explore the unknown. This is a scary experience. You’re going to feel uncomfortable and nervous, like you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s okay! That means you’re doing it right.

Jump in the Deep End

Whatever it is that you want to do, the only way to do it is to do it. If you want to start playing soccer with the open league on Saturdays, the only way to do it is to go to the field on Saturday and get involved. There’s nothing wrong with doing research, don’t get me wrong. With some things, proper research is critical.

The trap lies within the tendency to “research” whatever it is indefinitely, and never actually get started. We judge ourselves by our intentions (rather than our actions), so it’s easy to convince ourselves that we’re living, doing stuff, getting more out of life, etc, when all we’re really doing is thinking about it. So, set a timeframe that’s realistic, learn what you need to learn, and get started.

Judge Not…

There are two ways to fool yourself about how you’re doing. One is to measure yourself against someone who is a master at what you want to do. The other is to measure yourself against someone who is a novice at what you want to do. Neither one of these is an accurate way to measure how you are doing.

The only true way to measure your progress is to measure yourself against yourself. Where are you at now compared to six months ago? A year ago? If you’re in the same place, then you haven’t improved much. That’s okay if you are where you want to be. For me, I have a long way to go. However, as I write this, I’m miles ahead of where I was last year at this time.

For example: a year ago, I had just completed my first book, Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband. I didn’t know that I needed beta readers to help me find and fix problems with the writing before I moved forward with it. I didn’t know how to find an agent or an editor (or if I even needed one), I didn’t know that my writing skills were lacking, I didn’t know how to do anything that I wanted to do to get my book published. So, I went to a writer’s seminar, where I met some people. I joined a writer’s group. I began building a network of contacts. I went to a major writer’s conference, where I learned all kinds of things and met some industry professionals. I found online resources that taught me a lot about the processes. I planned and wrote two more books, each better than the first one. I learned things, I improved my process, and I expanded my network.

If I measure myself against Stephen King, then I am a failure. If I measure myself against someone who has written a rough manuscript but doesn’t know what to do next, then I am doing great. Neither one of these are accurate, though, and they don’t tell me how I’m doing.

In 1 year, my circle of writing people has increased from 1 to over 75. My knowledge on the craft of writing has increased tremendously. My experience has increased through the writing of 2 more books. My knowledge about the publishing process has increased significantly. My goals for 2018 outline a very specific process for getting my 3 manuscripts turned into published books by this time next year. Next year, I should be able to compare where I’m at then to where I was at when I wrote this blog and see major forward progress. That’s how I accurately measure myself.

Life Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone

You must accept that change is the name of the game. If you want your life to be different in some way, then you can’t be resistant to change. It sounds like an obvious point, but you have to be conscious about it, because most of us are naturally resistant to change. One of the best tools I’ve found for this is listening to podcasts for small businesses. Some of them, such as StoryBrand and Social Media Marketing (two great podcasts, free tip!) interview top-level business coaches and business leaders every week. I have learned an immense amount from the very best experts about things I didn’t even know I needed to know.

One of the things they say all the time is that life happens outside your comfort zone. Top CEO’s of major corporations talk about feeling like they’re in over their head, and how they learned how to keep on going from someone else. How to avoid becoming paralyzed by fear. These are things I need to know as a small business owner, because I deal with them, too. Guess what? I’ve found all sorts of ways to apply things I learn from those people to seemingly unrelated things, like my website development business, my writing, and my personal life. It’s all tied together, and I don’t have to learn all the lessons in life the hard way. I can learn from others, and podcasts are a fantastic resource for that.

It Never Ends

Life is all about the journey. The journey, at least for some of us, is all about growing, improving, learning, becoming better, doing more, and living. I want more, and I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to make that happen. You can, too. You can develop the discipline and the knowledge to do what you want to do, be who you want to be. You can start today. You can start right now. Go. Do. Be. Live.

J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the big blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com 

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Set Yourself Up For Success

Set Yourself Up For Success

Set Yourself Up For Success

Set yourself up for success: it sounds obvious, right? No one is going to intentionally set themselves up for failure, right? Wrong. We do it all the time. Self-doubt, or lack of confidence, makes us do things that keep us from succeeding. That’s right, we take specific action to avoid succeeding at something we want. We believe that we can’t do any better than we’re doing. We don’t think we have what it takes. No one in our family has done it. Our friends don’t support us. Whatever. We have an endless list of reasons.

Inaction is an Action

One of the most common forms of self-sabotage is doing nothing. Opportunity comes knocking, we deliberate, we hem-haw around, we fantasize, and opportunity leaves. Then we either get depressed about how good things might have been, or we go the sour grapes route and tell ourselves it probably wouldn’t have been very good anyway.

It’s also very common for our friends and family to keep us down. They tell us that we can’t do it, and that we shouldn’t try. They remind us of all the times we’ve already tried and failed. They mean well, as they’re just trying to protect us from failure and pain, but they are doing us more harm than good. Sometimes doing more in life means changing out some of the people in our life. Growing pains.

Develop An Attitude of Gratitude

The first thing you need to do to set yourself up for success is check your attitude. Do you find that you are critical, dubious, and skeptical of everything that’s outside your bubble? If so, you need to start retraining your brain to think positively instead of negatively. That sounds hard, and that’s because it is hard. I know, because I did it. I was one of those people that could find a fault with anything, and a reason to pass up on every opportunity. Guess what? I got tired of living and thinking that way, so I changed. You can, too.

Know Thyself

If you haven’t taken a Myers-Briggs personality assessment, you need to do that today. It takes about 15 minutes, and it will help you for the rest of your life. In a nutshell, there are 16 personality types. Once you know which one you are, then you read up on the characteristics of your personality type (another 10 minutes). That 25-minute investment will help you gain self-awareness, which will guide you to make better decisions based on your tendencies.

For example, I am an INFJ. I know that I am extremely idealistic, which is the core of my personality type. Therefore, I’m never going to be successful trying to scam people. I’m not even going to be a good salesperson, because if I don’t believe in something 100%, I’m not going to be able to push it. I also know that I put 150% effort into everything I do, and therefore I need for my job to matter. Knowing my personality type keeps me out of the wrong career fields.

You can take the free assessment online at www.16personalities.com

set yourself up for successWalk Through The Fear

One of the things I was amazed to learn is that everyone experiences fear, even successful people. The thing is, successful people don’t get mired down in the fear. They acknowledge it and keep on going. My mentor was fond of using a reference from one of the darkest points in our country’s history to nail home the point. He said, you gotta keep walking. When you hear the dogs barking, you keep walking. When you hear the men shouting, you keep walking. When you see the torches burning, you keep walking. You gotta keep walking to be free.

It’s about sticking with it, and not giving up. Persistence, tenacity, determination. Refusing to quit when it gets hard, or scary. It’s always going to be hard and scary, and that’s okay. Fear should keep us from touching the hot stove, but it shouldn’t keep us from going in the kitchen. Recognize it as a tool instead of a master.

Believe In Yourself

If you really want to set yourself up for success, you have to believe that you can do whatever it is that you want to do. Most people won’t ever even come close to achieving what they’re capable of. Therefore, you shouldn’t do what most people do. Find a mentor, someone who has what you want, and do what they do. Learn from them. See that they are just a person like you, and that you can do anything they have done, and maybe more.

Michael Phelps isn’t a super-human, he’s a guy that lives up to his potential and swims through the fear. He acts, he takes opportunities. He believes in himself, and he accepts that failure is part of it, and that it’s okay to fail. He tries anyway. How about Martin Luther King Jr.? Do you think he ever experienced fear and self-doubt? You bet he did. And he still got up every day and tried. Elon Musk. Winston Churchill. Taylor Swift. All people, all have dealt with fear and self-doubt, all walked through the fear and succeeded. None of them were born with a superpower. You can do what they have done.

Set Yourself Up For Success

You don’t have to become a world-renowned celebrity to have success in life, and you shouldn’t judge yourself by impossible standards. Determine what you want to do with your life, and figure out what you need to do to accomplish that. Then set a series of goals to get you from here to there. You need to know what the definition of success is for you, based on your goals. Believe in yourself. Follow someone else who has walked the same path. Dream big. Live big. Set yourself up for success. You can do it!

Justin B. Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

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The Side Hustle

The Side Hustle

The Side Hustle: Take Control of Your Life (and your finances)

So much of what we do is dictated by how much money we have available. We all have things we’d like to do, like spend a week in Europe, but it’s not something we’re likely to afford. In my last blog, we talked about ways to save money so that you can enjoy life a little more. This week we’re going to look at ways that you can take control of your life, and your finances, with a side hustle.

If you’ve got a good job, keep it!

A lot of us live in an area where the number of places to work are pretty limited. You might even be maxed out on what you can earn without moving somewhere else, and with spouses in their own career, and kids in school, moving isn’t always a good option. That’s okay! You can increase your income right from home if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

Invest a little, advance a lot

One of the positions I inherited when I began running the business aspects at our veterinary clinic was Webmaster. Ooh, sexy title, right? I didn’t know the first thing about websites, so I spent about two minutes on Google and found an online class through my local community college. For $109, I took a six-week online class in basic WordPress. When I got done with that, I took the advanced course for another $109. (ed2go.com offers a lot of affordable classes, check them out.)

So, in three months I learned all about building WordPress websites. After practicing on our website for a while and finding my groove, I built a website from scratch for a friend. Then I built one for another business here in town, and then one for a social organization. Suddenly, I had a side hustle of building and maintaining websites. I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to it, but it generates about $600 a month for me, and I use that money to pay for the editing and production of my upcoming books, writers conferences, and so on.

YouTube is your friend

Depending on what you want to do, you might not have to spend any money to learn what you need to know. I have an artist friend who is a hands-on, crafty kind of person and likes making her own stuff. She found some how-to videos on YouTube about making your own watercolor paints, and decided to give it a shot. It took her a few tries to find a really great blend, but she stuck with it until the paints were just right. She decided to open a shop on Etsy.com and try selling her handmade paints, and that has blossomed into a thriving side hustle for her.

Find Your Groove, Build Your Side Hustle

Handmade items are all the rage these days. People are choosing artisan crafts and products over mass-produced items, and they’re willing to pay the extra price for them. You can easily learn how to make really nice scented hand soaps and laundry soaps, hand-carved wooden spoons for the kitchen, crocheted personalized potholders, candles, jewelry, and a million other things. Are you a welder? People LOVE horseshoe art, giant chickens made out of scrap metal, and things like that. Websites like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon give you a ready-made platform to sell your wares, and you can do it all from home on the weekends.

If you are into more intellectual things, you can do bookkeeping for a local business, or create marketing emails. Almost all local businesses need someone to create and post social media content on Facebook. Do you know how to make quality memes? It’s not hard, if you’re willing to learn. Were you an English major? There are a lot of authors out there who need an editor, or a proofreader. Maybe you can sell your photos on Shutterstock, or become an event photographer for local weddings. Do you have a drone? Drone videos of events or businesses can be a good side hustle, as well.

What are you willing to sacrifice?

Having a successful side business requires a lot of commitment and self-discipline, just like having your own fulltime business. You’ll have to change your lifestyle to fit it in. You’ll probably have to cut out something to make the time, but for most people the only thing being sacrificed is sleeping in on the weekends and watching TV. You have to decide what you want out of life, and what you are willing to do to get it. If your purpose in life is to binge-watch TV shows and movies, or play video games, then this probably isn’t a viable option for you. If you want to take control of your life, your time, and your money so that you can do more, then creating a side hustle is a great way to make it happen.

Crossing the I’s and dotting the T’s

No one wants to get in trouble with The Man over taxes. As you are gathering information and forming your plan, make sure you read up on the business regulations in your state. It’s important to track every penny you spend and earn with your side business. You might need to form a legit legal business entity, which is much easier than you think it is. $300 and ten minutes on Legal Zoom will take care of most of that, and the only other big thing is opening a separate bank account for your business. Some towns or counties require you to pay an annual business license fee (mine is $100 a year), but again, a few minutes on the internet will help you find out what you need to do.

  Go Do What You Do!

If you’re tired of watching others live the dream on TV, then sell your TV and do something productive with your time. You’d be amazed how good it feels to do something like this; to create your own business and know that you made this happen, your hard work and effort brought it to life, and it’s generating the money you need to go to Comic-Con, or DisneyLand, or to buy that new car, or to build a nice retirement account. Don’t be a victim. Take control of your life, and live it!

 

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Justin B. Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

Setting and Achieving Goals

Setting and Achieving Goals

J. Boyd Long goalsSetting and Achieving Goals

Setting and achieving goals is one of those things that few people think about, fewer try, and even fewer actually do. It’s in the same category as dieting, exercise, and making good life decisions. But we all have intentions of doing things, right? So why don’t we get anything done?

Distractions

People have never been busier than we are today. Technology has helped us fill every second of the day with something. What do people do if they’re waiting in line for more than ten seconds? Pull out the phone and check Facebook, send a text, look at the headlines. There are approximately a trillion television shows that are so addicting we can’t bear the thought of missing a minute of them. New movies come out all the time. The kids have a million things going on.

Lack of Direction

A lot of times we have vague ideas about things we’d like to do, but we haven’t ever taken the time to think it out. One of the negative side effects of being busy every minute of the day is that we don’t have time to think about things. So, if we don’t stop to figure out exactly what it is we want to accomplish, then we will never achieve anything outside the whirlwind of daily life.

How Can I Change?

First and foremost, you have to want things to be different more than you want to avoid the stress of change. It sounds simple, but it isn’t easy. Change is hard, change is scary, change requires time and effort and commitment, and we just don’t like that stuff.

People will endure amazing hardships just to avoid change. I call this ‘being committed to the Known Quantity.’ Some people will stay broke, because being broke is easier and safer than committing to learn and work at something they haven’t done before. Other examples of people choosing the Known Quantity over change: staying in bad relationships, staying in a bad job, not trying something that you think you might like (sky diving, painting, bowling, writing, new career field, new food item, new friend, etc), not stopping something you don’t like anymore (drinking, drugs, smoking, watching TV, toxic friendship), and the list goes on.

Okay, I want to change: How do I start setting and achieving goals?

Start small. Be realistic about what you can achieve. Right now you are filling up 24 hours a day with stuff, so in order to start doing something new, something else is going to have to be sacrificed. For me, that was the television. I wasn’t very committed to it anyway, so it wasn’t too painful, but I realize that other people feel differently about that.

If you are trying to instill a meditation or exercise regime, getting up twenty minutes earlier in the morning might be all you need to do to create a timeslot. Routine is very helpful for establishing new things, so try to do it at the same time every day until you get established.

Become a List Maker

Making a list of things you need to achieve each day and each week is a great way to keep yourself on track. I have a variety of goals, and they change on a regular basis, so I have to write things down. For example, I am trying to build a network of authors on social media, so I have a goal of sending at least 2 Facebook friend requests each week, and following 3 authors on Twitter each week. I also have a goal for how many words I want to write each day, or how many pages I want to get edited.

Each Sunday, I go down my list from the previous week and list what I actually accomplished beside my goals. I have two accountability partners, so I email them the results as well. At the end of each month, I write out my weekly goals for the upcoming month. This way I know exactly what I want to get done, and the timeframe that I have to accomplish it in.

Tracking and Rewards

One way to keep yourself engaged is tracking your results, and rewarding yourself. Once setting and achieving goals becomes a part of your daily life, it’s good to be able to look back over your goals history and see how much you have accomplished. It’s also a good way to see if you are setting your expectations appropriately. If you see that you are consistently failing to meet your goals, then you need to figure out why. Are you trying to do too much, or are you not trying hard enough to get it done? If you are hitting every goal every time, perhaps you can challenge yourself to do more.

Rewards are also fun. While ice cream is great, it might not be appropriate if your goal is to eat healthier, or to lose weight. Make sure your reward is good for you and your new lifestyle. I’m not very good at rewarding myself, so this is something that I need to work on instituting. I don’t get to read as much as I’d like, so maybe an extra 30 minutes of reading time each week would be a good reward for me.

Accountability Partners

When it comes to setting and achieving goals consistently, nothing has helped me keep my focus more than accountability partners. I wrote an entire blog on that topic, so I’ll just give you a link to that topic here: Accountability Partners Blog

So, there you have it: you can do way more than you think you can. All you need is an overwhelming desire to do something, some direction, a list or two, and a buddy. Once you start down this road, you will be amazed at where your life can go!

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Justin B. Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

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