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7 Free Books That Should Be On Your Shelves

7 Free Books That Should Be On Your Shelves

Bookshelf

    Who doesn’t like free stuff? And if we’re talking about stuff that will actually help you out in the long run, it’s hard to find a reason to turn it down. Free books, for example, are more than worth their price, especially if they are good reference materials. But sometimes it can be hard to find free books — it’s not necessarily something that’s advertised.

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    There are plenty of places to get free materials, though, if you know to ask. Brand new books, as well — not the free used books that you can find just about anywhere. This goes beyond the many websites that offer free ebooks of fictional work, though. The publications on this list are mostly reference materials. While they aren’t something you might consider for an afternoon of light reading, though, they can be very useful in planning your finances, doing home projects and other tasks that may require reference materials. Most of this information is available online, as well, but sometimes a hard copy can come in handy.

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    1. How to Really Start Your Own Business: SCORE offers this workbook, along with others, that provide an immense amount of information on how to plan your business. If you’re considering entrepreneurship — or have already started — consider requesting these books. The easiest way is to request them through your local SCORE chapter. You don’t need to be a member and you can find the contact information for each chapter on the SCORE website. Other available materials include booklets on specific business structures and other small business information. If you complete How to Really Start Your Own Business, including all the questions, you’ll essentially have a business plan ready to go.
    2. The Consumer Action Handbook: A new edition of this book is published yearly by the U.S. government. It offers practical advice for consumers, from buying a car to writing a will. The handbook contains an immense amount of information and isn’t exactly light reading, but it is an excellent reference guide. To order a copy, you’ll need to visit the order form on ConsumerAction.gov and provide a mailing address.
    3. Investing Basics: This is another government publication. It’s actually a set of several publications to help readers create financial plans and begin investing. If you’re hazy on the details of investing, this kit is a great starter set. And its price tag is much less than investing programs costing hundreds of dollars for essentially the same information. You can order Investing Basics online through the GSA’s order form.
    4. Easy Weekend Projects: Interested in do-it-yourself projects? Minwax, the makers of wood stain and various related products, offer a free guide to projects you can do yourself. It’s a little heavy on the wood-based projects, but there is plenty of useful information. You can order Easy Weekend Projects through Minwax’s online order form. They also offer up a variety of other publications, including Wood Beautiful Magazine and the Guide to Hardwood Floor Care.
    5. Genealogy Publications: If you’re interested in researching your family tree, the National Archives have made a whole list of publications, from booklets like Using Records in the National Archives for Genealogical Research to reference materials like Chinese Immigration and Chinese in the United States. A full list of the free publications available through the National Archives is available on their website. Unfortunately, you can’t place a request online — you’ll need to call the National Archives by telephone or through the mail.
    6. IRS Publications: The IRS will provide the majority of both their forms and their publications in print, as well as in PDF. To order copies of any of their publications, you will need the publication number. A few key publications are 334 (Tax Guide for Small Business), 505 (Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax), 5 (Your Appeal Rights and How to Prepare a Protest) and 910 (Guide to Free Tax Services). There are literally thousands of IRS publications, and as long as you know the number, you can order up to 10 publications to have mailed to you through the IRS’ online order form.
    7. Tourism materials: Every state, as well as quite a few countries, will mail you books, brochures and other publications about their location and the tourism opportunities. There’s no need to buy guidebooks or maps — just look up the local tourism board and request the materials. Many have online request forms, although a few will ask you to call to place a request. Some cities offer the same service. If you’re requesting books from overseas, be aware that you may be asked to pay shipping.

    Most of these organizations make their publications available as PDFs, as well. They also have an even wider selection of free publications available for download, as do hundreds of other websites. The FDA, for instance, makes many internal publications available as free downloads. While their Industry Guidance documents may not appeal to everyone, their consumer publications, which range from recommendations for dietary supplements to fact sheets on precautions to take when applying eye cosmetcis, can be excellent reference materials. And if you’re willing to pay for shipping, you can get many more free hard copies.

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    One thing to keep in mind about free publications, though, is that you may get what you pay for. While I personally trust the U.S. government’s recommendations about consumer protection, I’m a little more leary of Minwax’s recommendations of their own product over all others. That doesn’t make Minwax’s publications unrealible — they just should be taken with a grain of salt.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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