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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 October 15, 2019

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why we procrastinate after all

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    So, is procrastination bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How bad procrastination can be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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    8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

    Procrastination, a technical failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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