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Emergency Lifehacks: Plan Ahead

Emergency Lifehacks: Plan Ahead

    What would you do if you lost power for a day? What about a nasty storm knocking out transport to your area for a week? What if you had to evacuate your home because of a wild fire?

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    A little emergency preparedness can go a long way. Spending an hour or two today, along with a few dollars, can make sure that you have less to worry about in the event of an emergency. And if you’re worrying about a bad storm or a wild fire, I think that any peace of mind that being prepared can bring you is worth the effort. You don’t need to spend a lot of time worry about emergency preparedness, but making it a part of your plans makes sense. Heck, you back up your hard drive on a regular basis, right? That’s basic emergency preparedness right there!

    Planning An Evacuation Bag

    I’ve read about people keeping a go bag for every occasion — from wilderness rescue to a bird flu pandemic It’s up to you how far you want to go, but I’ve focused on stocking a bag that will get me through some basic emergencies. I’m working on the assumption that, after a point, I’ll have access to my (or someone else’s), tool shed, pantry and other stuff and can work with those items when I run out. No sense hauling around more than a first aid kit when you can stock a good number of emergency medical supplies at home.

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    So what do I think is important in an evacuation bag?

    • A basic first aid kit
    • A map
    • A flashlight with spare batteries
    • A blanket
    • At least one change of clothing, with extra underwear and socks
    • Soap and a few other basic hygiene supplies.
    • A coat
    • Medication — a supply of both prescription and over the counter drugs
    • A recent back up of important computer files
    • Copies of important documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards
    • An inventory (for insurance purposes)
    • A list of important phone numbers
    • Snacks
    • A deck of cards or other entertainment

    Since I’m self-employed, that recent back up of my computer files is especially important. If I had to leave my files behind me, it could be very difficult for me to rebuild my business later on. I know that I can’t lug my filing cabinet along on an evacuation, but I can take a USB drive or a DVD. I’ve also added family photos and other important files to my backup. If you have something that you can’t bear to leave behind, add it to your evacuation list — you may need to make a list of things to pick up on your way out the door, and keep it with your bag.

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    Home Preparations

    There are any number of emergencies that could keep you stuck in your home or in your immediate area. The most important step you can take towards preparedness is stocking your pantry — even keeping a little extra food in the house can make the difference between having to go out in a blizzard or being able to wait it out.

    The expert opinions on what to stock at home vary widely. Recommendations to have 1 gallon of water on hand per person are pretty consistent. But beyond that, there are a variety of options. Depending on where you live and your circumstances, some recommendations include stocking up a year’s worth of food. If that’s your inclination, this calculator is a good start. It does assume, however, that you have a good working knowledge of your own kitchen.

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    Storing a year’s worth of food is outside of the realm of the possible for some of us — I don’t know where I could put 750 pounds of flour in my apartment, let alone other foods. I generally try to have about two weeks worth of extra food on hand at any given time. I try to add a few more canned items to my pantry, along with other non-perishables each time I go grocery shopping. As to what to store, I recommend sticking as close to your usual diet as possible. Stocking up on canned beets doesn’t make sense for those of us who hate beats.

    Beyond food, having a more extensive first aid kit on hand is worthwhile. I recommend thinking big: go beyond the roll of medical tape and the gauze pads. I’m slowly adding items as my budget allows, but my goal is to be able to keep going through at least minor medical emergencies. That means that I want a couple of cans of chicken broth, rubber gloves and a splint all on hand. Deciding what should be in your home’s kit can depend on who you life with, where you live and what Nature is likely to throw at your state. Good starting points include Jim McDonald’s jump kit guide, MSNBC’s home flu kit and Ready America’s first aid kit. If you can get even some basic medical training (many employers will pay for employees to get CPR training, and there are a number of free classes available at community centers), it’s worthwhile. There are also a couple of good books worth picking up: the Merck Manual and Where There is No Doctor are both good options.

    Emergency Preparedness in Everyday Life

    Once you’ve started making some plans for emergencies, it’s worth making them a part of your regular routine. If you’ve laid in some canned food or bottled water, make a point to make it a part of your meal plans so that you keep replacing it with new. Putting a reminder to go over your plans or check your supplies on your calendar is a great idea. For some people, once a year is plenty. For others, a go bag might need to be updated a bit more often. I’ve read about families who put together evacuation bags just in case, and then just put them in a closet for a few years. When they next checked on them, their children had outgrown the packed clothing by several sizes.

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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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