Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


Leave a comment

Student Budgeting Tips to Keep Your Mind off the Money

We’re well into the first month of school! Hopefully you have made a positive adjustment to the school year and your studies are going well thus far. At this time for some students, they may feel stressed about their personal finances. Even with the increasing number of government rebates and grants, post-secondary education isn’t cheap, and for some students, it is their first year of managing a budget on their own. As a student, it’s important you learn how to properly manage your student budget so that it lasts you all year long, and you can focus on what matters most – succeeding in your studies.

With that in mind, here are some simple budgeting tips I recommend so you can spend less time worrying about money and more time focusing on your academics and general well-being:

Download Finance Apps

Since most of us have our cellphones at our disposal whenever we need, you may want to consider using a finance app to track your daily purchases and spending.

Here are just a few of the dozens (if not hundreds) of mobile finance apps available and how they can help you build and stick to a budget:

  • MintMint allows you to bring all of your banking and credit card transactions into one password-protected space. You can easily set up budgets within the app and categorize your transactions, and Mint even sends you notifications when your bills are due or if you’re overspending.
  • WallyWally is particularly useful if you’re an international student, as it is one of few finance apps that allows users to document and create budgets with any form of currency.
  • You Need a Budget – If you don’t mind investing in a paid app, You Need a Budget links all of your accounts, helps you create personalized debt repayment plans, and hosts live financial planning workshops.

Use Budgeting Templates

A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of free budgeting templates to help you organize your income and expenses. If you’re unsure which to trust, consider using one offered by your financial institution; many banks, including TD Canada Trust, CIBC, RBC, and Scotiabank, offer online budget calculators. If you are new to Canada or if your bank doesn’t provide an online budgeting tool, the Government of Canada has also created a helpful student budget worksheet.

Buy Used Items

Many universities and colleges have bookstores on campus where students can sell textbooks they no longer need or buy used textbooks at a fraction of their original cost. I’ve also seen many Facebook groups where students gather to buy, sell, or trade textbooks, clothing, furniture, and electronics. If you can’t find a community social media group for your university or college, consider starting one yourself!

 

If you are in need of free and confidential financial advice, you can call your Student Assistance Program (SAP) 24/7 at 1-877-234-5327 (toll-free) to receive the personal financial counselling you need either by telephone or in-person. Stay well!

 

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

How to Regain Your Passion for Education

book-841171_1920 (1)With the new school year just around the corner, you may fall into one of two categories: you’re either excited to return to campus to get back to your studies and/or see your friends, or you’re dreading having to get back to the books. If you fall into the latter category, this blog is for you. It’s important to remember that completing post-secondary education allows you to increase your potential earnings and, above all, pursue your dreams.

Here are some methods I suggest you try to motivate yourself to return to school:

Document Small Goals

Take a moment to write down your goals, both academic and professional. A three- or four-year degree can feel like an incredibly long time. Rather than be overwhelmed by the length of time required to complete your education, I advise you to take it one step at a time. What are your academic goals for this month, this week, or even just today? With every task you complete, no matter how small, you earn a sense of accomplishment that urges you to continue.

Once you’ve written down your goals, consider framing them and hanging them over your desk. This way, if you ever feel yourself lacking the motivation to continue your education, you can easily look up to remind yourself of your academic purpose.

 

Get Involved

You should look for opportunities to balance your schoolwork and social life. If you are a first-year student, get to know your campus and the clubs and sports it offers. If you don’t find a club that interests you, start your own! These are great ways to make new friends and feel like a part of the school community.

Whether you are a first-year student or not, consider building your resume with more than academics. Does your program offer internship or co-op opportunities? You could also look for an internship or part-time job in your field on your own or give back to your community by volunteering with an association that matters to you. The important thing is that you have an outlet to help with the stress associated with a heavy semester and exams.

 

Be Realistic

Has it crossed your mind that perhaps the program you’re in isn’t for you? If so, my advice would be to treat this new school year as a clean slate. You still have the option to switch your major or specialization or enrol in a smaller course load. It’s better to delay graduation by a semester or two pursuing a different or part-time academic path than it is to spend years completing a degree that no longer interests you.

If you need a little extra help rekindling your passion for your program, I encourage you to contact your Student Assistance Provider. They can help you find a balance between your personal and academic life, sort out potential financial concerns, discuss anxieties, and much more.


Leave a comment

Can You Effect Change in 2018 without Resolutions?

shutterstock_753302986Ah, it’s January of a new year, a time most people reflect on the past year – what worked, what didn’t and what should have been done. Then we see our co-workers and our friends and family, and we are often asked “So what are YOUR New Year’s resolutions?” The common responses tend to be health-related, such as losing weight, quitting smoking and exercising regularly, or financial, such as debt reduction and better money management. But when we reflect, we can see why last year’s resolutions weren’t fulfilled, and that’s due to the fact that they are just that – resolutions. Resolutions have been shown to have been actualized less than 10% of the time.

So is it possible to have the best intentions for 2018 without having actual resolutions? Absolutely. Let me share with you some ways you can effect positive change in your life by simply adjusting the way you perceive those intentions.

Turning a Plan into Action – The readiness to change, or how prepared a person is to enter the action stage of changing their behaviour, has been found to be the single best predictor of New Year’s resolution success, with those who have intention to be 10 times more likely to succeed than adults who were not yet ready to put plans into action.

Unrealistic Goals and Expectations – People often make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, but if they aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, then success will be difficult to achieve. Set only one resolution to focus on, and be specific. Setting short-term goals which are attainable and realistic, such as “I am going to lose 2 lbs. per week for the next 10 weeks” vs. “I am going to lose 20 lbs. starting now”, have been found to be more effective in the long term. With systems in place that reward new behaviours, while avoiding high-risk situations that allow for a step-back, it can be easier to stay on track.

Be Accountable to Someone – Have a buddy, someone close to you, to cheer you on but also to whom you have to report to at set intervals and maintain this accountability. This person can remind you of your success achieved thus far, and help you celebrate along the way, not just at the end.

Changing the Way You Think – By focusing your thinking on creating new behaviours and thought patterns, you will be able to change your habits. This involves creating new neural pathways in your brain that set your habitual thoughts to the “new standard”, and become your default when faced with new situations, like when you are faced with the dessert menu and others are ordering from it. Your new way of thinking becomes your way of creating positive habits.

Be Present and Mindful – When you focus on the moment, and not what happened in the past or worry about the future, you can be mindful of our feelings and think of what we can do TODAY to achieve your goal. In fact, if you can visualize having already attained your goal, this will help you create readiness and intention to pursue it.

How will you make changes in your life this year? Have you found success with these tips? I look forward to hearing from you!


Leave a comment

Returning to Your Routine After the Holidays

k-s13-teddy-2312The holiday season is now upon us, and while this time of year is meant for us to enjoy, many Canadians struggle with the transition after the holidays. It’s no surprise why; with time off from work and school and changes to our daily routines and sleep patterns, getting back into your normal routine can be challenging.

For this reason, I’d like to share some tips to help you ease back into your normal habits, and start the New Year off stress-free.

Try A New Activity to Change Up Your Schedule

After a few days or a week off from your daily routine, many of us might dread the idea of going back to it, so now is the perfect time to add something new to our schedule to change it up! More and more evidence shows that exercise will help improve one’s mental health. In the New Year, I recommend signing up for a class at the gym that piques your interest or joining a recreational sports league. There are often deals or incentives to sign up during this time of year, and it’ll also accomplish many people’s resolution to add an active element to their schedule. 

Plan Something Exciting for the Future

Whether it’s a weeklong vacation, a weekend getaway, or even a night out with friends you haven’t seen in a while, planning a future event will bring you excitement and give you something to look forward to. At a time when your normal routine might seem a little bit gloomy, an event on the horizon is a great way to inject some positivity into your future. In fact, the process of planning a vacation actually increases your happiness!

Remember that Some Stress Isn’t Always Bad

Although your return to work or school can sometimes provoke stress, it’s important to remember that a little bit of stress can be good for you. The stress you feel now can serve as the drive you need to start a new project, or the motivation you need to adopt a positive new habit. Talk about how you’re feeling with your friends and family, because chances are that you have more in common than you realize. Knowing that others are feeling similar to you can offer relief and reassurance, and sometimes just one conversation is all it takes.

After the celebrations and festivities come to an end, the New Year offers you the chance to add some fun and revitalizing excitement to your routine. Remember that with just a few proactive steps, you’ll be excited and ready to get back into the swing of things come January. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


Leave a comment

How to Get Employees Motivated After a Long Weekend

With the long weekend fast approaching, many managers worry that their employees will experience a “lull” in motivation, which may result in a drop in productivity. One of the great challenges with long weekends is not only are we coming back to a four-day work week, but “vacation mode” typically kicks in before the long weekend begins. By Wednesday afternoon you’ve probably noticed water cooler chatter about long weekend plans. And, you can expect an early, mass exodus on Friday afternoon. In anticipation of the lack of productivity and early departures many large companies let employees go at 2pm the Friday of a long weekend. The company appears to be providing a great perk, when in essence, they’re not losing anything. Once the long weekend is over, it’s time to get back to work and I have some great tips to get your employees motivated, revved up and back into “work mode”.

 

Ask your employees what they did

Instead of your employees walking around daydreaming about their weekend adventures, ask them what they did. Allow them some space to talk about and relive the events of the weekend so they can mentally move forward. Once they talk about it they can get it off their minds and get down to business.

Help them set tasks

Even your most dedicated employees may have some trouble getting back into work mode. Take some time in the morning to review any ongoing work and clearly define the steps required to move forward. Discuss anything new that’s come up and set goals for the week.

Invite your employees to a brainstorming session

Brainstorming sessions get the creative juices flowing again after a long weekend. And, employees feel that their ideas are heard and valued and that they’re an important part of the team. It’s a great way to motivate your employees.

Praise your employees

Positive reinforcement is a great motivator. Spread positivity around and you’ll see an increase in motivation and productivity. 

Lead by example

As a leader it’s important to set the example. Let your employees see that you’re refreshed, recharged and raring to go. They’ll feed off your energy and mirror your positive attitude.

Give your employees something to look forward to

Right after a long weekend is an opportune time to talk about great events to look forward to –company picnic, summer boat cruise, potluck lunch, softball or Frisbee league, volunteer day… this changes the focus from the past to the future.

 

Do you let your employees leave early before a long weekend? Have you noticed a lull in employee motivation after a long weekend in the past?


Leave a comment

Positively Productive

think-positiveAs we begin a new year, there is a sense of hope instilled in all of us. There are countless opportunities ahead, and a fresh beginning can inspire us in all aspects of our life. A lot of people make resolutions, and after a tumultuous year, I have as well: to be positive.

Positivity is a state of mind. It encompasses all elements of our life. So how can we be more positive, not only in our personal lives but at work as well? More specifically, as managers, how can we encourage this attitude amongst our employees when things get tough at work? Studies show that positive employees are more productive and exhibit more signs of motivation. So if you are looking to boost morale in your workplace this year, here’s a list of ways you can incorporate more positivity into your organization:

Be Social

In the workplace, we are often so busy working on projects and tasks that we forget to interact and be friendly with our employees and co-workers. The need to socialize started as an evolutionary method of survival. Not much has changed today; a study by UCLA researchers outlines the health benefits of social interaction, stating that social contact with others has a greater impact on overall health than cholesterol levels do.

So how can you create more of a social community in your workplace? While I am not suggesting creating a “party” atmosphere amongst your workforce, a simple “hello” to employees from higher-ranking staff each day, organized social events within the company, and encouraging employees to socialize and get to know one another are actions, among others, that can significantly boost morale in the workplace, and therefore increase job satisfaction and productivity.

Change your schedule

Most office employees work between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day. While this may be the overall average workday, it doesn’t always work for each employee. For example, a single mother may need to drop her children off at daycare by 6 a.m. and pick them up by 4 p.m. at the latest. The daily struggle to find the time to manage both her job and parental duties could create a large amount of stress.

While it’s not always possible, try to work around your employee’s personal schedules. Maybe they would prefer to come in earlier and leave earlier or start later and leave later As long as you are satisfied with the work being done, making these changes can increase employee’s job satisfaction while reducing stress levels. Additionally, according to an article in the Journal of Applied Psychology, workers who can produce their own schedules are more efficient and less likely to call in sick than employees who work a strict schedule.

Allow employees to control their space

A 2013 Workplace Study by design and architectural firm Gensler found that employees who had control over their own workspace were not only more satisfied in their roles, they had higher motivation and productivity rates.

For example, their study reported that tech firms had a higher happiness rate in an open-concept office space. Facebook, in particular, has found success this way by allowing their employees to customize their workplace layout based on the project at hand. By allowing employees creative control of their workspace, studies show an increase in organizational productivity.

While a major change in workspaces may not be possible for all employers, talk to your employees about their workspace needs and evaluate how you can make this work for them. If they require focus and attention to detail, a walled cubicle may make sense. If they need to interact with employees more frequently, an open-concept plan would be more efficient.

At the end of the day, we spend a majority of our lives at work. If we want to make sure our employees continue to perform well, have high levels of job satisfaction and are motivated, it’s our responsibility to create a positive and enjoyable workplace environment year round.

What other ways can you think of to improve the positivity of your workforce?


Leave a comment

8 Tips to Changing Your Work and Life Habits

Changing-HabitsNew Year’s can serve as the “reboot button” for many of us who are looking to make changes whether personally or professionally. We all know we have the power to break bad habits, change our lifestyles, and create new habits but getting it done is another matter.

Although we are creatures of habit, changing habits is no small undertaking. Studies show that if you can repeat an action every day for 21-28 days, it will become habit. If you continue the habit for 66 days it will become a well-ingrained habit.

When you create a new habit, whether good or bad, your brain changes. These changes can be undone to stop a bad habit. They are also easily resumed because the foundation for the pattern is still there. This is very good news if you want to resurrect a good habit from your past. If you want to eliminate a bad habit, it can be more difficult.

After you pass the 21-day mark, you are over the most difficult part. Your new habit will be so easy to continue that you may reach the 66-day mark without even realizing it.

Knowing how difficult changing or initiating a new habit is, I have outlined 8 tips to keep you on track, but remember consistency is the key to your success.

  1. Make it easy and specific. It is much easier to form new habits than eliminate bad ones, so focus on starting a new habit. Choose something simple to begin with. For example, if you are looking to enhance the collaborative environment at work, establish daily team meetings at 9am or if you already have team meetings, change the format up by having different staff members facilitate each meeting. On the personal side, instead of planning to lose 40 pounds, set a measurable goal of losing 1 pound a month.
  2. Choose one habit at a time. No matter how simple the habit is, don’t complicate your efforts. Stay focused on creating one habit.
  3. Take it seriously. You must be fully invested to make a change. The change must be important to you. For example, if staff members are looking for a more collaborative culture in the office, creating a regular morning team meeting to foster collaboration is a great idea. Don’t decide to create a habit on a whim. If you are not committed to making a change, you won’t. Get excited about your new habit by listing the benefits you will experience.
  4. Be committed. Quitting is not an option. Put a calendar on your wall and mark the start date that you will begin to make a change and the 28-day mark when you will be “over the hump.” Mark off each day that you are successful and watch your calendar become a page of “X”s.
  5. Keep the time consistent. Make sure that your new habit takes place at the same time EVERY day. Don’t put it off. If your new habit is part of a routine, don’t change the order. It must be the same every time.
  6. Create visual reminders. Visual cues are reminders that you can see. Put notes in places where you will be when it’s time for your new habit. Use Outlook reminders, or put a reminder on your mobile device.
  7. Stay positive. You’ve made a long-term commitment to making a change, and there are bound to be setbacks, but try to stay positive so that “I can’t do this,” becomes “I can’t do this yet, but I will soon.”
  8. Ask for support. Outside support helps you be accountable. Explain to your colleagues or other managers why you are implementing your new habit and get their buy-in to help support this change. For personal habits, get your friends and family involved and let them know what they can do to help.

By following these steps you can look forward to having your new habit run on autopilot. Imagine how much more smoothly your life will run. Once you have one new habit in place, you can move on to others. As time passes, your new habits will take very little effort to maintain.