How Do Employee Stock Options Work?

Perhaps you’ve been offered a job package with a combination of salary, benefits, and employee stock options. In order to make an informed decision, it helps to know how employee stock options (ESOs) work. Knowing the basics can be especially important if you’re considering taking a lower salary offer in exchange for ESOs.

Or maybe your current employer has already given you employee stock options, but you’re still not clear on how to exercise them. This is an incentive that could be valuable—so you probably don’t want to ignore it.

Employee stock options have the potential to make an employee some extra money, depending on the market, which may be a nice perk. Stock options can also give employees a sense of ownership (and, to a degree, actual ownership) in the company they work for.

Here is everything you need to know about ESOs—from how they work to the different types, and all the details in between.

What Are Employee Stock Options?

Employee stock options give an employee the chance to purchase a set number of shares in the company at a set price—often called the exercise price—over a set amount of time. Typically, the exercise price is a way to lock in a lower price for the stock.

This gives an employee the chance to exercise their ESOs at a point when the exercise price is lower than the market price—with the potential to make a profit on the shares.

Sometimes, an employer may offer both ESOs and restricted stock units (RSUs)—RSUs are different in that they are basically a promise of stock at a later date.

Employee Stock Option Basics

When talking about stock options, there are some essential terms to know in order to understand how options work. For investors who know their way around options trading, some of these terms may be familiar.

•  Exercise price/grant price/strike price: This is the given set price at which employees can purchase the stock options.
•  Market price: This is the current price of the stock on the market (which may be lower or higher than the exercise price). Typically an employee would only choose to exercise and purchase the options if the market price is higher than the grant price.
•  Issue date: This is the date on which you’re given the options.
•  Vesting date: This is the date after which you can exercise your options per the original terms
•  Exercise date: This is the date you actually choose to exercise your options.
•  Expiration date: This is the date on which your ability to exercise your options expires.

How Do Employee Stock Options Work?

When you’re given employee stock options, that means you have the option, or right, to buy stock in the company at the established grant price. You don’t have to exercise options, but you can if it makes sense to you.

Exercising your ESOs means choosing to actually purchase the stock at the given grant price, after a predetermined waiting period. If you don’t purchase the stock, then the option will eventually expire.

ESO Vesting Periods

Typically, employee stock options come with a vesting period, which is basically a waiting period after which you can exercise them. This means you must stay at the company a certain amount of time before you can cash out.

The stock options you’re offered may be fully vested on a certain date or just partially vested over multiple years, meaning some of the options can be exercised at one date and some more at a later date.

ESO Example

For example, imagine you were issued employee stock options on Jan. 1 of this year with the option of buying 100 shares of the company at $10/share. You can exercise this option starting on Jan. 1, 2021 (the vesting date) for 10 years, until Jan. 1, 2031 (the expiration date).

If you choose not to exercise these options by Jan. 1, 2031, they would expire and you would no longer have the option to buy stock at $10/share.

Now, let’s say the market price of shares in the company goes up to $20 at some point after they’ve vested on Jan. 1, 2021, and you decide to exercise your options.

This means you decide to buy 100 shares at $10/share for $1,000 total—while the market value of those shares is actually $2,000.

Exercising Employee Stock Options

You don’t have to exercise your options unless it makes sense for you. That may depend on your financial situation, the forecasted value of the company, and what you expect to do with the shares after you purchase them.

If you do plan to exercise your ESOs, there are a few different ways to do so. It’s worth noting that some companies have specifications about when the shares can be sold, because they don’t want you to just exercise your options and then sell off all your stock in the company immediately.

Buy and Hold

Once you own shares in the company, you can choose to hold onto them. To continue the example above, you could just buy the 100 shares with $1,000 cash and you would then own that amount of stock in the company—until you decide to sell your shares (if you do).

Cashless Exercise

Another way to exercise your ESOs is with a cashless exercise, which means you sell off enough of the shares at the market price to pay for the total purchase.

For example, you would sell off 50 of your purchased shares at $20/share to cover the $1,000 that exercising the options cost you. You would be left with 50 shares.) Most brokerages will do this buying and selling simultaneously.

Stock Swap

A third way to exercise options works if you already own shares. A stock swap allows you to swap in existing shares of the company at the market price of those shares and trade for shares at the exercise price.

For example, you might trade in 50 shares that you already own, worth $1,000 at the market price, and then purchase 100 shares at $10/share.

When the market price is higher than the exercise price—often referred to as options being “in the money”—you may be able to gain value for those shares because they’re worth more than you pay for them.

Why Do Companies Offer Stock Options?

The idea is simple: If employees are financially invested in the success of the company, then they’re more likely to be emotionally invested in its success as well and it can increase employee productivity.

From an employee’s point of view, stock options offer a way to share in the financial benefit of their own hard work. In theory, if the company is successful, then the market stock price will rise and your stock options will be worth more.

A stock is simply a fractional share of ownership in a company, which can be bought or sold or traded on a market.

The financial prospects of the company influence whether people want to buy or sell shares in that company, but there are a number of factors that can determine stock price, including investor behavior, company news, world events, and primary and secondary markets.

Tax Implications of Employee Stock Options

There are two main kinds of employee stock options: qualified and non-qualified, each of which has different tax implications. These are also known as incentive stock options (ISOs) and non-qualified stock options (NSOs or NQSOs).

Incentive Stock Options (ISO)

When you buy shares in a company below the market price, you could be taxed on the difference between what you pay and what the market price is. ISOs are “qualified” for preferential tax treatment, meaning no taxes are due at the time you exercise your options—unless you’re subject to an alternative minimum tax.

Instead, taxes are due at the time you sell the stock and make a profit. If you sell the stock more than one year after you exercise the option and two years after they were granted, then you will likely only be subject to capital gains tax.

If you sell the shares prior to meeting that holding period, you will likely pay additional taxes on the difference between the price you paid and the market price as if your company had just given you that amount outright. For this reason, it is often financially beneficial to hold onto ESO shares for at least one year after exercising and two years after your exercise date.

Non-qualified Stock Options (NSOs or NQSOs)

NSOs do not qualify for preferential tax treatment. That means that exercising stock options subjects them to ordinary income tax on the difference between the exercise price and the market price at the time you purchase the stock. Unlike ISOs, NSOs will always be taxed as ordinary income.

Taxes may be specific to your individual circumstances and vary based on how the company has set up its employee stock option program, so it’s always a good idea to consult a tax advisor for specifics.

Should You Exercise Employee Stock Options?

While it’s impossible to know if the market price of the shares will go up or down in the future, there are a number of things to consider when deciding if you should exercise options:

•  the type of option—ISO or NSO—and related tax implications
•  the financial prospects of the company
•  your own portfolio and how these company shares would fit into your goals

You also might want to consider how many shares are being made available, to whom, and on what timeline—especially when weighing what stock options are worth to you as part of a job offer. For example, if you’re offered shares worth 1% of the company, but then the next year more shares are made available, you could find your ownership diluted and the stock would then be worth less.

The Takeaway

Employee stock options may be an enticing incentive that companies can offer their employees: the chance to invest in the company directly, and possibly profit from doing so. There are certain rules around ESOs, including timing of exercising the options, as well as different tax implications depending on the type of ESO a company offers its employees.

For some investors, owning shares in their employer company may be just one aspect of a diversified portfolio. With SoFi Invest®, members can participate in upcoming IPOs, trade stocks, ETFs, and crypto—or start automated investing—as a way to diversify their portfolios based on their personal goals, risk tolerance, and other preferences.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.

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Ready to Work Remote? Here Are the Home Office Essentials You Need

As work-from-home jobs become more ubiquitous, so do requirements for home offices.

We’ve noticed some trends in home-office requirements — some very reasonable and others… not so much. For example, some employers give thousands of dollars in stipends to deck out your home office while others require specific 17-inch dual-screen monitors without providing reimbursement.

Most remote jobs are somewhere in the middle, but it’s likely that you’ll need to invest a little in your home office before it’s work-from-home ready.

This list of home office essentials is based on common remote job requirements and advice from remote employees. It will give you an idea of what items your home office might need and how much it will cost to transition into a work-from-home career, particularly in the sales, customer service or IT fields.

Typical Office Requirements for Work-From-Home Jobs

Computer Setup

Portability is a large consideration for remote jobs. After all, half the fun of working at home is curling up in bed with your laptop on those lazy days. If that’s the case, a light laptop is your best option. But computer prices may make you feel a little queasy.

Work-from-home reporter James Duren agreed.

“Spending more than $1,000 on a MacBook, for example, isn’t always feasible, even if we write them off [on taxes],” Duren said.

He uses a $170 Chromebook.

“The most beneficial aspect of it is that everything is stored in the cloud,” Duren said. “So I’m never at risk of losing documents in the event my laptop dies.”

This is a double-edged feature, however. The biggest adjustment may be the availability of apps and programs. The Chromebook is its own operating system, which means some popular applications aren’t available to download.

For jobs that require specific sales or IT software, an inexpensive PC with the latest Windows operating system may be the best choice.

High-Speed Internet

Besides a computer, the most common requirement for a work-from-home job is a steady, hard-wired internet connection. That means your laptop or computer must directly connect to your modem with an ethernet cable — not through Wi-Fi.

Typically, employers will require minimum upload and download speeds. The sweet spot seems to be 10 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. Try Ookla’s internet speed test to see if your current connection meets that standard.

To find the best deal, there are many websites that compare internet providers based on speed, price and area of availability. According to an estimate by internet and phone service search engine WhistleOut, you will likely pay $30 to $50 a month to meet the minimum internet speed requirement for most work-from-home jobs. (WhistleOut is owned by Clearlink, which also owns The Penny Hoarder.)

But be sure to do some comparisons on your own to get a more accurate number, as your location may affect prices.

Landline and Phone

In the customer service and sales industries especially, a solid home-office phone is a godsend. You’ll typically need call forwarding, holding, conferencing and voicemail features in your day-to-day, which is pretty standard for most office phones. Amazon has a slew of models between $50 and $80. It’s probably overkill to spend more than that.

If you were hoping to skirt landline costs by using a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) service like Google Voice or your own cell phone, most employers in phone-reliant industries forbid it. They typically want a dedicated landline.

Landlines are becoming antiquated as VoIP services are taking over, but some large companies like AT&T provide plans for less than $25 a month when bundled with internet services. If you already have a landline service, adding an additional line or bundling it with your current internet or cable provider may save you some cash, too.

A woman takes a work from home call while wearing a headset at her home office.
Getty Images

Headset and Microphone

Headsets are frequently required, but even if the job listing doesn’t specify them, a noise-canceling headset can do wonders for productivity. And during meetings or phone calls, you’ll probably need your hands free for note taking.

“For telecommuting, the most important tool is a good headset that allows me to comfortably attend meetings without the noises of my neighborhood intruding,” remote content writer Arwen Brenneman said.

Several remote workers recommended their favorite pair of headphones and headsets to The Penny Hoarder. If you have the funds, software developer Austin Grandt recommends Bose QuietComfort headphones.

“The headphones are perfect for working at home or in a shared setting like a co-working space, as the noise-cancelling puts me into my own zone,” Grandt said. “The built-in microphone on the cable of the headphones also works great for when you have to have video chats or phone calls.”

The Bose headset can range anywhere from $200 to $400 on Amazon, depending on the model.

If you’re looking for a cheaper setup, Srhythm has a highly rated noise-reduction headset with a built-in microphone for around $50.


It would be pretty rare for a job listing to specifically require a desk. It’s kind of a given.

But desks are sometimes overlooked. Realistically, the standard cubicle-sized desk doesn’t work for apartments or home offices.

So it’s good to consider your size and storage limitations when shopping around.

“I believe the best purchase I ever made was a stand-up desk,” said Matt Schmidt, a remote insurance adviser. “Being able to go from a sitting desk to standing desk throughout the day was a lifesaver.”

Schmidt recommended the xec-FIT desk, which runs for around $300, but you can find adjustable desks for half that price on Amazon.

What about portability?

“A $15 IKEA bed-tray is my go-to for working from the cozy comfort of my couch,” Brenneman said.

An office desk and chair are shown in this photo. Both a desk and office chair are essential items to purchase when working from home.
Getty Images

Office chair

If there is one home office essential to splurge on, it’s the office chair. Being uncomfortable is really distracting, and bad posture leads to a host of other long-term issues. Creature comforts are important when it comes to sitting for hours at a time.

“One of the most important items for me personally is a comfortable and posture-support chair,” said Nicholas Kinports, a remote business development executive.

His go-to chair is from Aeron. The model he suggested will cost you up to $500, but Kinports said it’s worth every penny.

For a more budget-friendly option, try the Alera Elusion Series Mesh Chair. According to ReviewGeek, it’s the best chair if you’re trying not to sell an arm and a leg to support your back.

“It’s the little things that can cause distractions and discomfort,” Kinports said. “Make sure you invest in exactly what you need to achieve your best focus everyday.”

Dual Monitors

Monitor specs are usually contained to the IT, sales or customer service industries. But as a writer, I find dual monitors extremely beneficial. They help me stay organized by separating tabs and tasks to certain screens.

“As a [software] developer, an extra screen is also a must,” said Grandt. “Something that is larger than the 13-inch laptop… keeps me productive.”

PC Magazine rated the best monitors of 2021, and Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14 received a great review. Its screen brightness and portability make it ideal for home-office use. And in most home offices, desk space is a luxury. Consider adding a monitor mount for an extra $30 or so.

The Little Extras

Although they may not be considered “essential,” making your home office comfortable enough to work in every day may require a few more touches of comfort. You may not need any of the following items to get started, but you’ll likely want to incorporate some of these extras into your home office eventually:

  • Office supplies. Think notepads, pens and paper clips.
  • Power strip. The more electronics you accumulate, the more you’ll appreciate extra outlets.
  • Good task lighting. Your eyes will thank you for it.
  • Shelving or an organizational system. Yes, you can be totally digital. But you still may want a place to store professional reference books or your coffee mug collection.

If you land a work-from-home gig that doesn’t cover home-office costs, be prepared to dish out $700 as a one-time investment to ensure your workspace is up to snuff. For the costlier options on the list, it could run you up to $2,500 — not including monthly internet, phone payments or pajamas.

And freelancers, be sure to write these expenses off as itemized deductions on your taxes.

Adam Hardy is former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. 




Is Your Apartment Tax-Deductible When You WFH? | ApartmentSearch

Woman holding baby while sitting at desk on computerIf you’re someone who primarily works from the comfort of their home, you might find yourself wondering, “Can I write off my home office?” This is certainly a valid question and one that can possibly save you a lot of money when tax season rolls around. Learn what (if anything) is tax-deductible when your apartment doubles as your office space!

But before we begin, please know this post is not intended as legal or tax advice; rather, it’s simply meant to provide some helpful resources for your tax journey. If you need additional support or guidance as you’re filing, we encourage you to seek professional tax prep services.

Can I write off my home office?

With so many of us working from home these days, there’s a lot of curiosity around whether this situation can yield any tax breaks. Unfortunately, you won’t qualify for the home office tax deduction as a full-time remote employee in most cases.

In other words, if you work remotely — but you’re not an employer or business owner — you won’t be able to write off your home office. With that said, this might be available as a state tax deduction for *some* remote workers, so don’t give up all hope!

Anyone who’s self-employed or runs a business out of their home will likely have better luck with this write-off. According to the IRS, there are two basic requirements to qualify for a home office deduction: (1) regular and exclusive use and (2) principal place of your business.

The term ‘regular and exclusive use’ means you regularly use part of your house or apartment exclusively for conducting your business. The second criteria (principal place of business) implies your home office is either the primary location of your business or space where you frequently meet with customers or clients.

For instance, if you run a business out of your apartment, like an e-commerce store, you may be eligible for this deduction. Likewise, if you are “self-employed” as a freelancer, you may also meet this requirement.

How do I calculate my home office deduction?

If you meet the criteria stipulated by the IRS, you’ll want to know how to deduct a home office to net the most significant savings possible. There are two ways to go about this: (1) the regular method — keeping track of your expenses throughout the year and itemizing them on your tax forms, or (2) using the simplified option (if you’re eligible for it).

The regular method involves diligent record-keeping of your year-round expenses and honest reporting in your tax form. With this method, you can write off things like the cost to paint or repair your office space, which can add up pretty quickly!

The actual-expenses approach also allows you to deduct a portion of some indirect home expenses, based on the square feet you use as your office. What this means is, if your office is one-tenth of the total square footage in your house or apartment, you can deduct 10% of your mortgage interest or rent and even some of your utilities (like water and electric bills).

The simplified version of the home office deduction can be used if your office measures 300 square feet or less. For those who qualify, the IRS will give you a deduction of $5 per square foot of your home that’s used for business, up to $1,500 for a 300-square-foot-space.

If you’re unsure which choice is right for you, know that the simplified method can work well for single-room offices or smaller operations, while actual-expenses might work better if your business takes up a larger part of your home.

Additionally, the simplified route is typically easier to compute, resulting in a smaller tax break overall. The regular method requires more thorough recordkeeping (and more time to gather your receipts), but it could provide you with a larger deduction in the end.

Find a Place for Work and Life

Are you thinking of upgrading your apartment so you can have a dedicated home office? With the help of ApartmentSearch, you can easily explore two-bedroom apartments and live-work spaces for rent near you! This way, you’ll have an extra room you can use as your very own office, which is sure to help boost your morale and productivity.


Apartment Resolutions for 2018

Every December, we get excited about the start of the upcoming year. A blank slate to form new habits, reach new goals and finally commit to completing those resolutions.

But here’s the thing — about 80 percent of people don’t achieve their New Year’s resolutions and lose all motivation by February.

Often, the reason we don’t achieve those resolutions is that our goals are too broad, too complicated or just too outside our comfort zone. The lack of clarity and moving forward without a clear vision will make your motivation wane reasonably quickly as you get overwhelmed.

So, what can you do to not be part of the norm, but the exception and motivate yourself to keep going, month after month? On the last day of this decade, here’s how you find your New Year’s motivation to accomplish your goals and stay motivated throughout the year.

1. Think small

A big part of our lack of motivation behind goals and resolutions is that they’re too big — you quickly feel overwhelmed and give up. The key to staying motivated for some is breaking down a realistic goal to smaller pieces to achieve them on a quicker timeline. If you see progress, you’ll be more likely to stay on track to meet your goal.

If your overall resolution is to be healthier, then smaller tasks entail going to the gym three times a week, institute veggie Monday, drink a green smoothie every morning, etc.

2. Track your progress

Productivity app to keep you on track.Productivity app to keep you on track.

Source: Product Hunt

Having a visual of your progress and completed milestones can help motivate you even in the laziest of days. Use apps like Streaks or Productive to keep tabs on daily tasks and get automated reminders to drink more water, get to the gym, floss or any other. The app helps see how many days in a row you’ve completed a task, making the whole process a game.

Set up milestones at 30, 60 and 90 days to stay motivated and within those, set up a daily or weekly task list that will help you hit those milestones.

3. Think about why

Why are you doing this particular goal? Is it something you feel passionate about? Will it help your career in the long run?

Thinking about the reason why you set up this goal will keep you motivated as the days pass and your resolve wanes. The why will give you focus, motivation and clarity during the lowest days.

4. Accountability


Everything is better with a buddy! Tell everyone you can, from friends to colleagues, all about your goals. Accountability (and let’s be honest — the shame of failure) helps you stay on task, so you have updates every time your accountability buddy asks. Set up times to update them on your progress and celebrate any small win.

If you feel unmotivated, reach out and have them push you to complete your next task. Dragging your feet about a workout class? Tell your buddy and go together.

5. Reward yourself

Every completed task is a small win for the overall goal, so celebrate every single one. Whether you have a big reward at the end or smaller incentives as you complete certain milestones, it’s essential to recognize your progress.

Set up the rewards to be something you care about, like a vacation, a nice meal or a new set of workout clothes, so it motivates you even more.

6. Stop multitasking

person looking at fitness watchperson looking at fitness watch

It’s the beginning of the year, and the blank slate is making us feel like we can do anything. But it’s essential to remain realistic about how many things we can accomplish in 12 months. Even though a year feels long, it really isn’t.

Keep your goal list short, and when completing one of your daily tasks, stay focused on one at a time. Multitasking can reduce productivity by up to 40 percent, according to recent research.

7. Stay positive

Beyond thinking, “I can do this,” it’s essential to surround yourself with positive energy, so you stay motivated. Seek out podcasts, books and even meetups to surround yourself with good energy and continue to stay motivated through your tasks.

Look for leaders that have completed similar tasks for inspiration — a new perspective is always good. Search Spotify for relevant podcasts, subscribe to newsletters and others to give you the boost you need.

8. Be consistent


Doing something toward your resolution every day will keep your goal at the top of mind and keep you consistently moving toward it. Every glass of water, every checkmark on your to-do list, every workout you do daily moves you closer and keeps you motivated.

Just stay consistent — yes, even on holidays and vacations — so you don’t miss a beat.

9. Visualize the result

The best motivator is, of course, the bigger picture. As you complete your smaller tasks and hit those milestones on your way to achieving your goal, visualize the end result.

If your goal was to lose 10 pounds, and you’ve been completing your weekly tasks, visualize the new pair of jeans you’ll buy or the vacation you’ll take. Or perhaps it was to get a new job, then each interview you have gets you closer to that end goal. Thinking of that result will push you past the finish line.

Stay motivated

Everyone stays motivated in different ways — whether it’s breaking down a problem into smaller pieces or finding something that inspires you creatively. But staying realistic and clearly defining those goals will help you put together actionable steps and crush those resolutions.




Working From Your Apartment? Top Amenities to Look For

Man sitting at office desk sipping from a mug and looking at a computerWorking from home was still considered a bit taboo and somewhat of a privilege for many people until recently. According to this Gartner survey, at least 80% of surveyed company leaders plan to allow employees to continue remote work — at least part-time. Research has shown us that employee happiness and productivity seem to be highest when workers are allowed to stay at home rather than commute to an office. This trend isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon.

Alongside this, many people are relocating since they now have the flexibility to work from almost anywhere. Apartment communities are paying close attention to this boom and have begun offering additional incentives to potential tenants for choosing to rent a space within their community. So, what are some of the most popular amenities being offered to those who find themselves working from an apartment?

Enhanced Concierge Services

These add-on services are not necessarily a new thing for some higher-end properties. But now that more people are working from home, concierge services are quickly becoming more of an essential rather than a luxury. Having a service dedicated to tenants for things like fetching food orders, laundry, dog walking, and package retrieval is a perk that apartment communities may offer to accommodate their WFH tenants further.

Built-in Nooks

Many apartment complexes now offer work areas or small alcoves within the apartments themselves that can be used for a dedicated home office setup. These nooks sometimes come already equipped with a built-in desktop space or a collapsible desk shelf. They’re usually furnished with power outlets and added extras like USB plug-ins so that you can keep your devices charged and ready to go at all times.

Co-Working Spaces

Apartments with coworking spaces are already pretty commonplace in most newer apartment complexes. Still, some are offering computers, printers, larger open areas with desks, comfy couches, and conference-style rooms for tenants to work privately. This trend started as a way to encourage human interaction between people who work from home. It may still be offered in some communities, taking into account social distancing and health guidelines.

Garden-Style Apartments

Working from home may be less stressful than going to an office every day, but we all need to take time out for relaxation. Garden apartments are unique compared to concrete highrise apartments and may allow for a more zen-like work from home experience. They’re typically surrounded by lush greenery and sometimes genuine gardens that can provide a sense of calm after a long day of work.

Pre-Furnished Apartments

If you’re looking for the ideal pad for a digital nomad-lifestyle, finding furnished apartments or temporary furniture for your next short-term destination is a must! After all, without quality furniture, you won’t be comfortable in your temporary space, and buying new furniture after each move is a quick way to put a dent in your savings account!

Turn to CORT for help decking out your new, temporary digs with whole-apartment furniture rental. We’ll turn any place into a furnished space, setting up your stuff before you move in and picking it up at the end of the lease.

Upgrade Your WFH Lifestyle

Whether you’re working from home in a small apartment part-time or full-time, it’s essential to have a relaxing and comfortable living space. From built-in office nooks to dedicated co-working spaces, apartment complexes are finding new ways to get remote workers’ business. Find available apartment units that fit your needs with ApartmentSearch. Check out our free search tool today!


The Far-Reaching Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Most Americans would agree that a good night’s rest is essential to leading a healthy and happy life, but how many Americans are actually getting the recommended amount of sleep? Research suggests that the average American should ideally fit in seven to nine hours of sleep per night. This is a long-standing, and widely accepted, rule. However, actually adhering to this rule is another matter.

A recent Gallup survey shows that the average American only gets 6.8 hours of sleep per night, and that 40 percent of Americans fit in six hours or less, suggesting that many Americans are sleep deprived. So, what’s causing Americans to miss out on their sleep?

We polled over 1,000 Americans to see what issues keep them up at night, and found that:

  • 1 in 3 lose sleep over work-related stress.
  • Another 24 percent lose sleep over finances.

So, how do bad sleeping habits affect you? Over time, insufficient sleep has negative consequences on areas like work performance and annual earnings — the very same issues 55 percent of Americans lose the most sleep over. Below we break down the cost of this lack of sleep and just how much it’s costing employers.

Lack of sleep is now considered a public health issue. According to research from RAND Corporation, insufficient sleep causes the U.S. to lose about 1.3 million working days a year. This costs employers on average $2,280 per employee, and the productivity losses as a result cost the U.S economy 2.3% of its GDP.

On a personal level, sleep deprivation has detrimental long-term effects on health, well-being, and productivity. Insufficient sleep increases the risk of diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, and hinders workplace performance.

What Employers Can Do to Reduce Work-Related Stress

The cyclical relationship between insufficient sleep and work-related stress only perpetuates the issue for both Americans and their employers. To help American workers break the cycle, employers should consider how they can reduce work-related stress.

One of the best methods for reducing work-related stress is to offer employees more job benefits that relieve stress. This could mean allowing employees to have more annual vacation time, providing monthly lunches on the company’s dime, or offering wellness programs that help employees lead a healthier life outside of work.

Another option is to establish mentorship programs where experienced team members, such as managers or seniors, coach newer employees. Investing in these initiatives creates a company culture that employees are proud of, and helps them associate the workplace with positivity and personal development rather than stress.

Sources: RAND | CNBC, 2 | ProjectTimeOff | Time | Payscale | Investopedia | RisePeople | GetBridge | Octanner | Deloitte | TinyPulse | Zenefits


Create a Productive Apartment Work-From-Home Space | Apartminty

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Working from home has become more prominent than ever, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, when you’re living in an apartment, it can sometimes be challenging to create a productive remote workspace. 

Thankfully, there are things you can do to maximize your space (no matter how small it may be), arrange it in a way that inspires creativity and productivity, and take care of yourself so you stay motivated. 

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can make the most of your apartment while you’re working from home, so you can find a healthy work-life balance and stay focused on your job each day. 

Arranging Your Space

A productive apartment work-from-home space starts with actually creating a designated workspace. You don’t necessarily need to have a separate spare room to set up an office. As long as you have a specific location in mind that is dedicated to your work, you can get things done effectively. Some suggestions include: 

  • Fixing a folding shelf to a wall.
  • Using a large closet/wardrobe.
  • Utilizing a large hallway.
  • Pulling your sofa away from the wall in the living room and using it as a desk chair.

Having your own workspace can help you to stay focused and organized throughout the day. Remember, your environment can affect your mental health. It can either keep you motivated or bring you down. So, focus on things like using natural lighting, having live plants around to give you energy, and even controlling the temperature to keep things a bit cooler. 

If you know you will have to participate in Zoom meetings or similar video chats, make sure that your office looks as professional as possible. Because you’re at home, it’s okay to make things personal. But, whatever is in your background should still suggest that you’re working. A professional background for a video call can include things like plants, pictures, and artwork, but probably shouldn’t include your Star Wars actions figures. 

Keeping Your Health in Mind

In addition to having the right space set up, it’s crucial to take care of yourself in order to stay productive. When working from home, it’s easy to feel distracted and unmotivated. Taking care of yourself, physically and mentally, can have a huge impact on how well you do your job. 

One of the potential drawbacks of working from home is having a harder time with a work-life balance. You can combat this by having a routine each day. Start work at the same time and end it at the same time. Having a separate office space in your apartment will make it easier to “walk away” from work at the end of the day. 

It’s also important to take breaks, and you may need to encourage yourself to do so. Your apartment might be small, but don’t be afraid to splurge on a few “self-care” items including, perhaps, a sofa that you can put in or near your workspace for whenever you need to take a break. 

Your breaks should also consist of movement, as much as possible. Stand up and stretch every hour. Or, take longer breaks throughout the day that allow you to get outside and go for a walk. Studies have shown that simply being out in nature can improve your mood, which may help with productivity, and it will give you a chance to get some space after being in a small apartment all day. 

It’s possible to create a productive apartment work-from-home space and to stay motivated each day. With a few simple changes, some organizational skills, and maybe a professional purchase or two, you can turn almost any area of your apartment into an effective workspace. 

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources for Financial Relief & More

The initial shock and confusion of the COVID-19 pandemic’s early weeks have waned. By and large, Americans have done well adjusting to an unprecedented situation that no one asked for and few non-epidemiologists expected to occur in their lifetimes.

But that adjustment has come at a steep cost — human, financial, and emotional. The pandemic has affected everyone to certain extent, from trivial alterations to our habits and routines to life-changing events like job loss, deaths of loved ones, and personal health crises.

At Money Crashers, we’ve been on top of COVID-19 since the beginning. We put out a guide to preparing for the pandemic before the first confirmed cases of community spread emerged in Europe and North America. In the months since, we’ve published dozens of in-depth articles and guides for readers wondering what COVID-19 means for their finances, careers, and families.

What follows is a comprehensive list of all the COVID-related content we’ve published since the pandemic began. Consider this your master resource for questions at the intersection of life, money, and the pandemic. And check back often, as we’re constantly adding to our COVID library.

Protection and Preparation

7 Ways to Prepare for the Next Pandemic (Coronavirus Outbreak) – Preparing for a pandemic is similar to preparing for other emergencies like a long-term power outage or natural disaster, but there are some key differences. Here’s what you can do, on a budget, to prepare your family for a pandemic, including the current COVID-19 pandemic.

10 Ways to Prepare for Future Surges of Coronavirus Infections – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many people scrambled to stock up on food and supplies and cope with virus-related unemployment and quarantines. We all just want to get back to normal. But a future surge of infections is possible, and we must be physically, mentally, and financially prepared.

Should You Wear a Face Mask to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19? – States and municipalities across the nation have mandated the use of masks in public places to reduce the spread of COVID-19. But it’s vital you learn the key differences between common types of masks, when to wear (and not wear) them, and best practices for mask usage.

Where to Buy Reusable Cloth Face Masks Online for COVID-19 – Hundreds of retailers, both small and large, sell masks and face coverings. And these are the best places to find these lifesaving devices.

How to Make a Homemade Cloth Face Mask for COVID-19 (Tutorials) – You can easily make your own cloth face masks at home, often using materials you already have. Which mask design is right for you? Find out here.

How to Form a Pandemic Pod to Safely Socialize During Quarantine During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are turning to pandemic pods to maintain social connections and regain a sense of normalcy. But finding people you can trust with your health is no easy feat, and there are many things to consider before you form a pod.

Should I Get a Flu Shot? – Vaccine Effectiveness, Side Effects & Types – This year, with COVID-19 still ravaging much of the nation and sweeping the globe, it’s more important than ever to get the flu vaccine to stay healthy and keep hospitals from getting overloaded. But what are the risks? How much does it cost? And where can you get one? Find out here.

Sick at Work? – How to Prevent the Spread of Germs in Your Office – During the global COVID-19 pandemic, many people don’t have the option of working remotely. Properly cleaning and disinfecting your workspace could save someone’s life, including your own. At the very least, it helps prevent an illness that could cost you valuable workdays and productivity.

How to Travel for Business Safely During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Travel restrictions and COVID-19 precautions have permeated the business travel industry, with many companies canceling most or all travel. Whether you’re an employee or employer, if you must travel for work, it’s vital you follow the most up-to-date restrictions and guidelines to stay safe.

9 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally – As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, many people are looking for ways to strengthen their immune systems and better resist infection from the virus. There’s no one pill that makes you invincible to viruses and bacteria, but these lifestyle changes can give your immune system a better chance.

COVID-19 Testing & Treatment – How Much Does It Cost? – With the pandemic showing no signs of abating, millions of Americans will face crushing COVID-19 treatment bills before it’s over. Even if you can’t control how the disease affects you, informed health care consumers owe it to themselves to know what to expect financially after a turn for the worse.

Financial Resources

Coronavirus Emergency Financial Aid & Stimulus Measures (Latest) – Bookmark this regularly updated list of all the actions the U.S. government has taken to bolster the economy and how they affect you.

COVID-19 Stimulus Payments Eligibility & How to Get Yours – Thanks to the federal government’s March 2020 economic stimulus package, most Americans received one-time cash payments beginning in April 2020. Will there be a second stimulus payment? We update you on the latest here.

Does Life Insurance Cover Coronavirus (COVID-19)? – One of the many sources of uncertainty for Americans these days involves a form of financial protection people usually regard as a sure bet: life insurance. Millions of us are wondering whether life insurance covers deaths attributable to COVID-19. On that front, there’s good news and bad news.

How You Can Take Advantage of Low Interest Rates Right Now – Interest rates are near historic lows due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impact, which has brought whole sectors of industry to a standstill. While that’s bad news, there may be a silver lining for well-positioned borrowers. Here’s how you can take advantage of the current low interest rates.

Credit Cards Rewards & Benefits for the COVID-19 Era – The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted society and the economy on a global scale. And well over a dozen credit cards have temporarily added rewards categories (or increased existing rewards rates) and valuable fringe benefits to reflect their newly homebound users’ changing spending habits.

Resources for Employees & Independent Contractors


How to Prepare Financially & Survive Unemployment or Job Loss – 9 Tips – Many people are facing the prospect of reduced hours or losing their jobs as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the globe and companies are shutting their doors or reducing staff. If you’re worried you’re going to lose your job, it’s essential you start financially preparing to survive unemployment.

Unemployment Benefits During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Guide – The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented spike in jobless claims. But the vast majority of workers are eligible for state unemployment benefits. Follow these steps to apply.

Protections for Gig Economy Workers – Current & Proposed – State and local governments are proposing and enacting new laws to force companies to offer gig workers protections like health insurance and paid time off. Find out if you’re eligible for any here.

How to Make the Most of Your Unemployment If You’ve Lost Your Job – Sudden and unexpected unemployment can be frightening and stressful. But there are plenty of strategies you can use right now to get yourself ready for the next stage in your life.

Employees Hiring During the Coronavirus Pandemic – Job Opportunities – It seems every new headline spells certain doom for the global economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But many organizations have seen a spike in demand in the wake of the outbreak. If you worry your job is on the chopping block, explore these job options.

How to Find a Job When the Unemployment Rate Continues to Rise – If you’re out of work, you’re probably eying the unemployment rate with concern. But even when times are tough, you don’t have to settle for the first job offer that comes along. If you want to find a job you like in a tough economic climate, you just have to answer some questions.

Worker Protections

Workers’ Compensation & COVID-19 – What You Need to Know – Work-related COVID-19 illness is eligible for workers’ compensation — but determining whether an infection is eligible and whether it warrants a claim isn’t always clear-cut. If you’ve been diagnosed with the virus, find out what you need to know about filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Disability Insurance & Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Are You Covered? – Among the many sources of trepidation for working Americans these days is whether their disability insurance will cover pandemic-related work loss. The answer is: It depends on the circumstances.

Compassionate (Paid) Family Leave – What It Covers & How to Use It – Compassionate leave or paid family leave gives flexibility to workers with family obligations and dependent care needs, and it’s fairly common in the developed economies of the world. What is compassionate leave and what would it look like in the U.S.? Learn more about it here.

Working From Home

How to Negotiate a Flexible/Remote Work Schedule With Your Employer – Some employers remain hesitant to let people work remotely. If your boss is one of the holdouts on remote work, here’s how you can negotiate it.

12 Biggest Challenges of Working From Home – How to Overcome Them – Whether you’re starting a business or are one of the millions telecommuting for the first time, understanding the challenges of working from home and how to overcome them is the first step to ensuring you become a successful and productive remote worker.

How to Set Up a Home Office on a Budget – Organization & Tips – Are you setting up your first home office? Even if you’re trying to get up and running fast, you don’t have to spend a fortune. Here’s how to plan, budget for, and save on everything you need, from electronics to furniture to supplies.

How to Keep Your Kids Busy When You Need to Work From Home – If you’re working from home while your kids are out because of COVID-19 school closures, you have to find a way to keep them occupied so you can get your work done. Take these tips from a 20-year veteran teacher and mom to keep yourself productive and your kids entertained.

How to Make the Most of Attending Virtual Conferences – Many conferences are quickly adapting to our new reality and moving entirely online. But are they as good as in-person conferences? As it turns out, they can be just as valuable if you know what to look for and take the right steps to make the most of the experience.

Resources for Employers

How to Prepare for the Coronavirus in Your Business – Remote Office Plan – The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has come with a side effect none before it has evoked: Companies all over the world are sending employees home to work. And putting a solid plan in place first can help set everyone up for success in the uncertain weeks or months to come.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – Guide for Small-Business Owners – The Small Business Administration is disbursing more than $600 billion in low-interest forgivable loans to many American small businesses, freelancers, and nonprofits through the Paycheck Protection Program. Find out if you qualify and how to apply before the money runs out.

PPP Loan Repayment & Forgiveness – Common Questions Answered – The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act allows borrowers to use up to 40% of their loans’ proceeds for certain nonpayroll expenses without jeopardizing forgiveness eligibility provided they use the remainder for payroll expenses. But many borrowers still have questions. Get the answers here.

Compassionate (Paid) Family Leave – What It Covers & How to Use It – Compassionate leave or paid family leave gives flexibility to workers with family obligations and dependent care needs, and it’s fairly common in the developed economies of the world. What is compassionate leave and what would it look like in the U.S.? Learn more about it here.

Education Resources

For Teachers

50 Resources Schools & Teachers Can Use During COVID-19 Closures – With many schools considering remote classes for Fall 2020, educators continue to need ways to figure out how to keep teaching students when they can’t be in the same room. Fortunately, many companies have tools available for all grade levels, from kindergarten through college. And much of it is currently free or discounted.

For Parents

How to Keep Kids From Regressing During School Breaks – 52 Resources – All over the U.S., millions of kids are preparing to begin the school year learning at home. That’s left many parents wondering how to supplement long-distance instruction that could last for months, if not the whole school year. If you’re one of them, try these tips from a 20-year teaching veteran and mom.

Should I Home-School My Child? Pros & Cons to Consider – In the months that followed pandemic-related school closures, many families discovered that home schooling worked out well for them. And many are now considering making it permanent. But home schooling isn’t right for every family. Before taking the leap, read up on the pros and cons.

How to Home-School Your Child on a Budget & Sve Money – More than half (60%) of parents are considering home schooling instead of sending their kids back this fall. But it can get expensive if you’re not careful. Thankfully, there are many ways to give your kids an enriching education at home on a tight budget.

For Students

High School Grads: Start College in Fall 2020 or Take a Gap Year? – Without the full college experience on the table, as many as 35% of students have decided to take a gap year next year. But is putting your education on hold the right decision for you? There’s a lot to consider, and it ultimately comes down to what you want from your education or gap year.

Should I Take Online College Classes? – Pros & Cons, Questions to Ask – Online college courses and degree programs are especially appealing to some students during this pandemic. Learn more about them, and whether they might be a good option for you, here.

College Grads: What to Do If Your Job Offer Is Rescinded (Hiring Freeze) – Many 2020 graduates completed their degrees only to find their job offers frozen or rescinded because of the pandemic. If you’re one of them, here’s what you can do now.

Mental & Emotional Resources

How to Get Affordable Mental Health Treatment & Therapy on a Budget – Living through a global health crisis can take a toll on your mental health. Fortunately, there are ways to get help even if you’re short on money. Don’t struggle alone; check out these treatment options.

8 Social Distancing Activities to Spend Time With Family & Friends – Social distancing doesn’t mean you need to be socially isolated. There are plenty of ways to spend time with people you love while you’re physically apart.

25 Ideas to Keep Entertained at Home (Even If You’re Quarantined) – The monotony and boredom of self-quarantine can be just as draining as the fear of contracting the virus itself. But in today’s world, you have endless options to keep yourself busy and connected — even if you didn’t plan ahead.


COVID Stocks – What They Are & Why You Should Invest in Them -COVID-19 stocks represent companies that provide products and services designed to prevent or treat the novel coronavirus. Do these stocks represent a good investment opportunity, and should you consider investing in them? Read on for more about the pros and cons of investing in COVID-19 stocks.

8 Investments to Protect Against a Post-COVID-19 Inflation Spike – With trillions of dollars announced in the COVID-19 stimulus, economists have sounded the alarm on rampant future inflation. Prices could spike, and the dollar’s value could collapse. But not all investments get hit evenly by dollar decay. Find out which investments can protect your portfolio.

5 Stocks to Buy as the Market Recovers From the COVID-19 Pandemic -COVID-19 has changed the world and many consumer behaviors and trends. The stock market, too, has been on a wild ride, with many sectors and companies still well below their pre-COVID valuations. What stocks should you buy in anticipation of the COVID-19 recovery? Here are several ideas to consider.

9 Best Investments to Make During a Recession With Volatile Markets – Even with market volatility, there are still investment opportunities. Understanding what those opportunities are and how to take advantage of them can leave you poised to succeed when the economy returns to normal.

How to Invest During a Stock Market Bubble and Cash in Before It Pops – Most people have heard of the dot-com bubble. Many believe it was the only bubble ever to inflate the market. But bubbles happen all the time, including now as we deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. And making your share of coin as these bubbles inflate — and even after they pop — isn’t as hard as you think.

Other Resources

Deals & Discounts for First Responders – First responders and essential workers are the glue that holds society together, particularly in times of crisis. Many American businesses recognize how important they are and are giving discounts to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus Scams – Real-World Examples & What to Watch Out For – History is rife with stories of tragedy bringing out the best in people. It’s also scarred by examples of the opposite. COVID-19’s arrival and corresponding economic shock have given rise to a host of scams. But you can learn how to spot the telltale signs of each grift and avoid falling victim.

Coronavirus Travel Restrictions, Airline & Hotel Cancellation Policies – Has the coronavirus pandemic derailed your upcoming travel plans? Check this list of COVID-19 virus-related travel restrictions, warnings, and cancellation policies to decide whether you should rebook or cancel for a refund or credit (and how to do that if so).

16 Charities and Nonprofits Providing COVID-19 Relief (Highest-Rated) – The one-two punch of the pandemic and recession has caused widespread suffering, as people worry about their health and finances simultaneously. You can help by donating to one of these top charities for COVID-19 relief.

How to Support Small Businesses During the Coronavirus Pandemic – Social distancing is causing many small businesses to close or scale back. That means there’s now less money going back into local economies. Thankfully, if you want to support local business owners while complying with social distancing, there are still plenty of options available.

13 “Quarantine Recipes” With Nonperishable Ingredients From Your Fridge – With lockdowns, shortages, and social distancing considerations, many people find themselves with only sporadic access to grocery stores. When you can’t stomach the thought of one more pack of ramen noodles, you need these recipe ideas that don’t rely on fresh ingredients.

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Will Permanently Change Society & the Economy – One thing about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is already clear: It has dramatically changed societies and economies the world over. Many changes will outlive the pandemic, though to what extent depends on the eventual duration and toll it takes. Which ones will impact your life the most?

What Americans Are Searching For During the Pandemic – And What This Tells Us About Their Finances –  It’s only natural for people to turn to Google to answer some of their most pressing financial questions. We took a deep dive into what Americans are searching for to better understand how people are coping with their personal finances during the coronavirus pandemic — and what that means for their future.

Many Saw the 2020 Recession Coming – But Are They Prepared? (Survey) – In 2019, long before COVID-19 was on the public radar, Money Crashers polled Americans to see when they believed the next recession would happen and what they believed would trigger it. It turns out that many people saw the collapse coming. But does that mean they’re ready for one?


Holiday Travel Tips 2021 – How to Stay Safe During COVID-19 – Want a stress-free holiday season? Don’t travel. The holidays mean long lines, delayed flights, congested traffic, and dense crowds — an even worse combination than usual in the era of COVID-19. But if you must, keep these tips in mind to stay safe and reduce stress.

50 Halloween Safety Tips – Celebrating During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Halloween’s a lot of fun. When else can you dress up as whoever or whatever you want and gorge yourself on candy? But if you’re unprepared for the safety pitfalls, the fun can quickly turn into a nightmare, especially in the era of COVID-19. Here’s how you can celebrate and keep your family safe.

Final Word

The future is unpredictable in the best of times, and these are certainly not the best of times. Wake Forest Baptist Health infectious disease expert Dr. Christopher Ohl predicted in early July that the COVID-19 pandemic would come under control in the United States by July 4, 2021, in remarks reported by the Triad Business Journal — a forecast he immediately acknowledged was overly optimistic. Many epidemiologists expect COVID-19 outbreaks to continue for years, long after a hoped-for vaccine is widely available.

We here at Money Crashers do know one thing for sure: We’ll keep abreast of the latest developments and continue to answer the most urgent questions at the intersection of COVID-19 and personal finance. We hope you’ll follow along as we add to our library of pandemic-related content, and — as always — we welcome your feedback.


3 Must Have Tools for Side Gigs

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

According to CareerBuilder, more than one-third of working millennials have a side job.

For a generation thought to be lazy and entitled we sure do a lot of work. And with the creation of the sharing economy, we’re not confined to working minimum wage or pouring drinks for extra income. We can use talent and experience to create side businesses that are more lucrative and fulfilling.

If you’re starting a side hustle, whether it’s freelance designing, consulting, reselling, whatever, there three must have tools for side gigs you’re going to need to make your business thrive and your life easier.

1. Website

The type of website you’re going to need depends on the type of business you’re starting. If it’s services or good you’ll sell in person a Facebook page or free hosted website will be good. If you’re strictly selling online you could do with shop on Amazon, eBay, TeeSpring, etc.

If you plan on running transactions online or making money on the actual site you’ll want to self-host. I have a step-by-step guide on setting up a self-hosted WordPress website or blog if that’s your angle. Whatever it is you’re going to need an online presence.

2. Accounting Software

Starting out a spreadsheet is fine. When you don’t have many transactions (or monies) you can save your receipts, track expenses and invoices for free in excel. Here’s a guide to help you start.

If that was a little confusing or you don’t have time to keep track of everything manually then investing in accounting software is going to be a lifesaver. Most people know Quickbooks but there are many more out there that are cheaper and with snazzier features.

I like Xero, it’s cloud based so you can access it from any computer or mobile device, has an easy to use interface and syncs directly with payment providers like Square and Paypal (and 21 other apps, who knew there were so many apps to receive money through?)

Accounting is hard and boring but Xero is easy to use for people who aren’t good at math (and those who are I guess, I can’t speak for you) and is cheap enough to be worth the investment, $9/month for basic and $30/month for standard.

Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you’ll need a real-life accountant. Another plus on Xero is that it has unlimited users, so you can easily add an accountant to the team and they can access all your accounting details anytime anywhere.

3. Schedule

Every type B’s nightmare, but don’t panic! There are free apps that make scheduling fun and easy! Remember the milk is great for to-do lists, has a free version that allows you to make appointments without the need for emailing back and forth, heck, a Google calendar will work if you don’t want to get fancy.

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Even if you’re not setting up meetings or events you still need a schedule. We all know the rabbit hole social media can be and without time blocking or some other schedule for productivity it’s hard to make good progress. I love plain ol’ pencil and paper for my weekly schedule. The feeling of crossing things off my list is a little victory for me.

Tell me: Do you have a side hustle? What are your side hustle essentials?

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3 Must Haves

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3 Must Haves

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Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.


Evening Routine Ideas That Can Lead to a More Productive Workday

What do you typically do after work? If you’re like many people, you probably eat dinner and then watch some television. According to Nielsen’s 2020 Total Audience report, Americans spent over 12 hours per day interacting with media during the first part of that year.

There’s nothing wrong with chilling on the couch watching Netflix, playing video games, and browsing social media. But 2019 research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that if you want to have a better day tomorrow, you need to do something different tonight.

Changing up your evening routine can improve your reputation at work, help you think more creatively or be more productive, or give you the initiative to ask for a raise or apply for a promotion. And taking a few small, actionable steps can help you achieve peak performance at work the following day.

How Your Evening Routine Can Influence Your Productivity

The Journal of Applied Psychology study looked at the evening routines of 183 employees over 10 workdays. The purpose of the study was simple: Researchers wanted to explore how various activities influence the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors people experienced the next day.

These workers filled out a questionnaire three times per day. In the morning, they described how they were feeling. Midday, they described what types of proactive behaviors they were doing, such as taking the initiative on a project, doing something to create positive change in the workplace, or taking control of a situation.

In the evening, employees described what they did after work. For their evening activities, the employees were asked whether each activity gave them a sense of proficiency, such as learning a new language or playing a sport, as well as how that activity made them feel. They were also asked how well the activity helped them relieve stress and detach from work.

Researchers discovered that the employees who engaged in activities that gave them a sense of proficiency were more motivated to create positive change at work the next day. They also reported feeling more relaxed, inspired, and joyful than the other employees.

The employees who engaged in activities that helped distance them from work, such as meditation or listening to music, felt relaxed but didn’t experience the same take-charge feelings, such as excitement and inspiration, at work the next day.

Researchers also discovered that having the freedom to choose what you do in the evening can lead to more proactive behaviors and positive feelings the next day. For example, people who have many obligations to meet after work, such as caring for an aging parent or young children, are less likely to feel proactive the next day simply because they have less freedom to choose what they do in the evening.

How to Create a More Productive Workday This Evening

The study illustrates a critical point: Vegging out in front of the TV isn’t likely to make you feel positive and inspired at work the next day, but doing something productive or physically engaging probably will.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do tonight to have a better workday tomorrow.

1. Start a Hobby

Engaging in a hobby at the end of the day is one of the best ways to create a more productive day at work tomorrow. Some hobbies can even help you earn more money. But too many of us don’t have a hobby at all.

We go to work, come home, do chores, and perhaps take care of our kids or work a side hustle like DoorDash driver or online teaching. And then we hit the sack, where we wake up and start the whole soul-sucking cycle all over again in the morning. It’s an exhausting daily routine.

But hobbies are something we do simply because we love doing them. There’s no sense of obligation. Hobbies are relaxing, fun, and stimulating.

They also provide several significant health benefits. A 2009 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine analyzed the leisure activities of 1,399 study participants. It found that those who participated in more activities had lower cortisol and blood pressure, a lower body mass index and waist circumference, lower levels of depression, and higher levels of positive psychological states.

The COVID-19 pandemic compelled more people to pursue hobbies they previously didn’t have time for. James C. Kaufman is a professor of educational psychology at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. He tells the American Heart Association that a pandemic hobby can help take your mind off negative news and fears.

When you’re creative, you can slip into a state of “flow” in which you’re completely caught up in what you’re doing. This positive disconnect can be valuable whether you’re experiencing stress at work or in your personal life.

Hobbies can influence your career too. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg tells CNBC that hobbies show prospective employers you have passion and drive. If you’re ready for a career change, you might even be able to turn your hobby into a business.

Think about what you’ve always wanted to do but never made time to learn. Some popular hobbies include:

Outdoor Activities Craftsmanship Sports
  • Restoring old furniture
  • Metalsmithing
  • Leatherworking
  • Pyrography (wood burning)
  • Woodworking
  • Bookbinding
  • Building dollhouses or room boxes
  • Fixing classic cars
  • Running
  • Golfing
  • Dancing
  • Skiing or snowboarding
  • Yoga
  • Tennis
  • Martial arts
  • Archery
  • Rock climbing
  • Cycling
Arts & Crafts Mental Challenges Life Skills
  • Gourmet cooking
  • Scrapbooking
  • Embroidery, crochet, or knitting
  • Journaling
  • Photography
  • Drawing and painting
  • Pottery
  • Calligraphy
  • Writing
  • Origami
  • Sewing
  • Canning
  • Baking
  • Home renovation
  • Candle or soap making
  • Basket weaving
  • Homebrewing or winemaking
  • Auto repair
  • Volunteering

This list is by no means exhaustive. Any activity that excites and interests you can make a worthwhile hobby. But set a budget for hobby expenses so you don’t end up spending more than you can afford.

2. Learn a New Skill

The Journal of Applied Psychology study found that any activity that helps give you a sense of proficiency increases the likelihood you’ll take charge at work the next day.

Hobbies fit the bill here. But so does learning any new skill or technique that can better your life and career and give you a greater sense of control over your destiny — whether or not it becomes something you enjoy and do regularly.

So think about the knowledge and skills you regularly use in your career. Which of these skills do you need to work on to do your job better? Which would help further your career down the road?

For example, effective communication skills are a must in every profession, and that includes business writing skills. If your communication skills are lacking, strengthening them could pay off significantly. You could take a writing class or read a book like “4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication” by Bento C. Leal III.

If it’s your foreign language skills that need work, you can learn a new language with Babbel. You can also master a new language quickly through courses offered at Udemy.

If you’re unsure which skills would help in your current role, talk to your boss or a trusted colleague. Ask which of your skills — or weaknesses — they think could use some work.

It can also help to think about the important tasks or responsibilities you struggle with at work. These challenges often point to a knowledge or skill gap. For example, if giving the weekly presentation makes you break out in a cold sweat, work on your public speaking skills. If you have trouble working with others, learn how to be a better listener or collaborate more effectively. Conflict-resolution skills are also vital for working effectively as a team.

Learning skills that benefit your professional life pays off in two key ways: It provides a sense of proficiency that results in positive feelings and a take-charge attitude the next day, and it gives you the tools you need for long-term success. That’s true whether you work with a team at a large corporation, you’re working from home, or you own a small business.

3. Go to Bed Early

This one’s a no-brainer. Getting enough sleep is essential to having a productive, energized work life. Yet the United Kingdom’s National Health Service reports that 1 in 3 people don’t get enough sleep, which the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) defines as seven or more hours per night.

Persistently poor sleep and sleep deprivation also negatively affect your health. According to the CDC, poor sleep has been linked to obesity, heart disease, lowered immune function, decreased fertility, decreased brain functioning, and diabetes. Frequent sleep deprivation might also shorten your life expectancy.

So if you’re having trouble getting a full night’s sleep, how can you get better sleep and wake up refreshed the next morning? Start by changing your bedtime routine.

Turn Off Your Devices & Dim the Lights

To get the best sleep, doctors recommend avoiding screens and dimming the overhead lights in your home two hours before bedtime.

The blue light emitted from phones, tablets, and TVs tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daylight. That reduces the amount of melatonin, the sleep hormone that helps you get deep sleep, your brain releases.

Your home’s overhead lights have the same effect. A 2010 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that exposure to room light suppressed melatonin production in 99% of study participants and shortened melatonin duration by 90 minutes compared with dim light.

You’ll likely get better sleep if you dim the lights in the evening. Additionally, the Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding screens one hour before bed.

Cut the Caffeine

According to a 2018 study published in Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, 90% of American adults consume caffeine daily. To sleep better, limit your caffeine intake to no more than three 6-ounce cups per day.

It’s also important to time your caffeine consumption to avoid disrupting sleep. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that consuming caffeine six hours and three hours before bedtime both significantly contribute to sleep disruption. So if you want to be in bed by 9pm, don’t consume any caffeine past 3pm for a better night’s sleep.

And remember: Coffee isn’t the only source of caffeine. Foods and drinks like chocolate, black tea, and energy drinks also contain caffeine.

Get Outside

Exposure to bright outdoor light helps maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. It can also help reduce feelings of depression and seasonal affective disorder.

If you work all day indoors, make time to get outdoors during or after work. Eat lunch outside or go for a walk as soon as your workday is over.

The type of lighting in your workplace can also affect how well you sleep at night. A 2008 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, and Health found that blue-enriched white light improved alertness, mood, performance, and sleep quality compared with regular white light. Including this type of light in your workspace, whether it’s the overhead light in your office or a lamp on your desk, could lead to higher productivity and better sleep at night. If you can’t influence the overhead lights in your office, invest in the Miroco light therapy lamp from Amazon.


One of the best ways to ensure you sleep long and well is to get enough exercise. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Physiotherapy found that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise improved sleep in older adults.

But don’t exercise right before bed. For some people, exercise is so stimulating it can actually make it harder for them to fall asleep. According to a 2019 study published in the journal Sports Medicine, engaging in vigorous exercise one hour before bed can make it harder to fall asleep and reduce your total sleep time for the night.

Pro Tip: If you’re struggling to find a workout that gets you motivated, try Aaptiv. They have thousands of workouts and add more than 30 new classes each week.

Fight Insomnia Naturally

If you still have trouble sleeping, try using some natural sleep aids to fight insomnia. For example, taking melatonin right before bed might be all you need to sleep better at night. You might also sleep better by sprinkling some lavender essential oil on your pillow or mixing it with water in an aromatherapy diffuser in your bedroom. Lavender is well-known as a natural sleep aid.

You can also try drinking some herbal tea at the end of the day to aid relaxation and promote sleep. Traditional Medicinals Nighty Night tea contains passionflower, catnip, chamomile, and linden flower — all herbs that help your body relax and allow you to drift to sleep.

4. Plan Your Day the Night Before

How many times have you lain awake at night thinking about everything you need to do the next day? This type of worry is unproductive, and according to The American Institute of Stress, it can cause stress and anxiety.

Instead of keeping your to-do list in your head, take some time to plan your day right before bed. Identify the top three priorities for tomorrow and make a list of your commitments, such as meetings or school pickups. Jot them down in your planner so you don’t forget. It gives you a sense of control over your responsibilities and relieves the worry you’ll forget something important.

5. Journal

In a column for Inc., organizational psychologist Benjamin Hardy calls writing in a journal nightly a keystone habit — that is, a habit so powerful it leads to numerous positive, transformative behaviors.

Throughout history, many extraordinary people have used journaling to transform their lives.

  • Founding father Benjamin Franklin journaled throughout his life and used his journals to reflect on his strengths and weaknesses and improve.
  • Leonardo da Vinci used his journals to sketch the first underwater breathing apparatus and figure out how to use concave mirrors to generate heat.
  • Celebrated literary blog Brain Pickings lists Anias Nin, Virginia Woolf, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Oscar Wilde as just some of the famous writers who regularly wrote in a journal throughout their lives and careers.

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, nightly journaling can help you detach from work and deal with the stresses and frustrations of the day. That can help you sleep better because you’re not stewing about all these feelings during the night.

It can also help you identify thoughts and feelings you weren’t consciously aware you had. Use it to identify meaningful goals and create a plan to make them a reality. It might also influence you to look at your life from another perspective and identify things that need to change.

You can boost the positive effects of journaling by taking a few minutes to write about what you’re grateful for. According to Harvard Health, gratitude can increase your happiness and help you realize how abundant your life really is. At the end of your nightly entry, write down three things you’re grateful for. You might be surprised how life-changing this simple practice can be.

6. Streamline Your Routine

If you have a long commute or multiple kids to get out the door, streamlining your morning routine is essential. Anything you can do in the evening to prepare for the next day will be well worth the time you spend.

For example, try taking your shower in the evening instead of first thing in the morning. Prepare your brown-bag lunch, work with your kids to get everything they need for school into their backpacks, and put your work bag in your car. Transitioning to a capsule wardrobe also makes getting dressed a cinch.

Popular business writer and coach Brian Tracy also suggests writing a to-do list the night before. He theorizes that for every minute you spend planning your day, you save 10 minutes in execution.

A streamlined morning routine could make it easier to wake up early and sneak in a workout, meditate, or make a healthy breakfast, which are three activities that can also have a powerfully positive impact on your workday.

Finding Time for a Productive Evening Routine

Taking time to engage in a hobby or learn something new is fantastic when you have some time to set aside.

But as the Journal of Applied Psychology study found, people who have a high degree of external obligations, such as caregivers or those working a second job, often don’t have the freedom to choose what they do in the evening. For example, when you’re a single parent with a mountain of household chores, it’s tough to step away and devote some time to your own needs.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology backs that up, finding that people with lots of responsibilities outside work experienced less vigor and engagement at work the next day than those with fewer obligations.

So if you’ve already got a full plate, what can you do?

One strategy is to team up with someone else in the same situation. For example, if you’re a parent who desperately needs an hour in the evening, team up with another parent and swap kids: They watch your kids for you on Mondays, and you return the favor on Thursdays. This strategy won’t give you an hour each evening, but it’s a start. And the more parents involved, the more evenings each of you has free.

If you have trouble finding others in the same boat, check Meetup. There are parenting groups in most cities, including single-parent Meetup groups.

Another strategy is to look at where you do have an hour free of your daily obligations. For many people, that’s their lunch hour at work. Instead of wasting time going out to lunch, give yourself more time and save money by bringing a healthy lunch from home. Use the extra time to get some exercise or learn something new.

While it might not provide the same benefits you’d receive by doing the activity in the evening, taking the time to do something for yourself can still help you relax and feel fulfilled.

Final Word

The Journal of Applied Psychology research shows that what you do in the evening can significantly affect how well you perform at work the next day and how happy and excited you are in the process. Taking time to engage in a hobby, listen to an inspiring podcast, or learn a career-related skill can give you a sense of proficiency and the feeling you’re in control of your life.

The energy and positive feelings you get from a fulfilling evening can also give you the drive and initiative you need to do your best at work. Over time, that will help strengthen your reputation and possibly open doors to a raise, promotion, or new job.