5 New Year’s Resolutions for Busy Families

It somehow seems that modern life is busier than it has ever been. As well as our work and family commitments, there are now so many ways to spend our leisure time; it often feels like 24 hours is simply not long enough to get everything you wanted done in the day.

The problem of being busy all of the time (even though it is a good problem to have) hits those of us who have time-consuming jobs and are also raising a family the hardest. If you fall into this category, you may find it helpful to read the following list of five potential New Year’s resolutions you could make to ensure your 2017 is less stressful than this year may have been!

1) Leave the office on time – Even if it’s only on one or two days a week, it is important that you sometimes put your foot down and leave your place of work as soon as your day is meant to finish. You’ll find that you get much more done in the evenings!

2) Invest in a 2017 calendar – It may sound like a simple step, but that’s sort of the point. Having your work and leisure commitments mapped out for the weeks and months ahead in an easy to view format will allow you to see at a glance just how busy you are and whether you are taking on too much.

3) Spend 10 minutes doing nothing – Again, this is more productive than it sounds! Set your alarm ten minutes earlier every day so that, before you get up, you can spend this extra time in completely undisturbed silence, thinking about what your priorities should be for the day to come.

4) What are your two most important tasks? – Speaking of priorities, it is also a good idea to take a step back from time to time and decide which the two most important jobs are that you wish to accomplish on any given day. This is a great way of clearing your head when you feel overwhelmed.

5) Consider hiring household staff – You may have thought that hiring a nanny or other household staff might be the ‘easy way out’, but this is not the case. Those who have invested in professional assistance of this kind know that hiring a caring and responsible person to help run your busy home is a fantastic way of relieving domestic pressures.

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Think Outside the Marketing Box: 10 Quick, New Ideas for 2017

The holidays are upon us again. It’s the time of year for good cheer and some creative marketing ideas to end your year right.

If you’ve been in a marketing slump through the fall, try a few new and interesting ways to get a little more business for your small business:

  1. Create a personalized calendar to gift your clients. You can include inspirational quotes or advice for each month. Staying in front of them will solidify your brand in their minds for years and years to come.
  2. Give your customers a small gift of appreciation, like a customized sticky screen cleaner or promo handout. If you happen to give something that is useful and is well made, your customers won’t just thank you, they will be more interested in giving you referrals to other potential clients. Offer gift cards to give customers more flexibility for gifts. Be sure to place them near your checkout to encourage impulse buys. Starbucks or Amazon gift cards tend to be consistently well received.
  3. Take clients to a more personal lunch or brunch instead of throwing a larger, impersonal holiday party. Focus on having a good time and building rapport through not talking about business. They will take the gesture and thank you by becoming your biggest cheerleader.
  4. Host a day with Santa at your business where you provide free photos with the jolly old man. If your target market has kids, this will be a huge hit.
  5. Give holiday shoppers a free shoulder massage by hiring a masseuse for a few hours.
  6. Partner with other local businesses to give a package of coupons in each shopping bag. This is also a way to encourage sharing business ideas with your neighbors or setting up referral incentives with them.
  7. Sponsor a local event. This time of year many run clubs and other organizations hold holiday runs or New Year’s Day resolution runs or other events. Pick one you enjoy and sponsor it to get your name out. Pair with a local charity. Schedule an event where you and your staff volunteer with the organization. Offer discounts to your customers who volunteer their time with the same organization.
  8. Hold a customer appreciation sale during hours when you are normally closed to show your customers how much you appreciate their loyalty. Create a special invitation and think about giving them door prizes and small gifts for patronizing your business.
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Six Tech Trends to Know Heading Into the New Year

As we look back at 2016 and gear up for a new year, it’s smart to brush up on new trends in the legal industry. By new trends, I mean new technology, because the terms have become almost synonymous.

Technology has impacted our profession dramatically in recent years, and it continues to do so at an accelerating pace. If you’re not on the technology bandwagon, you and your firm will have a hard time staying afloat.

This fact isn’t a revelation. We’ve known for decades that success in most industries comes down to adopting new technology. But doing so in the legal profession comes with its set of challenges.

First, regulations make change difficult. Second, sometimes it’s hard to know which new products and approaches in the legal industry have value, and which are just hype.

Those challenges aside, firms that don’t embrace technology will have trouble attracting the best new legal talent. The revenue at law firms clinging to old school ways will drop off as a new generation of clients takes their business to new-school, tech-savvy companies.

What does it take to join the ranks of the new-school? There are six major trends to be aware of going into 2017.

Social networks

Social networking is the cornerstone of legal industry marketing. This fact shouldn’t be a surprise. Rainmaking has always been about networking, relationship building and word of mouth. It still is; these techniques in their offline form still build practices. But if you’re not working the online component, too, you’re at a catastrophic disadvantage. Social media has become a factor in how clients choose attorneys, according to a survey taken this year by FindLaw. In 2017, take steps to ramp up your social presence on your website and blog, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Doing so will maximize your online presence and help you grow relationships over time.

Your clients, prospects, and leads are online and checking social media regularly. Being part of the social media landscape isn’t hard, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Invest in expert help this year. Set a goal to get your social marketing plan up and running in 2017.

Virtual Law Firms

These are firms that can operate anywhere: A lawyer’s home, a satellite office, even from inside a Starbucks. Many lawyers have closed their downtown offices and work remotely. Technology lets them do this without hurting service or quality. Remote work can reduce overhead and travel time while increasing flexibility and improving work/life balance. Plus, you have the option to rent offices or meeting rooms as needed.

The leap to virtual doesn’t have to happen overnight. Experiment by working remotely one day a week and see how it impacts your productivity and revenue. It may very well provide the edge your firm needs to succeed in 2017.

E-discovery

Electronically stored information (ESI) is now considered discoverable in court. ESI includes e-mails, texts, instant messages, voicemails and other electronically stored information. What you need to know: This technological reality has changed the face of litigation. Lawyers can (and should) use digital services to access all types of records. And we need to remind our clients that their deleted texts and e-mails are retrievable.

Legal process outsourcing

Outsourcing legal work to a vendor, law firm or overseas resource has become an increasingly favorable trend for law firms. Streamlined by new technology, LPO continues to cut expenses and reduce workload overflow. It can be a huge factor in scaling your business and managing workflow. LPO technology firms that market to the legal industry are on the rise. They’ll be coming after you in 2017 to present their case. When they do, listen.

Reviews and testimonials

Adding positive reviews to Google+, Yelp and Avvo is critical to growing your business and managing your reputation. 72 percent of consumers said they trusted companies more when they have positive customer reviews, according to a BrightLocal survey in 2014. The number of people reading online reviews is increasing, so take steps to post reviews in 2017. If you can’t get customers to go on record, that’s OK. According to the data, consumer trust increases even when the reviews are anonymous.

Cloud-based online document repositories provide secure, on-demand access to records for you, your clients, and your team members. You can store, organize, view, and change files.

More customers want instant gratification and access to their documents and records. It’s relatively easy to set up, makes for a better consumer experience, and can save you time from fielding emails and sending attachments. Make sure your clients have this access in 2017!

So there you have it. Six new trends that aren’t entirely new, per se, but are increasingly important as our industry ventures forth into the brave new world of 2017.

Lawyers like to err on the side of caution. Many of us are slow to embrace new technology or rock the boat. Historically, we get hung up asking ourselves whether we can afford to take such risks.

But what we need to be asking is: Can we afford not to?

At the end of 2016, the answer is a resounding no.

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Cleveland Has A Better Chance Than Chicago To Return To The World Series

The youth of the Cubs, epitomized by the selection of Kris Bryant as the National League Most Valuable Player, has many people discussing a return to the World Series next year and beyond for the team from Chicago’s North Side. In actuality, it seems that their opponents in this past Fall Classic are more likely than the Cubs to reach it again in 2017.

Several key members of the Cubs are facing free agency, most notably closer Aroldis Chapman and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler. Postseason pitching hero Jon Lester will return, but veteran battery mate David Ross has retired. The loss of his personal long time catcher, who was brought over from Boston to Chicago primarily at Lester’s request, may cause the left hander to be less effective in 2017.

Cleveland, on the other hand, will be adding a star player to a lineup that managed to somehow win the pennant without him. Outfielder Michael Brantley, the team’s M.V.P. in 2015, will return after missing nearly all of last season due to injury. They will also get back catcher Yan Gomes, who missed much of the season as well. The path to the playoffs promises to be easier for Cleveland next season. Two of the perennial powers that rival the Indians in the American League Central division, Detroit and Chicago, are going to be considerably weaker as they enter rebuilding mode. The Tigers are looking to trade veterans such as Julio Iglesias and Ian Kinsler in hopes of getting top prospects, and the White Sox are marketing ace left hander Chris Sale and center fielder Adam Eaton.

Also weaker are the teams the Indians breezed through in the playoffs, which saw Cleveland win seven of the eight games in the two rounds. Boston, who was swept in three games by Cleveland, will very likely miss the presence of “Big Papi” David Ortiz. The perennial All-star and likely Hall of Fame designated hitter retired after the season.

Toronto, who was dispatched by Cleveland in five games in the Championship Series, will be losing at least one of its key sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Both All-Stars are free agents this winter, and each will command contracts so large that it would be impossible for the Blue Jays to sign the duo.

On the other hand, the Cubs’ most probable playoff opponents are likely going to be stronger. Washington, which finished behind Chicago for most victories last season, is seeking to acquire Sale from the White Sox. That acquisition would strengthen an already formidable starting rotation, anchored by Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The Nationals are also on target to sign Fowler away from Chicago. The Dodgers, who came just two games from wresting the pennant from the Cubs, are actively pursuing several power hitters that could push them over Chicago in the playoffs. Milwaukee outfielder and former National League M.V.P Ryan Braun continues to be linked in possible trades with Los Angeles.

While there is no doubt that the Cubs will be the favorites to win the pennant again in 2017, Cleveland might be an even better bet to repeat. After all, they won it last year without two of its best players, both of whom should be healthy in the spring.

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Less Than 1,000 Days Until the Next Total Solar Eclipse in the United States

On Monday, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible in some areas of the United States. This is now less than 1,000 days away. The event has been a long time coming. While the last total solar eclipse to be seen in the United States occurred in 1991, that event was limited to Hawaii. Before that, the last solar eclipse visible from the continental United States was on February 26, 1979.

While the 1979 event tracked across Oregon, Washington and Montana, people in 12 states will see the 2017 event. Both eclipses started in Oregon. The earlier one then tracked up into Canada. The 2017 eclipse starts in Oregon, travels across the central United States before finishing far out to sea beyond South Carolina.

A total solar eclipse is a rather rare occurrence. Estimates place the likelihood of any point on Earth experiencing one only every 400 years. This is not absolute, however. Several Oregon locations saw the 1979 eclipse and they will see the 2017 event as well. For them, experiencing two solar eclipses in a little more than 35 years is quite unusual. Closer yet are the cities of Carbondale, Illinois, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Residents there will see the 2017 eclipse as well as another in April, 2024. This separation of less than seven years for these two eclipses is very unusual. Of course, it may be hundreds of years before these cities see another.

To be a total eclipse, the moon must completely obscure the sun, for an observer standing on Earth. This can occur monthly, at New Moon. Ordinarily, however, the moon passes either above, or below, the sun’s position, as viewed from Earth. As a result, the moon’s shadow normally sweeps across open space. On rare occasions, as the moon passes directly in front of the sun, a shadow is cast upon the surface of the Earth. If the sun is partially obscured, a partial eclipse results. If the sun is completely obscured, a total solar eclipse occurs. The moon is much smaller than the sun, of course. In fact, the moon is some 400 times smaller. In an astronomical twist, the moon is also 400 times closer to the Earth. This makes the apparent size of the moon very close to the apparent size of the sun. When the moon passes directly in front of the sun, it is able to completely eclipse the sun, for some viewers on Earth.

The shadow cast by the moon, however, is very small. Depending on the distance between the Earth and the moon, which varies somewhat, the moon’s shadow will darken a strip of Earth about 70 miles wide. This strip is called the Zone of Totality. Those people located within this zone will experience a total solar eclipse. Those near, but outside, will see a partial solar eclipse.

On August 21, 2017, the sun is eclipsed for as much as 2 minutes and 40 seconds at the maximum point. Hopkinsville, Kentucky happens to be located at this point. People not located there may see a shorter eclipse duration. Those located outside the zone of totality will only see a partial eclipse. Some cities that will experience totality include Nashville, Tennessee, Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri. The 2017 eclipse will potentially be seen by millions of people located across the United States.

Each total solar eclipse is unique, but there are similarities. The Earth will darken over time as the moon obscures more and more of the sun. This is the partial eclipse phase. As totality approaches, the amount of sunlight striking the Earth will be greatly diminished. The sky will become similar to twilight. Colors normally seen at sunset will be visible during the day. Birds, animals and insects will be fooled into believing that night is falling. Some will return to their nests or roosts. Nocturnal creatures will begin to emerge. These effects often happen even if a total solar eclipse occurs early in the morning. After totality ends, another partial eclipse phase occurs until the moon passes beyond the sun’s location.

The biggest factor that cannot be predicted with certainty is the weather on August 21, 2017. Cloudy weather could obscure the eclipse for interested observers. As a result, many people examine historical weather patterns in order to determine prime eclipse viewing locations. Since the 2017 event occurs in August, there are some rather promising weather possibilities. In Oregon, the August weather tends to be sunny and dry, perfect eclipse conditions. Morning fog, storms, or clouds, could thwart eclipse viewers, however.

Idaho and Wyoming residents will also experience the 2017 eclipse. The weather in these states could allow a very good eclipse viewing experience. The eclipse occurs fairly early in the day, lessening the possibility of localized thunderstorms.

As the total solar eclipse tracks across more states, from Nebraska to South Carolina, the possibility of inclement weather increases. These locations will experience the eclipse later in the day. Afternoon storms, or hazy weather, could be encountered. Such weather could limit the eclipse experience.

Many US cities have already begun planning for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse. The event represents an opportunity to entertain tens of thousands of visitors to cities located within the zone of totality. With proper attention to details, cities can provide a favorable eclipse experience that also highlights the attractions of the local area. Weather permitting, of course.

Bonus Facts:

– the distance from the Earth to the moon increases each year. In less than 1.5 billion years, the moon will not be close enough to produce total solar eclipses. After that, only partial or annular eclipses will occur.

– when the moon eclipses the sun, the sky darkens enough to allow planets and bright stars to be seen in the daytime. On August 21, 2017, the bright star Rigel should be visible low in the south. – Albert Einstein predicted that a total solar eclipse could provide direct proof of the General Theory of Relativity. He postulated that the eclipsed sun would cause light to be bent, for an observer on Earth. This would be proved as stars located behind the sun would appear to be shifted in location. This visual evidence was demonstrated during an eclipse in 1919.

– as the moon passes in front of the sun, it blocks enough sunlight that the solar corona, the super heated atmosphere, becomes visible to people on Earth. The shape of the corona is different during each eclipse as it is influenced by the level of magnetic solar storms, which constantly changes.

– ancient civilizations did not understand the science responsible for total solar eclipses. Eclipses were attributed to supernatural causes and thought to be bad omens.

– the theoretical maximum duration of a total solar eclipse is about 7 minutes. The 2017 eclipse is less than half this duration, at 2 minutes, 40 seconds for those located in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

– the sun is not safe to view during any portion of the partial eclipse phase. Even if only 1% of the sun is visible, observers risk damage to their eyes through direct observation. At this eclipse stage, the sun appears to be dim enough to view. Unfortunately, the lit portion still transmits full force sunlight to the optic nerve. Because the level of light is so much lower than normal, the observer feels no urge to avert their gaze. Moreover, the optic nerve does not contain pain receptors so victims are unaware that their eyesight is being damaged. Proper eye protection is vital for all observers of the partial solar eclipse phase.