Morning Motivation – Week of April 22, 2019

It’s a new week once again, friends – are you ready?

As you know, I start each week with some positive words of wisdom, and this week’s are:

Last week, I promised to help you rid your life of some of the distractions that keep you away from being productive. Your smartphone, your inbox and the open tabs on your computer are all open invitations for distraction. You’ll give yourself extra time each day to focus when you silence your notifications, close your inbox and remove unnecessary tabs from your desktop.

If you want to focus, you can’t welcome unnecessary opportunities to intrude on your mental space.

Emails can be particularly intrusive because they often have an unnecessary sense of urgency. There are businesses and organizations that stress the importance of prompt responses to emails, but we can’t treat every situation like an emergency.

Many times, we blame electronics for distracting us from our work, but sometimes our physical body forces us into a state of serial-tasking. For example, if you’re hungry while trying to work, your attention will flip between your hunger and your work until you take care of your physical needs.

In addition, you’ll also want to be sure you’re attending to your health in a broader sense. Getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular breaks into your day will keep you from being tempted by distractions.

What works for me is looking at exercise as the gift to myself for doing my work. When 1PM comes around, an alarm sounds on my devices that it’s “me” time. I’ll then get out of the office and go to the gym or for a long walk outside.

People are more likely to login to YouTube or check social media when they need a break. Instead of trying to work and watch a mindless video at the same time, dedicate time for yourself to enjoy this distracting activity. Limit how much time you’ll spend on this break so that your guilt-free distraction time doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.

Make technology your ally. Apps like Forest help to turn staying focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help to track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time. One of my favorite browser plugins “The Great Suspender” suspends all of those open windows on your internet browser.

Multitasking is not the key to productivity. The key to productivity is focus. It’s far better to schedule time to focus on each task than it is to try to do everything at once.

Make use of the methods outlined above and prepare to be more effective and less exhausted in the process.


What Happens In The Event of a Water Leak in Your Condo?

If you own a Condominium (Condo), you may have equipment both inside and outside your unit for which you are responsible. In a closet inside your unit would be your water tank. There is also an HVAC unit that may be just outside your unit, to heat and cool your home.  Most of the time, you ignore these two quiet workhorses that keep you in comfort all year round.

Shockingly, every once in a while, and sometimes suddenly, the equipment may fail and need repair.  Most often and most inconveniently, the HVAC will fail when the temperatures outside are the hottest or coldest, depending on the time of the year. Thus, only your comfort is compromised.

However, every once in a while, these machines break down and leak.  With water. Lots of water.

If your HVAC unit is outside your Condo, this may not be as terrible of an event, unless you own a Townhouse and the unit is in the basement and there’s a danger of the water seeping into your basement.

But it can be really bad if you’re on an upper floor and one or several of your Condo neighbors lives below you.  Water loves to follow the powerful attraction of gravity: downward. Downward towards your neighbors’ Condo unit!

Yes, your first step is to call the emergency number for your equipment repair tech. If you’re not sure, call the property manager so they can dispatch someone immediately to mitigate the damage. If the property manager is not available, call your local insurance agent who will have access to reputable Restoration Services companies. They all have emergency lines so you’re covered seven days a week.

In the event of a leak which could lead to a potential claim, mitigating the loss is critical and required under your insurance contract. You’ll want the restoration company onsite as quickly as possible to dry out all the water and repair the water damage.  Do not forget to take photos of the damage before the restoration company arrives. It’s key that you document the extent of the damage at the time of the event. This also mitigates any confusion or misunderstanding of the extent of the loss when the claim is settled. The key word here is “mitigate”.  

You don’t want to be caught by surprise when a leak happens all over your downstairs neighbors’ precious Star Wars toy collection.  Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late. The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Review Condominium Financials Before You Purchase

Condominium (Condo) Buyers should obtain and review the financial statement of the Condo as part of your purchase process.  Have the statement reviewed by a professional such as an Attorney or CPA.  The financial health of the Condo can affect you in the future as you settle into ownership of your Condo unit.  The financial statements can also give you a good indication of the competence of the Condo Board and Managing Agent.

Condo Complexes on the smaller size may be exempt from having their financials audited. The ByLaws will identify if an audit is required.  Audited financials means the CPA firm has verified the numbers presented in the statement rather than compiling from information provided by the Condominium Board Members and/or Managing Agent.

The financial statement should cover the previous two years (three is preferable) and often a Year-to-Date statement.  A Financial Statement includes:

  • Income and Expenses for the entire Condominium.  This is also known as “Operating Statement.”
  • Balance Sheet demonstrating Assets and Liabilities.
  • Cash Flow Statement.

Some key areas you want to focus on include:

  • Reserve Fund (for major capital repairs and improvements),
  • Cash Flow to determine if the building is taking in as much money as it is paying out monthly, Maintenance Fees owed (an indicator of the financial responsibility of your soon-to-be-neighbors),
  • Footnotes.

The financial well-being of your future home is as important to the transaction as every other aspect of your purchase.  Request the Financial Statement as early as possible in the negotiating process, even before you’ve presented your Offer, if possible.

Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late. The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Morning Motivation – Week of April 8, 2019

You know that I start each week with some positive words of wisdom! This week’s positive wise words are:

Last week, I wrote about how humans are incapable of truly multi-tasking, engaging instead in serial switching.

It’s true that you are capable of absorbing information with your eyes while doing other things efficiently. Scientifically speaking, making use of your vision is the only thing you can truly do while doing something else. Think of walking to the street corner, looking at the traffic light while you are walking.

For everything else, you’re serial-tasking. Constant refocusing like this can be exhausting. Worse still, it prevents us from giving our work the deep attention it deserves.

Think about how much longer it takes to do something when you have to keep reminding yourself to focus. That’s one element of why multi-tasking does more harm than good for your productivity.

This element is one of four reasons to stop all these multiple-task-shenanigans: Multi-tasking wastes your time.

Yes, you’re literally losing time with all your self-imposed interruptions! People lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting themselves back on track when switching between tasks.

You’re decreasing your productivity by as much as 40% with all your many and varied simultaneous tasking activities according to some studies. That’s a significant loss in efficiency. Would you be happy if your surgeon operated with 40% less accuracy and attention while you’re “under the knife?”

I have three other great reasons why you should stop multi-tasking. Next week I will share them with you! Stay tuned!


Recap: Rainy Day Activities

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.”

– Gilbert K. Chesterton

At Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we love days when the sun is shining – but we also know that it’s important to embrace the rainy days! The next time that you’re besieged by a day of grey skies and rainclouds, don’t despair. Instead, gather up your family and try out one of the following activities:

  • Pull out the arts and crafts! There are hundreds of craft tutorials online for kids and adults of all ages, and you probably have the materials on hand already!
  • There’s not much better than a good book on a rainy day. Find a cozy spot and host a family read-a-thon. Bonus if there are healthy snacks involved! Also encourage everyone to share what they’re reading about.
  • Like arts and crafts, cooking is an activity that can be tailored to all ages. Have kids help prepare dinner or bake something yummy for dessert! Having kids help make food also makes them more likely to try new foods.

Still need something to do on a rainy Boston day? Talk to your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about your policies! Make sure that they are up to date and ask about the benefits of an umbrella insurance policy for extra liability protection. Just call 617-298-0655 to speak to a friendly and knowledgeable insurance agent.

Home Inspection for Your Condominium Purchase

Condominium Buyers often ask:

Should I have an inspection done by a Certified Home Inspection service? 

The answer is a definitive YES!

While a Condominium (Condo) typically features construction and/or maintenance features addressed by Condominium Management, the Buyer should conduct an inspection for two main reasons.

First, the interior of the Condo. This area is not the responsibility of Condo Management. A Buyer needs to be aware of concerns such as deferred maintenance for appliances, windows, bathroom fixtures and interior plumbing.  You want to avoid a costly repair in the first 3-5 years after your purchase.  Likewise, the Condo Buyer needs to be aware of potentially catastrophic issues that could cause reconsideration of the purchase.  Lastly, the inspection may reveal items that are of immediate concern, leading to a request for a repair or pricing credit from the Seller.

The second reason you want to complete an inspection is to determine the overall “physical health” of the Condo.  A roof in need of a future repair is as much of a concern to a Condominium Buyer as to a Home Buyer.  Any repairs to the common areas of a Condominium are paid for from the “Capital Expense Reserve” fund.  Should there be a major repair on the near horizon, such as a roof replacement, the Condo Buyer wants to determine there are sufficient funds in the Reserve Fund to cover the cost of repair.  Otherwise that Buyer, once they are an Owner, could be subject to an assessment or multiple assessments as well as an increase in the maintenance fee, resulting in an increase in their monthly payment.

The bottom line answer to the question posed by Condominium Buyers is a resounding yes when it comes to obtaining an inspection by a Certified Home Inspection service as part of the purchasing process.

Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late. The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Morning Motivation – Week of April 1, 2019

Happy Monday once again, friends!

Have you been looking forward to my positive words of wisdom for the week?

As I mentioned last week, the term “multitasking” was originally used to describe how microprocessors in computers work. Machines multitask, but people cannot.

Many people believe they are excellent multi-taskers, despite the challenges of performing two tasks at once. Think of the many times when you do several things at once, like talking on the phone while cooking. Did you ever burn the soup? Or maybe the soup is fine, but the person on the other end of the phone conversation says, “Hey! Are you listening to me?”

Consider the amount of attention that each of these simple tasks requires. One, or both, may be simple enough to be carried out on autopilot. Or, not.

While we may be okay performing simple tasks simultaneously, what about more complex tasks? Can you give full attention to your PowerPoint presentation while watching your favorite movie? Watching it while you work is fun, but maybe you’re making your work more difficult and time-consuming. How many times did you revise that PowerPoint slide while giggling at a favorite line in your favorite movie? I’ll bet it happens often.

Your brain was designed to focus on one thing at a time, not many things.

Your brain compensates when you ask it to latch onto multiple targets, switching back and forth, back and forth. You focus on the more urgent task; the other task slides into the background. Your brain realizes you’ve been neglecting that task, and, switches again. And again.

When you’re bouncing back and forth like this, an area of the brain known as Brodmann’s Area 10 activates. Located in your frontopolar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain, Brodmann’s Area 10 controls your ability to shift focus from one task to another. People who think they are excellent multi-taskers are really just putting their Brodmann’s Area 10 to work.

I know you’re reading my message, thinking, “But I can juggle multiple tasks!” Tune in for my next message to see why that may not be true.


Recap: End of the School Year

“Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.”

– Oprah Winfrey

Now that it’s nearly April, it’s time to help your kids focus on getting to the finish line that is the last day of the school year. In case you missed our full blog last week, here is a quick recap of the tips that we gave to help you stay sane for the last few months before summer vacation begins:

  • Once spring break ends, it can be hard to get back into your family’s normal school routine – but this routine is the key to many children’s success.
  • Having a goal (with an accompanying reward) can help children keep on pace to finish out the year strong.
  • Does your kid need any new school supplies? Replace anything that’s falling apart and clean out their backpack for good measure.
  • Keep an organized calendar so that you can help your kids stay on top of end of the year parties, award ceremonies, etc.

And remember, take advantage of the fact that your kids are still in school by using your time to talk to your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about your insurance portfolio. Now is a great time for an insurance check-up for your house, car, business, and more – and you can get all this done by calling our office at 617-298-0655. Don’t wait until the insanity of summer vacation begins! Call now!

Indoor Activities for Rainy Days

Spring has sprung here in Boston, and we’ll bet that you’re ready for the warm, sunshiny days ahead. As in life, however, not all days can have sunshine. Sometimes you need to be prepared for days with rain. The best way to deal with a rainy day is to make the best of it and enjoy the indoors, especially if you have children that need entertainment (and to burn off a little energy). Pick out an activity (or several) from the following suggestions and see if you can’t make a rainy day great!

A Perfect Time for Arts and Crafts

If it’s grey and rainy outside, it’s the perfect time to break out some arts and crafts in an attempt to get your creative juices flowing! Don’t have a project in mind? That’s ok! There are hundreds of online tutorials with project ideas for kids and adults alike. The best part is that you probably already have the supplies on hand – paper, scissors, glue, and other crafty staples will get you hours of fun with your kiddos.

If you’re in a pinch for a fun crafty activity, there are even websites that allow you to print out coloring pages and activity books from your home printer. Find something with a fun pattern or your child’s favorite characters and go to town… they’ll forget about the rain in no time!

Cozy Up with a Good Book

Rain is naturally relaxing, making it perfect weather for reading! If you don’t currently have a book in progress you can go to the nearest branch of the Boston Public Library for access to books, eBooks, audiobooks, and much more. Also check the library’s calendar – they often offer free classes and activities for kids!

For older kids, encourage them to get a head start on next year’s summer reading list, if you know what books are going to be included. Sometimes, these books are old enough to be available in eBook format for free on Project Gutenberg – a site that provides free copies of books with expired copyrights.

Spend Some Time in the Kitchen

It can be hard to find time to teach kids basic life skills – especially when the sunshine beckons. Take advantage of the rain and let the kids help with some meal preparation. Depending on the age of the kids in question, they can help measure and add ingredients, mix things, chop, or even make something by themselves (with some guidance).

Kids are also much more likely to try new foods and flavors when they are involved in preparation – so pick out something new and different to encourage your kids to try new things! They will feel a wonderful sense of pride at having produced the meal and be excited to share it with the family. You can make it an even more special occasion by inviting someone special over to enjoy the meal – like a member of your extended family or your children’s friends.

Games and Cards and Puzzles – Oh My!

Board games, card games, and puzzles are a great way to spend some quality time with your family when the weather refuses to cooperate. Odds are that you have several of these in your closet already, so there is no cost associated with the hours of fun provided by these activities.

Card games are a favorite around the Vargas and Vargas Insurance office because a deck of cards is so versatile. There are dozens of different games that you can play with a single deck, so finding something fun and age-appropriate for smaller kiddos isn’t an issue. A quick online search can reveal ideas for new games that you and your loved ones will enjoy for the rainy afternoon.

Unbury Lost Treasures

It’s no secret that kids and adults alike get bored of their toys. Sometimes, however, something can have a fun nostalgia factor after it hasn’t been used in a while. The challenge is to find something that has regained its sense of fun! Give something new life and enjoy it one last time, even if afterword it goes in your ‘donation’ pile.

If you’re desperate to find something for your kids to do on a rainy day, ask them to clean their room – they are almost guaranteed to find something in there to amuse themselves in order to keep from tidying up!

A rainy day is also the perfect day for an insurance review! No need to even pick up an umbrella – Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency is only a phone call away. Dial 617-298-0655 and talk to a Massachusetts insurance agent about your coverage, and what you can do to ensure that an insurance claim isn’t the cause of a ‘rainy day’ in your future. The rain may even remind you to ask about an umbrella insurance policy – one of the best forms of protection for your peace of mind.

Morning Motivation – Week of March 25, 2019

Are you ready for the start of another great week, friends?

You know that I start each week with some positive words of wisdom, and this week’s are:

When you hear the word “multitasking”, images of highly efficient and successful people most likely come to mind… but what if I were to tell you that our common belief about multi-tasking, as the end-all-be-all of good work ethic, is all wrong?

I’m anti-multitasking–at least for people.

Did you know that the term “multitasking” was coined to describe how computers operate? Computers are excellent at multitasking, but humans? Not so much.

Now, maybe you’re thinking: “But, Carlos, I am GREAT at multitasking!”

I imagine you are pretty good at accomplishing multiple tasks at the same time. But, my argument is this: If you focus on one task at one time, you can be much better at everything you do.

There’s a dark side to the conveniences of the Digital Age. With smartphones that function like handheld computers, it has become increasingly difficult to leave our work behind. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to be accessible 24/7.

How often are you ever focused on just one thing? Most of us try to meet these demands by multi-tasking.

Many of us have bought into the myth that we can achieve more through multi-tasking. In the next few weeks, I’ll show you how you can accomplish more work in less time. Spoiler alert: multi-tasking is not the answer.

Don’t miss my message next week: “Why is multitasking a myth?”