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The quiet heroes that Singaporeans take for granted

The quiet heroes that Singaporeans take for granted

It's not a secret that we Singaporeans are constantly on the move. Be it working long hours to shuttling the kids from school to tuition to music lessons, the only time we get a break in our hectic schedules is when we're stuck in traffic or in squishy public transportation.

The majority of us are usually so caught up in our busy lifestyles that we fail to notice those who tend to make our lives easier. These quiet heroes are working jobs that ensure that our society functions smoothly. They are normally so quiet playing their role that we don't even realise they are there doing the amazing work they do until they are not there and we suddenly realise how inconvenienced our lives become.

Let's pay tribute to 4 of these unsung heroes.

1. Cleaners

Year after year, our city is lauded by tourists and other countries as clean and green, a garden city, or most recently, a city in a garden. And yet, the ones really responsible for maintaining this pristine cleanliness go relatively unappreciated. Who are they? The cleaners, of course. 

Whether cleaning the toilets, sweeping the streets, or clearing up after you once you're done with your meal at the hawker centre, they are the ones who work tirelessly for long hours to uphold Singapore's squeaky-clean image.

It's rather saddening that a majority of our cleaners are of the elderly generation. It's such a difficult way of earning a living, that we as considerable citizens should play our part by disposing of our litter in a proper way, and clear our own trays after we are done eating to do all we can to make the lives of our cleaners easier.

2. Nurses

I applaud nurses. Not only do we often not see the contributions they make, they are pretty much the backbone of the medical community. Disagree? Let's see those doctors and surgeons handle a full day of work by themselves then. 

Not to discredit the works of your family GP or neighbourhood dentist, but this article is about quiet heroes, and while Dr. Tan may be the one explaining your medical conditions, it's the nurses who are often to one tending to your wounds, dressing them, and distributing your medication.

Furthermore, they are subjected to 24/7 working shifts to ensure that patients can receive immediate medical treatment when required. And trust me when I say that cleaning up of faeces is largely part of their duties. So the next time you're at your annual dental checkup or at the clinic "keng"-ing an MC, don't forget to say thank you to the nurses working there. 

3. Bus Drivers/MRT Station Staff

Admit it - when was the last time we genuinely smiled or thanked our friendly bus uncle whenever we boarded a bus? Or when was the last time we acknowledged the auntie with the lit baton standing at the MRT station platform to guide commuters during rush hours? We were probably too busy trying to rush for that empty seat that it simply slipped our minds. 

Bus drivers and MRT staff work long hours, on both weekdays and weekends. They even work during public holidays just to ensure that we have a functioning form of transportation. Most of them are simply trying to earn a living and even so, they are at times faced with verbal or even physical abuse by commuters.

We should never assume that they have it easy - for bus drivers to drive the same routes day in and day out (can you imagine driving from Woodlands to Changi Airport over 10 times a day?!), or for MRT staff to work those long hours dealing with multitudes of commuters. The least we can do is to say thank you, and to be a considerate passenger. 

4. Construction Workers

Here in Singapore, with every turn of a head, a swanky new shopping mall pops up. We tend to overlook the people who literally built that roof over our heads however -  the construction workers. 

In a 2014 census, there are 1.32 million foreign workers in Singapore and a bulk of them work in the construction sector. Because of this, construction workers are sometimes placed in a negative light and ostracised by Singaporeans. It's easy to judge and stereotype, but a lot harder to put ourselves in their shoes. 

We often see them working relentlessly under the hot afternoon sun, simply to ensure that the roads, buildings and even the scrubs by the side of the roads are completed. They often work for little pay, and from what they earn, most of it is sent back to their home country to raise their families. 

These quiet heroes in Singapore aren't always appreciated for what they do, but they are the ones who help make our lives a whole lot better. So the next time you come across a construction worker or two, show them some kindness and recognition. Whether it's giving them a simple smile or buying them a cold bottle of water as they work in the sweltering heat, all these little kind acts will be deeply felt. 

3 things parents do that make their child terrible at managing money in future

3 things parents do that make their child terrible at managing money in future

All parents want to do what's best for their child. The question is: What is considered "best" for their kids. 

Some parents believe in "sparing the rod and spoiling the child", some believe that their kid having a happy childhood is more important. Some want their kids to have all the creature comforts they could possibly desire including iPhones and iPads, while others think it’s more important to teach their kids the importance of earning their rewards.

But nobody wants their child to not be able to handle their own finances when they grow up. Here are three things parents might be doing that could turn their kid into a financial disaster:

1. Buying their child everything he asks for

Kids these days want a lot more than just Legos or the latest Disney princess figurines. A majority of parents know not to give in to their every kid's whims and fancies. Even if not for the fact that it would drain their retirement fund paying for all the iPads, X-boxes and electric scooters, buying every single thing their kid asks for also run the risk of raising a spoiled child who has to have everything he wants right now.

But the fact is, all these head knowledge flies out the window the moment their kid is rolling on the ground throwing a massive temper tantrums in the middle of Toys R'Us when they say no to what he wants. Caving in to everything a kid wants is the most counterproductive thing a parent can do at that point.

This is because one of the biggest lessons in managing money is of Delayed Gratification. Kids should learn that it's important to save for the future for "better" things instead of spending all their cash all the time on what they want now. By not teaching a child to take “no” for an answer, it could turn him into the sort of adult who has no self-control in a shopping mall, and no sense of being financially prudent in life. 

2. Encouraging their child to enjoy the high life

Some parents think that by giving their kids an appreciation of the finer things in life, they’re motivating them to work hard for their own future. The irony is that it's usually poverty that motivates people to want to work hard and rid themselves of their current situation. It drives them to want to manage their finances better.

Riches that's been doled out for free by doting parents are not going to spur someone to work hard and better himself. That being said, it's not wrong to want to teach your kid to aspire for a life free from financial woes.

But how about instead encouraging your kids to live lavishly, show them how to enjoy the simple things in life instead. Spend time with them instead of buying them more stuff, encourage them to give back instead of taking things. Then, you can rest assured that your beloved son is going to spend on the important things in life instead of fancy cars to impress chicks. 

3. Telling their child he’ll inherit your wealth in future

Remember that scene where Mufasa tells Simba “One day son, all this will be yours?” Pull that stunt in Singapore and you can bet every kid will be twiddling their thumbs until the day their human ATM drops dead. 

"Son, when that day comes let's hope you won't toss me in an old folks' home"

"Son, when that day comes let's hope you won't toss me in an old folks' home"

When parents do that, they’re sending out the message that their child will be financially taken care of in future. Even the inheritance of a simple HDB flat can be a huge financial boon, given the high cost of property in Singapore. No matter that that's not the intention in the first place, It still subconsciously plants the mindset of "why bother to work hard when there’s going to money coming my way in a couple of decades?" in a child.

Save that conversation for when the child is in his twenties or thirties, when he's more mature, and when he has already learnt the value of hard work and financial discipline (most likely from his first job).

5 ways to travel on a student's budget

5 ways to travel on a student's budget

Nowadays, it's practically impossible to open up Instagram and not be swamped by pictures of young people frolicking in exotic places. These are often also peppered with hashtags like #wanderlust, #blessed and #YOLO - making it harder not to get sucked into this dream of dropping everything right now to travel the world.

In the midst of studying your asses off, is it even possible to see the world before getting tied down to your first career? Especially when you barely have enough at the end of the month to scrape by? 

Here are 5 ways to make that possible. (the budget way, of course):

1. Turn spare foreign currency into money

One of the coolest things to be launched recently at Changi Airport is a TravelersBox kiosk that aims to make leftover foreign currency useful again. By depositing foreign change into the kiosk, you can select from redeeming gift cards from a range of brands, adding the cash into your PayPal account, or choose to make a donation.

Accumulate spare foreign change from your family and friends, and exchange them for PayPal dollars just before you head off for your flight. If you're heading to a country that also has Grab, you can get a Grab gift card to save on transport getting around the city you're visiting. 

2. Book your flights at promotional prices

When it comes to getting those dirt cheap fares, it’s all about the off-peak periods. This includes booking your flights at the weirdest timings possible. I once woke up at 4am just to take advantage of Jetstar's 2nd Anniversary offer and snagged a $0.02 flight to Hong Kong!! Even with flight taxes and fees, my ticket still amounted to less than $40.

The difference between a few days and a few hours can very well save you and your traveling buddies a couple hundred bucks. Flights tend to be cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, while mid-day flight timings like 2-6pm fetch lower rates.

Budget carriers such as Jetstar, Scoot, and Tigerair usually have promotions every week too, so you might want to subscribe to their emails and keep a lookout for their weekly budget flight sales.

Here’s a list of the weekly sales:

You can also take advantage of exam periods in Singapore (around the April/May and September/October period) where flights out of Singapore are at their lowest due to most families with young children likely not travelling so as to prepare their kids for exams.

Research done by Skyscanner also show the best timings to book your flight tickets; booking between 21-25 weeks prior to your travel date can save you up to 22%! 

3. Cheaper accommodation doesn't mean crappy ones

You can easily save a few hundred dollars on accommodations simply by searching for cheaper alternatives. Nowadays, websites like Airbnb allow you to rent rooms, houses, villas at much lower cost than a hotel or even a bed & breakfast. It’s one of my favourite choices since cash never trades hands - the payment is fully transacted through Airbnb’s website. Although I do like to bring some Singapore souvenirs like a Bengawan Solo pandan cake to gift to my host. 

If you are traveling with a group of friends (it helps if they are muscular and scary), you can even consider couch-surfing at a local's home. Alternatively, you could just scroll through your Facebook friends list to see if a foreign friend can host you for the period you’re travelling. That way, you don’t even have to pay!

As a last resort, websites such as Groupon, Agoda and Expedia also offer bundles and secret deals if you have the time to read through the various fine print to see whether the terms and conditions are fair. 

4. A portable wifi router is the new prepaid SIM card

Gone are the days when you had to buy sim cards for international calls back to Singapore and activating your auto-roam. You can now save costs by renting portable wifi routers with fares are usually charged per day. Bonus: they can be shared with up to 8 people.

You can pick them up either at your travel destination - we recommend the Klook app for renting wifi routers for as low as $3 per day, or you can also rent them from our very own Changi Airport. Simply book online and collect just before you fly. Pro Tip: Do check the Changi Recommends Facebook page as it frequently posts wifi router rental promo codes.

5. Skip the tour and get around the city yourself

Tour agencies usually charge extra for their services (duh) and wind up bringing you to the most touristy places to eat or shop so they can earn a fat commission for themselves. Instead of signing up for a tour package with a travel agency, read up on TripAdvisor and travel blogs for the best places to go. Usually, most of the places the locals go to are relatively cheap, and even free! 

If you're heading to a major city, it helps to download an app like Google Trips and Citymapper that suggests walking tours as well as cool places to eat, drink and check out based on locals' (and tourists who have visited previously) recommendations. Those apps also have offline maps (with routes for buses, trains, trams etc) offline for easier navigation.

6 food items that double as cleaning hacks for your room

6 food items that double as cleaning hacks for your room

Cleanliness is next to godliness. My interpretation of that used to mean that keeping your room clean is just as boring and un-fun as being a "holy holy" goody-two-shoes.

Over the years, however, I discovered that some food items double as both snacks as well as cleaning hacks to help keep things neat in my room without breaking a sweat, the bank, and my social life on the weekends too. 

Here are 6 food items to help in sorting out your room's mess (that you can easily find in the kitchen now).

1. Get rid of funky smells from your shoes and shoe cabinet with an onion

No mums had ever walked into their child's room and announce, "This place smells like crap, but I love how clean it is!"

Before you set out to tackle the mess, you need to first get rid of any odors. Your nose, personal hygiene, and anyone that has to live under the same roof as you on a daily basis will thank you.

As bizarre and counter-intuitive as it may sound since onions themselves are considered smelly food, they can actually help clear up bad odors by absorbing them. Just cut an onion in half and leave it in your shoe cabinet overnight. When the onion smell fades the following morning, so will all the other bad smells. 

2. Make your room smell super nice by dabbing baking extract on a light bulb

Scented candles are all the rage now in Singapore. The problem is that they create smoke, are a fire hazard if left unattended, and can be expensive as hell. 

One brilliant hack I discovered thanks to the World Wide Web is to dab a few drops of sweet-smelling baking extract like vanilla or cinnamon on the light bulb in my room. Do this when the light bulb is cold so you won't burn your finger, and when you switch the light on, the heat from the bulb will cause the extract to emit a scent to fill your entire room. 

If you don't want to use baking extract, this trick also works with your favourite perfume, cologne or your choice of essential oils too. 

3. Use alcohol to shine windows and wooden surfaces

Guess alcohol isn't just for getting yourself smashed, it's great for cleaning too. Add some cheap vodka into a spray bottle, spritz your windows and mirrors and wipe with a polishing cloth to make it shine. The alcohol properties acts against the glass surface to disinfect and prevent it from getting easily smudged or stained in future.

Similarly, add some beer into a spray bottle and squirt some against any wooden surface, before rubbing with a polishing cloth. The beer removes any dullness from over the years and adds a nice, shiny coat to your scruffy desk or ancient Ikea wardrobe. 

4. Use mayonnaise to polish your piano

This sounds absolutely crazy, but it's true. The first time I read this over the internet, my face was all like: 

I laughed for a good 20 seconds before I decided it's too good not to try it out. Plus, it doubles as a great story to share as Facebook content. (also, putting a look of horror on my mum's face added to the laughter)

Turns out the mayonnaise polishes the ivories of the piano keys way better than my previous expensive piano cleaner! The creaminess of the lather also prevented me from scuffing the keys while I was polishing them. I used to hate accidentally leaving tiny scratches all over my piano while cleaning it previously. 

And no, I know what you're thinking, but there was surprisingly no weird smell post-cleaning. So, for those of you who are struggling through piano lessons, this is a great way to enact some revenge on the piano for all the hours of practising you had to endure - by smearing it with some mayonnaise while still getting some shine out of it. 

5. Use baking soda to clean and shine jewellery

Especially in heat-drenched Singapore, the build-up of perspiration and humidity can dull your jewellery. Here's a simple hack to clean your necklaces, rings, and other 'bling-blings' without the need for any harsh chemicals.

Mix 2 tablespoonful of baking soda with one cup of hot water and let your jewellery sit in the solution for 10-15 minutes. Remove them and rinse, and slowly polish with a clean soft fibre cloth (a spectacle cloth is perfect) until they look brand new. 

6. Prevent your brightly coloured clothes from fading with black pepper

After constant wearing and never-ending trips to the washing machine, your favorite Cookie Monster t-shirt has gone from electric blue to a dulled out version of itself. We know you'll probably keep wearing it anyway (It’s a classic!), but did you know there's a super simple hack to keep those bright colours from succumbing to their faded fate?

You could pump the washing machine full of chemicals found in commercial detergents which also cost a ridiculous $9 and above, or you could Instead try shaking 1-2 teaspoonfuls of black pepper into your coloured laundry load.

Don’t worry about flakes of pepper dotting your clothes like black dandruff, the pepper will all wash out during the rinse cycle, preserving your colours for yet another trip to the rave. 

Are you a Tiger Parent?

Are you a Tiger Parent?

Child, if you are seeing this, I recommend that you scream for your dad/mum and get him/her to read this article RIGHT NOW. This can reduce your workload anywhere from 0 to 100%. Disclaimer: results are not guaranteed and if your parents scold you for trying to chicken out of doing homework, then too bad.

Hi parent.

I know what you are thinking right now. What is this article that my child wants me to see so desperately?

Well, this article is just a continuation of the Tiger Mom debate, started in 2011. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of it – even your child has. And I have just taken it upon myself to be the saviour of all overworked students in Singapore. So read on to see how I will change your mind (or maybe not, if you are the typical Asian parent who won’t admit you are wrong).

According to Amy Chua, the first widely recognised Tiger Mom – but definitely not the first to force their kids to sit at the piano for 4 hours straight, deny sleepover and boyfriend requests, and obsess over the number of As their child got at PSLE, O levels and A levels—there are a few reasons why Asian parents in general are so strict on their child.

1. You believe that academic achievement reflects successful parenting

Admit it. It was never about your child. It was always about you. Being a parent is a full-time job, and the number of As your child got is your only KPI.  Come CNY, all your relatives are waiting for your report, and if your child fails even one subject – gasp, hell no—you lose face. (Child, of course I am exaggerating here. But the next time you have a fight with your parents for not getting an A for Maths, this will make a good comeback to their I-am-increasing-the-number-of-your-tuition-classes-for-your-own-good talk).

2. You believe that nothing is fun until you are good at it

That’s why you spend hours drilling simple Maths concepts into your child, and send him to way too many tuition classes. To enjoy something, you have to be good at it. And to get good at anything, you have to put in the hard work. But is this really true? Your child sucks at DOTA – even you can see that—but no amount of expletives his friends throw at him can stop your child from having so much fun at his desk.

3. You are fortunate enough to be able to impose your standards on your kids

Unlike your poor western counterparts, you don’t have to struggle with your own conflicted feelings about how your child turned out fine despite being an unknown actress living together with her drug-dealer boyfriend because hey, she at least comes home once a year for Christmas. You are given permission by society to voice your disapproval. Calling your child out on laziness, unrealistic goals and promiscuity won’t have you labelled as a backward redneck who is out of step with mainstream society. But do watch how you speak your mind. Sometimes, the deepest wounds are invisible ones.

4. You genuinely believe in your child

Western parents think of their child as water balloons – too much pressure and they burst. You on the other hand, see your child as graphite. Under the right amount of pressure, he or she will turn into beautiful, shining beings who are resilient and sought after. (Again, this is an exaggeration, but hey, I am trying to make a point here.)

This transforms your parenting approach. You send your child to the best schools, because you know he or she will adapt to the environment and come out more confident and well versed from it. You push your child to take up different enrichment classes – piano, drawing, dance – because you know there are hidden talents in your child just waiting to be discovered. You scold your child for not getting an A on his Maths test because there is absolutely no way he won’t be getting an A. You know your child is too smart for that B. The only explanation must be that he is slacking off. And knowing that he is capable of so much, one of the worst things you can do for your child is to let him give up.

Never mind that a few decades back, you were bringing back the same horrible results that you are now scolding your child for…

Genetic mutation does occur, right?

5 cool things that happen to your body when you play a musical instrument

5 cool things that happen to your body when you play a musical instrument

One of the embarrassing childhood stories my mum loves to tell about me is the time she brought me for my first piano lesson and instead of following along with the rest of the kids, I would run to the back of the class to bang on a drum set there. The teacher was so sick of the noise that she kicked me out of class.

Who would have thought that 15 years from that day, I would take piano lessons as an adult. When I was good and ready.  There are lots of benefits to learning to play a musical instrument. Here are 5 of them: 

1. It relieves stress

Did you ever noticed that you feel more relaxed when you listen to soft soothing music, as compared to loud heavy metal headbangers? It's been scientifically proven that listening to music is an effective way to reduce physiological stress.

In one particular study, college students performed an oral presentation with Pachelbel's Canon playing softly in the background, or with no music at all.

The students that had music playing in the background spoke more confidently and scored higher in the oral presentation. They also had lower heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety levels. Creating your own music with a musical instrument reduces stress levels at a faster pace than listening to music. 

2. It makes you smarter

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Even up to today, scientists are still uncovering the effects that music has on the human brain. Children who are exposed to music perform better in school than those who don't. Children who play a musical instrument at a young age also scored better.

Music actually boosts a child's reading skills, IQ and development of certain parts of the brain.

Adults can also benefit from playing a musical instrument. It helps to keep the mind alert and active. Especially as the mind degenerates in old age, it can aid in sharpening memory skills.

3. It provides a sense of achievement

The human mind requires challenges to stimulate the brain and boosts the spirit. When you are a beginner learning to play your first full song on an instrument, it can be incredibly frustrating. But once you have mastered it, the satisfaction you will feel is incredible.

The body releases endorphins to increase happiness levels, and this in turn diminish the perception of pain and lowers chances of depression.

4. It trains discipline

Similarly, if you are a complete beginner learning to play your first piece of music, one of the qualities required is discipline. You have to be disciplined in order to master playing your instrument. You have to commit time and effort into improving yourself. 

There's no way that professional musician you admire got that way solely by watching YouTube tutorials on how to play a musical instrument. He/she did it through sheer practice, practice, practice.

Discipline also trains the mind's resilience and stretches its capabilities. It's almost as similar as learning a new language - you will never master it if you do not practice. 

5. Most importantly, it's fun 

Yes, it will take some discipline, money, and a lot of hard work. But there's no denying that playing an instrument is fun. The best part is that it becomes more and more fun the better you get at playing too.

Once you get better, there's an entire world of music for you to explore and choose from to play.

Who knows? You may also write your own songs or play professionally in the future. Whether or not that becomes a reality for you, playing a musical instrument definitely enriches a life.

4 Singaporean things you should stop wasting your money on

4 Singaporean things you should stop wasting your money on

In this day and age of online spending, we're often spoiled for choices amidst thousands of e-commerce sites (most of them with free shipping too!) that it has become incredibly easy to overspend. This habit even bleeds offline into spending on things we don't even need in the first place. 

Scrutinise the spending habits of any Singaporean and you're sure to roll your eyes at some people's expenses. But like how one man's trash is another's treasure, just as you're sniggering over somebody for spending $1,000+ a month on Gudetama merchandise, someone is judging you for spending $25 to Instagram Story an ice cream falling onto a molten lava cookie. 

Here are 4 money wasters that Singaporeans seem to spend most on.

1. Hipster coffee

Any caffeine addict will tell you that life begins after their first cup of coffee. But life shouldn’t begin after their first cup of EXPENSIVE coffee. With so many (too many) hipster cafes and coffee joints crammed in our tiny island, it has become a daily norm to pay up to $6 for a cuppa joe. 

Coffee is an expense that can swiftly and quietly escalate without noticing. That daily latte at Starbucks can balloon into an exorbitant amount. Worst if you do two coffee runs a day instead of one. 

Scare yourself with this handy Starbucks calculator that will show you how much you spend on expensive coffee in a month, a year, and in 30 years. We guarantee your jaw will drop. 

2. Taxi/Grab/Uber rides

While there will be moments when you're stranded in the rain or in some ulu neighbourhood and are in need of a safe ride home, such occasions are rare.

But most of the time, it's a matter of laziness, oversleeping, or worst, drunkenness, that see us hailing that cab. With all sorts of hidden charges like booking fees and peak period surcharge nowadays, there's no worse feeling that getting out of a cab and realising that you've just paid up to 8x more what you would have if you had just taken the train or bus. 

3. Mobile phone games' in-app purchases

If you’ve ever been tempted by, or have succumbed and plonked down $19.99 USD, for more lives to continue in Candy Crush or more incubators in Pokemon Go, then this video is for you: 

Free mobile games make money off in-app purchases. They usually do this by making gameplay as frustrating as possible so you will cave in and spend a few dollars for immediate gratification. It's basically manipulating you into forking out that cash to bring about short-term satisfaction. 

If you don't mind spending money on mobile games, how about giving it to those developers that take a one-time purchase payment in exchange for a fully playable game that does not have in-app purchases. 

4. Corporate clothes

So you've got your foot on the first rung of the corporate ladder and on day one, everyone in the office looks like they have just stepped out of a G2000 catalog. Many a rookie executive will be drawn into the "glamour" of working in the CBD area and can go a little crazy spending their first few years of salary on crafting an unnecessarily huge corporate wardrobe. 

For men, it will be the pursuit of that first expensive watch or pair of Bally shoes. For the ladies, perhaps queuing for Reebonz private sale just to snag that Bao Bao for cheap. These purchases won't make our lives any better, or us any happier, but still we persist. 

Why fractions is not as useless as you think

Why fractions is not as useless as you think

Many of my teaching friends agree that teaching fractions can be confusing and complex, and I'm sure that many of their students feel the same learning them as well.

The worst part is that if you are unable to grasp maths concepts such as fractions in the early stages of your education, they can go on to confuse you later on throughout your education and cause a great deal of math anxiety (not to mention a great deal of maths tuition too). Students need to intuitively understand these maths concepts instead of pure memorizing such as memorizing the timetable, as memorization doesn't lead to long-term understanding.

So, teachers and parents, how can you make fractions more fun?

Instead of relying on ancient techniques such as pie charts to teach fractions, nowadays there are online games to help students really grasp the concept of fractions through number lines or models.  

For instance, Brain Pop is a website that offers animated lessons, games, and even homework help, to make learning a whole lot more fun. Their Battleship Numberline game allows students to bomb a battleship using fractions between 0 and 1.

Other techniques for younger students include cutting up paper into thirds or sevenths to understand what denominators mean, and to see which fraction is bigger. 

By using number lines, it can help students to compare different fractions, which may be harder to do with pie charts. A pie is divided into pieces and it may become confusing as a pie divided into sixths can look very similar to a pie divided into sevenths. Number lines will also help in emphasizing how to compare fractions, before students go on to learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide them.  

So, students, why should you learn fractions?

Singapore is routinely ranked at the top in global comparisons of mathematical ability, with the UK government announcing last year that half of England's primary schools will adopt the "Singapore model" of teaching maths. It may seem that as a nation, we keep raising the bar for students' math performances, but this is not without reason. 

Research have proven that by understanding fractions at an early age, it actually unlocks other educational achievements such as IQ development, reading skills, and of course, it acts as the foundation for more advanced maths and science skills like algebra, geometry, physics and chemistry.

While some of these higher level subjects seems only to be crucial if you are keen to pursue a career path in the science and technical industries, basic maths concepts like understanding fractions are crucial for everyone to master as it can improve your daily living skills too - such as sports, cooking, and best of all, being awesome in playing pool. 

He must have scored A1s in Maths his entire life. 

He must have scored A1s in Maths his entire life. 

Edgey or Round

Edgey or Round

I was never a perfectionist. But I have always been an idealist. The question that I used to ask myself was, “ if this person can do it, why can’t I?” Basically I wanted to be good at every aspect. I had this ideal in my mind, this perfect me, that I wanted to work towards, and I egged myself on.

But gradually I began to realise, it is hard to be good at everything—we have only so much time and energy. It is hard to be musically talented, sporty, academically inclined, sociable and still have time to yourself.

So the question we sometimes have to ask ourselves is do I want to be an all-rounder, or do I want to use that time to develop an edge in a certain area instead?

This is one tough question to answer, and there is no right or wrong answer. Each approach comes with its benefits and downsides.

Developing an edge — Pros

In economic theory, when specialisation is practiced, society as whole benefits more. This means that instead of person A and B each farming 5kg of durians and 5 chickens, person A and B will do what they are best at. When they do that, their output in total will increase, with the result being person A having 15 kg of durians and person B having 15 chickens. They can then trade durians for chickens, and both will be better off than if they don’t specialise.

It is the same in Singapore society. Nowadays many working mothers do not cook. They simply take away from hawker centres or restaurants. The food cooked by professionals tastes better than many mothers can manage and the time that is freed up can be used to do more productive things.

When you go to work, the same concept applies. If you start out working in an accounting firm, then you are only required to be familiar with accounting related software. Do you need to know how to use Photoshop or Sketchup? No, so focus on improving your excel skills.

If you are a professional DOTA player, do you need to know about the latest current affairs? Well, it will certainly change people’s perception of you (from geek to nerd), but at the end of the day, it does not value add to what you are doing for a living, so your time can be better spent reciting pudge, sniper, crystal maiden…pudge, sniper, crystal maiden.

Being an all rounder — Pros

The problem with developing a niche area for yourself is basically, you make yourself vulnerable, especially when conditions change.

Will DOTA’s prize pool keep increasing? Maybe. But looking at how StarCraft, once the biggest eSport in the world, fell from grace, it is understandable that your parents are worried. Playing DOTA professionally may be able to feed you right now, but can it in 20, 30 years?

Another problem with overspecialising is you tend to have a tunnel vision of the world. We have all heard of girls who talk incessantly about fashion. Yes, we get it that rouge red is different from cherry lush, but don’t you have a life outside of your mirror?

Multidisciplinary learning is also important if you do not just want to be a small cog in a large wheel. Managers are always people who can see things from a macro-perspective, and the higher you go up the corporate ladder, the more knowledgeable you must be about different departments. That is why MAS encourages their scholars to study courses that do not have much bearings to what they will eventually do. What MAS wants are future managers, CEOs and even leaders of the country—people who do not have a fixed job scope but instead are required to solve unconventional problems when they pop up; people who can think out of the box and see from different perspectives.

So what’s the conclusion? That is up to you to decide. As for me, I guess I will take a balanced approach of developing my comparative advantage while remembering that, life is too short and volatile to be spent on simply one area of interest

6 ways to increase your persuasive powers

6 ways to increase your persuasive powers

Not brute force but only persuasion and faith are the kings of this world.
— Thomas Carlyle

Persuasion is power. Almost everyday of our human lives and social interactions are made up of attempts to influence others to see things from our point of views. 

Persuasion is not a bad thing until it crosses the line into becoming manipulative and exploiting others into doing things against their will or that they are uncomfortable with. We're talking about persuasion that when put to good use can win over and inspire others.

Here are 6 ways we can learn from to increase our persuasive skills in today's competitive world. 

1. Reciprocity: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

We generally dislike feeling indebted to others. The principle of reciprocity states that people naturally feel obligated to pay back their debts. We feel the need to give back to those we have received favours from. 

A study done by Dr. Robert Cialdini found that by approaching people in public to answer surveys, asking people for

Interestingly, using norms of reciprocity to get what you need from people can often be more effective than using money. To support this statement, my field of work requires me to gather data informally by approaching people in public to answer surveys and I’ve often found that asking people “for a favor” to complete surveys is more effective than offering people $5 for their time to do the same surveys.

Reciprocal norms are thus extremely powerful as a means to persuade and influence people. Give first and the other party will most likely do the same. 

2. Certainty: Being assured by others feels good 

Uncertainty is a scary feeling. We don’t like feeling unsure of what to do. One way people reduce this feeling is to observe what other people are doing. There is a saying, "There is safety in numbers" - if you are doing what the majority of people around you are doing, you're less likely to be singled out and judged.

Imagine you are in a new country and unsure of where to have dinner at. You see that Restaurant A has a longer queue than Restaurant B. Most of us will be drawn to Restaurant A simply because we perceive it as have better food due to the long queue. 

How you can apply this to your life is when talking to someone you'd like to persuade, it helps to tell them what other like-minded people prefer, or to reassure them that their decision is the "right" one as other people have also done the same. You may find yourself having an easier time getting them to listen to you. 

3. Authority: Being assured by someone important feels even better

People have a tendency to obey authority figures. Somewhat similar to point number 2 above, when people receive recognition from someone important like an expert or respected leader, it becomes another way for them to validate their point of views so that others are more likely to listen to them.

When trying to persuade someone, it helps to engage the help of someone of authority to validate what you're trying to say. It could be a professor or expert in the topic that you're trying to pitch. I'm sure these people are more than willing to listen and offer some excellent advice most of the time.

This will give you a certain trustworthiness as you're basically "borrowing" their persuasiveness instead of just banking on your own. 

4. Consistency: People want to follow through

Humans have a deep-seated need to be seen (and validated) as consistent. Once we commit to something or someone, like making a promise or signing a contract, we’re likely to follow through on that commitment.

In the mid-1960s, psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser decided to explore the “foot-in-the-door” technique. This is a popular sales tactic where you start off by asking the customer to fulfil a small request that's usually very easy to agree to. Once that has been fulfilled, it is usually easier for the customer to agree to a larger request later on. 

The psychologists asked some homeowners if they would agree to place a large signboard on their front lawn stating "Drive Carefully". Only 17% of the people they asked agreed to it. However, another group of homeowners were first asked if they were willing to stick a small sticker on their window that reads, “Be a safe driver” (which almost 100% agreed to). Then, two weeks later, they asked the homeowners whether they can place the large "Drive Carefully" signboard on their lawn. A whopping 76% of this second group agreed! 

What does this tell us? 

The “foot-in-the-door” technique exploits our fundamental human need to be consistent. This consistency effect is stronger when the promise is made publicly or in writing, because now there are consequences to breaking that promise. You can apply this technique personally when persuading someone by requesting for a small favour and then slowly building it up to a bigger one.

5. Scarcity: Supply and demand

Scarcity is defined as the image of certain things becoming more attractive when people think that there is limited availability. The harder it is to get something, the more valuable it gets. 

People often use scarcity to gauge whether something is valuable and worth their time. This is why you hear about Singaporeans queuing for over 7 hours for Hello Kitty charms simply because they exist in limited quantities. FOMO! - Fear Of Missing Out. Humans hate the idea that they are missing out. Of course, I prefer the local term 'kiasu'.

How you can apply this in your life is to be strategic about advertising your availability. Emphasise the scarcity of your time to inflict urgency to others. It may just help you to persuade others to listen to you better due to your high demand. 

6. Likeabilty: The more you like someone, the more you'll listen to them

This one is a tough nut to crack. Obviously, we can't expect every single person to like us. But the principle behind this technique is to focus on making yourself likable and work to cultivate a positive image of yourself. It doesn't mean to flatter other unnecessarily or to become fake about it. 

There are many ways you can compliment someone sincerely, such as thanking them for playing their part in the group project, congratulating them for an accomplishment, or even on an outfit which you find stylish. We’re attracted to people who make us feel good about ourselves and most importantly, if they are willing to co-operate with us. 

Ever had someone you don't particularly like in the same group as you are? As long as you know that person is willing to cooperate and contribute his part in the group project, it can make you appreciate him more as you get to know him better. Take the perspective of the other side by working to find a common ground and signal a willingness to work together. 

That may work wonders in making you a genuinely likeable person.

Can you live comfortably without a huge paycheck?

Can you live comfortably without a huge paycheck?

So, you've left the relative safety of Singapore Education System and are now about to embark into the big scary world of Singapore Working Adult. 

Chances are looking at your first paycheck is going to fill your mind with doubts on whether you can live comfortably in the most expensive city in the world. Many people will tell you that Singapore’s great for the rich, but not so great if you’re not making tons of money. 

But unless you have a deep burning desire to own a Lamborghini, most middle income Singaporeans are actually totally capable of affording to give themselves (and their families) a comfortable life. Here are 3 tips for scaling down on expensive stuff yet still living a joyful experience of fun, friends and frivolous things once in a while. 

1. Pause more often before spending money

We don't mean a joyless existence of torturing yourself by never forking out more than $10 a day. It's about pausing to think before you spend.

Most of us fall prey to impulse spending and, worst of all, lapses in judgement because you feel pressured by a salesperson to buy something. If you know you are someone who frequently get pressured into buying stuff you ultimately don't need, or spending on a big ticket item without doing your due diligence like reading up about it on the Internet or asking around, you may find yourself spending in ways that ultimately don't benefit you or make your life more fruitful. 

If you are prone to impulsive buying, simply pause to ask yourself whether spending this money is going to make you happier one month from now. If you are easily pressured into buying things, simply pause to think twice (or thrice) before you decide to pay for it. By stopping to ask yourself those questions, you can cut down quite a bit on your spending habits. 

2. Understand that saving money is not about depriving yourself

One of the biggest ways to start saving money starts from a change in mindset. If your idea of saving money means eating cai peng with no meat every day and showering only once a week to save water, it's no wonder you think spending less equals a miserable life. 

In the journey towards saving more money, the first things that should stop spending on are the ones that you don’t even notice you have, or that you don’t benefit from. For example, an expensive monthly mobile data plan when you're actually not using up that much data. Or facial packages or gym memberships that you rarely use, but are paying money on a regularly basis for anyway.

Once you've stopped spending on those things, it will make it much easier to be in control of your finances. Kind of like bandaging up a wound that you didn't notice was bleeding you out slowly. 

3. Learn a new skill in order to save money in the long-term

There's no point envying that ex-schoolmate who has a first class honours degree, is currently working in the bank, and doesn't seem to have any money problems to worry about. Oh, and he also has his daily lunches at fine dining restaurants. 

Well guess what, coveting someone else's lifestyle isn't going to miraculously transform yours overnight. Which means we will have to improve in some areas in order to help ourselves live more comfortable lives. We might have to acquire some new skills just so we stop paying for other people to do it for us. 

For instance, cooking is one skill I believe every Singaporean who cares about their health and wallet should have, but that many unfortunately don’t. Learning to cook simply will cut down on dining out or ta bao-ing regularly. Learning how to make simple repairs on your bicycle, home appliances, and computers can also help save you on hiring someone to do it for you. It will also help you become more self-reliant.

4 effective techniques to overcome your fears

4 effective techniques to overcome your fears

Almost every person has some form of fear or phobia. A phobia is a type of extreme fear and anxiety towards an object or a situation in which the person will go to great lengths just to avoid.

From closed-in spaces to heights, dogs to flying cockroaches, there are phobias of all kinds - and many of them are irrational. You may be able to bungee jump of the world's tallest bridge with ease, but break out in a sweat panicking when faced with public speaking. 

boo.

boo.

No one knows just what causes fear and phobias. They can start at childhood and disappear over time, or they can suddenly be triggered by a traumatic experience late in adulthood. So what can we do to prevent our fears from interfering too much with our lives?

Here are 4 types of mental techniques that can be used the next time you're seized by fear and want to crawl into the nearest corner to hide.

1. Create a "fear ladder" and slowly climb up it

Creating a fear ladder is a great psychological method to break down all the fear-related things that make up a fear, and then slowly tackle them in bite-sized pieces.

For example, Vanessa is deathly afraid of dogs. She tends to avoid places where there are dogs, such as parks or beaches (even though she used to love going to Sentosa beach on the weekends). She will cross the road or turn around if she sees someone walking with a dog. Vanessa's goal is to be able to be near dog with excessive fearing.

First, she will list down all the things that she's scared of regarding dogs and rank them 1-10 from least scary to scariest. Then, she can start organizing those fear items in a ladder format. The least scary item goes on the bottom rung, and every item has its own rung all the way up to the scariest item at the top-most rung. It will look something like this: 

Vanessa will then tackle each step on the fear ladder in her own time under controlled exposure to dogs, until she is comfortable enough to finally be able to pet a large dog that's off-leash.

Once she has completed the fear ladder and can tolerate being around dogs, she can start a new ladder tackling other fears she may have. You can print out a blank fear ladder template here and start overcoming your own fears too!

2. Be aware of your own mental exaggerations

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When under stress or pressure from fears, no matter how irrational, the human mind will start exaggerating the danger so as to speed up the fight or flight response. This is why when you are afraid of something, your palms go sweaty and you may even feel like fainting.

For Vanessa and her fear of dogs, one of the mental exaggerations would be that all dogs are scary and will bite her, especially the larger ones. By being aware that she constantly thinks this way, she can prepare a response to counter this such as watching youtube videos where big dogs are behaving gently towards young children, or if she has friends who have children as well as own a dog, she can take a trip to their place to see how the dog acts around the family on a typical day.

Being aware of your own mental exaggerations and having a response for each of them will help to assure yourself that the situation you are experiencing fear in is not as dangerous as you think it is. 

3. Arm yourself with facts that will help minimize your fears

Similar to the previous technique of having a response for each of your mental exaggerations, this is taking it one step further by arming yourself with solid facts to counter any irrational fear thoughts you may have.

This is especially helpful if you fear a situation that is unavoidable, such as fear of flying in planes. Sooner or later, you are bound to sit in one when travelling, so it helps to prepare yourself mentally beforehand by reading up on hard facts to dispel the fears and help ease your discomfort.

Fact: Air travel is the second safest mode of transportation in the world. It is second only to taking the elevator! Fact: Your chance of being in a plane crash is 1 in 11 million. Fact: The most dangerous part of your trip, was actually taking the taxi to the airport. 

4. Learn simple relaxation techniques

By learning relaxation techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises, they can be used as a coping mechanism for when your fear is causing serious anxiety or triggering breathing difficulties. 

A simple breathing exercise is to you breathe in and out in sequence to the numbers as you count to 10. Breathe in '1'. Breathe out '2'. Breathe in '3'. Breathe out '4', and so on. 

Another immediate way to stop anxiety from rising is to consciously relax your body from head to toe, focusing on how your muscles are progressively relaxing. Think about your blades of hair softening, to your scalp, to your forehead, and so on -- all the way till you reach your toes. This technique helps to shift your mind's focus away from your fear at the moment, so your body can stop being tense and start to relax.

Try either one of these methods out the next time you feel thrown out of your comfort zone. 

10 things to do when you're running late

10 things to do when you're running late

So you went clubbing until 4am, and in your tipsiness used the Calculator app to set an alarm instead of the Clock app.

Hey, it happens....

Hey, it happens....

Now you're trying to brush your teeth while putting on your jeans, and hailing a Grabtaxi at the same time.

Oh, how it sucks to be running late.

Most people know the importance of being on time. Most people also know that being consistently late is rude. However, there are times when you just can't help it. Something happens to slow you down, and there're no way you can make it to class, a date, an appointment, a meeting, or any other engagement by the stated time.

10 things you should do if you know you're going to be late: 

  1. Call or text as soon as you know you can't make it on time. Nothing irks me more than having to wait for someone running late, and there was no apology or advanced notice whatsoever. It makes me feel unimportant and disrespected.
     
  2. Stay calm and don't freak out. Take a deep breath and mentally calculate how long it will take to get to your appointment.
     
  3. Do everything in your power to get to your destination as soon as possible. If you overslept, put on less makeup or don't dawdle by hmm-ing and haw-ing over the perfect outfit to wear.
     
  4. Don't be flustered and risk injury in your haste. The last thing you want happening is to trip and fall, or get yourself injured in your hurry.
     
  5. If you're going to be more than 30 minutes late, offer to reschedule to another time or date of the other person's convenience.
     
  6. If the person is willing to wait, offer an apology once you arrive, and be sure to offer to buy that person a drink or a meal to show that you are apologetic about keeping him/her waiting.
     
  7. Explain why you're late, but resist the urge to blame someone else. If you keep doing this, it makes you appear incapable of taking charge of your life.
     
  8. Don't let your tardiness ruin the remainder of your day. Move forward but make every effort possible to be on time for everything else that you have on your calendar that day.
     
  9. If others make sarcastic remarks about your lateness, avoid the urge to argue or justify yourself. You won't win, and it's a huge waste of time.
     
  10. Do whatever you have to do to be on time in the future. Even if it means setting six alarm clocks, or getting your family members to physically drag you out of bed. 

How to prevent being late in the future:

If you know you're the type to be habitually late, here are some things you can do to prevent it.

Plan ahead. This includes laying out your clothes the night before and calculating the time it will take to get where you're going.

This includes knowing where you're going. If you've never been to the location before, Google map it, and if it's something super important like a job interview, take a trip to the place a few days before to familiarize yourself with it. It's frustrating trying to find a place when you're pressed for time, and worst still when you show up all sweaty and flustered.

Don't procrastinate. You might be Instagram-ing your breakfast and waiting until the last minute to leave, which can cause you to be late if there's a traffic jam or a train breakdown. Leave at least 15 mins earlier if it's for an important event to make sure you arrive on time and without stress.

What to say to nosy people

What to say to nosy people

We've all been asked rude questions in our lives. It could be from strangers, acquaintances, or even by close friends. (Just because your best buddy is asking an uncomfortable question, doesn't mean that you are obligated to answer) 

Although everyone slips up now and then, like saying congratulations to someone whom you thought was pregnant, but she's actually just fat... Some people seem to relish being nosy in every aspect of your life.

Although it's tempting to scream "Mind your own business!" in their faces, here's how to respond to rude and nosy people with grace and tact:

1. Give them the benefit of doubt

People are often unaware that they are exhibiting poor manners. But even if they know what they're doing, you should never stoop to responding to bad manners with worse manners.

For example, if someone asks if you've gained weight recently "'cos you look fatter", it's a terribly insensitive remark, but respond with smile and say, “I’m feeling wonderful. How about you?”

The tone should be even and not sarcastic. That should get the point across that you don’t want to honour a rude question with an answer. If possible, just laugh without answering the question and then change the subject. 

2. As much as you can, be prepared with responses

For times when you may have no choice but to find yourself in a hot spot of being asked awkward questions, such as being the only single person sitting at a Chinese New Year dinner, you need to arm yourself with some answers. Even if it’s a question that's asked with good intentions as they want you to be happy, hearing it over and over will make you anything but happy.

As soon as you're being interrogated by that rude auntie you've been avoiding the whole time about when you're going to get married, prepare several responses to handle her. You can choose to give them the answer that are looking for such as, "I would like to, but I haven't found someone to spend the rest of my life with yet.", or with a joke such as, "aiyah, I haven't found someone that is as pretty as you yet!"

If you are emotionally prepared to handle the questions from nosy people, it will help greatly in preventing yourself from feeling frustrated or being caught in a spot. 

3. Set boundaries

There is such an abundance of rude questions, not to mention people who ask them, that you could spend all day thinking of sarcastic responses. Instead of wasting your valuable time, have a few standard replies that work in a variety of situations, but more importantly, set a boundary for yourself.

As long as the question involve certain topics that you are uncomfortable with answering, decide to not respond with an answer at all. This is usually a last resort method, but by ignoring that person, it lets them know that you consider them rude for asking such a question.

If it's a close friend, you may want to respond seriously and transparently in hopes that he/she will not ask you those questions again. Pause, smile, and say, “Did you really just ask me that? Why would you ask me such a rude question?”

If that person is someone important to you, and sees you as important too, it will help your friendship become stronger by talking it out. 

Something's changing very rapidly in the Arctic...

Something's changing very rapidly in the Arctic...

When we hear the word 'Arctic', we often conjure images of a stark white, windswept place where it is forever winter. But the truth is, winter is thawing sooner than expected as the Arctic regions have been experiencing global warming more drastically than almost anywhere else on Earth.

Thawing Ice

As the majority of the Arctic is comprised of sea water from the Arctic Ocean, rising temperatures means sea ice all over the area have been melting dramatically. This causes water levels to increase faster than expected, and decreasing the total land mass of the Arctic.

"Welp. No more home."

"Welp. No more home."

2016 is lining up to win the dubious award of lowest recorded winter ice ever. If the trend continues, in a couple of decades summer heat will melt all of the Arctic sea ice. To make matters worse, something is currently at play called Arctic Amplification.

Arctic Amplification occurs when ice reflects about 90% of the sunlight it receives. But when that ice is absent as it has already melted away, the darker waters reflect only 10% of sunlight. As a result, the absorbed sunlight warms up water faster, melting yet more ice, and causing a vicious cycle. 

Thawing Land, too

The physical consequences of global warming in the Arctic are not only limited to ice. Thawing land can result in severe erosion, as the ground is not able to stay frozen and ends up shifting. Villages and roads are all routinely damaged by erosion, making it dangerous for trucks carrying fuel and food to travel across the land to make deliveries. 

Millions of dollars have already been spent, and many millions more will be needed in order to build protective reinforcements for natives Alaskan communities. For some of them, uprooting the entire village and relocating is the only option. 

Animals of the Arctic

However, one of the most damaging threats of global warming is the loss of habitat for the wildlife of the Arctic.

Polar bears rely on sea ice to travel and hunt seal, their main prey. Shrinking of ice have made it more difficult for the bears to survive and many die of starvation or even drowning. Other marine mammals, like the walrus and leopard seals need the ice as a resting platform used between bouts of feeding. Many of the younger mammals end up drowning due to having no place to rest while out in the ocean.

The Arctic fox lives in the coastal areas along the Arctic Ocean. It is threatened by the changing ice patterns, as well as having fewer carnivores, like the polar bears, to scavenge half-eaten prey from.

What Can We Do?

It's tempting to bury your face in your hands and just hope that somehow everything will work out in the end. But it won't if we don't step up and fight back however we can. The best action we can take to slow down the pace of global warming is to recycle all the paper, plastic, glass and aluminium you use.

Have a separate bin at home to throw these items in, and once a week, bring them down to the recycling bin. There's no excuse as every HDB blocks has a recycling bin since 2014. You can check the ones nearest to your home here.  

By recycling, you are helping to lowers pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, which leads to improving air and water quality, as well as to preserve landfill space. Remember, change begins with you.

Signs that it's time to clear your wardrobe

Signs that it's time to clear your wardrobe

Admit it. The last time you actually cleaned out your wardrobe was probably during Chinese New Year when your mother insisted on you taking part in some form of spring cleaning.

Well. We're coming to the end of February. How's your wardrobe doing? Almost everyone agrees that wardrobes should cleaned out regularly so get to declutter, as well as prevent yourself from purchasing too many clothes.

As we grow older, our fashion tastes evolve and we get to reevaluate some of our clothing choices. (Camisoles and black bra straps combo, anyone?) If any of these following signs resonate with you, it may be time to start clearing out that wardrobe:

1. Because it's a damn mess

If your wardrobe looks like it was taken straight from the set of a movie about a lazy, spoiled teenager, you probably already know you need to clean it out. If you’re overwhelmed by the mere thought of it, here’s a complete closet organization checklist to kick start that clearing.

2. You've started working

If you're a fresh graduate looking to start your first job soon, you'll know that there's going to be some major clothes buying happening soon. If you're going to be working in an office, there's going to be blazers and buttoned-down shirts, and other office-appropriate attire.

Even if you're going to be working outside of an office environment, there's still a need to evaluate your wardrobe to make sure it’s work-appropriate.

3. You've started working and are constantly running late in the mornings

Use this opportunity to move your work clothes to the easiest-to-reach spots in your wardrobe to be more efficient in the mornings. You can also consider piecing together a work "uniform". Just like how Steve Jobs wears the same outfit of black turtleneck and jeans, you can put together button-down shirt, dress pants, and ballet flats as your go-to outfit. 

Another way to time-save is to choose simple outfits. The ladies may find dresses a lot easier to wear and accessorize, as compared to deciding on separate tops and bottoms.

4. You begin working out regularly 

Your new year's resolution for exercising regularly is going extremely well, and your new activity is requiring new clothes. Whether it's going to the gym or picking up rock-climbing, support your healthy habits by dedicating an entire fitness drawer to gym clothes.

This makes it easier to retrieve and wear your workout gear. Not to mention also easier to store them back after they're washed, instead of tossing them on your chair and watching them pile up over the weeks...

5. You've gotten older (and your clothes haven't)

If you're still wearing the same clothes you wore 5 or 10 years ago, congratulations, it obviously shows you have not gain an ounce of weight over the years. But it's also long past the time for a good clothing overhaul. This is especially important if you're not even wearing those old clothes, but they are still tucked somewhere in your wardrobe taking up space and growing moldy. 

6. You need some cash

Is your wardrobe stuffed with clothes you've only worn once and then regretted buying? Or clothes that you've grown out for both physically as well as emotionally? Grab a few friends and rent a table at the next flea, or post them all up on Carousell to see how much your clutter is worth to someone else. Selling your used clothes is a great way to declutter your wardrobe, as well as earn some extra lunch money. 

7. You're feeling down

If you’re feeling sad or stressed, studies have shown that a good bout of cleaning can help to reduce levels of diurnal cortisol, a measure of stress. So the next time you're feeling blue, blast some music on Spotify and give that wardrobe a good tackle. Watching that mess turn into orderliness may just work wonders for your mood. 

Science hacks to beat the stress hormones in your body

Science hacks to beat the stress hormones in your body

From breathing in lavender-scented essential oil, to going for a kickboxing class to work out your pent up frustrations, and even sleeping with a weighted blanket to help relieve insomnia -- there are a ton of ways to help relieve stress, but they all seem to cost a pretty penny. 

The good news is that we have some science-backed ways to help you lower the stress hormones in your body. The better news is that they are all free, and can be practiced in the comforts of your own home. 

What are stress hormones, anyway? 

Stress hormones are also known as cortisol. They are hormones produced by the adrenaline gland and influences our immune responses, metabolism, and blood pressure as part of a "fight or flight" survival mechanism that the human body naturally created to give us the energy to survive in stressful situations.

In today’s hectic world, we are dealing more with emotional stress rather than physical dangers. But our body can’t tell the difference so it continues to tell cortisol to do its job. If we don't manage to deal with stress and lower our cortisol levels, having constantly high cortisol levels can deprive us of sleep, lead to weight gain, and cause various immunity and digestive problems. Here are some simple hacks you can apply to reduce cortisol levels and feel better:

1. Sleeping an hour earlier can reduce cortisol levels by 50%

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There's a reason why your parents nag at you when they check in on you at 12am and you're still up youtubing away. The benefits of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated as it goes a long way in improving the quality of your life.

A study conducted by the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Germany showed that helicopter pilots who slept 6 hours instead of the recommended 8 hours had an increase of 50-80% in cortisol levels. If, however, for some reason you don't manage to get enough sleep, try to take a nap the following day. It can work wonders in bringing your cortisol levels down as well.

2. Drinking black tea can reduce cortisol levels by 47%

Tea time! What's popularly seen in movies and tv drama series as the time old ladies sip tea and gossip about the neighbours. It's no wonder those old ladies are living to a ripe old age, researchers from the University College London conducted an experiment over a period of six weeks where a group of volunteers was given 4 cups of black tea every day, while another group was drinking plain water. 

Both groups were given stressful tasks to complete, and while they recorded similar increase in cortisol levels, those who drank black tea had 47% lower cortisol levels an hour after completing the tasks. Those who drank water had their cortisol levels decreased just 27%.

So pick your favourite time of the day when you can be on your own, make yourself a cup of Lipton black tea in the kitchen and enjoy the silence. Try to make this your daily habit.

3. Listening to soothing music reduces cortisol levels by 66%

If you're not a fan of tea, I'm sure you are a fan of listening to music. We all know that music can stir up emotions in us, but did you know certain genres can evoke more positive emotions and lift our spirits? We can all benefit by using music as part of our stress-relief therapy.

A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information explored the effects of instrumental music during a surgery procedure, and proved that soothing music helped the patient reduce cortisol levels by up to 66%. The types of music that are the most effective are instrumental music such as classical, soft jazz, and sounds of nature. 

So, whenever you feel like you are going to explode, plug in your earphones and play some music. It helps to create a "I’m-not-going-to-freak-out" playlist on Youtube or Spotify, and make that your go-to music when you need to unwind. This is a good channel to start off with. 

How to have a good school-life balance

How to have a good school-life balance

Ask to take a peek into any Singaporean students' calendar and you can bet that it's packed to the brim. A typical weekday can consist of school, followed my remedial classes or CCAs; then it's back home for dinner, and home tuition straight after.

With ballet lessons, piano lessons, friends, parents and homework all demanding for your time, how can you mix school and family, yet still make time to care of yourself? It's definitely possible. Here are some tips to help you juggle without losing balance.

1. Learn to compartmentalize

If you feel like you’re being pulled in different directions constantly, it helps to mentally divide all those responsibilities into three areas — your school work, your family and your self. School work includes your tuition and/or other lessons such as learning a new instrument or skill. Your family includes activities and spending time with your parents, siblings or relatives. Your self includes exercising, maintaining relationships with your friends and other social activities like serving in church or volunteering at an animal shelter.

You’re not going to naturally cover all three areas every day, so you need to consciously decide how best to nurture each area. Often, it all mixes together. Sometimes, you may find yourself doing all three at once like thinking about that maths assignment you have not completed while spending time with your family on a Saturday, and you all happen to be walking at East Coast Park before dinner, so you're getting in your exercise.

By compartmentalizing, you'll not feel so overwhelmed and stressed out by everything lumping together, and you'll also begin to see that all these responsibilities actually add to creating a balanced, full life. 

2. Be flexible about what deserves your attention the most

You're not going to be able to achieve perfect balance between school, family, and personal care every day. In fact, it's practically impossible. Some mornings you'll wake up thinking, "Okay! This is what's going to happen today" and lay out your schedule mentally to decide what deserves your attention the most.

But by mid-afternoon when the entire class gets called to stay back for another 2 hours, and your friend last minute cancels on your pre-arranged dinner plans, and all the things you wanted to happen today goes awry, you're going to be upset. 

Don’t stress about it or be too hard on yourself. Allow yourself to deal with whatever surprises come your way, guilt-­free. Even if you've decided to focus your attention on a whole bunch of things, there’s never enough time to do it all. So pick and choose wisely based on what you feel needs you the most. Just remember, at this age, school will always triumph hanging out with friends. If you can, combine the two so your attention is not split up. Have more study dates with your friends instead and then go grab a meal or movie together.

3. Never let any one area overwhelm the rest

If one of those three areas (school, family, and personal) is monopolizing your time, you have to tell yourself that it’s time to put it away. Too much of something becomes a bad thing. Having time to study is great, but if you're holed up in your room mugging until you start skipping meals, then perhaps it's time to put those lecture notes away and go out for a run. 

Similarly, too much of exercising with your gym buddies until you "forgot" to study for that upcoming test is not prioritizing your time properly. It's all about self-control. At some point, one area has to give in to the other. But don't worry. Tomorrow is a brand new day and you get to go back to enriching all those areas all over again. 

3 ways to save money on iPhone repairs

3 ways to save money on iPhone repairs

You walk onboard the MRT spying an empty seat and rushed to sit down only to hear a heartbreaking craaaaaak. Yep, you just sat on your iPhone, and now your precious is in shambles.

Whether the sat-down-on-my-phone story, or screen shattered after a hard night of partying, or even your two-year-old niece jabbed a toy into your iPhone's charging port and completely destroyed it story, we've all had accidents with our iPhones before. The big question to ask is "now what?"

Do you take it to an Apple Store to have it fixed? Or take your chances and Sim Lim Square? Or head to your neighbourhood repair shop instead? We have 3 ways to help you weigh your options:

1. Know the difference between authorized & unauthorized repair shops

Apple stores and Apple authorized service providers like A.LAB will almost always charge lesser than anywhere else for repairing your damaged iPhone. For example, an iPhone 6s without AppleCare+ coverage will cost around $189 for any screen repair. That same repair will cost you around $100-$150 more at your local repair shop. 

Why does it cost higher at local repair shops? The short answer is — there's a middleman. Local repair shops basically charge extra to cover original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. OEMs are manufacturers who resell another company's product under their own name and branding. They will also add on about $20-30 for labour cost to earn a little profit. 

However, if you don't mind not having original Apple parts, you can pay a whole lot less at local repair shops and have the replacement done in as little as 10 minutes too. Apple and Apple authorized service providers usually require that you schedule a repair appointment. Keep in mind that having non-original Apple parts will affect your resell value when you decide to move on to a newer model. 

2. Ask about warranty

No matter how smooth a repair goes, parts aren't perfect, and sometimes you may find yourself returning to the store over issues such as a screen coming off its frame due to poor gluing on techniques or specks of dirt inside the screen from the repairer not wiping the screen properly.

Always be sure to ask what a store's warranty policy is on their parts and repairs. This will ensure that you don't end up paying more even after the repair job is done. Warranty policies can differ wildly from store to store; from one week all the way up to 30 days against defects and negligence. Stores with longer periods are the obvious choice; ones that have great policies often take pride in their work and the parts (OEM vs. third-party) that they use. 

If you have a history on constantly "abusing" your phone by dropping it or cracking the screen at least twice a month, it may be a good idea to get an AppleCare warranty. This ensures you additional hardware coverage for your iPhone, including up to two incidents of accidental damage from handling.

3. Do your research

Ultimately, it's up to you to do your due diligence. There is really no reason you can't find the best (and cheapest) option available by doing some research and checking out reviews online.

A repair shop is still after all, customer service-based. You can have the best tech guy miraculously revive a rusty iPhone that drowned at Siloso beach, but give the worst customer experience that will get his shop a ton of negative reviews on Facebook. 

So read reviews on shops that you're thinking of visiting. This works especially well for shops located at Sim Lim Square. There are forums dedicated to weeding out the sleazy salesmen out to cheat your money. The last thing you need when getting your device fixed is to be treated like an idiot and pay more than what you should. So, do your research!

How to handle an awkward conversation

How to handle an awkward conversation

Whether you're tasked with addressing a classmate's lack of personal hygiene (and use of deodorant), or your friend's pet cat just died and you're at a loss for words on how to console her. Awkward conversations are really uncomfortable.

They are also inevitable in life. Sometimes, you need to face them head-on, even when it's uncomfortable to do so. Here are some ways to make an awkward conversation less awkward:

1. Avoid strained silence 

Studies show that it takes only four seconds of awkward silence to skyrocket your anxiety levels during a conversation. The higher your anxiety levels, the more tongue-tied you'll be too.

If you're planning to approach someone for a tough talk, plan what you're going to say in advance. Knowing what you need to communicate across can help you deliver your message in a way that will prevent as much awkward silence as possible.

2. Acknowledge your discomfort

Denying your discomfort can sometimes cause you to come across as insincere. If you start realising that you're fidgeting too much and averting eye contact, let the other person know that you are uncomfortable by simply saying, "Sorry, I'm a little uncomfortable bringing this up."

Especially when the setting is a difficult one, such as offering condolences for the death of a loved one, or approaching a school mate to rebuke him/her about not pulling their weight in the group project, acknowledging your anxiety can help. 

3. Speak privately 

If you know that what you are about to say to the other person may be awkward or result in some intense emotional response. Please do not hold an impromptu conversation in the corridor when you happen to pass by the person.

Instead, suggest to meet in a private setting where no one else can overhear. This can be a room or a quiet corner. And if someone else brings up an awkward subject first in a public setting, you can suggest holding the conversation elsewhere.

4. Be polite, yet direct

This advice is more for when you are about to say some harsh words to someone. Soften harsh words by being thoughtful about how the other person will feel or respond. Instead of saying, "John, the other students say you smell damn bad leh!," soften the blow by saying, "What I'm about to tell you might be a little difficult to hear." This gives the other person a minute to emotionally prepare for what you're about to say.

At the same time, while it's important to be polite, don't soften your words so much that your message gets lost. Going around in circles will only add to the other person's confusion about what's really happening.

5. Listen

After saying your part, don't forget to listen. Give the other person a chance to process what you've said, and be an active listener by offering any clarifications on parts that may have been misunderstood.

Also be prepared for the other person to experience some intense emotions. This can range from from embarrassment, sadness, or anger. Unless the person becomes violent, be ready to help the other person process those emotions for a bit.