What You Need to Know about Vacation Rentals before You Go

That time of the year is finally here. You know what I'm talking about, the one or two weeks you get every year to escape from "real life" and just be you. Relax, eat and drink well, enjoy your family, catch up on some much needed sleep. But, before you pack up and head out, rethink the all-too-normal hotel stay. Believe it or not, you have options, one of which is the vacation rental.

Would not it be nice to leave your own home, arrive in your destination city and settle into a "home away from home" for your next vacation? That's what vacation rentals are all about. These are homes waiting to be rented out by people on vacation. Each vacation rental owner will have different criteria in what type of renter they are looking for, each vacation rental house will vary in amenities, and each price will be dependent on the time of year and the length of stay. So, it sounds like a great idea, but how do you figure out how to make it all happen? Not a problem. Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions regarding vacation rentals. Read on, my friend, your next "home away from home" vacation rental is right around the corner.

Frequently Asked Questions on Vacation Rentals

What are the advantages of a vacation rental?

Do you ever wish your hotel room had just a little more personality? Yeah, I thought so. Well, renting someone else's home for your vacation might just be the thing you're looking for. Usually offering larger living spaces than hotel rooms, these vacation rentals are all about living like you were in your own home. They offer greater privacy than hotel rooms and most rentals have a kitchen area for cooking, which in the end will save you money if you prepare some of your own meals.

You'll enjoy several rooms, and maybe even different levels, instead of one big room where the whole family sleeps. Many owners will leave information on things to do and see in the local area. Vacation rental homes are clean, friendly, comfortable and inviting. This is because many of them are not just rental homes, but also function as the owner's own residence for part of the year.

A majority of vacation rentals tend to be cheaper on a per night basis than their hotel. By renting directly from the owner you will avoid taxes, tips and other external charges. However, there is a wide variation among others based on a number of factors (see How Much Should I Expect to Pay below)

What are the drawbacks of a vacation rental?

Of course, there's always the other side of the coin. As vacation rentals are not usually monitored by a central managing company, you'll only know what you're getting yourself into when you actually arrive to your rental. Many owners require pre-payment, or at least a large deposit fee, before arriving. Therefore, if things are not the way you anticipated after arriving, or if you find your dwelling unacceptable and decide to head to a local hotel, you may lose any money you prepaid. This is also true for last minute cancellations. There is not usually a refund. You always run the risk of getting less than you expected, but, it's rare.

Most times, vacation rentals tend to be cheaper than an average hotel room per night. But, not always, so make sure you are comfortable with the price you will be asked to pay.

Another disadvantage to vacation rentals is the lack of a managing member on site to deal with any problems that you may encounter with the home or during your stay in general. Most owners get around this by having a list of emergency numbers, utility companies and other such items available to the renter should they need anything.

What amenities are included in a vacation rental?

Since every rental is owned by a different owner, each will include different amenities. Some come with swimming pools, hot tubs, others with golf packages, and horse stable privileges. In cities with tourist attractions, some owners include tickets to local attractions.

Most vacation rentals come with the essentials: TV, equipped kitchen, towels, linen, and everyday appliances, but it never hurts to ask these questions when searching for the perfect place. Be sure to understand exactly what you are paying for before sending in the payment.

What types of rentals are available?

Pretty much any type of dwelling that you would want to live in during your vacation is available somewhere. From studios in downtown Manhattan to a villa in the south of Spain, you'll be able to find what you're looking for. The range of available options is mind boggling. Additionally, each week, month and year there are new possibilities as owners put their homes up for only certain weeks or months of the year, the choices are constantly changing.

Are vacation rentals only available in the US?

Vacation rentals are available worldwide. They can be found in every state of the US and almost every country in the world. Do not be fooled by their different names, though. Vacation rentals are also known as holiday cottages, tourist rentals and holiday rentals. If you are looking for one in Europe, the Italians call them agriturismi, while the French say gites. If you are in Germany you will be looking for ferienwohnungen (yep, try to say that three times fast with a bratwurst in your mouth!)

Regardless of what you call it, though, a vacation rental is a great option for those getting ready to take a few weeks off from reality and enjoy the good life a bit.

How do I find a property?

There are several ways to go about finding the perfect vacation rental for your next trip. Check with your local travel agent to find someone in your area that specializes in finding owners and renters and getting them together. Another option is the yellow pages. Finally, there is a wealth of information on the Internet. Type in a search for "vacation rentals" and over 13,300,000 websites can be found just on http://www.google.com alone. Some websites only list vacation rentals in the United States while others specialize in vacation rentals worldwide. There are some sites that will allow the potential renter to look for a residence by specific search criteria such as a particular destination, certain number of bedrooms and types of amenities that are included in the property.

Most of the vacation rental services on the internet are only the "go-between" or the "classified" section of the newspaper. They take no responsibility for the truth or correctness of the ads that are listed on their sites. So, do your homework by making phone calls, speaking with the owner and asking specific questions. Make sure you feel comfortable with the answers, if not, move on to the next rental, there are plenty.

If you're not comfortable with the whole renter / owner thing, there is another way to rent a vacation home. Some companies exist that strictly buy and rent out homes to vacationers. They offer a bit more security so that you feel you are really getting what you bargained for (although nothing is ever 100% fool proof). Additionally, sometimes these agencies will give you cancellation insurance. In other words, if you cancel before arriving, they may be able to refund a portion of your deposit or payment instead of keeping it as most owners do if a cancellation occurs. With some agencies you'll find that you pay a higher price than going directly to an owner. This is how the agencies make their profits. There are always pros and cons to each scenario. Ensure you know which one works best for you.

How much should I expect to pay?

This is a tough question to answer. The amount you pay will depend on what country or state you are visiting, number of days you are staying, and type of house you are renting. Some owners offer package deals including tickets or sightseeing events along with the rental, others include bonus days if you stay for a certain length of time. There are other owners who may offer free or add-on house cleaning service with your stay while some go to great efforts to ensure you have everything you need, even additional items such as a crib, highchair or wheelchair. Each vacation rental will be entirely different from the next. Your best bet after deciding on your destination is to review multiple rentals to determine which is better suited to your needs and overall budget.

Are there any hidden fees?

Hidden fees usually only emerge after you have arrived. These may include extra for phone calls, house cleaning service, extra person fees, excess heat and air-conditioning bills, pet deposit, computer access … etc. Again, be extremely thorough when interviewing the owner of your prospect vacation rental. Ask about any "extra" fees, or if the house is "all-inclusive". Do you have free access to all the pantry and food items? How about the laundry supplies? All utilities? It never hurts to ask!

Vacation Rentals

In summary, cover all bases by asking lots of questions. Getting your agreement in writing is also a very smart idea. After these basics are out of the way you will be ready to take off for your home-away-from-home vacation rental. Try one this year and see for yourself that vacation rentals can be a fantastic means to really getting the full enjoyment out of your next vacation.

Health Begins With Water

Health begins with water. Since the body is made mostly of water (about 70%), all body functions are dependent on water. I guess you could call water a universal solvent. Most nutrients with the exception of fats are dissolved in water, transported in the water-based blood system and used by water-filled cells. And, because the cells are filled with water, the water lubricates, them, like cartilage and muscle cells. It also keeps cell walls pliable and receptive to nutrient inflow and waste outflow.

These facts point to the crucial nature of proper hydration for a healthy body. It is even more important as we get older as will be explained soon. Every organ in the body depends on water to function properly and efficiently. When we are not hydrated properly, or we are dehydrated, even a little bit, our bodily functions become labored. Over time, our health can become challenging. It is very subtle at first, then symptoms begin to appear.

The US National Research Council has guidelines that suggest that we require one milliliter of water for every calorie we consume. That translates to approximately one half of your body weight in ounces of water consumed daily. Some scientists and medical community advisers claim that amount is too conservative, that we should drink more. For someone who is obese, very overweight or suffering from a chronic disease, they should be drinking 1 quart (32 ounces)of water for every 30 pounds of body weight.

If we look at body functions, there are four obvious ways that the body loses water; defecation, perspiration, respiration and urination. In addition, the body’s digestive process uses a huge amount of water which can further dehydrate the body if there are not sufficient water reserves. Efficient digestion is also aided by drinking sufficient water between meals to flush the digestive tract and provide enough water for bodily functions.

Obviously, the quality of the water that we use to remain healthy or regain our health is very important. For most people it means the water should be clean and safe to drink. What most people don’t know is that in order to be healthy throughout life the body needs to be as near to a neutral pH as possible and the blood absolutely needs to be between 7.35pH and 7.45pH or we die. That means the fluids in our body need to be reinforced with alkaline, ionized water.

Most of the foods that people eat form acidic ash and waste in the body, so to neutralize it we need to drink alkaline ionized water.

Another component of health that is crucial to us is negative ions. Alkaline, ionized water is full of negatively charged particles which our bodies crave. Without negative ions our bodies decline and age. Eventually our health is eroded and our organs slowly lose their efficient function.

It seems that the “struggle” for health is our attempt to rid our bodies of the positive ions we acquire from our “unnatural” diet and to get enough negative ions into our bodies. Traditionally our Paleolithic ancestors used to eat a predominantly raw food diet supplemented with river and creek water that babbled over the rocks and down waterfalls, thus becoming negatively charged and highly oxygenated.

Sadly our diets have reduced to pulling up to the local drive-through and drinking out of cans and bottles. These habits have created a society of overweight acidic bodies full of positive ions and ill health.

Fortunately the process is simple to reverse. Even if your health is OK now, you should be motivated to remain healthy throughout your life. A few changes to your lifestyle will give you valuable “life insurance.”

In the early 20th Century, the Russians discovered that negative ions were very good for human health. They postulated that if they could create negative ions in water that it would create an easier avenue to health. Through experimentation, the first water ionizers were created. The challenge even today is the bonds that water molecules form are weak. Water ionizers break up the large clusters of water into smaller clusters but they do not hold the ionic microcluster structure permanently once they are formed. So the best way to drink alkaline, ionized water is fresh from a machine that creates it. At best, it can be put into a glass bottle and it will hold its charge and microclustering for two days provided the water is filled right to the rim of the bottle. After that, the weak bonds separate and reform into larger cluster molecules and they lose their negative charge.

Even today, Dr. Emoto has shown that water has memory and can be “programmed.” The concept of alkaline, ionized water, is more and more becoming a household word as people realize the benefits of drinking this special water.

It is estimated that 75% or more of North Americans are dehydrated enough that it affects their health in a negative way. And, with that dehydration there is an acidic inflamed body. It may be “silent” inflammation now, but it will eventually rise up into the radar range and become pain or symptoms. It doesn’t seem to matter that people drink lots of water, it matters more what kind of water they drink.

In a University of Washington study, it was found that many people interpret their thirst as hunger. By giving those in the study a glass of water when they felt hungry, it stopped the hunger pangs in 98% of the people surveyed.

For the average North American, there are one or more toxic chemicals stored in their fatty tissue from drinking treated tap water. That is not even including toxins from the foods we eat, what we put on our skin and hair, what we clean our houses with or environmental pollutants. In the US, 53 million people drink water from municipal water supplies containing potentially dangerous levels of chlorine and fluoride derivatives and by-products, lead, fecal bacteria, fertilizers, pesticides, jet fuels, pharmaceuticals and other impurities associated with cancers and various sorts of metabolic dysfunction and diseases.

I remember a study a few years back where they took hair, blood and urine samples from a famous artist who ate organic, used “natural” products, drank the best water he could find, uses as few chemicals as possible in his art and he wore natural fibers. There were 48 toxic chemicals found in his body. He was really conscious about being a “back to earth” guy and quite shocked at the toxic levels in his body. Alarming, don’t you think?

Because most of us are dehydrated by various degrees, our daytime level of fatigue could be directly related to dehydration and our diets. The typical slump seems to be between 3 and 4 pm, where we reach for that sugary snack or the coffee. If we only knew that by drinking two glasses of alkaline, ionized water after lunch, we could feel much better. Water is so important that only a 2% drop in your body’s natural water level can bring on mental confusion, short term memory loss, inability to focus and sluggishness in doing simple math calculations, sequenced procedures and interpretive skills.

Also, with regards to your health, recent research shows that 8-10 glasses of alkaline, ionized water per day may significantly reduce pain levels, even in backs and joints for up to 80% of sufferers. Research is also showing that if the average person drank at least 5-16 oz glasses of alkaline, ionized water daily, that is plain alkaline, ionized water, not mixed with anything, their risk of getting breast cancer can be decreased by 79%, colon cancer by 45% and bladder cancer by 50%.

How does it work? The properties of alkaline, ionized water are unique. Drinking this water provides a quick supply of available oxygen – making the water an “antioxidant.” In other word, the water has an extra electron attached making hydroxyl ions which are negatively charged. These hydroxyl ions in the ionized water seek out and neutralize free radicals. This is very important, since free radicals are what damage our cells and bring about disease and premature aging. When the hydroxyl ions, as an antioxidant have neutralized the free radicals, the result is a body that is energized, vitalized and oxygen rich. Alkaline, ionized water helps balance the body’s pH by reducing excess cellular and body acidity, helping the body to dissolve and excrete acidic waster products more easily.

The electrolysis process that produces the alkaline, ionized water, not only produces an excess of electrons, it also reduces the cluster size of the molecules from 13 to 14 (which is regular tap water) to 5 to 7. This can happen because of the weak bonds that the water has with molecules around itself. These smaller clusters have a lower molecular weight, making the alkaline, ionized water more easily absorbed by the body. The smaller cluster size is also better able to deliver nutrient to all the cells, tissues and organs and accelerates metabolism as more and more acidic waste is eliminated from the body. So, take your vitamin and mineral supplements with alkaline, ionized water for greater absorption. Conversely, take your medications with neutral water. Normally only about 30% of your medication is absorbed by the body because of our acidic and plugged up condition. Alkaline, ionized water will increase the absorption of your medication and you may get too much.

A normal average North American diet will produce high levels of acidic waste in the body from 97% of what is eaten. We simply don’t eat enough alkaline foods, fruits and vegetables. These acids, if they are not neutralized, can cause inflammation and free radicals. They can kill healthy cells by stealing oxygen and damage them by stealing electrons. Alkaline water and food will not only dissolve these harmful acids, but they will help remove them from the body by allowing them to pass safely through the kidneys and bowels and not be stored in our joints, organs, blood vessels and fat cells.

The qualities of high alkalinity, more oxygen and lower molecular weight act as a powerful cellular detoxifier, helping the body maintain or restore its health and should be part of everyone’s daily regimen. Research in Japan since the 1950′s indicate that most chronic conditions are a result of increased waste, acidity and the resulting impaired body function and immune system.

If you are looking to feel younger, more flexible, vital and alive, or even stay that way, then the answer is clear. Try alkaline, ionized water!

Project Management 2.0 – The Ultimate Benefits Of The New Approach To Project Management

NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR BUSINESSES BROUGHT BY ENTERPRISE 2.0

The social network phenomenon has already transformed the consumer Web into so-called “Web 2.0.” Now Web 2.0 is affecting business processes in thousands of organizations by offering incredible communication and collaboration opportunities known as “Enterprise 2.0.” “All these things that are thought to be consumer services are coming into the enterprise,” says former Oracle Corp. President Ray Lane, now a general partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Major corporations all over the world, such as IBM, Procter & Gamble, and Walt Disney, have embraced Enterprise 2.0 technologies. We are witnessing the transformation of traditional ways of doing business, and this transformation is caused by the new-generation applications.

The term Enterprise 2.0 was coined by Andrew McAfee, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, in spring 2006. Professor McAfee introduced this term to describe the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their peers (partners or customers).

Through the adoption of wikis, blogs, collaboration planning tools, social networks, and other “weapons of mass collaboration,” as Don Trapscott calls them in his book Wikinomics, collaboration patterns are changing in today’s organizations. Enterprise 2.0 software and business practices provide managers with access to the right information at the right time through a system of interconnected applications and services. Examples of thousands of small companies as well as giants like Microsoft, Toyota, and many others show that Web-based Enterprise 2.0 applications let businesses obtain a huge competitive advantage in the form of enforced innovation, productivity, and agility through access to the collective intelligence of many professionals.

Efficient gathering and sharing of information, facilitated social connections within enterprises, and improved customer interactions are not the only benefits that Enterprise 2.0 software delivers to small companies and huge corporations. Let’s see how these tools can help to manage projects.

THE NEW APPROACH TO MANAGING PROJECTS

The Enterprise 2.0 movement is naturally affecting and captivating project management in organizations. Blogs, wikis, and other second-generation tools offer better opportunities for communication and collaboration. Thus they provide a great potential for improving existing project management practices.

Traditionally, a project manager is the major link in all project-related communications. This directly influences the efficiency of the team, as well as the manager’s own productivity. Nowadays, many companies still utilize Microsoft Excel spreadsheets or traditional project management applications, like Microsoft Project, for tracking their projects. E-mailing text documents and spreadsheets is still very popular, despite its many shortcomings.

E-mail is a closed communication medium, and many companies confirm that it does a poor job of capturing and sharing knowledge. For example, if you e-mail a document to two people, you then have three copies of this document to manage, merge, and differentiate. It is hard to work on this document simultaneously. This is not the only problem. Knowledge is buried in e-mails, as it is available only to the sender and the recipients, so all the other team members cannot benefit from it. For example, if an employee e-mails a status update to his manager, the change will only be visible to other people after the manager manually updates the schedule. This produces unnecessary work and delays the exchange of information. There is little visibility and control over the project if all information is buried in thousands of e-mails residing in employees’ mailboxes. The list of disadvantages could go on.

Traditional project management tools are not focused on collaboration, either. They were mostly designed with the top-down approach in mind and are not meant for open collaboration. These tools are focused on a project manager and make him the core element of the project communications. He first has to pull facts out of employees through meetings and e-mails, then put them into a file and communicate the project plan to upper management and clients. The process is then repeated every time something changes. The project manager also needs to play the role of an alarm clock, reminding employees of their deadlines and overdue tasks. The whole process turns out to be time-consuming and effortful, and it results in a heavy burden for a project manager. The amount of routine work sometimes does not leave the manager time for leadership.

Enterprise 2.0 technologies catalyze innovations in project management. These innovations can be called Project Management 2.0. The term highlights a new approach to project management, characterized by a dramatic shift toward having collaboration as the heart of managing projects. The new-generation tools take care of the routine part of a project manager’s work: reminding team members about deadlines, merging status updates into a single plan, and communicating changes. New tools also let people collaborate and share information easily. The role of the project manager is changing; he is becoming a project visionary, instead of a taskmaster. New-generation tools give him more space for being a project leader.

What makes the new technologies so effective? I will list the five key benefits below.

Making It Simple to Collaborate

One of the major constraints associated with traditional project management software was its complexity. Traditional tools have hundreds of features, which take months to master. Adoption of traditional project management software is often connected with spending a lot of the employees’ time and the company’s money on training. In contrast, the second-generation project management tools are lightweight and easy to use. They provide an opportunity to start collaborating immediately, without any delays for extensive learning and initial set-up.

New project management tools can be easily utilized even by unskilled computer users, making it possible to involve more people in project collaboration. A well-known example is blogging. It is very simple to share ideas in a blog and get feedback in comments. Simplicity drives adoption. When people like the software, they use it more often.

New software tools provide a much better user experience, which helps to solve one of the biggest challenges of traditional software packages. One of the major problems with traditional tools was the users’ unwillingness to update data regularly. Plans often got outdated and became useless because of that. New tools are much more convenient to use. For example, they let you create tasks in the system by sending e-mails from their Blackberry devices. This level of simplicity and convenience engages users and thus helps to keep information up-to-date. This is a critical component for successful project management software implementation. The power of new tools comes to the surface when they turn simple actions of individual users into a great product of collective work. In Enterprise 2.0 terms, it is called collective intelligence and emergent structures.

Collective intelligence is the capacity of human communities to evolve to higher order complexity and harmony, through differentiation, integration, competition and collaboration. In other words, it is a form of intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals. This notion is closely connected with the term “emergent structures.”

Emergence is a way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. In plain terms it is a form of collective behaviour, when parts of a system do together that they would not do by themselves. Therefore, emergent structures are the structures that appear as a result of multiple, relatively simple interactions of a number of individuals. The interactions are uncontrolled, but are purposeful.

Together these two powerful principles make project management 2.0 tools powerful instruments for improving teams’ productivity.

Taking Advantage of the Wisdom of the Whole Team

The new-generation, Web-based tools give team members an easy way to contribute to the common repository of tasks and plans. These tools unleash the power of collective intelligence and change the pattern of project management.

In his book The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki states that “groups are remarkably intelligent and are often smarter than the smartest people in them. Groups do not need to be dominated by exceptionally intelligent people in order to be smart.” He also stresses that “decentralization’s greatest strength is that it encourages independence and specialization on the one hand while still allowing people to coordinate their activities and solve difficult problems.”

With the new technologies, people get a more efficient working environment where they can gather and share knowledge from different fields that each project team member is an expert in. The project manager guides the team’s work and chooses the right direction, based on the information received from the individual employees. The tools even help the manager to merge this information, turning an e-mail mess into well-organized timelines.

At the same time the new-generation tools let project managers control changes and the progress of the project work. Reporting is highly automated on all levels, including corporate executives, who get their view of the project automatically.

The reports are pulled on the fly from real data, so they are up-to-date. All these factors boost the team’s productivity and help the company make the right decisions at the right time.

Collective intelligence goes hand-in-hand with emergent structures, another practice that has a great impact on contemporary project management.

Many-to-Many Structure Benefits

Microsoft Project and many other traditional management tools allow you to have only a strict, one-to-many work breakdown structure of tasks (and other similar items). This creates several negative consequences. First, there can be only one view of the project, while in real life there might be a need to have many different views of the same project. Project marketers, business analyst, engineers, and testers might want to slice the project in different ways. Often, the same person needs different slices – for example, by release and by feature. This inconvenience makes the software less usable and thus people become hesitant to check plans and update them regularly. On one hand, these factors lead to obsolete and useless project plans. On the other hand, the necessity to select one work breakdown structure greatly increases the cost of mistake for the project manager.

The whole process becomes very tricky and requires a lot of up-front thinking, predictions, and responsibility for the project manager.

Project management 2.0 tools have fewer restrictions. They let structures emerge, without strong central control. These structures are born from lots of little interactions that are designed to solve specific problems. For example, collaboration planning tools, like Wrike allow work-breakdown structures to emerge from the bottom up. What employees design as the best work-breakdown structure for their tasks becomes a part of a bigger picture seen by the manager.

In these tools hierarchies are many-to-many, in contrast to the one-to-many hierarchy in Microsoft Project. This effectively means that you can pick any reasonable sub-set of tasks, create a view and share it with someone who needs this view. It is not like all-or-nothing sharing of a file. At the end of the day more people can collaborate. As the new tools allow team members to make changes to the initial structure simultaneously, more people can organize and reorganize their views, and more structures emerge. The resulting structures fit project participants much better than one stiff work-breakdown structure.

This agility helps to bring iterative and incremental practices into project management without giving away the control.The project manager’s job becomes more about coordination and guidance than routine manual updates, and the whole team can react to changes much faster.

Project management 2.0 tools allow you to start with one task, add twenty more, organize them, add more tasks, reorganize them, and repeat the process on a daily basis by many or your employees and managers. When seven employees share their daily to-do lists with a team leader, the team leader gets a bigger picture. When five team leaders share their teams’ plans with project managers, a picture gets bigger. When it goes through directors and the vice president to the CEO, the whole structure evolves from what was one task into a big ecosystem that perfectly suits the organization. All with a help of very simple tools and very powerful principles that stay behind those tools – collective intelligence and emergent structures.

Empowered by emergent structures and collective intelligence, project managers can combine field knowledge coming bottom-up with the guidance coming top-down. There is also a significant benefit for executives: emergent structures emergent allow you to get complete visibility that bridges the gap between strategic corporate plans and daily to-do lists of employees. Getting the Bigger Picture

Full insight into what is going on in the organization is vital for aligning internal business resources with the requirements of the changing environment. For example, if we speak of software development, the bug fixing schedule may affect the next release schedule. The next release schedule in its turn may affect the marketing campaign, which may affect sales plans. Sales plans will naturally have an impact on financial plans. Having the whole picture helps corporate executives to make a better choice for allocating internal resources when there is a need to react properly to the changes in the business environment. Project management 2.0 tools empowered by emergent structures and many-to-many hierarchies are naturally able to provide this big picture view. Emergent structures help to turn separated strategic plans, quarterly plans, project plans and daily to-do lists of team members into one business development master plan. Many-to-many hierarchies let corporate executives see each project and their whole organization from different points of view. These two powerful principles allow managers to drill down to each team member’s tasks and follow the work of the whole enterprise at the same time.

When project managers can easily view every detail of their project development, and corporate executives are able to use their business resources most rationally, projects bring value faster.

Productivity Boost

With new tools, project managers save hours on routine operations related to aggregating the information from e-mails and meetings and keeping it up to date. Reporting is simplified on all levels, as part of it can be easily achieved by sharing the related part of the collaborative workspace. Second-generation project management software gives every team member an opportunity to be aware of the changes in the project without unnecessary meetings, e-mails, and phone calls. The collaboration becomes much faster and much more productive. It results in faster project delivery and faster return on investment.

To start innovation and improvements in your organization is easy. As was already mentioned above, new tools are very user-friendly and easy to adopt. You just have to pick the right ones.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT 2.0 TOOLS: A NEW COLLABORATIVE SPACE

Perhaps the most popular of the new-generation applications that companies can benefit from are blogs, wikis, and collaboration planning tools.

Blogs

Both internal and external use of blogs can be advantageous for a project. The major benefit of internal blogging is that it gives the opportunity to facilitate direct communication between various layers of an organization. Blogs allow team members who otherwise would not have been aware of or invited to participate in a discussion to contribute their expertise. Thousands of companies now use blogging tools like Blogger, LiveJournal, Typepad, Movable Type, WordPress or Radio UserLand. For example, British Library and University College London collaborate on a project called the LIFE (Lifecycle Information for E-Literature) through a blog. A blog is a way for these two organizations to work together more efficiently and keep all the project information in one place.

External blogging helps to encourage the strongest community goodwill, and this goodwill, in turn, promotes significant marketing and sales gains. Thousands of companies are already reaping the rewards of their investment in external project blogging. For, example, companies like Microsoft, IBM, Google, Sun Microsystems, and SAP write project blogs on a regular basis. The number of non-technology organizations that have their own project blogs is rapidly growing, too. One of the most prominent examples is the From Edison’s Desk blog – a blog for the GE Global Research project. It offers an opportunity for technology enthusiasts around the globe to discuss the future of technology with top researchers from one of the world’s largest and most diverse industrial research labs.

Wikis

A wiki is another technology that can be successfully applied to managing projects. Its basic advantage is that it lets users to create, edit, and link Web pages easily. Wikis usually have very few restrictions, thus they tend to accumulate a shared knowledge that was traditionally kept out of stiff corporate enterprise software and intranets – the knowledge that was usually buried in e-mails. A good example of wiki usage would be Dresdner Kleinwort, the investment banking division of Dresdner Bank AG that gained an e-mail traffic volume reduction by 75%. They also slashed meeting time in half. Another example is a Linux-based operating system called Fedora, which uses a project wiki to bring the end user’s point of view into the product development. There are a lot of wiki solutions that are be successfully used by many companies. The most well-known is an open source wiki called MediaWiki, the one that is used by Wikipedia.

Wikis and blogs are good generic tools that can help to share knowledge much more effectively than e-mails. To gain visibility and control over operations, companies also need to empower their managers and employees with a collaborative planning solution.

Collaboration Planning Tools

New collaboration applications and platforms combine the level of control associated with traditional project management software with the benefits of Web 2.0 applications to give a productivity boost to companies and bring better visibility. The best tools in this field are integrated with e-mail and easy and inexpensive to adopt. They democratize project management software. Can you provide some examples

Collaboration planning tools bridge the gaps between employees’ to-do lists, project plans, and strategic goals. With the help of these tools, a project manager gains complete visibility of all the projects he is responsible for. The upper management knows what is going on inside of every project and has the whole picture. The software takes a lot of routine operations on its shoulders – turning e-mail mess into a nice-looking timeline, reminding people about overdue tasks and building reports. These tools help to collect information and make it accessible to any team member anywhere. This expedites information sharing and accelerates decision making.

Governmental, educational, commercial, and non-profit organizations all over the world are embracing project management 2.0 tools to improve their project management. Corporations like McDonalds, Walt Disney, Apple, Toyota and Capgemini utilize second-generation project management applications within their departments.

CONCLUSION

The use of innovative project management technologies promises to have a profound and far-reaching effect on how projects are managed today. These technologies let companies acquire the key ingredient to success in any business – they help companies make better decisions faster. Project management 2.0 gives a great productivity boost to project managers and their teams.

Today, the project management landscape is changing, opening new competitive advantages for companies. While some companies are struggling with the pains of traditional project management tools and e-mail, others are becoming more efficient and innovative by leveraging the benefits of the new technologies. I hope this article will help you adopt some of the Project Management 2.0 tools and practices.

Cleaning Your Home Without Any Use of Chemicals

We have gotten used to relying on a whole range of chemical products for the cleaning of our homes and offices without paying attention to how harmful such substances can be for the health or the environment.Every household actually uses stain removers and all sorts of solvents to get clean clothes, impeccable kitchens and germ-free bathrooms. However, with the development of the environmental awareness, some companies have started producing eco-friendly cleaning products. Most spot and stain removers in the eco-category are now derived from natural resources, with plant or vegetable ingredients in organic solvents.

It is false to absorb that eco-friendly cleaning products can not eliminate resistant stains and stains such as nail polish, wax, ball-point ink, glue, resins or dyes from solid or textile surfaces. If we manage to eliminate such prejudices and actually try some eco-friendly cleaning solution, we may be pleasantly surprised by the results. It is paradoxical how we soil and litter our planet while making efforts to remove the dirt from daily life. Why switch to eco-friendly cleaning? First of all your home will be clean from toxic fumes and chemicals, you will sleep better and enjoy a great sense of well-being.

There will be less health hazards for children and babies who may come in contact with toxic cleaning residues. Nor will there be any more fumes from spray bottles. Poisons should be a no-no in our lives. You can eliminate the hazardousous substances by using household pickup days, and replacing them with safer versions. Eco-friendly cleaning provides a safer environment for your children. Moreover, the fewer chemicals you use, the fewer toxic materials will be evacuated in the waste water stream. If you do not have eco-friendly cleaning products ready-made for a certain task, there are homemade solutions available too.

The Internet abounds with eco-friendly cleaning tips, you just need a bit of time, interest and patience to see how to deal with the issue. Not only the cleaning agents should be changed with eco products, but the cleaning accessories as well. Sponges, mops and rags should be all reusable and natural. A responsible human being living in the 21st century should mind the durability, health and environment impact of the products he / she purchases for home use. This kind of changes will also bring considered savings.