6 Tips for Scheduling Appointments with Reluctant Customers

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6 Tips for Scheduling Appointments with Reluctant Customers

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought upon us a long, grueling, utterly unprecedented year. Everyone — from individuals to communities to entire countries — faced their own unique and strenuous challenges. 

Luckily, the pandemic appears to be on the wane at last. While case numbers continue to fluctuate, people across the country are receiving doses of highly effective vaccines. As the vaccine rollout accelerates, getting back to normal seems increasingly likely.

And yet, for owners of appointment-based businesses, the challenges of COVID-19 are still ongoing.

On the bright side, many companies have opened their doors and resumed in-person work. However, even if employees are happy to return, many customers don’t feel the same way. Thus, persuading these customers to return for face-to-face appointments remains a hurdle.

If you’re facing this issue, don’t stress out — you’re not alone. Read on for six tips on scheduling appointments with reluctant customers.

1. Follow your state and local COVID-19 guidelines.

Official COVID-19 guidelines were implemented for a reason: to keep us all safe. Adhering to these guidelines will benefit your customers and your employees alike. So before your grand office reopening, be sure to brush up on these essential rules. 

Every state is different, so you’ll have to do a bit of research on your own here. Fortunately, there are convenient tools that can help you keep track of state-by-state guidelines, restrictions, and more.

Not only does following applicable laws protect your business, but it also helps put your customers at ease. If they know that officials have deemed it safe to conduct in-person business, they’ll be more likely to book a face-to-face appointment with you.

2. Continue to adhere to social distancing policies.

Social distancing has been the name of the game for over a year now. Remaining six feet apart and wearing masks feels like second nature these days.

As a result, even though restrictions are easing up, lots of customers don’t feel ready to return to mask-free, shoulder-to-shoulder life. This is why staying socially distant for a while longer is the right move.

Basically, you should continue to take precautions to handle your appointments safely. Ensure that everyone in your office wears a face covering, stays six feet apart, and avoids eating or drinking in common spaces. To take it one step further, you could even require daily temperature checks or rapid COVID tests.

By continuing to follow strict health guidelines, you’ll show your clients that you’re still taking this pandemic seriously. Customers will feel safe, protected, and ready to show up for an appointment.

3. Communicate with your customers.

Communication is more important now than ever. It seems as if the world is constantly changing, especially as COVID-19 restrictions can loosen or tighten every day. Right now, it’s vital to respond accordingly and keep your customers in the loop. 

If clients are uncertain about your current mode of operation, they may be reluctant to reach out and schedule an appointment. That’s exactly why you should make an effort to keep them informed about all the details of your office reopening. 

In other words, be sure to let them know that you’re following tips 1 and 2 above. If you consistently maintain communication with your customers, you’ll be well on your way to a rush of new appointments.

4. Use social media to your advantage.

Social media is an indispensable business and marketing tool that’s only grown more popular during this pandemic. There’s no doubt it will remain just as important post-COVID.

As you and your business readjust to normalcy, don’t forget to leverage your social media channels. It’s an effective way to interact with customers, provide real-time updates about the business, and promote your company. 

Whenever COVID-19 guidelines change in your area, make sure to post about your business’s response to the changes. This will help ease any lingering concerns your customers may have about COVID dangers.

5. Give customers an at-home option.

Although we’re moving closer to normalcy each day, the pandemic is still not over. Yes, cases have gone down in most areas, and vaccinations are well underway. Despite this progress, however, many people are still uncomfortable with the idea of returning to in-person work and social events. 

Unfortunately, some customers won’t feel ready to return to your business just yet — it’s that simple. If this is the case, convincing them otherwise may be impossible.

The good news is that we live in the 21st century, and we have modern technology at our disposal. If the nature of your services makes it possible, allow your customers to opt for a virtual appointment if they desire. It may not be ideal, but it’s better than missing out on the opportunity entirely.

If you give customers the choice to stay home, they’ll certainly feel safer returning to your business in the future. Even better, they will greatly appreciate your effort to be accommodating. 

6. Be open to adaptation.

If we can offer one final tip, it’s this: don’t be afraid to adapt. After the year we’ve had, perhaps this goes without saying. 

When you discover that one of your normal practices isn’t working, it may be time to try something new. For example, a hairstylist whose customers are still hesitant to return for in-salon appointments could make house calls. Or, weather permitting, they could move one salon chair outside for alfresco haircuts. 

Much has changed in the past year, and there’s no doubt that things will continue to change throughout 2021. So as your business transitions from virtual to in-person, it’s important to remain flexible. 

The pandemic has forced all of us to reevaluate and rearrange our priorities, both business-related and otherwise. Just remember: you’ve made it this far. Stay adaptable, and you’ll be fine.

10 Support Organizations for Productive Entrepreneurs

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10 Support Organizations for Entrepreneurs

I have no regrets about being an entrepreneur. Chasing my dreams and starting my own business was the best decision I ever made. That’s not to say that it’s always been easy. I’ve had businesses fail, sacrificed relationships, and had to deal with daily challenges. Handling upset customers or motivating employees are the smaller situations to deal with.

To make matters worse, on the really big things — I’ve felt that I’ve had to overcome these hurdles all by myself.

The Top 10 Support Organizations for Productive Entrepreneurs

  1. Entrepreneur’s Organization
  2. Business Network International
  3. Young Presidents Organization
  4. Small Giants Community
  5. Vistage
  6. Young Entrepreneur Council
  7. Startup Grind
  8. 8. Founder Institute
  9. 9. Baby Bathwater Institute
  10. 10. StartUp Nation

It can be lonely being an entrepreneur.

You see, it can be lonely being an entrepreneur. And when you’re going through a rough patch or need some inspiration — it’s not always available. After all, there’s not always someone around who has shared these same experiences.

The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. There is no shortage of organizations that you can join to help support you during your journey.

Here are ten of my favorite support organizations for entrepreneurs that they should join today.

1. Entrepreneur’s Organization

Since its inception in 1987, EO is regularly considered one of the best organizations for entrepreneurs to join. For starters, this peer-to-peer network connects its more than 13,000 members from across the world. From there, EO aims to guide them in expanding and strengthening their business.

Members of the Entrepreneur’s Organization also receive perks like personal mentorships, participating in forums where you can learn from the experiences of successful business owners.

These opportunities are also extended to attend exclusive global or local chapter events. EO members can also become a part of the Healthnetwork Foundation to gain VIP access to the 30 of the most highly ranked hospitals in the U.S.

The stipulation is that your company is doing at least $1 million a year in revenue or has received $2 million in venture funding.

2. Business Network International

Started by a group of friends in California in the early 1980s, BNI has become the leading referral organization in the world with over 240,000 members. In fact, in 2017 alone, BNI member referrals generated a whopping $13.6 billion in revenue for member businesses.

BNI focuses primarily on lead sharing and networking for solopreneurs through weekly meetings and exclusive resources. For example, you can have breakfast with several other solopreneurs and salespeople at a local chapter to help each other increase sales. Even if you decide to leave BNI, it’s easy to imagine that you’ll maintain those connections.

To become a member, simply complete a brief application and if approved you’ll be contacted by BNI’s Global Alliance Approval Team.

3. Young Presidents Organization

Similar to EO in terms of events and forums, the Young Presidents Organization has been connecting and empowering its more than 25,000 chief executives in 130 countries since 1950. The main differences are that you don’t have to be the founder of a business, just its current leader, and the revenue requirements are higher.

As a member, YPO will assist you in personal development, learning business practices, and how you can impact your community. Besides the exclusive events and forums — YPO achieves this mission through a series of excellent podcasts — such as the program “Ten Minute Tips from the Top.”

This is where members and experts share advice and insights.

4. Small Giants Community

Compared to the other organizations on this list, Small Giants Community is relatively new — the groundwork was laid in 2006. It’s quickly become a community where purpose-driven leaders and entrepreneurs.

As an entrepreneur, you can share your experiences and advice through podcasts, blog posts, and virtual peer groups. There are also amazing discussion-based webinars called Fishbowls to provide you with practical systems that you can apply to your business.

Small Giants Community also offers a one-year certification program to help leaders grow.

The program consists of face-to-face meetings with a learning cohort, virtual learning sessions, and event tickets to two Small Giants gatherings.

What makes this community so unique is that the members are extremely positive and helpful, as opposed to the exhausting “What can you do for me?” mentality you experience at most networking opportunities.

5. Vistage

If you’re a CEO looking for an organization that focuses on business and coaching, then Vistage is a solid choice. Like EO and YPO, this is done through monthly forum meetings with your peers.

At Vistage, a paid coach or moderator will work with you one-on-one.

Vistage, which has been around since 1957 — states that members can become better by:

  • Gaining insights by connecting you with “salient, trustworthy and applicable insights and resources.
  • Becoming better leaders by developing new skills through training.
  • Helping you make better decisions by refining your instincts, improving your judgment, and expanding your perspectives.
  • Achieving better results. In fact, it’s been found that Vistage member companies grew 2.2 times faster than average small and medium-sized U.S. businesses.

6. Young Entrepreneur Council

Founded by Scott Gerber, the Young Entrepreneur Council is recommended for founders, co-founders, and business owners. These founders generate at least one million dollars in annual revenue — or one million dollars in financing. The catch is that in order to be invited to join you must be under the age of 45.

As a member of YEC — you have access to tools, mentorship, community, and educational resources. In addition, you have the chance to partake in monthly Q&As and connect with super connecters who will support you through each stage of your business from development to growth.

To convince you to join, you can also receive discounts for select conferences and be invited to VIP experiences at exclusive art, film, music, fashion, and sporting events.

Through a series of partnerships, you can also receive discounts on travel, insurance, and HR benefits.

7. Startup Grind

Founded in 2010, Startup Grind is one of my personal favorites. It’s a global community with members in 150+ countries where each month there’s an event for you to network with your fellow entrepreneurs.

Each event also features local founders, investors, innovators, and educators who share their success stories and what they’ve learned during their journey.

Startup Grind also shares advice and insights from these successful entrepreneurs through blog posts, podcasts, and videos.

However, what’s really drawn me to this group are its values, which are believing in making friends, not contacts; giving, not taking; and helping others before helping yourself.

8. Founder Institute

The Founder Institute is an ideal organization to join if you’re in the early stages of your startup. They’ve even dubbed themselves as “ the world’s premier pre-seed accelerator.”

As a member, the Founder Institute has developed a methodology that has helped launch over 3,000 companies since 2009. This includes creating an Equity Collective for a support network and a three to five-month program to assist you in making your idea into an actual business.

Even after completing the program, you’ll receive a lifetime of support. To join, you’ll have to pay a $50 application fee, as well as a course fee of around $1,200.

9. Baby Bathwater Institute

Yes. The name is a little out-there. But, this is an excellent and active community made up of entrepreneurs from a variety of industries. What makes it stand out from other groups are the unique events.

Instead of the traditional networking event or workshop, these all-inclusive events are held in the mountains of Utah or on Baby Bathwater Island in Croatia.

I would consider this more an experience where you can go on an adventure while meeting new friends, while also gaining fresh perspectives and business solutions

10. StartUp Nation

Last, but certainly not least, there’s StartupNation.

Founded in 2002, StartupNation provides an endless amount of resources. These topics include such help as starting your business, growing your business, and managing your business through blog posts, an engaged online community, and a radio show.

You can use the forums to exchange ideas or find a mentor or business partner. StartupNation also provides the following services:

  • Logo design.
  • Website, development.
  • Copywriting.
  • Domain name registration.
  • Incorporation.
  • Business consultation.
  • Public relations.

Best of all, it’s free to join this community of more than 101,000 registered members.

9 Collaboration Mistakes You’re Making With Your Remote Team

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9 Collaboration Mistakes You’re Making With Your Remote Team

According to Upwork’s “Future of Workforce Pulse Report,” by 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely. That’s an impressive 87% percent increase from pre-pandemic levels.

“Our research shows the long-lasting impact that remote work and COVID-19 are likely to have on how hiring managers think about their organizations,” says Upwork Chief Economist, Adam Ozimek. “As businesses adapt and learn from this remote work experiment, many are altering their long-term plans to accommodate this way of working. On work marketplaces like Upwork, we can already see this shift underway with increased demand for remote professionals.”

For many, the support of work from home jobs should come as welcome news. After all, people tend to be happier and more productive when working from home. It also allows you to tap into a larger talent and save money since you don’t have a large office.

But, there are also drawbacks to remote work. Loneliness is often cited as the biggest challenge. However, it can also be a struggle to meet deadlines and communicate effectively.

How can you solve all of these problems? By making collaboration a priority. And, to get started, make sure that you aren’t committing the following nine mistakes.

1. Creating teams just because.

There are over six decades of research that have show that individuals are more creative than teams. What does that mean? Well, when it comes to creative tasks, like generating ideas, you might want to scrap the brainstorming session.

“Please don’t create a team just for the sake of creating a team,” says Leigh Thompson, the J. Jay Gerber Professor of Management and Dispute Resolution at the Kellogg School. “People hate that.”

In addition to sparking creativity, having “me” time can be incredibly powerful. Solitude has been found to relieve stress, give you a chance to reflect, and practice gratitude. Moreover, this aids in planning and can strengthen your relationships.

Related: Why You Should Schedule Dedicated ‘Me Time’ If You Don’t Get Enough Right Now

2. Lack of a common purpose.

“Like many parts of leadership, this is not rocket science,” writes Ben Brearley BSc. BCM MBA. “It is not meant to be a detailed, exhaustive list of roles and responsibilities.” Rather, “purpose simply acts as a guiding vision for your team.”

`Brearley adds that team purpose should contain the following three elements;

  • A “functional statement about what your team does.”
  • Why your team is important and are doing what they do.
  • How your team delivers.

When you have all three parts, and clearly let them be known, you’ll be able to decide “whether you are in (committed) or out (choosing not to take on the work),” states Brearley. Additionally, it assists in modeling the right behavior and connect to a higher meaning.

3. Ignoring time zones/schedules.

Let’s say that you reside in the Eastern Time Zone. By 9 a.m., you’re ready to tackle the day. So, you start sending out Slack messages, emails, or even prepare for a meeting at 9:30 a.m.

The problem? Several of your colleagues are out on the West Coast. It’s unreasonable to expect them to respond to your messages or attend a virtual event when it’s only 6:00 a.m. or 6:30 a.m.

Even if you’re in the same time zone, be self-aware that working remotely means having different schedules. You might be a morning bird. But, others could be night owls and might not be online when you are.

Tools like Calendar by handling availability across time zones. So, when you’re scheduling an event, you can see what time it is for your team members before adding it to everyone’s calendar. You could also poll your team to figure out the best time for everyone to get together.

4. Building brick walls.

Are you not listening to others? Do you allow your team members to share their opinions or ask questions?

In other words, are you being stubborn and not accepting different points of view? If so, then that’s not exactly a supportive, positive, and collaborative environment. It sounds more like a dictatorship.

Let everyone voice their opinions and input. Encourage them to ask questions. And, make sure that not only listen to them but act on their suggestions.

Most importantly? Grant autonomy and let your team do things their way.

5. Over-participating.

“Over-participating and taking on too much within a team can stifle group collaboration by sapping the oxygen in the room and making team members feel unheard and excluded,” writes Sabina Nawaz for HBR. But, you can avoid overtaking the group by taking the following steps;

  • Find your unique contribution. It’s 4th, and 10 and your football team is on the 20-yard line. You wouldn’t call in your linebacker to kick a field goal. Have the right people playing the right positions.
  • Redefine what it means to be helpful. When it comes to groups, figure out where you belong. Sometimes you might just be an onlooker from the sidelines or helping out with busy work.
  • Stay quiet. “Mute before you refute to see how the discussion goes,” states Nawaz.
  • Negotiate a realistic timeline. The team should all agree on deadlines that work best for everyone, so that aren’t any bottlenecks.

Related: How to Focus Employees Who Are Too Helpful With Their Ideas

6. Not creating channels to share ideas.

If you go by the dictionary, then sharing ideas would count as collaborating. But, that’s not always the case in the real world.

Think about when you have your best ideas. It’s not when you’re forced or put on the spot. It happens more organically, like when taking a shower or going for a walk.

As such, provide multiple channels throughout the day for your team to share their ideas when the iron strikes hot for them.

To be fair, this would be much easier in a physical workplace. For example, there could be in-person lunches or drop-bys. But, you can still do this remotely by;

  • Planning virtual lunches and water-coolers.
  • Shared docs or dedicated Slack channels for ideas.
  • A process for vetting ideas.

7. Using the wrong tech.

Just because you’re an Apple devotee doesn’t mean that everyone is as well. With that in mind, it wouldn’t make sense to schedule all video calls on FaceTime. Instead, you would choose a platform that all of your colleagues use and are comfortable with.

Furthermore, make sure that you’re using the right communication.

“Having a surplus of communication and collaboration tools is great,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. “At the same time, you don’t have to collect them all. We’re not talking about Pokemon here.”

“Instead, limit the tools that you’re using,” Deanna recommends. “Besides decreasing distractions, it prevents everyone from bouncing back-and-forth between tools. And, it can also help avoid information overload.

8. Getting too comfortable.

Routines can kill creativity. How can your team be innovative when everyone is nice and cozy? By that, I mean working with the same people on familiar tasks day-in-and-out.

Rather than digging you and your team into a rut, push everyone out of their comfort zones by;

  • Creating a more innovative climate. Encourage your team to take on new roles that they find exciting and challenging. You can also push them to work on side projects.
  • Assemble diverse and inclusive teams. You can do this by having a team that is comprised of people from various backgrounds, geographical settings, and/or business units.
  • Shake-things up. As opposed to a tired, virtual team meeting, freshen it up. For example, you could host something like a hackathon to get the creative juices flowing.

Related: Beyond The Comfort Zone: Building A Model Workforce

9. Your team has become a victim of natural pitfalls.

According to renowned author Patrick Lencioni, “companies fail to achieve effective teamwork because they unknowingly fall victim to five natural pitfalls that progress like falling dominos, one after another,” notes Jody Michael Associates. These include the five following dysfunctions;

  • Absence of trust. “In this context, trust is the ability of team members to make themselves vulnerable— essentially revealing weaknesses without concern about repercussions,” add the authors. To achieve vulnerability-based trust, use personal histories and team effectiveness exercises. And, profile personalities.
  • Fear of conflict. Don’t run away from healthy debates. Conflicts can encourage open-mindfulness and prevent groupthink. It’s suggested that you use tools like the Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode instrument (TKI). You can also encourage them to be “miners” and encourage engagement.
  • Lack of commitment. Commitment is simply “a function of clarity and buy-in.” You can accomplish this by reviewing key decisions, establishing deadlines, and discuss Plan B.
  • Avoidance of accountability. “In this context, accountability refers to the willingness of team members to call out their peers on behaviors that might hurt the team,” state the authors. To ensure that this happens, publish objectives and standards, have a progress review, and reward your team.
  • Inattention to details. “Avoidance of accountability creates an environment in which team members put their individual needs (such as career) or even divisional needs (such as status) above the team’s need for results,” they write. To avoid this, publicly declare your desired results and align team members’ rewards to specific outcomes.

5 Integrations for Your Online Appointment Software

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5 Integrations for Your Online Appointment Software

Businesses of all sizes are making the shift to online appointment software. From enabling customer self-service to better managing staff scheduling, the benefits of an online appointment system are clear and compelling.  

Your appointment software can make you even more organized and productive when you supercharge it with app integrations. These integrations make it possible to synchronize information across several software applications. Among these are digital calendar, billing and payment, customer relationship management, email and communications, and web design solutions.

By combining information from various systems, your company can improve its customer experience. You can also further enhance the efficiency you’re already gaining from online appointment software.   

Digital Calendars

Digital calendars have become common in business environments due to their convenience and versatility. Unlike paper calendars, digital versions can be viewed, updated, and synced across any device that can connect to the internet. When your online appointment software syncs with your digital calendar, you don’t have to worry about updating it.

That means when customers schedule, cancel, or reschedule an appointment, your business’s digital calendar automatically adjusts. This translates to better staff scheduling and reduced miscommunication. You also reduce the risk of falling short of customers’ expectations, as they can see what’s available in real time.

Billing and Payment

When billing systems are synced with online appointment applications, customers find it easier to pay ahead of time. This makes them less likely to cancel or back out of an appointment at the last minute. It also gives them peace of mind, knowing that they’ve already paid and budgeted for the service.

Some customers prefer to pay online, knowing that their financial information isn’t being exchanged with a person over the phone. Being able to instantly transfer funds from a PayPal account without revealing any sensitive information makes customers feel safe. This can help your business capture sales that might otherwise be abandoned.  

If you’re a small business owner, streamlining your billing systems can free up more time for your staff. Sixty percent of small business owners wish they had more time to devote to other tasks. Thirty-nine percent indicate paperwork is one of their top time stealers.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management (CRM) applications are great tools for capturing leads and contact information. These applications also nurture relationships from initial interest to conversion and gather and track consumer behaviors. Integrating your CRM and online appointment software creates an added level of convenience for both you and your customers.

First, existing customers don’t have to constantly re-enter their information. Anyone who’s filled out a job application that asks for the very same information already provided on an uploaded résumé knows the frustration this causes. At best, the customer has a poor experience. And at worst, it becomes a lost opportunity. Creating more efficient appointment experiences leads to higher satisfaction, brand image, and loyalty levels.

Second, with a CRM integration, you’ll easily capture information about new customers, potential leads (e.g., those who abandon completion of their appointments), and customer activities. If you execute content marketing campaigns or digital ads, you can track which content and ads lead to higher customer acquisition. Other behaviors, such as responding to an email promo code, can help you gain insights into what resonates with customers.

Email and Communication Touchpoints

Some CRM applications allow you to automate marketing and customer service emails. However, you can also integrate email clients like Outlook and Gmail. This can come in handy when you send appointment reminders to customers.

By automating some of the communication touchpoints, you and your staff can concentrate on higher-level tasks. You’ll also meet customer expectations by letting them know the appointment times they selected are confirmed on your end. Reminders, of course, can prevent no-shows and allow clients to reschedule if something comes up.

Beyond these basics, additional touchpoints can include:

  • Customer experience surveys
  • Thank-you notes
  • Requests for testimonials
  • Marketing and PR for services or service packages
  • Promotions
  • Customer loyalty programs

If email isn’t your customers’ preferred method of communication, there’s the possibility of integrating your appointment software with SMS or text messaging applications. Providing links in the text messages that reconnect customers with your online booking system adds convenience. Alternatively, customers could have the option to cancel, reschedule, or confirm appointments directly from the text messages.  

Web Design

Integrating your online appointment software with web design apps mostly benefits you and your staff. If you make changes to the layout of web pages that contain appointment functionality, the two will automatically sync. You can also back up your appointment application’s data, ensuring it gets stored safely and is easy to find.

Another point to keep in mind is that web design apps often come with built-in templates. These templates can make it easier to incorporate the functions of appointment software. With templates, your staff can create a unified look that accentuates booking options for customers. 

If you’re using a lot of other systems, web design apps can potentially sync all or most of them. This prevents the need to manually transfer or consolidate information. You may also be able to avoid the costs associated with switching or upgrading to different platforms. It will be possible to wait until business growth or technology changes deem switching necessary.    

Ultimately, which applications and systems your business integrates with your online appointment software are up to you. Ease of integration, compatibility, functionality, strategy, and customer needs will all play a role. A good online appointment application will let you customize your app integrations as your business needs change.

The ideal way to determine what integrations you need is to look to your customers. Start by analyzing their feedback and behaviors. Your company’s service and marketing strategy will be important. However, your integration efforts should begin with the customer’s perspective in mind. 

10 Time Management Skills Every Person Should Cultivate

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10 Time Management Skills Every Person Should Cultivate

To be successful, everyone needs to continue to add to their skillsets. Each entrepreneur, startup, and small business will have its set of “how-tos” that are vital. Then there will be the set of skills that are the essential ones to know.  Search your business and become the best you can at your particular business space. Time management will assist you forever in getting better at performing your tasks. Here are 10 excellent time management skills every person should cultivate.

We also have essential life skills everyone should know. Examples include:

  • Housekeeping skills — basic home repairs, cleaning after yourself, and knowing how to cook at least one signature dish.
  • Survival skills — knowing how to change a tire, administrative basic first aid, and living without electronic for more than an hour.
  • Professional skills — minimum skills required; writing a resume, networking, preparing for an interview, and negotiating a raise.
  • Money management skills — being able to create and stick to a budget and calculating a tip.
  • Self-awareness and relationship skills — knowing your strengths and weaknesses, basic etiquette, being respectful, and learning how to communicate.

Those possessing these skills will get further in life — you can’t respond to life events well without some of the basics. But, they also make life more fulfilling and can give you a little self-confidence boost. However, one set of skills that often get overlooked are those related to time management.

Some of these greater and lesser skills go hand-in-hand with each other. For example, being respectful of others motivates you to arrive on-time and never keep people waiting. However, for the most part, when it comes to time management, it’s in a category on its own.

So, if you’re ready to manage your time effectively, here are the 10-time management skills every person should have.

1. Plan your day around priorities and goals.

The most successful and productive people are well aware that they must address both essential and urgent matters daily. Here’s their secret though; they how to balance the two.

It’s definitely an art to master this juggling act. But, it’s possible when you know what priorities need your attention to know and what can be dealt with at another time. To assist you with this, you can use the Eisenhower Matrix. This Matrix is where you evaluate all of your tasks and separate them as follows:

  • Urgent and vital — these you’ll do immediately since they are pushing you closer to achieving a goal.
  • Important, but not urgent — tasks that can be scheduled for later.
  • Urgent, but not important — these the things that can be delegated.
  • Neither urgent nor important — these are the tasks that can be deleted altogether.

According to Calendar’s Howie Jones, the secret behind an amazing time management strategy is able “to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency.”

Once you’ve identified your priorities, you should schedule them when you have the most energy and focus — or, in other words, when you’re “in the zone.” For most of us, that’s in the morning. Also, completing your most important task of the day in the morning gives you the momentum to tackle the rest of the items on your to-do list. If a priority or goal is a big one, break it up into more manageable chunks.

2. Effectively use your time.

There are a couple of ways to effectively use your time. The first is being more present and giving your full attention to what deserves it at this moment. For example, you can’t be engaged in a conversation or meeting when you keep looking at your phone every time you receive a message. It’s not only disrespectful, but it could also cause you to miss an essential piece of information or not being an active participant.

The other way to effectively use your time is to get creative. Let’s say that you’re sitting in a waiting room for an appointment or meeting. There might be a TV with a talk show that you stare at because it’s there. Or, you could get sucked into mindless social media nonsense. Either way, that time you were sitting, there could have been used to catch-up on your emails or the latest industry news.

3. Schedule it, do it and forget it.

“No one can multitask, even people who pride themselves on their ability to do so,” writes Angela Ruth in a previous Calendar article. Research shows that multitasking cuts efficient and even raises risks.

“Avoid the temptation to multitask by scheduling time to handle batches of small tasks throughout the day,” suggests Angela. “For example, set one time during the morning and one time during the afternoon to answer emails, then ignore the inbox outside those windows. Schedule a couple of short breaks to avoid burnout and maintain focus.”

What’s more, you can eliminate indecisiveness “by setting deadlines on when to make final choices.” It could be as simple as making a phone call to a vendor by Friday morning or settling on a flight in the next 10 minutes. “Get into the habit of acting on available information to cut down on unnecessary balking. If the decision isn’t correct — you can pivot just as quickly.”

4. Become a master-batcher.

Speaking of multitasking, did you know that productivity decreases by 40% when we attempt to focus on more than one thing at a time? That’s because according to Peter Bregman

In a piece for The Harvard Business Review, we’re not multitasking. “We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process.”

The most effective way around this is not just focusing on one thing at a time. It’s grouping similar tasks together and knocking them out at the same time. Instead of checking your email and social media feeds every time you receive a notification, don’t allow yourself to check more than three times a day. Check once before jumping into work, right after lunch, and at the end of your workday.

5. Pencil in time for distractions and interruptions.

Batching is also a great way to handle distractions. Turn your phone off while working and don’t worry that you’re missing something important. You’ll be confident in this action because you know you’ve planned to check your phone when it’s time. However, no matter how hard you try, distractions and interruptions are inevitable.

One way to manage these distractions is to add blocks of free time into your schedule. So, if a co-worker wants to speak with you, let them know that you currently not available to chat. But you can talk to them at one pm.

Another perk of this is if there’s an emergency. For example, you were zoned in on your work when suddenly a frantic knock on your door interrupts you. A colleague lets you know that the company network has been compromised. Something this important needs your immediate attention. Once it’s resolved, you can use that free block of time to go back to work without completely getting your schedule off-track.

6. Stop biting off more than you can chew.

There are a variety of reasons why you may be tempted to overextend yourself. At work, you pick-up extra hours or take on a new project because you want the extra money or don’t want to upset your boss. Socially, you accept every social invite because of FOMO.

The reality is that if you already have a full schedule, spreading yourself too thin could have some repercussions like scheduling conflicts or delivering subpar work. And, as previously discussed, it prevents you from focusing on your priorities.

7. Add “no” to your vocabulary.

“I honestly believe that the main reason why time is an issue for so many of us is that we can’t say ‘no’ says Howie Jones. “We can’t turn out an invite to an unproductive meeting or social event. And, we can’t tell others that we already have enough work to focus on and can’t take on any more responsibilities.”

The downside to this is that if you’re always saying “yes,” “then you’re letting other people take control of your time.”

While I get why “no” isn’t a word we like to say, you don’t want anyone to be offended; it has to become a part of your vocabulary. And, you can accomplish that, without ticking anyone off, y doing the following:

  • Be transparent and upfront. Don’t lie or make excuses. People will understand if you’ve already made a social commitment or have a full workload.
  • Don’t initially fully commit. “Let’s say someone invites you to lunch. You don’t have to accept or reject the request immediately,” adds Jones. “Tell your caller that you have to check your calendar and you’ll get back to them before the end of the day tomorrow.”
  • Offer alternative solutions. You may be booked solid for the next two weeks. If there are openings three weeks from now, ask your client to meet then, for example. If not, refer them to a colleague.
  • Always be polite and professional. “Simply saying ‘thanks’ can go a long way.”

8. Develop your emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence can be defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” What does that have to do with time management? Well, EI can assist you with problem-solving, calm you down, and improve your communication skills — all of which can be applied to time management. For example, when you frustrated, it’s almost impossible to give your full attention to the task you’re currently working on.

Moreover, those with strong EI possess qualities like not being a perfectionist and being able to balance life and work. Also, EI can help you establish boundaries, maintain motivation, and be more aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are.

Overall, improving your EI can help you stay focused on completing your most productive tasks. Make sure that functions are aligned with your goals.

9. Learn how to delegate and outsource.

Remember the Eisenhower Matrix that you used to help you determine your priorities? If you recall, it also encouraged you to hand-off specific responsibilities to others. These are usually essential tasks that aren’t exactly worthy of your time.

For example, you could hire a service to clean your home or office. Spend the saved time on more productive areas like building your business or spending time with your family. If you don’t enjoy writing, but there’s an employee who does, you could ask them to take over your company’s blog.

Just keep in mind that delegation isn’t handing off all of your responsibilities to someone else. It’s assigning the right work to the right people so that you can open up sometime in your schedule.

10. Find a time management technique that works for you.

Finally, experiment with different time management techniques that work best for you. I’ve mentioned the Eisenhower Matrix several times. While that could be helpful for a lot of people, it may not be sufficient for you. Instead, approaches like the Pomodoro Technique, Getting Things Done Technique, Rapid Planning Method, or Pareto Principle may be better suited for you.

Don’t expect you to solve all of your time management issues overnight. It’s a process that involves some trial and error. And, most importantly, it’s continually working on and improving upon your skills until you get it just right.

How to Collaborate, Engage, and Influence Others Using the SCARF Model

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How to Collaborate, Engage, and Influence Others Using the SCARF Model

Growing up surrounded by technology, Millennials and Zoomers take for granted how intimidating and overwhelming this can be for different generations. Case in my point, my father. I’m not sneering here — but he’s a Boomer and still has trouble navigating his smartphone — he can barely store new contacts.

Over the years, I have literally sat next to him and given him step-by-instructions — the same ones — over and over. He still misuses his phone. Eventually, he just ignores my feedback and gives me the briefest of cold shoulders.

Initially, I took his actions way too personally. Here I was trying to help him and this was his reaction? Not cool.

The thing is, after some time, I could empathize with my old man. I’ve also been frustrated or standoffish when someone has offered advice or feedback. My guess is that we all have felt a little threatened under the correction and instruction of others.

But don’t just take my word on this. Research has backed this claim up—specifically, the work of neuroscientist Dr. David Rock and his SCARF model.

What is the SCARF model?

Back in 2008, Dr. Rock, who I think has one of the coolest names ever, published the paper “SCARF: A Brain-Based Model for Collaborating With and Influencing Others.” In it, he outlines the five key “domains” that influence our behavior in social situations.

  • Status — our relative importance to others.
  • Certainty — our concerns about predicting the future.
  • Autonomy — a sense of control over events.
  • Relatedness — how safe we feel when around others.
  • Fairness — the perception of fairness between people.

Dr. Rock just didn’t grab this out of thin air. He based his research on previous neuroscience research to come to the following themes.

“Firstly, that much of our motivation driving social behavior is governed by an overarching organizing principle of minimizing threat and maximizing reward,” he wrote. “Secondly, that several domains of social experience draw upon the same brain networks to maximize reward and minimize threat as the brain networks used for primary survival needs.”

“In other words, social needs are treated in much the same way in the brain as the need for food and water,” he clarifies. “The SCARF model summarizes these two themes within a framework that captures the common factors that can activate a reward or threat response in social situations.”

Additionally, the SCARF model “can be applied (and tested) in any situation where people collaborate in groups.” Social events, family gatherings, education environments, and all workplace settings are all fair game.

How the SCARF model affects the workplace.

Confused? Don’t be. The main takeaway is that the foundation of this model is all about minimizing threats and maximizing rewards.

For example, you weren’t invited to a team meeting or after-hours event. You might view that as a threat to your status and relatedness. As a result, that might can stimulate the part of the brain where physical pain resides.

When you receive negative feedback, like customer reviews or the mistakes you’ve made, that releases cortisol, aka the “stress hormone.” By responding to this threat, your survival response is triggered. As a consequence, this can:

  • Speed up your heart rate and increase blood pressure.
  • You’re tenser and on edge.
  • Decrease creativity and focus.
  • Reduce the ability to solve problems.
  • Make it more difficult to communicate and collaborate.

On the flip side, when you feel rewarded, like being acknowledged and celebrated for your work, your brain releases dopamine, aka the “happy hormone.” In turn, this increases blood flow to the brain. And, when this occurs, you’ll be more creative, focused, and receptive to fresh insights and ideas.

Also, because you’re floating on top of cloud 9, you’ll want to be rewarded again. So, this motivates you to keep putting your best foot forward.

How to use the SCARF model.

Overall, the SCARF model can be used to collaborate, engage, and influence others. But, to make that possible, let’s explore how you can use each domain of the model.

Status

“Status is about relative importance, ‘pecking order’ and seniority,” writes Dr. Rock. “Humans hold a representation of status in relation to others when in conversations, and this affects mental processes in many ways.” For instance, when you win a game, you feel better than your opponents, which in turn increases dopamine levels.

As a leader, you can maximize rewards through regular paise and celebrating wins — regardless of how big or small. You can also give them a chance to voice their opinions and learn new skills.

To eliminate threats, never take credit for their hard work or dismiss their ideas. Furthermore, you may want to skip the performance reviews and let them evaluate their own performance.

Certainty

Since the brain is a “pattern-recognition machine,” it craves certainty. “Without prediction, the brain must use dramatically more resources, involving the more energy-intensive prefrontal cortex, to process moment-to-moment experience,” adds Rock. In fact, even the slightest hint of uncertainty can generate “an ‘error’ response in the orbital frontal cortex.”

Why’s that a problem? When this occurs, it diverts our attention away from our goals. And, we’re more focused on correcting the error.

How leaders provide certainty in an uncertain world? Well, here are some top suggestions;

  • Establish crystal clear guidelines and expectations.
  • Break down larger goals or projects into smaller, more manageable chunks.
  • Agree on desirable deadlines and outcomes with the entire team.
  • Create an agenda, so that meeting attendees know what to expect.
  • Be transparent and share relevant information.
  • Set boundaries by having consistent operating hours.

When change does inevitably happen, you can manage it and reduce threats by;

  • Declaring your vision change.
  • Follow the “3 C’s,” which are communicate, collaborate, and commit.
  • Identify your All-Stars and get them on board.
  • Keep stress at a minimum and boost morale by celebrating milestones.
  • Reduce change fatigue by building trust and making sure everyone has a sense of belonging.
  • Follow through with your plans, but be flexible.
  • Measure and analyze metrics and KPIs to see if you’ve reached your goals.

Autonomy

Autonomy is the perception of exerting control over one’s environment; a sensation of having choices,” explains Rock. The less autonomy we have, the more a situation is perceived as a threat. When we feel like we have control, this activates the reward structures of the brain.

In order to minimize threats, encourage ownership among your team. When you do, this will tap into their intrinsic motivation. And, you can accomplish this by;

  • Encourage your team members to ask questions and express their opinions.
  • Let your team members chose how they’ll complete a task or solve a problem.
  • Permit flexible schedules.
  • Learn how to delegate effectively.
  • Provide constructive feedback.
  • Let them show off their strengths and talents.
  • Make sure that they always have the right tools and resources.
  • Build trust by not micromanaging your team.
  • Use mistakes as learning opportunities.

Relatedness

“Relatedness involves deciding whether others are ‘in’ or ‘out’ of a social group,” Rock states. It’s also “a driver of behavior in many types of teams, from sports teams to organizational silos: people naturally like to form ‘tribes’ where they experience a sense of belonging.”

In short, we want to be a part of a group. When we have this sense of belonging, this releases oxytocin. When we don’t, this can block empathy and diminish creativity.

The answer to encouraging relatedness? Creating a connected culture. You can do this through team-building activities, scheduling one-on-ones, or having team lunches. Other recommendations would be making them feel psychologically safe, providing mentorship opportunities, and showing gratitude.

Fairness

Lastly, we prefer a sense of equity and equality in group settings. When we’re faced with an injustice, this sets off a strong threat response. In fact, this might make us feel disgusted.

To promote fairness, always be transparent when making decisions. For example, a team member was promoted because they have exceeded expectations, like surpassing a sales quota or obtaining a certificate. Moreover, you must practice diversity and inclusion.

Autonomy, celebrating accomplishments, and having a culture built on shared values all can achieve this as well. And, always treat everyone with the same level of respect. For example, if you planned to meet an employee for lunch at noon, don’t arrive at 12:30.

Approaching Walk-Ins as an Appointment-Based Business

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Approaching Walk-Ins as an Appointment-Based Business

How does your appointment-based business work to meet the needs of your customers? Do you have an appointment-only policy, or do you handle a mixture of walk-ins and appointments daily?

Many businesses operate by scheduling appointments, such as healthcare providers, spas, salons, and veterinary clinics, to name a few. Having an appointment serves both the client and the business in several ways. First, the client knows when they come into the business, they have a specific time to be seen. It can also make several things within the business structure easier to manage. Understanding things such as staffing, planning out your day, and revenue expectations are just a few examples. 

The problem with an appointment-only approach is that it does not account for late customers and no-shows. That last one is no small matter: one study found that up to 42% of customers skip their appointments.

By allowing for walk-ins, your business can fill the gaps in your schedule that those missed appointments leave behind. You can also add revenue, gain new customers, and create future brand loyalty. 

Although walk-ins can offer great benefits, they can also interrupt what your business had planned for the day. If you don’t manage them properly, walk-ins can result in longer wait times and poor customer service. So how do you manage time slots for walk-ins within your appointment-based business?

The following six tips can help you approach walk-ins in the best possible way:

1. Use Online Appointment Software

Walk-ins wouldn’t be a problem if you accepted all clients on a first-come, first-served basis. But you’re an appointment-based business. By and large, you want to know when people intend to arrive and when you’ll be serving them.

To determine how to work in walk-ins among existing appointments, you need to know when those appointments are scheduled. When you utilize online appointment software, you’ll be able to see all your appointments at a glance. You can also update your appointment calendar in real time so that if a spot opens up, you’ll know right away. That will enable you to give a walk-in the “Sure, I can fit you in at ___ p.m.” response they want to hear.

2. Leverage Social Media

When you get a last-minute appointment cancellation, that empty slot on your calendar could mean lost revenue. That is, unless you hop on your social channels and let your followers know, pronto, that there’s an opening they can take advantage of.

Social media lets you reach your customers in real time at no cost to you. You can also include booking buttons on your social media pages to encourage your fans to book an appointment via your online scheduling software. Maybe a customer can’t capitalize on the opening you just posted on Facebook, but seeing that post — and having ready access to your scheduling system — could prompt them to book an appointment at a time that works for you both.

3.  Track Your Walk-ins

One way to begin formulating a plan for handling your walk-ins is to keep tabs on them. Taking note of how many clients arrive late or are no-shows is helpful in scheduling, as is tracking walk-ins. Recording the average number of walk-ins and their timing over the last week or month lets you see patterns you can plan for. 

To account for these walk-ins, you might leave a few extra spots in your schedule. And don’t just track these numbers once. Continuing to audit your schedule for various appointment types will also reveal patterns at different times of year.

4. Set Off Some Time for Walk-ins

Depending on your type of business, having a dedicated block of time for walk-ins can be key. Take what you’ve learned from tracking your appointment types to look for trends. Are there days or hours where there are often gaps in appointments? If so, try to promote walk-ins during these times to boost your business during slower periods

You might add “Walk-ins welcome: Tuesdays, 2-4 p.m.” to your sidewalk sign. Or you could use your website and social media channels to advertise times when you accept walk-ins. As noted, social media is a great place to promote open time slots. It’s free to post, and those who follow you tend to be customers already.

5. Account for Staffing

Depending on your business, the walk-ins you see will vary. A nail salon or quick haircut salon will likely see more walk-ins than, say, a dentist or attorney. Relatively low-cost services in areas with high foot traffic tend to bring more walk-ins. 

Because you’ve tracked your walk-ins, you’ll have an idea of how many time slots to hold open for impromptu customers. Knowing the number of slots will, in turn, let you know how many employees you will need to accommodate them. 

Some salons might dedicate newer employees for walk-ins while established employees take the clients with appointments. This can help accommodate walk-ins while retaining loyal customers. It also gives a new stylist the chance to meet potential repeat customers who will request them in the future.

6. Disclose Wait Times to Walk-ins

It’s important to treat walk-ins the same as you would customers with appointments. If you want them to have a positive experience and return, don’t treat them like an inconvenience. Encourage them to stay, but be honest about potential wait times. 

If you are currently booked solid, let them down gently. Apologize that you can’t take them right away and show them the next available times in your calendar. If they would like to make an appointment for one of those time slots, help them do that.

Following these tips can help your business begin to manage tricky walk-ins. As with any aspect of business, results tend to flow in the areas you spend time focusing on. By tracking your walk-in customers and leveraging technology to help integrate walk-ins and appointments, you’ll soon have a better handle on your scheduling logistics. And that will let you get back to what you love to do — serving your customers.

Build Your Energy, Build Your Productivity

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Build Your Energy, Build Your Productivity

There is a direct line between energy and productivity. When you feel zapped, you just aren’t going to get as much done. But, unlike time, there are ways to build your energy levels.

What happens when you achieve this? You’ll surpass expectations because you’re a lean, mean productivity machine. And, it’s really not all that difficult if you do the following.

Get the best sleep ever.

I know this is a give-in. But, so many of us aren’t getting enough sleep each night. Some of us are even engaging in some revenge bedtime procrastination.

The ugly truth is that sleep deprivation can have serious consequences. In addition to a lack of energy, you could experience everything from mental health disorders to physical ailments like cardiovascular disease. Other symptoms include poor decision-making, reduced attention span, and burnout.

The good news? You can treat yourself to the best sleep ever by;

  • Setting a sleep schedule based on your circadian rhythm.
  • Making your bedroom resemble a cave — it should be cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Gradually power down by avoiding electronics at least an hour before bed.
  • Cutoff coffee at least six hours before bedtime.
  • Wear socks to bed.
  • Implement an evening routine that involves progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Investing in a new mattress, pillows, and bedding.

Also, it’s alright if you take a nap as well. Just keep it under 20-minutes and not too late in the afternoon.

Fight fatigue with the right diet.

A close second to getting a good night’s rest? What you’re eating and when. Here are some suggestions courtesy of the Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia;

  • Stay hydrated, but don’t backlog water at the end of the day if you don’t want to wake up all night. Stop drinking water about four hours before bed.
  • Have carbohydrate-rich breakfast foods such as cereals or wholegrain bread for breakfast.
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Eat healthy foods, like fruits and veggies. You can also enjoy low-fat dairy products and lean meats.
  • Try eating six-mini meals as opposed to three large meals to prevent overeating.

Close open-loops.

“Is there something you’ve had on your mind for weeks, months, or maybe even years that you haven’t completed?” asks Amanda Bucci. For example, have been putting off that dentist or doctor appointment? How about that package that requires a trip to the post office?

These are called “open loops. And, even though you don’t realize it, they quietly drain a lot of energy out of you. Why? Because they occupy valuable space in your subconscious.

“Instead of wasting effort by having your brain remind you of that thing you haven’t done, take an hour, day, or week to close the loop and do that thing,” advises Bucci.

Don’t be shady.

Even novice comic book fans know that Superman is powered by the yellow sun. But, you don’t have to be from Krypton to also harness the power of the sun.

Case in point, seasonal affective disorder. Many people feel more lethargic during the colder months of the year because they aren’t exposed to much natural light. Remember the tanning bed if you occasionally need it.

However, a study done by Prof Mirjam Muench, associate research professor for the Sleep/Wake Center in New Zealand, further verifies the need for natural sunlight. He compared the effects of natural and artificial lights. The result was that those who worked under fluorescent lighting were more tired at the end of the day.

Those who were fortunate enough to work somewhere with natural or blue (wavelength) lighting? They were actually more active after the workday.

Take a grateful stroll.

Another way to soak up the sun? Go outside for a walk — even during the winter. As an added perk, this gets your body moving and gives you a chance to clear your head.

But, you can bolster your daily walk by practicing gratitude.

Going for a 10-minute “thank you” walk is a technique that “combines the power of gratefulness with the positive effects of walking and exercise,” explains Jon Gordon, a professional speaker, energy coach, and author of Become an Energy Addict. As a result, this floods “your brain with happy neurotransmitters and endorphins.”

“It’s a simple yet powerful exercise that energizes the mind and body and builds mental and physical muscle,” Gordon adds.

Stop hanging out with wet rags.

We are social creatures. A 79-year-old-Harvard study even found that embracing community helps us live longer and be happier.

However, not all relationships are equal.

Carve out some alone time and reflect on your relationships. If there are people who are toxic and draining, remove them from your life. And, spend more time with those who are positive, supportive, and give you a jolt of energy.

Keep stress and workload at bay.

“Stress-induced emotions consume huge amounts of energy,” notes Harvard Health Publishing. “Talking with a friend or relative, joining a support group, or seeing a psychotherapist can all help diffuse stress.” You can also try relaxation therapies, such as meditation, self-hypnosis, yoga, and tai chi.

Another culprit? Overwork. Examples “include professional, family, and social obligations,” adds the publication.

“Try to streamline your list of ‘must-do’ activities,” the authors suggest. “Set your priorities in terms of the most important tasks. Pare down those that are less important.”

Also, don’t hesitate to ask for help or delegate some of your responsibilities. And, don’t feel guilty if you have to say “no.”

Set reminders to look away and stretch.

Staring at a computer screen for too long can cause eye fatigue, which eventually can cause headaches, dizziness, and overall exhaustion,” says Adina Smarandache, an internist at Scripps Coastal Medical Center in San Diego. The answer? Live by the rule of 20.

Here’s how it works, set a timer or reminder for every 20 minutes. At this time, stare at a spot 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It’s a simple way to refresh your eyes, which will also rejuvenate your body.

And, while you’re taking a quick break, use that time to stretch. Whether if it’s an upward stretch or elbow plank, doing this pose. realigns your body and gets your blood circulating.

Put your records on.

The great Ray Charles once said, “Music is powerful. As people listen to it, they can be affected. They respond.”

And, he was naturally correct.

Music is, in fact, an incredible force of nature. In fact, music has been found to;

  • Help you become more immersed in your work.
  • Improve cognition and mood.
  • Move your brain to pay attention.
  • Boost both mental and physical performance.
  • Encourage you to work faster and more efficiently.
  • Increase morale and work environment.

While listening to your favorite songs can release dopamine, just note that there are exceptions. For instance, listening to intelligible lyrics can be distracting.

Get your clutter under control.

A little bit of clutter? Not the worst thing in the world.

But, too much? It can negatively impact your mental and physical health.

All that dust can be terrible for your allergies. Piles of paperwork can cause anxiety, stress, and procrastination. No wonder people describe clutter as “suffocating.”

While it may not be the most thrilling of chores, you need to block out time to clean and organize your workspace. At home, donate or sell the clothes you no longer wear in your closet. And, even clean out your inbox and computer files.

Don’t overwhelm yourself though. Take baby starts.

For example, in-between a meeting, wipe down your desktop and toss the trash. During your next break, organize a drawer. Before you know it, you’ll have your entire work area fresh, clean, and free of clutter.

Common Obstacles for Appointment Booking and How to Tear Them Down

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Common Obstacles for Appointment Booking and How to Tear Them Down

There are appointment booking obstacles in the way of every business and new customers. Identifying these obstacles and breaking them down is how companies are able to promote growth and deliver quality products and services to consumers. 

Appointment-based businesses have their own unique struggles when it comes to getting new customers to book their first appointment. Below are some of the most common obstacles for customers when it comes to appointment booking. 

Commitment Issues

Committing to an appointment time is a struggle for some people. Maybe they have an unpredictable schedule, so making a commitment seems impossible. 

It could also be that your available openings do not fit their schedule. Perhaps you need to specify one night a week that you’ll accept evening appointments or open at 8 a.m. each day to catch customers before they start their workday. Figuring out how to accommodate customers’ varying schedules will help you fill up your bookings and keep everybody happy.

Committing to your business is also a factor that may give customers pause. Booking an appointment isn’t like entering a grocery store or eating at a restaurant. The appointment process requires more information to be given out and a relationship to be established. If a customer isn’t ready to make that commitment to your business, they won’t be booking an appointment any time soon. 

How do you help customers get over their commitment issues? Maybe you need to improve your online rating or focus on getting more referrals. Word-of-mouth advertising is a powerful tool when it comes to convincing customers to give your business a try. Trust is already established through a friend or family member who speaks well of your services. 

Poor Accessibility

If you’re not using online appointment software yet, you’re missing out. A big deterrent for new customers is an obstacle-strewn path to booking an appointment. If customers have to find a time to call in — risking an unanswered phone or being put on hold for an indefinite period of time — they’re more likely to try their luck as a walk-in (if that).

Online appointment software resolves that issue easily. Online bookings are open 24/7, meaning a customer can book an appointment on their own at their convenience. They can even look at daily availability on the off chance they find an extra hour in their day when they can sneak in an appointment. 

Of course, you should also continue to accept phone bookings for those who prefer to call in. It may be that a portion of your customer base doesn’t have reliable internet access, or your online system could go down temporarily. The more appointment-booking options you offer, the more accessible your business will be.

No Perceived Need

If you’re being super accommodating with those walk-ins, chances are you’re hurting your appointment rates. Many customers won’t bother booking an appointment if they know they can just show up and get in during the next opening. However, too many walk-ins create a lot of variables that can slow down your operations and cause unneeded chaos.

If you want your customers to book appointments — and thus make your operations run more smoothly — limit the number of walk-ins you accept each day. Set clear guidelines so customers understand why they need to book an appointment. 

Your no-show policy will also impact appointment bookings for your business. If you have a lax no-show policy, you might get more bookings, but cancellations will frequently ruin your day. In addition, a high no-show rate might encourage even more walk-ins hoping to land a spot left behind by a last-minute cancellation. 

Poor Strategy

This obstacle is put up by businesses themselves. If you have a poor appointment strategy, you’re just making life more difficult for yourself. To encourage more appointment bookings, you’ll need to revamp your approach to meet customers where they are.

Start with your online presence. Do your website and social media pages clearly state information about appointment booking? Using technology in this way makes it clear to customers where they can book an appointment and how easy the process is. 

Next, take a look at your customer acquisition plan. Are you targeting the right audience? Is your marketing reaching them in the right place? Find the sweet spot with your acquisition strategy, and you’ll find more customers who are ready to book appointments with you. 

Faulty People Skills

The common denominator with appointment bookings across industries is human interaction. Even if a customer books their appointment online, they’ll come into contact with a receptionist or other employee at some point. If they’re treated poorly, you’ll never hear from them again.

Make sure your entire team is well-trained in customer service skills and habits. This is just as important for your mechanics and hair stylists as it is for representatives that handle phone calls. Answering one question the wrong way may cost your business an appointment booking. 

If you don’t know where to start with your customer service training, add a survey to the messages customers receive upon completion of their appointment. Their feedback will highlight exactly where your team members excel and where they need to improve. This will help you better train for customer service skills as well as gauge customer needs in other areas. 

Analyze your business and look for cracks in its foundation. What needs to be improved to make appointment booking easier and more desirable for customers? Once you’ve pinpointed those needs and resolved glaring issues, there will be fewer hurdles for customers to jump on their way to your waiting room. 

How to Build Accountable Work from Home Teams

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How to Build Accountable Work from Home Teams

Even though technology has made working remotely possible, it was still a luxury for most employees. In fact, under 5 million worked at home before 2020. And, as you know, a global pandemic changed all that.

Since then, 62% of employed Americans have reported that they have worked from home during the crisis. And, no matter what happens, a majority of them would prefer to do so.

Because of this, leaders have had to step up their game. They’ve had to get used to communicating and collaborating virtually. And, even more challenging, they’ve had to learn to trust their team members.

How to Build Accountable Work from Home Teams

Unlike being in an office where you would expect to see your people working, you’ve had to believe that they’re doing the same thing at home. You’ve also had to learn that they need flexibility in order to meet both their professional and personal demands.

The good news? You can still build an accountable work from home team. When you do, you’ll still meet deadlines, while earning the trust of your team members.

Create a team-facing work-from-home policy.

“You need a solid work-from-home policy that plainly lays out how your remote team operates,” writes Jeremy Elder for Hubstaff.” It should also cover “what you ask of your teams when they’re working away from the office.”

Why? That’s easy. “Employees can’t deliver what you want unless they understand what you expect of them,” explains Elder.

When developing this policy, however, make sure that’s just not a list of procedural steps. It should be something that “inspires and educates on why your strong remote work culture is a reflection of the larger mission and values of your business.”

Elder adds that a solid remote work policy will answer the following questions:

  • Who can work from home?
  • When and how often can they work from home?
  • Who approves remote work requests?
  • What equipment and amenities are required?
  • What security and privacy measures must be taken?
  • Is remote work completed on a flexible schedule, or must the team member complete work during specific hours?
  • What meeting standards must be met while working from home?

You may also want to address things like dress codes and meeting availability. And, you may also want to be flexible with deadlines. Even though your team is working remotely, they will still have to deal handle personal issues that may pop-up.

Not only will this keep your current team members productive, but you can also use this to attract talent. Why? Because 72% of talent professionals have stated that “flexible working and remote options are very important” when attracting new workers.

Get to know your team members.

Not everyone is cut out for remote work. Knowing this, you would bring on those who are. Unfortunately, that’s not how the cookie crumbles — just look at how the coronavirus made WFH a necessity.

As such, you should spend time with each of your team members. Find out where they’re struggling so that you can mentor or help them. For example, maybe they never had a proper workspace at home. If not, you could send them a standing desk or share resources on how to create a home office.

Additionally, this lets you know when they’re most productive. Let’s say you a team member who is a morning bird. You should anticipate that they need the AM to focus on work, so you might want to have a one-on-one with them in the afternoon. Also, you shouldn’t be frustrated if they’re not available at night.

And, this can also help you know the challenges that they’re facing. If bandwidth is an issue at a certain time, you may want to recommend other locations where they can work. Or, you could be flexible with their availability.

Don’t complicate communication and collaboration.

Try to streamline your communication and collaboration by limiting the number of tools that you use. It can get confusing switching back and forth with platforms. Even worse, your team members may misplace a piece of information because it was located in an Outlook email when Gmail is preferred.

At the minimum, you should create and manage a shared team calendar. It’s a simple way to remind everyone of due dates, map out projects, track progress, and schedule meetings. Other suggestions are:

  • Messaging platforms like Slack. Create both channels for work and non-work topics.
  • Project management software like Basecamp, Trello, or Monday.com. These can help you assign tasks, share files, and track progress.
  • Google Apps like Gmail and Docs for easier communication and collaboration.
  • Web conferencing tools like Zoom or Go2Meeting. These can aid in brainstorming, check-ins, and combat the loneliness of remote working. Just be aware of Zoom fatigue so that you and your team don’t get exhausted.

Set hard deadlines, but trust they’ll be met.

You don’t want to be a nuisance. However, you should frequently check-in with your team members to see how they’re progressing. Some leaders prefer a daily check-in, while others are cool with doing this weekly.

The reason? Just to make sure that there aren’t any hiccups. If so, you can either jump in and lend a hand or push back a deadline.

At the same time, if you’re set goals with hard deadlines, you won’t have to communicate with them as often. Why? Because deadlines make us feel the pressure of accountability and can counter procrastination.

Focus on output, not time-in-seat.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced more people to work from home. While some thrived, others had to adjust — particularly employers and managers. “One of the biggest holdbacks of remote work is trust — managers simply don’t trust their people to work untethered,” said Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. “They’re used to managing by counting butts in seats rather than by results. ”

As a consequence, employers embraced tools to monitor and track everything from keystrokes, email, app usage, and file transfers. They also used time tracking tools and screenshots.

The thing is, working remotely doesn’t mean you’re sticking to a traditional 8-hour workday. You might put in an hour or two, but then do laundry or homeschool your kids. Or, you may be more of a night owl and get most of your work done in the evening.

“I think there’s an opportunity here to learn how to be a manager that values output, not time-in-seat,” Natalie Nagele, cofounder of Wildbit, told Fast Company. “To me, the value of remote work is that trust and that ability to empower every person to manage their time, to manage their days and their responsibilities around an output.”

“We make a promise to each other,” adds Natalie. “I’m gonna deliver on this thing, and if I can’t deliver it to you, I’m going to communicate why.”

Provide (and solicit) feedback.

What happens if a project has been delivered and it’s not exactly what you wanted? Don’t belittle the person responsible. Instead, go over with them what they did wrong and how to improve.

On the flip side, ask them where you can improve. Maybe your instructions weren’t crystal clear. Now that you’re aware of this, you’ll set clear project expectations and guidelines going forward.

Know when it’s time to micromanage.

Make no mistake about it. Micromanagement drives employees crazy. That’s why you should grant autonomy and let them do their thing.

However, there will be times when this is necessary. Examples include:

  • Employee engagement has become stagnant.
  • Your company is going through a period of uncertainty.
  • Your business is changing direction.
  • You want to unleash the full potential of a team member.
  • The results have been disappointing.
  • There’s a new leader, employee, or unit.
  • You want to build a culture of collaboration.
  • Your business is venturing into new territory.
  • A project requires very specific results.
  • Your team is struggling with time management.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should interrupt your team when you know that they’re working or off-the-clock. Instead, it’s al about balancing micro and macro-management.

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