A Beginner’s Guide to Intuitive Calendar Management

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Calendar Management

Entrepreneurs and business professionals have a lot on their plates. There are forms to sign, meetings to attend, and a work-life balance that’s always teetering on edge. But, while the focus of business is almost always money at the end of the day, the real currency for businesspersons is time. The adage “time is money” is more true today than ever before.

If you can genuinely harness your time, there’s almost nothing you can’t accomplish. However, mastering time management is easier said than done. A lot of effort is required to manage time effectively, as well as a solid desire to structure your life and business with extra precision.

To satisfy the time management needs of every person possible, the calendar in its physical and digital forms was made. By learning better calendar management, you can make huge strides forward in your personal time management. Here is a beginner’s guide to help you get started:

Aim for Purpose and Results

When it comes to time management, everything you do should be intentional. Don’t just fill your calendar for the sake of looking busy. You will find a lot more success by aiming for a specific purpose and focusing on results.

One way to ensure that your scheduling remains intentional is to follow a tried-and-true planning method from a time management expert. For example, the Rapid Planning Method from renowned motivational speaker Tony Robbins is crafted with intentional time management in mind.

Use an Organizational System

Once you have a good idea of how you want to use your calendar to improve time management, you need to keep it nice. If you purchase a three-ring binder but fail to follow an organizational pattern, you’re not going to get much value out of it. However, if you’re utilizing a system by using things such as tabs and dividers, you’ll find the binder to be quite useful.

Your online calendar of choice will have various options and features you can use to stay organized. One of the most common and effective options available is color-coding. This will change how your events appear based on how you want to organize them. For example, you can match work events with your company’s logo to easily differentiate them from the rest of your schedule.

The great thing about online calendars is that they are highly flexible. You can use your own combination of color-coding and organize in a way that works specifically for you. Key points to remember are not doing too much and using a practical and memorable system. Too many colors can be challenging to keep track of.

Take Advantage of Recurring Events

As you’re setting up your calendar, note any repeat events you see. For example, you might have a team huddle every Monday morning or attend a spin class on Friday nights. Instead of manually inputting every single one of these events into your calendar, you can take advantage of recurring events.

When you set a recurring event, it pops up in your calendar at an automatic interval. This can be done for monthly, weekly, or even daily activities. This will save you a lot of time when planning out your schedule, as you don’t have to input the same event over and over again manually. This also will ensure that you never accidentally miss an event because you didn’t happen to add it to your calendar once.

Recurring events are also helpful for scheduling routines. You don’t always need to put a morning routine into your calendar, but doing so for a few weeks can help you adapt to a new schedule. For instance, if you’re moving from day shifts to night shifts, you might want to plan out the specifics in your calendar with recurring events until you’re used to the new schedule.

Learn How to Batch

At this point, you should have most of your calendar squared away. You can now start working on fine-tuning your calendar to make it work even better for you. One such thing you can learn to tune up your calendar is how to batch tasks. This will condense your calendar, making it appear less cluttered while still getting just as much done.

Most people batch tasks by starting with a to-do list. This is separate from the schedule that ends up in their calendar. Once you create a to-do list, you can organize each task by function and priority. This will give you batches of tasks that can be added to larger time blocks in your calendar instead of individual pieces that have you bouncing all over the place.

Don’t Forget Buffer Time

If you’re still concerned about how to fit everything into your busy schedule without overlapping, be sure not to forget about buffer time. Adding buffer time to all of your events can be a daily life saver. More often than not, you’ll be glad you included buffer time even if you didn’t need it.

Always leave some amount of time in between your meetings and events. For example, if you have back-to-back meetings, you might try and schedule them on the hour to fit them nicely into your calendar. Including 15 minutes of buffer time in between meetings will protect you if one meeting happens to run long and threatens to make you late for the next.

If you don’t need to use the buffer time, you can always have a backup plan for how you can use that time. For example, you can do some bonus prep as you move on to your next meeting, take care of some emails, or outline your next blog post. Of course, none of these tasks are urgent, but you might as well take advantage of any opportunities you find.

Who knew that something as simple as a Calendar could be used for so much. Simply using a calendar regularly is already a step in the right direction. Add these details along the way, and time management will begin to come naturally to you, and there won’t be anything you can’t achieve.

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4 Ways to Make Your Appointment-Based Business More Efficient

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more efficient

The best businesses in the world are always looking for ways to be more efficient. Efficiency saves both time and money for you and your customers. By making your appointment-based business more efficient, you can provide effective services to more customers while keeping your expense column at a manageable level. Even small adjustments to your business strategy can lead to massive improvements in your efficiency.

Try a few of these tips to make your appointment-based business more efficient:

1. Review Customer Info

For many appointment-based businesses, a lot of customer information needs to be recorded in order to provide the best service possible. At times it’s as simple as taking notes on a customer’s most recent service record, like for a haircut. Or it can be more complicated, like when a doctor’s office keeps track of local pharmacies, recent treatment plans, and medical history. Making sure customer info is accurate is essential for running a smooth operation.

You should be periodically reviewing customer information to confirm that it is up-to-date. You can do this by calling frequent customers to confirm that the basic information you have on file is still correct or by adding a prompt in your online booking program that asks customers to review their information with every visit.

If you need to send out a bill to a customer and don’t have the right address, that entire process can be slowed down by a matter of weeks. Complications can also arise from outdated payment methods, delayed name changes, or a simple clerical error that wasn’t caught immediately. Frequent review periods will keep such mishaps to a minimum.

2. Remove Duplicates

Another thing you should be reviewing routinely is your customer database. From time to time, you may accidentally find some duplicates in your system. This might occur when you add a new customer into your system and their second appointment comes several months or even a year down the road. They then register as a new customer even though they’ve made a previous visit.

Duplicate customer entries can bog down your system and software, especially if you let them pile up. If only one customer entry has the correct information, you could end up mixing up two entries, leading to a lot of complications when sending messages, checking in, or even providing service.

Consider making it part of your monthly checklist to skim through your customer list and look for duplicate entries to remove. When you discover a pair, be sure to keep the entry that is most recent with customer and appointment information. Verifying information with the customer is also a good idea — and a good opportunity to try and book them for a new appointment.

3. Digitize the Check-In Process

One of the most underrated aspects of your appointment-based business is its check-in process. Customers are expected to check in so that service providers can be ready for them. This is also how customers can confirm they’ve upheld their agreement by arriving at the predetermined time.

The check-in process should be as quick and as painless as possible for customers. A smooth check-in ensures that appointments can start on time or even early. Digitizing your check-in process will make everything easier for your customers as well as for yourself.

For starters, by checking in for an appointment through a mobile app or website, customers can look at current wait times to see if their appointment provider is running late. This information allows them to get something else done during their day rather than sitting in the waiting room for longer than anticipated. Online forms are also easier to fill out, and recurring customers can quickly verify their information without needing to wait in line at a desk.

4. Automate Messages and Reminders

If you’re experiencing a lot of late arrivals and no-show appointments, it might be because you’re not sending out effective reminder messages. Life can get crazy for everyone, and customers can easily forget an upcoming appointment as they juggle deadlines for work, errand lists, responsibilities at home, and more. A good reminder system will help them to uphold their commitment to your business, as well as make your appointments more efficient.

The beauty of an automated messaging system is that you don’t have to handcraft every single reminder you send to your customers. This will save your team a lot of time they would otherwise be spending on the phone or drafting tedious emails.

Customers will also be able to make their own adjustments to how they receive reminder messages. If they prefer to receive their reminders the day before an appointment, they can select that option through your online system. If they only need a reminder the week prior, this can be done with a single click rather than through a drawn-out process with a business associate.

When more efficient processes become a priority for your business, you’ll encounter fewer errors and roadblocks in your day-to-day operations. Start implementing some of these ideas right away, and soon you’ll see just how smoothly your business can run.

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The 13 Most Accessible Calendar Apps of 2022

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Accessible Calendar Apps

Is staying organized on your list of goals for the coming year? If so, it is essential to choose a time management app that offers the proper functionality for your needs.

Here are the topmost accessible calendar apps of 2022:

1. Calendar App

The Calendar App is unique in that it utilizes machine learning to help improve your productivity. For example, you can send a link to a colleague, and they can pick the best time for your next meeting without any additional correspondence. It also includes time tracking features, time zone availability, and more. What else makes this one of the best accessible calendar apps? You can analyze your schedule to see how your day is broken up by task type.

2. Google Calendar

There’s a reason why Google Calendar is trusted by millions of people around the globe. This robust program easily syncs across multiple devices, making it easy to track your entire day in one spot. Plus, it integrates with thousands of other apps, programs, and time tracking tools to really give you optimum productivity. It is also free.

3. Apple Calendar

Those who generally tend to lean towards Mac and iOS devices should consider Apple Calendar. Included as part of the iCloud platform, it comes automatically installed and integrates with your Apple Watch. Sadly, there is no Windows or Android option, but that isn’t a big deal for some people.

4. Outlook Calendar

If you’re familiar with Microsoft Office, then you’ll probably enjoy using Outlook Calendar. This product is automatically installed on Windows devices, but a separate iOS app and Mac program are available.

5. Calendly

Those who have clients regularly self-scheduling meetings or calls should consider Calendly. This app integrates with many other programs, including Zapier, Salesforce, Stripe, Zoom, and others. The app also integrates with your website, making it simple for customers or clients to set their own appointments within the structured time blocks you’ve set.

6. My Study Life

Students have a lot to keep track of during the week. Unfortunately, general calendar apps aren’t always as useful as they could be for improved productivity. Instead, My Study Life makes it simple to track class schedules, assignments, lectures, and more. As one of the few student planner apps on the market, it’s worth checking out.

7. Trello

While Trello itself isn’t precisely a calendar app, it does make it possible to see projects visually on a Kanban board. These digital cards allow you to easily see what’s due on a project and what state each step is in. Additionally, you can sync it to your existing Google, Apple, or Outlook calendar. This is especially handy as a tool for teams or those looking to increase productivity for specific projects.

8. Any.do

Those interested in a task management app that offers robust functionality should check out Any.do. More than just a calendar, it provides ways for you to balance your personal and business lives by offering task lists, grocery lists, trackers, and more. This is a good blend for balancing personal and business tasks during the week.

9. Cozi

If you’re looking for a family-friendly calendar program, then you’ll like Cozi. Designed as a lifestyle planner, the program is designed for users of all ages to keep track of household necessary tasks, events, and outings. Additionally, the easy-to-use interface is simple and effective for just about anyone to use.

10. OurHome

Families with little ones will adore the OurHome app. This calendar tool works great for adults, while a unique chore tracker makes checking off tasks fun for the kids. Best of all, it is available for both Android and iOS devices.

11. TeamUp

Managing groups of people is much easier with an app like TeamUp. This calendar program is specifically designed to keep individuals organized with what’s going on. Best of all, it is free for small groups, too.

12. Float

If you like visual planners, you’ll want to check out Float. Designed specifically for teams, it makes it simple to see where each person is on an individual project and what they have going on for a specific day. Additionally, you can log hours to ensure billing meets up with invoicing, payroll, etc.

13. Plan

It’s always a beautiful thing when project management and calendar apps come together. Plan allows you to assign tasks, check status, and work directly with your team to complete tasks. Additionally, it offers quite a bit of integration with other tools like Google Mail, Outlook, Github, Google Drive, and others.

Top Calendar Apps of 2022

Now that we’ve discussed the thirteen most accessible calendar apps, it is time to try them out for yourself. It might be hard to narrow it down to your favorite with so many features and integrations.

Here’s to a productive and stress-free coming year!

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How Your Appointment-Based Business Can Stay Competitive This Year

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Appointment-Based Business

There are numerous ongoing challenges entrepreneurs face when starting and running an appointment-based business. One of them is learning how to position yourself against the many competitors in your industry. Where there’s one business in a particular space, there are many others vying for the same customers.

There’s no perfect business formula that guarantees you’ll be the best appointment-based business on the block. However, the list of competitive methods you can use to boost your business is extensive. These are just a few effective ways you can make your own company stay relevant this year:

Provide a Simple Online Portal System

The easier it is for customers to make appointments, the more bookings you’ll fill. A complicated appointment scheduling process is not a system that will keep you competitive.

Take a look at your current online portal. Start by analyzing the layout of your website. You want everything to be straightforward and easy to find. The simpler your navigation, the better. Use clear, clickable action buttons that guide users through the booking process and enhance the user experience.

The overall design of your online portal is also important. Use colors that can easily be associated with your brand without being oppressive or hard on the eyes. You can also fill blank spaces with images or other designs to make your online portal more attractive.

Offer Incentives

With so many businesses in the hunt, it can be a challenge at times to differentiate yourself from the competition. You should always prioritize improving your services over anything else. You should also consider providing some complimentary features to put your business over the top. Offering incentives is one way your business can set itself apart.

Incentives are especially effective at bringing in new customers. Prospective customers might be lured to your business over the competition due to an ongoing promotion. If you run a hair salon, for example, you might offer a free styling product with every haircut. A service station could do a free tire rotation with every oil change. Once you get new clients through the door using incentives, you can wow them with your services to convince them to return.

Speaking of customer retention, you can implement an incentive program for that, too. Frequent visitors can accrue points for free services or other rewards. A referral program can get you new customers and simultaneously reward your existing customer base.

Offer Online Payment Options

Many customers today prefer to make payments online rather than in person. Making a payment online takes much less time than scanning a card at the front desk or counting out the cash in one’s wallet. This leads to shorter appointment times for customers, who will always appreciate the efficiency.

Online payments also mean you get your money faster. Sending customers bills after an appointment will result in lag time before you receive payment. Worse still, such bills require your staff to print them out and mail them, costing time and money. With online payments, you can receive your fee as an appointment is being booked, even before the customer arrives at your place of business.

To make your online payment options competitive, don’t include processing fees for people who choose to pay online. These sorts of fees can easily turn customers away. Also look for ways to include all of your customer’s preferred online payment options, such as accepting multiple types of credit cards or even top payment apps such as Paypal or Venmo.

Provide COVID Updates

There are still lots of consumers out there who are worried about the different strains of COVID-19. Be respectful of these customer concerns and look for ways to make your business accommodating to them while still operating at full capacity.

A simple way you can assist these customers and keep your appointment-based business competitive in 2022 is to provide COVID updates for your area. You can include these updates on your business website or using your brand’s social media pages. This will let customers know what measures you’re taking to limit the spread of the virus, such as requiring masks or limiting appointment bookings as cases rise.

Don’t just stop at COVID news. Use your business influence to provide updates on other noteworthy community events. For example, you can use your website and social media pages to advertise local events such as fundraisers, food drives, and more. Getting involved in the community allows you to draw closer to your local customers and create an emotional bond that competing businesses will envy.

The most important thing to remember for your appointment-based business is that in order to stay competitive, you cannot settle. If you start to coast, you leave room for one of your competitors to catch up to you. Continue to set goals for yourself and your business throughout 2022 and be willing to try new things. You will always find yourself in the pack of the best appointment-based businesses around.

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4 Risks When Scheduling Appointments Online and How to Avoid Them

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Scheduling Appointments Online

Online appointment software is one of the easiest ways you can keep your life in check. Scheduling appointments online takes much less time than doing so over the phone, saving you more time and businesses more money. The system is still less than perfect, though.

As great as online appointment software can be, anything done over the internet entails a few risks to keep in mind. You may share personal information when booking appointments, and you’ll need to take a few precautions to keep yourself safe. To help you do so, this guide will outline some of the common risks associated with scheduling appointments online and what you can do to keep them to a minimum.

Here are 4 Risks When Scheduling Appointments Online

1. Answering Potentially Irrelevant Questions

When you’re scheduling an appointment, especially for the first time, you’ll be asked a series of questions. Most of these will be standard questions (such as asking for your name) so you can reserve your appointment slot and easily verify your identity. However, you should be wary of questions that might be irrelevant or unnecessary for the business to ask.

For example, there aren’t many businesses that should require your Social Security number. Financial institutions are an example of an organization that would need your Social Security number, as well as a pediatrician looking to verify your guardianship of a child. That being said, you shouldn’t have to share such private information with vendors like your hair stylist or mechanic.

Oversharing can put your personal information at risk for identity theft and fraud. Other questions that could pose a threat to your identity include your place of work or even your address if the information simply isn’t necessary.

Before booking an appointment with a business that’s asking some curious questions, ask the business whether or not they require you to share this information. If it is optional, declining to provide it is a safer option. If it’s required, consider looking elsewhere for your services before making that commitment.

2. Using Public Wi-Fi

When you’re scheduling appointments online, be careful about the network you’re using. Public Wi-Fi leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to security. While it might be convenient to opt for public Wi–Fi over cellular data, it’s always safer to wait until you’re on a secure network before booking an appointment.

Nefarious figures can easily hack into public networks and swipe your personal information and location while you’re in the appointment booking process. Some people can even create false Wi-Fi networks you can connect to in public places and hand over your information without even realizing it.

Using cellular data is typically safer than using a public Wi-Fi network. Using your phone as a hotspot for another device is not as secure, but it is not encrypting the information you are sharing. If you are on the road and need to book an appointment, try to do so on your mobile device. Businesses with online appointment software enabled should have websites or scheduling apps that are compatible with smartphones.

3. Unsafe Browsing

If you have to use a public network for some reason, make sure you can verify its security and take as many safety precautions as possible before connecting. Additionally, there are certain cybersecurity measures that you should take even on a secure private network.

For example, saving your card information online is dangerous even if your home network is secure. The longer that information stays on the internet, the more opportunities there are for fraud and theft to occur. Autosaving other information such as your home address can also pose the same risk.

Safe browsing starts by being careful and prepared. While autosaving information certainly is convenient, especially when scheduling appointments online, remember how much safer it is to take a few extra seconds to manually input your personal info each time. Another thing to look for is a lock icon next to web addresses, as this will indicate whether the website you are using is secure or not.

4. System Errors

While not as catastrophic as someone stealing your information, even the best automated systems can experience a few hiccups. A single system error can ruin your entire appointment booking if you’re not paying attention to catch the mistake.

For example, if the online appointment scheduling system fails to synchronize with your personal online calendar, you can end up missing your appointment entirely since it won’t appear in your schedule and won’t send you any reminders. Besides having to reschedule, you could also be subject to missed appointment fees that will be difficult to dispute.

Other possible errors include misentered information, double bookings, and internet outages preventing people to finalize their appointments. Make sure you have a reliable internet connection and double-check all of the information you submit to keep such errors to a minimum.

Don’t let this guide dissuade you from relying on online appointment software with your business interactions. This software has a lot to offer, as long as you use it wisely.

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4 Ways to Make 2022 Better than 2021

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Make 2022 Better

To be quite frank, 2021 was a really tough year for just about everyone. There was a lot of hope that 2021 would improve as the world got a grip on the Covid-19 pandemic, but different variants and new problems arising made it just as much of a challenge. As the calendar turns to 2022, we’re all looking for a better year to come.

If you want to make 2022 better than 2021, you can’t just wait idly for things to improve. You have to look for opportunities and take them head-on. You can control the direction of your ship instead of allowing the storm to carry you off. This guide will help you prepare yourself for the best year of the decade so far:

1. Make Better Plans

The first thing you need to do is tighten up your time management skills. How you use your time will directly reflect upon the success you have in 2022. Using your Calendar to make better plans will keep you active and engaged every single day of the new year.

Start by scheduling out any upcoming events you already have planned. Work schedules, holiday events, doctor’s appointments, etc. This will give your Calendar some good bones to work with.

Next, look for ways to improve the plans you’ve made. Do you need to coordinate with your team better for an upcoming work meeting? Should you reschedule an appointment so that it doesn’t take up as much of your day, allowing you to be more productive? Small adjustments like this will really add up over the 365 days of the new year.

2. Change Your Mindset

You need to start 2022 off with the right mindset, or at the very least make an effort to keep a positive one. Sure that’s easier said than done, but if you start changing your mindset in January you’ll be a new person by December. It’s high time you got rid of the doom and gloom that’s taken up residence in your subconscious.

A simple method you can employ to try and change your mindset is to use daily affirmations. These are little mantras or phrases that you repeat to yourself to keep your mind clear and your spirits high. Negative thinking and self-talk won’t get you very far, as is very evident from the years past.

An example of a daily affirmation you can use is “I can do this”. Rather than assuming that the task at hand or the global situation is too difficult to handle, you quietly remind yourself that you are capable of so much more. Whisper this phrase to yourself enough and you’ll replace negativity and doubt with courage and drive.

3. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

The past few years it’s been a little too easy to resort to our comfort zones. Ever since sheltering in place during the beginning of Covid-19 we’ve been hesitant to dream, to do, and to discover. Getting out of your comfort zone won’t be easy, but it will set the stage for a colorful and fun year.

Take a look at the blank spaces in your Calendar and start brainstorming ways to fill them. Maybe it’s time you tried speed dating for the first time or considered taking a boxing class as part of your New Year’s resolution to get back in shape. Under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t dream of pursuing such activities, but you never know what you’re missing out on until you venture out into the unknown.

Getting out of your comfort zone is usually easier with a friend, especially if you’re moving out of your own comfort zone into theirs. For example, you might have a friend that’s an avid rock climber that’s willing to show you the ropes, literally and figuratively. You can coordinate times to go out with them and have a buddy to accompany you as you try new things.

4. Prioritize Yourself

Nothing is more important in 2022 than yourself. If you prioritize yourself this year, you’ll see lots of improvements, especially in your physical and mental well-being. Those two aspects of your life have likely been affected in a negative way due to Covid-19 and the other challenges of the past couple of years.

Look for ways to use your Calendar to put yourself first. This can be done by planning specific activities for personal development or creating habits and routines that promote wellness and growth. Here is a list of ideas you can use to fill up and utilize your Calendar while prioritizing yourself:

  • Make time to exercise every day
  • Develop a good sleep routine
  • Schedule a regular mental health day
  • Get counseling and guidance as needed from professionals
  • Set aside time for things you enjoy
  • Create a meal plan for healthier eating

Each one of these bullet points is an example of something you can do in 2022 to take care of yourself better. This will raise your mental and emotional health which will enable you to have a much more enjoyable year. Prioritizing yourself will also build a strong foundation for many years to come, not just the next 12 months.

Nobody can promise that the events of 2022 will be any better. However, you can take control of your destiny to make this year much better than the last no matter what happens. All it takes is some grit and determination even on the toughest of days. Of course, your Calendar has all the tools you need to make anything happen.

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4 Ways to Make 2022 Better than 2021 was originally published on Calendar by .

Get More Done with the DRY Principle

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Get More Done Dry Principle

Take a minute and think about your everyday tasks. I’m sure that many of them are likely to be repetitive and time-consuming — whether you’re working in an office or from home. But, is there a way to reduce this workload to get more done so that you’ll be productive instead of being busy?

Thankfully, there are several strategies you can try in order to get more done. Examples include the Eisenhower Matrix or the Pareto Principle. But, have you tried the DRY Principle?

What is DRY, and How Does it Work?

Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas, in their book The Pragmatic Programmer, coined the phrase “don’t repeat yourself” in 1999. They describe DRY as “Every piece of knowledge must have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system.”

In software engineering, DRY is a technique for reducing repetition in code. Coders streamline coding using a single, reusable source, aka “snippet,” whenever appropriate. Hence, the name, don’t repeat yourself.

As well as saving time, writing the same thing multiple times means that there is less room for human error. After all, if you make a mistake once, you’ll probably make it twice. Plus, if you decide to make any changes, you only have to do this one time.

The bottom line is that less code is good. It saves time and energy. It’s much easier to maintain. And, it also reduces the likelihood of bugs.

While the DRY Principle originally applied to software development, it can be adopted into other facets in order to get more done. For example, on a daily basis, how many emails do you send and receive? Essentially, you’re recreating the same structure with slightly different wording with each email. And, when you’re calendar is already booked, this can be very tedious.

DRY requires that you take note of all your actions throughout the day, one at a time. You can include tasks that are within the following categories in order to meet this requirement:

  • Unplanned events, such as a phone call from a client or urgent text from a colleague.
  • Monthly and yearly obligations, like annual reports and one-on-one meetings with team members.
  • Everyday routines and your top priorities.

Once you’ve compiled this list, you can determine which ones apply to the DRY Principle. From there, take note of how repetitive, time-consuming, and intimidating each one is, and mark them down. If the top candidates are DRY Principle qualifiers, you can automate as many of these as possible.

In some cases, you will not be able to automate all the duties. However, you can streamline certain parts to help you get more done.

Where Are You Repeating Yourself?

Have you ever used a system like Getting Things Done (GTD)? If so, the DRY Principle should be easy to understand as both follow a similar process. DRY, however, aims to avoid redundant processes.

To get started, keep a daily journal for at least a week. Then, you should track your time for a more accurate picture for a month or so. This allows you to take note of your routine tasks. But, this should also help you identify less frequent occurrences as well.

Here are some pointers you can use while tracking your time.

  • Add unplanned or unscheduled tasks, like responding to a client’s email.
  • Keep track of monthly and annual tasks. Examples of these are quarterly reports, audits, invoicing, and tech maintenance.
  • Ask others what their routine tasks are to fill in any gaps.

Hopefully, you now have a bird’s-eye view of your tasks. Next, you need to decide which tasks are best suited to DRY.

You can do this using whatever tools you rely on to track your tasks. For example, you can create tags or labels for each category in your to-do list or time-tracking app. The categories can then be added as columns in a spreadsheet. Or, you can go old school and write them down with a pen and paper.

To make this process easier, hone in on the corresponding categories;

  • Pain points. These would be the activities that you dread so much that they cause you to procrastinate
  • Bottlenecks. Which tasks are bogging down the rest of your day?
  • Tasks that require a lot of time. Review your time-tracking results and determine which tasks consume most of your time.
  • Work that repeats itself. Which tasks do you find yourself doing over and over?

As a result of categorizing your tasks, you can now identify which tasks are suitable for DRY. DRY is most likely to benefit tasks with a repetitive nature. You can eliminate repetitive tasks from your list if they aren’t essential so that you can focus on what’s important.

Create Templates

After discovering where you’re repeating yourself, you can now find ways to eliminate them so you can get more done. And, perhaps the most accessible place to start is through templates.

In most cases, templates are blank documents that need to be filled in. You can either create one from scratch or download a premade online. Regardless, templates will save you time since you’re no longer constantly creating emails, invoices, or calendars every day.

Generally speaking, templates are most needed in the following areas:

  • Emails. Office workers receive an average of 121 emails each day. As a result, there’s a possibility you’re sending the same emails repeatedly. You can create your own template by removing all the personal information and saving it for later use.
  • Internal communications. Examine your most recent communications and search for patterns. Even a minimal template can ease your stress and save you time.
  • External documents. Contracts, proposals, invoices all seem to look the same. However, when you remove the information specific to your clients and partners, you’ll have a template to use, and you can customize it as needed.
  • Presentations. Prepare a presentation template if you deliver more than one presentation a year. Then, regardless of how different each presentation appears, the basic structure can remain the same.

One more thing with templates. You should consider them as non-static documents. You should, therefore, update the template if you notice that you’re always making the same changes.

Automate Routine Tasks

During the course of your workday, you perform several repetitive tasks. But, what business tasks should you consider automating?

For starters, scheduling appointments. It’s easy to schedule appointments with calendar apps. You can send your calendar via email or link it to your website. You can now show others your availability so they can select a time and date that works for them. Once chosen, the event will be automatically added to schedules for all attendees.

Sorting and responding to emails, posting to social media, and filling out online forms can also be automated. This is also true for proposals, invoicing, customer service, and data backup.

You may only have to spend a couple of minutes on each task. But they add up quickly and divert your attention.

Follow the 30x Rule

Until now, we’ve only discussed the many ways you can leverage tools and messages to save time. However, DRY can also be useful in your daily activities.

“Most managers would think it’s crazy to spend 2.5 hours training someone to do a 5-minute task because they think ‘it would just be faster to do it myself,” notes Management consultant Rory Vaden. “That is because most managers are stuck in classic ‘urgency’ thinking of only evaluating their tasks inside of the construct of one day.”

“In which case, it never makes sense to spend 2.5 hours training someone to do a task that they could do themselves in just 5 minutes,” says Vaden.

According to Vaden, you should allocate 30X that amount of time to train others for any task that can be delegated and repeated. For example, a five-minute task delegated and trained for 2.5 hours will save you 1100 minutes (over 18 hours! ), according to the 30-X rule.

Mathematically speaking, it’s Total Task Time (5 minutes 250 working days) – Training Time (5 minutes).

It’s All About Staying DRY

Because all these processes are getting done in the background, you will have more free time because you won’t need to perform repetitive tasks manually. So when it comes to time management, the DRY Principle is an effective tool to experiment with.

By maximizing your output now, you will have more time to spend on the things that matter most in the future. And, to get started, take a look at your current workload, and see if there is anything you can automate under the DRY Principle.

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5 Easy Ways to Be on Schedule for Your Appointments in the Winter

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Appointments in the Winter

Planning and scheduling your appointments in the winter can be a distinct challenge. It can be hard to stay motivated when all you want to do is curl up by the fire. Travel may also be difficult. Road conditions can certainly throw a wrench into your plans by extending travel time or even causing events to be canceled.

Some people live in areas that rarely see snow or even freezing temperatures. Life goes on as normal for this demographic. But if you’re among those who have to brave the cold each winter, there are a few extra things you’ll have to do to make your schedule work. To ensure you’re always on time for your planned appointments during the harshest of winters, use these five strategies:

1. Connect an Online Calendar

If you struggle with being tardy to appointments, you need to log onto an online calendar. You can use a simple app on your phone that will forever change how you look at time management. In many cases, you can even connect this online calendar with your appointment bookings for instant synchronization.

With your appointment booking in your calendar, you can plan more strategically to make it to your events on time. If you have a meeting or obligation that ends right before your appointment is supposed to start, you’re more likely to end up running late.

2. Opt for Appointment Reminders

If the business in question offers appointment reminders, you should seriously consider signing up for them. Rain, snow, or shine, appointment reminders are a great way to make sure you arrive at your appointments on schedule. Businesses using online appointment software can send you reminders in a variety of ways.

For starters, online appointment software enables automated reminders that can be sent at the most optimal times for every booking. You can receive these reminders in an email, over text, or even with a robocall. You can often select how to receive your reminders according to your personal preference.

3. Check the Weather

Staying on top of the weather forecast will help you stay on time for your winter appointments. By checking the weather for the upcoming week, you can plan short-range appointments for the sunniest days when the roads are most likely to be clear.

Sometimes all it takes is looking at the 24-hour forecast to pick the right appointment time. It might snow one night, but be warm and sunny the next day, which will melt all the snow and ice away by mid-afternoon. Plan ahead to account for possible weather delays, especially if you don’t want to drive in rain or snow. Booking on good-weather days can help you remain punctual for appointments in the winter.

4. Prepare Your Transportation in Advance

On a day when winter conditions aren’t in your favor, the best course of action is to prepare your method of transportation well in advance. Whether you’ll be taking a car or public transportation to your next appointment, you can plan for it ahead of time. If you are taking a bus, subway, or train, check the departure and arrival schedules beforehand, as they are subject to change. Additionally, if you’re using a rideshare, pay attention to times when surge pricing is in effect so you can avoid those times.

If you are driving, start your car early on the day of your appointment. Letting it run for five minutes or so will warm up the interior so you’re not miserable. It will also get the inner workings of your car running smoothly for safe travels. This is especially important if you park outdoors. The heat from a warmed car will help melt any snow and ice that might obscure your vision while driving, making it easier to scrape off.

You should engage in other forms of preparation even earlier. For example, shop early for good snow tires. They will help you travel safely to your appointments in the winter, even during moderate snowfall. If you wait until the peak of winter to make the switch, you run the risk of getting stuck in the snow at an inopportune time. You could even spend a bunch of additional money if winter tire prices increase due to heightened demand.

5. Call Ahead on Snow Days

If the snow piled up the night before your appointment, give the business a call as soon as they open. This gives you an opportunity to ask whether they still plan on being open and serving customers that day. If they’re closed due to weather, you can reschedule your appointment. If the business has confirmed that it will be open, you can take advantage of your early travel preparations to get there safely.

Another possible scenario is that the business has decided to remain open but will allow customers to reschedule their appointments free of charge. If you’re concerned about traveling in snowy conditions, you can change your own booking without incurring the normal cancellation fee.

Alternatively, you might brave the snow if the bookings before and after yours have been canceled or rescheduled. You’ll have the comfort of knowing you can take your time traveling to the appointment without causing your service provider to get off track.

If you stay on top of things, no winter can slow you down. You’ll be able to stay on schedule during one of the most challenging times of the year.

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7 Tips for Firing an Employee Gracefully and Ethically

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Firing an Employee Gracefully

As an empathetic leader, I couldn’t help but cringe when I read how Better.com let go of 900 employees…over Zoom. Not only is this a PR nightmare. It can drain morale and create a toxic work environment.

But, could it get any worse? Well, here’s what an employee, who wasn’t fired, had to say about the experience to Business Insider.

“You’re the lucky ones,” CEO Vishal Garg told them. “Garg said the people he laid off had been low performers — and then he set the bar even higher for those of us left, telling us it was time to work even harder than before,” the employee added. “It was pretty scary to hear that from someone who had just fired 900 people.”

“This wasn’t my first time being at a company going through layoffs, but this one was different,” they stated. “There was absolutely no warning, and in the aftermath, Garg belittled the laid-off workers to the rest of us and told us there would be no second chances from now on. The whole thing was demoralizing.”

“Since the layoffs, everyone has been on edge,” the employee elaborated. “We’re all looking behind our backs, expecting to get fired next. It’s not a healthy environment.”

While the optics are bad, we don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors. So maybe Garg did have a valid reason for letting these employees go. In my opinion, though, he went about it the wrong way.

Why you might have to let an employee go.

One of the most challenging decisions we have to make is to part ways with a team member as a leader. Of course, sometimes, this is inevitable. Examples would be incidents of;

  • Acts of discrimination
  • Assault and harassment
  • Criminal activity
  • Insubordination
  • Lack of competence
  • Constant absenteeism

While the hiring process is intended to weed out unprofessional individuals, sometimes they slip through the cracks. And, in some cases, they may not actually display these characteristics until they’ve settled into their roles.

Additionally, you may have to downsize to improve efficiency or reduce costs. Or, you may have to pivot and change direction to respond to market changes.

Whatever the reason, if terminating an employee is inevitable, here are seven tips to carry this out gracefully and ethically.

1. Offer opportunities for improvement beforehand.

When an employee’s performance is in question, the chances are that a series of events have led you to need to make this difficult decision. That’s why it’s recommended that you might frequently consult with each member of your team individually to discuss their progress and offer feedback on where they can make improvements. You may also want to conduct performance reviews twice a year.

Generally, termination should only be the last option if the employee has violated the company’s policies. However, an employee can use a performance improvement plan (PIP) instead of firing them. This can help them track their progress, reach their goals, or discourage destructive workplace behaviors.

If you’re unsure whether your employee is performing well, ask your other team members for their perspective. For example, you could ask them about their attendance if they’ve missed deadlines or have difficulty communicating or collaborating with others.

If you document other members of the team’s experiences, this strengthens your case for why and how an employee must improve. In short, employees should never be caught off-guard when it comes to being fired. Instead, you should give them a chance to improve.

2. Inform human resources of the employee’s behavior.

The Human Resources department should be informed of all actions taken before terminating an employee. At the minimum, this should include implementing an improvement plan and how the employee progresses. In addition, documentation provides evidence and reasons for an employee’s termination by tracking the employee’s incidents and behavior.

HR can ensure that termination is a fair decision and that the proper procedures and protocol are followed. It’s also essential for both employees and the workplace that termination procedures comply with state and company requirements.

3. Create a transition plan.

“Choose the day and the time for the termi­nation deliberately,” advises management consultant and author of How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals Dick Grote. “While experts disagree on when a firing should occur, all acknowledge the importance of having a rationale — a good business reason for your choice of time and day for dropping the ax.”

“Doing it early in the day, early in the week, encourages the employee to get right to work on finding another job,” he adds. Furthermore, this reduces the chances of them spending the weekend planning revenge. “Friday after­noons, on the other hand, often create the minimum amount of disruption to the rest of the staff,” stays Grote.

Whether or not firing an employee is the solution, always put your company interests first. You probably put up with a subpar performance for months hoping the situation would somehow improve. As the end nears, make sure that the transition goes seamlessly not to harm the company or your colleagues.

“Check the succession plan for an internal candidate,” he suggests. For example, if you need to terminate someone, you may want to start recruiting and wait until you find a replacement. Sending these subtle hints to clients, customers, and even your team that staffing changes are imminent could ultimately work in your favor.

4. Be clear and concise.

When it comes to firing an employee, winging it is never the best course of action. You need to know actually what to say and how you’ll deliver the news. That’s why it’s suggested that you also practice the conversation you will have with the employee.

“Make sure you know exactly why you’re firing a worker, have specific examples, and bring the proper documentation, writes Kathryn Vasel over at CNN. “That includes copies of performance reports, any write-ups, and applicable financial forms like unemployment insurance and health insurance and 401(k) options.”

You should be clear and firm about the termination and the next steps. “There is no room or need to get into a protracted discussion,” said Dan Ryan, founder of Ryan Search & Consulting. “It is what it is; there is no productive discussion that can take place after.”

5. Don’t humiliate the employee.

“If I must fire an employee, I treat them with dignity because I don’t want to humiliate them,” writes Mike Kappel, founder, and CEO of Patriot Software, LLC in Forbes. “I will always fire someone in private behind closed doors.”

“Employment termination isn’t just bad for that individual— it’s also bad for the other employees,” he adds. “Other employees don’t know if or when they’re going to be on the chopping block.”

It’s also possible for your employees to have relationships with the fired employee, such as being friends outside of the workplace. As such, you could “risk draining the morale of the others if you fire someone in front of” the entire team.

He suggests it might be a good idea to fire the employee after the other employees have left for the day. In that case, the terminated employee does not have to leave their office (or wherever you fired them) in front of their coworkers.

Always have a witness.

“When you need to fire an employee, you and someone from Human Resources should be the only two people in the room with them,” Kappel continues. “If you don’t have an HR department or representative, grab a witness, like a trusted employee or even your business’s lawyer if applicable.”

In the event that the employee sues you, having someone else in the room with you is imperative. Why? Because this individual can confirm your firing of the employee was legal and ethical.

During the termination of an employee, a police escort may be appropriate in very rare situations. That may sound excessive. But, if you feel that they may become aggressive or violent, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“I once had to fire an employee with a police escort,” recalls Kappel. “She threatened to beat up another employee.” She also engaged in cage fights on weekends. So, when the officer arrived, the employee was let go — and thankfully without incident.

6. Keep documentation of the entire process.

Documentation is essential for the company’s reference — both during the termination process and afterward. These documents may include records such as a written notice of termination. As a rule of thumb, you should always document any actions taken, such as implementing a Performance Improvement Plan and its results, before firing an employee.

In general, the more documentation you have, the more straightforward this process can be? Why? Because it ensures that all work procedures are followed based on your employee handbook and pertinent labor laws. And, if the employee dispute the firing, you can use these documents to validate your decision.

7. Handle paperwork and tie up any loose ends.

In addition to termination documents, you should also bring the employee’s final paycheck with you. If you offer a severance package, explain what’s included. Review any noncompete or nondisclosure agreements with the employee, along with if they’ll continue receiving benefits like health insurance.

“After learning of the termination, the employee will most likely feel confused and upset,” writes Amy DelPo, attorney, for NOLO. Prepare to assist the employee by answering questions such as;

  • “Do I work the rest of the day or leave immediately?”
  • “When can I collect my belongings?”
  • “Do my coworkers know this is happening?”
  • “What should I tell my clients?”
  • “I have appointments scheduled for the rest of the week; what should I do about those?”

It would also be helpful if you developed a plan for ongoing work before the meeting to address the following;

  • Are these projects going to be assigned to someone else?
  • Are there any tasks the employee needs to complete?
  • Is the employee required to assist with the transition?

What to do after terminating an employee.

The following steps may be necessary after firing an employee. However, doing so may avoid terminating another employee or helping the department fill the vacant position.

  • Educating employees about workplace expectations. You can accomplish this by sharing employee handbooks and having one-on-one meetings. As a result, this could be enough to prevent additional firings.
  • Keeping employees in the loop. The law outlines specific guidelines about when and how to discuss an employee’s termination. However, being transparent about an employee’s termination openly and discussing any behavior that may still exist within the workplace will discourage rumors from being spread.
  • Posting a new job to fill the existing position. Reassign tasks to other employees after terminating an employee’s employment, or have managers temporarily take on those tasks to account for the departed employee. To avoid overburdening other employees with work and responsibilities, create a new job posting for the vacant position as soon as possible.
  • Strengthening your existing team. Host team-building activities if you need to bolster morale and encourage team bonding. You could also celebrate your team’s achievements or have some fun in the workplace, like throwing a pizza party.

Image Credit: Sora Shimazaki; Pexels; Thanks!

4 Methods to Improve Client Retention

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Methods to Improve Client Retention

There are two great battles being waged by businesses every single day: the fight to get new customers and the fight to get them to stay. Customer acquisition and client retention are a never-ending cycle for companies, one that requires a lot of time and effort to manage.

While it’s important for a business to always be looking for new customers, once a good clientele is established, retention is debatably a higher priority. Not only is it less expensive than acquisition, but having loyal customers will ensure that you’re continuously pulling in revenue to keep your company running smoothly.

Once you recognize the need to pay more attention to boosting customer retention, it’s time to take action. Here are a few ways you can make a more concentrated effort to keep your clientele around for the long haul:

1. Reminders When They Schedule

When a person books an appointment with your business, it’s their responsibility to remember the date and time they’ve selected and uphold their commitment. However, that doesn’t mean you should sit back and hope that every customer fulfills their end of the deal. A person’s plans might change, or details may simply be forgotten while navigating a busy schedule.

Providing your customers with appointment reminders adds extra security to each booking. This will make sure patrons get through the door on their first visit and ensure they can enjoy a high-quality experience that leads them to book future appointments with your business.

Appointment reminders can be provided in a variety of ways. You could write up appointment cards at the front desk, give a call the day before, or send texts, emails, or even app notifications. Customers should be able to choose how they receive their reminders, ensuring that they’re helpful and effective rather than pointless or irritating.

2. Periodic Complimentary Services

When you periodically reward your faithful customers, you’re more likely to see new ones stick around in the hope of getting those same deals. Incentives have long been a powerful tool for client retention. That’s why rewards programs that use recurring visits to accrue redeemable points are so commonplace today. If you reward loyalty, you’ll see it more often.

You don’t have to put together an entire rewards program to improve your customer retention. Get started by including one complimentary service that any repeat customer can take advantage of. For example, many car dealerships offer free oil changes to any person who purchases a new car from their lot. The sale of a new car is worth a lot more than a few oil changes, and this deal will keep the customer coming back, opening the door for more potential sales.

Some of the complimentary services you provide can be permanent. For instance, providing in-house Wi-Fi for guests is a relatively small gesture, but it will add to the overall appointment experience and promote retention at the same time.

3. Check In When It’s Been Awhile

If you haven’t seen a customer for an extended period of time, reach out to them. Let them know that they’re more than just a successfully closed sale. You want to be of service to them for a long time, not just take their money for one transaction and send them on their way.

When checking in with customers, be sure to make your interactions as personal as possible. Consumers can easily tell whether or not a company is being sincere. They will notice when a message is crafted from a template as opposed to one that is customized just for them. Send them an email that references past visits, or give them a call to check in and offer your services. This, in turn, can help your business improve its client retention.

4. Ask for Feedback

Sometimes in order to improve retention, you have to make a few adjustments. Instead of making changes blindly and hoping they work, ask your clientele for their honest feedback. Soliciting feedback from customers who only visited once is especially valuable because they can often share a specific reason they did not return.

The easiest way to receive feedback is through survey responses. After a customer has completed their appointment, send a thank-you email with a link to your survey. Ask specific questions about their experience and be sure to provide an opportunity for them to speak their mind on issues you might have overlooked.

Perhaps you are struggling to get feedback from your customers. Or, you just want to reward those who complete your survey. If either of these are the case, attach a little incentive. This should be something general, like a coupon code for Amazon, for example. This way, it also appeals to customers who only visited your business once and aren’t likely to return; At least not until changes are made.

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