Reclaim Your Time by Learning the Art of Saying No

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Regain Your Time by Learning the Art of Saying No

As a parent, there’s a two-letter word that drives you wild whenever you ask your kids to do something. And that word is the dreaded “no.” Anyone with young kids will relate to the beginnings of the “no” word at about two years old. But here is how you can reclaim your time by learning the art of saying “no.”

For as infuriating as that response can be, there are times when there’s a lesson you can learn from them. And, that’s the gentle art of saying no.

To be fair, that doesn’t mean rejecting every time request — or just being defiant because you can. If so, you could be potentially missing out on opportunities. Besides, you don’t want to earn that reputation of being difficult.

The power of saying “no.”

Instead, it’s all about being more selective so that you aren’t wasting your valuable time. In turn, you’ll be able to improve your focus, performance, and productivity. And, most importantly, as Steve Jobs once said, “It’s only by saying NO that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

Furthermore, mastering the art of saying “no” gives you more control and lets you establish your own boundaries. If not, because you’re a people pleaser or just afraid to upset others, you’re giving up control to them. I mean, if you don’t respect your time, then why would anyone else?

“One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that no one will protect my time or prioritize my needs as vigilantly as me,” Damon Zahariades wrote in The Art Of Saying NO: How To Stand Your Ground, Reclaim Your Time And Energy, And Refuse To Be Taken For Granted. “That’s understandable. Most people act out of self-interest; they naturally put their own priorities ahead of others’ priorities,” Zahariades states. “But it means each of us is responsible for making sure our personal needs are met.”

“No one is going to do it for us,” adds Zahariades. “Moreover, it’s important that we attend to our own needs before attending to the needs of others.” Will this make you uncomfortable? Sure. “But allowing your needs to remain unaddressed while you continuously cater to others is the path toward resentment and bitterness. It can even become a health issue if you run yourself ragged.”

What you should say “no” to and how?

Most of you know that I write for Entrepreneur magazine — let’s quickly go over the things that you should say “no” to, courtesy of Matthew Toren in an Entrepreneur article.

    • Tasks that can be easily outsourced. Are you spending the bulk of your day on tedious activities that aren’t pushing you closer to your goals? I’m talking about administrative work, accounting, lead generation, HR, IT, or marketing as some common examples. If so, hire someone else to take on these tasks.
    • Actions that don’t match your vision. Before saying “yes,” ask one simple question; “does it match your vision?”
    • Things that distract you destroy your time. Whether if it’s smartphone notifications, chatty co-workers, meetings without an agenda, or unproductive uses of your downtime, identify these and eliminate them.
    • Unhealthy habits. Eating junk, not getting enough sleep, smoking, and toxic relationships can do serious harm to your health and well-being. And, when you spend time on unhealthy habits, you’re taking time away from more productive ways.
    • Things that aren’t up to you or in your control. “There are things in this life that are inevitably out of your control — lots of them, actually,” writes Toren. But, you do have a choice. “You can fret and freak out about things such as the government, the economy, your partner, the weather, or any other variable outside your power, or you can choose to say ‘no’ to the stress that comes from getting upset about things you can’t control.”

Practicing the art of saying “no.”

Now that you have an idea of what time requests to decline, how can you say “no” to them? Well, here are seven ways to achieve that goal effectively.

1. Saying no doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person.

So many of us struggle with saying no because we don’t want to offend others. After all, we don’t want others to believe that we’re selfish or unkind. But, in reality, that’s not the case.

As Chantalle Blikman perfectly explains over at Tiny Budha, this was something we were taught as children. “If you said no to your mom, dad, teacher, uncle, grandparents, and so on, you were most certainly considered to be being rude, and you would have probably been told off for it.” As such, “Saying no was off-limits, and yes was the polite and likable thing to say.”

But, as adults, we are “capable of making our own choices, as well as knowing the difference between wrong and right,” adds Blikman. “Therefore, no shouldn’t be an off-limits word, but rather something that we decide on ourselves, based on our own discretion.”

While this is still a challenge, the first thing you must do is realize that you should never feel guilty or ashamed of saying no. If you’re direct and honest, then others will respect and understand your decision. You will not believe how much your decisions to say no will up your productivity.

2. Plan your “no’s” in advance.

In my opinion, this will make saying “no” a breeze going forward mainly because it’s almost like creating an automatic response. For instance, if you have implemented a “No Meeting Wednesday” rule, and you have a meeting invite for a Wednesday, it’s much easier to turn down that request.

If you haven’t instituted such policies yet, then identify where you want to spend your time. Ideally, this will be based on your priorities. If you have to finish a task by the end of the day, then you can’t leave the office to play golf with a friend. Quality family time a priority? Then you would reserve Friday evenings as the night that your family spends together.

3. Take baby steps.

“Choose some easy, low-risk situations in which to practice saying no,” recommends Peter Bregman for HBR. “Say no when a waiter offers you dessert” or “when someone tries to sell you something on the street,” Bregman writes. “Go into a room by yourself, shut the door, and say no out loud ten times.” While this may sound ridiculous, it’s a great way to build your no muscle without serious repercussions or guilty feelings.

4. Consult your calendar.

Unless it’s an extremely urgent matter, don’t feel pressured to say “yes” or “no” on the spot. Go ahead and respond with a phrase like, “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” Obviously, you want to be respectful of the other person’s time. So, set a time limit, like by tomorrow or the end of the week.

The reason why this strategy works well is that it gives you time to pause and reflect. Maybe you weren’t gung-ho about the request initially. But, after sleeping on it, you decide it’s worth your time. So, you check your schedule and see when you’re available. But, I strongly suggest that you share your calendar with them so that they can know when you’re free.

There’s another variation to this. Let’s say that you get invited to a BBQ next weekend. Before committing, let them not that you have to speak with your family first to make sure that you don’t already have plans.

5. Be brief and polite, but firm.

“You don’t always have to explain yourself when telling someone no,” notes Daniel Potter over at Grammarly. “Still, it’s often more considerate to provide a straight-up no rather than a non-response, because leaving people wondering tends to read as thoughtless.”

At the same time, you don’t want to offer too brief of an explanation. As an example, instead of responding with “I can’t help with that,” try, “Sadly, I’m afraid I can’t help with that.” Using “sadly “shows you recognize the answer probably won’t thrill the recipient, and it brings you no joy to say so.”

Another example? “Thank you for thinking of me for this assignment. I can’t take more work on right now, but please keep in touch.” What makes this response work is that it shows your appreciation while also leaving the door open for possible work in the future.

What if they aren’t taking “no” for an answer? Bregman recommends being “just as pushy as they are” without being a jerk. You may also want to incorporate a little humor here as well.

6. Use the words “You are welcome to X. I am willing to Y.”

Here’s an example from the pages of Greg McKeown’s bookEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. A friend needs a lift to an important meeting, and their car is in the shop. You can say that you’re “welcome to borrow my car. I am willing to make sure the keys are here for you.”

Using this phrase lets them know, “I won’t be able to drive you.” McKeown explains, “saying what you will not do, but you are couching it in terms of what you are willing to do.” It’s an efficient “way to navigate a request you would like to support somewhat but cannot throw your full weight behind.”

“I particularly like this construct because it also expresses a respect for the other person’s ability to choose, as well as your own,” statesMcKeown. “It reminds both parties of the choices they have,” while setting reasonable boundaries.

7. Offer an alternative.

Let’s say your business partner wants to meet for lunch tomorrow. You already have plans. But, you suggest this Friday since you’re available. It turns out that this works for them as well. Crisis averted.

Another alternative could be referring them so someone else who has more experience, knowledge, or interest than you do. Or, let’s say that you have a team member who has volunteered to take on a new project. While this is encouraged if the project is time-sensitive and you’re concerned that you would have to micromanage them to ensure it’s completed on-time, suggest another project that has more leeway.

 

Best Calendar Apps for Freelancers on the Go

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Freelancer working

If you are a freelancer, then you know the challenge of working in many different places. It used to be that there weren’t many tools that were easy to take with you. Now, you are free to work wherever without losing that ability to stay on task and on time. Helping you along are these best calendar apps for freelancers.

What Makes These the Best Calendar Apps For Freelancers

Here are our best calendar apps for freelancers to help them work more productively:

  • Calendar for smart scheduling, integration with a wide range of apps, and meeting transcriptions
  • Fantastical 2 for its machine learning and natural language processing that delivers smart scheduling
  • Vantage Calendar for its ease of use and visual representation of meetings and events
  • Cal for its simple interface and powerful search functionality
  • Google Calendar for its cloud functionality and wide-ranging use and features
  • Awesome Calendar for automatic synch with iPhone calendars, to-do list development, and diary 
  • Calendars 5 for its numerous calendar, event, and task views
  • Week Calendar for its multiple versions to suit freelancers who use iOS devices, iPads and iPhones, Android devices and a Web platform.
  • Pocket Informant for its ability to work as a virtual assistant to cover your calendar, tasks, projects, notes, and contacts
  • Peek Calendar for its human-directed user interfaces and glimpse feature
  • Tiny Calendar for its syncing between platforms to stay updated on events listed in Google Calendars
  • Calvetica for its speed, efficiency, multiple views and sync capability with Google, Exchange, and other calendars
  • MiCal for its support of eight languages and funtionality

Calendar App

Calendar

Calendar is made for iOS, Android, and Web access through its cloud-based platform that provides access from anywhere. This dynamic calendar app for freelancers and other small business owners offers a free sign-up process and simple process to get started.

The easy-to-use and navigate app includes machine learning so the app learns your schedule, contacts, and daily tasks. From there, it can handle the tedious work of scheduling and organizing meetings, events, and projects. Real-time information and integration with other apps like Lyft allow you to focus on the meeting rather than how to get there. By analyzing your historical calendar data, the calendar app can help you prioritize what you need to get done in a more productive way. This makes this the ideal time management tool to add to your freelance business.

Fantastical Guide

Fantastical Guide

Fantastical 2

Fantastical 2 is a calendar app does cost a small fee to download. However, it is a small price to pay for such a comprehensive calendar tool. It is made for both iOS and Android users as well as Mac computer.

The calendar app delivers some of the most advanced technology. This includes a natural language parser as well as synch support for Google, iCloud, iPhone Calendar, and Facebook. Dayticker is one of its best features because it lets you see appointments through an easy user interface. Just one note is that if you plan on using it on your iPad, you will need to pay for another download of the calendar app to use it there in addition to your other device.

Vantage Calendar App

Vantage

Vantage is a visual calendar app for iOS devices (iPhone an iPad) that is easy to use, has an integrated to-do list, and simple interface. It has a bird’s eye view that provides a new perspective on how to look at your calendar. Then, events are grouped in a stack format to show you how much is planned for each day. Just click on an item in the stack to learn more about that event.

To designate different events and to-do items, you can use various colors and stickers. Then, those cues will be displayed anywhere that particular event or task shows up on your calendar to quickly identify them. Additionally, Vantage syncs with various other tools you most likely already use as a freelancer, such as Facebook, iCloud, Google, and Exchange. Lastly, you can customize the colors and themes to show your personal style through your calendar.

Cal

Cal is a free calendar app developed by Any.do, a task manager app popular among freelancers. Some of the unique features include a simple and clean interface that shows you a clear daily view of what you need to achieve as well as powerful search functionality that provides feedback based on even the most vague information.

For example, if you let it know you need to do your taxes, it will send reminders about an upcoming day that taxes are due. Other things you ask deliver suggested apps that hep you achieve that purpose. However, those apps are typically affiliate apps, which means they have been paid to suggest those apps to you. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s important to keep that in mind. Another great feature is that when you plan an invite, the app can help you find a place to host that event based on the people invited and theme.

Google Calendar Guide

Google Calendar

Google Calendar is most often the default calendar of freelancers because it comes with their Gmail and Google account. However, there is so much that can be done with this calendar app. The cloud functionality means that you can access it from any device you use where you can sign into your Google account. That means it is available for the Web, iOS, and Android.

The Schedule View feature makes your calendar come to life with an easy-to-read format that tells you exactly what you need to accomplish each day. Also, it does some of the work for you because when you get an email that involves any type of reservation related to an event, Google Calendar will automatically add it to your personal calendar. Syncing your Google Calendar is simple. Other features include flairs that represent certain types of activities as well as machine learning capability that provides a way for the app to start learning your routine so it can suggest and mange calendar activity.

Awesome Calendar

Awesome Calendar is a calendar app that does come at a cost, but it delivers a host of valuable tools and features that make it a good investment for any freelancer. Some of the main features include automatic synch with iPhone calendars, to-do list development, a diary with the ability to embed visuals, weather, event alarms, and holiday listings for 35 countries.

It’s great for organizing your work as a freelancer and your life simultaneously. So many of the features also customizable by color, font, stickers, and more so you can make the calendar your own.

Calendars 5

Calendars 5 is made for the iPhone and iPad to help improve how freelancers and other business downers use their calendars. it offers easy task management, event management, synch, and scheduling functionality. This low-priced calendar app also inlaces natural language input.

That means users can type in something that they want to do and the app will parse the information, create an event around what you want to do, and invite the person mentioned in the input. Although it doesn’t work with Google Maps, it does provide map compatibility with Apple Maps.

Week Calendar and Cally

Week Calendar offers its Week Calendar and Cally apps for freelancers that use iOS devices. While the Week Calendar app is only for iPads and iPhones, the Cally app also works with Android devices and offers a Web platform.

The Week Calendar  works with other calendars so you can use them altogether within this app, such as Google Calendar, Exchange Calendar, and iCloud Calendar. Cally makes it easy to choose dates and locations for group events, invite participants, and receive notifications on progress. Both offer an intuitive experience for the user.

Pocket Informant

Pocket Informant helps freelancers stay on top of their work and personal lives all within one app. It works as a virtual assistant to cover your calendar, tasks, projects, notes, and contacts. The calendar app is available for iOS, Android, and Mac. There are so many functions that it may seem overwhelming at first until you start using the calendar app on a daily basis and understand how its Getting Things Done (GTD) integration really works to keep you organized, reduce tedious work, and eliminate repetitive tasks.

The one-button navigation is one of the best features for anyone working on the go. Also, triggers identify a keyword or attribute found in an event or task. Then, the triggers create the new event from the template you’ve designed. That reduces the work of putting together an agenda outline when scheduling a team meeting.

Peek Calendar

Peek Calendar is a low-cost app for iOS that has one of the beautiful and human-directed user interfaces available in a calendar tool.  Offering easy input to add items to your calendar, this calendar app can give you a “peek” at what your day is like rather than having to scroll through a lot of information to get to what you need to know.

One unique feature is the shading gesture, which helps you see what you need by darkening part of the screen rather than struggle due to the glare of the sun.

Tiny Calendar

Tiny Calendar is a free Google Calendar app that works for freelancers that use Android devices. It enables syncing between platforms to stay updated on events listed in Google Calendars. It improves upon what Google Calendar can do, including adding responsiveness, reliability, and accessibility.

You get multiple ways to view an even and your tasks. The calendar tool even works offline so you can add and manage it without an Internet connection. Other features include invitations, recurring events, intuitive gestures and calendar customization.

Calvetica

Calvetica is a fast, efficient calendar app that can be downloaded for a very low price. Available for the iPhone or iPad, this calendar app has multiple views to see how events and tasks overlap or involve multiple says. It syncs with Google, Exchange, and other calendars.

Cool features include attendee management, map integration to find events quickly, intuitive gestures, and customization for colors and calendar fears. There are alarms and alerts, time zone support, a 24-hour format, and responsive customer support. The developers of this calendar app regularly update it with new features and improved functionality.

miCal

MiCal is an iOS calendar app that offers a treasure trove of features that a freelancer would love. First, it supports eight languages, which is beneficial for those working with clients in various parts of the world. They will be able to enter their information in their native language for greater convenience.

There are eight different views to look at your calendar as well as task, schedule, and birthday reminders. You can quickly create new events by describing thanks to the natural language input feature. Additionally, it integrates with iCloud, Outlook, Facebook Events, Exchange, and Google Calendar.

For Better Customer Feedback, Use Scheduling Software

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You leave comment cards by the door. You send email surveys. And yet, you never seem to get the customer feedback you need.

What’s the secret to getting better customer feedback more often, and from more customers? Believe it or not, scheduling software.

It all starts by letting customers schedule their own appointments. Not only can you ask for comments in the interface itself, but you can also set up feedback appointments. Both help you problem-solve and innovate your customer experience.

Don’t want for customers to complain about the experience. Reach out for feedback. Here’s how to do it through scheduling software:

1. Let them choose the channel.

Not everyone likes to give feedback in writing. Customers could schedule a phone call with someone at your company, they could engage through video chat, or they could join you in person.

Each forum comes with its pros and cons. An in-person feedback session is going to be more involved than one that happens over the phone. However, it might be better for establishing connections with customers.

It’s important to accept what your customers are comfortable with. Don’t force them to come to your office if they ask for a call. Offer as many channel options as you can. 

2. Promote feedback sessions.

Beyond offering multiple times and modes of communication, you need to find ways to excite your customers about giving feedback. Increase engagement with a promotion strategy. 4

To promote customer feedback sessions, you can:

  • Inform customers about feedback opportunities after regular appointments.
  • Announce a special week dedicated to feedback, such as a customer appreciation week.
  • Leverage social media to encourage customers to schedule.

Even if they just want to stop by for a ten-minute chat, get customers in the habit of using your scheduling tool to give feedback. Make it as convenient as possible, and they’ll be more likely to do it. 

3. Offer rewards for feedback.

When a customer takes time out of their day to give you feedback, make it worth their while. Rewarding them is common courtesy. There are plenty of ways to do it:

  • Provide a discount on your product or service when the customer schedules a feedback session.
  • Surprise customers who give feedback with gift cards to area restaurants.
  • Give shoutouts on social media to customers whose feedback helps you improve.

For repeat feedback-providers, go above and beyond. Follow up with a gift that is tailor-made for them. These are the kinds of actions that win customer loyalty. 

4. Never underestimate the power of food.

One way to liven up a feedback meeting is to provide free food. You can put special lunch meetings on your schedule and allow customers to book on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

A meal makes the conversation more casual. Eating during the conversation communicates that you aren’t in a rush, and that you enjoy your customers’ company. 

Meals also create an opportunity for group meetings. Getting a few extra servings delivered is worth it for a wider perspective. Treat it like a focus group, letting your customers have a conversation with one another while you mediate the session. 

5. Always be professional.

Just as you would with any other appointment, practice professional behavior at your feedback sessions. To respect your customers time and protect your brand:

  • Show up early to in-person meetings.
  • Dress in professional attire.
  • Make sure necessary materials are printed off and organized.
  • Let the customer set the agenda.
  • Don’t do all the talking.
  • Ask meaningful questions to encourage conversation.

6. Respond to criticism with compassion.

Not all feedback you receive will be positive. That isn’t a bad thing: Criticism is often more helpful than praise.

Don’t make customers feel guilty for giving you the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you get defensive, customers will shut down rather than say what’s really on their mind. 

Use questions to flesh out criticisms. If a customer says your wait times are too long, for example, ask what amount of time they consider to be unacceptable. If they are having trouble using your scheduling program, encourage them to pull up the program to show you their issue. Be honest if there are things you can’t change. 

Honesty and empathy are key. Try to put yourself in your customers’ shoes, and acknowledge your shortcomings. 

7. Actually make improvements. 

It should go without saying, but customers need to know it: Their feedback has to result in real changes. Otherwise, they will feel like their feedback was not taken seriously. 

Send them updates about how you’re integrating their suggestions. Either send it out via email, or set up a session for all feedback-givers to walk through the changes they inspired.

If you truly care about your customers, prove that to them by asking for improvement ideas. With scheduling software, you can always keep your door open. Your customers, as well as your bottom line, will appreciate that. 

The 10 Best Productivity Scheduling Apps

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Schedule

There have always been plenty of ways to increase your productivity. The key here, is that the information about productivity is always changing. You can’t pick one productive way that fits you — and then never read another article or study about productivity. There will always be another app.

You can use hacks like the Pomodoro Technique, create a daily routine, and plan your entire day. You can even ditch bad habits, such as multitasking and having too many meetings. Just remember to always have eyes and ears to newer and faster processes and tools that will help you on your way.

How fast will you become — for now — a lot faster. Later, who knows –but, you will become more and more amazing.

Another effective way to be more productive is by “embracing” new things — including scheduling apps. These handy apps eliminate those back-and-forth communications when scheduling appointments, events, and even tasks. A quick app entry will make every part of your life quicker.

The problem — you may be thinking is that there are too many scheduling apps available on the market. This means that you may end-up spending too much time searching for a scheduling app that best suits your needs. To help narrow down your decision, here are the best productivity scheduling apps out there.

1. Calendar

Instead of playing phone tag or exchanging lengthy email threads, Calendar uses a smart scheduling link to essentially automate your scheduling. Simply send your availability via email or through an embedded link. The other party then picks the best date and time for them. After that — the event is added to everyone’s calendar. Literally three or four clicks. Boom! Done.

Even more promising is that Calendar uses machine learning to make suggestions for when, where and how your meetings can take place. Calendar also sends follow-ups to ensure that every attendee confirms the meeting.

You can even use the free Calendar app to help manage your team. This because the apps intelligently categorizes project meetings in order to determine the relationship between your plans and the people attending the meeting.

2. Plan

Plan is best described as a “one commander center” for all of your tools. That’s because it syncs with the tools that you and your team use on a daily basis. This includes your email, calendar, Salesforce, Zendesk, JIRA, and Github. Now you don’t have to toggle between tabs since all of this information can be viewed in one dashboard.

Additionally, with Plan you can see who’s exactly working on what and when it’s expected to be completed in real-time. As a result you and your team will never miss a meeting or deadline for a task or project.

Plan is free for one to two users — but you’ll have to select the $9/month plan if you have more than three users.

3. Any.do

Any.do stores all of your todos, lists, and reminders in one convenient location. The app also comes with a calendar so that you can plan out your day, week, or month. There’s also location based reminders and how you can share your tasks and calendar with others.

As if that weren’t enough Any.do also comes with Assistant. This feature automatically analyzes all of your tasks so that it can automatically do it for you. This means if you have recurring tasks, events, or meetings Any.do Assistant will take care of it for you on it’s on.

The app syncs across all devices and plans start at just $2.09/month.

4. Notion

Notion is another app that places all of your work in dashboard. This includes everything from your calendar, lists, todos, notes, Kanban board, and spreadsheets. Like Plan, this means you and your have team have everything needed to stay on the same page without switching between applications.

Notion integrates with Google apps, Slack, Twitter, Figma, and around 50 other popular apps. However, one of the coolest features is that the interface will fade away when you start typing. That means you won’t get distracted by notifications while working.

You can try Notion for free and it works across most devices. Later you can pick the plan you want, after trying it out.

5. Doodle

Doodle has been a favorite scheduling app for years. And there’s a good reason why. It’s one of the simplest ways to find the best availability for everyone to meet — it’s also kind of fun.

Simply suggest a date and location and then invite participants to vote in a poll. When the votes are in you can then select the most popular option. Since Doodle integrates with your Google or Facebook account events are automatically synced to everyone’s calendar — even if the don’t have Doodle account.

For individual users Doodle is free. However, for teams and more robust features like reminders, you’ll have to go with a Premium account starting at $39/year.

6. Accompany

You just scheduled an appointment with a high-profile individual. You obviously want to be prepared when meeting them. This involves beefing up your knowledge regarding their company or the latest news involving them, their organization, or industry.

Instead of searching for this information yourself you can let Accompany do the legwork for you.

Containing the profiles for over 250 million people, Accompany provides a rich calendar, executive briefings, and a curated news feed. This allows you to quickly view information like quarterly reviews and professional history so that you’re completely prepared for the meeting.

While Accompany is free, it’s only available through the App Store.

7. IFTTT

IFTTT is one of the best productivity tools around. That’s because you can essentially automate everything from controlling your smart devices to scheduling social media posts to muting your phone at bedtime. For example, whenever you publish a blog post on WordPress IFTTT will automatically post it to Facebook.

There are a ton of date and time triggers that can make you productive. This includes reminding your team to submit expense reports at the end of the month through Slack, receive SMS and calendar reminders, and saying when you’re busy/available with blink (1). The possibilities are endless.

8. Acuity Scheduling

If you’re in the service industry then you definitely want to check out Acuity Scheduling. It allows clients to book appointments online so that you no longer have to deal with those back-and-forth communications. Acuity also lets clients reschedule events on their own and even pay for your services through PayPal, Square, and Stripe.

When an appointment is booked Acuity will automatically add the appointment to your Google, Outlook, iCloud or Office 365 calendar.

If you’re working solo, Acuity is free. Plans start at $15/month. Acuity is also part of our top calendar apps for business owners.

9. Setmore

Setmore is another tool that lets customers book an self-book appointments with you in real-time. Because Setmore integrates with WordPress, Wix, Weebly, and Facebook there are a variety of ways for customers to book your services. Once an booked, you, your team, and the customers will receive SMS and email reminders to help lessen no-shows.

You can also use the Android or iOS app to create recurring events, book classes, and accept online payments. For larger businesses there’s even a live call answering service — but you’ll need the $89/month plan.

10. Sling

Finally, if you have team then you’ll want to use Sling. This app will schedule your team in a matter of minutes while also eliminating conflicts by receiving real-time updates on double-booking and time off request.

You can also use Sling track your team’s hours and export these timesheets for payroll. And, you can keep communicate more effectively with your team through group messages or creating a unique newsfeed for your team.

Sling is free if you’re just looking for a tool to schedule your team, for additional features you’ll have to select a paid plan which starts at $1.75 per user.

Get Some Sun With These 7 Team-Building Activities

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There are plenty of ways to promote teamwork at the office. Many favorites, however, can only be done outside.

As the weather improves and social distancing drags on, people are spending more time outdoors. Getting outside together strengthens bonds at a safe distance, building trust and promoting productivity.

Best of all, team-building delivers those benefits even when it’s unstructured. Making memories outdoors doesn’t require metrics or days of planning. Fresh air and positive attitudes are all it takes.

What are the easiest, most enjoyable ways to get your team outdoors? Our favorites include:

1. Have a picnic.

The company picnic is a staple for a reason: Breaking bread brings people together without breaking the bank. 

If you have the means, you can get your picnic catered. You can also keep it simple, however, by asking everyone on the team to bring a dish to share. Create a sign-up list to make sure you don’t wind up with nine bags of chips and no entrees.

Play some games, invite family members, and have fun. Nothing beats a classic. 

2. Make it a cook-off.

Do a couple of people at the office claim to have the best chilli recipe? Add a little healthy competition to an afternoon outside by making it a cook-off. 

If you’ve got a large group, split people into teams. Mix and match across departments that you don’t wind up with marketers v. salespeople. The whole point is to help people create new connections.

Set up a scoring system. Maybe the best salad is worth two points, the best appetizer three, and the best entree five. Ask board members to be judges, or select them from the team through a lottery system.

Give a small prize, such as a gift card, to members of the winning cooks. The real winners, however, are the people who get to enjoy the tasty food. 

3. Join a sports league.

In the mood for more healthy competition? Join a local sports league. Look for opportunities to face off against other businesses, which can encourage company pride. 

Find a sport that appeals to as many people as possible. Some popular sports likely to have organized leagues include:

  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Volleyball
  • Bowling
  • Ultimate frisbee

Sports leagues promote health and wellness. To a degree meals and movie nights don’t, they also pull people out of their comfort zones. Just be sure to emphasize the team aspect rather than trying to win at all costs. 

4. Attend a sporting event.

Would you rather watch sports than play them? In that case, treat everyone to an outdoor sporting event. 

Yes, many matches are on pause during the pandemic. That makes them all the more special, however, when people can enjoy the experience again. 

Plus, sporting events aren’t just for sports lovers. Stadiums offer lots of food, shopping, and tailgating opportunities.

With that said, stadium prices are steep: Consider giving team members an allowance so that they can grab a beer or a t-shirt without stressing about what’s in their wallet. 

5. Experience live music.

If you want to have a good time with your team, you can’t go wrong with live music outdoors. Music has so much connective power that it’s often referred to as a universal language. 

Of course, not everyone listens to the same kind of music. If an artist that a lot of people like comes to town, though, why not get the team tickets? Those who don’t want to attend can simply give their tickets to family members of the workers who do. 

Better yet, attend a nearby music festival together. Because they include multiple acts, their appeal is broader than any one show. 

6. Take a field trip.

Remember how much you looked forward to field trips when you were in school? Your team members think about them in the same way: as a break from the daily grind. 

Consider the following activities to engage your team:

  • Visiting an amusement park
  • Going to the zoo
  • Hiking at a national park
  • Enjoying a day at the beach

Everyone could use a day away from work now and again. Charter a bus to your destination, and enjoy the thrills of a roller coaster or the calm vibe of a park. 

7. Go camping.

Camping is not for everyone, and it takes a little more planning than the other ideas on this list. With that said, spending a day out in the elements can rally everyone together. 

Camping does not need to be hardcore. Adjust the trip to a level that works for your team: Cabins might be a better choice than tents, and pre-made meals can avoid the challenges of cooking for a group over a fire.

Don’t underestimate the business value of enjoying an afternoon outside together. The best memories are made not in the office but in the great outdoors. Get out there, and start making them. 

Enhance Your Business Savvy During COVID-19

By | Business Tips | No Comments

Like so many of you, it’s been a challenge as of late. I’ve been trying to put on a strong face with the COVID-19 going on — but, internally, I’m a little anxious. I’m concerned about the health and welfare of my family, friends, employees, and business.

But, recently, I’ve decided to use this time as an opportunity to enhance my business savvy — as opposed to dwelling on the negative. And, here are some of the areas that I’ve been focusing on to improve my business acumen significantly.

Build better habits.

Habits, as Deanna Ritchie explained in a previous Calendar article, “are behaviors or tasks that we without thinking about.” As a whole, “habits can help us become the best possible versions of ourselves.” And when that happens, “we’ll be healthier, happier, and more productive.”

In short, habits are kind of important. Not just for our health and well-being. But also because they can help improve our business savvy. For instance, if you don’t have mental habits like positivity, resilience, and focus, it’s impossible to keep your eyes on the prize.

At the same time, habits can also be detrimental. “Examples would be hitting the snooze button, procrastination, watching too much TV, and smoking,” explains Deanna. “You probably don’t need to be reminded of this, but all are bad for your productivity and well-being.”

How can you perfect the art of better habits? Well, here are some suggestions from Deanna:

  • Start incredibly small and work your way up. Use the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM), as a habit recipe template to make this possible: “After I [TRIGGER], I will [TINY HABIT].”
  • Don’t be vague. Always create an implementation and make sure that it’s satisfying.
  • Stack your habits by tieing a new habit into an existing one.
  • Short-circuit the feedback loop to reshape any habit.
  • Remove any bias by creating the right environment.
  • Overcome possible excuses, like getting that guitar out of the closet and putting it next to your chair.
  • Create a habit calendar to track your progress and celebrate wins.

Create a Business Model Canvas.

“The Business Model Canvas (BMC) is a strategic management tool to quickly and easily define and communicate a business idea or concept,” explains Mike Ebinum, Sheda Director, in a Medium post.

It’s just a one-page document that works “through the fundamental elements of a business or product, coherently structuring an idea,” Mike adds. “The right side of the BMC focuses on the customer (external), while the left side of the canvas focuses on the business (internal).”

Both “factors meet around the value proposition, which is the exchange of value between your business and your customer/clients,” continues Mike. The BMC is often used “to quickly draw a picture of what the idea entails,” get a better idea of your business, how customers play a role, and where you want to go.

What’s more, this can help you clarify your value proposition and develop customer personas. It can even guide in which type of content to create and where to share it. And, the BMC will also identify the key activities, resources, partners, expenses, and revenue streams required for you to succeed.

Even if you’ve done this previously, it won’t hurt to give it another try. Maybe your business has changed over the years. Or, perhaps, it will allow you to spot any leaks and potential opportunities.

Listen to your employees, customers, and suppliers.

He may be a divisive figure. But, Steve Jobs had an excellent quote regarding hiring. “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

I hate to burst your bubble here. But, you don’t have all of then answers or here capable of running a business on your own. That’s why you brought on a talented team. They’re doing the things that you’re not great at. And, they probably have a pulse on aspects of your business that you aren’t aware of. For example, since they’re frequently interacting with them, your customer service reps can let you know their pain points.

In other words, your team is an untapped reserve of knowledge. Schedule one-one-ones with them and pick their brains so that you can learn as much as you can about their responsibilities so that you know every facet of your business. Besides, this gives you a chance to check-in with them, which builds trust and improves your leadership skills.

In addition to your employees, connect with your customers, suppliers, and vendors. Social media is a great way to interact with your audience to gather feedback on how your business can improve. Chatting with suppliers and vendors can build rapport and change your business for the better. It can also encourage you to make a change. Maybe after doing some digging and speaking with a vendor, you determine that they’re too unreliable.

Keep on learning.

Is there any better time than the present to finally improve your skills, expand your knowledge, or learn something new? In my opinion, this won’t just enhance your business savvy; it’s also a much-needed distraction. And, best of all, you can do this from the comfort of your home.

How can you keep on learning? Well, here are some ideas for you to try out:

  • Attend an online business school, training resource, or certificate program. Check out Coursera, Skillshare, or Wharton Online.
  • Read as much as possible. I’m talking about books like Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher & William Ury, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman, Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . And Others Don’t by Jim Collins. And, don’t rule out leading business blogs and websites. Obviously, there are millions of options out there. So, your best bet would be to search for whatever are you need assistance with. For example, if you want to bulk up your online marketing you might want to follow Copyblogger or Moz (or recommend these to team members, and then discuss them at a later date). To get you started, here’s a list of 100 business blogs compiled by the good folks over at Quickbooks.
  • Listen to podcasts. These are great when you’re going for a walk or doing things around the house. Jennifer Spencer put together a solid list of 20 podcasts that will help your business grow on Entrepreneur. But, I would add Entrepreneur on Fire, the Garyvee Audio Experience, and How I Built This.
  • Find a mentor, advisor, and coach. A mentor could be a local business owner, professor, someone like Richard Branson. You’ve never met him. But, he’s influenced you via the books he’s written. Advisors are those who you have a deeper relationship with you can help you improve in a specific area. Coaches are people that you hire to assist you in becoming a better business owner.
  • Volunteer. On top of giving back, this allows you to network and enhance your existing skillset. Of course, you can’t do this in-person currently. But, there are virtual volunteering opportunities for you to explore.

Pay attention to the latest business news.

I know that the news can be overwhelming and exhausting right now. But don’t completely shelter yourself from the latest business news. I mean, you don’t want to miss out on the recent developments and emerging trends, right? If so, you might be missing out on new business and growth opportunities.

You probably can’t go wrong with the old standbys like CNBC, Fortune, or the Wall Street Journal. Personally, I’m a fan of Morning Brew, SGN, and the Skim. Both are daily email newsletters that you can quickly consume. They’re also smart and witty, so it doesn’t always seem like doom and gloom. And, best of all, they keep me updated first thing in the morning so that I don’t have to watch the news all day.

Join a professional organization or an online community.

Some business owners and entrepreneurs might dismiss this. But, in my opinion, this is one of the best time investments you could make. After all, becoming a part of a professional association or online community expands your network, helps you learn new skills, and exposes you to industry trends. You can also use these organizations for professional growth opportunities, to meet or become a mentor, and getting your name out there.

Right now, unfortunately, you can’t do this in person. Thankfully, most of these groups have gone virtual. For example, the Chamber of Commerce is hosting virtual events and webinars. What’s more, there are more than enough online communities for you to join that can help you in business-related areas you like. Suggestions would be Startup Nation, GrowthHackers, LinkedIn groups like Bright Ideas and Entrepreneurs, The Small Business Bonfire, and Slack channels like Online Geniuses.

Develop (or update) your contingency plan.

“A contingency plan, also referred to as a disaster recovery plan, is a set of steps, written down and communicated to all, that describes how you and your team will respond in case of a future, unforeseen, disaster or hardship,” explains Debbie Madden over on Inc.com. The reason? It can help minimize losses and “continue operations as close to ‘normal’ as possible.”

“The key is to create a contingency plan early, communicate it to the entire company, and update it often (ideally annually),” suggests Debbie. And, to achieve that, it could contain the following four pillars:

  • Employee safety. Your people always come first, so make their health and wellness your top priority.
  • Communication plan. Determine a way to communicate with each other. It may sound outdated. But, Debbie has a landline just in case there’s no cell service or people can’t charge their devices.
  • Data backup and recovery. Purchase insurance, place everything on the cloud, and consider purchasing a generator. I’d also recommend that you step-up your cybersecurity knowledge to prevent attacks.
  • Finances. Create a budget and stick to it. And, make sure that you have an emergency fund in place. Debbie also suggests keeping cash-on-hand.

After getting all four pillars in place, “round out your plan by thinking through the specifics of your business,” writes Debbie. “You aren’t going to be able to predict which disasters will hit and when.” However, “if you think through a few worst-case scenarios, as unpleasant as this task is, you’ll be better prepared.”

Also, go through multiple disaster categories to help you prepare for both short-and-long-term events. You could also brainstorm with your team to know how your business is impacted and the steps needed to recover.

Go outside your wheelhouse.

Do something that’s not a part of your regular responsibilities. Maybe write a blog post, develop a social media marketing campaign, answer customer service questions, or do some bookkeeping. If you don’t feel comfortable doing a specific task, then don’t. The idea, though, is to help you learn new skills and how every cog in your business works. You may even empathize with specific team members after walking in their shoes.

And, now is the perfect time to experiment with new tools and strategies. For instance, maybe you’re trying out some time management and productivity techniques now that you’re working from home. Or, to stay in touch with your team, you’ve test-driving various tools that make virtual meetings more accessible and effective. And, you could finally give a new marketing campaign or service a trial run to see what sticks.

7 Before-Bed Steps to Prepare for Tomorrow

By | Time Management | No Comments

You toss, you turn, and you toss some more: You just can’t seem to stop thinking about tomorrow long enough to fall asleep. 

A great way to put your worries to bed? Get a jump on the next day. Doing a little prep work in the evening can help you be more productive tomorrow.

Be proactive: Think through what parts of your morning routine you can do the evening beforehand. There are plenty of things to do before calling it a night. Here’s where to start:

1. Schedule Your Next Day

There’s something romantic about planning your schedule at the crack of dawn. But the morning isn’t the best time of day to get your schedule together. 

Before going to bed, figure out what you’re doing the following day. This activity can help you clear your mind. Scheduling becomes one less thing to do in the morning. 

When putting your schedule together, remember that the most productive people:

  • Focus on one task at a time.
  • Group similar tasks together.
  • Automate or delegate what they can.
  • Put their most difficult task first on their to-do list.

Spend five minutes each night putting together your plan of attack. That way, in the morning, all you need to do is refer to what you created the night before. 

2. Pack Your Lunch 

Preparing your lunch the night before work does a couple of things for you: First, the task doesn’t eat up your morning time. Second, you won’t waste time at work contemplating what to eat for lunch. 

Even better, you can prep your lunches for the whole week on Sunday night. You can also use the time to prepare lunch for your kids as well. If they’re old enough, they can even join in the preparation. 

Once you’re done, simply store the food containers in the fridge. Grab them on your way out the door, and you’re done. 

3. Prepare Breakfast 

Why stop with lunch when you can do the same thing with breakfast? From egg cups to breakfast burritos, there are plenty of easy morning meals you can prepare at night.

Most importantly, get your coffee ready. If you have a fancy coffee maker, you can set it to brew when you wake up. If not, just add the grinds and the water. That way, you only need to flip a switch.

As with lunch, your kids can also join in on breakfast prep — but probably skip the coffee for them. 

4. Select Your Wardrobe

One of the more time-consuming morning tasks? Picking what to wear. If you have a lot of options to choose from, you might waste 15 minutes simply finding your favorite sweater.

If selecting clothes before bed is difficult, try simplifying your wardrobe. Use the 10-5 rule: 10 pairs of underwear, socks, and shirts; five pairs of shorts and pants. 

Fold your chosen clothes and put them next to your bed. Just like making your bed, keeping your clothes tidy can help you feel more put together. 

5. Do a Quick Clean-Up

Undone chores have a way of staring you down in the morning. Before going to bed at night, get some chores out of the way. 

You don’t have to do a full-on cleaning, but do tackle the things that are bothering you. A few priorities include:

  • Sweep or vacuum common areas.
  • Put dirty clothes in your laundry basket.
  • Organize your toiletries.
  • Wash your dishes. 

Cleaning is an underrated form of self-care. When you declutter the physical space you inhabit, you also declutter your mental space.

6. Hop in the Shower

We’ve all taken showers that were longer than they needed to be in the morning. Standing under warm water can make it more difficult to get started, especially when it’s cold outside. 

There are pros and cons to showering at night instead of in the morning. If you are looking to save some time, though, hitting the shower before bed might be right for you.

Showering before bed can help you sleep better and allow you to shower at your own pace. Showering at night is also a good hygiene option to keep your bed cleaner. 

7. Pack Your Essentials

At night, go ahead and pack up your work bag. Make sure you’ve got your laptop, folders, notebooks, and whatever else you need.

Be sure to also put things like your keys and wallet somewhere that won’t be easy to misplace. It’s a good idea to keep them in the same place all the time. Do so, and you won’t need to spend precious time searching for them when you’re trying to get out the door for work. 

Once you’ve started doing your next-day prep at night, it’s hard to imagine doing it all in the morning again. Make the switch: Mornings are not the time to cram, and bedtime is not the time to stress. 

The 10 Best Calendar Apps (What You Should Look For)

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8 Pieces of Productivity Tech to Add to Your Arsenal in 2020

Perhaps the number one reason why we’re addicted to smartphones is that they contain our entire lives in the device. You can check-in with friends, family, and clients, while booking a flight, running your business, and listening to a podcast. Here’s what you should look for in the ten best calendar apps.

But, they’re always useful in organizing our lives. Especially when you have the following ten calendar apps.

1. Calendar

Tired of those back-and-forth emails when scheduling a meeting or appointment? If so, then Calendar has got you covered.

This handy app lets you share your availability with others through an embedded link or email. This way, they can find a date and time that works for them. Once they do, the event is added to everyone’s online calendars.

Calendar can also harness the power of machine learning. Machine learning means that it uses previous data to make smart scheduling suggestions, such as when, where, and what types of meetings you should schedule.

You can also easily create an event using natural language, while the map view gives you a glance at your upcoming schedule.

2. Fantastical 2

This iPhone app has often be cited as the best calendar app for the iPhone. That’s because it’s packed with features, such as:

  • Multiple views including a list view in portrait mode by either week or month or a landscape mode for a week “block” view.
  • Supports multiple languages, like English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese.
  • Ability to create event using natural language.
  • Also, it works with the iPad and Apple Watch.
  • The addition of the view widget — replaces the stock iOS Calendar widget. With this extension, you get a snapshot of your day without opening the app.

You will have to purchase Fantastical 2 for $4.99.

3. Google Calendar

While this stock calendar comes preinstalled in every Android device, Apple users can download it as well. They probably should go ahead and do that.

With a free account, this powerful app will events and schedules from your Google account. If you used your Gmail address to book a flight, hotel room, or doctor’s appointment, the date and time would be added to the calendar. You’ll then receive a reminder through a push notification on your phone when the event approaches.

When creating events, you can color-code your calendar so that you can quickly identify the various types of activities you have scheduled.

4. Calendars 5

If you’re curious, this is the fifth version of Readdle’s Calendars app. That explains why it’s called Calendars 5. It also means that the developers had plenty of opportunities to make this iPhone app as high as possible.

Calendars 5 comes with features like several view options; list view, day view, week view, and month view, as well as an integrated task manager and ability to enter events using natural language. Additional features include being able to create custom alerts, recurring events, and sharing your tasks and activities with others.

5. Microsoft Calendar

For business owners, it’s tough to find a better suite of tools than Microsoft Office 365 — although Google is pretty much right at the top as well. That’s because this app combines your emails, calendar, and much more into one convenient location.

The calendar itself is loaded with functions like being able to import or export to other calendars and share your calendar with others. You can also personalize your calendar using add-ons, like getting a weather report, automating responses to invites, receiving reminders, and receiving an agenda in your email every morning.

6. Tiny Calendar

If you want a simple calendar app that’s available for either Android or iOS, then look no further. Tiny Calendar is a straightforward calendar app where you can view multiple layouts. You can create emails or push notification reminders, and make edits offline. You can even use your device’s GPS to add specific locations to events, and it syncs with other calendars, such as Google Calendar.

The free version should be enough if you need the basics. The paid version — which is $7 — comes with additional features like accepting and sending invites. It also exports other calendars and can create recurring events.

7. Jorte Calendar

Jorte isn’t just another calendar app. It’s also an organizer where you can take notes and manage tasks. It also integrates with Google Calendar, Evernote, and Microsoft Office to make your life run a bit smoother. And, it works for Android and iOS.

As for the calendar itself, it’s pretty solid. There are daily, weekly, or monthly views, the ability to create recurring events, and there are even countdown features that let you know how much time is remaining for a specific event.

For the more robust features, you’ll have to select the Jorte Premium option at $3 per month or $30 for the year.

8. SolCalendar

SolCalendar is known for being one of the most well-designed calendar apps on the market. Some people claim that it’s more of a life management tool than just your standard calendar app.

This app comes with a widget so that you receive a summary of your most important activities. There are stickers and emojis for marking select dates. You can also receive weather reports, share your calendar with others, and integrates with Google Tasks.

Best of all? It’s free for Android users to download.

9. TimeTree

Do you need an app to keep your family or team on the same page? Then download this free app for both Android and Apple users.

With TimeTree, you can share everything from work schedules to tasks to notes. This way, your team knows when you away on travel while your family knows when your flight arrives. It also ensures that every family or team member stays on-top of assigned tasks. You can also send reminders to others.

10. 24me

Finally, there’s this handy personal assistant that comes equipped with a calendar, to-do list, and notes. This way, you can automate everything from paying bills to wishing a happy friend’s birthday. It has reminders — like calling a client or scheduling appointments — by linking to your contacts. You can link to Facebook, TaskRabbit, and your bank account.

Put, if you want to stay on top of your bills, remember birthdays, schedule events, and manage your to-do list, this is the app for you.

The free app is available for Android and iOS.

Criteria for an Amazing Calendar App

What makes these apps considered the best? It’s because they fit the following criteria:

  • Can easily and quickly view appointments — preferably in a click or two.
  • Can easily add, edit, or search for appointments, like being able to use natural language.
  • Integrates with the apps you use daily, such as Calendar or Google Calendar.
  • It is compatible with all of the devices you use. For example, if you have all Apple products, then go with Fantastical 2. If you have a Samsung phone and iPad, then you’ll want an app that works on both Android and iOS.
  • Comes with a clean and contemporary design.
  • Integrates with your email — not a problem if using Calendar, Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook.
  • Allows you to schedule an unlimited amount of appointments.
  • Has the features you need. If you work with a team, for example, then you need to be able to share your calendar with others. If not pre-installed, then look for an app that can be customized to meet your needs.

What criteria do you look for when choosing a calendar app?

Slice Your No-Show Rate With These 5 Tips

By | Scheduling | No Comments
appointment guide

It’s not just you: Cancellations and no-shows are time-wasting issues at every service company.

Missed appointments cost the healthcare industry alone $150 billion dollars a year. With those stakes, you can’t just accept frequent cancellations and no-shows.

You may not be in charge of your client’s schedules, but there are ways to significantly reduce cancellations without upsetting or alienating customers. Take a look at the following ways to do just that:

1. Check for a common cause.

If you see a spike in cancellations, it doesn’t mean that your customers are careless or inconsiderate. There are plenty of other reasons that could be to blame, such as:

  • Customers have issues with your scheduling system that they don’t know how to articulate.
  • Your hours of operation have recently changed.
  • You aren’t sending out appointment reminders.
  • External circumstances, such as the pandemic, are keeping customers away

To get to the root of the issue, reach out to your customers. If they cancel by phone, you can simply ask them. If they cancel on scheduling software, you can provide a portal that lets them check their reason among common ones or provide their own. 

Get data from at least a dozen customers before taking any action. You may need to readjust your availability, send stronger reminders, or provide incentives like discounts to get customers in the door.

2. Default to self-service scheduling.

Having a centralized scheduling software for your company can save you time, not to mention the headaches that come with cancellations. Unless clients request otherwise, ask them to book appointments themselves online. 

With self-scheduling, customers can:

  • Schedule appointments at any time.
  • Choose times that work best for them.
  • Reschedule appointments.
  • Sign up for waitlists.

Customers crave autonomy. Even if something comes up at a time they schedule, they’re much more likely to reschedule if they can handle it themselves.

When that happens, scheduling software helps you shift your own plans. There might be a waitlisted person ready to take their place, for example. 

3. Institute a cancellation policy.

A strong policy can deter cancellations. Just the mention of “policy” can get customers to take your time more seriously. 

A cancellation policy is an opportunity to let your clients know how cancellations and no-shows affect your business. Done right, it can help them understand their role in your success. 

What should your cancellation policy include? Outline a preferred time frame for cancellations as well as a method for notifying your company. Within a certain number of days of the cancelled appointment, a fee may apply. 

Once you create a cancellation policy, be sure to let your clients know about it. Revisit it quarterly, and again make sure clients are abreast of any changes you make. 

4. Require payments beforehand.

If you’ve already paid for an appointment, you are incentivized to actually make it. That’s why prepayments can be a lifesaver when it comes to reducing cancellations and no-shows.

Clients don’t have to pay the full price for the appointment, either. You can charge a deposit beforehand and bill the remaining balance at the time of service.

What if clients want to pay afterward? Offer that option to reliable customers. Treat it as an additional incentive for them to make their appointments.

5. Enhance your customer experience.

One reason that you might be getting frequent cancellations is that customers simply are not excited about the experience you offer. A stronger experience not only reduces no-shows, but it also attracts more customers in the first place. 

Maybe the issue is ho-hum customer service. Perhaps your clients worry that they will wait too long to be seen once they arrive at your office. These are the kinds of mistakes that spur negative conversations about your company, causing others to second-guess their appointments. 

It’s critical to create the sort of environment where customers feel welcomed. Instead of dreading their appointment, they ought to be excited for it. Signs that you’ve got it right include positive feedback and early arrivals. 

Cancellations happen, but they should not get to a point where they make you sweat. You have more control over cancellations than you think. The key is solving them in ways that put the customer first. 

Sales Meeting Hacks During COVID

By | Business Tips | No Comments

Has anyone ever been excited about attending a sales meeting? Probably very few. Now try convincing your sales team to get pumped about an upcoming meeting during a pandemic. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Thankfully, you can use the following hacks to ensure that your meetings will be fruitful and worth their time. And, they may actually have a little fun and look forward to these events during this strange and stressful time.

Sales Meetings 101

It’s a stressful and uncertain time right now. The last thing that you want to is to pile on even more stress onto your team member’s shoulders. That’s why you need to do a little planning and preparation in advance before scheduling a meeting.

If you don’t think that meetings have been stressing your team out, think again. Between getting pulled away from their work, the fear of public speaking, and experiencing technology problems (this accounts for 90% of meeting stress), it’s easy to understand why so many people dread meetings.

To relieve this stress, you need to make sure that all meetings aren’t just necessary — but also productive. You will assure a session is productive by:

  • Setting a single goal or objective for the meeting.
  • Designating a meeting leader, time, date, and location.
  • Setting a time limit and keeping it short — preferably around 30-minutes.
  • Inviting the right amount of people — ideally around seven attendees.
  • Addressing tech issues before the meeting.

Does this preparation seem like a tall glass to fill? Your preparation is not only possible but beneficial if your meeting contains the four elements of a successful meeting.

Use a standardized agenda.

An agenda lets participants know exactly what to expect. It’s the foundation of any productive meetings as it contains the following components:

  • A header that identifies who’s calling the meeting, assembling the body, type of meeting, date and time, start and end time, and location.
  • Key objective that answers two crucial questions. Why are we meeting? And, what do we hope to accomplish?
  • The topics that will be discussed — limit this to 5. If you want to get your team more involved, ask for their input on what they want to be covered. Milestones, pipeline updates, obstacles, monthly targets, noteworthy insights, and what your competitors are doing are solid topic ideas.
  • The meeting work plan. Also called the agenda body, this is everything that will be discussed and in what order. Always start with your most time-sensitive or urgent matters.
  • Allocate the right amount of time to each topic.
  • At the conclusion, make sure you follow-up with the attendees by distributing minutes and assigning responsibilities.

The agenda should always be sent to invitees a day or two in advance so that they have time to prepare.

Provide value.

You want your team to walk away with valuable information that they can use to close more deals. Examples would be training, customer feedback, or the latest news or trends influencing your business.

Team participation.

Don’t bore your team. Keep them engaged by adding some interactivity to it. Ideas would be answering questions, playing games, or breaking your team into groups and having them answer questions.

Also, include use data visualization. It’s more efficient, allows everyone to focus on what’s important, and helps attendees make faster decisions.

Be consistent.

More then ever, we’re striving for normalcy. And, routines and rituals can provide that since they give us certainty. Think of rituals as actions with meaning or emotion attached to them,” Tonya Dalton, a productivity expert, told Healthline. “Rituals keep our day moving along but are infused with joy, pleasure, or positive emotion.”

What does this have to do with meetings? Well, if they’re recurring, then make sure that they take place on the same day and time.

Super-special bonus element: Make your virtual meetings rock!

As of this writing, you have no other choice but for the location of your sales meeting to be remote. So, pass along the following tips so that your virtual meeting will be productive and professional.

  • Work from a quiet, carpeted room.
  • Use a neutral background and have good lighting. But, if it’s within reason, encourage attendees to have some fun and change their backgrounds digitally.
  • Have the meeting on a laptop and not your phone.
  • Test the technology before the meeting, as well as your mic and camera.
  • Raise your webcam to eye-level.
  • “Make the conference application as small as possible and position it adjacent to your computer’s camera,” suggests Joseph Liu on Forbes.
  • Always dress like you’re in a real, professional meeting.
  • Turn off all notifications during the meeting.
  • Look at your camera, not screen, when talking, and mute the mic when you’re not.
  • Avoid multitasking.
  • Learn videoconferencing tricks, such as these six tips about Zoom that Calendar Co-Founder shared on Entrepreneur. If you use Teams, here are 25 gems over at Medium.

Shake Up Your Sales Meetings

Even though you want to give your team consistency, you also don’t want them to get into a rut. That’s why you should occasionally switch things up. It will keep your team engaged, motivated, and will give them something to look forward to.

If you need some creative ideas, Salesforce has the following 6 suggestions:

  • Pump up the volume. “Ask a different team member before each meeting to share a track that gets them particularly motivated or energized before they begin their first outreach to customers in the day.”
  • In the news. Open the meeting “with a brief overview of the trends or stories that stand out, and discuss what they might mean for what the sales team needs to do in terms of approaching customers and prospects.”
  • We shall overcome. Your meeting is the perfect time to provide your reps with strategies and tactics. Or, “even additional information they can use to persuade customers to think differently about whatever’s stopping them from making a purchase.”
  • Sell me this pen. Close your meeting with a fun role-playing exercise where team members must pitch for something like, well, a pen.
  • Here’s what I noticed. When recognizing your reps, outstanding work “be specific about the behaviors and actions that demonstrate a real effort to provide value to customers or the organization.”

Need some other ideas? Well, you could have a meeting with colleagues from departments or experts to expand your rep’s knowledge and skillset.

Another idea would be to have goal-setting sessions. And, you can never go wrong with meetings helping your team overcome roadblocks, reviewing metrics, sharing prospect feedback, and sharing company information.

Because the word “meeting” is often associated with negativity, you could even call these events by a different name. Examples could be:

  • Calling your recurring meetings “team cadence,” “daily huddle,” or “weekly meetup.”
  • Instead of a status update, try “progress check.”
  • A one-on-one could be referred to as a “coaching session.”
  • You could use a “brainstorming session” when generating ideas.
  • For problem-solving, try “root-cause resolution.”
  • Training meetings could be titled “skills certification.”
  • When making an announcement, use “press briefing.”

Use Sales Meetings to Boost Morale and Motivation

“Psychological experiments have shown that the way a meeting starts, sets the tone for the whole meeting,” says Alexandar Kjerulf, aka the Chief Happiness Officer. “Start the meeting with complaints, problems, and mutual blame, and that’s what you’ll get.”

However, if the meeting has a more positive vibe, they will be more engaging and fun. That’s why Kjerulf suggests that you kick-off each meeting by asking participants “to briefly (= less than 30 seconds) share something positive.” Examples would be sharing successful sales stories, asking what they’re grateful for, or telling an exciting or funny story.

You can also use sales meetings to boost your team’s morale by:

  • Recognizing your team’s hard work and dedication and thanking them for all that they do.
  • Let your team members show off their unique skills and help them enhance their existing skillsets.
  • Prioritize time with each team member so that you can find out their personality traits. Knowing this allows you to customize meetings and rewards.
  • Remind them of their purpose. Research from Dr. Valerie Good of Michigan State University shows that purpose is the primary source of motivation in sales. “Instead of focusing on financial payouts for sales personnel to perform better, concentrating on meeting the intrinsic needs of salespeople can lead to better objective performance outcomes.”
  • Always be honest and transparent with them — even if it’s not good news.

Harness the Power of AI

“Artificial intelligence, which consists of natural language processing, machine learning, and bots, is still in its early stages,” explains Calendar Co-Founder John Hall. “We’re already witnessing its influence in areas like scheduling. Take intelligent calendars as an example. By using machine learning, they can “suggest when and where a meeting should occur after reviewing past invites. You can also create a new event just by speaking into your smartphone.”

That can be a game-changer right now. Instead of going back-and-forth with the team, who currently are juggling not only their work but also home responsibilities, a smart calendar could determine that 1 p.m. is an ideal time.

We may not be there just yet, “but AI can record meetings and transcribe and email notes after they’ve concluded,” adds Hall. That information could be used for future reference and replace having someone keep minutes. “It can make smart suggestions on the invitees and documents needed” and “automatically assign tasks and meeting roles.” AI “may even be able to read the room so it can make suggestions on how to keep specific attendees engaged.”

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