How to Foster a “Connected Culture” Remotely

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While the COVID-19 may have resulted in more people working from home, the truth is, working from home was already having its moment. In fact, between 2005 – 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work. And, regardless of what happens when there’s hopefully a vaccine, the majority of people who have been working from home would like to continue doing so — even it’s just a couple of days per week.

And while there are flaws, those who work from home tend to be happier and more productive. However, if you want to take it up a notch, then you need to foster a “connected culture.” According to a survey from RingCentral, “58% of employees who said their companies are attempting to help them connect said they feel physically healthy.”

Furthermore, “75% of employees reporting high levels of emotional well-being said they feel more connected to their colleagues.” In short, if you and your team want to thrive in a remote world, then you need to make this a priority. And you can accomplish this feat by taking the following steps.

1. Culture is more than just ping-pong tables.

“The first thing to realize is that your culture has to be built around more than ping pong tables,” writes Wade Foster for Zapier. “Games and other group activities that lend themselves to being in person are simply not a possibility on a day-to-day basis for remote teams.” As such, “your culture has to be built around something more than playing table tennis to unite the team.”

Instead, Foster states that culture is about how you work. Specifically, it should be rewarding. And, most importantly, it should be built around your mission and values.

2. Promote clear, open, and frequent communication.

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” — Paul J. Meyer

Communication is, without question, the cornerstone of any healthy and productive community. In addition to making collaboration possible, this helps everyone get to know each other better. And, more imperative, this is how you share your company’s values and expectations.

What’s more, you need communication to give and receive feedback and address conflicts. And, it’s the only way that you’re going to keep everyone in the loop.

Tried and true solutions, like email, project management software, and conference calls are a start. But, you should also think outside the box. Some ideas would be:

  • Before your weekly Zoom team meeting, have everyone go around and recap their weekends.
  • At Buffer, team members share an aspect of their personal life they want to improve on Hackpad. You could also kick off each event by acknowledging a team member’s work or give them a birthday shoutout.
  • Host a weekly AMA (ask me anything) — make sure it’s the same time and day.
  • Plan a virtual lunch or after-hour events, such as a movie or game night.
  • Encourage virtual water coolers using tools Donut.
  • Have different Slack channels, like #Pets or #Music, so that your team can connect over common interests.
  • Create virtual clubs, like a book or film, for your peeps to bond over.
  • Schedule one-on-ones to check-in with your people.

And, to recreate an open-door policy, set your status to available on platforms like Slack or Hangouts. If others see that you’re online, then that’s when they can ask you quick questions or share a concern. If this will be a long time commitment, then share your calendar with them, so schedule a one-on-one.

3. Save teams from information overload and burnout.

Information overload, as described by Calendar co-founder John Hall, “is exposure to excessive amounts of information or data.” While not exactly a new phenomenon, we use media for an average of 12 hours and 9 minutes per day. Moreover, since we’re working from home, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to unplug.

As if that’s not enough, we’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information being consumed. As a consequence, this is making us more stressed. It’s also negatively impacting our relationships and productivity.

While communication is critical, you also don’t want to over-communicate with your team. For instance, to avoid Zoom fatigue, you could replace video meetings with email, Slack, or whatever text method you prefer. Since this requires some extra effort, you’re more likely only to share relevant and essential information.

You could also follow in the footsteps of Help Scout. The company switched their weekly all-hands call with a video recap that’s sent every Monday.

“I love the Monday video updates,” states Nick Francis, Help Scout CEO. “They’re a great way to keep our remote team connected, celebrate accomplishments and update everyone on company news. The weekly team update has turned into something we all look forward to and talk about over the course of the week.”

4. Create psychological safety.

“A culture of psychological safety enables employees to be engaged,” writes Jake Herway for Gallup. “They can take risks and experiment. They can express themselves without the fear of failure or retribution.”

“Juxtapose this type of culture with one where employees feel too intimidated to speak up or share a new idea,” adds Herway. “It’s hard to imagine these employees can mentally allow themselves to be engaged at work.”

How can you cultivate psychological safety among remote teams? Start with the following techniques:

  • Share your mistakes, struggles, and weaknesses with your team.
  • Encourage feedback and ask for suggestions.
  • Invite them to challenge your ideas.
  • Rather than pointing fingers, use mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • Find ways for quieter members to contribute. For example, if they’re not comfortable speaking in front of others, they can share their ideas with you through email or one-on-one.
  • Let all team members be involved in the decision-making process.
  • Grant autonomy by letting them work when and however is best for them.

5. Overcome a challenge together.

While this may seem impossible when apart, you and your team can still bond over a challenge remotely. At Calendar, we’ve set up health and fitness challenges over Slack. Groove HQ has also done this with a 30-day push-up challenge.

“It may sound a bit odd, but right away, it felt energizing,” noted CEO Alex Turnbull. “Like we had just developed a deeper relationship across the team in a matter of hours.” In fact, over the next month, “tackling a shared goal has helped us connect on a deeper level than we do in our regular day-to-day work.”

The challenge was also “another touchpoint for our team to communicate with each other on,” says Turnbull. And, it helped counter the dark side of working alone.

“Even those of us who prefer to work ‘alone’ can struggle with that isolation every now and then,” he writes. “That’s why it’s so important to take breaks, play, have a social life, or do whatever it is that keeps you sane.”

6. Create a mentorship program.

One study found that mentors were more satisfied with their jobs and committed to the organization. Additionally, mentoring programs can develop new leaders, increase diversity, and retain your top talent. Also, they create a learning culture, promote personal and professional development, and reduce stress and anxiety.

Best of all? You can use your existing communication methods. For example, you could pair a new sales team member with a seasoned vet. From there, they could have weekly video meetups or quick chats with instant messaging apps or MentorcliQ.

7. Listen to Bill and Ted.

Finally, as William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. famously said, “Be excellent to each other!” How you decide to be kind and show gratitude is totally up to you. It could be something as simple as letting a colleague vent or offering to help them solve a problem.

You could also randomly send them a handwritten note or text thanking them for all of their hard work. If you have the budget for it, you could also send them snack boxes or goodies for their families, like books or dog toys.

And, if your entire team knocked it out of the park this past month, throw a pizza party. Just pick a time and then order some pies from their local pizzerias. Once you arrived, you could hop on Zoom for your virtual celebration.

9 Things You Need to Do Every Morning to Have a Productive Day

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Want to be in the same league as the most productive and successful people in the world? Then you need to make the most of your morning by doing these nine things. When you do, the rest of your day will be extremely productive and fruitful.

1. Plan the night before.

Because we have a limited amount of willpower and decision-making abilities, you want to eliminate as many decision-making tasks in the morning. This is why American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault ends his evenings by jotting down the three things he wants to accomplish the next day.

It also explains why Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama had limited wardrobes.

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make,” President Obama told Vanity. Fair.

When you have fewer decisions to make your saving mental space and will have better productivity throughout the day.

2. Wake up refreshed.

You also can’t have a productive day if you don’t wake-up feeling refreshed. Think about those days when you only got 4 hours of sleep. You’re dragging the entire day.

Establish a nighttime ritual where you limit or avoid stimulates like alcohol, caffeine, and electronics right before bed. Instead, have a quiet and relaxing evening by meditating or reading. And, don’t forget to go to bed at the same time every night.

Ideally, your bedroom should be as dark and quiet as possible. It should also be a little cool. This way you’ll sleep undisturbed the entire night and will wake-up refreshed and ready to take-on the day.

3. Create a morning to focus your mind.

Claire Diaz Ortiz, a productivity expert and author of Design Your Day, says that if you want to be more productive — then you need to create a morning routine that works for you. She explains that how you start your day anchors you and ensures that you stay focused.

According to Renzo Costarella in a previous Calendar article, here’s what you should include in your morning routine:

  • Wake-up before everyone so that you’re free of distractions.
  • Drink at least one 24 oz. glass of water when you first wake-up.
  • Exercise for around 30 minutes before breakfast. If possible, do this outside since taking in that sunlight first thing in the morning lets your internal clock know it’s time to start the day.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast — that means skipping sugary cereals and pastries.
  • Read for at least 10 to 15 minutes so that you learn something new.
  • Practice mindfulness for about 10 minutes — this clears your mind and assists with focus.

My morning routine also consists of writing in my journal — hey, it’s worked for Da Vinci, Mark Twain, Oprah, and Tim Ferris.

I also make my bed every morning. It’s not that I’m a neat freak. It’s a small task that gets your day off to an excellent start.

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day,” said U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McCraven. “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

4. Set a daily intention.

You know, I never really did this until I came across this article from Purple Carrot. It’s great advice, so I’ll let them explain:

“Setting your daily intention is just like paving your day ahead. In the early part of the day when things are calmer, and you have a moment to think clearly, set your intentions focusing on at least two goals that you want to accomplish for the day. Have extra time? Write these goals on post-its and bring them to work with you so you’re constantly reminded of what you want to accomplish.”

I want to emphasize that last part there. Research shows that writing down your goals enhances your goal achievement.

5. Daily affirmations.

“Affirmations are short, powerful yet simple statements intended to help you manifest a particular goal,” writes Choncé Maddox. “This is power is positive thinking and it only takes a few minutes to recite some positive affirmations.”

6. Avoid your phone.

Don’t just dive directly into emails, texts, and social media when you first wake-up. Doing so will help you lose focus. Even worse it steals your time and gives it to other people.

Instead, spend these precious first moments of the day to do something that you find relaxing, such as walking your dog, meditating, or reading, This will help set calm and positive tone for your day, as opposed to a frantic start.

This may take some discipline, but try to avoid your phone until after you’ve eaten breakfast.

7. Schedule your day.

Want to get all all of you tasks done? Then make sure that they’re scheduled into your calendar.

As entrepreneur and author Dave Kerpen explains, “If it’s not in my calendar, it won’t get done. But if it is in my calendar, it will get done.”

“I schedule out every 15 minutes of every day to conduct meetings, review materials, write, and do any activities I need to get done. And while I take meetings with just about anyone who wants to meet with me, I reserve just one hour a week for these ‘office hours.’”

Don’t forget to also schedule in breaks and your lunch.

8. Network over coffee.

Yes. Coffee is good for you. So while you’re enjoying that morning cup of Joe do a little networking. For example, you could reach out and connect with colleagues on LinkedIn or Twitter. Or, you could schedule meetings with potential business partners or investors.

9. Eat the frog.

Brian Tracy, author of “Eat the Frog,” has based his morning philosophy off of a quote from Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Obviously this doesn’t mean literally eating a frog. The frog is “your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.” As the day goes on, this doesn’t just linger over our heads, we have less energy to complete this task.

Don’t put this task off until later in the day. Tackle it first thing in the morning and get it done.

Disciplines That Pays Off: 11 Time Management Tips for Freelancers

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As a freelancer, time management is one of the most important skills that you need to develop. If you aren’t properly managing your time — then you’re not going to earn as much money.

Are you spending an hour or two of social media every morning? This may not seem like a biggie — but is this your time-suck? You have to decide this. Could you have been working, networking, or strengthening your skills? Should you have been doing that?

I’ve been freelancing for a decade. Time management was something that I definitely struggled with over the years — and still do occasionally. What I’ve found, however, is that it takes a lot of discipline to effectively manage your time as a freelancer.

These eleven time management tips for freelancers have definitely helped me in the time management area. As a result — I’ve become a more productive and successful freelancer.

1. Rethink your to-do-lists.

I’m a big fan of to-do-lists. I would say that most productive people are. The thing is, if you aren’t using them correctly — they can become too frustrating and demotivating. If you have a to-do-list containing 30 vague items like “check email,” make phone calls,” and “write blog posts,” you’re not going to be very productive.

Reasonable, specific, and prioritized.

To-do-lists need to be reasonable, specific, and prioritized. Instead of 30 items listed in the way those above  str — trim your list to under 10 items. Make them more detailed — and compelling — like: “email Jim,” return Sue’s phone call,” and “write two time management blog posts.”

How will you do your experiment?

You will need to experiment and find an approach that works best for you. Some people love the traditional checklist on paper or bullet journaling. Others rely on apps like Todoist or Trello. Some freelancers  prefer adding the to-do-list to their calendar.

There’s one of my favorite techniques — the Eisenhower Matrix — which is a to-do list that’s divided into four quadrants: Do first, schedule, delegate, and don’t do.

2. Track your time.

If you want to improve your time management, then you need to see how you’re spending your days and how long it takes you to complete tasks.

You could go old school and carry around a notebook with you for a week. Jot down how long your morning commute takes, the time you spend wasting online, or the amount of time it takes to complete a task. You can use your phone’s stopwatch to assist you.

You have many choices — including staying just as you are.

However, there are hundreds of software and apps that can do this tracking and timing for you — through timers and time sheets. How long you spend on specific websites — Timely, for example, automatically tracks your time and then makes smart suggestions on where you can  improve.

However — knowing — can help you decide.

The idea is that when you track your time you’ll be able to see how and where you’re wasting time. It will also give you a better idea on how long it takes to complete a task and when you’re most productive. Knowing this can help you create a schedule.

3. Make and stick to a schedule.

“Being self-employed means you can literally work whenever you want. Experience shows me it’s best to set specific work hours,” writes Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar article. “If you don’t, you’ll run the risk of procrastinating, missing deadlines or becoming easily distracted and falling behind.”

Setting specific work hours.

Choncé also says that, “It’s important to set your work hours because you also want to know how much you can realistically accomplish in a workday.” She uses block scheduling and a to-do list to organize her tasks for the day. It’s a simple and effective way to help “get a full understanding of what my day is going to look like and what I’m going to be working on.”

“Once I get toward the end of my set work hours, I know it’s time to wind down and start wrapping up. This helps me transition into other areas of my life without feeling stressed out or ‘guilty’ for stepping away from my business.”

Here’s a rough example of what my daily schedule looks like:

  • 6:00 – 7:00 A.M.: Stretch, breakfast, email, and RSS feed.
  • 8:00 – 11:00: Research and outline articles.
  • 11:00 – 12:00: Meet or touch base with clients.
  • 12:00 – 1:00: Lunch, email, texts, social media, and RSS feed.
  • 1:00 – 2:00: Exercise and take the dog for a walk.
  • 2:00 – 5:00: Write articles for clients.
  • 5:00 – 8:00: Dinner, finish client articles, and prepare for tomorrow.

Bonus Tip:
Work during off-hours. I try to get my day started early, like everyone else. This way I’m not distracted by the other people in my home, emails, or texts. I’ve even gone into coffee shops after dinner because they’re not as crowded at that time.

4. Identify and eliminate distractions.

Distractions are arguably the biggest barrier between you and effective time management, as well as productivity. The common distractions are smartphones, social media, email, and messaging platforms.

The easiest fix of all — turn off notifications.

The easiest fix is to turn off any alerts or notifications on your phone or computer — both Android and iOS devices have “Do Not Disturb” features.

However, if you’re freelancer working from home, you may have to deal with distractions like the TV, your family or roommates, household chores, noisy neighbors, or not having the right tools or equipment.

Ever heard of earplugs or “Beats?”

Find which distractions are hameping your productivity and then find solutions. For example, you may want to start working at a coffee shop or coworking space since they eliminate most of the distractions listed above.

If that’s not an option, then have a dedicated work area that’s in a quiet location. Ideally, this is would be a spare room where you can close the door.

You should also invest in noise-cancelling headphones and dedicate one day a week to household chores so that they don’t take your focus away from work.

5. Break larger projects down.

You just received a large project assignment from a client. Your first instinct is to look at the entire project as a whole. As a result, you get overwhelmed and procrastinate because you don’t know where you’re going to start.

Break down large work projects — just as you would any project.

Instead, break that project down into smaller tasks. For example, when I’ve had to write an eBook, I focus on one chapter at a time. I start by researching and outlining only that chapter that I’m working on. After it’s been outlined, I focus only on writing that chapter.

place to start and makes the project seem much more manageable.

Here’s another tip I’ve learned along the way –break your day into blocks. This is a productivity hack known as the Rule of 52 and 17.

So when I’m writing a big project, I block out two hours of writing into my calendar with a 17-minute break in-between where I go for a block, meditate, or clean the dishes real quick. This keeps me focused on what I’m currently working-on, while also preventing distractions from disrupting my flow.

6. Limit your client base.

When you’re just starting out as a freelancer you have no reservations in accepting each and every gig that comes your way. It’s not a bad idea when you need the cash and building a portfolio.

Eventually, however, you’re going to start working with more high-profile clients. Because they’re paying you decent money, they’ll demand more of your time. In this case, you may no longer be able to handle those smaller jobs.

You take the next advice — when you have the luxury to do so — and not before you are covering your bills. Until bills are paid — shut your mouth and hustle.

Additionally, you may also want to fire specific clients — even if they pay well. I know that may sound ridiculous, there are just some clients who demand constant revisions because they’re perfectionists or don’t know what they want. This prevents you from getting other work completed, which means you may have to part ways with them.

7. Just say “no!”

Your best friend texts you asking if you want to go to lunch. A client emails you asking if you can start working on a project ASAP. Your gut reaction may be to say “yes” to either situation. This means you’re getting pulled away from the work at hand.

I know that you don’t want to offend anyone, but sometimes you just have to say “no.” If you’re swamped, then you need to let the client know that you have a full plate today and can’t start on their project until next week. If you’re in the “zone,” then plan to have lunch with your friend on another day where you have some more flexibility.

8. Work in batches.

“Batching is a form of productivity where you arrange tasks in set groups,” writes best-selling author Amanda Abella. “In other words, you block off time on the calendar for similar tasks.”

For me, when I go to write — I do all of my research and outline for the day’s articles in the morning. I then write all of my article — then edit and format them. This way I’m not switching between tasks or bouncing between tabs.

When it’s time to write, I can just crank an article out, instead of researching, writing, and editing it at the same time.

9. Gamification.

This doesn’t mean that you literally turn you work into a game. It means using game principles in your process to motivate you and make work more fun.

This gamification can be accomplished by:

  • A reward system. You completed a project ahead of the deadline, so you reward yourself by going out with your friends.
  • A point system. You receive points for completing tasks, such as earning one point for cleaning out your inbox.
  • A timer. You have a specific amount of time to complete a task.

Find out which one of these suggestions beats with your heart. You will have to figure this out — if you succeed at freelancing.

  • Compete with a fellow freelancer. Set up a challenge to see who can complete a task or project faster.
  • Chart your progress. I’ve tracked how many words I can write in a day. It’s amazing how many more words I can write now compared to when I started. And, it motivates me to do even better.

10. Outsource and automate.

As a freelancer, I’ve had to learn many new skills over the years in order to market and manage my business. Whenever I have to balance my books or market my services, I’m taking time away from work.

Learn when it is time to outsource and automate the extra tasks.

For example, I recently had to launch an email marketing campaign for a client. Even though I know how to, I found someone on Fiverr to get it started for me. This way I could focus just on creating a content calendar and composing articles for the client.

Once set up, the campaign used automation to respond to clients, such as receiving a welcome email when signing-up for the newsletter or receiving a confirmation of a sale.

11. End-of-day reviews.

“Before finishing up work tonight, review your calendar and reprioritize your meetings, appointments and planned work for the next day. Look to see if you can reschedule non-priority meetings to the following day if you need to,” suggests Jason Womack, author of: Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More

You should also look into the following week of your calendar to see “if you can collapse two meetings into one by meeting with two people at the same time.”

Don’t forget to locate “and schedule 30 – to 60 – minute chunks of a time (perhaps even multiple times per day) during which you can close your door or turn off your email or phone. You can take these chunks of time if you must focus on a single project or priority without being interrupted.”

Jason Womack adds that he has found his clients like this technique and have reported that they “become more aware of the changes they can make for a more productive, engaging day.”

What to Do When People Show Up Late to Their Appointment

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Try as you might to get customers to arrive on time to their appointments, you’ll always end up with a few stragglers. How you handle these inconveniences says a lot about your culture and customer service. 

Do you let people show up late repeatedly? Do you tear into them for it? Neither are the right approach. Here’s how to handle delays effectively but tactfully:

Ask About the Cause

Confront late customers about what caused them to be late. Was there more traffic than anticipated? Did they simply forget? 

Questions are a soft way to get your message across. Plus, they help you discover trends that cause customers to be late. That way, you can address them across your customer base. 

For example, if you have several customers forget their appointment times in a given month, start sending out more or improved reminder messages. If customers are late because they can’t find your business, add clearer directions to your website and check your location on Google.

Take Care of Timely Customers

Interspersed with your late arrivals will be customers who show up on time. Reward those who adhere to the schedule by serving them promptly. Otherwise, they may feel punished for another customer’s tardiness — and think the tardy customer has been rewarded for their lateness.

Don’t be afraid to swap appointment times. This benefits the customer who showed up on time while still giving the late customer a spot in line. That way, you’re not missing out on revenue or letting bad behavior go uncorrected. 

Give a Fair Warning

No business can afford to deal with chronic tardiness. When you have a customer arrive late, give them an honest warning. This will inform them that repeated tardiness won’t be tolerated. 

Before you do this, make sure you have a late policy in place. An existing policy will hold weight; an in-the-moment approach won’t. Go through the details of your policy together so there’s no question as to whether a late customer understands it. 

The bottom line is, you can’t enforce a rule that doesn’t exist. Establish a policy that’s firm enough to be convincing, but not so strict that it scares customers away.

Issue a Penalty

For late customers to take your policy seriously, it needs to be tied to consequences. You could charge late fees, but a better approach might be to force late arrivals to reschedule. That way, they don’t disrupt your schedule and can’t refuse to pay the price. 

Be firm but fair when issuing a penalty. People who are only late once every couple of months deserve some leniency, but customers who inconvenience your business every time do not.

Remember that you also have a right to refuse service to problem customers. If it’s costing you money to maintain a relationship with a customer who is always late, it may be time to cut ties with them.

Keep Things Moving

A rule of thumb for appointment-based businesses is that customers will respect your time if you respect theirs. If your wait times are long and showing up on time for an appointment does no good, you can’t expect customers to adhere to a strict schedule.

Even when customers show up late, do your best to keep things moving. Show customers that you value their time by being prompt and apologizing for any delays. Look for ways to reduce wait times and improve efficiency so you can hold customers to a higher standard.

Help Them Find a Time That Works

If a customer can’t seem to make a certain time slot work, offer ones that might. They may, in fact, suggest this themselves.

Rescheduling on site ensures that a return appointment is made. Not only does doing so net you recurring revenue, but it’s good customer service. Walking them through available times and inputting information yourself comes across like a favor. 

Cut Appointments Short

If a customer is five minutes late, consider ending their appointment five minutes early. Not only is it fair, but it keeps late arrivals from pushing back other appointments. 

Let’s say you’re a dentist and a patient arrives a half hour late. You have a full waiting room but still want to take care of your customer. You might do a quick clean and then book them another checkup sooner than you otherwise would. 

Send Them Off With a Reminder

Not every late customer is at fault. Neither you nor they can control traffic patterns or stop family emergencies. But you can send customers off with a reminder to leave home a little earlier for their next appointment. 

If your late policy uses a “strikes” system, do this in writing. That way, you can enforce a consequence next time without worrying about the customer claiming they were never warned. 

The reality is, you’ll never completely eliminate late arrivals. But don’t let “good” be the enemy of “perfect.” Help your customers be on time, and many of them will discover that being late doesn’t benefit anyone. 

12 Ways to Avoid Self-Sabotaging Your Productivity

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I don’t think that’s it’s always deliberate. But, when it comes to productivity, we’re sometimes our own worst enemy. For example, you did your due diligence by adding your most important tasks to your calendar. But, you didn’t schedule them around when you’re most productive. Here are 12 ways to avoid self-sabotaging your productivity.

That may sound inconsequential. But, since you didn’t plan your day around productivity peaks, you may be working on an essential task during an energy dip. As a result, it may take you longer since you don’t have the energy and focus.

But, that’s just one example of how you may be self-sabotaging your productivity? If you want to avoid participating in this self-destructive behavior, then here are 12 ways you can do so.

1. Manage your attention.

Maura Thomas is an award-winning speaker, trainer, and author of several books, including “Attention Management.” According to Thomas, if you want to avoid self-sabotaging your productivity, then you should first pay attention to your attention.

“We have framed our efforts around productivity and efficiency as ‘time management’ for way too long, all the while knowing that no one can actually ‘manage time,” Thomas told Forbes. “It passes, no matter what we do. We can’t slow it down or create more of it, and we all have the same amount.”

In other words, not having enough time isn’t the culprit when it comes to productivity. “It’s a distraction and misplaced attention that interferes with our ability to achieve the results that are most significant to us,” argues Thomas. The solution? Attention management.

Thomas defines attention management as “the practice of controlling your attention.” While not necessarily a new concept, this idea can be traced back to William James in the 1800s, Thomas believes that this “is an essential productivity skill of the 21st century.”

At its core, attention management is about being proactive and not reactive. It’s deciding where we want our attention to go. And, it’s identifying and changing the bad habits that prevent us from being productive.

To get you started, Thomas suggests:

  • Either put your phone away or put it in do not disturb mode.
  • When on your computer, work offline or close distracting websites.
  • Allocate specific times to focus on less important tasks like email.
  • Declutter your workspace.
  • For uninterrupted work, find a quiet space where you aren’t distracted by others.

Most importantly, “plan, organize, and make thoughtful choices about what gets our attention.” Ideally, this should be based around your priorities.

2. Don’t get too comfortable.

“The critical inner voice likes to keep us in a box, pigeonholed by an identity assigned to us and not necessarily one we earned,” writes Lisa Firestone Ph.D. “It can be tricky and flood us with thoughts that are seemingly self-soothing. After all, it’s much easier “to recognize an internal enemy when it’s yelling at you that you’re stupid or a failure.”

However, most of us struggle with identifying those thoughts that encourage us to engage in unhealthy habits. For example, when you’re exhausted after a hectic week, you may tell yourself that you’ve earned the right to eat junk food and veg out on the couch all weekend.

“Listening to this voice may feel comfortable at first,” adds Dr. Firestone. But, “once we give in to bad habits or avoid going after what we want, our inner critic starts in with the self-punishing thoughts,” such as “You’ll never amount to anything.”

Definitely — make (and schedule) time to rest and celebrate your accomplishments. But, at the same, don’t get too cozy. Keep looking for ways to learn, grow, and get out of your comfort zone. When you do, you’ll embark on more productive and healthy habits. It’s also a great way to silence that pesky inner critic.

3. Create a Pavolian reinforcement system.

We all have those days when we don’t feel like doing squat. As a consequence, we end up procrastinating. Next thing we know, your productivity has taken a hit. More worrisome, this could screw up your entire schedule for the day or even week. And, you may also put your business in jeopardy by failing to meet deadlines.

The good news is that you can use some good old classical conditioning to address this problem. It’s a simple way to trick you into doing anything that you don’t want to. For example, I was having difficulty getting in the zone this week. But, I promised myself that as soon as I completed my work, I would treat myself to a trip to the movie theater. It was simple, but it worked.

The key here is to find a reward system that works best for you. If you don’t want to go to the movies, then treat yourself to a healthy snack, having lunch with a friend, or purchasing a new book.

4. Get over your preconceived notions.

I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of forming an opinion about someone or something before meeting or experiencing them. For example, you may skip a party or networking event because you assume that it will be a waste of time. Other times you won’t try new food, tool, or business process since you’ve already told yourself that you won’t like it.

Sure. There will be times when your preconception was right. But, if you always listen to this bias, then you aren’t opening the door to new experiences, ideas, and perspectives. What’s more, by refusing to try out new things, you’re potentially missing out on an improved routine or system that can boost your output.

5. Working through breaks.

In theory, it’s understandable why we do this. You’ve got a million things to do, or you’ve fallen behind on a project. To resolve these problems, you don’t take any breaks throughout the day. You even work straight through your lunch break, subsisting on a Snickers bar — or two.

You begin to believe that it’s counterproductive to stop what you’re doing merely to take a breath — a breather, or eat a healthy lunch. But, breaks are essential to productivity. We need these intermissions to decompress, rest, and recharge. We can also use these lulls to process everything that’s going around us. And, they give us a chance to refuel so that we have the stamina and mental energy to get through the remainder of the day.

6. Making decisions — quickly.

As a leader, you’re expected to make tough decisions daily. Because some of these decisions are important, you should take your time so that you can weigh the advantages and drawbacks.

But what about less essential choices? You should be able to make them quickly. If not, we’ll spend a portion of your day ruminating over something insignificant.

Author and former clinical psychologist Alice Boyes use picking a hotel as an example. Instead of doing extensive research each time you search for a room, you should have five criteria points that you look for. If the hotel meets your requirements, then book it.

“This helps me de-prioritize marginally productive behaviors, like spending 30 mins returning an unsatisfactory low-value item to a store when I could be doing something much more productive,” Boyes writes for Harvard Business Review.

7. Avoid comparing yourself to others.

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

It’s so easy to fall into this trap. Between conducting market research or just scrolling through social media, you’re tempted to compare yourself to others. Whether it’s sizing up your competition or seeing which tropical location a college friend is currently at, comparing yourself to others isn’t just a waste of time. It also sabotages your productivity because you’re more worried about others are doing than how you can improve yourself personally and professionally.

8. Don’t fear change.

Change is a part of life. But, that doesn’t mean that it comes easy. Most of us resist change because we’re petrified of the unknown. Others are just creatures of habit and don’t want to shake things up.

Whatever the exact reason, change is confusing and frightening. But, by embracing change, you can evolve into a more well-rounded, knowledgeable, and productive individual.

Some ways that you can fight back against this resistance is to seek out different perspectives and try something new. For example, if you’ve never had Indian cuisine, make visiting that new Thai restaurant in town a part of your date night agenda. And, make sure that you ask lots of questions.

9. Seek out inspiration.

Although often attributed to C.S. Lewis, it’s most likely Les Brown, one of my favorite quotes is, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” The reason? It encourages me to chase my dreams and find new sources of inspiration constantly.

If you feel like you haven’t felt excited in quite some time, then everything from motivation, residence, and productivity will stifle. Eventually, like The Boss, you’ll get stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.

Thankfully, there’s an inspiration all around you. Books, podcasts, exploring your city, or taking in the arts are all simple ways to give you an inspiration spark when you need it.

10. Lower your standards.

Obviously, you don’t want to ditch your high standards when it comes to your work or the products and services you offer. You should also expect your team to deliver quality work. But, it’s unreasonable and not possible to demand perfection.

Perfectionism prevents you from improving, discovering new opportunities, and wrecks your productivity. To avoid this cycle, lower standards just a little — a smidgen won’t kill you or anyone else. Try:

11. Delay gratification.

Our brains prioritize instant gratification. The main reason for this is because of the emotional part of the brain that responds positively to immediate rewards.

“Our emotional brain has a hard time imagining the future, even though our logical brain clearly sees the future consequences of our current actions,” says David Laibson at Harvard University. “Our emotional brain wants to max out the credit card, order dessert and smoke a cigarette. Our logical brain knows we should save for retirement, go for a jog and quit smoking.”

While you should savor the moment, you also need to find the right balance. If you stay up all night drinking, then how productive are you going to be the next day? If you keep neglecting your health, then you aren’t going to have the energy and focus to power through your to-dos.

So, definitely have fun. But, it should be within reason. And, more importantly, don’t immediately reward yourself. Save it for later so that you’ll make a better choice.

12. Embrace failure.

Finally, don’t fear failure. You should welcome it.

I know that it isn’t fun and wasn’t your intention. But, failing is one of the best ways to learn and grow. You can take that painful experience and use it to your advantage so that you can become a smarter and stronger entrepreneur. It may even make you a better person overall.

Why You Should Always Verify Appointments (And 5 Ways to Do So)

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Why You Should Always Verify Appointments (And 5 Ways to Do So)

Getting customers to book appointments is one thing. Getting them to keep those appointments is another. In the never ending tug-of-war to get customers through your doors, take the time to verify each and every appointment.

Verifying appointments ensures they run more successfully. Customers are more likely to adhere to their appointment times, and you can keep operations running smoothly day after day.

Sounds great, right? Let’s dig in.

Why Verifying Appointments is Important

Verifying appointments has a number of external and internal benefits. This simple action can:

Reduce Cancellations

Cancellations do nothing but waste time. When you plan your schedule around appointments, you don’t have flexibility for anything else. The trade off is that you get guaranteed customers — until they decide to cancel.

Verifying appointments urges customers to honor their commitments. The more who actually do so, the more consistent your company’s revenue, and the better you can stick to your schedule.

Encourage Timeliness

People are forgetful. Customers can lose track of time or forget they’d booked in the first place, resulting in late arrivals. These push back other appointments, which stresses out employees and can frustrate other customers. 

By sending out verification messages, customers will be reminded of their commitments and be more inclined to arrive when they should. Timely appointments allow operations to run flawlessly.

Improves Brand Image

Show each customer that they mean something to your business. By reaching out to them in between the time they set the appointment and the time they arrive, you show how much you appreciate them. 

Be careful not to be too clingy. Too much contact can be off putting. Consistent contact at the right frequency, however, can be reassuring and motivating for customers, especially those on the fence about their appointments.

Solidifies Your Schedule

A well-organized day is a productive day. By verifying customer appointments, you make it easier to stick to your plan each day. When customers don’t show up, your mental bandwidth is spent trying to put together a new plan. 

By sending verification reminders, you’ll also receive cancellations and postponed appointments. While these are never good news, be glad you’re learning about them sooner rather than later. The fewer last-minute surprises you can avoid, the better.

Easy Ways to Verify Appointments

Appointments can be verified in multiple ways. Choose the one that works best for your business. Reach out through more than one channel only if you’re not getting a response.

1. Email

Send a confirmation email with the customer’s appointment information. Make sure to include the appointment date and time in large, bold lettering that’s easy to see. Below, include your cancellation policy, contact information, and anything else that might be useful.

With this route, you can also send promotions and coupons that can convince customers to book return appointments. Be judicious, as too many messages in their inbox will earn you a one-way ticket to the spam folder.

2. Text Message

Sending a text restricts the amount of information you can send, but it’s a more direct form of communication. In fact, customers are 35 times more likely to view a text from a company than an email. 

Be sure to get a phone number from customers when they book online. Give them control over whether they receive verification texts. Some cell phone plans charge by the message, so don’t assume everyone wants to receive them. 

3. Phone Call

Verifying appointments over the phone requires the most effort from employees. Assuming customers do answer the phone instead of letting it go to voicemail, employees need to be ready for any questions or concerns that may arise.

Despite your urging to the contrary, some customers will hold off on said questions until the last minute. You might have to recite your cancellation policy on command, or change around appointment dates for customers who failed to plan ahead.

While less efficient than other means, phone calls do offer a great opportunity to reschedule appointments that customers can’t make. Give your team members a customer service refresher if you’re going to issue appointment reminders through this channel. 

4. Social Media 

You might have customers who prefer to contact you on social media. If so, sending them verification messages through the same channel makes sense. 

Beware that other customers may consider business outreach on these platforms inappropriate. Unless customers have previously reached out to you on these sites, sending appointment reminders through them should be a last resort.

5. Snail Mail

The slowest and most expensive delivery option, good old fashioned mail can work in some instances. For example, if your business caters to an older demographic, they may prefer to receive their reminders in the mail.

With that said, sending promotions and coupons through the mail isn’t a bad idea. Customers tend to take them more seriously than marketing emails. Consider starting a referral program in which a customer can get a discount for bringing in a coupon and a friend. 

Keep in mind that you can stagger your verification messages, in case the first one doesn’t get a response. Two weeks in advance you can send out an email, and then one week later send a reminder text. The day of, make a quick phone call or send a message through social media if you still haven’t received confirmation from the customer. 

Get to Verifying

The sooner you start verifying your appointments, the better for your business. You’ll realize more consistent revenue, and your customers will appreciate having a slot saved for them. Start locking in your appointments today. 

What are the 4 D’s of Negligence in Time Management?

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How to Squeeze More Time Out of Your Busy Schedule

I’ve experimented with various time management hacks over the years. The time management hack I’ve found to be most practical and useful is the 4Ds of time management. People will continue to get better and better at their jobs and productivity, yet time management will continue to be an issue in business. We’ll look at the 4D’s of time management first, but what are the 4D’s of negligent time management?

The 4D’s of Time Management

If you’re not familiar with this technique, the 4Ds of time management are: delete, delegate, defer, and do.

  • Delete is where you remove unnecessary time-wasters from your schedule, such as projects you never complete or unproductive meetings.
  • Delegate is taking tasks that are important but can be assigned to someone else.
  • Defer means, essential tasks that don’t need to be handled right now. Schedule these jobs when you have the availability.
  • Do is for the jobs (or anything) that take a couple of minutes to finish quickly. Don’t let these micro-tasks pile-up — get them done and over with, now. But, do also means diving directly into a task, building up your momentum and working on a bigger job to get it done.

Personally, using the 4Ds of time management has increased my productivity. How? Using the principle has encouraged me to focus on what truly matters. Also, because this has reduced the number of activities I need to worry about, I’m not cluttering my calendar. The 4D’s have helped prevent decision fatigue, which gives me more mental energy throughout the day.

What’s interesting, however, is that different industries have their variation of the 4D’s. Case in point, the medical industry has the 4Ds of medical negligence. These (negligent areas) are duty, dereliction, direct causation, and damages.

The 4D’s of Medical Negligence.

Recently, I had to visit urgent care. Nothing serious. While waiting to see the doctor, I saw a parallel between the 4Ds of time management and negligence.

I know. That probably shouldn’t have been my main concern. But what can I say? I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve time management. I think the 4D’s of negligence can be helpful in the Calendar, business, and productivity space.

Duty

No matter the exact field of expertise — doctors must adhere to strict rules, guidelines, and protocols. Drs listen to the patient and are respectful of their views.

The same system of confidentiality should be practiced in businesses, with customers and client’s financials and other information. A physician must also practice confidentiality. How confidential are we with our clients and customers data, requests, sales, and so forth? In short, Doctors must always provide the best care possible for all of their patients. Do we do the same in business?

Additionally, if the doctor believes that they can not help a patient — they must refer them to someone else. For example, if you have a rotator cuff tear, then your primary physician wouldn’t attempt to do surgery. Instead, your primary care doctor will refer you to physical therapy, and then to an orthopedic surgeon.

How duty relates to time management.

To begin with, whenever you accept a time request, you have a duty to follow through with the job. If you accept a meeting invite — then you need to block that timeframe in your calendar to prevent scheduling conflicts. You will follow through with the meetings set up on your schedule.

Ditching-out on your scheduled appointments at the last minute isn’t done unless there is an emergency. Your doctor doesn’t cancel appointments for no reason. It wouldn’t be very professional for your doctor to visit with two patients in the same room at the same time, either.

You have a responsibility to arrive on-time for your appointments and end the event as scheduled.

Not only is this respectful to the other attendees, but it also protects your time. Have you planned a meeting for thirty minutes, and the meeting ends up being an hour? The lax in protocols change your plans for the day — and creates conflict in everyone’s schedule.

Similarly to the medical duty of time management — if you don’t have the availability — then be honest about this upfront. If your Calendar is packed for the next month, don’t take on any new responsibilities. Don’t keep adding to your duties or accept any meeting invites until you have more time.

Finally, like doctors, if you aren’t an expert — then send your clients and customers to someone who is an expert. Obviously, for those in the medical field — it’s for legal purposes. But, for most of us, this is a simple way to avoid wasting time.

For instance, I just repaired a couple of things at my home. These weren’t difficult, but because I had never done them before — I spent hours on the project. It may have been expensive to hire a maintenance specialist — but I would have saved a ton of time. Next time I’ll call the repairman. I’ll stick with what I am an expert at — for the sake of my business.

Dereliction

Whenever a doctor doesn’t meet expectations or overstepped boundaries, this is called dereliction negligence. Examples would be not providing a clean and safe environment, misdiagnosis, missing a diagnosis, doing unnecessary procedures. Dereliction also includes surgical errors or prescribing the wrong medication.

How dereliction relates to time management.

Did you commit to a new work assignment? If so, that should be your priority. You should also allocate the right amount of time to performing the jobs you said you would accomplish. By Calendaring your tasks and meetings you’ll be sure to meet the deadlines. If you don’t have the time or skills for this exact task, just as a doctor would do, the job should be handed off to someone else whose expert.

Furthermore, dereliction is defined as “the state of being abandoned.”

And, as it just so happens, finishing what you started is one of the best ways to manipulate time to your advantage.

“It’s very common for tasks to get interrupted or delayed throughout your day.” Renzo Costarella wrote previously for Calendar. “Often, it’s best to finish the task at hand before starting new ones.” If you visited your doctor to get stitches, you would expect the doc to finish the job — not leave you half-stitched.

“However, other things may take priority,” adds Renzo. “For example, if a customer needs immediate assistance, it’s probably best to serve them right away.” But, “you need to make a point to return and finish your unfinished duties” after handling the current crisis.

“Again, this sounds simple enough, but it’s common for individuals to get distracted and leave loose ends.”

Direct Causation

If there was a dereliction of duty, then it must be proven that the healthcare provider was at fault. Usually, this is straightforward. I’ll give you an example of my personal life. My grandfather went in for simple cataract surgery. But, the doctor operated on the wrong eye. As a consequence, he began to experience vision problems in the wrong eye and he still had a cataract on the original eye.

In this case, the error was obvious. But, other times, errors and mistakes are not so black and white. Let’s say that a patient had a broken arm that didn’t heal properly. Maybe the patient will claim that the error was because the orthopedist did not apply the correct methods to the fractured arm correctly.

However, in the background, we may find out that the patient fell while the cast was on — which was the real causation of further injury. If the patient doesn’t admit the actual error or mistake — it could be challenging to prove that it wasn’t the surgeon’s fault. Dishonesty from the patient causes problems for us all.

How direct causation relates to time management.

Causation and time management fit together like a glove. If you don’t manage your time effectively by holding yourself accountable, there will be negative consequences. You may want to pin the blame on others — but, ultimately, the buck stops with you.

The surgeon who operated on my grandfather’s eye blamed the nurse who prepped my grandpop. But, the doctor should have double-checked the information himself before operating. When it comes to your responsibilities, you can say that you were late for a meeting because your other event ran late. However, if you had built-in a buffer between these meetings, this issue wouldn’t have occurred.

Another example of direct causation is not focusing on meaningful work because you’re getting distracted.

The solution? Identify these distractions and eliminate them. If your phone is the primary causation of your time management lag, then turn it off or put it on do not disturb mode. Behind on your priorities because you’re devoting too much time on unnecessary things? Drop those time-sucks from your to-do-list for the time being.

There are times when you aren’t at fault in business. One way around the vast majority of excuse ridden situations is to schedule white space in your calendar. Leave a block of time blank to catch up and in-between meeting. Leave buffer times in your schedules. If you don’t have anything scheduled use that time to address the unexpected events that occur.

Damages

Businesses have a lot of issues that appear as damages. But nothing could be worse than the current medical malpractice issues. Doctors respond to the question, “did the patient suffer physically, mentally, emotionally, or financially?”

The patient is entitled to a monetary amount that would help cover wage losses or medical bills. Damages would also take care of any pain or suffering or emotional distress that the patient has experienced.

How damages relate to business time management.

Poor time management affects every area of your life. Let’s say that you’re aren’t punctual or always rushing from Point A to B. Not only is this stressful, it also puts a strain on your relationships. If you miss a deadline, for instance, you might lose a client. If you are arriving late at home each night — you don’t have a chance to spend quality time with your family.

Other symptoms of poor time management would be procrastination, inability to set goals, and decreased quality of work. Poor time management causes damage in many areas of your business — and certainly in your life.

You’ll find poor time management causes you, your family and your clients and customers to suffer physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. Unhealthy habits, like eating fast food, not exercising, and getting burned out can be attributed to poor time management.

In other words, poor time management will definitely lead to physical, mental, emotional, and financial distress — and there is no one to blame but ourselves. You aren’t going to recover any monetary amount for slacking on the job and causing yourself and your family pain and suffering. But you can recover monetary setbacks through better time management.

When you feel pain and suffering in business — look to time management for the cure.

9 Courtesies Every Customer Will Appreciate

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Getting customers to make return appointments is just as important as attracting them in the first place. Just look at the numbers: It can cost up to five times more to acquire a new customer compared to retaining one you already have. 

The question now is, how do you keep customers coming back? The way you treat them during appointments plays a big role. Here are nine appointment etiquette tips you can use to improve your customer retention:

1. Keep Appointments On Time

Businesses always stress the need for customers to arrive on time to their appointments. Remember, this is a two-way street:

Do your best to keep overtime appointments to a minimum. If a customer shows up early and is forced to wait later than their appointment time, they’ll wonder why they bothered to arrive when they did. 

Appointments run long for all sorts of different reasons. Perhaps your default appointment duration is too short. Maybe it’s time to hire another employee. Poor communication between the front- and back-office staff could be to blame.

If appointments do run long, don’t rush your customers. Simply do your best to keep things moving, apologize for their wait, and make it right for next time.

2. Remember Names and Personal Details

Your customers are more than just statistics and dollar signs. Make an effort to connect with them as soon as they walk in your door. 

A simple way to do this is by remembering their names. Referring to customers by name breaks down emotional barriers they may have. 

If need be, pull up their chart in advance to refresh your memory. Record personal tidbits they tell you, such as their job or their hobbies, so you can better connect on subsequent visits. And remember, a friendly smile goes a long way. 

3. Engage With Every Customer

A friendly “hello” is not enough to keep a customer coming back. Engage in small talk with every customer.

Don’t expect customers to be the ones to strike up the conversation. Have talking points in your back pocket, such as what’s going on around town or the backstory behind a piece of art on your wall. 

Just as important as engaging with customers is knowing when to hold back. Don’t be rude, but do realize some customers prefer peace and quiet. Read their body language to know whether or not they want to continue the conversation.

4. Be Casual but Professional

Customer relationships, no matter how strong, are different than friendships. While casual conversation can help them feel at ease, don’t make the mistake of confusing casual with unprofessional.

Remember, you represent your company. Act unprofessionally, and they’ll opt to go elsewhere.

Never gossip about your employees or other customers. Don’t act rude or childish, even if you’re having a bad day. Steer clear of conversations about religion and politics, even if you know they agree with you. 

5. Send Reminders

Life gets busy, especially in 2020. Even if a customer has booked an appointment, there’s a chance they’ve forgotten about it. 

The day of the appointment, send them a reminder email or text. Invite them to respond with questions, change their appointment, or hop on the phone. 

While you don’t want to discourage anyone from attending their appointment, most people want to uphold their commitments. Even if a customer does need to cancel, they’ll be more likely to come back if you handle the process efficiently and with grace. 

6. Keep a Clean Space

Nobody wants to sit in a filthy waiting room or use a crusty old bathroom. Keep your office space neat and tidy, and it won’t scare customers away.

Go the extra mile: Once your space is spic and span, you can add amenities, such as a kids’ play area or a coffee bar. When in doubt, ask your customers what they need to be comfortable while they wait.

7. Focus on the Job

No matter how friendly you are, the truth is that your customers do business with you because you get the job done. In customers’ minds, quality service always beats bells and whistles.

Check in at least quarterly with every team member to ensure that they understand their role. Double down on your training processes, even for veteran employees. 

While your employees are on the clock, make sure they’re focused on their work. Post guidelines about inappropriate uses of company time, such as personal cell phone use. Implement consequences for repeat offenders. 

8. Ask for Feedback

Ask your customers: How was their experience? What did they like about it, and what could you have done better?

Even if someone is blown away by your service, they’ll appreciate your thirst to improve. And someone who’s totally dissatisfied may be brought back by a promise to act on their feedback. 

What’s important is that you actually make changes your customers suggest. Feedback shouldn’t be a formality. If you can’t implement something, explain why and thank the customer for their input. 

9. Be Transparent

Be honest and overly communicative with your customers. If you ask for their personal information, let them know why you need it. If they don’t actually need a service they think they do, tell them that. 

Beware that customers can be unforgiving. If they feel that you weren’t fully transparent with them, they may not give you a chance to make it right. The bottom line is, not all customers will come back for more. But if you practice these courtesies, you’ll be surprised at just how many of them do.

4 Ways to Maximize Your Time Between Thanksgiving and Christmas

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3 Things to Keep in Mind When Setting Holiday Hours

The holidays are a time for relaxation and reflection, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to ease up on the gas. Some people will take a turkey nap until the new year. Others will keep their noses to the grindstone — and reap the rewards while everyone else nurses a holiday hangover.

CBS News reports that 61 percent of employees admit feeling distracted by the holiday season as early as November first.

Founders can’t take that kind of break. Follow these tips to keep your company growing through the end of the year:

1. Push harder and reward more.

Your employees might be ready to slack off, but that doesn’t mean you should let them. If you push too hard, though, they will resent your leadership. Enjoy the best of both worlds by giving employees extra time off during the holidays and asking more of them in the weeks leading up to the break.

The Olson Group argues that employers should give employees longer periods of vacation time for a variety of reasons.

Not only do longer vacations make employees more productive, but they also make employees feel more motivated to contribute to the success of the company. For startups, where every employee needs to pull a lot of weight, buy-in is essential. Tell employees about the extra paid time off, then use that as motivation to keep them working harder, earlier, in the meantime.

When employees know they won’t have to worry about work for a whole week, they are less likely to spend the middle of December idly shopping for last-minute gifts.

2. Start every day hard.

The longer you put it off, the more difficult it becomes. Rather than stroll into the office at 8:30 and tackle a few easy tasks before lunch, commit to get to work a little earlier during the holiday season. Once you arrive, tackle the hardest thing on your plate first.

Many successful people disagree on this subject. Michael Hyatt starts with the easy stuff and works his way up.

However, I have found that by tackling my hardest project first thing in the morning, I am better able to respond to the emergencies that pop up later in the day. I can also attend meetings and brainstorm without that nagging feeling that something else requires my attention.

3. Plan time to handle personal errands.

Your business is important, but you still have friends and family who will expect gifts, cards and other reminders that you exist during the holidays.

Don’t be that person who waits until the last minute. Research from Needle found that shopping is now the biggest stressor during the holiday season, ahead of other factors like familial obligations and travel. Stress negatively impacts productivity in a big way, so take precautions to minimize the damage.

Take an afternoon off during one week in December to get all (or at least most) of your shopping out of the way. If you absolutely can’t miss work, put a weekend morning on your calendar and keep that appointment. Make time to take care of the personal stuff so you don’t end up trying to multitask and harm the quality of your work.

4. Leave when it’s time to leave.

Even if you work on Christmas to give your team the day off, take some time around the holidays for your own vacation. Make it last at least a week — not just for your benefit, but for your team’s.

Startup teams look to their founders for guidance. If the founder works all through the holiday without a break, team members will feel like they must either follow that example or be perceived as selfish.

Aron Ain, CEO of Kronos, moved his company from a PTO-based vacation policy to an unlimited one to keep more talented workers. During the transition, he discovered that his managers were reluctant to give new recruits as much PTO as they had at their old jobs.

Even though they were allowed to do so, they didn’t want to be the first to break the mold. Only when the executive team set the example did the dynamic change.

Time has a habit of moving quickly after Thanksgiving. Rather than admit defeat and go into hibernation until the new year, use these tips to buckle down and get more done without losing the respect of your team in the process.

What to Do On Days You Don’t Have Many Appointments

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appointment guide

The truth is, most companies can’t fill their schedules with paying customers from the beginning to the end of every day. How your business uses those lulls matters just as much as how it conducts its customer appointments.

So what should you do on days when you don’t have many appointments? Here are some ideas for making each day productive regardless of appointment volume:

1. Do a Deep Clean

With so many customers coming and going on a regular day, office cleaning can be tough to keep up with. But at a certain point, customers will start to notice the dirt and grime piling up. And especially right now, nobody wants to do business in a dirty space.

For the slow days, put together a list of tasks the team can do to tidy up. Stylists can wipe off their counters and give the floors a good sweep. Doctor’s offices can organize and shred paperwork. These jobs need to be done eventually, and you definitely don’t want to stay late to tackle them.

2. Declutter Your System

The online aspect of your business needs a deep clean just as much as the physical one. Take a minute to log into your scheduling system and web interface. You might  realize that part of your company website is down, resulting in the lack of appointments that day.

This is a worst case scenario, but the greater point stands: Any digital barriers to bookings must be eliminated. That includes email accounts, where customers’ messages can get lost, as well as SMS-based appointment systems.

3. Tune Up Your Marketing Campaign

When your booking slots are looking a little lonely, take a minute to review the marketing campaigns you’re running. To start reeling in customers again, they may need some changes. As time goes by, campaigns can get stale due to repetition. Mixing things up is in your best interests.

Think about what will fill up those appointment times again. Maybe it’s time for you to announce a new special, in which first-time customers get a 10% discount if they book online. Perhaps you need to put your focus somewhere else, like targeting a new demographic or platform.

4. Balance Your Checkbook

Your company’s finances need to be reviewed regularly. At least once a quarter, check your budget allocations. Go through your receipts to ensure that expenses are recorded properly. Check that your revenue streams are still flowing freely. 

While how you manage your money is ultimately your call, employees can help with many related tasks. They can take a deposit to the bank, count the till, or work on next quarter’s forecast. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

5. Make Some Cold Calls

If you’re really dry on business, try to secure walk-ins by making some cold calls. Cold calling may not be fun or terribly effective, but it can help you break even when the customers are in short supply. 

Say you’re a mechanic. You might call customers whose vehicles are due for a tune up and inform them about openings that day. Even if you can’t fill up today’s schedule, you can probably beef up your upcoming appointment list. 

6. Plan For Tomorrow

How can you make tomorrow better than today? How you answer that question will be unique to your business, but there’s a lot you can do to promote future appointments.

Take the time to straighten out your company’s online calendar. Look for events that have been cancelled, which you can remove to free up more slots for customer appointments. Or, you could do some long-term planning to help your associates learn a new service line. 

7. Hold a Meeting

When was the last time you got everyone together to talk about whole-company issues? If you see a slow day coming up, it might be the perfect day to hold a company meeting

If so, tell employees to hold that time on their calendars while you develop an agenda. Ask them about discussion items they would like to cover.

Company meetings help align your team around its goals. They also give your employees a chance to bring up any concerns they might have about the workplace.

Just be careful not to hold all-staff meetings too often. Not only can they become unproductive, but they may give your team meeting burnout. 

8. Close Early

If it’s been a slow day since you opened, why not close up shop early? Not only does this give employees a welcome break, but it curbs overhead costs like labor and electricity use.

You could also split the difference and use a slow day for paid volunteering. Although this means your team is still on the clock, it gives your company a good name in the community. Over time, positive word of mouth can bring in a lot of business. 

When all else fails, get creative with how you spend days when you don’t have many appointments. Get to know your employees or coworkers better, set goals for next week, or catch up on some company reading. The only wrong choice is to twiddle your thumbs. 

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