All posts by Abby Miller

Ways Businesses Can Get Their Calendar and Finances Organized

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Ways Businesses Can Get Their Calendar and Finances Organized

Staying organized in all areas of business may not be a strong skill for many founders. Try as they might, plenty of entrepreneurs are unable to bring order to their chaos. Some even claim that they thrive on not knowing what comes next. But for the vast majority of executives, disorganization leaves them at a serious operational and financial disadvantage.

Without systems in place to keep everything moving along systematically and predictably, the wheels start to fall off the train — fast. That’s not good for productivity, morale, or future success. Therefore, owners owe it to themselves and their companies to practice organizational skills.

Of course, being organized isn’t just about applying a few hacks, as a Harvard Business Review piece notes.

Ways Businesses Can Get Their Calendar and Finances Organized

Getting and staying organized for the long haul requires developing protocols and processes that close (or bridge) time management and financial management gaps.

If your struggle with self-organization is an everyday occurrence, try these steps. First, they’ll help reinforce weak spots with strong, proven practices. Then, within a few weeks of making consistent changes, you should see a difference in your performance and efficiency levels.

1. Stay on top of your personal and business credit scores.

Nothing interrupts organization for your company like finding out that you can’t get a loan to buy equipment or scale-up. Suddenly, you’re sent into “scramble mode,” forced to find alternative financing options.

Credit bureau Experian has been working to provide more inclusive ways for consumers to bump their credit scores to help them get the loans they need. One way they do this is by helping people link positive payment history to vendors — like utilities — to their credit history through a service called Experian Boost.

Experian also offers free regular access to updated FICO scores. Tracking a FICO score takes just minutes and can alert you quickly to any problems, like the possibility of identity theft, if your score suddenly plummets.

Many business owners lean on loans to get them over hurdles and through rough patches. However, being credit-savvy removes barriers to powering ahead efficiently to meet your objectives.

2. Explore ways to get paid faster.

Think about a time when your organization has faltered. Could it be that you’re always trying to play “catch up” because of lagging finances? When you’re scrambling to pay bills on time or make payroll, a snag can occur in your system. You’ll want to get on top of the core issues you face. Often, the issue lies in how you’re getting paid.

For example, if you typically give your clients 30 days to pay their invoices, you have to wait at least a month for the money. That lag time between making a sale and getting compensated can ruin your organizational opportunities. After all, you can’t focus and stay on top of all your obligations if you’re distracted by a dwindling bank account.

Many entrepreneurs are trying to overcome this problem by exploring real-time payment options like those being driven by RealNet. Created by FIS, RealNet uses existing payment rails to move money rapidly from place to place. Currently, RealNet’s use cases have shown that some transactions can occur momentarily rather than taking days.

Getting that money in the bank faster will reduce last-minute scrambling due to dipping balances.

3. Put everything onto one calendar.

Do you manage multiple calendars? All those calendars may make you feel organized, but they’re just complicating matters. Rather than trying to juggle your commitments and force yourself to stay on top of multiple calendars, consolidate them.

Consolidating your calendar serves countless purposes when you’re attempting to add more organization into your life. First of all, you’ll only have one place to look for everything. That’s bound to cut out wasted minutes because you won’t have to jump around between calendars. Secondly, you’re much less apt to double-book or have a drop when you have one calendar.

Which type of calendar program should you use? Experiment with a few platforms to find what works. You may even want to add your daily, weekly, and monthly checklist to your cloud-based calendar. Being able to glance at an organized, color-coded schedule keeps you on track. In addition, if you notice problem areas, you can ward off trouble by rearranging responsibilities and commitments.

4. Keep a running log of your organizational missteps.

You missed a major business meeting last week because you were overbooked with work. You’re embarrassed and feeling out of sorts. The last thing you want to do is relive the experience. However, reliving (or at least reviewing) the past is exactly what you need to do to become a smarter time manager. Specifically, you need to consider the event objectively.

Don’t worry: You don’t have to share your organizational faux pas with anyone else during this exercise. Just write down every recent organizational mishap on a document or piece of paper. Then, analyze why the snag happened and how it could have been prevented. Resist the temptation to feel shame or blame. Instead, use the moment for self-reflection.

After you’ve examined your latest organizational problem, put measures in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Maybe you could delegate more of your duties. Perhaps you could declutter your desktop, so you’re not visually or digitally distracted. Try different strategies to chip away at all the habits that are sabotaging your organizational success.

Final Thoughts: Technology, Time Management, and Your Business

At the end of the day, your ability to better manage your time will positively affect both you and your company. Your new behaviors may even spark a desire among colleagues to improve their own organizational processes. In fact, you may want to check out all the latest technologies that can help you. That way, you can pass along ideas to your team members so everyone can be a little more organized.

Even if you’re not fully tech-savvy, you owe it to yourself and your business to look into organization-focused platforms and solutions. After all, every improvement will get you closer to avoiding the financial and operational pitfalls that come with a lack of organization. And best of all, you may discover that you have more time on your hands for all the rewarding activities you love.

8 Backyard Activities for Your Online Calendar

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8 Backyard Activities for Your Online Calendar

Summer is full of so many fun opportunities, especially with the kids having extra time off from school. However, there will be many days when your kids complain about how bored they are. Is it your job to never let that happen? Well, no, it’s not your job exactly — but here are some fun activities for your calendar that will tickle your young ones.

With the Fourth of July on Sunday, I hope you can get away — but if not, try a couple of these fun activities.

8 Backyard Activities for Your Online Calendar

One way to keep your kids busy and active all summer long is to use your imagination by turning your backyard into a play place. This article outlines just 8 of the many activities you can put in your online calendar this summer and for years to come.

1. Camping

You don’t have to venture out into the wilderness in order to go camping. You can have just as much fun pitching a tent in the backyard. Your lawn will be a lot more comfortable than the uneven ground you normally find at a campground, and being within walking distance of the kitchen and bathroom doesn’t hurt either.

If you want to make it feel more like camping, add in some activities that you would normally participate in on a normal camping trip. Set up a fishing game in a backyard pool and put together a fire pit to roast some marshmallows.

2. Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt will keep the kids entertained for hours if set up correctly. You’ll be able to get some alone time or focus on a summer project while your kids scour the yard for clues leading to a secret treasure or reward. Invite some friends over to load up the search party and so that everyone can have some fun with it.

successful scavenger hunt will take some planning, so use your online calendar to take some time to make it just right. Write up clever clues, stash away hints, and add some decorations to make the hunt seem like a pirate’s treasure hunt of the incredible journey of some sci-fi adventurers.

3. Movie Night

There’s nothing quite like enjoying a movie in the backyard. All you have to do is get a white sheet, set up a projector, and enjoy the show. A couple of extension cords should be enough to hook up the projector and some speakers for a nearly authentic movie experience.

With your online calendar, you can plan the perfect night where the weather is ideal. Rain clouds or stifling heat will quickly ruin a movie night, so it’s best to avoid a dreary forecast. Additionally, scope out the days when the sun sets early to not keep the neighbors awake with your late-night movie watching.

4. Barbeque

The smell of a backyard barbeque should bring back some summer memories. Why not make some more by grabbing your apron and spatula and whipping up a delicious meal for the whole family. There are all kinds of different meats to try and even vegan options that will add some flavor to your summer.

Suppose you like a party, the more, the merrier. Have some friends, family, and neighbors come over to enjoy the perfect summer meal. Send them a calendar invite asking them to bring drinks, silverware, or a side dish to complement your grilling. Who knows, they might invite you over to their own barbeque later in the summer as their way of saying thank you.

5. Obstacle Course

Has your family watched any American Ninja Warrior this summer or plan on watching the Olympics? Unleash your inner athlete by putting together an obstacle course in the backyard. The best time wins a trip to their favorite restaurant the upcoming weekend.

Your obstacle course can be as creative as you want it to be. Anything you can find or build can become an obstacle. Just be sure to keep safety first! You can even add some water features to make it extra challenging.

6. Photoshoot

When was the last time your family took a picture together? Maybe this summer is the opportunity for you to get an updated portrait together. Even if your backyard is nothing fancy, it’s home. The pictures you take will be full of the memories you make there.

A family photoshoot doesn’t have to be perfect. Candid shots can be a lot more fun than static, cheesy smiles if you plan them right. You might have even more fun having a themed photoshoot with costumes, props, and more.

7. Water Fight

Is it really summer if you don’t have at least one water fight? Whether it’s splashing each other in the pool or running around the lawn with water guns, getting soaking wet is a must if you really want to say you beat the heat this summer.

Tossing water balloons at each other in the backyard is one thing. Getting the entire neighborhood together for a full-out water war is another. Wage one side of the street against the other for the mother of all water fights to highlight your summer activities. You can coordinate with other families by sharing online calendars and deciding which day will be the best for everyone to get soaked.

8. Sports

There are so many sports that can take place in your backyard. Put together a family whiffle ball game or simply play catch together in the shade. Set up some soccer goals, take each other on, or have a penalty shootout to see who has to do dishes that night.

Even some of the more obscure sports can come into play here. Try something your kids might not have heard of before, like bocci ball or croquet. These lowkey sports aren’t as likely to disturb the neighbors or get a ball launched over the fence and can quickly become family traditions.

The possibilities really are endless. Grab your online calendar and start planning out some fun and games today so that the remainder of your summer is jam-packed full of fun from end to end.

How to Use Your Online Calendar to Promote Mental Health

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How to Use Your Online Calendar to Promote Mental Health

Your most important asset isn’t your car, your house, or even your professional expertise; it’s your mental health.

The rest of your life relies on your mental wellbeing. Especially while the world is facing COVID-19, you have to protect it with every tool available to you — including your online calendar.

What Your Calendar Can Do for You

Your online calendar can’t change your mental state by itself, but it can help you implement and maintain healthier habits. You might be surprised at just how much your mental health improves when you:

1. Schedule Breaks

Going full-throttle all day, every day is exhausting. If you don’t permit yourself to take a step back, you may begin to burn out. Scheduling short breaks throughout your day can help you stay productive without getting overwhelmed.

It can be tough to take breaks when things are hectic. That’s where your online calendar comes in: If it never seems like a good time to take a break, schedule one every few hours. Your calendar can be set to remind you 10 minutes before it’s time, letting you wrap up what you’re working on.

2. Take a Mental Health Day

Frequent breaks throughout the day are helpful, but sometimes you need a full day to yourself. Although it’s best to schedule mental health days for weekends, don’t be afraid to talk with your employer if you need one stat.

Once you’ve decided on the right day, add it to your calendar. Either put together an itinerary for yourself — replete with food and fun activities — or give yourself an unstructured day. There’s no wrong way to do it!

3. Remind You to Move

Regular exercise is tightly correlated with better mental health. Physical activity feels good, takes your mind off your stressors, and gives you something to do with friends.

Why not use your online calendar to put together a workout schedule? That way, you don’t have to decide at the moment whether or not you want to work out — and if so, what exercises you’ll do. After a few days, physical activity will be just another part of your daily routine.

If you’d rather attend fitness classes or play a team sport, your online calendar is also a great place to record those sessions. Add other attendees to the event to create some positive social pressure.

4. Set and Achieve Goals

Setting goals gives us something to work toward, and achieving them provides a sense of fulfillment. That’s why many experts recommend goal-setting for both mental wellbeing and productivity.

Goals should be:

  • Specific: What, exactly, do you want to achieve? Instead of becoming happier, maybe you want to have five low-stress days each week.
  • Measurable: If your goals aren’t measurable, you’ll never know whether or not you’ve met them.
  • Achievable: There’s no sense in setting a goal you have no hope of achieving. Shoot too high, and you’ll only discourage yourself.
  • Relevant: If your priority is your mental health, your goal shouldn’t be to get a promotion. Do you really need more responsibilities at work right now?
  • Time-bounded: A goal without a time horizon attached is just hope. When is a challenging but realistic amount of time for achieving your goal?

5. Schedule Affirmations

Self-affirmations are mantras designed to encourage during moments of hardship. They take little time to say but can deliver big mental health benefits.

Even something short, such as “I won’t give up,” can do wonders when you’re feeling down. Repeat them as often as needed. If you worry about others judging you for talking to yourself, step into a private space.

6. Start a Journal

Sometimes, a little self-reflection is all it takes to get yourself to a better mental state. Remind yourself that if you’re looking for reasons to be sad, you’ll find them. Looking for the good instead can help you see things from a more positive perspective.

Journaling doesn’t take hours to work its magic. Start with a five-minute session: Add a reminder to your calendar to reflect on something that makes you happy. Soon, you’ll be reminding yourself to save your gratitude journaling for the time slot you selected.

7. Eat Well

The food we eat directly affects our emotional state. Eating a healthy, balanced diet ensures our brain has the nutrition it needs to be at its best.

Online calendars are ideal tools for meal planning. Mapping out what you’re going to eat makes it easier to stick to a diet or, perhaps, more importantly, limit the unhealthy foods you spoil yourself with.

8. Get Into a Groove

Adding structure to your life helps you feel in control. While scheduling every minute of your day isn’t always necessary, using your calendar to establish a healthy routine is critical. Moving forward with your routine can give you a sense of optimism even when the odds are stacked against you.

A good place to start is a morning routine: What do you need to be your happiest, most productive self at work? Routines are also important for other times of day, such as bedtime: How do you prefer to wind down, especially when you have a lot on your mind?

You have to make your mental health a priority because no one else will. Think through what you need to take care of yourself, and use your online calendar to make it happen. Remind yourself — as often and in as many ways as you can — that you deserve to be happy.

How to Get Yourself Outside More

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How to Get Yourself Outside More

After a full year of off-and-on lockdowns and remote work stints, getting outside is more important than ever. Research from the University of Alabama suggests that spending just 20 minutes outside in a park will make you feel happier. Sunshine, fresh air, and exercise will do wonders for your physical and mental health as you rebound from these tough times.

How to Get Yourself Outside More

Don’t sweat it if you’re still struggling to get outside. These suggestions will help you take the first couple of steps so you can make outdoor living an integral part of your life once again:

Utilize Work Breaks

Unless you have a job with strange hours and responsibilities, you’ll have a couple of 15-minute breaks and time for lunch every day. If the rest of your schedule is so jam-packed that you can’t fit in time to go outside, this will be your best shot.

If you plan on going out to eat for lunch, look for a restaurant within walking distance. To fill a 15-minute gap, invite a co-worker to go on a short walk with you for some team bonding. This could even turn into a team tradition that’s included in everyone’s online calendar.

Exercise in the Morning

By prioritizing morning exercise, you’re certain to get some outdoor time into your schedule. The benefits of exercise are well-known, attributing to better physical and mental health and increased productivity.

Morning exercise ensures you make time in your day to get outside. Trying to work out after a long day in the office can be tough, making exercise easy to procrastinate. Exercising first thing each day will also set up a great morning routine for you to get accustomed to.

Of course, you should exercise when it suits you best. Morning happens to be one of the easiest times to get started, even if you snooze your alarm the first few mornings you try. Try going on a morning jog or taking a yoga mat to your back porch.

Move Activities Outdoors

What daily activities can you complete outside? See what you can get done outdoors to make sure you’re getting some sun and fresh air. You might even find that you enjoy these activities more outside than you did inside.

If you spend a lot of time on the phone, take your calls outside. If you’re a person that feels the need to pace while they’re on the phone, you’ll have plenty of room to walk about. If WiFi reaches a shady spot outside, you can catch up on emails or do some typing on a laptop outdoors.

Even some recreational activities can be moved outside. Reading a book, watching TV, or playing a handheld video game can all be done outside your house. You’ll be able to enjoy the same relaxation and feel healthier while doing it.

Schedule Outdoor Events

You can attend so many outdoor events if you make room for them in your Calendar. A set plan is much more effective at getting you outside than wishful thinking.

Look around your community for events you can add to your schedule. A local 5k fun run might be supporting a noble cause and motivate you to get out and run more. Swap meets, concerts, and parades will all make fine additions to your Calendar and become fond outdoor memories.

Pick Up a New Hobby

Need a new hobby to fill the blank spaces in your Calendar? Look for something you can do outside. Pursuing this new hobby will draw you outdoors and help you develop a new skill while you’re at it.

There are plenty of outdoor activities you can pick up, including:

  • Biking
  • Fishing
  • Photography
  • Gardening
  • Skateboarding
  • Golf
  • Geocaching

All of these activities you can do by yourself but are even more enjoyable with others. If you ever want to spend some time outdoors with family and friends, coordinate with them using your Calendar. Share events and scheduling links to get on the same page and enjoy some outdoor activities together.

Become a Kid Again

Remember when you were a kid and you’d play outside until dark? It was so easy back then. Perhaps the best strategy for getting you back outside again is to revert to your child-like ways just for a moment.

What was it that brought you outside so much as a kid? Perhaps it was adventuring the woods near your house or finding cool rocks by the side of the road. Look for those little bits of joy that come from the outdoors and you’ll feel decades younger.

Plan a Project

If you own property, there’s always work to be done. Add projects to your Calendar and you’ll always have something to do outside. While it may be hard work, the result will always be rewarding.

Lawn care will always need attention in the spring and summer months. Create a lawn mowing schedule in your Calendar and make reminders to check on any flowers or plants you have growing on your property. You can also make time for other projects such as painting the fence, trimming bushes, or spraying weed killer on the driveway.

You won’t become Meriwether Lewis overnight, but by using your Calendar, you’ll be able to make outdoor activities a habit rather than a sacrifice. Take note of the benefits you get from making time to get outside and use that as motivation to keep venturing out.

Plan the Best Honeymoon With an Online Calendar

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Plan the Best Honeymoon With an Online Calendar

The peak wedding month is June — and we’re almost there.  A lot of time and effort goes into planning the perfect wedding. Occasionally the wedding is so intense that honeymoon plans are left on the back burner. Yet your first trip as a married couple is a wonderful bonding experience that deserves just as much attention as your other wedding arrangements.

Plan the Best Honeymoon With an Online Calendar

Just like with any other trip, an online calendar can help you iron out the details for an unbelievable experience. When it comes to your honeymoon — remember it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that deserves some time and attention to planning.

Save the Date

Your wedding date will likely be chosen far in advance. You should give your honeymoon sufficient heads up as well. This allows you to make sure everything is in order before you set sail.

The sooner you set your honeymoon dates in your online calendar, the quicker you can ask off work if needed and organize your future schedule. This will prevent last minute any last-minute tie-ups from throwing a wrench in your plans.

Planning in advance also helps you purchase plane tickets if needed and make reservations with plenty of time. There wouldn’t be much of a honeymoon if you forgot this. Note; you don’t have to leave for your honeymoon immediately after the wedding, you can add a day or two to prepare for your trip if you’d like.

Set a Budget

Even if you plan on going all out with your honeymoon plans, a budget is nice to have. A budget will help you plan out how many activities you can afford and stop you from too much overspending. Otherwise, you might go a little too crazy and regret it later.

You can start budgeting now with your online calendar. You can set your parameters and even start saving up for the trip. Not having to worry about finances during your honeymoon enables you to enjoy all the good things.

Do Your Research

Head into your honeymoon with proper preparation. Scope out vacation sites based on location, price, and available excursions. Your initial idea might be overshadowed by new findings you didn’t think about before.

After some digging, you might realize that original honeymoon plans don’t fit your proposed budget. Look for similar options and ask for advice from others based on their own honeymoon experiences.

Above all, be sure to schedule research time in your online calendar with plenty of time to make decisions about the location, flights, days you’ll stay and hotel bookings.

Pack Early

The less you have to worry about when your honeymoon dates arrive, the better. A simple task to take care of in advance is packing. While it might seem tempting to leave tossing stuff in your suitcase until the last minute — you’re asking for more stress than you need — and you’ll likely forget important items.

While some packing tips will help you fit everything you need, what’s most important is getting your packing done in advance. Schedule packing time in your online calendar on a day where you can handle it without a problem. Even getting the majority of your packing done before the wedding is a viable option.

Create an Itinerary

Honeymoons should be equal parts relaxing and exciting. While most of the time you might want to relax on a beach somewhere — it’s important to add some activities that make for fun memories as well. By creating an itinerary you can make sure there’s room for both.

A strict schedule isn’t everyone’s idea of a great honeymoon. If you prefer, keep a more relaxed itinerary. Flexible times take out the stress of vacationing, but still make sure you’re planning some day trips and activities throughout your honeymoon. However, some more specific details benefit from rigidness, such as flight times and hotel check-ins.

As part of your honeymoon itinerary, consider adding a few surprises that your spouse doesn’t know about. A romantic dinner or other surprise special event can really add to the honeymoon feel for them.

Make the Most of Travel

Now that the days of your vacation are all straightened out, don’t forget to give some attention to your travel time. Especially if you’re travelling far, there’s a lot of time you can fill and make more enjoyable.

For long flights, prepare some movies, books, or games to keep you connected as you reach your destination. Long drives can benefit from music and audio books as well. Prepare for travel and there will never be a dull moment.

While talking about travel, be sure to space out your flights if that’s your method of transportation. Nothing will ruin a honeymoon faster than a missed flight or an unexpected delay throwing everything off balance.

Talk to Locations in Advance — and Ask Someone Whose Been There

This might be the only honeymoon you ever take in your life, so you should take advantage of it as much as possible. Being newlyweds unlocks a lot of perks at hotels, restaurants, and even airports, but you won’t get any of them unless you ask.

Call hotels, restaurants, and other locations of interest a day or two before arrival. Bring up the fact that it’s your honeymoon to them. Even if you get nothing more than a small room upgrade and a free dessert, it’s worth the even smaller effort.

Plan a Day at Home

Returning from your honeymoon back to work and reality is a sad time. You’ll quickly miss the carefree feeling of vacationing after tying the knot with your significant other. To mitigate the post-vacation blues, plan a day at home to end your honeymoon.

Having at least one day in between your vacation and when you have to return to responsibilities makes for an easier transition. That day at home can be used to transition and prepare for a successful return to society. A little staycation never hurt anybody anyway.

At the end of it all, be sure to enjoy the quality time with your spouse. This trip set the tone for your marriage and future trips to come. Using your online calendar can get it done right.

Plan the Perfect Valentine’s Day Using Your Calendar

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Plan the Perfect Valentine’s Day Using Your Calendar

Valentine’s Day is approaching fast — and with it comes another opportunity to express your love to those closest to you. Instead of buying a card from just any ole store — have a special one made. Ask around for recommendations for the finest candy you can get anywhere. Or, this year, even this last minute — you may want to come up with a plan that’s well thought out.

Whether you’re trying to impress your crush or spice things up for your spouse of 20 years, your Calendar will help you orchestrate the best Valentine’s Day ever. Here’s how:

Set the Date

Valentine’s Day 2021, is this weekend — Woot! Woot! on Sunday. This lovely day bodes well for a lot of planned events as the weekend allows for more flexibility in your schedule. Having Valentine’s on the weekend lets you book a special get-away. Book it TODAY!

Once you’ve got the day locked down, pin down a start and end time for your Valentine’s Day or Weekend event. While a surprise or two can make nice additions to the holiday, leaving the time as an unknown can be inconsiderate to your partner or date.

Be sure to let your date know your exact timeframe — on the times you have in mind. Send a Calendar Invite so it’s nailed down.

Brainstorm Some Ideas

If you leave all your planning to the last minute, you’re going to have a tough time putting together a memorable night. You should be brainstorming ideas right now so you can come up with an idea that will have your date head over heels. If you’re struggling to come up with something, maybe this list will help:

  • Movie night at home or the theater
  • Dinner for two at a restaurant or picnic style
  • Walk in the park
  • Rollerblading/Ice skating
  • Painting class
  • Zoo or aquarium visit
  • Bike ride, either mountain or tandem
  • Massage or spa day
  • Head to a hotel for the weekend and include many activities

Any combination of these activities and any others you think of are viable options. Think about what your partner would enjoy the best and that will make the decision easy.

Consider a Double Date

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but a double date can make Valentine’s Day just as fun if not more so. You can plan an event with some good friends or have some people tag along if you’re a new couple trying to break out of the awkward stage. In the end, it’s up to you, but your Calendar will come in handy when coordinating any future group dates.

Just like you would with your date, create an event and share it with all participants. Talk to them beforehand so you can find a time that works for everyone and so they can RSVP. The event will act as a reminder of where you hope to meet up for the evening’s activities.

Write Up an Itinerary

Now that you’ve got the bookends set, it’s time to fill up the pages in between. Draft up an itinerary for everything you have planned so you can work out the kinks. Making sure you have enough time for everything you have in mind will make for a smooth evening.

If you only have one thing in mind this will be a cinch, but there are still some logistics to consider. If you have dinner plans, you’ll need to plan to make a reservation in advance and make sure you arrive on time. If you plan to catch a movie, write down start times in your online calendar so you don’t miss the opening scene.

Get the babysitter set up.

Planning a dinner for two at home? You’ll need even more prep if you plan to put together an evening all by yourself. Use your Calendar to give yourself plenty of time to fetch ingredients, set the table, and prepare a delicious meal. Whole Foods always has good, healthy and fun meals — just order a meal, if you are worried. I’ve grabbed Trader Joe’s prepared meals, also, and it was totally great!

Lead Up With Acts of Kindness

Don’t save all your love until Valentine’s Day alone. Plan some small acts of kindness leading up to the holiday to really show your appreciation to your better half. The commitment of your relationship should dictate to what level you should express affection. A spouse or long-time partner can handle a lot more “love” than someone you’re just dating. But Valentine’s is about liking and getting to know someone, too.

Want to surprise your significant other at work? Use your shared Calendar to send them flowers at just the right time of day. You can also surprise them with a lunch delivery or Valentine’s Day card to set on their desk. They’ll be feeling butterflies before Valentine’s Day even begins.

Clear Your Calendar

Nothing will ruin the mood faster than a call from work or the fact that you pushed back laundry day and are wearing the same outfit for the third consecutive day. Clear out your Calendar of anything that will get in the way of your romantic day together. Clearing your Calendar will help you to plan your schedule both before and after Valentine’s Day. Clearing your Calendar is fun — but Valentine’s is, well, funner…

In the next couple of days, you should plan to get as many errands done as possible. Tending to your responsibilities will help you to focus on nothing but your date. Considering this Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday, it would be in your best interest to get everything in order for Monday morning so there’s no last-minute scrambling before you have to head back to the office. OR — considering February 15th is President’s Day — you may already have that day off too.

Hold the Follow Through

Valentine’s Day can be your romantic highlight of the year or it can be a springboard for your relationship to progress even further. Plan some follow-up for the day after Valentine’s Day to show your partner that you love them even when it’s not a holiday.

Your day-after plans don’t need to be extravagant. Planning a simple phone call to reminisce on the night before and ask them how their day went is a lovely gesture. A little card saying how much you enjoyed your date or weekend can also go a long way.

Can you feel the love tonight? You will after some proper planning and spending time with the right person. After all, love, like, and fun — is what makes the world go ’round.

5 Calendar Tips for Lowering Your Utility Bills

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5 Calendar Tips for Lowering Your Utility Bills

Every year there’s a winter tug-of-war between wanting to blast the heat and wanting to avoid high utility bills. The same thing happens in the summer when cooling costs are even more astronomical. Unless you want to foot these steep bills every year, it’s time to discuss some solutions.

You need not be a slave to your utility bill. There are ways to cut it down without ruining the way you live. With some structure from your online calendar, these 5 tips will be saving you plenty in no time:

1. Set Savings Goals

Online calendars are excellent tools for goal setting. They allow you to illustrate the plans you hope to take in pursuit of your goals as well as keep you accountable for the decisions you make. You can use your own Calendar to set and pursue goals with utility savings in mind.

For example, a small yet attainable goal is to turn off the lights in any room you’re not using. In your Calendar, you can set reminders to check the house and see if you’re achieving your goal. After a while, you won’t need the reminders because you’ll develop an energy-efficient habit in your home.

2. Adjust the Temperature

Thermostats today are wonderful because they can moderate temperatures automatically. You can keep your thermostat set to 70 all year long without a care in the world. However, if you want to lower that heating and cooling bill, you’ll want to make some adjustments.

Let’s say you plan to take a trip home for Christmas break. Your home doesn’t need to be heated to 70+ degrees while you’re gone, as there’s nobody in the house to keep warm. Set a reminder in your online calendar to adjust the temperature before you leave as part of your checklist. This will save you a couple of bucks over the course of your trip, and your home will warm up quickly upon your return.

You can also lower the temperature of your water heater for some extra savings. A few degrees lower can save you more than a few cents. Use your online calendar to remind you of the change you made if you only want it to be temporary, such as lowering the heat during the summer and raising it back up during the winter.

3. Set a Daily Routine

simple daily routine can promote habits that lead to lower utility bills. For example, taking shorter showers can do a lot to lower your utility bills, especially if you love steaming up your bathroom to warm yourself up in the winter. This is something small you can tackle that will end up making a considerable difference in your monthly bill.

To cut down your shower time, set a morning schedule that requires you to get in and out more quickly. Not only will your utility bill benefit from the new routine, but you’ll also be able to fit more productive activities into your day. You can also set routines for the lights and appliances in your home to reduce the amount of electricity you use.

One impactful routine you can work on is your laundry. Running several cycles a week will rack up quite the electricity bill if you’re not careful. Instead, establish a laundry routine that minimizes the number of times you have to do laundry, therefore using your washer and dryer sparingly.

Running laundry, or the dishwasher for that matter, at night might qualify you for lower energy rates since the demand is less during those hours.

4. Perform Routine Maintenance

A few fixes here and there will keep your home looking nice and make it more energy-efficient. You should be performing routine maintenance on your home to make sure it never falls in disarray and to stay ahead of your utility bill before it gets too high. In our Calendar, markdown a date a least once a quarter to scope things out.

Check the seals on the door and windows to see if they’re letting in air that’s causing your heating and cooling system to work harder than it should. See if any leaky faucets are running up your water bill overnight. You can even audit your lightbulbs and appliances to see if it’s time to switch to something more energy efficient.

For bigger fixes, schedule a professional technician to fix things up for you. Most people aren’t capable of repairing an HVAC system after all, but it’s an essential component of your building and works much better when finetuned correctly.

5. Schedule an Energy Audit

If your efforts don’t seem to be making much of a dent in your utility bills, it might be time to call in some professional assistance. Many energy and utility companies will run an energy audit of your home or business, sometimes even for free. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what’s running up your bill and what you can do to lower it.

You might have no idea that lowering the temperature of your fridge a few degrees was costing you dozens of dollars a month. These are the types of things you can learn from an energy audit. Without one, you would be grasping at straws in an attempt to make a difference.

Ready for savings? Start making adjustments to your energy usage with the help of your online calendar today. You can use those savings to invest in more energy-efficient equipment and appliances to compound the savings you get from being more energy-efficient.

Break Your Binge-Watching Habit With These 8 Scheduling Tips

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Break Your Binge-Watching Habit With These 8 Scheduling Tips

Have you always been a binge-watcher? You’re not alone. Has the pandemic brought your binge-watching tendencies? You’re not alone. Americans are watching a record eight hours of streaming content per day during the lockdowns.

While there is no doubt streaming services are convenient, don’t let them become a crutch. Watching hours of video content every day cuts your productivity off at the knees.

What if you’re struggling to break the habit? Pull up your calendar, and schedule something else to do.

Beat Binge-Watching by Managing Your Time

Binge-watching is simply a symptom of poor time management. To beat it:

Implement a Reward System

A reward system can help you both manage your binge-watching and commit to other productive tasks. Start with a to-do list for the day. Assign each task with a number of minutes you’ll allow yourself to binge-watch for completing the task. By the time you’ve accumulated enough time to watch your show, you’ll have completed a good amount of tasks.

This method is a common parenting technique, encouraging you or your kids to complete tasks before turning to electronics. It can make binge-watching feel more rewarding by reminding you how much you were able to accomplish before sitting down to watch.

Try Timeboxing

It’s all too easy to flip on your favorite show when you have a free hour. To make time for your other responsibilities before resorting to TV time, give timeboxing a try.

Timeboxing isn’t tough to implement. Simply split your day into 30-minute chunks, and assign a specific task to each block. Focus only on the task at hand until the block has ended, and then move on.

Online calendars are the perfect tools for timeboxing. You can block off time for everything you need to do during the day, perhaps saving the last block to unwind with an episode of your favorite show. Use this method to let yourself have a TV treat without overdoing it.

Organize a Watch Party

Got a new show you can’t stop watching? Set up a watch party to share it with friends. They won’t want you to watch it without them, holding your binge-watching crave at bay until the next get-together. And in any case, it’s more fun to watch shows with your friends.

Plan these events with your online calendar. You can coordinate schedules, note who’s in charge of snacks, and share the events you create with all invitees. After that, all you have to do is look forward to your next party.

Plan More Activities

They say the idle mind is the devil’s workshop. When your schedule is empty, it’s easy to justify extra binge-watching. To overcome this, fill your online calendar with things you want to accomplish but struggle to make yourself do.

The busier you are, the less time you’ll have for binge-watching. Use your time to develop talents, explore hobbies, or simply get some fresh air. If you still can’t seem to commit, get an accountability partner, such as a walking companion.

Find Ways to Multitask

Instead of replacing your binge-watching with activities, you can also try combining them. Some of your daily tasks might allow you to watch while you work. This way, you’re still getting stuff done while enjoying your favorite show.

As you plan out your day in your online calendar, look for multitasking opportunities. Who says you can’t enjoy your go-to show while doing laundry, cooking, and even exercising? If you find a combination you love, use your online calendar to make it a habit.

Schedule a Day Off

Every once in a while, take an entire day off from watching television. Giving your brain a chance to reset helps you keep the habit from embedding itself too deeply. What’s more, you’ll enjoy each episode more when it’s not an everyday occurrence.

Schedule your day off from television in your online calendar. Fill this day with anything you want other than shows and movies. For a real challenge, make it a social media detox as well.

Create a Nightly Routine

Most binge-watching occurs at night after you’ve finished school or work. If you get too carried away, you may find it gets in the way of those next-day activities. The solution is a healthy nighttime routine.

Evening routines are easy to set up in an online calendar. Develop one that helps you wind down while still getting enough rest for the next day. You can include some TV time, but you should probably skip that second or third episode.

Keep Tabs on Other Tech Use

The amount of time you spend on smart devices likely rivals your binge-watching hours. And if you let yourself spend six hours per day on your smartphone, it’s a lot easier to justify three hours sitting in front of the TV.

To truly take control, you need to be on top of all your electronic usage. Replacing binge-watching with playing video games isn’t much of an improvement.

Fight your tech addiction on all fronts. Put together a morning routine to stop yourself from checking your phone first thing when you wake up. Schedule time to look at emails so you’re not distracted by notifications throughout the day. Set reminders to help you stay on task.

No one expects you to stop watching TV altogether. In fact, a little entertainment time is healthy. What’s not healthy is letting your binge-watching get the best of you. Use your calendar to take control.

How World-Class Creatives Use Their Online Calendar

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The videos you watch, the ads you see, and the memes you share on social media all have one thing in common: Brilliant creative minds designed them.

What creatives do is incredible, but it’s hard work. Inspiration can run dry, and it can be difficult to get the ball rolling some days. So how do world-class creatives do it?

Calendar Tips From Creatives

Using an online calendar can help creatives, and you, maximize their time and efforts. Here’s how:

1. Keep Track of Holidays

Because they’re so widely celebrated, major holidays make creating content that connects with consumers easy. Creatives use these dates as starting points for their campaigns.

Creatives also need to keep an eye on holidays for more practical reasons. Often, holidays dictate when you have off work, when projects are due, and when brand events should be held. Regardless, it’s a good idea to highlight them in your online calendar.

2. Develop a Content Schedule

Creative professionals don’t create in a vacuum. To make sure the world sees their work, they put together a content schedule. This calendar describes when and where their content will be shared.

This type of schedule is helpful for every profession. There are specific times better for making cold calls, meeting with clients, or even finishing up paperwork. Figure out the times that work best for your tasks, and use your online calendar to optimize your time usage.

3. Set Deadlines

There will be times, as a creative, when you feel stuck. Sit for too long, and you won’t get anything done. Working under deadlines can boost momentum and hold you accountable for projects you need to complete.

With that said, deadlines can be stressful. Be cautious about how many you set and at what cadence. What’s important is pushing yourself forward — something deadlines in your online calendar can help you with.

4. Get Inspired

Some of the best pieces of content have come from outside inspiration. Whether it’s to gather new ideas, take a brain break, or get help with a challenging assignment, making time for some recreational activities can help you find that spark of inspiration you need.

Schedule some time in your online calendar for activities that aren’t directly work-related. Getting outside, diving into a book, or attending an event can provide new insight into your life and be a delightful way to pass some time.

5. Use Color-Coding

Is it any surprise that creatives use their calendars in creative ways? One of the many options is to use color-coding to organize your calendar events. Each color represents a category, which makes it easy to distinguish between types of tasks.

Difference colors can represent certain activities, promote work-life balance, or even order tasks by level of importance. Choose your palette, and start coloring your own calendar.

6. Organize Challenges

When it comes to your career, you have to be constantly improving yourself. This boosts your work quality and opens up doors for bigger and better opportunities down the road. Creatives are especially well-known for their thirst to grow.

One way creatives challenge themselves is by planning a daily activity that hones their skills. For example, an artist can start their daily routine by drawing a sketch using a style they struggle with. Go ahead: Put a daily event on your calendar to challenge yourself creatively, personally, or professionally.

7. Implement Time Blocking

Multi-tasking might be a skill you pride yourself in, but it doesn’t make sense for most creatives. Each project has its own parameters and style to follow, which takes a lot of attention. Time blocking can be used to tackle assignments one at a time.

With time blocking, you organize sections of time into individual blocks. Let’s say from noon to 1 p.m.; you want to work on a social media video. During that block of time, that’s all you focus on. Once the clock strikes one, you move to your next project.

8. Get the Worst Out of the Way

Every job has its downsides. Creative jobs are no exception. While these tasks aren’t enjoyable, they must be done. Using an online calendar can help you get them over with quickly.

Schedule your least favorite activities first thing in the morning. Tackling these tasks before doing anything else means you’ve already gotten through the worst part of your day. That way, you can then focus on the aspects of your job that you enjoy. If you save the worst for last, you’ll be dreading it all day, putting a damper on everything else you do.

9. Balance Your Time

One of the greatest tools an online calendar has to offer is time analytics. This allows you to see how your time is distributed so you can fully optimize it.

For creatives, this ensures every area of a project gets proper attention. Planning, executing, and distributing are important steps, and time analytics can reveal whether each area is getting the time it deserves.

You can learn a lot from the creative minds of the world. Not only can you admire their bright minds, but you can also emulate how they use their time. To create a brighter future for yourself, look to world-class creatives.

How to Help Your Kids Use an Online Calendar Safely

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Digital tools are wonderful, but they aren’t risk-free. It’s important to take safety precautions when using any type of technology, including an online calendar.

With kids, safety is ALL more important. A child, even an older child — is simply less aware of the dangers of the internet. They may not see the harm in publicly sharing something like an after-school activity, which is where parents come in.

What can you do to help your kids use an online calendar safely?

1. Be an Example

The best way to teach your kids anything, frankly, is through your example. If you limit who you share events with, follow your Calendar with discipline, and log off when you need a break — then so will your children. Act carelessly with your online Calendar, and nothing you preach differently about it will stick.

Every tip in this article you should apply to yourself. Take notes on how you can improve — and make sure your kids see you doing it.

2. Set Ground Rules

A great place to start is with ground rules. These basic guidelines should be easy to remember and simple to follow.

What sorts of events should your kids put on their online Calendar? What sorts of events should they keep to themselves?

Think, too, about how they add events to their calendar. Is it OK if they’re using their smartphones to adjust calendar events late into the night? Should they practice doing Calendar-ing in the morning from the family’s desktop computer?

3. Teach Proper Safety

Show your kids the ropes when it comes to safety procedures. People they don’t know don’t need access to their daily schedules and routine.

Remind them not to share their Calendar information with strangers. Encourage them only to let trusted friends and family edit events that they’re invited to.

You should also teach your kids not to leave their devices unlocked or unattended. A little carelessness is all it takes for their privacy or personal data to be compromised.

4. Check Security Settings

Online Calendars have top-of-the-line security features built into them. But by default, many of them are toggled off to make online Calendars more shareable.

Check your children’s online Calendar settings often. Make sure all your kids’ Calendar events are private unless specifically shared with someone else. Opt-out of any organizations that may allow others to overlay your kids’ calendar on their own.

5. Change Passwords

Another thing to check is the password for your child’s online Calendar account. Make sure it’s complex and tough to guess, with a mix of numbers, letters, and special characters.

Make sure, too, that your kids change their calendar password frequently. That way, if someone were to get a hold of an old password, it would do nothing for them.

I like to change my kids’ password myself. They seem to accept this better, as teenagers — especially — think that they are too busy to bother with this task.

6. Focus on Sharing

Online calendars make it easy to create and share events. However, sharing events with the wrong people isn’t the best idea. Anyone can set up an account with a name that’s not their own, so ensure your kids know the person behind the name they see on the screen.

Consider asking them to only share events with family members at first — especially younger children. If they get the hang of it quickly and understand not to share every detail with everyone, loosen the reins a bit.

7. Explain the Dangers

To kids, most rules seem like nothing more than adults trying to ruin their fun. If they don’t understand the need for the rules, they’re more likely to break them.

To prevent sliding rules, help them understand the dangers that come from poor online Calendar safety. Talk through how child predators find and target kids. Discuss the consequences that they’ll face if they use their Calendar improperly or carelessly.

The goal here isn’t to scare them into submission. Rather, it’s to help them understand the need for safety precautions because of the real dangers that are out there.

8. Be Open

Let your kids know that they can and should come to you with any questions or concerns. If they feel like you’re unwilling to entertain “dumb” questions, they’ll try to find solutions independently.

Develop relationships with your children so you can be there for them whenever they need you. If something major ever does come up, you’ll be glad you did.

9. Maintain Access to Your Child’s Calendar

As a parent, you have a right to access your kids’ online Calendars. Not only does this help you manage their schedule — and yes, you’ll know when to pick them up — but it also lets you keep an eye out for suspicious activity on their accounts.

Having access and being able to see your child’s events on their Calendar helps you be more involved in their lives. Missing a sporting event or school functions is tough when you check their Calendar every day.

There’s a fine line between being a watchful parent and an overbearing one, so be careful — especially with older teenagers. Bonus Tip: don’t make comments on how they “do” their Calendar (keep your yapper shut)!! It’s their Calendar, and they will put “other” things on the Calendar that you wouldn’t choose to add.

However, an extra set of eyes can help spot any safety concerns early.

Online Calendars are extremely beneficial. A Calendar is teaching and training your child how to schedule and remember events — but they can be misused accidentally by kids. Our local school has an online Calendar for older children. Calendars are the future, in life and in business, so use them — but teach your children wisdom with their Calendars.

As with any other digital technology, be a pro-active parent. You’ll set your kids up to be productive, social, and, yes — safe.

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