Category Archives: Business Tips

8 Easy Ways to Make Customers Comfortable While They Wait for Their Appointment

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There’s a lot that goes into fulfilling an appointment. In many ways, one person’s appointment depends on the execution of many previous appointments. And during busy times, every company falls on occasion. 

When that happens, customers end up having to wait longer than expected. That can be frustrating for those who showed up early as well as those on a tight schedule. If it happens too frequently, customers may start showing up late or not arriving at all. 

You may not always be able to shrink your customers’ waiting time, but you can enhance their waiting room experience. A good customer experience is what keeps people coming back, and the waiting experience is a big part of that.

It doesn’t have to be complicated or extravagant. Take a look at these simple ways to ease customers’ waiting anxieties:

1. Send reminders about waits.

Reminders should already be a meaningful part of your company’s scheduling practices. And if you monitor your appointments carefully, you can alert people when you start to fall behind. 

A reminder about wait times helps customers mentally prepare. That way, they won’t be disappointed when they have to wait once they arrive. They may even opt to reschedule their appointment if they are in a time crunch. 

The key is to be as accurate as possible with the reminders. Don’t underestimate the time they’ll have to wait. Instead, give yourself some room to exceed their expectations. Keeping a customer comfortable in the waiting room begins with making them comfortable with the idea of waiting. 

2. Check your seating layout.

Aside from having comfortable seating in your waiting room, the way it’s arranged can also affect customers. No one wants to be cramped together while waiting, especially during the pandemic or if there are a lot of people in the room. 

By moving some chairs and tables around, you can redesign your waiting area to be more comfortable. Simply declutter the area, space out your chairs, and make electrical outlets accessible.  

Be sure to reorient your room in a way that breaks up the traffic. Doing so will probably involve some trial and error. Pay attention to where people tend to walk, and keep those areas clear. Make sure exits and entrances are clearly marked. 

3. Let in some natural light.

Harsh or dim lighting can make a waiting room unbearable. Natural lighting can significantly reduce the fatigue that builds up from waiting. 

If you’re able to, open the blinds and let in some light. On nice days, open the windows and use the screen door. If windows are scarce in your office, experiment with lights that imitate natural light. 

4. Make Wi-Fi easy to access. 

People tend to spend time on their digital devices when they have to wait. You are bound to get asked about the Wi-Fi connection. 

Reduce the need for customers to ask by doing the following:

  • Name your Wi-Fi after your company. 
  • Make the password visible for customers.
  • Include a guest Wi-Fi option.
  • Train the receptionist on Wi-Fi troubleshooting.

Surfing on cellular data while they wait may cost your customers money. Don’t underestimate how much that can get under their skin. 

5. Provide refreshments.

Food and drinks can be a good way to ease a customer’s wait. You don’t need to break the bank, but do set out some light refreshments. 

Water and coffee are standard. Go above and beyond by setting out juice, lemonade, or soft drinks. Set out a container of tea bags and an electric kettle. 

Snacks are also a smart way to keep customers entertained. Fruit, nuts, and chips are great picks for an office environment. To satisfy your customers’ sweet tooth, you could set out donuts and other pastries.

Always make sure the display is tidy. Remove any food that’s gone bad promptly. Restock the display regularly. 

6. Add art to the room. 

While they wait, nobody wants to choose between staring at a blank wall or at other customers. Hang some art on the walls. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it can actually cut down on the stress of waiting. 

If you have a little money to spend, consider featuring art from local artists. Make sure whatever you choose represents your brand well. Switch up your art periodically to keep things interesting for your most loyal customers. 

7. Set out reading materials. 

Magazines are a staple of waiting rooms. But if you want to step it up, include books as well. To keep kids entertained, pepper in some comics and coloring books. Make sure all periodicals are recent so customers aren’t stuck reading through old news. 

Go broad in your selection so that every client can find something they’re interested in reading. Before they know it, their wait will be over. 

8. Take care of the kids.

Restless kids can be a burden to parents in a waiting room. Worse, they can disrupt the experience of other customers as well. 

If you commonly have kids in your waiting room, create a play area. Colorful toys are a surefire way to keep children’s attention. If you’re lucky enough to have a playground outside the office, let them get some fresh air while their parents watch them from the window. 

Patience is a virtue, but you shouldn’t test your customers’ limits. If you need to ask them to wait, do your part to help them out. 

6 Remote Volunteering Opportunities That Are Perfect for the Pandemic

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Volunteering doesn’t just do good for the world; it’s also good for a team. 

Giving back reminds everyone to be grateful for the opportunities they’ve been given. It also gives them something to talk about other than work. Volunteering is a great way to bring a team together around a shared purpose.

Over the last few months, teams have had to find new ways to bond. No longer can they eat lunch together, work side-by-side, or meet up for an after-work happy hour. 

Unfortunately, the same goes for volunteering opportunities: You can’t simply waltz into a children’s hospital to read to kids during the pandemic. But if your team wants to help, there are still plenty of ways to do it. 

Giving Back From Afar

If you’re willing to get creative, you’ll see that there are almost as many opportunities to volunteer remotely as their are in-person:

1. BeMyEyes: Lend your sight to people with visual impairments.

As long as your team members have their eyesight, they can volunteer for BeMyEyes. People with vision impairments use BeMyEyes to check expiration dates, read instructions, look for lost items, and more.

Start by downloading the BeMyEyes app. Once you’re matched with a user who needs to see something, you’ll receive a video call. All you have to do is describe what you see on the screen in order to help them out. From the comfort of your own home, you can join over 3.8 million volunteers in giving a gift it’s entirely too easy to take for granted. 

2. Amnesty Decoders: Dig into international human rights violations.

With easy access and tons of opportunities, Amnesty Decoders makes it easy to become a digital activist and do meaningful human rights work. To get to work, all you need is internet access and a smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

Amnesty Decoder volunteers help researchers sift through large data banks of social media messages, images, video, and other documents for evidence of human rights abuses. Decoders help researchers avoid information overload so they can focus on the root issue. 

Since its release in June 2016, Amnesty Decoders has tackled seven projects for the betterment of humanity, including digitizing a large data bank of oil spill investigation reports, identifying misogynistic social media content targeted at female Indian politicians, and more. 

3. Crisis Text Line: Support people experiencing mental health crises.

If you’ve never experienced a mental health crisis before COVID-19, odds are that you have a better sense of how difficult they can be. Turn that into positive energy by volunteering on behalf of Crisis Text Line. 

Remember, a crisis doesn’t necessarily mean someone is thinking about ending their life. In many cases, it means that someone simply needs an attentive ear to listen to their challenges. Just be prepared to talk about tough topics, including abuse, anxiety, suicide, loneliness, bullying, and self-harm. 

With just a four-hour-per-week commitment and free training — valued at over $1,000 per volunteer — you can change someone’s life. You’ll become a more compassionate, empathetic, and understanding person, not to mention learn strategies for addressing your own mental health needs. 

4. Project Gutenberg: Transcribe print literature into digital documents.

Project Gutenberg is a free digital library with more than 60,000 e-books and cultural works. To improve access to information around the world, Project Gutenberg has a range of volunteer opportunities available:

  • Proofread an e-book.

Joining as a member of the Distributed Proofreaders team means that you can proofread as few or as many pages as you want. That way, readers don’t have to deal with transcription errors. 

  • Procure eligible paper books.

Producing new e-books for the site means getting a hold of paper books with expired copyrights. Because most content published before 1923 is no longer under copyright, the site mostly contains older works of literature. 

  • Burn CDs and DVDs for people without internet access. 

Even within the U.S., not everyone has access to the internet. Share information and materials with those who otherwise might not have it. 

5. Ancestry World Archives Project: Build a publicly accessible genealogy database.

Genealogy sites like Ancestry are not only fun and sentimental, helping people find long lost relatives and learn about their family’s history, but they also benefit society. Family history data can be used by detectives to solve crimes, while medical experts can leverage it to understand a person’s predispositions to certain diseases. 

Ancestry’s World Archives Project houses free searchable records gathered from historical documents. Volunteers review scanned documents and make the material searchable by typing out its contents. They not only get a firsthand look at historical documents, but they may also be eligible for discounts on Ancestry’s premium services.

6. CareerVillage: Answer students’ career questions and share work experiences.

Landing a job is all about who you know. Unfortunately, a lot of talented students don’t have industry connections. Worse, some of them don’t even know what working in the field is like.

CareerVillage volunteers give promising students that leg up. Ranging in intensity from full-on mentorship to casual question-answering, volunteering opportunities come with no specific commitment or training requirements. CareerVillage’s network of volunteers advise more than 4 million learners, including those from underrepresented backgrounds. 

Just because teams have to work together differently during the pandemic does not mean that they can’t still come together to do good. Try it: There’s never been a better time to get involved. 

Thrive in the Remote World

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Even before COVID-19 changed the world as we know it, remote work was having its moment. In fact, according to Global Workplace Analytics, “Regular work-at-home has grown 173% since 2005, 11% faster than the rest of the workforce (which grew 15%) and nearly 47x faster than the self-employed population (which grew by 4%).”

Will this trend continue following the pandemic? Well, Global Workplace Analytics anticipates “that 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.”

While that exact estimate could change, I feel comfortable in predicting that remote work isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s just going to become the norm.

So, whether you’re new to the game or a seasoned veteran, it’s imperative that you learn how to thrive in the remote world.

Build the right toolkit.

Have you ever started a project, like putting together a piece of furniture or an elaborate dish for dinner, only to be dismissed that you don’t have everything needed to finish what you started? It’s almost like a punch to the gut as it just takes the wind out of you.

The same idea is true with remote work. If you don’t have everything you need to get your job done, then it’s impossible to succeed, let alone thrive.

Depending on your exact work, this will be different for everyone. But, at the minimum, you should have the right hardware and software. For most of us, that means:

  • Reliable internet connection.
  • Computer/laptop — ideally with a mic and camera for virtual meetings.
  • Apps for communicating and collaborating with others like Google Drive, Slack, Zoom, and Trello.
  • Security solutions like VPNs.

Create a dedicated workspace.

You may have noticed that in the previous section, I left out a dedicated workspace. It wasn’t something that I forgot and added later. It’s just that this can play a huge role in your productivity if working from home.

If possible, have a dedicated area solely reserved for work. For instance, you could turn a spare bedroom or garage into an inspiring home office. I know that there are a lot of amazing ideas you can find online. But, you really just need a surface to work on, ergonomic furniture, and a quiet space free of distractions.

You can, however, make space your own by adding personal touches like pictures, plants, and knick-knacks. That’s all up to you. The key is to keep your work area clean, clutter-free and has the room for you to get work done. For example, if you need to look at blueprints, then you need a desk or table large enough to accommodate this.

What if you don’t have space for a home office? Any location in your home could work — just as long as it has the fewest distractions and temptation.

Plan to manage your time better.

Having autonomy is pretty sweet. You can set your own schedule and work however you prefer without someone questioning your every move. At the same time, if you’re new to the game, it may be challenging to adjust to not having as much structure.

For some, that means getting sidetracked by distractions like household chores or streaming services. Others have the problem of not knowing when turn-off work mode.

Regardless of which camp you’re in, if you work remotely, then you must learn how to manage your time more effectively.

While there a variety of techniques worth trying, Choncé Maddox, in a previous Calendar article, has used the following ways to improve her time management:

  • Track your time. “To plan a schedule that’s realistic and productive, you have to give yourself a good idea of how you spend your time,” writes Choncé. “Plus, you’ll want to know how much time it takes you to complete specific tasks.”
  • Plan a realistic schedule in advance. Next, plan out a daily schedule that’s not only realistic, but also takes into account breaks, lunch, physical activity, and household chores.
  • Plan around your energy levels. We all have energy highs and lows during the day. Find out when these are so that you can plan accordingly. For example, if you’re a morning person, then that’s when you would tackle your most important task of the day.
  • Avoid irreverent meetings. Don’t accept meeting invites unless it serves a clear purpose. Instead, consider alternatives like a quick phone call or email.
  • Create caps on your calendar. “Schedule gaps in your calendar to accommodate anything that might pop up or just to give yourself a much-needed break,” recommends Choncé.

Separate work and personal.

The biggest drawback to working remotely is that there aren’t boundaries to separate your work and personal lives. Having a home office is a start as this establishes a physical boundary. But, even then, it’s hard to forget about work when you’re still thinking about a project or checking your notifications round the clock.

Eventually, without these boundaries, your work bleeds into your personal life and vice versa. As a result, you become stressed and ultimately burned out. To avoid this, have set “business hours” and reduce your screen time. For example, on the weekend, leave your phone inside if you’re during yard work.

You can also try some mental tricky. For instance, taking a shower in the morning could be your transition into work mode, while shutting down your computer signals the end of your workday.

Schedule “lazy” time.

“Don’t make the entire day about work. I know, it sounds counterintuitive,” writes Colleen Trinkaus. “But often regular remote workers find themselves letting work creep into evenings and weekends.”

As mentioned above, remote workers tend to work more. That’s because they don’t have to deal with a daily commute or work “later into the evening because they aren’t seeing their colleagues leave for the day.”

To avoid this, “monitor your daily workload – and if you realize you’re putting in overtime, sprinkle in some free time throughout the day to do what you please,” suggests Trinkaus. Ideas could be grabbing lunch with a friend, taking your dog to the park, or reading. In turn, these “breaks will help reset your mind and prevent burnout.”

Focus on results, not your hours.

“The eight-hour workday is an outdated and ineffective approach to work,” explains Dr. Travis Bradberry. “If you want to be as productive as possible, you need to let go of this relic and find a new approach.”

Even though the eight-hour workday is antiquated, so many of us continue to fall into this trap. We convenience ourselves that if we don’t put in a set amount of time at work, we haven’t had a productive day.

The truth is that “the length of the workday didn’t matter much,” adds Bradberry. It’s how we structure our days. Ideally, this would be working for around an hour and then taking about 15 minutes off to rest. More importantly, it’s how we spend that hour working.

Take email as an example. You may spend 60-minutes cleaning out your inbox and responding to messages. But, is that a priority when you have a deadline to meet? No. It just means that you’re busy and not productive.

How can you determine what your priorities are? Well, you’ll want your priorities to be what’s most important to you, your leaders, and the organization. A straightforward way to identify these would be to “write down all of the tasks that are tied to your professionally for the next month,” recommends Calendar Co-Founder John Hall. Next, trim down this list by focusing on only the three items that account for 90% of your value to your business.

If you knock-out the “big three” during your workday, then it’s been fruitful — regardless of how many hours it took to complete them.

Maintain your mental health.

Remote workers often experience symptoms of anxiety and depression at a higher rate than people commuting into traditional office spaces,” reports Dr. Amy Cirbus, Ph.D., LMHC, LPC, and Manager of Clinical Quality at Talkspace. “Specifically, they report feelings of isolation and loneliness and high rates of worry about job performance and stability. Insomnia and sleep disturbance are common, along with increased fatigue, irritation, sadness, and feelings of disconnection.”

“Remote workers report a lack of concentration and focus that can compound and exacerbate these mental health challenges,” adds Dr. Cirbus. “It can lead to a loss of self-worth and a questioning of one’s abilities.” When combined, “these symptoms can have a significant impact on job performance, job satisfaction, and the efficiency of productive work.”

Because of this, it’s necessary for you to maintain your mental health when residing in a remote world.

There are several ways to achieve this. Going back to the previous point, take frequent breaks is a start. However, you should spend doing healthy activities like practicing gratitude, going outside, meditating, or any other type of physical activity that will release endorphins.

You should also spend your downtime, like during the evening or weekend, to do the things that you enjoy. It could be a hobby, hanging out with friends, enjoying a little self-care, or learning something new.

And, there’s also no shame in seeking out help when needed. It could be calling a family to vent or working with a mental health professional.

Keep things fresh and fun.

As someone who has worked from home for some time now, I can tell you that I wouldn’t change it for the world. At the same time, it can get redundant. If this isn’t addressed, it can be challenging to stay motivated. And, it may even put you in a slump.

That’s why I try to keep things fresh and fun. For example, I challenge myself to complete a task by a specific time. It’s like a video game where I’m trying to beat my previous score. My reward? Going for a walk or treating myself to a cappuccino at my favorite cafe. Although, I also cherish turning in projects before a deadline and getting a sincere “thank you” from my colleagues.

It’s also been essential to socialize with others. It could be a weekly team meeting, virtual lunch, or team building activity that makes me feel like a key part of the team. And, if I have the capacity, I’m always willing to take on new responsibilities or change-up my scenery.

Don’t neglect your professional development.

There’s a misconception that just because you live in a remote world, you’re going to get overlooked for career advancement opportunities. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Grab the bull by the horns and take an online course to earn a certification. Stay up to date on the latest industry news and trends. Attend webinars, workshops, and conferences. And, expand your professional network, both in-person and online.

Even if this doesn’t land you a promotion, it can make you a valuable asset for someone else.

Add a “done list” to your to-do-list.

According to research for her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam “found that dieters who keep daily diaries tracking what they ate tend to lose more weight.” Why? Melissa Dahl explains over at The Cut that the “act of writing it all down allows people to honestly reflect on their food choices, and to notice patterns and identify trends that they can then change, if necessary.”

“Plus, it’s a nice little pat-on-the-back — proof that even if you didn’t get everything on your ‘official’ to-do list done, you did make some progress on something,” adds Dahl.

Vanderkam believes that this same concept can be applied to productivity since it keeps us focused on your priorities. More importantly, it allows us to acknowledge and celebrate our accomplishments.

Maintain your professionalism.

Finally, just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be taken seriously. However, to prove that you should:

  • Clean up your online presence, like update your LinkedIn profile and not post questionable content on social media.
  • Actually get dressed and not work all day in your pajamas.
  • Be respectful of other’s time, such as meeting deadlines and arriving early for video calls.
  • Following virtual meeting etiquette. Besides being on-time, consider your background, muting your mic when not speaking, and not multitasking.
  • Not responding to your co-workers in a timely manner.
  • Messaging or calling others at an inappropriate time, like late at night or during the weekends.

Final words of advice.

Even if you didn’t believe that you were cut out for remote work, the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures probably haven’t given you much choice. Regardless if things ever go back to resembling some sort of normalcy — it’s likely that remote work is here to stay for a while. And, if you want to thrive, then you need to perfect the advice listed above.

How to Honor Your Appointments in Times of Turnover

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As hard as the COVID-19 pandemic has been on business, plenty of companies have found ways to keep going. Unfortunately for many of them, that persistence has come at the cost of employee layoffs and furloughs.

If you run an appointment-based business, staff changes may affect your ability to honor those appointments. If you’re unable to, you could lose business — potentially leading to further layoffs.

It’s a dangerous cycle, but don’t despair. With the right time management tools, you can do more with less. Technology and a little bit of creativity is all it takes to make sure that you can cover your customer bases. 

It won’t be easy, but then again, neither is saying goodbye to members of your staff. Here’s how to meet your appointments while downsizing your team:

1. Accept the circumstances.

Sometimes it takes a while for new situations to set in. Realize that all you can do is live in the present, and that things will seem normal again soon enough.

You may be feeling guilty about having to lay people off. That’s a very human response. But in order for your company to execute its appointments, you need to make things work with your remaining staff. 

It helps to remember that layoffs are happening across all industries. Even jobs that people once considered secure have been affected by the pandemic. Although this understanding won’t fix the problem, it can keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the situation. 

2. Let employees carry out existing appointments.

If you haven’t already cut ties with affected staff members, consider keeping them on long enough to handle existing appointments. Doing this gives you time to strategize for future appointments. It also gives your employees space to figure out their finances before they are no longer employed by your company. 

Making this method work, however, requires radical transparency. As a business leader, you’ll need to have difficult discussions. Employees need to know your plans as soon as possible, including:

  • The reason why layoffs are necessary
  • The timeline of what appointments they’ll be fulfilling
  • Your company’s plan for recovery 
  • Their potential future with the company

Those are weighty topics, to be sure. Given the frustrations involved, it’s important to lead with respect and empathy. 

3. Notify your customers.

Transparency doesn’t stop with your employees. Customers also need to know what to expect. Even if you’re confident that every appointment will be honored in its current form, layoffs reach customers’ ears.

Be proactive. Reach out to people with upcoming appointments. Discuss any changes to your operating hours or capacity. Treat affected customers with the same dignity you do members of your team who are losing their job. Leave plenty of time to field customers’ concerns. 

Alternatively, you could ask the team members who’ll be fulfilling the appointments to notify their customers directly. The more personal approach may make it easier for customers to ask the hard questions. It can also help them get acquainted with an employee who may be stepping in for a laid-off staff member. 

4. Reschedule appointments with flexible customers.

Realistically, you will have to reschedule some appointments. Target this adjustment toward your most flexible customers. That way, you minimize the amount of business lost as a result. 

Here, good scheduling software can be a lifesaver. Look through the data from previous appointments to identify which customers are the most flexible. From there, send these customers a message to ask whether or not they’d be willing to reschedule. 

The best scheduling tools allow self-service, enabling customers to change their appointment themselves. To sweeten the pot, offer discounts or gift cards to customers who willingly make changes. 

5. Provide a virtual option when possible.

In order to make some appointments work, the channel may need to change. Many meetings and appointments are already happening remotely, so customers may not be surprised by this switch. 

Virtual appointments are safer and save time for both sides of the equation. 

Think through the nature of the appointment to determine whether or not it can be carried out digitally. A haircut, dental filling, or car repair certainly can’t be done digitally, but many consultations can be. Some tours can also be conducted digitally.  

6. Combine similar appointments.

Some types of appointments must be conducted with one customer at a time. Doctor offices are required by HIPAA regulations to keep customers’ healthcare information private. Masseuses can only relax one set of muscles at once.

For other businesses, however, combining appointments is a good approach. A product demonstration can be done for many customers at once. A Q&A actually works better with more members. By knocking out multiple appointments at once, you make room for others.

Laying people off is never easy, but doing nothing only risks the damage spreading to customers.  When the occasion calls for change, a leader delivers. 

7 Questions to Ask Before Accepting Drop-Ins During COVID-19

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When you run an appointment-based business, scheduling clients beforehand is key to your efficiency. At the same time, you’ll inevitably have to contend with drop-ins. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, accepting drop-ins had its pros and cons. They may have netted you more business, but they might also have upset your staff. It was a question of how drastically drop-ins affected your efficiency. 

Now, however, drop-ins are also an issue of safety. Even if your state’s prohibitions have been relaxed and everyone is wearing protective equipment, drop-ins could still pose a danger. Not only can they make social distancing more difficult, but they increase the chances that you’ll accidentally interact with someone who’s sick. That can make customers feel uncomfortable, whether they tell you or not. 

These days, you can’t decide on a whim whether or not to allow drop-ins. There’s a lot more to consider than your bottom line. To choose, ask yourself the following questions: 

1. What are the conditions in my community?

In the U.S., the federal government’s approach to managing COVID-19 has been to put state and local governments in charge. So, before deciding whether or not to accept drop-ins, be sure you consider the conditions in your city and state.

There are two parts to this: laws and cases. First, you’ll want to look into what’s allowed in your community. Are there occupancy restrictions you might run afoul of? Must everyone wear masks in public places?

The second piece of the puzzle is active cases. Rather than checking any one day, look at trends for the truest picture of conditions on the ground. Across the last three days, week, and month, have cases generally been rising or falling? 

2. How much space do I have?

Your operating capacity has to factor into your decision. Even if you’re nowhere close to fire-code limits, you may not have enough room for people to stay 6 feet apart. 

If that’s the case, it’s important to serve the people who booked an appointment first. Customers will feel cheated if they’re denied entry because someone off the street stole their time slot. 

The larger your space, the more likely it is you’ll have room for drop-ins. If you’re working in cramped quarters, don’t take the risk. 

3. How much do I rely on drop-ins?

For some companies, denying drop-ins is no big deal. If your customers are religious about making appointments, there’s no reason to take the risk of letting random people in. 

If you’ve been keeping track of your traffic, you can get a good idea of how many drop-ins you’ve had in the past. Compare that with data from your scheduling software. Determine what proportion of your business comes from each source. 

What if your customers are mostly drop-ins? You may need to encourage more people to use your scheduling software. Offering a slight discount for booking online is a good way to do it. 

4. How much do my clients value a drop-in option?

Some clients are more likely to drop-in than others. Know your regulars, but realize that things may change due to the pandemic.

In order to gauge your clients’ feelings, send out a survey. Offer a gift card to encourage responses. In your survey, ask about:

  • How frequently they plan to come in during the pandemic
  • How concerned they are about safety
  • Whether they’re able to make appointments using your software
  • How much they care about flexibility

Surveys are great for at-a-glance feedback, but you may want to get your top clients on the phone. Set up feedback calls to get more detailed insights. Your customers are critical to your business, so they should have a say. 

5. Do I have a drop-in policy?

If your company already has a drop-in policy in place, take a moment to review it. It may be time to start enforcing it. What if you haven’t set guidelines on drop-ins? Now is the time to create them. 

Drop-in rules run the gamut. Some companies accept them unconditionally, while others forbid them entirely; most fall somewhere in between. 

An “in between” answer might be a waitlist. That way, if someone cancels an appointment, a drop-in customer could  take their slot. 

Figure out how much time drop-ins will have to wait if they show up.  Set expectations with a sign on your door. You don’t want to surprise people with an hour-long wait. 

6. How will I publicize my policy?

If you have a drop-in policy, it’s important that customers can find it. A sign on your door isn’t sufficient because some of your customers likely drive dozens of miles to do business with you.

Be sure to post your drop-in policy online. Add it to your social media sites. Consider using a business SMS service to share it with your most loyal customers. Proactively informing people of your policy doesn’t take much time, and it’s important for a sticky customer experience.  

7. Should I do it immediately?

Just as states are reopening in phases, so are many companies. It’s up to you: You could choose to disallow drop-ins until cases drop to a certain level, or until you can look deeper into your foot traffic. 

For financial and personal reasons, you probably want to get back to normal as soon as possible. The trouble is, throwing caution to the wind could make things worse than they already are. It may not seem like a big deal, but how you handle drop-ins could have big consequences for your company.

Team Service Opportunities That Build Character

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Character, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual.” It’s often composed of having the right values, doing the right thing, and being the right kind of person. Suffice to say, character plays a significant role in our success in life. The reason? It helps us develop personality traits like honesty, trust, courage, patience, and leadership.

While some believe that character is something that you’re born with, others argue that it can be changed and grown through some work. For example, you can develop your character by continuing to learn, improving soft skills, meeting new people, and spreading kindness.

If you’ve ever helped someone else, then you may see a link between volunteering and developing character. After all, giving back allows you to build important character traits like wisdom, confidence, and courage. It gives you a chance to strengthen your empathy, spread justice, improve your temperance, and encourage you to transcend.

The benefits of volunteering.

In addition to developing character, there are other perks of helping others. It’s been scientifically proven that volunteering is good for your mind and body as it counters the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also lower high blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and lessen the symptom of chronic pain.

Moreover, helping others gives you a sense of purpose and satisfaction. It opens up new opportunities to network and honing your skills — or trying out new ones.

But, hold on, there’s more. Giving back also comes with organizational benefits. It’s perfect for building stronger bonds among teams, gives your team a sense of achievement as a group. can be used as a learning event, and improve employee attraction and retention. Volunteering also has the power to boost morale, engagement, demonstrate your company’s values. And, if that’s not enough to sway you, it’s also beneficial for your bottom line

With all that being said, the point I’m getting at is that volunteering is one of the best things that you can do individually and as a part of a team. And, because of this, it’s time that you explore the best service opportunities for your team if you want to reap the benefits of volunteering, such as building character.

Getting Started With Team-Based Volunteering

For your team service to have an impact within your organization and others, you first need to take the following 8 steps. These have been developed by MovingWorlds, who have over 50 years of collective experience designing volunteer programs for individuals, companies, nonprofits.

Define your intentions.

Why do you want to volunteer? Is it altruistic or is there another reason? It’s alright to have another motive, like using volunteerism as a team-building activity. Discuss this with your team so that you can identify the purpose of giving back.

Audit your team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Evaluate the skills that you and your team possess. What industries are you familiar with? And, what knowledge or resources can you use to make the world better?

Document your learning and impact goals.

You don’t have to create a formal document. But, you should write down your goals so that you can refer to them as needed. To get you started, Mark Horoszowski, co-founder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org, suggests writing down goal-related statements like:

  • What can I learn about the organization and the industry I’m volunteering in?
  • What can I learn about communication and collaboration by working in a new setting?
  • Do I have any personal development areas that I can put into practice while volunteering?
  • What would indicate that we’re actually making an impact?

Pick a cause and find a partner.

Solicit ideas from your team on how you want to give back. Use your team’s strengths, interests, and passions to narrow down a cause. For example, if you’re all skilled coders who believe that this is a talent children need to learn, then you could work with a non-profit like Code.org, Mined Minds, or Girls Who Code.

You can do this during a brainstorming session or adding to an agenda of an upcoming meeting. Another way would be sending out an employee survey, poll, or questionnaire. Or, you could also work with placement partners like MovingWorlds, VolunteerMatch, or United We Serve who can connect your company with a non-profit.

Consider opportunities and threats.

Despite your best intentions, sometimes giving can have a negative impact. For example, if you’re not a doctor or teacher, then why volunteer to go to places in the world that are in need of these professions? Also, don’t get frustrated by the positive changes you are making aren’t always the most exciting, such as doing administrative work or coaching.

Develop a sustainability plan.

All good things must come to an end, like your team’s service opportunity. Come up with a plan on how you’re going to end the project. And, have a process for how others can seamlessly continue doing the work you’ve done.

Find support and sponsors.

Besides getting your team on board, find out if anyone within your network would also like to join. You should also look for other businesses to join in as well. Maybe you could get several local businesses to support various teams in a baseball little league.

Document and publicize your work.

Documenting your experience can “increase exposure of the organization and mission you worked on,” writes Horoszowski. It can also encourage you to reflect, learn, and inspire others to follow you and your organization’s lead.

Team Service Ideas

Now that we have that out of the way, here are 62 team service opportunities that you should pursue.

General Ideas

  • Plan an item drive, such as canned food, coat, book, or toy drive.
  • Cleanup up an outdoor area like a park or beach.
  • Donate or raise money for a nonprofit like the Red Cross.
  • Host a fundraiser for a local nonprofit.
  • Assemble care packages for nurses, first responders, or the military.
  • Plan a charity team building activity, such as “Pay it Forward.”
  • Participate in a charity race.
  • Mentor students or underserved communities.
  • Do pro bono work, such as the Accessibility Internet Rally in Austin, TX.
  • Help community members register to vote.
  • Volunteer as staff at an event, like a 5K or festival.
  • Offer to promote a cause or nonprofit event.

Helping Children and Schools

  • Coach or sponsor a youth sports team.
  • Tutor students.
  • Donate presents to a children’s hospital.
  • Perform at a children’s hospital.
  • Pack back bags filled with essential school supplies for teachers at an underserved school in your community.
  • Babysit so that parents can attend a PTA meeting or have a night out.
  • Donate used books to a school library.
  • Collect baby and children’s clothing so they can be donated to those in need.
  • Volunteers at a camp or afterschool program.
  • Sponsor a child in a foreign country.

Assisting Senior Citizens and Veterans

  • Pick-up groceries or medicine for elderly family or community members.
  • Visit nursing homes and spend quality time with the residents.
  • Host a bingo night for senior citizens.
  • Drive those who can not get to their doctor’s appointments.
  • Make birthday, holiday, and thank cards.
  • Host a holiday meal for seniors or veterans.
  • Plan a Memorial or Veterans Day parade.
  • Mow lawns, rake leaves, and shovel snow.
  • Teach the elderly how to use technology, like computers and smartphones.
  • Raise money for organizations like Wounded Warriors, or Charity Water.

Helping Animals and the Environment

  • Volunteer or donate food and cleaning supplies to local animal shelters, or women and men’s shelters.
  • Train service dogs or foster animals until they find a home.
  • Organize a spay and neuter program.
  • Take your pet to a retirement home or hospital.
  • Sponsor a recycling program.
  • Build a community garden or clean-up an existing one.
  • Participate or organize the cleanup of a body of water, park, or along roads.
  • Offer to watch your friends, family, or neighbors pet when they’re on vacation.
  • Adopt-a-highway or sponsor an acre of rainforest or wetlands.
  • Organize an office carpool or permit more work-from-home opportunities.

Improving Your Community

  • Help the homeless and hungry in your community, such as donating food and clothing.
  • Build a house with Habit With Humanity.
  • Volunteer at food banks, homeless shelters, firehouses, or schools.
  • Start or join a community watch.
  • Become CPR certified.
  • Paint over graffiti and repaint benches.
  • Become a local tour guide.
  • Create or sponsor a piece of pubic art, playground equipment
  • Clean up after a natural disaster.
  • Participate in and promote a community event.

In-house and Virtual Ideas

  • Celebrate as a team, like having a pizza party after accomplishing a major milestone
  • Create professional and personal development programs so your team can learn and grow together.
  • Establish a mentorship program.
  • Offer childcare for the parents on your team.
  • Raise money for an ailing or struggling team member.
  • Pick up the slack for a colleague who is ill.
  • Set up an Angel Tree during the holidays.
  • Assemble kits during work hours, such as hygiene kits, that can be distributed.
  • Host an event for your team, like a family-friendly picnic or team building activity.
  • Encourage your team to volunteer virtually if they can’t do so in-person. You can find virtual volunteering opportunities on VolunteerMatch, Serve.gov, or AllForGood.

6 Virtual-Meeting Dysfunctions to Nip in the Bud

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Even once the pandemic has passed, virtual meetings aren’t going anywhere. When team members return to their offices en masse, they’ll continue to hold digital meetings due to their convenience. 

But just like in-person meetings, you can waste a lot of employee time with virtual meetings. Whether long or short, you need to make sure that every minute of a meeting is worth it. A single hiccup can throw off an otherwise productive meeting. 

Take control of your virtual meetings. Avoid these six dysfunctions in order to keep them on track:

1. Technical Difficulties

At the best of times, technology can be tough to manage. If the meeting’s leader is having issues, the resulting disorganization can derail the entire thing. 

Don’t assume that everyone knows how to use the program. In the meeting agenda, include a tutorial about how to log into the meeting space. Offer alternative ways to attend, such as calling in by phone instead of using video.

Before logging in, cover your bases. Make sure you have a solid internet connection and the latest version of your video conferencing software. Start early to make time for troubleshooting.

2. Poor Speaking Dynamics

During in-person meetings, speaking dynamics tend to be pretty natural. In a virtual meeting, however, even the closest team may struggle to balance listening and speaking. 

Virtual meetings make it more difficult to see cues that indicate someone wants to speak. The trouble is, the most important contributions are often made in the moment. The solution is to designate a facilitator to keep things moving.

A facilitator can take on the following responsibilities:

  • Opening and closing the meeting
  • Reviewing action items
  • Polling the group to check for consensus 
  • Calling on people to give their thoughts
  • Reframing talking points when there is a disconnect
  • Ensuring nobody only speaks or listens 

A good facilitator knows when to step in and when to step back. Natural conversation isn’t the enemy, so long as it’s on-topic and constructive. Choose your facilitator prior to the meeting, ideally through a team vote to ensure the person has everyone’s respect. 

3. Waning Participation

When people attend a meeting in person, they have more incentive to participate. But in virtual gatherings, it’s easy to go unnoticed. People can mute their voices or turn off their screens altogether. 

This is another issue a facilitator can help with. By throwing out a new prompt, he or she can revive discussion if it’s died. It isn’t always obvious to the wider group when it’s time to move on. It’s the role of the facilitator to make those decisions. 

Another solution is to lay out the ground rules before the virtual meeting begins. Discuss the kind of participation that is expected in the meeting. Decide whether people should respond through the chat or audibly. You can also provide a shared document for silent brainstorming.

4. Personal Distractions

When you’re not in the same room during a meeting, distractions can be a big problem. Someone’s child or pet might interrupt them during the meeting. Their computer may make notification sounds that reverberate in the meeting room. 

Personal distractions can quickly become group distractions. Don’t be rude about them, but do address them promptly. Remind everyone of the meeting’s goal, and remember to be compassionate. There’s no reason to get upset if the distraction is one they can’t control. 

5. Too Many People

You could hypothetically fit a whole company into a virtual meeting. But just because you can include the whole team doesn’t mean you should. Huge meetings can be overwhelming for everyone involved.

The only exception? General meetings intended for a specific announcement. But that’s a situation in which you could pre-record your message and let employees watch it on their own time. 

Instead, utilize breakout groups. Convene multiple virtual meetings, perhaps divided along departments or functional groups. Ask the leader of each meeting to report back with the consensus and action items.

6. Unprofessional Aesthetics

Just because a meeting is virtual does not mean it should be unprofessional. Paying attention to your surroundings and personal presentation is key.

To make sure your look doesn’t distract attendees or communicate “I don’t care”:

  • Use a neutral background.
  • Emphasize books or plants around you.
  • Make sure your room is silent.
  • Keep your camera at eye level.
  • Dress as you would for an in-person meeting at your company.

That isn’t to say you can’t have fun on certain video calls, such as team happy hours. With that said, it’s important to distinguish between meetings that call for professionalism and those that let you cut loose a little bit. 

Don’t let digital meeting dysfunctions get in the way. There’s never a good time for kinks, so work them out now. Otherwise, you’ll be dealing with them at the worst time: when the team needs to get down to business. 

Leading With Empathy From Home

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Leading with Empathy

As you’re all well aware, the world is going through a pandemic. As a result, people are anxious, frightened, and suffering. And, they’re looking for answers on how this crisis is affecting them and when things can go back to “normal.” Here are a few suggestions about leading with empathy from home. Recently, I returned to the quote listed below.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  — Leo Buscaglia

While you can’t address all of their concerns, as a leader, you can at least be empathetic with your team. Even before COVID-19, empathy was often seen as one of the most important leadership skills to possess. After all, empathy is in our DNA and can create a more loyal, engaged, and productive. Empathy can also increase happiness, teach presence, and foster innovation collaboration.

However, empathy is more important than ever before. But, how can you be there for your team when this virus has forced you to be apart? Well, you can fix that problem by leading with empathy from home using the following ten techniques.

1. Support your team’s emotional and mental health.

I don’t think that I need to pull up any figures that highlight just how stressed and anxious everyone is right now. With that in mind, you don’t want to put any additional emotional or mental strain on your team. So, ditch the “tough love” approach and offer your support during this trying time. Social support has been found as the best way to alleviate stress.

How can you be supportive right now? The most obvious place to start is merely letting your team members know that you are there from them. Make it known that they can reach out to if they need to discuss any issues — even if it’s not work-related. In a way, this kind of like having a virtual open-door policy.

You should also schedule frequent check-ins with them to see how they’re doing. If they’re taking care of family members or busy homeschooling their children, you may even want to suggest that they take some time off. Most importantly, if you notice signs of distress, please have them contact outside sources like a support group, crisis outline, or mental healthcare professional.

2. Ease-up on rigid schedules.

Not that long ago, having a regimented schedule was one of the drawbacks regarding flexible schedules. Right now, though, that doesn’t matter.

Yes, for many businesses, they still need their team to be accountable and meet deadlines. But, they can still achieve these without putting in a specific set of working hours each day. As long as they’re getting stuff done, it doesn’t matter when they’re working or for how long.

In the past, studies have found that flexible schedules leade to happier and more productive employees. And, considering that they currently have other priorities, like taking care of themselves and loved ones, this is the best gift you can give them. And, they will reward by continuing to deliver quality work.

3. Rethink how you ask questions and listen.

Actively listen to your team. While that may sound simple, it’s going to take some effort. For instance, listening means giving the other person 100% percent of your attention when they’re conversing with you via Zoom, the phone, email, or Slack. Listening also involves making yourself as available as possible without wearing yourself out — I suggest sharing your calendar with your team so that they can see when you’re free to chat.

Additionally, you also need to ask empathy-building questions, like:

  • How are you feeling?
  • What’s distracting you?
  • How can I support you?

If they respond with a short answer, like “fine” or “nothing,” don’t accept that. Be honest with your team, and encourage them to open up so that you can get to the root problem.

4. Model healthy work habits.

Although you need to be available for your people, the truth is you also need a break. So, set regular “business hours” and lay down some guidelines. For example, suggest that there’s no work-related contact after work hours or during the weekend.

And, even though you can’t go out, let your team know how you’re spending your downtime. Maybe share with them a project you’re doing around your home or a new hobby you picked-up. And encourage them to let you and the rest of the team know how they’re enjoying their downtime.

5. Train yourself to be more patient.

Whether if everyone is adjusting to working from home or meeting virtually, expect some growing pains. We’re all trying to adjust and get through this together. And, one way to handle this is by training yourself to be more patient.

Personally, this is something that I’m still working on. And, according to studies, it depends on your personality, history, and situation. But, it is possible by:

  • Identifying when you’re impatient and what emotion you’re feeling.
  • Reframing how you think about the situation.
  • Thinking with purpose in mind.

6. Normalize the new normal.

If you’ve ever sought advice about effectively working from home, you were probably told to get dressed and set up shop in a quiet, dedicated workspace. Both suggestions are correct in working at-home procedures. But, that was a different time and place.

Take that home office you’ve carefully set up. It’s now being shared by your spouse for their work stuff and likely even your kids while they are on the “learning virtually” track. At this time, because of the non-virtual sharing — your team might have to use the kitchen table to work, or even meet on a video chat. Don’t chastise them for choices that they have to make that may be totally out of their control. Space is limited, and they need to work whenever they can.

Problematic choices have to be made right now — even down to getting dressed. Obviously, if a team member is on camera they’ll be wearing clothes, but let it slide if they’re in sweats or jeans and a T-shirt. The last thing that should be on their minds is getting all dressed up like they would if they were in the office.

7. Educate your team.

There are several ways you can do this. Pass along information on how your team can stay safe and healthy during this pandemic. Advice from the CDC and WHO are reliable sources for this. You could also let them know what your insurance plans do and do not cover.

What’s more, keep them up-to-date on your business and the industry so that they’re not left out in the cold. And, while you’re at it, provide them with resources on how they can be more focused while working from home.

8. Give them something to look forward to.

It’s impossible to make too many plans right now. But, you can still give your team things to look forward to besides work. You could start a virtual book club or host a number of events remotely. Ideas could be a happy hour, movie night, or online game tournament. Another idea could be sending them a care package containing handwritten notes, healthy snacks, or items that could make them more productive at home, such as headphones or a standing desk.

9. Meet more frequently.

Yes. Meetings are usually dreaded because they are boring, pointless, and distracting. But, right now, connecting with others is crucial — particularly for your team members who live alone.

Schedule more meetings than you normally would, like a brief 10-minute daily huddle or weekly progress meeting. Besides offering your team to interact with others, it also gives you more of a chance to monitor how they’re doing with their work and life.

Just remember to follow some basic virtual meeting etiquette guidelines. These include picking the right technology, speaking clearly and concisely, not multitasking, and muting your mic when not speaking.

10. Help others.

Finally, lend a helping hand to your team. If you have the means, this could be financially assisting them. But, you could also purchase an app like Calm or Downward Dog to help them relax.

You could also ask each person how, as a team, you can help each other. Maybe you could purchase gift cards to local businesses, put together with care packages for health care workers, or volunteer virtually.

Helping others isn’t just a welcome distraction. It gives back to the community, builds camaraderie, and puts you and your team in a better mood.

Best Calendar Apps for Freelancers on the Go

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Freelancer working

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

What Makes These the Best Calendar Apps For Freelancers

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

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

Calendar App

Calendar

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

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

Fantastical Guide

Fantastical Guide

Fantastical 2

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

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

Vantage Calendar App

Vantage

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

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

Cal

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

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

Google Calendar Guide

Google Calendar

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

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

Awesome Calendar

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

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

Calendars 5

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

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

Week Calendar and Cally

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

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

Pocket Informant

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

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

Peek Calendar

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

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

Tiny Calendar

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

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

Calvetica

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

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

miCal

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

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

Get Some Sun With These 7 Team-Building Activities

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

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

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

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

1. Have a picnic.

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

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

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

2. Make it a cook-off.

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

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

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

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

3. Join a sports league.

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

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

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

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

4. Attend a sporting event.

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

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

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

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

5. Experience live music.

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

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

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

6. Take a field trip.

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

Consider the following activities to engage your team:

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

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

7. Go camping.

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

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

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

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