Category Archives: Knowledge Base

14 Ways to Find the Best Back-to-School Bargains This Year

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back-to-school bargains

It is never too late to start thinking about back-to-school season. Families spend a lot of money each year to get kids ready for back-to-school. For example, families with school-aged children expect an average of $848.90 for back-to-school supplies and gear. That’s a total expense of $37.1 billion spent nationally, according to the National Retail Federation, which is an all-time high reported in the annual survey.

Families can save some of that expense by planning for back to school and following some basic steps along the way. You can get organized by using your favorite online calendar to help plan your attack and to keep tabs on budgeting for your back-to-school shopping.

Here are some top ways to save while preparing to send your children back to school with everything they need.

1. Start Early With Weekly Shopping

It’s time to get organized and plan your back-to-school shopping. Prices change frequently, so you want to stay on top of what sales are possible for items your child may need in their backpack. Make a list of items you know will be required for school, focus on the stores with the best selections and prices, collect their sale notices and listings, and schedule your visits to those stores around their sales.

It’s a good idea to enter each store’s sales period in your calendar to keep track of those discount periods. Then, for harder-to-find items, consider watching for price drops at a particular store with good discounts and buy even if you don’t find them on sale to beat the back-to-school rush.

2. You Can Delay the Basics

Some school items will probably drop in price the closer you get to the start of school — such as paper, pens, and notebooks. However, there are also other ways to save on these items, so don’t rush out early to buy the basics. Instead, focus on more specific types of supplies, like a particular calendar or science gear.

3. Scour Everything For Coupons

You probably have access to more coupons than you know. They come through direct mail sent to your mailbox, email spam that includes coupons for specific stores, and even those circulars that are inserted into newspapers. Be diligent about scouring everything and everywhere for coupons.

For example, you can even search online for coupons and discounts for specific items. For example, Amazon frequently offers coupons on school and office supplies, so make sure to check for those bargains. Also, make sure to keep track of coupon expiration dates on your favorite online calendar to make sure you do not let those slip by.

4. Keep Track of Good Deals to Price Match

As you compare prices and collect coupons, keep track of deals at office supply stores or retailers. Then, you can use those deals to negotiate discounts at other retailers that match prices. This is handy, mainly when supplies are limited or sold out at the store offering the initial deal.

5. Sell What You Don’t Need Before Buying

Make sure to go through old office supplies, equipment, and accessories to sell anything you no longer need for school. While at it, check around the house for anything you can sell that is no longer being used. This will give you a good head start on the cash you will need for back-to-school shopping.

6. Save When You Buy in Bulk

If you, a friend, or a relative have access to bulk shopping centers, consider buying items to save money. You can join forces with relatives, friends, neighbors, and other school parents. Buy large quantities of things like pens, pencils, paper, tissues, crayons, brown paper bags, cleaners, and anything children need. Split the cost with your group and divvy up the supplies equally.

7. Shop Without Your Kids

An easy way to save money on back-to-school shopping is to leave your children at home. When you bring your children to the store, they may pick more expensive items than are necessary or ignore your effort to save money. If your children insist, leave a few things that need to be purchased for them to pick out at a store you have already scouted for good prices. Let them pick folders or notebooks, or you can say they can choose their backpack within a budget you give the

8. Buy Used When Possible

If your children must buy textbooks for their classes or certain books needed for other purposes, buy used when possible. This is particularly true for higher education classes, where you can quickly pay hundreds of dollars for one textbook. Check out online selling forums on Facebook, eBay, and other programs that allow sellers to post items. You can find lots of great bargains here, not only on textbooks but on other supplies and equipment.

9. Search for E-Textbook License and Other Textbook Bargains

If you have trouble finding used books, consider alternatives to buying new textbooks. For example, see if you can buy a less expensive e-Textbook license for your book. You can also consider comparing prices at certain retailers for textbooks and checking for coupons before you buy. There is TUN’s Textbook Save Engine or CampusBooks’ search feature that can help you find the cheapest options for specific books.

10. Find Exclusive Student Deals

Many retailers offer student discounts for certain supplies and equipment. For example, Best Buy features College Student Deals, and some technology companies offer specific discount pricing, including high school students. These exclusive student deals can save you big bucks on necessary technology and equipment.

11. Budget For Backpacks

One of the most expensive back-to-school purchases typically is that new backpack that your student thinks they must buy. You can save a good amount by avoiding expensive brand-name backpacks and those themed after movies or cartoon characters. You might find you can make a deal with your high school student, for example, by paying a little more for a quality backpack from Timberland or Rockland. The value is, however, that they have to agree to use it throughout high school. Otherwise, a sturdy, heavy backpack without the flashy brand name will save you money.

12. Time Your Electronics Purchases

Plan those purchases if you know you will have expensive electronics purchases on your back-to-school list. There are two things to consider when planning those expenses. First, consumer experts note that the spring and fall are the best times to buy computers and other electronics. Second, many states waive sales taxes on back-to-school items.

Find out if and when your state tax holiday is and add it to your calendar. Then line up the specials at electronics retailers to see if you can make your purchase at a time when they overlap with your sales tax holiday. Add them both to your calendar to stay on top of the deals.

13. Look for Clothing Deals

It can be expensive to buy new wardrobes for your children to return to school. So start looking for bargains early for clothes. If you have a large network of parents with older children, you can host a clothing swap to see if some items are for your kids and theirs. You can also check with second-hand stores to find clothing your child will like.

14. Take Advantage of Credit Card Offers

You may have credit cards that offer rebates and rewards to help you save money on back-to-school shopping. Make sure you take advantage of those rebates on items you know you will have to buy anyway. Depending on the credit card promotion, you can earn between 2% and 5% back on every purchase. Remember that even small amounts of money can add up!

Image Credit: Oleksandr Pidvalnyi; Pexels; Thank you!

14 Ways to Find the Best Back-to-School Bargains This Year was originally published on Calendar by .

How to Lighten Up Your Waiting Room for the Summer

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lighten up waiting room

Nobody enjoys sitting in a waiting room before an appointment. Even with a smartphone to keep oneself occupied, waiting rooms can be unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and uninviting. Yet the waiting room is a major part of any appointment-based business. That’s why it deserves just as much attention as the rest of your business operations.

If there were a single theme that should epitomize your waiting room, it would be light. It’s as simple as that. A bright waiting room, both literally and figuratively, can make a huge difference for your customers. Here’s how you can make some changes this summer that can make an impact all year round:

Lighten Up, Literally

If you want to brighten the mood, you need to literally lighten the room. Seasonal depression in the colder months occurs in large part due to the lack of sunshine throughout the day. If your waiting room is dark and gloomy, it can inspire similar feelings even during the summer. 

Lightening up can be as easy as switching out your light bulbs. Newer LEDs are not only brighter bulbs, but they are more efficient as well. You’ll brighten up the space without having to pay more for utilities. 

In addition to turning on actual lights, consider taking a look at your waiting room’s color scheme. Lighter colors, such as yellow, can feel more positive than dreary grays and dull browns. Even a splash of color on an accent wall can bring life to your place of business. 

Use the Right Playlist

Many businesses play music to fill the empty space of their waiting rooms. This is a great strategy to implement and doesn’t take a lot of effort. What you need to be conscious about is the type of music that you’re playing in your waiting area.

Your playlist should consist of upbeat music, no matter your genre of choice. Instrumental music is easy; just select beats and melodies that sound positive and vibrant. For other types of music, you’ll do the same while also paying attention to the lyrics. Clean, happy lyrics will lighten up your waiting room a lot better than sad songs. 

Offer Refreshments

A light snack or a good beverage can perk your customers right up. Waiting for an appointment is a much worse experience on an empty stomach than it would be otherwise. You can’t know whether your customers managed to grab lunch before coming to their appointment. While their hunger and thirst are out of your control, you can offer refreshments to tide them over until their names are called. 

Water is an easy and inexpensive beverage to provide and essential for proper hydration. If you want to put a light twist on your H2O offering, add some fresh fruit. A little bit of orange or strawberry can add a memorable twist to your waiting room’s water cooler.  

For snacks, make sure anything you provide is light — think granola bars or fresh fruit. Foods packed with sugar and fat won’t do the trick. They will cause your customers to feel sluggish rather than help them stay alert. 

Take Advantage of Scent

How your waiting room smells is an underrated part of your business. It’s often one of the first things new customers experience, especially when unpleasant odors are involved. Obviously you’ll want to begin by minimizing these with improved ventilation. But while a lack of smell might be an improvement, the air might feel stale with no scent whatsoever.

Plan to introduce new scents into your waiting room gradually. Scents that are too strong, even if they smell good, can be overwhelming. Try a single scented candle and see whether that makes a noticeable difference. You can switch these out to fit seasonal moods. Summer scents like flowers can be replaced later in the year with cinnamon or piney smells.

Don’t Forget the Feels

So far every single one of the five senses has been covered except one. The only one missing is touch. When was the last time you updated your seating arrangement? Customers will feel a lot better when their seats feel like clouds rather than rocks. 

In addition to improved cushioning, don’t forget the climate control. A hot waiting room in the summer is not the place your customers want to be. They are more likely to forgive long wait times if it means they can spend some extra time in the air conditioning. 

Customers will appreciate a waiting room that feels safe and welcoming. A kids play area will make your waiting room family-friendly. The latest security features on display help parents feel safe while they are waiting with their children. 

These changes to your waiting room can be implemented throughout your business space. In most cases, this theme of light will also help you and your employees. Lighter spaces and a lighter atmosphere can help boost mood and productivity. It’s time to turn on the lights this summer and witness the change it will make. 

Image Credit: Curtis Adams; Pexels; Thanks!

How to Schedule Alternative Activities to Limit Kids’ Screen Time

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schedule alternative activities

Every time you turn around, your kids are staring at a smartphone or screen. Of course, they like playing video games, texting with friends, watching television, and surfing the internet on the computer. But that can become much lost time without interacting or participating in physical activity.

There are ways to reduce your children’s screen time. Parents need to understand the importance of setting rules and reducing screen time by limiting when children can use the computer, TV, and smartphone. One way to do this is to suggest alternative activities that you can schedule on your online calendar to reduce screen time.

Here are ways to reduce the time your children spend on technology screens and alternative activities to consider.

Time For a Family Meeting

The first step to getting everyone on board with new rules for technology is to hold a family meeting. You should explain why it is essential to establish rules for the family about tech use. This is an excellent time to note that the goal is for everyone to sit less and move more. Tech use isn’t a reward or punishment but a form of entertainment with limits. For example, young children can use a cell phone for kids that doesn’t come with the internet, social media, or games.

The idea here is to explain that these rules are intended to improve your time together. As a family, everyone must commit to limiting screen time. There may be some exceptions, such as using the computer for homework or work. That does not count against your entertainment time. But everyone in the family, including adults, must be held to the same standard.

Set Screen Time Limits and Stick to Them

A house rule must limit the amount of screen time spent on smartphones, TVs, and video games. Health experts recommend two hours a day, but you can set your own limits. Maybe it is one hour. Perhaps you decide three hours is appropriate for your family. Whatever you decide, the entire family must be on board to keep screen time down to a finite time. Schedule these times on your online calendar and ensure everyone sticks to them.

Once the rule is established, make sure you follow it. Children know when their parents are not practicing what they preach. They will follow your lead. Make sure everyone knows the penalty for breaking the rule. Decide if they must pay into a family entertainment fund or lose tech privileges.

Encourage Completing Chores for Screen Time

If your child is old enough to take advantage of screen time, they likely are old enough to handle chores. Establish a set of chores for your child around the house. Schedule the time they work on them on your online calendar and when they complete them. Performing these chores helps the family, offers an alternative to staring at a screen, and provides an opportunity to reward your child.

Consider offering them a bit more screen time if they go above and beyond with chores. But be careful. The idea here is to reduce screen time, so try not to offer ways to increase it too much.

Create Family Time for Physical Activities

A great way to reduce your family’s screen time is to find alternative physical activities. For example, you can plan family walks or visit the community pool. Start a family bowling night or an exercise challenge. Find a way to offer alternative activities to your children that will reduce their dependence on screen time.

You can track the amount of time spent on physical activities and tech use each week on your online calendar. Consider the hours spent watching TV, playing video games, and using the computer. Compare that to the time spent doing physical activities. Chances are you’ll find the screen time surpasses the time doing physical activities. If so, meet as a family to discuss ways you can increase your physical activities.

Not all physical activities must be done together, although family time is fun. Give your children credit for playing outside with friends. Perhaps your children are involved in sports at school or in the community. Count that, too. Don’t forget to give yourself credit for your time at the gym.

Make Sure Your Children Get Outdoors

An alternative to screen time can be spending more time outdoors. To encourage your child to get out more, look for ways to nurture new hobbies. For example, teach them how to plant and care for a garden. Teach them how to care for your swimming pool. Expose them to the thrill of working on cars, maybe just cleaning them or changing the oil.

You can create a schedule for these outdoor activities in your online calendar and try different things. You might help your child discover a passion that turns into a life-long career.

Engage as You Enjoy Screen Time Together

There are ways to spend family time together while watching television. Plan a movie night together, something everyone will enjoy. Make special treats for the family to ensure that time is special. If you see TV ads for unhealthy foods or promoting new personal devices, discuss those. Help your children understand the difference between junk food and healthy meals.

You can also add physical activities to your tech use. For example, create a competition with push-ups or jumping jacks during commercials. The winner picks the next movie. Inspire your children by doing stretches, yoga, or dumbbell lifts while watching TV. You can increase your family’s time with physical activities while enjoying television together.

Establish “Tech-Free” Zones in Your Home

You decide when and where your children access technology. That means you need rules preventing access to tech in certain areas of your home. For example, ensure there is no tech at the kitchen table for any meal. Meal time is when families can discuss their day and stay connected.

Keep computers and televisions out of bedrooms. This is an excellent way to ensure everyone sticks to the tech time limits. But it also helps you monitor what your children watch and browse. You can also keep smartphones out of bedrooms or require them to be surrendered before bedtime.

Provide Alternatives to Screen Time

Families can do many activities together that don’t require technology. Consider going to a park together. Attend a sporting event together. Encourage your children to try hobbies that occupy their afternoons and weekends, and schedule these activities on your online calendar.

Children can learn to appreciate hobbies at an early age. Take them to a local theater production and ask if they would consider joining a youth theater group. Sign up for an art class and take your child to see if they would enjoy learning more. Offer to pay for music lessons so they can explore learning an instrument.

Other traditional options are to consider, such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, school clubs, and volunteering. They teach the value of volunteer service and plant a seed of service that your child will appreciate as an adult.

There are many ways to reduce your family’s screen time. Think of this as an opportunity to build new memories together.

The Pros and Cons of a 4-Day Workweek

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4-Day Workweek

Henry Ford’s five-day work week was seen in 1926 as a revolution when it gave his employees Saturdays off. How gracious of him, right? And a short time later, in 1932, the five-day week was officially codified for all workers in the United States. But, after a century of Ford’s “radical” idea, is the next workplace innovation the four-day workweek?

However, companies of all sizes have been tinkering with four-day work weeks worldwide. Down in New Zealand, consumer-goods corporation Unilever implemented a 12-month test run of a shorter work week. The four-day working week became a reality in Spain in March of 2021 after several dozen companies participated in a pilot project. Fundraising company Kickstarter will test the four-day work week with employees in 2022. Also, in 2022, home improvement retailer Lowe’s adopted a four-day workweek.

But that’s not all. Scotland, Iceland, Japan, Belgium, and the United Arab Emirates all have four-day workweek pilot programs in the works. Additionally, Democratic Congressman Mark Takano introduced legislation reducing the standard workweek from 40 to 32 hours here in the United States.

The world’s most extensive 4-day workweek trial run occurred in the U.K. in 2022.

All eyes are on the U.K.

To determine whether a similar model is possible and supported in the United States, over 3,300 workers and 70 British companies participated in the trial in the U.K.

According to Eagle Hill Consulting, 83% of respondents agreed that a four-day workweek would reduce burnout. In a Joblist survey, 94% of job seekers said they wanted a four-day workweek. But did the study back these claims up? Here’s what the study showed:

  • According to 51% of employees, they can do their jobs to their fullest potential in 40 hours or less
  • In 85% of the survey responses, respondents said it was logistically possible to work four days a week
  • A 4-day workweek was cited as a benefit by 94% of respondents
  • Approximately 28% of full-time employees would consider a four-day week in exchange for a pay cut

So far, so good. But is a four-day workweek really a good idea? Well, let’s weigh the pros and cons.

What is a Four-Day Workweek?

Before getting too far ahead of ourselves, let’s have a brief rundown on what exactly a four-day workweek is.

You could work 32 hours with a four-day workweek without losing productivity, pay, or benefits. There might be a Monday-through-Thursday work week with Fridays off — depending on the industry and the company. Alternatively, each employee could choose their third day off, or the company could have a third different day off policy on Mondays or Wednesdays.

Both options have their pros and cons. When everyone works at the same time, collaborative work is enhanced. But the company will be unstaffed when most others are. Individual employees may prefer a flexible third day off, but teams may struggle with it.

It may seem unorthodox to work a four-day week. Over the last century, however, we have gradually reduced the number of hours worked per week.

In 1890, a full-time employee within a manufacturing plant worked an average of 100 hours per week, according to the United States government. But, by the mid-20th century, manufacturing employees were on average working 40 hours a week. So, as radical as it may seem, reducing our current work week to 28 hours is not as drastic as it may seem.

The Pros of a Four-Day Workweek

In a report in The Atlantic, people who work a four-day week say they’re healthier, happier, and less stressed. As a result, their employers report that their employees are more productive and focused. In addition, 94% of employees have a positive sense of well-being when they feel their employer cares about them. Also, according to research, it is best not to work intensively for more than four hours per day.

Some of the most significant advantages of a four-day work week are as follows.

Increased productivity.

The relationship between productivity and hours worked was studied by Sanford University. It was found that those who work an overworked schedule are actually less productive than those with a regular work schedule.

During a trial study conducted by a New Zealand company, Perpetual Guardian, four-day work weeks were tested. In addition to maintaining their productivity levels, employees improved their job satisfaction, teamwork, work/life balance, and loyalty to the company. There was also a decrease in stress from 45% to 38% of employees.

Norway, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, along with some of the world’s most productive countries, work on average 27 hours a week, the same hours suggested for a four-day work week in the U.K. In contrast, Japan, a country notorious for overworked employees, ranks 20th out of 35 countries in terms of productivity. In fact, Japan’s four-day workweek experiment led to a 40% increase in productivity.

Physical and mental well-being is improved.

Several positive side effects are reported by employees who work fewer days per week. Whether it’s exercising more, finishing a Master’s program earlier, volunteering more, or maintaining a healthy work-life balance, these measures can help. In turn, this contributes to a worker’s increased productivity. “I like to take walks … just wander and let my brain breathe,” Natalie Nagele, Wildbit CEO, told The Atlantic.

A more balanced life leads to less stress for parents with children. In addition, they spend more time with their families. In addition, caregivers of aging parents have the opportunity to help them. “One of the biggest factors in people’s level of work-family satisfaction is the pure number of work hours they have,” Melissa Milkie, a sociologist at the University of Toronto who studies time use, told The Atlantic. “So cutting it is huge … It would re-balance things for working families.”

“I can enjoy my weekend now because I’ve got my Friday for my chores and my other bits and pieces or… if I want to take my mum out for a walk, I can do that now without feeling guilty, Lisa Gilbert, a lending services manager at Charity Bank, told CNN Business.

In addition to caring for her son and two elderly parents, Gilbert gets an extra day off a week, which allows her to spend more time with them.

“I find that I’m saying ‘yes we can as opposed to ‘no, sorry we can’t,’” she said.

Enhanced motivation.

A compressed or reduced 4-day workweek can motivate your employees. As with any other benefit, it’s perceived as a way for the company to support its employees both on and off the clock.

Moreover, the rarity of these programs may encourage your staff to work hard to earn them or keep them.

It has improved employee engagement.

Employees are more likely to be satisfied and committed if they have four days off each week. They have enough time to rest and recover, which allows them to return to work feeling ready to take on new responsibilities.

A study conducted by Sweden in 2015-2017 investigated the effects of shorter work weeks on nurses. Nurses were working solely six hours a day and five days a week. Results showed nurses logged fewer sick days, reported better health, and engaged patients 85% more.

Reduced costs.

Over half, 51%, of business leaders surveyed by Henley Business School reported savings on facilities and utilities, and almost two-thirds reported increased productivity.

Downtime is reduced.

Employees have that extra day off during traditional business hours to schedule personal needs. As a result, they can make doctor’s and other appointments on their regular day off without taking time away from work. According to the same study, 62% of business leaders report that fewer sick days are taken.

We have increased employee attraction and retention.

It has been reported that job postings listing four-day workweeks have tripled within the last five years. Post-pandemic challenges may make this trend continue. As the competition for talent surges, top job seekers are looking for the best potential opportunities.

Furthermore, focusing on wellness and avoiding burnout is key to retaining employees. In a 2020 Gallup poll of over 10,000 workers, workers who worked a 4-day week reported the lowest level of job burnout. Among employees with a four-day work week, 63% reported thriving wellbeing.

A smaller carbon footprint.

In countries with shorter working hours, the carbon footprint is typically smaller. Consequently, reducing our work week from 5 to 4 days could also have environmental benefits. In addition, the shorter working week eases employee commutes and means large office buildings spend less time unused.

Utah’s state government employees showed a significant environmental impact from reducing workweek length from five to four days through a compressed work schedule during a trial conducted in the state. Over $1.8 million was saved in energy costs due to closing the large office building on Fridays. In addition, the state estimates it could save 12,000 metric tons of CO2 by working one day less a week, equivalent to removing 2,300 cars from the road for one year.

The Cons of a Four-Day Workweek

It is true that a four-day work week has many benefits. But there are also a few disadvantages that shouldn’t be ignored. For example, the study involving Swedish nurses found that the project wasn’t cost-effective in the long run.

There is a cost.

Some argue that recruiting employees would be expensive with a four-day work week. In the U.S., as in other countries, employers offer full-time employees more than just their annual salary. They also throw in benefits like pensions and health insurance. As a result, employers may not be able to hire more employees to cover the reduced number of working hours.

Additionally, many workers in many countries prefer working fewer days a week – or fewer hours – in return for a higher salary. YouGov and HuffPost surveyed approximately 50% of American workers in 2014 and found that they would work an additional day a week for 20% more pay. Part-time workers were even more likely to make the trade.

It decreased customer satisfaction.

Despite providing some great environmental results and employer and employee benefits, the Utah study closed due to unsatisfactory customer feedback. Due to government offices being closed on Fridays, customers complained they couldn’t access government services.

However, companies can improve customer satisfaction by using technology, such as chatbots and AI-powered websites. How? By allowing customers another avenue for support instead of relying solely on employees.

Not everyone can participate.

A four-day work week is challenging to implement for some industries that require 24/7 availability. A four-day work week, for example, may make it difficult for your business to manage customer service problems.

Companies must deal with problems during the weekday and weekends regardless of the industry. However, planning and forethought are required to cover every aspect of the business during the workday.

Scheduling conflicts.

Compressing the workweek may be complicated by the need for your team to assist customers or other team members. Furthermore, this can make finding appropriate coverage during working hours a chore.

Additionally, internal scheduling may cause problems in managing client needs. For example, scheduled meetings can be planned in advance in the workweek. On the other hand, impromptu or emergency meetings might be more problematic.

Also, when employees who are off cannot attend brainstorming sessions, there may be limited input. How often these events occur in an organization may determine whether a 4-day workweek is feasible.

Workers may still put in the same amount of time.

In some cases, reducing hours may not be feasible for specific jobs. For example, one experiment in France found that workers put in the same number of hours regardless of the four-day work week. So what’s the only difference? Overtime costs were added to the company’s expenses.

Added stress.

There’s nothing better than a 3-day weekend, is there? Businesses usually structure their 4-day week this way (Mondays and Fridays off). To maintain that benefit, you will have to work harder during your ‘on’ days to ensure you don’t lose your ‘off’ days.

Most employees surveyed said a four-day week helped them maintain a work/life balance. So having a flexible schedule is a plus. But if the work portion adds more stress, it might not be worth it.

Should You Adopt a Four-Day Workweek?

There are many advantages to condensing workweeks, such as increased productivity and more time to pursue personal interests. But, at the same time, some industries, businesses, or individuals don’t work well with a four-day schedule. In addition, it won’t magically fix toxic workplaces or unpleasant jobs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a reevaluation of work worldwide, which has increased interest in four-day workweeks. As a result, we must adjust our mindset and culture to make it the new normal, deemphasize work, and examine work activities that can be automated, deprioritized, and eliminated.

However, if you want to give a four-day workweek a try, consider the following strategies:

  • Clearly define your goals
  • Make sure your goals are achievable within a shorter work week
  • Tasks should be prioritized and reevaluated
  • Work asynchronously
  • Keep interruptions and distractions to a minimum
  • Don’t measure hours, measure outcomes
  • Automate more tasks
  • Create a culture that emphasizes human creativity
  • Work-based social events should be limited
  • Meetings should be reduced and shortened
  • Pay employees as usual
  • Regularly solicit feedback from employees
  • Don’t micromanage your team
  • Experiment and learn from your mistakes

Image Credit: Rebrand Cities; Pexels; Thanks!

The Pros and Cons of a 4-Day Workweek was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

How to Efficiently Onboard and Train Your New Hires

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Train New Hires

Quality employee onboarding is one of the most important things you can do for your business. You want your new hires to feel welcome and wanted as soon as they walk in. You need to give them an excellent first impression of your business and show that they matter. For many new employees, it’s essential to feel that there is a well-defined role and a clear career path.

Not only that, but a good onboarding process can make a massive difference to your retention rates and your revenue. Onboarding can also improve employee productivity and morale. And you save time and money when you don’t have to keep replacing employees.

Great onboarding starts with excellent planning. You really can’t wing it when it comes to training your new hires. Having planned training and processes for dealing with new employees is important.

Before hiring any new employees, plan out what they need to know and how you deliver it. This will also make it easier for you. For example, you’re not having to scramble to find something for them to do while trying to balance your own work.

You could also create an onboarding checklist for you and one for your new hires. This allows you to quickly know what to teach next and see clear progress and tick off what they’ve learned. It’s motivating for both parties. Even better if you have training software that allows for gamification. New hires can tick off modules as they finish them, see what’s next, achieve rewards, and more.

Once you have your onboarding training prepared, you can then use your calendar to plan it out and ensure success.

1. Set up a dedicated onboarding calendar

Many calendar apps will allow you to set up multiple calendars. So, for example, you can set up a calendar just for onboarding training, showing the full schedule.

This allows you and your new hires to look at your full calendar view with all your tasks and appointments and to look at just the training schedule on its own calendar when you need to.

It’s helpful to have both views. With the main calendar view, you can ensure no clashes and time to get to training sessions. And with the onboarding calendar, you clearly know the training and what comes next.

2. Share your calendars

You can coordinate together more efficiently by sharing your calendars. Your new employee will have other items on their calendar in addition to their onboarding training. For example, they may have previously booked medical appointments scheduled or a holiday that was already booked before they got the job. And there’s the work that they need to be involved in.

If you both share your calendars, you can easily be more flexible, if needed, and quickly rearrange sessions if something else comes up. In addition, your new hire will be able to see when you’re free, so they can book time if they need more help.

Encouraging your new employees to start, regularly use, and share their calendars is good practice for the future.

3. Set up your to-do list

Unless your only job is employee onboarding, you will have other work to fill your time. With your time split between onboarding your new hires and your everyday work, staying organized is essential. You can add a task/to-do list and make notes on many calendars to easily keep track.

This helps you balance your work with your onboarding duties. It also gives you a heads up if you’re going to have a busy week that may need extra organization and planning.

Another benefit of adding your to-do list to your calendar is seeing how much you’ve achieved. Ticking off completed tasks gives a nice hit of dopamine and is highly motivating.

4. Use time blocking to ensure you get everything done

When trying to learn something new, it can be easier to spend a solid block of time on it, rather than jump around over several sessions. Time blocking can be helpful to facilitate that.

However, time blocking involves splitting your day and week into blocks for specific tasks. This is a great way to combine your to-do list with your calendar. This can be a beneficial technique for ensuring you can fit in onboarding training and your regular tasks and meetings.

You can choose what works best for you with so many options and techniques. For example, time blocking could be one more helpful tool in your organizing arsenal.

5. Set up reminders

One of the best things about using a calendar and task lists is that you can add reminders to keep yourself on track.

When you are setting up your onboarding calendar, ensure you add in reminders where it’s helpful. This ensures that you don’t miss any meetings or tasks or your trainees.

When you’re busy, it can be easy to miss breaks and lunches. Adding reminders for these can ensure you take a breather when you should. It also provides that you don’t set yourself up for burnout.

6. Integrate with Trello

Some calendars integrate with Trello, a simple but effective project management app.

You can add tasks, checklists, and processes to Trello. It’s helpful to break down more significant tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks. It’s possible to tick them off when you’re done, which can help to motivate you and your trainees.

One other great thing about Trello is that you can set up boards and processes as a template. Then when you need it again, copy the template, rename it, and you’re ready to go.

Integrating this option with your calendar could help you manage your training better. You can also add team members and work on tasks together, aiding your trainees.

7. Bear in mind remote working

So many companies now allow remote working since the pandemic that you need to consider it. In addition, you may be training both in-office workers and remote workers to onboard them.

It’s important that your onboarding training includes your company culture and expectations, but it’s particularly important that remote workers feel part of your company.

Of course, you need to organize your time and calendar to ensure you can onboard everyone, remote or not. In addition to planning tasks and meetings, you’ll need to consider what technology you need, including cameras, Zoom, and more. Then, organize your tech in plenty of time for each meeting for success.

8. Start with a welcome pack

Once you know the start date of your next hire, add a task and a reminder on your calendar. Then send them a welcome email a few days before they start. You could even save time by writing a template for this email if you’re going to need it more than once. Then, you could set it up, keep it, and just hit send on the day.

If they’re based in-house, include practical information your new employee needs to know. Include directions, parking information, and a building map marked by their office or area. Add in where they can find vending machines or a kitchen for snacks and drinks. Include any local shops, such as bakeries or sandwich shops for food.

You’re starting them on the right foot before they’ve even walked through the door. And they will appreciate it.

Don’t forget your remote workers here. They will also appreciate a friendly, welcoming email with helpful information on start times and what to expect.

9. Use your analytics

Many calendars have excellent analytics. Office 365, for example, includes MyAnalytics, which provides information on various tasks and events. For example, you can see how many meetings you’ve had and how you spend your time.

This is helpful because you can see an overview of your onboarding training. You can check if you’re offering balanced training or leaning too heavily toward one subject. You can see whether you have covered everything or if there are any gaps.

Calendar analytics are equally helpful for improving your general productivity. You can ensure you still have the time to work on your own tasks as well as fit in onboarding.

10. Assess your onboarding regularly

Use your calendar to schedule follow-up meetings with new employees to get feedback on your onboarding processes.

Diarize time every year, at least once, to review your onboarding, look at feedback, and see how you can improve.

With quality onboarding so crucial for every business, it is vital to stay organized and on top of it. The right calendar apps can help you deliver onboarding well and keep improving.

Image Credit: Edmond Dantès; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Efficiently Onboard and Train Your New Hires was originally published on Calendar by Howie Jones.

How to Find the Best Deals When Booking Your Next Trip

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For some people, the worst part of their vacation is planning the details. But this is where you can get the most for your money and ensure you book as much fun as you can pack into your trip.

Good planning is the key. You can avoid the stress of overpaying for flights, finding the best hotel for the best price, and reserving the top restaurants. All you have to do is make good plans and stick to them. It’s not just about the money, it’s also about having fun.

If you are one of those people who hate to plan, think of these tricks as a way to really save money. Keep large blocks of time on your schedule open to be spontaneous. But try these ideas on how you can use your favorite online calendar to plan your vacation and save money.

Sign Up for Airline Discount Alerts

Once you identify where you’re traveling on your next vacation, sign up on travel and airline sites for alerts about discounts. These alerts typically offer discounts to travel during a specific time frame. Log these into your online calendar, along with the deadline to book, to make sure you don’t miss out. You can compare prices offered by different discount travel sites and plan your trip.

Use Travel Points Earned From Airlines

You may be a frequent flyer who has accumulated a number of travel miles. These miles typically do not last forever, so check out when they expire. You can enter the time period these travel miles are valid for in your online calendar. Look for dates that overlap with the flight discounts you identify and consider getting the most out of your travel miles. You can book a discounted flight, use travel miles to pay, and save money in both cases. It’s more savings than you would earn by just shopping around.

Plan Early If You Are Renting a Car

The price of renting a car has skyrocketed since the pandemic, thanks to rental car companies selling off a lot of their fleet. But that does not mean you can find bargains. Sign up for alerts from the rental car companies you trust most and add an alert to travel sites you use. Rental car discounts often come for certain travel periods, much like flights. Log these discount offers into your online schedule, along with their expiration date, so you don’t miss out.

Shop Early For Hotels, Airbnb Rentals

You may be able to save money on hotels by signing up for discount alerts on travel sites and your favorite hotel chains. Some hotels offer five nights for the price of four, or similar deals if you book between certain dates. Keep track of these as you do your flights, rental cars, and other discounts on your online calendar. Give each type of discount – flight, rental car, hotel – its own color code as you enter them into dates, and keep an eye out for the overlapping dates. This will help you plan your actual travel dates when you nail down the discounts.

Schedule Dinner Reservations In Advance

It may not seem necessary, but many restaurants at vacation spots fill up fast. You could find yourself forced to dine at more expensive, less appetizing, or mostly uninteresting restaurants. Take into account reservation options at the restaurants you most want to visit and reserve them as early as possible. For example, some popular restaurants at resort destinations fill up fast as your travel dates near or require you to book reservations a month or more in advance.

Check out their reservation requirements and plan your trip accordingly. Your effort to make plans with your online calendar might just be the difference between a magical experience and a disappointing one.

Reserve Your Place For Activities And Tours

You will often find discounts online when you book certain tours and experiences in advance of your trip. Once you have your travel dates and destination nailed down, search for tours and activities in the area. Find the ones that interest you, and chances are you can receive a discount by booking early. Make the reservation and enter it into your online calendar as one of your vacation activities. You will not have to wait in line to buy tickets at higher prices on the day of your scheduled visit. You also avoid the disappointment of finding out the tickets are sold out.

Consider Credit Card Rebates For Travel

Some credit card companies offer higher rebates on certain types of purchases throughout the year. For example, a credit card could offer 5% back on all hotel purchases or for rental cars. Log the dates those discounts are offered on your calendar, assigning a unique color code to it. You may find that many of the purchases you already planned to make are covered by credit card rebates. This is a great way to save money, assuming you commit to paying off the card balance when you return. Otherwise, the interest charges applied to the credit card will easily wipe out your savings and end up making your trip more expensive.

Avoid Airline Booking Fees

You can save money for your next trip if you pick your seats early. Once you identify the airline and the flight, find out when the first opportunity to pick seats is. Mark that date on your online calendar so you don’t miss out on options. You may find yourself waiting and paying $30 or more per seat to get what you want. This is a great way to avoid airline booking fees if you are traveling with a companion you want to sit with on your flight.

Eat Local

You can save money on food by planning meals at inexpensive, but interesting local restaurants. It might be a sandwich shop, a pizza parlor, or a falafel restaurant. You don’t need expensive dining or big-money chain options. The local eateries that are off the tourist route often offer inexpensive options and feature local food favorites. It’s a great way to save money and learn more about your destination. If the restaurants take reservations, take advantage of the opportunity and make one. Better to have a seat guaranteed at a restaurant that is half full than be shut out at a place that is overbooked by locals.

Eat Early

Something many travelers don’t know is that you will spend more for dinner than lunch in many countries. Many restaurants offer lunch specials to attract business. Consider loading up on a large lunch, and spending less on breakfast and dinner. You can check online for lunch specials at your destination before you arrive. If you find deals in certain restaurants that look appealing, reserve spots there and add them to your online calendar.

Don’t Be Afraid To Haggle

You can plan on big savings as you book your trip if you are not afraid to haggle when you arrive. In many countries, haggling is an expected activity that the locals encourage among street vendors and at markets. It is OK to offer less than the marked price for items, even for food at some locations. Do some research before you travel to learn more about the local customs. Make sure you understand the currency in your destination to ensure that you account for any currency fees and differences. Once you’re comfortable with what is expected and the currency, don’t be shy about haggling. It can help you save money for your vacation and get great deals on fun souvenirs.

Image Credit: Photo by Vojtech Okenka; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Find the Best Deals When Booking Your Next Trip was originally published on Calendar by Abby Miller.

What Leaders Can Learn From Great Teachers

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“The best teachers are leaders, and the best leaders are also teachers,” says Harvard Business School Professor Thomas DeLong, who has taught over 20,000 MBAs and executives across the globe since 1997. According to him, teachers, as with leaders, “should be like a mad scientist who can’t wait to get to the classroom to share the experiment. If you adopt this mindset, students will remain intellectually and spiritually in the classroom with you.”

With that in mind, as parents are rejoicing their children are returning back to school, here are some leadership lessons they can learn from teachers.

Have the ability to influence.

Leadership ability is often measured in the context of business performance in many organizations, Will Fan, CEO of NewCampus, writes in Forbes. However, there is more to it than just a focus on the bottom line.

“I’ve found it’s actually the ability to inspire individuals with their own agendas and cause others to rally behind a common goal that makes an effective leader,” he adds. “In a single word, it’s influence.” Efficiency gains follow.

“If you think about it, influence is largely about communication,” says Fan. “It’s about casting a vision so clearly that people get behind it with the full extent of their talents, abilities, and strengths.” Then, like teachers, the most influential leaders allow their team members to reach their full potential.

Keep your eyes on the big picture.

There are times when learning can be tedious, complex, and even dull. And, yes, great teachers are aware of this. However, by acknowledging their feelings, they help students see the bigger picture. Which, in turn, helps them move past these moments.

They know that challenging times are necessary to reach the ultimate learning goal. Moreover, they have a perspective that students cannot have and use that perspective to help people overcome challenges.

Successful leaders have a similar perspective. And, because of this, help those they lead through the mundane by raising their eyes towards the future.

Offer incentives.

“To keep my students on their toes, I give extra credit points every day,” says Dawn Bevier. “I offer three points to students who raise their hands and correctly answer simple questions during class discussions.” For difficult questions, I award five points.

“And when the school year begins, I make it clear to them that there are no extra credit points to beg for at the end of the semester,” she adds. “I tell them they have to gather them in the here and now.”

The semester ends with some students having seventy-five points or more.

“I think this ‘on your toes and in the moment’ extra credit opportunity is initially successful for obvious reasons,” Bevier explains. A student’s grades are important to them — and grades make a difference in their lives.

However, as time passes, it subconsciously motivates for reasons beyond extra credit points, which is ironic (and wonderful).

The reason for this is twofold.

  • It becomes a competition. In order to prove their intelligence, a student wants to “one-up” each other.
  • It is a source of pride. The more difficult five-pointers they get, the more confident and assertive the students become.

In what way does this teaching strategy relate to your business?

“When I offer these small incentives and competitive aspects to my instruction, students are constantly engaged — always thinking, listening, and working,” Bevier states.”And isn’t this the behavior every business owner wants their employees to display?”

What’s more, research shows that incentive programs “[increased] performance by an average of twenty-two percent,” and when “team incentives were offered, performance was improved by as much as forty-four percent.”

Best of all? These incentives don’t have to be cash-based. You could, for example, offer time-based rewards like leaving early on Fridays. But, most important, incentives should be based on the individual interests of your team members.

Turn expertise curriculum.

To attract and engage their target market, businesses engage in content marketing by sharing highly valuable resources and tools online, states Scott Barron, Founder of Yabwi. Getting the attention of key decision-makers is an essential part of business development. Why? There are too many competitors on the market, and people are distracted by so many media sources.

“Business leaders would be wise to tap into the expertise of educators in order to utilize modern approaches to curriculum design to build engagement internally (with employees, managers, etc.) and externally (with clients and communities),” Barron adds. “Understanding how people learn and how to craft instructional experiences that strengthen relationships offers a unique marketing advantage.”

“We’ve proven that such a platform of influence works through our own growth strategy, Barron says. “And we’ve shared this expertise with companies like 3M, Johnson Controls, and many others.”

Inspire trust by practicing empathy.

The job of an educator involves working with a whole bunch of different people like administrators, parents, community members, and students. They come from varied backgrounds, hold multiple priorities, and express their ideas in diverse ways. Because of that, educational leaders don’t make assumptions or dismiss anything anyone else has to say.

Similarly, leaders should also foster strong relationships with business partners, employees, stakeholders, and shareholders by developing emotional intelligence. Leaders should learn to value different perspectives and respect others’ points of view. It is important to remember that every individual sees things differently, so leaders can take the opportunity to use compassion in most situations. Compassion is a large part of emotional intelligence — and you can learn it.

Additionally, trust plays a crucial role. Despite a certain degree of authority associated with teaching, good teachers instill a sense of trust among learners. Leaders can also use the same method to support their teams.

Care about others’ success.

Students’ success is the top priority of exemplary teachers. They’re patient, and they’re willing to go the extra mile. And as a result, they do whatever it takes to help the student succeed.

Even though they understand and are willing to play their roles, they understand ultimately; that students are responsible for their performance. But, they still set up their students for success through knowledge, support, and guidance.

And this is true among business leaders. In the words of Stephen Covey, “An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.

Plan purposefully.

As a teacher, planning is a must. After all, by planning lessons in advance, teachers enter the classroom prepared to teach new concepts and facilitate meaningful discussions rather than winging them. In the absence of a lesson plan, it is easy for students to lose focus, and teachers are left scrambling for ideas.

In addition, when teachers and students are both engaged in the educational process, every day can be transformational.

Moreover, teachers use purposeful planning to identify where students are headed, what success looks like, and what is the most efficient way to achieve that success.

This is precisely the same (in all its variety) with successful leaders. It’s an imperative skill as planning archives the following:

  • Helps you determine future goals.
  • Expands decision-making.
  • Establishes abilities and expectations.
  • Encourage your team to develop new skills, engage them in new and challenging activities, believe in them, and take an interest in their career development.
  • Encourages creativity and innovation.
  • You will be able to identify your resources, who is currently available, track time, and manage time effectively.
  • Focus on what truly matters. In turn, this reduces overlapping and wasteful moments.

Learn to be flexible.

It’s not uncommon for educators to have a tough time getting students to understand lessons and concepts. A variety of factors can cause difficulty in understanding lessons. For example, those without basic math skills may struggle to comprehend complex formulas. There’s also a chance the teacher delivered the content in a way that was hard for students to understand.

There’s no way a great teacher would overlook this issue. So instead, they analyze their teaching methods and identify the underlying problems. As a result, they adjust their teaching styles to fit the needs of their students.

There are times when business leaders become too consumed with their projects. Despite not getting the desired results from current strategies, they refuse to acknowledge they aren’t working. The business world would benefit from learning from educators. Specifically, being ready to change directions at any time. Leaders can experiment with different approaches and see if they work for their teams.

Bonus tip: It can be almost impossible to be flexible if your calendar is too cluttered and rigid. So, just like teachers have a prep period, I would leave some white space in your calendar. For example, you could leave the block from 11:30 am to 12:30 am open for a prep period. Then, we can use this time to grab some food, return emails, or plan for an afternoon meeting. Or, you can simply relax.

Embrace teachable moments.

A teachable moment occurs when a teacher offers their classrooms a unique insight into a topic that has captured their attention. To seize teachable moments, the teacher or parent must sense and seize them when they occur. In most cases, it’s a brief tangent from a lesson plan or conversation about something relevant or interesting. Kids are inherently more interested in topics they can relate to and feel how they apply to their day-to-day lives.

“When leaders teach is almost as important as what they teach,” writes Sydney Finkelstein, the Steven Roth Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College for HBR. “The successful leaders I studied didn’t wait for formal reviews or check-ins. Instead, they seized and created opportunities to impart wisdom.”

For example, Costco Wholesale co-founder and retired CEO Jim Sinegal knew lessons could appear at any time when working with Price at Price Club. Apparently, Sinegal “spent day and night teaching,” whether advising on retail tactics or making himself a more effective manager.

Likewise, Chase Coleman III, a protégé of hedge fund CEO Julian Robertson, said that Robertson was similarly “out to teach you a lesson” by showing “how to do things and how to run a business.”

“Some leaders ensure on-the-job learning by working in open offices that allow them to observe employees, project accessibility, and encourage frequent conversations,” adds Finkelstein. “Others opt for more-conventional offices but make a point of maintaining open-door policies and spending lots of time circulating among their staff, which means they can offer lessons on the spur of the moment—when people can best process and embrace them.”

Image Credit: Max Fischer; Pexels; Thank you!

What Leaders Can Learn From Great Teachers was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

10 Ways to Get Your Kids Outdoors This Summer

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Summertime is a great opportunity to get your kids outdoors and active. But for parents, it can be tough to find ways to keep them busy and entertained.

Luckily, there are plenty of outdoor activities for you and your child to choose from. Whether it’s taking a trip to the park or signing up for summer camp, there is something for every personality type.

Read on for our favorite ways to get your kids out for some fun in the sun.

10 Fun Ways to Keep Your Kids Active Outdoors This Summer

1. Go to Outdoor Movies or Concerts

If you want to spend quality time with your young ones outdoors and feel like mixing it up from the usual visit to the playground, look for family-friendly outdoor movie screenings or concerts in your area.

These are typically offered in town squares or parks during the summer months and make for a great evening activity that doesn’t cost much.

Do a quick search online or ask around at your local library to find out when and where these will be taking place near you. Try to find a movie that the whole family will enjoy, or look for a concert with kid-friendly performers.

2. Take a Splash in the Pool or Sprinklers

If you’re looking to beat the heat, there’s no better way to do it than by cooling off in the pool or sprinklers. Many local pools have special times set aside just for families with young children, so take advantage of that and let your kids splash around to their heart’s content.

If you don’t have access to a pool, sprinklers are always a fun option and can be easily set up in your backyard. If you really want to go all out, you could even turn it into a game of Slip ‘N Slide. Just be sure to supervise your children at all times when they’re near water.

3. Sign Your Kid Up For a Class or Camp

It’s important that children’s minds stay active while they’re out of school for the summer, and one great way to do that is by signing them up for a class or camp.

There are all sorts of summer programs available, from sports to art to theater. There’s sure to be something that interests your child and helps them explore their passions. Not only will they be having fun, but they’ll also be learning something new.

Classes and camps can get pricey, but many offer discounts if you sign up early or register for multiple sessions. And some even offer scholarships for families who can’t afford to pay the full price.

4. Go on Nature Scavenger Hunts

Getting into nature is a great way to spend a summer day, and it’s even more fun when you’re on the lookout for specific things.

Before heading out, make a list of items for your kids to find, such as rocks, leaves, flowers, or sticks. You can even make it a competition to see who can find the most items on the list.

Not only will your kids get some exercise by running around, but they’ll also be able to appreciate the beauty of nature. Visit nearby parks, forests, or nature trails to find the perfect spot for your scavenger hunt.

5. Try Backyard Camping

Your child can have the magical experience of camping without ever leaving the safety of your backyard.

Set up a tent, gather some activities or craft supplies, and let your child have an adventure right at home. This is a quick and easy solution to providing your kids with a private space similar to a fort or treehouse.

The great thing about tents is that they’re super easy to set up and take down, so you can do it as often as you like. And if the weather isn’t cooperating, you can always move the fun indoors.

6. Get Some Outdoor Equipment

Having plenty of toys set up in the yard makes it easy for kids to go outside and play.

A simple sandbox or water table can provide hours of fun, or you could get more elaborate with a swing set or playset. You can even find inflatable pools that are perfect for small yards.

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, there are plenty of low-cost options such as chalk, hula hoops, or jump ropes. And if you get creative, you might be able to repurpose some of your child’s old toys for outdoor use as well.

7. Bring Your Child Along For Dog Walks

Dogs are the perfect walking companions, and bringing your child along will make it even more enjoyable.

Not only will they get to spend time with a furry friend, but they’ll also learn how to take care of a pet. And if you don’t have a dog, maybe one of your neighbors would be willing to let your child walk theirs for a bit.

Make sure to start off slow and choose a route that’s not too strenuous. Once you get the hang of it, you can even add in some stops along the way, such as a treat at the park or a visit to the dog beach.

This will prepare your young ones for when they’re finally ready to take on the responsibility of the family pet in a few short years.

8. Start an Entrepreneurial Venture

It’s never too early to start teaching your children about the value of hard work and determination.

One great way to do that is by helping them start their own business. This could be something as simple as setting up a lemonade stand or selling homemade crafts.

Another idea is to create a chore list for outdoor tasks such as raking leaves or washing the car. Your child can earn a commission for every job they complete, which will teach them about money management and budgeting.

Older children can make money by offering to do chores for neighbors or starting a dog-walking service. The sky’s the limit when it comes to entrepreneurial ventures, so get creative and have fun with it.

Not only will your child learn some valuable life lessons, but they’ll also get to enjoy the satisfaction of earning their own money.

9. Set Up a Messy Art Project Outside

Artistic projects are one of the most exciting activities for children to do during summer break. However, it can be a real headache for parents if the mess ends up inside the house.

The solution is to take the project outside, where you can hose down any spills and let the sun do the rest.

One fun idea is to make action paintings by having your child dip their hands in paint and then make prints on a large piece of paper or canvas. You can set up tarps, water buckets, and towels to make cleanup a breeze while letting your kids go wild.

10. Throw a Party

Want to be the coolest parent on the block? Throw a summer party for all the kids in the neighborhood.

This is a great opportunity to get to know your neighbors while giving your child a chance to socialize. You can set up some fun outdoor games, such as water balloon tosses or a treasure hunt. And don’t forget the food!

Nothing says summer like grilling hot dogs and serving up some refreshing watermelon. Just be sure to have plenty of sunscreen on hand to keep everyone safe from the sun.

Throwing a party for your child and their friends is a convenient idea for getting your kid outside — especially if your child has a summer birthday. But let them have a summer party, even if it’s not their special day — and you can be sure that will put a smile on their face.

Conclusion

With a little creativity and planning, you can easily find ways to get your kids outdoors this summer. With so many options available, there’s no excuse not to get your kids moving.

So go ahead and get started planning the remaining summer days with great activities. If you use an online calendar to keep activities organized, you can quickly share it with other family members and neighbors — or babysitters to make sure your kids are involved in joyful experiences that will augment summer learning.

Your kids will thank you for the summers they had as a kid. That, of course, won’t happen until later — but think back to your own childhood and incorporate some of those ideas this summer, too.

And who knows, you might relive some happy memories while building some “good ole days” for your children. And don’t forget to pack the sunscreen.

Image credit: Victoria Borodinova; Pexels; Thanks!

10 Ways to Get Your Kids Outdoors This Summer was originally published on Calendar by Abby Miller.

Use Your Online Calendar to Manage Your Home Repairs

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It’s the little home repairs that keep your home together. I know. That sounds hyperbolic. ‌However, by repairing that leaky faucet, cleaning your gutters, and weatherstripping your windows, you can prevent more significant problems, such as‌ ‌severe ‌water damage.

Simple maintenance, beyond checking that everything works, can also extend the life of your appliances and systems that maintain your home. ‌You can also save money by performing regular maintenance. ‌Additionally, it reduces the threat to your family’s ‌safety.

A survey by the real estate marketplace Zillow found that 75% of pandemic-era homebuyers regretted their decision. The top regret? ‌Buying a house that needed more maintenance than they anticipated

Although managing your home repairs can seem daunting and expensive, there isn’t always a need to spend money on these expenses. ‌It is usually just a matter of remembering to do these chores. ‌What is difficult is knowing what needs to be done to maintain your house at what time.

So, the easiest solution? ‌Utilize your online calendar to remind yourself of the most important, common home maintenance tasks. ‌If you schedule home projects of all sizes, from small touch-ups to whole-room remodels, you’ll be able to accomplish them faster and more easily. And, this is how your time-management‌ ‌tool‌ ‌can‌ ‌help.

Schedule Daily Cleanings

Even if your week is jam-packed, you can still incorporate daily house cleaning into your schedule. ‌But how? ‌Through your online calendar.

Start by assigning certain chores to specific‌ ‌days‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌week. ‌By doing so, your to-do list will become less overwhelming. ‌As‌ ‌a‌ ‌result,‌ ‌your cleaning tasks will be more manageable.

For an example of what a little strategic planning can accomplish, check out the following house cleaning checklist.

  • Monday: Clean your bathrooms. After the weekend, your bathroom probably needs some attention. ‌Take care of this chore ‌early‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌week, like cleaning the toilet. ‌Don’t deal with any‌ ‌heavy-duty cleaning,‌ ‌like‌ ‌scrubbing‌ ‌grout until the weekend though.
  • Tuesday: Dust common areas. You should lightly dust all surfaces in the living and dining rooms. You can use an upholstery attachment to clean drapes and furniture after vacuuming to remove any dust that may have fallen.
  • Wednesday: ‌Make the kitchen sparkle. As part of your regular house cleaning routine, you already wipe down your countertops after meals and wash your dishes on a daily basis. ‌This time, you’ll clean other kitchen areas as well, like warping the stovetop and cabinets.
  • Thursday: Attend to your bedroom. Go ahead and dust your dressers, vacuum, and put away unused items like shoes or clothing.
  • Friday: ‌De-clutter‌ ‌your‌ ‌mind. ‌Congratulations on sticking to your daily routine all week. Veg out in your clean‌ ‌home. ‌Do some laundry if you must clean. ‌As it washes and dries, you can read a book or watch a movie while it is doing its thing.

Prepare a Home Maintenance Plan

The frequency and season of your tasks can be noted either online or offline. ‌Remember that there is no right or wrong way to do things. In other words, you can do things when and how it works for you and your family. ‌

But, to get you on your way, you can use this house maintenance calendar to keep track of monthly, quarterly, and annual activities. Also, to ensure you don’t forget, use calendar reminders.

Monthly

  • Make sure all the locks and deadbolts on your doors and windows are working.
  • Check and replace your HVAC filters as needed. ‌You may need to change your filters every 2-3 months if you have a small family and no pets or allergies. ‌If not, do so every month.
  • Keep your kitchen sink disposal clean. ‌When the disposal is dirty, run homemade vinegar ice cubes through it. ‌The blades will be sharpened and the area will be cleaned.
  • Filters on your range hood need to be checked. ‌Use an auto degreaser diluted in hot water to clean the filters.
  • Ensure your GFCI outlets and power outlets are working properly.

Quarterly

  • Check your smoke and CO‌ ‌detectors. ‌They usually come with‌ ‌a‌ ‌test‌ ‌button. ‌When you press the button, you should hear an alarm. ‌Replace the batteries if not.
  • Make sure your garage door is working. ‌The auto-reverse feature should work properly. Placing a log of wood on the ground will allow you to see whether the door reverses automatically. ‌Place something in front of your photo-electric sensors if you have them installed. ‌Your sensors will go ‌up‌ ‌immediately.
  • If a toilet is unused, such as in a guest bathroom, flush it. ‌To prevent grime or any buildup in the bathroom sinks, run water.

Seasonal

There are different times of the year to perform annual home maintenance. ‌It’s important to prepare your house for each season. ‌In order to do so, regular maintenance must be performed.

Spring home maintenance.

  • Make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clean. ‌Get rid of leaves and debris, grime, or sediment left over from the winter.
  • Replace storm windows with screens and wash windows.
  • Ensure that your drainage system is working properly. ‌The landscape so that rainwater or any other water flowing from the house and its foundation will flow away.
  • Clear your property of any dead plants or tree stumps. ‌Your shrubs and bushes should also be trimmed. ‌Your home’s exterior cracks can be damaged further by wayward plants. ‌Check that no trees are interfering with your electric lines as well.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Carry a roof inspection for signs of damage or leaks. Take professional help for any roof repair.
  • Examine your house’s ‌exterior‌. ‌Look for peeling exterior paint, damaged siding, foundation cracks, or broken windows‌ ‌and‌ ‌doors. ‌Hire‌ ‌a‌ ‌professional‌ ‌to fix these problems.
  • Before summer, make sure your air conditioner is serviced. ‌Consult the user manual when you maintain your HVAC system yourself. ‌A central air conditioner is a more complex system than a window air conditioner and should be handled by a professional.

Summer home maintenance

  • Wash your patio or deck. ‌Restain the deck if necessary. ‌You should also check for any loose boards or posts, as well as any problems with the railing.
  • Look for damage to your tile grout in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Find any leaks in the plumbing system. ‌Make sure the water pressure is good as well.
  • Make more space for your summer projects by cleaning and organizing your garage.
  • Get rid of lint and blockages in your dryer vent.

Fall home maintenance

  • Put a tarp or cover over your AC until‌ ‌next‌ ‌season.
  • Check the caulking and weatherstripping on windows and doors.
  • Inspect your hot water heater for leaks and sediments. This will prolong your heater’s life and increase its efficiency.
  • Prepare your heating systems, furnaces, and fireplaces.
  • You should winterize your sprinklers.
  • Check your sump pump’s functioning. ‌That’s especially true if you live in a rainy area.
  • Look for cracks in your driveway or pathways. ‌Before winter, seal all the cracks so snow can’t freeze and expand. If not, this can cause ‌more‌ ‌damage.
  • Clean and store patio furniture, as well as garden tools.

Winter home maintenance

  • Watch out for ice dams and icicles on your roof are not only dangerous, but they can cause water damage in your home too.
  • Make sure all tubs and showers are working and caulked properly.
  • Maintain a high water pressure by cleaning the showerheads.
  • Take a look at the basement and see if any mold or mildew is growing.

Biannual

  • Check the pressure relief valve on your water heater. ‌If you check it regularly, you can avoid corrosion and mineral buildup. ‌Furthermore, you will use less energy.
  • Every six months, deep clean your whole house. ‌Keep your appliances, garage, basement, doors, and windows clean to prevent dust buildup.
  • Smoke and carbon dioxide detectors need to be recharged every six months.
  • Using a vacuum cleaner, clean the coils of your refrigerator. ‌You’ll be able to maximize the efficiency of your appliance by doing so. ‌

Arrange Appointments as Soon as Possible

Home improvement professionals can make all the difference. ‌Your home’s foundation is protected by pest control by keeping away bugs and critters. ‌Plumbers can‌ ‌stop leaks from causing‌ ‌mold. And, HVAC specialists ensure that your home remains comfortable and is energy efficient.

Here’s the problem. ‌Last-minute bookings of home professionals can be stressful. ‌It’s better to contact them before an emergency arises. And, ideally, you should also book them when they aren’t as busy. For example, why wait to schedule your annual chimney cleaning until November? Instead, make an appointment when they have more availability, like in August or September.

In that sense, you can schedule appointments in advance thanks to your online calendar. Additionally, a calendar is an excellent‌ ‌record-keeping‌ ‌tool. ‌With digital home repair scheduling, you can look backward to see when your roof was last replaced, for instance.

Budget For Home Repairs

You can have trouble making home repairs if you don’t have the funds. ‌The best way to deal with emergency repairs is to budget for them. ‌A good way to budget is to use your online calendar.

With an online calendar, you can start your home-improvement fund easily. ‌Put a reminder in your pay period to add a little‌ ‌to‌ ‌your‌ ‌fund. ‌You won’t be caught short of funds by a surprise home repair if you set aside just $100 per month.

Nonetheless, when you are planning your home repair budget, the 1% rule of thumb is a good place to start. “Using 1% as a rule of thumb for home maintenance is actually a great example of when the common wisdom for something is pretty spot-on,” according to Mischa Fisher, a chief economist at HomeAdvisor and Angi.

According to Fisher, the numbers are reasonably‌ ‌accurate. “Our latest’ State of Home Spending’ report has average [annual] upkeep spending at $3,192, roughly 1% of the median home value in the U.S., which is a little over $300,000.”

Don’t Clutter Your Calendar

You can better handle stress when you manage your time effectively. ‌‌‌As an example, if your schedule is organized, an unexpected issue at home, such as a broken pipe, or clog will not catch you by surprise.

While time management can be improved in many ways, the end goal remains‌ ‌the‌ ‌same. ‌You want to be in control more of your time. ‌Getting to bed earlier or arranging childcare more efficiently might help you make better use of your mornings. But, I’m also big on not cluttering your calendar as well.

What does that mean? Well, it simply means leaving some blocks of time wide-open. So, if there is an emergency at home, that’s when you can attend to it. More importantly, when you have some free time on your hands, you can get a head start on a home repair. Or, maybe you can do a quick inspection that makes sure that everything’s in tip-top shape.

Image Credit: picjumbo.com; Pexels; Thank you!

Use Your Online Calendar to Manage Your Home Repairs was originally published on Calendar by Deanna Ritchie.

How People Make Hacking a Legit Career Choice

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hacking career

The media, journalists, and the public are prone to oversimplification. And hackers are no exception. Hackers get a bad rap in movies and TV shows. Their reputation is often that of a shadowy, secretive, or marginal group. Here’s how people make hacking a legit career choice.

Possibly it’s the evil genius who can quickly break government systems. Why? Maybe it’s political beliefs or just the lols. But, even the introvert, “the basement hacker,” who is untrained and disorganized, can be a dangerous adversary.

As such, your imagination probably doesn’t conjure ‌ethical‌ ‌hackers. ‌In recent years, though, many large companies have hired white hat hackers. ‌Why? They’re hired to prevent attacks, bugs, and threats and test and monitor their systems.

What’s more, ethical hackers are making a solid living. According to ZipRecruitor, the national average is $135,269 a year for an ethical hacking job in the US.

Apart from a high salary, a good hacker can make money in various ways outside of their regular‌ ‌job. ‌For example, if you want to make your own schedule or don’t want to be tied to any one location, that’s appealing.

But how can you make hacking a legit career choice? Well, let’s find out.

Why Are Hackers Hired?

Professional hackers test the security of companies. ‌To verify whether their security controls are effective, they hire hackers. Additionally, they will make security suggestions.

Before releasing a new web application, a company might hire hackers to find weaknesses. ‌The application will be less vulnerable to hackers when it hits the market as a result.

In addition, private companies and governments hire hackers. ‌Competitive intelligence is in the interest of private companies. To force customers to switch to their services by making their competitors unavailable. Isn’t that illegal? I wouldn’t pursue this career path, although it’s 100% illegal.

Hacking other companies is considered espionage. ‌Government information is mainly kept electronically, so accessing government agencies or third-party providers can be beneficial. ‌Some governments also use cybercrime as a revenue source. ‌North Korea is one of the most infamous examples because its dedicated cybercrime division generates millions of dollars every year.

Understanding Different Types of Hacking

Again, there are lots of controversies over hacking. ‌A hacker can serve either a malicious or a beneficial purpose, as shown above.

Hackers generally fall into three categories:

  • White Hat
  • Black Hat
  • Grey Hat

Grey Hat and White Hat hackers undertake ethics-based hacking. ‌

In contrast, black hat hackers engage in illegal activities.

Awareness of different types of hackers and their legal nuances will help professionals understand their ethical hacker boundaries. ‌For instance, when starting out, you could be‌ ‌a‌ ‌Penetration‌ ‌Tester. ‌To prevent cyber-attacks, vulnerabilities must be identified in a system or application.Then, in the event that their system has a fault, they inform the organization.

What Skills Are Needed to Be an Ethical Hacker

Blackhat hackers have sometimes become whitehat hackers. ‌To be a successful ethical hacker, you need‌ ‌high‌ ‌ethical‌ ‌standards. ‌‌‌Blackhat hackers are undoubtedly technical. ‌‌‌Their problem is that they lack character discipline.

Candidates for ethical hacking jobs should possess the following skills as well as the “ethical” part:

  • Hardware knowledge. It’s vital for you to understand the features of visual display units (VDU), central processing units (CPU), keyboards, hard drives, speakers, sound cards, mice, graphics cards, and motherboards.
  • Basic and advanced computer skills. ‌Learning basic computer skills like data processing, managing files, and creating presentations is key to using computers. But, to be successful, you also need advanced computer skills. These skills include programming, coding, and managing databases.
  • Expertise in computer networking. ‌An ethical hacker should be familiar with networking‌ ‌commands. ‌Among them are‌ ‌OSI‌ ‌models,‌ ‌IP‌ ‌addresses,‌ ‌MAC‌ ‌addresses,‌ ‌subnetting,‌ ‌and routing.
  • A good understanding‌ ‌of‌ ‌operating‌ ‌systems. ‌Operating systems such as Ubuntu, Linux, and Red Hat are essential to building a successful career in ethical hacking.
  • Programming language skills. ‌Programmers use Java, Javascript, SQL, Bash, Python, C, C++, Ruby, Perl, and PHP to write these codes.
  • Cybersecurity skills. ‌You should learn cybersecurity techniques. These include phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks, app protection, hardware protection, database management systems, spyware, and password management.
  • Know methodologies and tools used in penetration testing. For ethical hackers, penetration testing is essential. ‌The goal is to find weaknesses and strengthen security frameworks.

Problem-solving skills, pressure tolerance, and the ability to think outside the box are also critical. ‌Ethical hackers also require passion, communication skills, flexibility, and innovative thinking.

How to Become an Ethical Hacker

So, how do you make a successful and ‌fulfilling career in ethical hacking? ‌The following is a complete career path for getting into ethical hacking.

Academics should be the first step.

To succeed in ethical hacking, you should do this first. ‌If you plan to study ethical hacking, however, make sure your field of study is related to it‌. In general,‌ ‌CyberSecurity‌ ‌or‌ ‌IT‌.

A degree in Computer Science, Information Technology, or a related field will provide you with the foundation. It can also help you make a living hacking even though there is no requirement for specific education.

You can earn a Bachelor’s or Master’s ‌degree‌ ‌in‌ ‌CS/IT. ‌In addition, you can take courses on ethical hacking. ‌These qualifications are also required when hiring ethical hackers by various organizations.

One of the most well-known certifications is offered by EC-Council. ‌During their 5-day ethical hacking certification, they teach everything from ethical hacking to types of attacks. ‌After completing the course, candidates can take the Licensed Penetration Tester exam.

Become familiar with programming languages and operating systems.

Ethical hackers must be proficient in programming languages and‌ ‌frameworks. ‌Among its many benefits are the ability to identify programming errors and vulnerabilities, the implementation of security solutions, and automation of‌ ‌tasks — to name a few.

Various programming languages are available to enter this field, including C/C++, Java, Python, Ruby, and others. ‌Besides that, you’ll have to learn several operating systems like‌ ‌LINUX,‌ ‌UNIX,‌ ‌Windows,‌ ‌and iOS. ‌Of course, these operating systems must be well understood by ethical hackers.

An understanding of network security and network administration.

Ethical hacking requires an understanding of computer networks and cyber security concepts. You must have a basic to advanced knowledge of computer networking and security,‌ ‌such‌ ‌as:

  • Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
  • Firewalls
  • Cryptography
  • Denial of Service attacks (DoS attacks)

It is also imperative to consider various hacking concepts, including Penetration Testing, Cloud Computing malware, SQL Injection, and Vulnerability Assessment.

Various resources are available for learning about computer networks and cybersecurity, including books, journals, YouTube videos, and online courses.

Enhance your ethical hacking skills by participating in training programs.

To learn ethical hacking, you must work your way up from beginner to advanced. ‌Meanwhile, you can learn about ethical hacking through books and ‌videos. ‌But, of course, you’ll also have to interact with experts and get hands-on to gain more knowledge and exposure.

A relevant and worthwhile training program or boot camp can also help you gain practical experience in ethical hacking.

Obtain relevant certifications.

After you complete the above learning processes, it’s time to get certified and validate your ethical hacking skills. ‌You can land various career opportunities even if you have no experience. ‌Certifications include:

  • Certified Ethical Hacker
  • Global Information Assurance Certification
  • Offensive Security Certified Professional
  • Certified Vulnerability Assessor

Certifications such as Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) are among‌ ‌the‌ ‌most‌ ‌demanding‌ ‌and renowned‌ ‌ethical‌ ‌hacking‌ ‌certifications. ‌Within 240 minutes, candidates must answer 125 multiple-choice questions about SQL Injection, Backdoors, Session Hijacking, and other ethical hacking topics.

Become an ethical hacker.

Now you can start your professional career as an ethical hacker. ‌At first, you might be a Security Analyst or Penetration Tester. ‌From there, ethical hacking jobs include Network Security Administrators, System Administrators, Web Security Managers, and Information Security Managers. ‌

Additionally, you can join several government organizations, such as the investigation department, law enforcement, etc., as an ethical hacker besides private businesses.

The Best Ways to Make Money as a Computer Hacker

Employment.

The‌ ‌easiest‌ ‌way‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌money‌ ‌hacking‌?‌ Working‌ ‌as‌ ‌a penetration‌ ‌tester. ‌In essence, you’d be a full-time employee testing company security.

The low barrier to entry makes this an ideal first job. ‌Moreover, you’ll be able to learn from more experienced people. As such, you get to grow at work and increase your pay.

Freelance.

As a freelancer, you can work either part-time with a job or full-time. ‌There are many bug bounty programs where companies, such as Apple, Intel, and Cisco, permit people to hack into their networks, applications, and websites. ‌In‌ ‌exchange for disclosing what the hacker has discovered, the company rewards the hacker with cash.

If this is something that interests you, here’s a list of the 30 top bug bounty programs here. There’s no limit to how much you can work, and it’s open to everyone. ‌

However, there is a great deal‌ ‌of‌ ‌competition. In addition, it can be hard to find bugs significant enough to warrant a reward early on in your career. As such, I would recommend this to‌ ‌intermediate‌ ‌to‌ ‌experienced‌ ‌computer‌ ‌hackers.

Contract.

Unlike freelance work, a contract position usually involves working for one client. Usually, this is for a short time period, such as‌ ‌6-12‌ ‌months. ‌

Many companies don’t hire penetration testers full-time for a variety of reasons. ‌For example, a company only needs to test new products once or twice a year. ‌So basically, they’ll hire someone for a short while to perform the testing and then let them go when they’re no longer needed.

Developing software.

Programmers might find this interesting. ‌Most hacking tasks are performed using premade scripts or software. ‌However, experienced hackers usually create custom scripts and tools to simplify their work.

As a hacker, you can make serious money selling software. ‌It’s easy to resell tools once you make them and update them. Eventually, you can earn passive income this way.

Start your own business.

Despite their skill, many hackers do not continue hacking full-time. ‌Instead, they often take their expertise and start a security business that tests companies’ ‌security. ‌This method can maximize profits, but it will require a high level of experience, expertise, and specific knowledge.

It’s even possible for people to go from getting criminal charges for cybercrime to setting up their own businesses. ‌The case of Kevin Mitnick, who was convicted of computer and communications crimes in 1995, is an example of this. ‌As of today, he is the founder and CEO of‌ ‌Mitnick‌ ‌Security Consulting‌ ‌LLC. ‌Aside from being the Chief Hacking Officer for KnowBe4, he is also an advisory board member for‌ ‌Zimperium.

Image Credit: Markus Spiske; Pexels; Thank you!

How People Make Hacking a Legit Career Choice was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

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