Category Archives: Scheduling

6 Tips for Scheduling Appointments with Reluctant Customers

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6 Tips for Scheduling Appointments with Reluctant Customers

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought upon us a long, grueling, utterly unprecedented year. Everyone — from individuals to communities to entire countries — faced their own unique and strenuous challenges. 

Luckily, the pandemic appears to be on the wane at last. While case numbers continue to fluctuate, people across the country are receiving doses of highly effective vaccines. As the vaccine rollout accelerates, getting back to normal seems increasingly likely.

And yet, for owners of appointment-based businesses, the challenges of COVID-19 are still ongoing.

On the bright side, many companies have opened their doors and resumed in-person work. However, even if employees are happy to return, many customers don’t feel the same way. Thus, persuading these customers to return for face-to-face appointments remains a hurdle.

If you’re facing this issue, don’t stress out — you’re not alone. Read on for six tips on scheduling appointments with reluctant customers.

1. Follow your state and local COVID-19 guidelines.

Official COVID-19 guidelines were implemented for a reason: to keep us all safe. Adhering to these guidelines will benefit your customers and your employees alike. So before your grand office reopening, be sure to brush up on these essential rules. 

Every state is different, so you’ll have to do a bit of research on your own here. Fortunately, there are convenient tools that can help you keep track of state-by-state guidelines, restrictions, and more.

Not only does following applicable laws protect your business, but it also helps put your customers at ease. If they know that officials have deemed it safe to conduct in-person business, they’ll be more likely to book a face-to-face appointment with you.

2. Continue to adhere to social distancing policies.

Social distancing has been the name of the game for over a year now. Remaining six feet apart and wearing masks feels like second nature these days.

As a result, even though restrictions are easing up, lots of customers don’t feel ready to return to mask-free, shoulder-to-shoulder life. This is why staying socially distant for a while longer is the right move.

Basically, you should continue to take precautions to handle your appointments safely. Ensure that everyone in your office wears a face covering, stays six feet apart, and avoids eating or drinking in common spaces. To take it one step further, you could even require daily temperature checks or rapid COVID tests.

By continuing to follow strict health guidelines, you’ll show your clients that you’re still taking this pandemic seriously. Customers will feel safe, protected, and ready to show up for an appointment.

3. Communicate with your customers.

Communication is more important now than ever. It seems as if the world is constantly changing, especially as COVID-19 restrictions can loosen or tighten every day. Right now, it’s vital to respond accordingly and keep your customers in the loop. 

If clients are uncertain about your current mode of operation, they may be reluctant to reach out and schedule an appointment. That’s exactly why you should make an effort to keep them informed about all the details of your office reopening. 

In other words, be sure to let them know that you’re following tips 1 and 2 above. If you consistently maintain communication with your customers, you’ll be well on your way to a rush of new appointments.

4. Use social media to your advantage.

Social media is an indispensable business and marketing tool that’s only grown more popular during this pandemic. There’s no doubt it will remain just as important post-COVID.

As you and your business readjust to normalcy, don’t forget to leverage your social media channels. It’s an effective way to interact with customers, provide real-time updates about the business, and promote your company. 

Whenever COVID-19 guidelines change in your area, make sure to post about your business’s response to the changes. This will help ease any lingering concerns your customers may have about COVID dangers.

5. Give customers an at-home option.

Although we’re moving closer to normalcy each day, the pandemic is still not over. Yes, cases have gone down in most areas, and vaccinations are well underway. Despite this progress, however, many people are still uncomfortable with the idea of returning to in-person work and social events. 

Unfortunately, some customers won’t feel ready to return to your business just yet — it’s that simple. If this is the case, convincing them otherwise may be impossible.

The good news is that we live in the 21st century, and we have modern technology at our disposal. If the nature of your services makes it possible, allow your customers to opt for a virtual appointment if they desire. It may not be ideal, but it’s better than missing out on the opportunity entirely.

If you give customers the choice to stay home, they’ll certainly feel safer returning to your business in the future. Even better, they will greatly appreciate your effort to be accommodating. 

6. Be open to adaptation.

If we can offer one final tip, it’s this: don’t be afraid to adapt. After the year we’ve had, perhaps this goes without saying. 

When you discover that one of your normal practices isn’t working, it may be time to try something new. For example, a hairstylist whose customers are still hesitant to return for in-salon appointments could make house calls. Or, weather permitting, they could move one salon chair outside for alfresco haircuts. 

Much has changed in the past year, and there’s no doubt that things will continue to change throughout 2021. So as your business transitions from virtual to in-person, it’s important to remain flexible. 

The pandemic has forced all of us to reevaluate and rearrange our priorities, both business-related and otherwise. Just remember: you’ve made it this far. Stay adaptable, and you’ll be fine.

What Are Scheduling Links and How Do They Work?

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What Are Scheduling Links and How Do They Work?

Mastering your time is the key to becoming successful in any industry. It’s how professional athletes find time to train and recover, how top executives can seal so many deals, and how entrepreneurs can grow a startup while still raising a family. A lot of time management comes from self-mastery and dedication, but it never hurts to deploy a few tools to help you along the way.

One such tool is the scheduling link. Adding these links to your repertoire will save you tons of time when organizing your schedule; they will also improve the way you communicate. This guide will explain the ins and outs of scheduling links so you can reap the benefits for yourself.

What Is a Scheduling Link?

A scheduling link is a URL or web link that you can send to anyone online to share your availability. Recipients can click on the link to view your calendar and set up a meeting with you. You can create a link for one-time use or develop a template that you can use repeatedly.

After you send a scheduling link and the recipient selects a meeting time, you’ll receive a notification to confirm the time of the meeting. This allows you to quickly block out times on your calendar for meetings, interviews, and phone calls. 

Scheduling links can be attached to emails, sent via text message, or even embedded in your company website. This flexibility will enable you to use scheduling links in the way that best meets your needs. 

How Do You Set Up Scheduling Links?

To start, you need an online calendar that allows you to create scheduling links, which then use the contents of your calendar to create availability windows. Lest you think you’re throwing your entire life open to the world, rest assured that there are settings to hide information you don’t want others to see. You can keep your calendar entirely private or show teammates and customers the reasons you’re unavailable at various times.

To create the link itself, you only need to click. Each time you do, the link will analyze your calendar to create an accurate picture of your availability. Permanent scheduling links, which always stay up-to-date and never expire, can be sent to your closest connections. 

Some scheduling links give you even more control over your schedule. Even if you don’t have anything marked in your calendar for a certain time, you can close that span of time off in your scheduling link so no one books it. This will leave your lunch breaks uninterrupted when they’re not explicitly listed or guarantee some downtime during the day. 

What Are the Benefits of Scheduling Links?

First and foremost, you’ll save a lot of time with scheduling links and improve your overall communication. No one enjoys the back-and-forth emails required to coordinate times for meetings and phone calls. Life is so much easier when you can send a simple link and identify times where your two schedules line up.

Scheduling links will also help you with your time management. One simple distraction can derail your productivity by over 20 minutes. Don’t let an unnecessary phone call disrupt your flow when a scheduling link could prevent it.

Of course, as a leader, you might say that your door is always open to your employees. You can be true to your word and still maintain your productivity by making your scheduling link available to everyone on your team. At any point, they’ll be able to request a meeting at a time that works for you. 

Are Scheduling Links for Business or Personal Use?

The short answer is both. A scheduling link will go as far as you take it. Whether you want to use scheduling links to stay connected with a small team or all and sundry is up to you. Just take your goals into consideration.

For business purposes, scheduling links can be used in two ways. As mentioned, the first is for managers to make their availability accessible to employees. Team members from the top to the bottom of the corporate ladder will find this feature quite useful.

Scheduling links can also help businesses establish a relationship with customers. Account managers can create scheduling links for each of their clients to enable better communication. Small businesses can add scheduling links to their website for customers to book appointments more easily. 

For personal use, scheduling links can help you connect with all the groups in your life. If you volunteer at a charity, belong to a church group, or coach a Little League baseball team, you can use scheduling links to arrange work sessions, meetings, and practices with ease.

What Else Can Scheduling Links Do?

As basic as they are, scheduling links have a couple of additional tricks up their sleeve to help you master your calendar. Be sure to leverage the following capabilities to get the full benefit:

Meeting Buffer

Need a 15-minute breather after one meeting before tackling your next one? Add some buffer time to your scheduling link so no one will catch you off guard. 

Time Increments 

How long do you want your openings to be? You can make them as long as an hour or more or shorten them depending on how much time you think you’ll need. 

Notifications

What good is a meeting if you forget it? Get notifications hooked up to your links so both parties keep their end of the commitment. 

Double-Booking Prevention 

Having two people book the same time slot would lead to one big mess. Luckily, an updated scheduling link can prevent that from happening. 

Start using scheduling links today so you can get a feel for how they work. After a few test runs, you’ll be able to incorporate them into your daily routine and get so much more out of your time. 

How 15-Minute Meetings Can Keep Freelancers and Solopreneurs on Track

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How 15-Minute Meetings Can Keep Freelancers and Solopreneurs on Track

We’ve all probably heard that meetings may not be best for productivity. In fact, Harvard Business Review found that 65% of the senior managers they interviewed said that meetings kept them from completing their own work.

While most people can agree that poorly-run unproductive meetings can be a waste of time, I’d argue that short, focused, and intentional meetings can be very effective. With virtual meeting technology advancing, shorter meetings will save time and are proven to help most workers become more productive.

If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur working from home, short 15-minute meetings can help you too. Here’s how and why you should consider giving meetings another chance if you’re still struggling with productivity, efficiency, and overall focus during your workweek.

15-Minute Meetings Can Be Great Braindump and Planning Sessions

I’m a very type A person and a planner, but sometimes taking too long to plan something out results in a major delay in terms of what I’m able to produce. I’ve found that short 15-minute meetings are great opportunities for me to brainstorm and plan with clients and other team members.

If you’re a freelancer with a client who is planning a big project, short meetings can help you set deadlines, divvy up responsibilities and go in with a game plan. Plus, it can eliminate lots of long email chains that could result in you missing out on some important information.

As someone who’s also a solopreneur, I run my own financial education company and hop on short meetings with companies and other clients to discuss speaking opportunities, upcoming content, and more. Even if the meeting is short, it’s important to have a clear agenda and desired outcome so you can stay focused and leave the meeting with more clarity and direction than what you had coming in.

Get to Know Your Clients Better

Working from home has its perks, but the constant isolation can be a real disservice to your business and mental health. Brief 15-minute meetings can also be a great way to get to know your clients better and humanize yourself as well as the other people you send emails to regularly.

As a freelance writer, I find that it can be so easy to just get lost in the shuffle with some of my editors. Whenever I get a new editor, I like to go the extra mile and propose a quick call or meeting to learn a little more about them, their goals for content, and the ways that I can help. This helps me avoid becoming just another email address that could be easy to forget when sending out writing assignments for the month.

While I don’t think it’s necessary to have virtual happy hours with your clients each week, sometimes jumping on a quick call to ask a question or gain clarity can be helpful and allow you to build a better professional relationship with the people you work with.

Short Meetings Help You Get on the Same Page With Team Members

If you work with larger teams, short 15-minute check-in meetings can be a great way to make sure you get on the same page. Plus, again, it allows you to feel like you’re part of an actual team or community when working from home. I have one client who likes to have monthly meetings and while they’re effective, they don’t last too long.

It just opens up the floor to share any new announcements, check in with deadlines and make sure that everyone is on the same page with the workflow. Sometimes, if there’s not much to discuss, the meetings don’t last for longer than 10 minutes.

As a solopreneur, I also hire a few virtual assistants so I can delegate tasks. Over time I noticed that one of my VAs was often late turning things in or would message me during times when I wasn’t working and it slowed down a lot of my processes. I didn’t want to delay certain projects due to a lack of timely communication so we decided to start having weekly or bi-weekly 15-minute check-in meetings.

This allowed us to touch base, adjust deadlines, discuss questions and become more efficient with the workflow overall. After committing to regular quick meetings, I noticed an uptick in productivity for both of us all around and more tasks were able to get accomplished. This also helped me get more value for the money I was paying to outsource as well.

It’s Easy to Schedule and Automate Short Meetings

Almost everyone has a 15-minute time block available in their daily schedule. This means it will be much easier for you to propose a short meeting to clients and team members in order to boost productivity. People don’t want to lose an hour of work for an unproductive meeting – and luckily they don’t have to.

Schedule your 15-minute meetings through your online calendar and even consider recording them so people can review them later if needed. So long as you record audio from a meeting, you can even get this audio transcribed so it can be even easier for team members to digest if they need to catch up and stay in the loop.

Summary

Fifteen minutes can really fly by, but it has been so helpful in several areas of my business. If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur, realize that short and intentional meetings can really help boost your productivity and help you stay accountable for certain deadlines and goals.

Have you tried 15-minute meetings in your business yet? Why or why not?

How Your Calendar Can Save the World

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How Your Calendar Can Save the World

Is it ambitious to want to save the world? Sure. But, as Eddie Vedder sings on one of my all-time favorite Pearl Jam tunes, “Sometimes.”

Seek my part, devote myself

My small self

Like a book amongst the many on a shelf

Whatever you truly care about, spending any amount of time championing it can make the world a better place — even if it’s just in your small pocket of the world. After all, if we all made a little effort, we could have the power to impact our little third rock from the Sun positively.

Of course, time restraints are always holding us back from making a difference. But, thanks to your trusted calendar, that’s no longer an excuse. In fact, thanks to the calendar, we can all participate in saving the world in our own unique ways.

1. Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

“In the event of a sudden drop in pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from above. Secure your own mask first before assisting others.”

If you’ve ever flown, then you’re familiar with that announcement. But, why? It’s straightforward.

If you don’t put your oxygen mask on first, then how can you assist those who can not? After all, the lack of oxygen will cause you to pass out. As such, this will leave others in a precarious situation.

The same is true in your daily life. If you don’t carve out time to attend to your own health and wellbeing, then you aren’t in the best spot to make a positive impact. For example, if you’re too burned out from work, then you aren’t going to have the energy to help struggling employees or volunteer in the community.

What’s the best way to help yourself first? By adding self-care to your calendar.

Self-care, as explained  in a previous Calendar article, “is when you regularly engage in activities and practices that make you feel calm and re-energized.”

“Some might consider this being on the selfish side,” adds Deanna. “But, self-care is a proven way to reduce stress. It’s also key in maintaining our own mental, emotional, and even physical health.” Because of this, self-care is “vital in protecting and enhancing our short- and long-term health and wellbeing.”

While you may think that you don’t have the time for self-care, you can use your calendar to make this possible by:

  • Following a routine that at least “encourages a consistent sleep-wake cycle, meal schedule, and workflow. If possible, try to base these around your circadian rhythms,” Deanna states.
  • “Regularly scheduling 2-3 nutrient-rich meals per day.” To make this easier, schedule deliveries from companies like Misfits Market or SnackNation.
  • Blocking out periods of time for physical activity and setting reminders to stand up and stretch.
  • Setting office hours so that you can actually unplug and detach from work. You should also share your calendar with others so that they know when you’re available and when you’re not.
  • Scheduling social activities.
  • Reducing screen. Instead of being glued to your phone, replace that with other activities like walking or reading a book.
  • Penciling in alone-time so that you can reflect and engage in self-talk.
  • Leave blank spaces in your calendar so that you can spend that time however you please.

2. Cultivate Gratitude

Looking for an uncomplicated activity that can lower stress, improve sleep, and strengthen your relationship ships. Look no further than practicing gratitude. In particular, try the GIFT Technique, as suggested by Anna Hennings, MA, a mental performance coach in sport psychology:

  • Growth: personal growth, such as learning a new skill
  • Inspiration: whatever has inspired you
  • Friends/family: those who are supportive and enrich your life
  • Tranquility: those small and meaningful moments, like sipping on your morning tea
  • Surprise: acknowledging unexpected surprises

Keep that acronym when identifying what you’re grateful for. After that, jot these items down in your journal during your morning or evening routine.

In addition to writing in a gratitude journal, actually show others how much you appreciate them. Examples include greeting your employees when they come into work or sending handwritten “thank you” cards. Other recommendations would be to publicly acknowledge others, offering thoughtful gifts/rewards, and being respectful of their time.

3. Volunteer Your Time

“When you volunteer your time, you are helping others in need while also spending your time in an excellent way,” note the folks over at Wheels For Wishes. “Not only are you making others happy, but you will also feel great about yourself.” However, since there are so many organizations where you could volunteer, where can you start?

Thankfully, the Wheels For Wishes put together the following list to help you get on your way:

  • Walk dogs at an animal shelter
  • Adopt or foster a pet
  • Volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation
  • Give blood
  • Serve food at a soup kitchen
  • Organize a fundraising event
  • Volunteer at a children’s summer camp
  • Donate your hair
  • Adopt a highway and keep it clean
  • Pick up trash in your neighborhood
  • Spend time at a nursing home
  • Organize a food or coat drive
  • Tutor or mentor
  • Run errands for the elderly
  • Knit hats for those going through chemotherapy

Go through your calendar to check your availability. For example, since my calendar is wide open next weekend, and the weather is supposed to be pleasant, I’m going to collect the trash along the side of my road. By adding this to my calendar, I’m committing to it and not letting anything else take its place.

4. Offer Your Services

What skills or knowledge do you possess? Put them to good use by offering them up for free.

For instance, if you’re a doctor, you could spend your downtime at a free clinic. Are you a lawyer or accountant? Offer free advice at community or senior centers when needed, like right before tax season. Do you know how to code? Build or update the website for a nonprofit.

5. Make a Donation

Don’t have the availability to volunteer or offer your services? No problem. You can still give back to others through donations. For instance, you could go through your kitchen and donate perishable food items. Go through your closet and donate blankets, coats, or hats you no longer wear.

But, what’s there’s more! Animal shelters could use old towels, cleaning supplies, or unopened pet food and treats. Nurseries could take baby blankets off your hands, while daycares might be interested in books or art supplies.

You could also donate your vehicle. And, you can never go wrong with a cash donation.

6. Commit to a Regular Contribution

Is there a cause that you’re passionate about? Then why not become a regular contributor? It’s pretty setting-and-forgetting your contributions. For instance, you could make an automated monthly donation to NPR or The Adventure Project — just put a reminder in your calendar so that you keep your bank account in good order.

$10 a month may not be much to you. But, it can truly make all the difference in the world for those in need.

7. Be Informed

What are you passionate about? Whatever it is, learn as much about the topic as possible during your downtime.

Let’s say that this is climate change. You should keep informed via sources like Nature Climate Change; the “Ask NASA” website, CleanTechnica. You could also listen to podcasts, watch TED Talks, or attend online events.

The more you know, the more you can educate others or find ways to make a difference.

8. Get Involved Politically

No matter your political affiliation, always go out and vote both locally and naturally. I would search for election dates in your neck of the woods so that you can mark your calendar to prevent forgetting. Remember, there are way more elections out there than the Presidential Election that takes place every four years.

But, there’s more you can do besides casting your ballot. You could volunteer for a campaign, like phone banking, knocking on doors, or registering new voters. And, keep politicians accountable by contacting them or attending town hall events.

9. Use Your Voice

Do you disagree with how a brand treats its employees? Send them an email voicing your concerns. Is a company polluting the environment or abusing animals? Let others know through social media and in-person conversations.

You might think that this is time-consuming. These are all actions you could take when batching tasks like cleaning out your inbox or updating your social channels.

10. Conduct an Energy Audit

An energy audit is pretty self-explanatory. It’s when you go through your home or workplace to find out where it’s losing energy so that you can correct this problem. While there are professionals who can do this, you can schedule to do this on your own by:

  • Finding and sealing air leaks coming through doors, windows, or gaps along the baseboard.
  • Checking insulation levels in the ceiling and walls.
  • Annually inspecting heating and cooling equipment.
  • Estimating the energy use of your appliances.
  • Switching to more energy-efficient appliances.
  • Replacing your old bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

11. Create Reminders to Power Down

“All things plugged in will bleed some energy,” writes Vanessa Vadim for Treehugger. “Called ‘standby’ electricity loss because it’s so often associated with electronics in standby or idle mode, it’s also known as ‘phantom’ or ‘vampire” electricity.’”

But, what if you turn off all of your appliances. Doesn’t matter. They’re still drawing power.

“The Natural Resources Defense Council says the cost of plugged-in but not used devices is about $165 per household or $19 billion across the U.S.,” adds Vadim. “That amounts to about 44 million tons of carbon dioxide, or 4.6% of the country’s total residential electricity generation, points out The New York Times.”

One way to resolve this would be powering down and unplugging the electronics you use at work before leaving. If you usually “clock-out” by 5 p.m., then spend the last 30-minutes organizing your workspace and flipping off your power strip. And, you can do the same thing before bed in your home.

Suppose you know that you won’t be home or in the office for an extended period, add a calendar reminder. For instance, if you’re leaving at 9 a.m., then receive a reminder 15-minutes before so that you can turn off the lights and unplug unnecessary appliances.

12. Set the Ideal Temperature

Thermostat wars are fairly commonplace at both home and the workplace. However, constantly fiddling with the temperature doesn’t just cause rifts between family members and colleagues. It can also impact everything from your sleep to productivity. And, it’s also detrimental to the environment.

The answer? Install an automatic thermostat and set it at the right temperature at the right time. For example, the Helsinki University of Technology’s Laboratory for Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning state that the ideal temperature for the “typical” office is around 71.6 F. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), however, recommends keeping the thermostat between 68 and 76 F.

Regardless of your exact preference, keep the workplace comfortable so that you aren’t shivering or sweating. At the end of the day, though, crank down the heat or turn up the air so that you aren’t wasting energy when no one is around.

Better yet? Invest in a smart thermostat. It will learn your patterns and adjust accordingly. You can also sync these devices with your calendar. For instance, you can connect your Google Calendar with Google Home/Nest to control the temperature of your residence or workplace from anywhere.

Moreover, Project Drawdown anticipates that “smart thermostats could grow from 3 percent to 58-63 percent of households with Internet access by 2050.” If so, this means “1,453-1,589 million homes would have them,” and it could avoid 7.0-7.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions.

13. Reduce Unnecessary Mail

41 pounds. That’s how much junk mail the average American receives each year. In order to produce that much requires the cutting down of between 80 and 100 million trees annually!

Besides the environmental impact, junk mail is annoying and sometimes time-consuming if you happen to the type of person who reads every correspondence they receive. To stop this, you can:

  • Opt-out of credit card and insurance offers via OptOutPrescreen.com.
  • To stop receiving unwanted direct mail, register on the National Do Not Mail List.
  • Opt-out of catalogs and magazine subscriptions by contacting Catalog Choice, CoxTarget, or Publishers Clearing House (800.645.9242 or [email protected]) and Readers Digest (800.310.6261).
  • Directly ask for your name to be removed from the mailing lists of companies or nonprofits.
  • Download the PaperKarma app. Just snap a pic of the piece of mail, select the name or address you want removed, and press unsubscribe. Easy peasy.

And, even though it’s not junk mail, make sure that you go paperless. As opposed to receiving monthly statements and mailing payments, you can do all of this online.

14. Prepare Your Meals

“Today, an estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste,” notes the World Wildlife Fund. “That’s equal to about 1.3 billion tons of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, seafood, and grains that either never leave the farm, get lost or spoiled during distribution, or are thrown away in hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, schools, or home kitchens.” That’s “enough calories to feed every undernourished person on the planet.”

“But wasted food isn’t just a social or humanitarian concern—it’s an environmental one,” adds the WWF. “When we waste food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it. And if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide.”

It’s actually estimated that roughly “11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the food system could be reduced if we stop wasting food. In the US alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 37 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.”

To prevent food waste, plan your meal ahead. For example, you could spend Sundaymorning coming up with a menu for the week. When you go to the store, this ensures that you’ll only buy what you need. And, then you can actually prepare your meals.

I’ve gotten into the habit of this. And, I’m a fan. It’s a type of batching where I don’t have to do much cooking throughout the week. Even though I enjoy cooking, this saves me time, money and even has reduced the packing waste.

As for leftovers? I either freeze them or get creative. For instance, if I’m on day three of veggie chili, I make chili quesadillas out of them to have something different. The rest is in my freezer, ready to be thawed on one of those cold and dreary days we tend to have in the Northeast during the winter.

Bonus points if you make a weekly trip to a local farmer’s market. If that’s not an option, most markets are seasonal around me, look into produce subscription boxes like Misfits Market, Imperfect Foods, Farm Fresh to You, Farmbox Direct, and Farm to People.

15. Regularly Eat Together as a Family (or Team)

Growing up, my family ate together—6 o’clock sharp. No exceptions. As we got older, this became less frequent. But, we still had Sunday dinner.

As a kid, this might have been frustrating. Why would I want to sit down to eat when I could be playing outside or hanging out with my friends. Little did I know, eating together as a family was key in keeping us connected.

It turns out that throughout the years, research backs this assertion up.

While it doesn’t have to be dinner, having meals together is beneficial as it:

  • Teaches children better eating habits. In fact, teens ate more fruits and veggies, and less fast food and sugary beverages, if they ate with their family.
  • It can prevent psychosocial issues. These include eating disorders, substance abuse, and depression.
  • Curtails weight problems later in life. Even just gathering once or twice a week can help protect children from weight problems as adults.
  • Improves children’s self-esteem. During meals, children can talk about themselves, which in turn, makes them feel more self-confident.
  • Bolsters communication skills. Between socialization and conversations, children can become better communicators.
  • It helps kids bounce back from cyberbullying. With more guidance from their parents, kids experience setbacks from cyberbullying like anxiety.
  • It can be used to supplement family therapy. If a family is seeing a therapist, meals provide an opportunity to share the lessons learned.

Before it gets filled up, schedule regular mealtimes with your family in your calendar. It’s a surefire way to avoid conflicts. Plus, it makes planning easier since you can build your schedule around family time.

Moreover, if you’re leading a team, try to have regular lunches together — even if they’re virtual. Studies have found that groups who have lunches together have higher morale and productivity.

16. Shop Locally

What happens when you shop locally? Well, here are 10 positive outcomes courtesy of Independent We Stand:

  • “For every $100 you spend at locally owned businesses, $68 will stay in the community.” That’s only $43 at a national chain.
  • You’re embracing what makes your community unique.
  • You’re creating “jobs for teachers, firemen, police officers, and many other essential professions.”
  • “Buying from a locally owned business conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation and less packaging.”
  • It nurtures the community since it’s been found that “local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains.”
  • You’re reinvesting your tax-dollars back into the community.
  • There are more products and services geared for your specific area.
  • You can actually get friendly, expert advice.
  • You’re supporting local entrepreneurship.
  • It helps make your community become a destination.

Where’ your calendar come into play? Well, you could mark it for dates like Small Business Saturday or when there will be sales events throughout the year. Or, you could build this into your schedule. If your farmer’s market is only open on the weekend, then do all of your local shopping on Saturday or Sunday.

17. Run Errands At Once

Piggybacking off that last point, reduce your carbon footprint by doing all of your errands in one shot. Let’s say that you have Tuesday afternoon wide open. Since you have the availability, block that timeframe out so that you can buy groceries, pick-up your dry cleaning, or fill your car up with gas — as opposed to running back-and-forth throughout the week.

As an additional perk, you’ll also save valuable time. And, this could be a chance to spend quality time with a family member or friend — which can help you achieve work-life integration.

18. Walk or Bike

Getting outside and getting the blood pumping is a win-win for your overall health and wellbeing. But, if you have spare time and the weather is cooperating, leave your car at home when running errands. While not always possible if you have a car full of groceries, if you need to pick-up items at a farm stand, this is beneficial for you, the local economy, and the environment.

19. Extend the Life of Your Lithium Battery

“One of the biggest environmental problems caused by our endless hunger for the latest and smartest devices is a growing mineral crisis, particularly those needed to make our batteries,” Christina Valimaki, an analyst at Elsevier, told Wired. Consequently, mining operations are impacting local communities, such as those who grow quinoa and herd llamas in Chile.

What’s more, this process can “scar the landscape” and cause toxic chemicals to bleed into water supplies. As if that weren’t bad enough, some mining operations rely on child labor.

Since it’s futile to give-up our lithium battery addiction, we can at least extend the life of our current batteries so that we aren’t constantly replacing them. The easiest way? Not letting your battery completely drain.

“Try to keep batteries charged at an average 50% or above most of the time — at the very least somewhere between 40% and 80% — to preserve an optimal life span,” suggests Jackie Dove and Paula Beaton for Digital Trends. “Even though your charger can control electronic input to prevent damage, you should unplug the phone when power hits 100% and, if possible, avoid overnight charging.”

You can achieve this by putting your phone on airplane mode when you’re working, eating, or sleeping. Other recommendations are keeping your apps up-to-date, removing apps/widgets you don’t use, dimming your screen, using dark wallpaper, and disabling location services.

20. Frequently Check-In With Others

During your morning or evening routine, check-in with a family member, friend, or colleague. It doesn’t have to be much. It could be a simple text message or a quick phone call letting them know that they’re on your mind.

Just checking in on others strengthens relationships, improves your health, and can help you become more comfortable opening up. Most importantly, this can help them overcome any issues that they’re struggling with. Or, at the very least, it can provide a healthy distraction.

The good people over at I Don’t Mind have ten questions you should ask during your check-in. And, after you’ve opened up the lines of communication, schedule a video call and put it in your calendar for a more in-depth convo.

21. Take a Vacation

Vacations are a proven way to improve your life satisfaction, productivity, and both your mental and physical health. It can spark creativity, give you new perspectives, and allows you to bond with others.

While that’s great for you and your relationships, traveling could also support local economies — especially those that have suffered from events like natural disasters. You could also volunteer while abroad. And, there are even options from companies like Responsible Travel that support communities and preserve nature.

If you can’t get away because of COVID or your schedule won’t allow it, plan a staycation. It may not be the same. But, this still gives you a chance to unwind, spend time with those closest to you, and back to your local community.

22. Add Holidays and Observances

Finally, open up your calendar and add lesser-known holidays and observations. Why? Because this allows you to observe and spread awareness on worthwhile causes thoughtfully. Some suggestions are:

How to Make Cancellations Less Common

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How to Make Cancellations Less Common

We’ve all been there: You’ve waited all day for a meeting, only for the client to cancel at the last minute. Last-minute cancellations can throw a wrench in your day, and sometimes your whole week

While cancellations happen, they shouldn’t be frequent occurrences. To help you cut down on frustration and revenue loss, here are some ways to keep cancellations to a minimum:

Understand Why Clients Cancel 

Everyone needs to cancel an appointment on occasion. A pattern of cancellations, however, may indicate a business-wide issue. 

Try to get into the mind of your clients. Understand exactly what’s causing them to cancel. For example, do they have kids and can’t always find childcare? Is their schedule so packed they can only spare a few minutes of their day? Or, are they not able to afford your hourly rate?

Don’t get defensive. Recognize that you, not they, may need to change. 

If you suspect travel time is an issue, for instance, try implementing a teleconferencing tool. Allowing clients to book you at the click of a button can do wonders for retention. 

Create a Cancellation Policy

Implementing a cancellation policy is one of the best ways to ensure your clients show up both prepared and on time. This policy doesn’t have to be complex; in fact, it can be as simple as charging a small fee in case of a missed appointment. 

Imposing a small penalty will motivate your clients to show up to their appointments on time. More importantly, it will reduce the likelihood that they become chronic cancellers.

Encourage each new customer to review your terms and conditions. Ask them to sign a copy when they sign up for their first meeting. This document should include the charges for no-shows, the penalties for repeatedly missing appointments, and details on how far in advance you require rebooking before you levy a fee.

Don’t Schedule Too Far In Advance

You want to stay at the top of your client’s mind. Try to schedule appointments within a week from when you last spoke with a customer. Any further ahead, and your client may lose interest by the time their appointment rolls around.

Use “when,” not “if” questions: When in the next week can they meet? Approach the conversation with a handful of specific dates and times that work for you. Look for alignment in your availability and, if none exists, offer an alternative. 

Send Reminders 

We all have a lot on our mind these days. Reminders can cut through our mental clutter, but only if we use them strategically. 

Consider your customer base. If your clients are primarily Millennials, then go with text reminders. Baby Boomers and Silents may prefer a phone call or a voicemail message.

Regardless, make sure not to send out too many reminders. You want to tread the line of being proactive without being too overbearing. Try sending a reminder as soon as a client signs up for an appointment, and then another 48 hours before the scheduled time. 

Offer Self-Serve Rescheduling

Some clients may not show up to a scheduled appointment simply because they are too nervous to reschedule. They may not want to deal with a lengthy email exchange, much less wait on hold with your receptionist. 

Nip this in the bud with software that makes it easy for a client to reschedule their own appointment. Even if it doesn’t cut down on cancellations, such a system will, at the very least, save you time. 

Use Rewards to Your Advantage 

Reward any client who regularly shows up on time for their appointments. There are plenty of creative rewards you can implement, such as:

  • A modest discount or a service credit for a future appointment
  • A quarterly drawing for a gift card
  • Priority scheduling, especially during busy periods

These little perks come at a very low cost to you, but they can really drive home your commitment to punctuality to your customers. 

Missed appointments can mangle your bottom line and throw your schedule for a loop. The good news is, communication, creativity, and education are all you need to keep most clients from throwing in the towel. What’s not to love about that?

164 February Holidays and Observances

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164 February Holidays and Observances

Isn’t February the worst? Well, unless you can zoom to the Rockies for a couple of good ski days…

I know that there are some notable happenings like Black History Month, the long President’s Day Weekend, the Super Bowl, and multiple viewings of Groundhog Day. Overall though? You’re still coming down for the holidays, you’ve already broken your New Year’s Resolutions, and the weather is atrocious.

The good news? You can make the shortest month of the year more tolerable by celebrating the following holidays and observances.

February 1

  • Baked Alaska Day: Also known as omelette norvégienne. This decadent dessert is said to have originated at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City in 1876 to honor the newly acquired territory of Alaska.
  • Dark Chocolate Day: Do we really need a reason to celebrate dark chocolate? Not really. But, if you do, just know that dark chocolate contains nutrients that can improve your health and lower the risk of heart disease.
  • Freedom Day: It was on this historic day in 1865 when President Lincoln and a joint House and Senate resolution signed a resolution that would become the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which outlawed slavery.
  • Get Up Day: Following National Skating Month (January), the Get Up Campaign was launched in 2017 “to help skaters and non-skaters alike to recognize the grit, passion, and perseverance needed to Get Up in the rink and life every day.
  • Serpent Day: Personally, I’m terrified of snakes. But, I’m also a realist and realize how beneficial they are to the ecosystem.
  • No Politics Day: It’s normal to feel exhausted after an election. But, the 2020 Presidential Election, and the last four years overall, have been brutal. We all deserve a much-needed break from politics, even if it’s just for one day.
  • Texas Day: Back on February 1, 1863, a group of Texas delegates declared the Lone Star state’s secession from the Union. However, this wasn’t granted until February 23, 1861.

February 2

  • Candlemas: As defined by Britannica, this is a “Christian festival on February 2 commemorating the occasion when the Virgin Mary, in obedience to Jewish law, went to the Temple in Jerusalem both to be purified 40 days after the birth of her son, Jesus, and to present him to God as her firstborn (Luke 2:22–38).”
  • Groundhog Day: Did you know that Groundhog Day has its roots tied to Candlemas? Via History, on this day, the “clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal–the hedgehog–as a means of predicting the weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the Keystone State.”
  • Heavenly Hash Day: What the heck is a heavenly hash? It’s not what you think despite its title. Depending on the region, it can be a fruit salad, candy, or ice cream. The common ingredient, though, is marshmallows, marshmallow creme, or whip.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Day: According to the CDC, arthritis affects roughly one in four adults overall — which comes out to over 54 million Americans. To raise awareness, visit the Arthritis National Research Foundation.
  • Tater Tot Day: This tasty kitchen staple was invented back in 1953. We can thank F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg, founders of Ore-Ida, who got creative with leftover pieces of potatoes.
  • Ukulele Day: Did you know that the Hawaiian nickname ukuleletranslates to “jumping flea” in English?
  • World Wetlands Day: This environmentally-related celebration dates back to 1971. For ideas on how to observe and spread awareness, head over to www.worldwetlandsday.org.

February 3

  • Carrot Cake Day: While this may seem like a more recent dessert, carrot cake can be traced back to a Medieval favorite simply known as carrot pudding.
  • Doggy Date Night: As a dog owner, I can proclaim that dogs are the best things on Earth. So, on this day, spend a little extra time with your best friend by taking them to the park. You could also take them on a long car ride or to get groomed.
  • Feed the Birds Day: To help birds survive the winter, fill-up a feeder with seeds and pick-up a new hobby like bird watching.
  • Girls and Women in Sports Day: 2021 marks the 35th Annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD). “Every year, this celebration inspires girls and women to play and be active, to realize their full power. ”
  • Missing Person’s Day: Approximately 2,300 Americans, both children, and adults, are reported missing daily. Visit sites like National Missing and Unidentified Persons System on how you can help.
  • The Day the Music Died Day: It was on this day in 1959 that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” passed away tragically in a plane crash.
  • Women Physicians Day: February 3rd is the birthday of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first woman to obtain a medical degree in the United States in 1849. 2021 will be her 200th birthday.

February 4

  • Create a Vacuum Day: The exact origins of this holiday are unknown, but you can celebrate it by learning more about the science of vacuums and/or sucking up those dust bunnies you’ve been neglecting.
  • Hemp Day: Fun fact, it used to be illegal not to grow hemp. For example, because it was such a valuable crop, the Assembly of Jamestown Colony in Virginia passed legislation in 1619 that required all farmers to grow Indian hemp seed.
  • Homemade Soup Day: Soups have been warming us from the inside for around 9000 years! Celebrate this day by making your favorite homemade soup.
  • Stuffed Mushroom Day: Stuffed mushrooms didn’t become featured at restaurants until the 1940s or 1950s. Back then, they were a delicacy.
  • Thank a Mail Carrier Day: Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General? That’s an awesome fact. But, now more than over, show your carrier how much you appreciate everything they do.
  • USO Day: The United Service Organizations was established on February 4, 1941, and has provided live entertainment and programs to members of the United States Armed Forces and their families since.
  • World Cancer Day: Created in 2000, this global initiative aims to reduce “the number of premature deaths from cancer and non-communicable diseases by one third by 2030.”

February 5

  • Bubble Gum Day: The first commercial bubble gum, Dubble Bubble, was invented in 1928 by Walter Diemer in Philadelphia.
  • Chocolate Fondue Day: Although fondue was billed as a national dish of Switzerland in 1875, chocolate fondue wasn’t invented until the early 1960s in New York City — by a Swiss, of course.
  • Give Kids A Smile Day: Launched in 2003 nationally by the American Dental Association, the Give Kids A Smile program has given more than 5 million underserved children free oral health services.
  • Shower with a Friend Day: You don’t have to literally do this; that would be awkward. In reality, this was a marketing ploy by a company that makes water filters “to encourage people to shower in filtered water that is free of chlorine.”
  • Wear Red Day: Celebrated on the first Friday in February, it’s suggested that you wear red to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease.
  • Weatherperson’s Day: “The day commemorated the birth of John Jeffries in 1744. Jeffries, one of America’s first weather observers, began taking daily weather observations in Boston in 1774, and he took the first balloon observation in 1784,” explainsthe National Weather Service.
  • World Nutella Day: I love this hazelnut cocoa spread, which has been around since 1964. Apparently, I’m not the only avid fan since the American blogger Sara Rosso established the first World Nutella Day on February 5, 2007.

February 6

  • Chopsticks Day: Here’s an interesting fact, cooks in China began using chopsticks to prepare food way back around 1200 B.V.
  • Frozen Yogurt Day: Believe it or not, yogurt has been around for about 5,000 years. However, frozen yogurt wasn’t a thing until H.P. Hood introduced “frogurt” in the 1970s.
  • Ice Cream for Breakfast Day: To entertain her children on a snowy day in the 1960s, Florence Rappaport in Rochester, New York, came up with this activity that has since become a global celebration.
  • Lame Duck Day: This day recognizes the ratification of the 20th Amendment, aka the Lame Duck Amendment.
  • Pay a Compliment Day: Created by Adrienne Koopersmith, on February 6, 1995, this day is all about giving “genuine and soulful compliments” to others.
  • Play Outside Day: Celebrated on the first Saturday of every month, you should spend the day outside as much as possible. It will do wonders for your health and wellbeing.
  • Take Your Child to the Library Day: 2021 marks the 10th Anniversary of the holiday where you and your family should, well, visit and support your local library.

February 7

  • Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: “The first National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) was marked in 1999 as a grassroots-education effort to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS prevention, care, and treatment in communities of color,” explains HIV.gov.
  • Dump Your Significant Jerk Day: How can you observe this day? It’s simple. Finally, end that toxic relationship you’ve been once and for all.
  • Fettuccine Alfredo Day: Fettuccine with butter has been a recipe in Italy since the 15th-century. However, the dish that we’re more familiar with was invented by Alfredo di Lelio in Rome in 1892.
  • Periodic Table Day: Why celebrate the Periodic Table on this day? Well, it’s the publication date of the first table of elements.
  • Send a Card to a Friend Day: If we’ve learned anything from COVID-19, it’s how important staying in touch with others has been. So, why not sit down and write a handwritten letter to a friend, family member, or co-worker just for the heck of it.
  • Super Bowl LV (55): The big game will be a little different this year, but you’re probably going to be close to one of the 100 million watching when it goes down at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa at 6:30 p.m. ET.
  • Wave All Your Fingers at Your Neighbor Day: Even if you don’t have the best relationship with all of your neighbors, greet them with a big wave to show your appreciation or to just put a smile on their face.

February 8

  • Boy Scout Anniversary Day: On this day in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America were incorporated.
  • Clean Out Your Computer Day: Falling on the second Monday in February, the Institute of Business Technology started this in 2000 to remind people to organize and declutter their computer, as well as backup all of your programs.
  • Football Hangover Day: While relatively newer, it became official in 2019; this has been observed since 1967, football fans are encouraged to recover if they overindulged the night before.
  • Iowa Day: Spend the day learning about the Hawkeye State, which became the 29th state back in 1846.
  • Kite Flying Day: Did you know that kites date back to China in 470 B.C.?
  • Laugh and Get Rich Day: Laughter truly is the best medicine as it boosts your immune system, improves cardiac health, increases endorphins, and strengthens relationships. As such, find ways to laugh as much as possible on this day.

February 9

  • Bagels and Lox Day: A perfect excuse to enjoy this Jewish-American tradition by devouring a bagel topped with cream cheese, lox, red onion, and capers.
  • Cut the Cord Day: Sling, a live TV streaming service, introduced the first-ever, official National Cut the Cord Day in 2020 to celebrate its fifth anniversary.
  • Extraterrestrial Culture/Visitor Day: Recognizes the UFO incident that occurred in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 by celebrating past, present, and future relationships with extraterrestrial visitors.
  • Pizza Day: Since pizza is my favorite food, I already have this marked on my calendar. But, did you know that pizza can be traced back to the 10th Century in Naples, Italy?
  • National Toothache Day: Definitely a weird and unusual holiday. It’s meant to remind you to book an appointment with your dentist.
  • Read in the Bathtub Day: We could all use a little self-care these days. And, what better way to do that than by enjoying a good book while soaking in a bathtub?
  • Safer Internet Day U.S.: This day is meant to promote safe, positive, and responsible technology use. After the last couple of years, this is a must. Head over to https://saferinternetday.us/ for more information.

February 10

  • All The News That’s Fit To Print Day: In 1897, Adolph S. Ochs, owner of the New York Times, first printed the newspaper’s famous motto, “All the news that’s fit to print.”
  • Cream Cheese Brownie Day: Brownies have been around since the 1800s. However, the first documented recipe in 1906 in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.
  • Flannel Day: I’m a big fan of flannel here. So, I did a little digging and found out that the fabric originated in Wales around the 16th Century.
  • Home Warranty Day: Homeowners have been observing this holiday since 2016. Adding it to your calendar will remind them to review their policies. And to make sure that they have the appropriate coverage.
  • Teddy Day: In 1902, a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman lampooned Theodore Roosevelt’s bear hunting trip — here refused to shot a bear that was tied to a tree. This inspired Morris Michtom, a Brooklyn candy shop owner, to create a stuffed animal known as “Teddy’s Bear.”
  • Umbrella Day: Did you know that umbrellas have been around for 4000 years? They were first discovered in the historical Mesopotamia region in Western Asia.
  • World Pulses Day: “World Pulses Day is a designated United Nations global event to recognize the importance of pulses (chickpeas, dry beans, lentils, dry peas and lupins among others) as a global food,” states the Global Pulse Confederation. “It has been proclaimed on February 10 of each year since 2019 by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 20, 2018.”

February 11

  • Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day: The jest behind this holiday is to stop fussing over things that can’t be undone. As such, it’s the perfect day to let go of regrets and learn from past mistakes.
  • Get Out Your Guitar Day: It’s believed that the guitar originated in Spain sometime in the 16th century deriving from a late-medieval instrument with a waisted body and four strings known as the guitarra latina.
  • Inventors’ Day: First proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, this event takes place on the birthday of Thomas Edison.
  • Make a Friend Day: The key to health, happiness, and a long life? Friendships. So, go out and make some new friends on this day!
  • Peppermint Patty Day: These minty and tasty treats have been around since 1940, thanks to the York Cone Company based in Pennsylvania. The company merged with Hershey in 1988.
  • Shut-In Visitation Day: Over the last year, I would say that many of us have become shut-ins. And, that type of isolation isn’t good for our health and wellbeing. Spend the day contacting others or stopping by — even if you’re socially distancing and wearing masks.
  • White Shirt Day: Why observe this holiday? It commemorates the historic auto worker strike that ended on February 11, 1937, resulting in GM recognizing the United Autoworkers Union.

February 12

  • Chinese New Year: For the uninitiated, the Chinese New Year is a festival celebrating the beginning of a new year based on the traditional lunar calendar. Also, in 2021, it is the year of the Ox.
  • Darwin Day: Did you know that Charles Darwin was born on the same day as Abraham Lincoln on February 12, 1809?
  • Georgia Day: It was on this day in 1733 that the Province of Georgia was founded. The Peach State would become the 13th Colony and 4th state to enter the Union.
  • Lost One Penny Day: Pennies don’t get much love these days. But, they have a long history. In fact, it was Benjamin Franklin who designed the first penny and introduced it in 1787.
  • NAACP Day: Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States
  • Plum Pudding Day: Not really sure why we celebrate Christmas pudding in February, but if you’re feeling festive, give this English plum pudding recipe a try.

February 13

  • Break Up With Your Carrier Day: Made official by T-Mobile, the company promises to make it as painless as possible to break-up with your current wireless provider.
  • Cheddar Day: This holiday was created in 2019 by cheese manufacturer Tillamook. It celebrates one of the most famous cheeses in the States.
  • Galentine’s Day: As Parks and Recs fans know, this holiday was created by Leslie Knope. “Every February 13, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style,” Leslie explained in the “Galentine’s Day” episode. “Ladies celebrating, ladies.”
  • Tortellini Day: While disputed, both Bologna and Modena, located in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, claim to be the birthplace of tortellini. Regardless, celebrate the day by whipping up this delish homemade recipe.
  • World Radio Day: Proclaimed in 2011 by the Member States of UNESCO and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 as an International Day, it’s encouraged that we learn about the evolution, innovation, and connection of radio.

February 14

  • Cream-Filled Chocolate Day: Would it be easier to just buy these at the store? Probably. But, you think if you make your own homemade filled chocolates, you’ll definitely be earning some brownie points.
  • Douglass Day: As explained over at douglassday.org, this “is a holiday that began around the turn of the 20th century. After the passing of Frederick Douglass in 1895, Black communities across the U.S. gathered to celebrate his birthday every year on February 14th.” It’s believed that this would serve as the inspiration for Black History Month.
  • Ferris Wheel Day: Did you know that the world’s largest Ferris wheel is in Las Vegas. Appropriately known as the High Roller, it stands at 550 ft. (168 m)?
  • Organ Donor Day: If you haven’t done so yet, add this to your calendar so that you can register to become an organ donor.
  • Quirkyalone Day: Despite the misconception, this isn’t an anti-Valentine’s Day. Rather, Quirkyalone Day is all about celebrating self-love regardless if you’re single or not.
  • Valentines Day: Before he was known as Cupid, he was known to the ancient Greeks as Eros, the god of love.

February 15

  • Angelman Syndrome Day: Via the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, “(AS) is a rare neuro-genetic disorder that occurs in one in 15,000 live births or 500,000 people worldwide. It is caused by a loss of function of the UBE3A gene in the 15th chromosome derived from the mother.”
  • Gumdrop Day: Purportedly, Percy Trusdale invented gumdrops in 1801.
  • Presidents Day: Fun fact, President’s Days doesn’t fall on the birthday of Washing or Lincoln — or William Henry Harrison or Regan, who also have birthdays this month. Instead, it’s celebrated on the third Monday of the month thanks to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.
  • Singles Awareness Day: Were you alone on the 14th? No worries. Today is the day for singles to celebrate.
  • Susan B. Anthony Day: Born on this day in 1820, Susan B. Anthony is remembered for her role in the women’s suffrage movement — which paved the way for the 19th Amendment. But, were you aware that she was arrested for illegally voting in the 1872 presidential election.
  • Wisconsin Day: The Badger State became the 30th state in 1848 but the first European. French explorer Jean Nicolet visited back in 1634.

February 16

  • Almond Day: Although originally from central and southwest Asia, 80 percent of the world’s almonds are now grown in California.
  • Do A Grouch a Favor Day: Sure. Big Bird might have come up with this idea on “Sesame Street.” But, if there’s an Oscar in your life, do something nice for them.
  • Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras: Falling on the day before Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday and is the culmination of Carnival.
  • Paczki Day: Our friends in the Midwest may be familiar with this holiday. But, if you’re not, it’s a Polish-style pastry that is traditionally filled with prunes. It falls on the same day as Fat Tuesday, so that you can splurge before fasting for Lent.
  • Pancake Day: Also known as Shrive Tuesday in the UK, it’s another traditional feast day prior to Lent.

February 17

  • Ash Wednesday: In the scheme of things, Ash Wednesday is relatively new, with the first ceremonies taking place sometime in the 11th Century CE. Also, here in the U.S., it didn’t gain mainstream popularity with Christians until the 1970s.
  • Cabbage Day: Did you know that there are more than 400 varieties of cabbage? Time to start trying them out since cabbage is loaded with Vitamin C, proven to be a cancer determent, and provides headache relief.
  • My Way Day: Today is the day that you tap into your inner Frank Sinatra and do things your way.
  • Random Acts of Kindness Day: Doing and witnessing kindness gives us hope, increases happiness, and can make the world a slightly better place. If you need some inspiration, visit the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
  • World Human Day: Started in 2003 by Michael Levy of Point of Life, everyone is encouraged to meditate for two minutes at 3 pm Eastern Time to find the true spirit of freedom and peace that lives within us all.

February 18

  • Battery Day: My man Ben Franklin has popped up several times already. And, here he is again. After all, he coined the term “battery in 1748. However, it referred to “charged glass plates.”
  • Crab Stuffed Flounder Day: Did you know that there are 100 different species of flatfish known as flounder. Celebrate the day by making this crab-stuffed flounder recipe from the Food Network.
  • Cow Milked While Flying In An Airplane Day: What’s this obscure holiday about? Well, on February 18, 1931, Elm Farm Ollie became the first cow to fly and be milked in flight during the International Air Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Drink Wine Day: Drink Wine Day has been taking place for over 8,000 years, originating in the Eurasian region — this is in modern-day Georgia — the country, not the state.
  • Pluto Day: Discovered in 1930, the ninth planet has been on quite the journey. In 1992, its planet status was questioned. And, then in 2004, it was degraded to a dwarf planet.

February 19

  • Chocolate Mint Day: Here’s a fun fact for all my fellow chocolate mint lovers out there, the Girl Scouts began selling their most popular cookies, Thin Mint, in 1953.
  • Caregiver’s Day: Since 2016, the third Friday of February is reserved to give props to selfless professional caregivers.
  • Lashes Day: Did you know that people have focused on eyelashes since around 4000 BCE?
  • Tug of War Day: Tug of war has been practiced worldwide, particularly in Cambodia, ancient Egypt, Greece, India, and China. for centuries. And, it was even a part of the Olympic Games from 1900 until 1920.
  • Vet Girls RISE Day: Founded in 2019, this day aims to bring awareness and provide opportunities to the contributions of women veterans — which they’ve been doing since the Revolutionary War.

February 20

  • Cherry Pie Day: While Morello cherries are preferred when making pies, you can also use black or Montmorency cherries as well. To see for yourself, try out this classic cherry pie recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen.
  • Love Your Pet Day: Those of us who have a pet typically have lower stress, are more active, and happier. Return the favor on this day by going on an extra-long walk, giving them a special treat, taking them to the groomer, and making sure that their vaccines are up-to-do-date.
  • Muffin Day: In print, the word muffin first appeared in 1703 and was spelled moofin. But, enough with the history. Here are 60 muffin recipes you can put to good use on this day.
  • World Day for Social Justice: First observed in 2009, the UN General Assembly has named February 20 as the annual World Day of Social Justice. Spend the day educating yourself and discussing issues like gender equality, human rights, poverty, and social protection.
  • World Whale Day: Whales, they’re just like us! These majestic mammals breathe, have warm-blood, feed their young, play, sing, grieve, and cooperate with each other.

February 21

  • Card Reading Day: No, this isn’t about Tarot card reading. Instead, it’s getting sentimental and reading any greeting cards that you’ve saved.
  • Grain-Free Day: For some, a grain-free diet has health benefitslike reducing inflammation, enhancing weight loss, and lower blood pressure. And, it’s a must for those who are allergic to wheat or have celiac disease.
  • International Mother Language Day: First announced on November 17, 1999, by UNESCO, this annual observance is meant to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity, as well as multilingualism.
  • Sticky Bun Day: Originally known as “Schnecken,” a German word. It’s not surprising that it’s believed that these tasty treats were brought to Pennsylvania by German settlers.

February 22

  • Be Humble Day: ” Don’t be humble. You’re not that great.” — Golda Meir
  • Cook a Sweet Potato Day: Despite their name, sweet potatoes are not potatoes. They’re a root vegetable in the morning glory family.
  • Margarita Day: While there are several variations of this refreshing drink, “the basic recipe is Blanco Tequila (though reposado is a popular and delicious variation), mixed with lime juice and orange liqueur, often served in a glass with a salted rim,” writes Kara Newman for Wine Enthusiast.
  • Recreational Sports & Fitness Day: In honor of the 50th Anniversary of NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, the first-ever Recreational Sports & Fitness Day began on February 22, 1999.
  • Walking the Dog Day: Here’s something to share with your fellow dog owners when walking your four-legged best friend. Jim Buck is credited as the first professional dog walker in New York City in 1960.
  • World Thinking Day: Since 1926, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), along with Girl Scouts of the USA and the other WAGGGS member organizations, have celebrated what it means to be a peacebuilder.

February 23

February 24

  • Inconvenience Yourself Day: You might assume that this an odd holiday where you put yourself into precarious situations. In actuality, it’s about helping others, like shoveling the snow from your elderly neighbor’s walkway.
  • Tortilla Chip Day: If you’re a devourer of tortilla chips, like yours truly, today is the day to overindulge. And, if you’re curious, it’s believed that Rebecca Webb Carranza invented tortilla chips in Los Angeles in the 1940s.
  • World Bartender Day: You might not have patronized your favorite watering hole lately, but you can still support your bartender on this day however you see fit. After all, bartending is one of the oldest professions going back to the 1400s!

February 25

  • Chili Day: The first written recipe for chili con carne dates back to 1519! Head over to National Chili Day for more trivia and recipes to try on this day.
  • Chocolate Covered Nut Day: Goobers are believed to be the first chocolate-covered peanut candy in 1925.
  • Clam Chowder Day: The debate between New England and Manhattan clam chowders has been so heated that in “1939, a Maine legislator introduced a bill outlawing the use of tomatoes in chowder.”
  • Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day: Engineers Week has been going strong since 1951. On this particular day, however, the focus is on inspiring girls to get into engineering.
  • Toast Day: On the last Thursday of the month, enjoy a slice of toast with jam, Avocado, or cinnamon and sugar.

February 26

  • For Pete’s Sake Day: The idiom, “For Pete’s sake,” originated as a substitute for “for Christ’s sake. Since the early 1900s, though, it’s been used as a replacement for any profane expression.
  • Pistachio Day: I have no problem finding an excuse to crack open some pistachios or consume pistachio ice cream or gelato. After all, they’re delicious and packed with antioxidants and nutrients like potassium and B6.
  • Skip the Straw Day: On average, we use 1.6 straws per day. If you weren’t aware, that’s terrible for the environment and wildlife, ranging from birds, fish, and turtles. On this day, avoid using plastic straws and purchase more sustainable options. You could also ask local eateries to not automatically provide plastic straws.
  • Tell a Fairy Tale Day: Researchers have found tales that date back to the Bronze Age!
  • Yukon Heritage Day: Since 1976, people in the territory spend the day celebrating with activities like the Sourdough Rendezvous. There’s also a fiddle contest, snow sculptures, and air show. It falls on the Friday before the last Sunday in February.

February 27

  • Anosmia Awareness Day: Launched in 2012, this day is meant to spread awareness about the loss of smell. Since this is a symptom of COVID, there may be more attention to this condition than in previous years.
  • International Polar Bear Day: PBI “founded the day to coincide with the time period when polar bear moms and cubs are snug in their dens. As part of our celebration, we focus on the need to protect denning families across the Arctic.”
  • No Brainer Day: This fun and made-up holiday encourages all of us to stop overanalyzing, do less, and take it easy.
  • Pokémon Day: It was on this day in 1995 when the world was first introduced to Pokémon. At the time, this was a game on the original Game Boy.
  • Retro Day: The jest behind this holiday is to revisit a time when we weren’t glued to our phones and internet. It also gives us a reason to dust off our favorite clothing, gadgets, music, and movies from back-in-the-day. However, you don’t need to wait until February 27 to do this if you frequently use these 10 strategies to reduce screen time.
  • Strawberry Day: Did you know that strawberries are the only fruit that has their seeds on the outside?

February 28

  • Chocolate Souffle Day: Vincent La Chapelle authored the recipe for omelette soufflée in Le Cuisinier Moderne in 1742. If you want to attempt to make your own chocolate souffle day to honor this day, check out this instructional video.
  • Floral Design Day: This day celebrates the birthday of Carl Rittner. He was the founder of the Rittner School of Floral Design in Boston. In 1995 Massachusetts governor William F. Weld proclaimed it an official holiday.
  • Golden Globes: Hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for the fourth time. You can watch the 78th Golden Globes on NBC.
  • Public Sleeping Day: Naps can restore alertness and provide an energy boost to get through the rest of the day. If only this was encouraged every day and not just once a year. Sigh.
  • Rare Disease Day: Did you know that 1 in 20 people will live with a rare disease at some point in their life? That’s why this day is so important to spread awareness about rare diseases.
  • Tooth Fairy Day: The Tooth Fairy that we’re familiar with can be credited to Esther Watkins Arnold. She wrote a playlet for children in 1927. However, myths involving baby teeth have been around for centuries.

How to Handle Appointment Scheduling When Schedules Change

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How to Handle Appointment Scheduling When Schedules Change

As Americans return to work, many are losing their 9-to-5 freedom. No longer can they book appointments whenever they please thanks to the flexibility of remote work prompted by COVID-19. Appointment-based businesses must know when and how to adjust their own schedules as work practices revert to the old norm. Here’s what you can do to handle your appointment schedule when schedules change:

Manage Walk-Ins Wisely

Walk-ins can be both a blessing and a curse for appointment-based businesses. On the one hand, walk-ins represent welcome revenue on slow days when appointments are hard to come by. On the other hand, turning prospective customers away due to high volume is always a bummer. The best approach is to allow a set number of walk-ins per day or per hour and to work everything else through appointments.

Some of your customers might not know their availability until after they clock out. This may prompt them to stop by in an attempt to squeeze into your schedule. Instead of playing the odds, use their desire to your advantage. Send out notifications to your customers informing them of available appointment slots throughout the day. This way they’ll know beforehand whether you’re full to the brim or whether there’s a slot they can book right then and there using their device. 

Adjust Your Business Hours

When your regular customer base returns to a 9-to-5 schedule, your own business hours might see a decline in appointment volume. To cater to changing needs, consider adjusting your business hours to accommodate schedule changes. This could involve opening up a little earlier and staying open a couple extra hours to give everyone an opportunity to stop by.

Before making any changes, gauge the interest customers would have in amended store hours. If you’ve been developing a personal relationship with them, you can ask directly. Otherwise, send a survey asking for input or do a week-long trial run to see whether the new hours are popular. 

Be sure to get your employee work schedules straightened out beforehand, though. You’ll need to know that you have people willing to fill the new time slots. 

Go Virtual

If the nature of your business allows it, try incorporating virtual appointments into your services. This allows customers to book appointments and phone in even while they’re at the office, filling your 9-to-5 slots when physical appointments are infeasible. The convenience of virtual appointments will also benefit stay-at-home parents who struggle with dragging the kids around for errands.

While we’re still a long way from virtual haircuts, plenty of appointment-based businesses can pull off virtual appointments. Healthcare providers can check in on patients’ treatment plans, for example, while counselors only need to speak with their clients to make an impact. 

When deciding to go virtual, make sure to do it right. Invest in proper sound equipment, solid internet service, and robust videoconferencing technology for a high-quality appointment experience. Ready yourself for virtual appointments by doing extra preparation in advance and brushing up on online etiquette

Take Advantage of Customers’ Availability

Even as your customers return to their desk jobs, you can still take advantage of certain times to lure them in. The most reliable is the lunch hour, when employees might grab a quicker-than-usual bite to eat so they can fit in an appointment before clocking back in. Capitalizing on these brief moments of availability will give your business a nice boost of revenue each day.

Take a page out of the restaurant industry’s book. To get workers to stop by for lunch, they offer specials available only during certain times of day. Any appointment-based business can use this tactic to give customers an incentive to book a lunchtime slot. For example, a car detailer can offer a free exterior wash for any customer who brings in their ride between noon and 2 p.m.

Bring Your Business to the Customers

Back in the olden days, doctors would travel to private homes to care for their patients. Bringing back this old trend mould allows busy professionals stuck at work until 5 p.m. to book more appointments with you. 

Remember our car detailer? They could travel to their customer’s place of business and clean out their car in the parking lot. This way the service is still being performed without the customer having to take time off work or sacrifice part of their evenings or weekends. Any appointment-based business with enough creativity can pull this off as long as there’s demand. 

Adjust Your Late and Cancellation Policies

What happens if a customer can’t make it to their appointment because their boss asked them to stay late? Take a look at your late and cancellation policies to determine how best to accommodate these types of scenarios. Some leniency on your part will encourage customers to try — and try again — to visit your business and develop loyalty to your brand.

Of course, there will always be times when your late and cancellation policies must be enforced. Repeat offenders shouldn’t be given the same benefit of the doubt as loyal customers who have to cancel last-minute due to unforeseen circumstances. 

As a business owner you’ll always have to make adjustments on the fly when circumstances change — and the workplace upheaval caused by COVID-19 is certainly one of those circumstances. As the 9-to-5 norm is re-established, work to give your customers the service they deserve, and you’ll always come out on top. 

Best Online Calendar and Scheduling Apps

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Best Online Calendar and Scheduling Apps

As a leader, you most likely keep a schedule. Your schedule keeps you on track and tells you what you need to accomplish each day. There may be meetings, appointments, and events listed that you don’t want to forget.

Leaders have always found that work and personal life intertwine and calendaring is the best weapon against missing the essentials in either world. With scheduling and calendaring, besides work requirements, your schedule also includes gym appointments, concerts, and your kids’ games or recitals.

Best Online Calendar and Scheduling Apps

Here are some of the top schedule apps for business owners that will help you juggle everything in your business and life. You’ll work smarter — and never again will you forget an appointment or task.

  • Calendar for smart scheduling, unifying all of your calendars, and time analytics.
  • Google Calendar for basic online calendar functions for Google users.
  • Apple Calendar for basic online calendar functions for Apple users.
  • Microsoft Calendar for basic online calendar functions for Windows users.
  • Deputy for scheduling employees at various locations as well as the capability to publish schedules through email or SMS, and create shifts.
  • Hot Schedules for business owners with a team of employees to oversee in industries like restaurants, hospitality businesses, retail, and recreation and entertainment.
  • When I Work for its compatibility with payroll platforms like Quickbooks and ADP and its mobile accessibility, online scheduler, messaging, and customer support features.
  • Timely for its dashboard view, scheduling feature, and cloud functionality.
  • Planday for its simple scheduling by job role, push notifications and email alerts, payroll reporting, labor cost and overtime tracking, and customer support.
  • Fleetmatics Work for field service management businesses that have this type of team, cloud-based system, and integration with accounting software like Quickbooks.
  • Shiftboard for employee and workforce management scheduling, communications tools, employee self-serve options, and time and attendance processes.
  • FreeBusy for its artificial intelligence, compatibility with Outlook desktop and web app, embed feature, and integration with major digital calendars.
  • Meekan for its ability to work Slack and HipChat, flight search, RSVPs, double booking alerts, and meeting reminders.
  • Meetin.gs for its functionality, live communication tools like Skype, Microsoft Lync, Google Hangouts, and teleconferencing.
  • NeedToMeet for its collaborative meeting scheduling and management, custom URL to invite attendees, notifications and comments, and a dashboard view.
  • X.ai for its personal virtual assistant capability and artificial intelligence.
  • Fantastical for Apple users wanting to try a different option with a critically acclaimed design and user-friendly features.
  • Yahoo Calendar for recreation event integration, solid to-do lists, and long-term planning.

Best Online Calendar and Scheduling Apps — the Details

Calendar

Calendar is a calendar, scheduling, and appointment app. The web portal and mobile app provide a machine learning-enabled platform that learns about your contacts and typical schedule. The more Calendar works with that information, the better it becomes at understanding your schedule and those you interact with regularly.

Not only does the schedule app see how it can help with scheduling, but it also does a lot of the heavy lifting for you. That means you can enjoy automated reminders and real-time updates that get you where you need to go. It integrates with other apps and tracks information about routes, weather, and traffic to make sure you stick to your schedule.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar is one of the most accessible online calendars out there. You can download it on virtually any device and can dive in even deeper on a desktop computer. If you love the other products included in the Google Suite, you can easily integrate them into this calendar for easy use. Schedule meetings with Google Hangout links and attach Google Documents, Sheets, and Presentations as needed.

Google Calendar is also one of the most versatile of calendar apps, able to sync with most other apps to easily move from platform to platform or collaborate with users of other online calendars.

Apple Calendar

Apple Calendar is the default calendar for iPhone, iPad, and Macbook users. For those who live and die by the Apple brand, this calendar is great because it syncs across all your Apple devices, allowing you to switch seamlessly from one to the other. Don’t have access to one of your many devices? Your calendar information will be stored in Apple’s exclusive cloud, and you can access this from anything with a web browser and internet connection.

The Apple Calendar also doesn’t discriminate, allowing you to add additional online calendars from other sources for easier and all-inclusive time management.

Microsoft Calendar

Microsoft Calendar, also known as Outlook or Office 365 Calendar, is comparable to Google Calendar in that it works seamlessly with the other applications in its suite. It’s an optimal calendar for businesses that already rely on Microsoft products for their daily operations. This is an easy calendar for Windows users as Microsoft integrates well into virtually any PC.

While being able to create multiple calendars isn’t a unique feature, Outlook takes it a step further by allowing you to easily view separate calendars in a side-by-side view, as well as the ability to stack them. This way you can more easily balance your work and personal calendars, along with any others you have created.

Deputy

Deputy helps you stay on top of your schedule and anyone else on your team. It’s made for business owners to take care of staff management duties and lead more effectively. The complete scheduling solution includes a way to schedule employees at various locations, publish schedules through email or SMS, and create shifts. You can also get shift costs and compare wages to sales forecasts. It’s easy to add new employees to this scheduling system.

Other features include timesheet management, communication channels, and tasking tools. The cloud-based scheduling system also lets you oversee schedules from anywhere because it works with Android, iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch.

Hot Schedules

Hot Schedules is another scheduling app that is ideal for business owners with a team of employees to oversee. It’s especially ideal for certain industries like restaurants, hospitality businesses, retail, and recreation and entertainment. The scheduling app provides a cloud-based platform so that schedules can be produced quickly and optimize the available labor force. Features include time and attendance record-keeping, shift communication, labor compliance, and employee engagement.

In addition to the scheduling functionality, it provides a full-scale back-office solution for businesses like restaurants, including inventory management, talent development, forecasting and budgeting, and more.

When I Work

When I Work is another scheduling app that works for those leaders that have a team. This scheduling app is for numerous types of businesses across industries like hospitality, customer service, retail, healthcare, nonprofits and more. It specifically benefits those business owners with hourly employees because it makes scheduling so easy. It also works for all types of employee meetings, and task scheduling.

The scheduling app also works with payroll platforms like Quickbooks and ADP so the work schedule can transfer over easily. The app works with Android or iPhone so it makes employee requests for shift trades or time off even simpler. It’s free for up to 75 users, including mobile accessibility, online scheduler, messaging, and customer support features.

Timely

Timely is a scheduling app for individuals, freelancers, and business owners that also works as a team management platform, overseeing hours, projects, and tasks. The dashboard view provides a business owner with an overview of all projects to see what everyone is doing. Plus, you’ll see how much time it actually takes them. Over time, this can help you reduce overhead costs and optimize productivity while also balancing the team’s workload.

The scheduling feature helps you schedule work according to available capacity while also tracking who has recorded their hours. All it takes is a few clicks to create the schedule as well as put together detailed results that can be used along with invoices to bill clients. The scheduling app can be used from anywhere, including iOS and Android devices.

Planday

Planday is a powerful, yet affordable, scheduling platform that grows with you as you add users. There are starter and pro levels of the scheduling app set at different price points. Even the starter level is packed with features. For example, it includes simple scheduling by job role, an app for iOS and Android, push notifications and email alerts, payroll reporting, labor cost and overtime tracking, customer support and more.

The pro-level includes these features and adds even more. Some features that come with the upgrade are HRM tools, vacation management, scheduling statistics and reporting, electronic signatures, and employee file management.

Fleetmatics Work

Fleetmatics Work is a field service management platform for businesses that have this type of team. The scheduling tools are easy to read and only require a few clicks so you can assign jobs in a way that lets you maximize the number of customer appointments you can book each day. The format also makes it easy to change or cancel appointments, including alerting each employee to a change in their schedule.

Since you have a mobile workforce, it offers a cloud-based system that can be accessed anywhere, most importantly your field service technicians. Additionally, the platform allows you to efficiently manage dispatch, invoices and quotes, and reports. Also, it integrates with accounting software, such as Quickbooks.

Shiftboard

Shiftboard is an employee and workforce management scheduling solution. This cloud-based system provides a way to automate much of the scheduling and time tracking process. It can forecast resources and build schedules based on that data. Additionally, the scheduling app can assign the right people to each job and make real-time scheduling adjustments should anything change.

Other features include a set of communications tools, employee self-serve options, and time and attendance processes. Also, the scheduling app offers reproving and analytics on shifts, workforces, teams, and financials. When you have new hires, you can use Shiftboard for applicant tracking and onboarding. Lastly, it integrates with hundreds of other apps and software for payroll, time management, and other business processes.

FreeBusy

FreeBusy is powered by artificial intelligence and serves as your scheduling assistant for teams and enterprises. You can use this scheduling app within the Outlook desktop and web app. The Outlook add-in features provide a way to identify the best time to meet for those who will be attending from inside your company as well as those from the outside. It also does the same with Google Calendar when you add the FreeBusy Chrome Extension.

Additionally, the scheduling app gives you a personalized webpage. Here, your contacts can see your availability and book meetings. You can also embed your availability on your website, blog, or LinkedIn. Integrating with major calendars will cost you a monthly fee. Otherwise, the basic version is free.

Meekan

Meekan is another scheduling app that uses the power of artificial intelligence to optimize your scheduling processes. it works with Slack and HipChat. The free app is very simple to use. Just request a new meeting in a simple language and then invite who you want. The AI machine goes to work to match everyone’s time and preferences, selecting an optimal time.

Once it has been established the meeting is synced for everyone on their Google, Office 365, or iCloud calendar. Other features include flight search, RSVPs, double booking alerts, meeting reminders, and more.

Meetin.gs

Meetin.gs is an app that helps you create, schedule, and manage meetings as a business owner or manager. It simplifies the meeting scheduling process by allowing you to integrate your calendar with its functionality and easily share that personal scheduling page as par at of an email tagline or website. You can access meeting information from your mobile device, respond to meeting requests, or get or make meeting updates.

The schedule supports Google apps, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Contacts, Outlook, Live People, and Office365. Additionally, it offers live communication tools like Skype, Microsoft Lync, Google Hangouts, and teleconferencing. It’s available as a monthly or yearly subscription.

NeedToMeet

NeedToMeet is a scheduling tool for collaborative meeting scheduling and management. This is a simple, yet highly effective, app for business owners and their teams. Features include simple scheduling, a custom URL to invite attendees, notifications and comments, and a dashboard view of all meetings. It works on multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, and the Web as well as with their Microsoft Outlook plug-in.

Even the standard free version of the schedule app is ad-free so there are no distractions. Two other versions of the schedule app come with more features and offer various pricing plans.

X.ai

x.ai is your personal virtual assistant for scheduling that leverages artificial intelligence to lighten your workload. It’s easy to use. It’s just a matter of CCing [email protected] on any email. Then, she does the rest to make sure a meeting time is coordinated and scheduled. She learns pretty much everything about you. This includes appointments, phone number, Skype username, and any information that a colleague or client might need to schedule time on your calendar.

The artificial intelligence component to this virtual assistant studies people’s natural speech patterns to reply in the most human ways possible. It’s free for up to five meetings per month. A fee-based version adds more features, a customizable signature, and unlimited meetings each month.

Fantastical

Fantastical is exclusive to Apple users and is another option for those who aren’t the biggest fans of the default Apple Calendar. The app can be used for free but is greatly restricted without an account subscription, but $4.99 a month isn’t a steep price to pay for calendar efficiency. Critics and users alike rave about Fantastical’s layout, giving it high ratings on its clean and user-friendly design.

One of its unique features is calendar sets, allowing you not only the ability to organize your daily schedule but a myriad of calendars of different types. For example, a business owner can create different calendars for their sales, customer service, and IT teams and add them to a calendar set focused on work. Another set can contain a specific calendar for each one of your kids including their individual events and commitments.

Yahoo Calendar

Yahoo Calendar is a blast from the past. While it has been outpaced by many other calendars as far as updates are concerned, it’s still a very serviceable program in the right hands. Being able to sync with Apple and Outlook calendars is a huge plus, helping you begin integrating right away. Something that sets it apart is the ability to work flawlessly with event sites such as Evite and Eventful, which allows you to more easily book events to attend and have them added automatically to your personal calendar.

Yahoo also excels with its to-do list feature, helping you plan out all the details of your day to accomplish all of your short-term goals. Additionally, for what it’s worth, a 100-year calendar allows you to plan as far in advance as you would ever need to.

How Freelancers Can Keep Manageable Schedules Without Losing Work

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How Freelancers Can Keep Manageable Schedules Without Losing Work

Freelancers love the flexibility their no-boss lifestyles provide, but some clients don’t know how to take a hint. They email at all hours of the night and get upset when the project isn’t finished by midmorning. No freelance worker enjoys turning down a good job, but when clients make unreasonable demands, contractors must make a choice. The contractor must adopt a  policy for themselves, between taking a stand and sacrificing the schedule their lifestyle provides.

According to research from Upwork, more than half of freelancers wouldn’t take a traditional job for any amount of money. To make the most of the self-employed lifestyle, freelancers need to know how to maintain control of their schedules without sacrificing income in the process.

This five-step strategy can help freelancers take control of both their calendars and their earnings:

1. Put clear schedule expectations in contracts.

Every regular freelancer should get contracts signed by their clients. Formal agreements protect both sides in the event of a disagreement and provide context for ongoing partnerships.

Some freelancers mistakenly limit their contracts to deliverables only. Guillaume Leverdier says that’s a bad idea. Instead, freelancers need to include scheduling agreements in writing — including hours of contact and expected times for a response. This gives clear “no mistake” guidelines for the clients,  that they deserve the same respect as any traditional vendor.

2. Don’t let actions betray words.

It’s one thing to talk tough. It’s another thing to follow through. Freelancers who set strict hours in their contracts and then let clients walk all-over their schedules might as well not require contracts at all. Be aware, this lapse in your contract usually happens more with friends who are also clients. We won’t mention the “F” word here: family.

The ideal strategy, as recommended by Freelance to Freedom, is to set regular hours and respond to client communications only within those hours. Of course, sometimes that isn’t possible. For occasions when clients need rush jobs, contract workers should include contract clauses on expedited rates. That way, if clients want something done outside of normal hours, they understand the price of asking.

3. Set upfront expectations for project deadlines.

Clients outsource work for a lot of reasons, primarily to control costs, but also to gain access to skills not found within their organizations. Freelancers know how to do something their employees don’t. That makes the freelancer valuable, but it also means that their clients often don’t understand how long projects should take.

Rather than let trial-and-error wreck promising beginnings, contract workers should take the time to talk with their clients about the scope their project will demand — to establish reasonable deadlines. For larger projects, deadlines should include both the end date and intermediate benchmarks. By setting this schedule at the outset, freelancers can prevent scope creep.

4. Learn to say “no” without being rude.

Sometimes, no amount of money is enough to make a job worthwhile. A freelancer on a family vacation probably doesn’t want to tackle a big project no matter how much the client wants to pay.

Brent Galloway, a freelance designer, wrote extensively on Digital Freelancer about three times he had to turn down work from clients. Some responded with understanding, while others got personal. Freelance workers face it all eventually, and the best ones learn how to let down clients firmly, but kindly.

5. Track working hours and make changes where needed.

In the struggle to succeed, plenty of people don’t realize how many hours they actually work. Freelancers are especially notorious for tracking only the time they spend working on projects. In the confusion of the hustle, they forget to track all the hours spent emailing, researching and thinking. Those hours are just as valid, and when freelancers consistently work outside their scheduled times, they undersell the amount of effort their projects require.

Smart freelancers use scheduling tools to make their lives easier. To discover bad habits, freelancers should keep a journal of hours worked and review that journal at regular intervals. Answering emails at night is fine, but when work bleeds into life too frequently, it can lead to burnout.

As challenging as self-employment can be, freelancing remains one of the most rewarding life paths for an increasing number of people. Setting and keeping a schedule helps contract workers maximize their earnings and make the most of their flexible calendars. Marking lines in the sand is never easy, but with work-life balance on the line, the rewards are worth the hard conversations.

7 Things Customers Want in Their Online Booking Experience

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9 Collaboration Mistakes You’re Making With Your Remote Team

Online booking and appointment software makes life easier for you and for your customers. But investing in software is just the start. How are you going to give them a great booking experience?

Customers have high expectations for online scheduling software. They want a personalized experience, just as they’d receive from your receptionist. But they also want certain things humans simply can’t offer, like always-on account access. 

Are you meeting their expectations? Here’s what they’re looking for:

1. 24/7 Access to Online Booking

Many people manage their personal appointments before or after regular business hours. Appointment software can and should be available 24/7. That way, customers can add, adjust, and cancel appointments at their leisure. 

If you’re worried about customers with unanswered questions hesitating to book after hours, set up a frequently asked questions page or, better yet, a customer service chatbot. These automated scripts can address most, if not all, of the questions customers might ask in the booking process. 

Just as important to customers as being able to access your appointment software at all times is being able to access it from any device. Make sure the program you use is accessible on mobile. Try it from a few different devices to be sure it loads well on screens of different sizes. 

2. Online Booking Speed and Efficiency 

Booking an appointment online should be a lot faster than it would be over the phone or in person. After all, no one wants to wait on hold for 15 minutes, just to be told that the time slot they desire has already been booked.

The less time it takes for customers to book an appointment online, the better. If there are still kinks in your system, take the time to straighten them out. Broken links or long loading time will not reflect well on your business. 

3. Prepay Options

Most online appointment software gives customers the option to prepay. Not forcing customers to pay on site makes their appointment experience run faster and more smoothly.

Consumers also appreciate companies that accept a variety of payment options. You’ll have customers who will want to use debit cards, credit cards, mobile wallets, gift cards, and perhaps even cryptocurrency. The more forms of payment you accept through your online appointment software, the better.

4. Online Booking Reminder Settings

Life gets busy. Forgetting an appointment is all too easy to do. Make sure your appointment scheduling system sends reminders to make sure customers know what’s coming up. 

With that said, not everyone enjoys getting reminder messages from companies. Make it possible for them to change their reminder settings. Some might prefer an extra reminder or two, while others may want to turn them off entirely. 

Make settings adjustable for other notifications as well. Some customers would love to know when you unveil a new promotion or close for the holidays.  

5. Instant Verification

Just as important as those reminder messages are verification statements confirming that an appointment has been made. After going through the online booking process, customers need confirmation that their appointment has been set. Wondering if their request has gone through may prompt them to make a second appointment, which can result in double bookings and general confusion.

Be sure your online appointment software sends confirmation emails. The copy doesn’t need to be out of this world; you just need a simple message to let customers know that their appointment slot has been secured. 

6. Appointment Viewable Availability

Don’t make your customers go through the entire booking process just for them to find out the slot they want is unavailable. From the second they open up your interface, they should have access to all available appointment slots for the next several weeks or even months. This way, there’s no question as to what times are available to them in the near future.

This shouldn’t be difficult to accomplish, as your online appointment software should automatically update your appointment calendar every time someone books. Make it an option for customers to receive updates when last-minute appointments open up, giving them a chance to walk in on a day they would have preferred originally. 

7. Simplified Check-In

Online appointment software shouldn’t just simplify the booking process; it should make check-in a breeze. Most systems do this by maintaining a profile on each customer, which is then made available to the customer service staff. 

Some online appointment software can transfer booking details directly to your CRM system. This integration makes it easy to start each customer’s appointment as soon as they walk in the door. 

Knowing what customers want is one thing; delivering it is another. If your booking software makes signing up for a slot easy, customers are all the more likely to do it again. 

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