10 Activities for Your Inner Outdoorsman

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10 Activities for Your Inner Outdoorsman

Sheltering in place for many long months has taken its toll. Now that the warm weather is finally here, it’s time to get outside! Your Calendar is just itching for you to fill it with some outdoor activities.

Activities for Your Inner Outdoorsman

Your inner outdoorsman might need some waking up after hibernating for the winter or from living in the city for too long. Luckily, there are a number of activities suited for everyone from the biggest homebodies to the backwoods enthusiasts:

1. Camping

Need to get away for a weekend? A camping trip will do just the trick. There should be at least one campground within driving distance from where you live, yet far enough away that you feel like you’re on an expedition.

If you’re unable to travel or just don’t feel like completely roughing it, camp out in the backyard. This can be just as fun, especially with small children who don’t travel well. Besides, camping within walking distance from the kitchen is the best of both worlds.

2. Hiking

The great thing about hiking is that you can go at your own pace. There are trails of varying difficulties so you can go on a calm afternoon stroll one day and get in a solid uphill workout on the next. You can also decide just how long you want to hike, simply turning around when you’re feeling ready to head back home.

If you live in the concrete jungle without access to nearby hiking trails, look for greenbelts and parks with walkways instead. These are beautiful and accessible places to talk a walk or go on a jog by yourself or with family.

3. Rock Climbing

Daredevils around the world chase the thrill of summiting the largest and most difficult peaks they can find. There’s a great sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a rigorous climb and enjoying the spectacular view of your achievement.

The reality is that not many people are willing and able to participate in outdoor rock climbing. However, you can have just as much fun doing some indoor rock climbing. Your innermost outdoorsmen will be just as entertained, and you’ll be much safer all the while.

4. Biking

You’ve heard the saying “it’s as easy as riding a bike”. There’s a reason this phrase has been around for so long; you never truly forget how to ride a bike. Put that to the test by saddling up for a bike ride.

There are varying degrees of biking for everyone from aspiring Olympic athletes to parents looking to unplug their kids from video games. You can take a mountain bike to hit the trails, get a street bike for some intense exercise, or take the family on a Sunday ride with whatever wheels you got. Biking can even replace your commute to work if you’re within riding distance.

5. Bird Watching

Want to enjoy the great outdoors without feeling like you’re only trying to survive? Give bird watching a try. This activity surrounds you with nature but encourages you to stay as still as possible instead of hiking up a mountainside.

Many bird watchers take a guidebook and a set of binoculars and try to spot as many species as they can. To take the hobby up a notch, grab a camera and work on your photography skills. The pictures you take will make a wonderful record of the time you’ve spent outdoors.

6. Golf

Another way to get outdoors without expending too much energy is to play a round of golf. You can get a good walk in or enjoy a ride in a golf cart, one of the best forms of transportation out there.

Most golf courses are immaculate. Groundskeepers do an excellent job keeping everything green and luscious. You’ll almost feel like you’re walking through a field in the woods instead of on controlled, manicured grounds.

7. Water Sports

You don’t always have to be a landlubber to be an outdoorsman. You’re depriving yourself of a lot of great experiences if you stay away from the many lakes and rivers in our country.

For the adrenaline junkies, white water rafting is one of the most exhilarating water activities you can find. For a calmer experience, take a canoe or a paddleboard onto a serene lake.

8. Archery

Archery has come a long way since it was first invented. Before it was a method of self-defense and survival. Today, it’s an outdoorsman hobby for testing technique and accuracy.

The reason that archery falls so far down the list is that it’s a fairly expensive hobby. Quality bows aren’t cheap, although arrows are reusable and targets can be made at home. You might be able to find a local archery range that allows you to rent bows and a range to give it a try before making a full commitment. If they offer archery classes, add one to your Calendar for some beginner instruction.

9. Fishing

There aren’t many activities as therapeutic as fishing. Minimal effort is required to set up a pole and wait for the fish to bite. After casting your line you can sit back in a chair and read a book or let your eyes rest for a moment.

If you have reliable data, you can even get some work done while at the fishing pond. Take the time to catch up on emails or schedule a phone call in your Calendar for the time you’re out fishing. Just make sure that work doesn’t completely overtake your outdoor experience so it feels like you’re still getting away.

10. Horseback Riding

Can you imagine a time before cars? While today people will commute many miles just to and from work, many years ago the distance a horse could ride was your limit. Getting back to those deep American roots will be sure to bring out that inner outdoorsman of yours.

There’s nothing quite like riding a horse. Commanding such a powerful animal is an experience not many can say they’ve had in today’s world. Setting up a horseback ride in your Calendar for a picnic or just to feel the wind in your hair is an event you won’t soon forget.

Pick a couple of these outdoor activities to add to your Calendar. Use up your weekends and afternoons to get out and experience the world while you can.

10 Activities for Your Inner Outdoorsman was originally published on Calendar by .

Avoiding the ‘Black Hole’ of Customer Engagement

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Avoiding the ‘Black Hole’ of Customer Engagement

Automated appointment systems make life so much easier for both businesses and their customers. Booking and executing an appointment have never been more efficient. However, you need to be careful about falling into the “black hole” of customer engagement that can form around automation. 

Too many automated appointment systems facilitate client interaction during the booking process but end there. There are no response mechanisms or continuing interaction throughout the rest of the customer journey. Make sure you don’t lose people after they click the “Submit” button by following these tips:

Keep an Agent Within Reach

While online appointment software and other digitized features have nearly endless benefits, sometimes customers just need to talk to someone. It gets frustrating when you’re stuck with a chatbot and need to ask a more complicated question that only a human can answer. 

One of your employees doesn’t have to be available to help customers 24/7, as chatbots are able to do. Still, make sure your customers know they can speak with a customer service agent during business hours for more complex problems and concerns. 

When solving customer problems, your CS representatives have an excellent opportunity to further engage with customers. They can ask leading questions to get customers to provide feedback that, in ordinary situations, they might just keep to themselves. Have your reps record any comments customers make so you can take action on the issues they think need to be addressed. 

Send Out Customer Surveys

Customer engagement after the appointment is just as important as engagement before and throughout. The feedback you receive from customers provides valuable information on ways you can improve or practices you should continue using. 

After an appointment, send out a short email thanking customers for their business. Include a survey link in each email and ask customers to respond to questions about their experience. Make sure the survey link is easy to locate within your message. 

Use Social Media Regularly

If you want to engage with your customers when they’re not at your business, turn to social media. Roughly 70% of Americans have a social media account, most of which are used regularly. There are plenty of opportunities for customer engagement here.

Social media can spur customer engagement in several ways. An ad campaign will gather clicks that can lead to more appointment bookings. Inviting comments on posts provides another platform for customers to voice their comments and mention concerns the company can address.

Track Key Data Metrics

When customer engagement gets placed on the back burner, you have to find new ways to bring it back to the forefront. Set goals to track key metrics using customer data. In order to accomplish these goals, you’ll have to monitor customer engagement via online interactions. 

Set up your website to track customer engagement online. You’ll be able to see how long customers spend on your website, what pages they visit, and your landing page bounce rate. This information will help you adjust the layout to place forms and resources where they’ll best be seen. 

Data metrics can be drawn from your in-house team as well. Tracking the percentage of customers who accept an upsell will show you how customers are responding to this sales tactic. If percentages are low, you’ll know you need to change your strategy.

Incentivize Engagement

Some customers will purposely place themselves in the black hole of customer engagement because they simply don’t want additional interaction. If something goes wrong, they’ll either grin and bear it or take their business elsewhere without a word. 

Customers have the right to keep their thoughts to themselves, but your business benefits from their feedback and engagement. To draw them out of the woodwork, incentivize engagement to get the highest engagement rates possible.

A common business strategy is to take survey responses and use them as raffle tickets. Customers who leave feedback are entered into a drawing to win free services or other perks that are valuable to them. Using this tactic, you’ll receive more feedback than just the occasional review from those with strong opinions. 

Be Transparent

Nowadays, customers might associate surveys and unprovoked emails with marketing schemes intended to make a sale. Be transparent about the real reason you’re looking to boost customer engagement so they don’t shy away from your overtures.

For example, you might be reaching out to customers to inquire about a service package your company provides. Make it known from the get-go that you’re sending the survey to gauge whether you should continue to offer the package (or whatever your reason is). Customers won’t feel like you’re only trying to sell them something and will be more likely to provide honest feedback. 

Make Engagement Count

Finally, when you gather feedback, do something about it! Customers will fail to see the need for interaction and engagement if your company isn’t listening or reciprocating. 

Let’s say customers consistently mention the long wait times they experience before each appointment with your business. Instead of just nodding in sad agreement, come up with a solution. Do you need to install self-check-in kiosks in the lobby or take measures to stop appointments from running long? Your actions will inspire customers to continue to provide feedback, as they’ll know it is being used to improve their experience. 

Learn to spot the signs of a customer engagement black hole so you can steer clear of it. As soon as you feel your business being drawn in, take the necessary steps to adjust your course. By doing so, you will retain more customers and keep your operations running smoothly.

7 Simple Ways to Make Team Meetings Count

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7 Simple Ways to Make Team Meetings Count

Team meetings play a traditional and sometimes obligatory role in office culture, but that doesn’t mean they’re appreciated.

On the contrary, a recent Harris poll revealed that 46 percent of employees would prefer to do anything else other than sit in a status meeting. Seventeen percent said they would rather watch paint dry. Yikes.

Transforming those counter-productive meetings into meaningful ones is no mean feat, but in this post, I’ll share seven simple tips ways to make team meetings count.

1. Keep it Casual

Instead of being an extension of office life, attending a team meeting should feel like you’re taking a breather from your work.

To make that feeling a reality for your workforce, try setting a more casual tone in your team meetings by starting with an interactive game, a quick story, or even a joke. However, be wary of being overly relaxed, lest your important team meetings become nothing more than social gatherings.

2. Ditch The Chairs

To further set your team meetings apart from the daily grind, empty out the chairs from your meeting room and have stand-up meetings instead.

Not only does standing up encourage engagement, but it also reduces meeting times by up to 34%, so your team can spend less time in meetings and more time producing results.

3. Refresh the Agenda

If your agenda rarely changes, you can’t expect anything other than stale meetings.

To keep your employees engaged, refresh your agendas with relevant issues, industry news, and new strategies that can help the company on micro and macro levels.

But whatever you do, don’t invent talking points in order to “fill up” your agenda. If nothing needs to be discussed, then so be it.

4. Rotate The Leader

Each meeting should be led by one person for the sake of efficiency. Rotating that leader will give your team meetings the variety they desperately need.

You’ll want to write up a short guideline for different leaders to follow, but ultimately, you should let your employees volunteer and enjoy the experience of leading a meeting.

However, if the meeting is being held in order to make an urgent decision, be sure that the leader is also a high-ranking decision-maker.

4. Celebrate Successes

If your company wins a new contract or an employee reaches a personal milestone — celebrate it.

Team meetings help make up the culture and personality of your brand, and if you aren’t marking the big occasions with some celebratory cake, you’re sowing the seeds for a disjointed workforce.

This also applies to project post-mortem meetings, where it’s best to end on a congratulatory note.

5. Get Feedback

Surveying your employees is perhaps the most efficient way to optimize your team meetings.

  • Ask them about what they want to discuss
  • How they want to discuss it
  • What suggestions they would make in order to make team meetings more enjoyable and useful

6. End With a Summary

Even when they’re kept short and sweet, your employees will typically forget the key points of a meeting by the time they return to their workstations.

To ensure that your employees are going back to work with the meeting’s most valuable advice in mind, spend thirty seconds at the end of each meeting summarizing the key takeaways.

7. Make Meetings Rare

Although team meetings can be made fun, productive, and inspiring; nobody can dispute that a team meeting is not real work.

I suggest you take a leaf out of 37Signals’ book and keep team meetings to a minimum. They prefer to make use of email and IM to communicate. As they say, “every minute spent outside of the meeting room is a minute you can get real work done instead.”

Make Team Meetings Count for Your Team

The disdain for team meetings is almost universal among employees.

But if your company can make team meetings enjoyable and meaningful, you’ll be set apart from your competitors. This can only be a good thing when your workforce inevitably shares stories about your company on platforms like GlassDoor.

How does your company approach team meetings?

Meaningful Motivation: What Actually Drives Employee Engagement

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Meaningful Motivation: What Actually Drives Employee Engagement

Managing employees is tricky. While our workers tell us money is the way to maximize productivity, results tell a different story. What do we believe?

Recent experiments run by Dan Ariely, author of the book Payoff, showed that money is a poor motivator for getting the best work out of people. In fact, large bonuses for key executives produced deteriorating efficiency.

Based on these findings, if not money, what incentives produce the output employees?

Here are 3 rewards other than cash that we can give to our workforce to boost productivity. All these privileges have been shown to produce more engagement in companies than dollar-based incentives. Start using these motivation boosters in your business today, and watch your company culture and happiness increase substantially.

1. Seeing a satisfied customer

One of the worst parts about pivoting in a startup is the amount of previous work you must throw away. Imagine working 12 hours a day, sacrificing family time, and working weekends to help build a product you believe in. Then after months or years of working your tail off, the company you work for scratches the project. No one will use what you built, and now you have nothing to show for it. Your motivation is gone.

Unfortunately, this scenario is seen in companies of all sizes. While many times an instance like this is unavoidable, the way decision-makers handle a scenario like this can make all the difference.

Seeing a customer have a great experience with something that you helped create is a wonderful feeling. It allows you to see first-hand that what you are working on has a greater purpose, and you can see with your own eyes the positive effect you have caused.

To take advantage of this, if your company is going through a pivot, find ways to save as much of the work that you did as possible. Tie it into your new product, or dig into the processes that worked well before you pivoted and incorporate them into your new plan.

Throughout the building process, bring customers in and have them test the product in front of your team. When your employees see customers light up, they will light up as well.

Once the product is built, share positive feedback from your customers directly with your staff.

When I receive positive comments about the content my team produces, I share it directly with my team. It means more to them to see the customer say good job than it does for me to tell them the same.

People want to work for companies that are improving the lives of others. The best way to show your team they are working for a purpose is to allow them to see happy customers with their own eyes.

2. Meaningful motivation builds trust

Sadly, some employees view trust as more of a privilege than a right. For these organizations, motivation is nonexistent.

While having faith in your team can increase employee output exponentially, not having confidence in them can lead to your company lacking vision and any kind of connection with the organization.

While trust can be expressed in a variety of ways, one of the best is enabling a sense of autonomy to your workers. For instance, in my company, we allow everyone to work from home. There is no office, and we don’t have a set start time. We update each other on our daily schedule and all have tasks we are responsible for that day, but there is no micromanaging.

When I was deciding to build a company this way, I thought about the kind of company culture I’d want to work for. I didn’t want a company who treated me like a child. I wanted to be an equal in an organization, not a prisoner. As I’ve built an autonomous culture in my own company, the rewards have been substantial. Happier employees, increased productivity, and less burn out are just a few of the perks.

The more trust you put in people the better results you’ll get. If you don’t have assurance in your team, then you’re hiring the wrong people.

3. Congratulating Employees For A Job Well Done

When an employee is doing an amazing job, the first thought in many employer’s minds is to up their salary. The issue with this thought process is that the worker quickly becomes used to the increased pay anytime they do something well. So when they do something exemplary again, they want a bigger bonus. Then an even bigger bonus, and on and on.

Try going back down the ladder, and your worker will be furious. Once pay has become the dictator of worth, smaller bonuses are seen as a bad thing not a great motivator.

Instead, positive reinforcement is shown to be just as effective as increased pay but without diminishing returns. So, let’s say if instead of paying you a fat bonus for a project you knocked out of the park, I tell you how great of a job you did and invite you out for a drink. To most people, this will be an equal motivator as a bonus. But, when you do amazing things in the future, you won’t expect more money, you’ll instead just expect me to give you more praise.

Appreciating employees is easy. There are no monetary resources that you need to pour in. All you need is sincerity and time. Over the long term, this is a much better way to motivate your workforce, and a better way to build your company culture.

Your Appointment System Works for You. Does It Work for Your Clients?

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Your Appointment System Works for You. Does It Work for Your Clients?

If you use online appointment software, you’ll almost certainly love it. It’s amazing how the right piece of software can transform your entire business for the better. However, even if you’re happy with your appointment system, you need to know how your customers feel about it.

Every customer interaction you have provides an opportunity for feedback. The more opinions you get about your appointment system, the better service you can provide. Here are some ways you can get feedback from your clients at every step of their customer journey:

Send Email Blasts

While email is no longer everyone’s primary form of communication, it’s still a good way to seek feedback on your appointment system. Customers are likely used to receiving emails from you, so they’re the perfect spot to place some strategic survey links. 

Standalone survey emails are often deleted instantly, so incorporate your survey links into the emails your customers are already expecting. For example, add a survey link to the bottom of the confirmation emails you send when a customer books an appointment. Attaching a survey about your appointment system to an email thanking customers for their business could also do the trick. You can send them after each appointment or purchase.

Leverage Social Media

The average social media user spends nearly two and a half hours on digital platforms each day. That’s 150 minutes of opportunity for client interaction. You can use that time to target customers scrolling through their news feed. 

Surveys distributed through social media are visible and can be easily shared. They can also be packaged in a more attractive way than most other surveys.

Many businesses use social media to announce deals, events, and promotions to their followers. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Make customers who submit survey responses eligible for a giveaway. This will incentivize them to stop and answer questions about your appointment system rather than scroll right by. 

Use Built-In Wait Time

Keeping wait times for clients to a minimum is important. But customers will inevitably spend some time in your waiting room on occasion. This provides an excellent opportunity to pass along a small survey for them to take before their appointment begins.

Utilize the check-in procedure to get the process started. Once a customer signs in, ask them if they’d be willing to answer a few questions about your appointment system while they wait. Of course, you needn’t stop there. Your survey might also address the layout of the lobby or ask customers to rate their interaction with the front desk staff.

Update Customer Records

Not every survey about your appointment system has to be formal. Questions asked during an appointment will give you great, candid responses you’ll want to remember. To keep track of the information, record individuals’ responses on the relevant customer records. 

The patient portals doctors use are a great example of this. They allow doctors to keep track of patient responses during check-ups. Then they have all patient information in one place and can refer to the file as needed. 

Other industries can try a similar method. Online appointment software solutions that let you take note of any comments customers make could prove very useful. 

Run a Case Study

Is your company just now considering implementing online appointment software? There are things you can do to make the transition easier. Before you make the switch, run a case study with some volunteer customers. 

Identify customers who are willing to be your guinea pigs. Explain the new system and tell them that they’ll be asked for feedback about the experience. After a case study, you’ll know exactly how customers feel about your new appointment system before a full launch. 

Remember that when you run a case study, you should assemble a diverse group of volunteers. Older customers may have different questions and concerns about online appointment software than younger ones. Getting many perspectives will help you provide the best service to every customer who walks through your door. 

Add a Feedback Box

Making it easy for clients to share opinions can get you more respondents. So add a feedback box to your website. This will encourage customers to share their thoughts about your appointment system even when they’re on the website for a different purpose. 

A website feedback box acts just like a physical suggestion box you might have seen at a store or in your workplace. Online, the box may be a small chat bubble or even use a chatbot. Visitors can quickly jot down a thought and submit it in seconds. Plus, these feedback boxes catch customers at a moment when they’re naturally interacting with your website. This will make their responses more authentic and valuable. 

A customer might be using your online appointment software and make an immediate judgment. Maybe they think the layout is a bit cluttered, or they’re struggling to find a vital piece of information. Putting a feedback box right on the website will give customers a chance to share their insights. If it’s not there, they might forget the thought — and you might lose an opportunity to improve your business. 

As you gather feedback from your customers, be sure to put it in use. Businesses that strive to improve themselves in order to please their customers are the ones that stick around the longest. An appointment system that’s efficient and helpful is an important part of the client experience. Keep your customers happy by using the right system and taking their comments and concerns seriously. 

9 Productivity Mistakes You’re Making Every Day

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9 Productivity Mistakes You’re Making Every Day

Who wouldn’t want to be more productive? I think most of us would want to accomplish the goal of higher productivity daily — which is why you’re reading this article. The thing is, sometimes, when it comes to productivity, it’s not about adding a new hack, habit, or app to your life. It’s eliminating the things that are holding you back, such as the following nine mistakes.

9 Productivity Mistakes You’re Making Every Day

1. Not making the most of your morning.

There might have been a time when you consistently hit snooze and stayed in bed until the very last second before you have to go. But, we’re creatures of habit, and a morning routine gives us that much-needed structure. In turn, you’ll be healthier and more productive.

So, how should you spend your morning? Well, that’s really up to you. But here are some suggestions you should try:

  • Wake up before everyone else so that you have time to yourself.
  • Don’t look at your phone as soon as you wake up.
  • Avoid coffee first thing, and drink a 24 oz glass of water instead.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Read, journal, meditate, and exercise.
  • Set a daily intention.
  • Review your calendar.

Most importantly, plan the night before so that you aren’t rushing around in the morning. For example, packing your lunch and laying out your clothes. And, don’t forget to establish and stick to a regular sleep schedule.

2. Wasting the two most productive hours of the day.

“One of the saddest mistakes in time management is the propensity of people to spend the two most productive hours of their day on things that don’t require high cognitive capacity (like social media),” psychologist Dan Ariely said in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA). “If we could salvage those precious hours, most of us would be much more successful in accomplishing what we truly want.”

When asked when are these “golden hours,” Ariely responded, “Generally, people are most productive in the morning. The two hours after becoming fully awake are likely to be the best.”

At the same time, this varies from person to person. But, Stephen Borgman, in Psychology Today, says, “Everyone needs a powerful morning routine to buffer stress and maximize their days.”

Most of us have an idea of when we’re most productive and when we’re not. If you’re uncertain, track your time to get a clearer picture. After identifying your peak hours, spend that time on your most demanding and challenging tasks of the day.

3. Treating cheating as a reward.

“People often decide to treat themselves if they are doing something they find difficult, such as dieting, saving money, exercising or working,” writes Amy Johnson in Lifehack. “However, if someone treats themselves to a dress after a week of saving, this undermines the achievement they have made.” Even worse, this could ‘encourage you to ditch your plan entirely, as you’ve already been ‘bad.’”

“Try to view the act of you achieving your goals as a treat,” suggests Amy. “You wanted to improve yourself — and now you are well on your way.”

4. Allowing yourself to get mentally fatigued.

You’ll not want to waste your most productive hours on low-demand tasks. Remember, who only have so much energy and willpower in a day. So, it’s better to reserve it for essential activities. Better than just reserving your energy is to build your energy during the day.

Deep Patel gives some ways to boost your energy during the day that I’ve found to be quite successful — including getting rid of emotional contagions.

Another way to preserve — and build your energy throughout the day is to block apps and distracting noises when focused on deep work. Take frequent breaks, walk around your building — do something to recharge and recover from mental fatigue. If mental fatigue is something that you struggle with — go back to the Pomodoro Technique. It’s where you work in 25-minute blocks and then take a short break.

5. Falling into the urgency trap.

If there is one takeaway I want you to remember from this article, not everything is an emergency. I know that you’ve got a full plate. But, you won’t be able to clear it if you keep piling more on.

One way to avoid this is by creating a master list and analyzing it. Your master list is everything that you need or want to get done. Don’t worry about putting it in order just yet.

After you’ve developed your list, use the 4 D’s of time management to thin it down. The tasks that need to be done right now should be put in your calendar first. These would be things that can be completed quickly, have deadlines, or contribute to your goals.

For important tasks that aren’t urgent, defer them to a later time. Urgent but unimportant tasks can be delegated. And, anything that is neither should be deleted from your list.

6. Being afraid to say “no.”

Let’s say that you’re in the zone, and there’s a knock on your door. Your co-founder pops their head in and asks if you have a minute. Unless it’s a life or death situation, your response should be “no.”

Of course, you don’t want to come off like a jerk. You can merely tell the individual you’re busy and ask if they can come back in an hour when you’re free.

The same idea is valid to any sort of time request. You just received an invite for an unnecessary meeting? Decline it. What do you do if you’ve already committed to a party this weekend? Have it clearly in your mind that if you’ve already accepted one engagement, you can’t attend another social function.

As Derek Sivers once wrote, “If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say ‘no.’” When you do, you can remain focused on your priorities and avoid spreading yourself too thin.

7. Believing in the myth of multitasking.

“Multitasking might be your favorite way to forge through your daily tasks,” writes Howie Jones in an article for Calendar. “The logic is flawless. Accomplishing two things instead of one thing is always better.”

Here’s the problem, though. Multitasking is a myth. The reason? “The human brain seems to be set up to handle one task at a time,” explains Howie. “It is impossible to change the way our brains are set up, so it is better to accept reality and avoid multitasking.”

As a result, when you multitask, “you cost yourself time and efficiency that you cannot get back.” Focus on one thing at a time and then move on to your next task.

8. Focusing on time, not results.

All too often, we focus on how many hours we work and not what we’ve achieved. It’s like some strange badge of honor. Do you think that you’re any more productive by working 80 plus hours per week?

I hate to break it to you. But you’re not. In fact, according to a Stanford study, productivity begins to drop after working 50 hours per week. And, it plummets so much after working 55 hours that it’s pointless.

What’s more, research from Behance “found that placing importance on hours and physical presence over action and results leads to a culture of inefficiency (and anxiety).” Furthermore, sitting “at your desk until a specific time creates a factory-like culture that ignores a few basic laws of idea generation and human nature:

  • When the brain is tired, it doesn’t work well.
  • Idea generation happens on its own terms,
  • When you feel forced to execute beyond your capacity, you begin to hate what you are doing.

Instead, reflect and acknowledge what you’ve accomplished in a day. An easy way to do this would be creating a done list to show you how you were productive and not just busy.

9. Thinking that work-life balance is 50/50.

Perhaps the biggest misconception about work-life balance is that it’s a 50-50 split. In other words, you spend an equal amount of time at work, and the other at home.

The reality is that that’s not realistic. Work-life balance is all about doing the right thing at the right time. For example, you need to launch your app by the end of the week. That’s where a majority of your time and energy should be focused. But your child has to go to the emergency room. Well, that should take precedence over everything else.

Sometimes if you want to attain a work-life balance — you need to find something in life that is worth balancing. Do you want to run a marathon? The training will build your confidence and force you to adjust your life experiences better. Have you always wanted to learn another language besides the two that you already know? Immersion in a new language learning program will balance your life better than you may be doing currently.

“A more attainable goal than work-life balance — is work-life integration,” writes Amanda Abella in a previous Calendar article. That means integrating “your work and your life so that they complement each other instead of competing with one another.”

Leveling Up Your Respect for Your Customers’ Time

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Leveling Up Your Respect for Your Customers’ Time

They say that time is money. The problem is that while you can make back your money, you can’t regain lost time. That’s one reason respecting your customers’ time is one of the most important things your business should strive for. 

Customers who feel that they and their time are respected will more likely remain loyal to your business. Loyal customers increase revenue, reduce turnover, and provide referrals that will further grow your business. Here’s how you can make sure you’re respecting the time of every customer who walks through your doors:

Always Start Appointments on Schedule

When your customers commit to an appointment, they’re offering up their precious time to your business. Starting every appointment on time shows them that you respect the time commitment they make. 

There are many reasons why an appointment might start late. An employee might get stuck in traffic, or the previous customer might be tardy, pushing subsequent appointments back a few minutes. You can avoid delaying the next appointment’s start time by scheduling some wiggle room between appointment slots. Alternatively, you might have one of your employees begin serving the customer — bringing them a beverage or handling their paperwork — until their scheduled service provider is available.

Send Reminders in Advance

Reminders are one of the most effective tools businesses can use to prevent no-shows and late arrivals from happening. However, when you send the reminder is also important. Reminding customers about their appointment only an hour beforehand isn’t likely to be the most effective approach. 

The best reminders are the ones customers can set themselves. Some will prefer those last-minute reminders, but many others will want their reminders a day or even a week in advance. Provide reminder flexibility through your online appointment software so each reminder notification can be customized for maximum effectiveness. 

Prioritize the Customer

Running a business involves a lot of moving parts. Responsibilities may include back-office roles like payroll, HR, and more. As important as these aspects of a business are, customer needs should always be the priority unless there’s an emergency in another department.

For example, let’s say you’re in charge of running a dentist’s office. There are supplies to be ordered and hygienists’ schedules to be arranged, but you have a customer waiting at the front desk. How will they feel if you put them on the back burner? From their perspective, they’re being neglected, which will not result in good reviews of your business or recommendations to their friends. 

Make it a point to help out every customer before turning to other tasks or dealing with co-workers. If you have issues balancing back-office tasks with customer interactions, consider increasing your workforce to close the gap. 

Constantly Seek Efficiency

Respecting your customers’ time goes behind assisting them on a daily basis. You should constantly seek to improve your business’s efficiency to help future customers save even more time. 

Online appointment software is an excellent example of increasing efficiency to respect your customers’ time. Using online software, booking and managing appointments is faster and easier than ever. Customers don’t need to call in to schedule each of their appointments and can even book them after business hours. 

Optimizing your business operations will also show you value the time customers lend to you. Perhaps the paperwork you have patients fill out before their appointments causes bookings to run longer than expected. Look for ways to digitize these forms so they can be completed faster — and preferably only once — for the benefit of everyone interacting with your business. 

Focus on Communication

Ask any team leader, teacher, or couple, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: Communication is key to success. There are two ways communication will help you respect your customers’ time. 

First, ask your customers how they think you can better respect their time. Simple surveys sent after appointments will give you the answers you need. Customer feedback regarding a specific aspect of your business, perhaps the check-in process, will direct you to the exact area that needs improvement.

Second, focus on team communication. A hair salon is a great example of how good team communication ensures a pleasant booking. Let’s say a guest arrives and shares some special requests at the front desk. If those aren’t passed along to the stylist, guests will waste time repeating the same things over again. 

Resolve Problems Quickly

Even when you’re trying your best, mistakes will happen. Appointments will run late, details will get misplaced, and your internet might even go down. How quickly and effectively you resolve problems is another way you show your customers that their time and satisfaction are important to you.

Here’s a scenario that you may have encountered before. At the end of an appointment, a customer comes up to the front desk with a problem — perhaps their parking didn’t get validated at their last appointment, or they’re not receiving appointment reminders. By the time your team has come up with a solution, the customer has become frustrated with their entire experience, even though everything prior to that point ran smoothly. 

Focus on teaching your employees problem-solving and critical thinking skills. While you can’t expect every problem to have an immediate solution, employees will be prepared to handle most potential holdups that cost your customers valuable time. 

When you show respect to your customers, they will reciprocate. This is vital for appointment-based businesses that require timeliness and cooperation to function efficiently. By embracing these tips, you’ll be on your way to better respecting your customers’ time — and they’ll know it.

Innovate, Innovate, Innovate

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Innovate, Innovate, Innovate

Thomas Edison once said, “There’s a way to do it better – find it.” In my opinion, that perfectly sums up what innovation is. But, marketing specialist Will Purcell has a more in-depth definition. “Innovation, as a concept, refers to the process that an individual or organization undertakes to conceptualize brand new products, processes, and ideas, or to approach existing products, processes, and ideas in new ways.”

Purcell adds that in the business world, there are three types of innovation to pursue. These include product, process, and business model innovations. Chasing any of these not only sparks creativity and inspiration, but it can also take your business to new levels.

The most obvious reason is that innovation will help your company grow. In fact, according to economists, between 1870 and 1950, innovation was responsible for 85% of all growth in the US economy. More recently, McKinsey reports that 84% of executives believe that innovation is important to growth strategy.

That actually makes sense. Through innovation, you’re better equipped to reduce waste and costs, embrace new opportunities, and stand out from your competition. Moreover, it can strengthen your relationships with customers and employees. And, it encourages you to continually improves and stay on top of trends so that you’ll remain relevant.

So, yeah. Innovation is incredibly important. And, in my opinion, it’s particularly true in the world we currently live in as we’re surrounded by so much uncertainty.

The good news? There are simple and effective ways to train yourself and your team to become more innovative, such as the following 10 techniques.

1. Cultivate your innovative traits.

There’s a misconception that some people are just born to be innovative. That’s not exactly true. Victor Poirier, a professor at the Institute of Advanced Discovery & Innovation at the University of South Florida, believes we all possess this trait.

“Almost everybody [has] innovative traits,” he told Fast Company. “Some people use them; some people don’t. [I did this research] to make people aware of what traits people do have, wake up dormant traits that they don’t even know they have, and prove the utilization of those traits.”

Which traits specifically? Poirier lists the ability to think abstractly, having deep and broad knowledge, curiosity, openness to risk, grit, and dissatisfaction with the status quo as the most common. If you notice any of these in you or a team member, he suggests seeking out experiences that force you to put them to the test.

For example, you’ve noticed that you’ve got some grit in you. You decide to strengthen this trait. You can do so by developing alternative plans to handle potential setbacks.

Poirier also recommends that you put yourself in environments that are conducive to innovation. And, you should have some ego since this can push you out of your comfort zone. Just make sure to keep it in check.

2. Turn “I can’t” into “I can.”

From my experiences, we often don’t chase innovation because there are roadblocks in the way. For example, maybe the COVID-19 pandemic forced you to close your retail shop. Instead of “I can’t make money because I can’t have indoor gatherings,” look for alternatives, such as opening an online shop.

That may sound simplistic. But, it’s possible if you start small and track your progress. Most importantly, believe in yourself. As Carolyn Rubenstein, author of Perseveranceputs it, “Don’t give yourself any other option. If other people can do it, so can you.”

3. Don’t discount “crazy” ideas.

Airplanes, coffee, light bulbs, personal computers, and vaccines. All are a part of daily life. But did you know that they were initially ridiculed?

The point is, never listen to the naysayers. Whenever you have an idea, jot it down and run with it if it keeps nagging you. It might not change the world. But, life is too short to live with regrets.

4. Shake things up.

I have nothing against routines. In addition to providing structure, it pretty much automates planning. At the same time, monotony can put you in a rut.

To avoid this and light the creativity spark, find ways to diverge from the normal — ideally every day. It could be something as small as eating something different for breakfast or working somewhere besides your office. Or, it could more of a shock to the system, like rearranging your home or traveling abroad.

5. Be constantly curious.

“Humans are naturally curious—anyone who’s spent time with a toddler knows that a hunger to figure things out is a primal motivating force,” wrote Neil Blumenthal, Co-founder, and Co-CEO of Warby Parker. “Learning also leads to ideation: the more you know, the more you imagine.”

“We’ve institutionalized learning in a few ways— by creating employee book clubs and establishing Warby Parker Academy, a program that offers free workshops on everything from frame design to public speaking to retail real estate to fantasy football,” adds Blumenthal. “Learning naturally leads to cross-pollination and ideation. Ideation can lead to action. Action is how innovation comes to life.

One of my favorite ways to cultivate curiosity is to just talk to others. It could be an employee, friend, or stranger you’ve just met at the airport. Actually, listening to others is a great way to learn new things and gain fresh perspectives.

6. Ban things.

While this may sound counterintuitive, Annabel Action, founder of the site Never Liked It Anyway, has a different opinion. When you have constraints and parameters in place, it can “inspire innovation by forcing you to think dynamically and creatively.”

“As an exercise, start banning things and exploring the implications,” recommends Annabel. Ban words, resources, and your primary target market. You could even take it further by banning “your default communication tools.” In most cases, “the ideas you settle on will likely be watered down versions of your initial suggestions, but the point of this exercise is to spark new thoughts on how to do the same old things.”

7. Involve others.

Even if you’re a solopreneur or pride yourself on being a lone wolf, the reality is that innovation stifles when other’s aren’t involved. You need someone to bounce ideas off of and then have them bring in their own diverse knowledge, experiences, and perspectives.

And, sometimes this can push you beyond your limitations. Take the “amazing competition” between John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

“It was a great way for us to keep each other on our toes,” Paul told Uncut in 2004. “I’d write ‘Yesterday,’ and John would go away and write ‘Norwegian Wood.’ If he wrote ‘Strawberry Fields, it was like he’d upped the ante, so I had to come up with something as good as ‘Penny Lane.’”

8. Enjoy the silence.

While you should definitely surround yourself with others, you also need time to be alone. Silence can lower blood pressure, bolster your immune system, and gives you a chance to reflect.

Silence also generates new cells in the hippocampus region of the brain, which is linked to learning, remembering, and emotions. Additionally, it can inspire creativity.

“When allowing thoughts to go where they will, inspiration may bubble up,” writes Suzanne Kane for PsychCentral. “Solutions to current or long-standing problems may suddenly occur to you, or a work-around or innovative approach may seem more feasible.”

9. Give failure a hug.

Richard Branson says: “Don’t let the fear of failure become an obstacle. You can create your own luck by opening the door to change, progression, and success.”

No one wants to fail. And, as someone who experienced it, it sucks. But, failure isn’t your enemy. It’s a friend who lets you know what works and what doesn’t so that you can find different ways to overcome obstacles.

10. Juggle multiple areas of interest.

“Truly great innovators aren’t satisfied with focusing on one project,” Deep Patel wrote in a previous Entrepreneur article. “They feel driven to pursue multiple ventures and interests, which may overlap and feed off of each other.” In other words, they possess multipotentiality, “or the ability to excel in multiple areas and fields.”

“It may seem like some creative people are easily distracted, constantly bouncing from one thing to the next,” explains Deep. “In reality, they are just wired to be interested in many things. They may feel a calling to dive into multiple projects because their wide range of creative interests pulls them in different directions.”

Employee Vacations Don’t Need to Slow Down Your Business

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Employee Vacations Don’t Need to Slow Down Your Business

As summer arrives, many employees are eyeing their next vacation destination. Managing absences can get tricky for even experienced business managers, especially if they don’t plan ahead.

However, employee vacations don’t have to slow your business down. There are ways to plan around them, and even encourage them, to keep workflows running smoothly and employees energized. Here’s how you can make it happen:

Recognize the Importance of Employee Downtime

First of all, you need to acknowledge the fact that employee vacations are necessary. When a manager is willing to work with employees to take time off, the process becomes a lot smoother. Additionally, you’ll see notable improvements in workplace productivity.

The American Psychological Association’s Work and Well-Being survey found that 58% of workers were more productive and 55% believed their work quality increased following a vacation. Paid time off (PTO) allows employees to recharge and come back with an improved mindset, which ends up paying dividends to your business. 

Once you realize that vacations help your business instead of hurt it, you’ll be more open to implementing the following suggestions to make time off increasingly possible. Employees, in turn, will be more willing to cooperate with your PTO guidelines when you show them that you truly value their vacation time. 

Operate Above the Bare Minimum

A big reason why businesses struggle with employee vacations is because they regularly operate on a bare minimum basis. They have just enough employees to cover every shift. When someone asks for PTO, it means there’s no one who can pick up the slack. 

Employees who are overworked and feel incapable of taking time off will burn out quickly. This leads to a decline in job performance and high turnover rates, which are complicated and costly for businesses to handle. 

Sit down with your finance team and calculate the budget needed to add one or two more team members to your roster. Even having a few part-time or on-call employees can help cover essential tasks when a worker is on vacation or even taking sick leave. 

Encourage Vacations During Slow Season

While you’re building a culture that supports time off, try to do so as efficiently as possible. Businesses will be able to support employee vacations much more easily during their slow season as opposed to their peak months. 

Let’s use a car dealership and/or its service department as an example. The auto industry typically booms in the summer when driving conditions are optimal and travel is more feasible. You’ll want all hands on deck in these months, so encourage your employees to take more time off in the fall and winter. 

Of course, many vacations and family reunions are planned in the summer when kids are out of school. Don’t use the busy months as an excuse to never allow an employee to take time off. Work with all employees to stagger their PTO so you can cater to their personal situations and the needs of your business.

Update Your Scheduling System

The system that many organizations use to field and approve time-off requests is outdated. There are too many hoops to jump through, or forms get lost and verbal commitments are forgotten. If you really don’t want employee vacations to slow down your business, update your scheduling system.

Start by moving the entire process online. If you’re reading this blog, you probably already use online appointment software to benefit your business and its customers. Implement technology to do the same with your employee PTO scheduling. 

Scheduling software will keep employee shifts organized, ensuring that everyone knows their work schedule and every day is covered. PTO requests can be digitally submitted, reviewed, and approved in minutes. The schedule can then be altered accordingly without miscommunications or lost time. 

Establish PTO Guidelines

Rules are never fun, but they’re necessary to maintain order and equity. With a set of rules and guidelines in place, your employees will be able to better choose when to cash in on their vacation time.

For example, one of your rules might be that two employees in the same department can’t be on vacation at the same time. Workers then know that they won’t be able to ask off work, except for emergencies, if certain dates are already claimed. This also encourages employees to plan in advance so that a lack of foresight doesn’t cause them to miss a wedding or a family reunion. 

Transition as Much As Possible to Remote Work

Employees who work from home have much more flexibility when it comes to taking a vacation. In many cases, they can still work on the road, and the business won’t even notice they’re gone. Enabling as many remote work opportunities as possible keeps your business running even with vacation time in the mix.

For appointment-based businesses, there may be fewer opportunities right now for remote work. Still, you can look at digital customer service options or have your back-office teams work from home. Your IT technician can be just as effective from a hotel room in the Bahamas if you really need them. 

Another exciting development in the world of appointment-based businesses is telecommunication. Some professionals, such as physicians and therapists, can hold consultations with patients via videoconferencing. This gives these service providers more scheduling flexibility, allowing them to plan vacation activities around the appointments they have each day. 

Vacations are an essential part of life. Make sure both you and your team are taking the time you need to unwind and relax. And use these tips to make sure your business doesn’t suffer because of it. 

Calendar Analytics Tell How You Use Your Time

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Calendar Analytics Tell How You Use Your Time

How are you using your time at work? How are you using your time at home? If you don’t measure these analytics on yourself — you really don’t know! Did you make your to-do list for today? Is a to-do list the way you measure your success — a checked-off list? But what if you really took ten times longer to do — or accomplish that to-do list than you really wanted to take? You won’t know the answers to these questions in your life and work unless you use Calendar Analytics to tell you the truth about yourself.

Calendar Analytics Tell How You Use Your Time

Did you know that businesses waste an estimated $37 billion on ineffective meetings annually? Yes, that’s billions, not millions, of dollars lost simply due to inefficiency. You can keep yourself and your business out of the equation by using Calendar to master your time management.

Every time you use your Calendar to plan meetings, track hours, or organize your day, it’s working behind the scenes to make time management easier for you. The secret is Calendar Analytics, part of your dashboard that calculates how you’re using your time. With this insight, you can better tell how your time should be spent to be more productive and efficient:

Meeting Distribution

Start by looking at the distribution of your meetings. When you plan a meeting in your Calendar, it gets archived into an analytics bank. With enough data, you will be able to see where you’re spending the most time and will be able to make adjustments accordingly.

For example, you might look at your time analytics and see that half of your meetings are set up with your sales team. You might not have noticed the attention you’ve been giving one department over the others and can take the steps necessary to plan more meetings with your other teams.

Your Calendar will also keep track of meeting size as well as the rate at which invitees accept or reject your meeting invitations. These numbers will help you organize more effective meetings and save time doing so.

Location Recommendations

You can waste up to 30 minutes a day simply looking for a place to hold a meeting. While picking the right location is rewarding, all that lost time will hurt you in the long run. With Calendar Analytics, you can save that time and put it to better use.

When you plan a meeting in your Calendar, include the location where it takes place.  Your Calendar will track where your meetings occur most frequently and will make recommendations to you based on when and where your next meetings are located.

After a short time, Calendar Analytics will develop a system that will save you plenty of time when it comes to planning meetings — and executing on your plan. The time you would spend looking for the perfect restaurant to meet a client can instead be used to prepare your sales pitch or respond to the last of your emails.

People Analytics

Just as important as how you’re spending your time is who you’re spending it with. People analytics show who you’re meeting with the most by analyzing the people invited to your Calendar events. As an example, you might realize that you haven’t scheduled a one-to-one meeting with one of your employees in a while, and they’re due for a meeting with you.

People analytics, like all time management tools, extends beyond the office. How much time are you spending with your spouse and family? If you see their ranking drop on your list of people you’ve been meeting with, it’s time to plan some more family activities to improve your work-life balance.

Time Balance

Speaking of balance, there’s nothing time analytics do better than help you get your life on track. Anywhere you feel like your efforts need to be focused better can use the help of time analytics to tighten up. Whether that’s spending more time with family or getting more exercise, your Calendar can help you.

Keep track of when you complete certain activities and their duration. The more you’re able to track, the better. For example, tracking the hours you spend watching Netflix will give you concrete evidence that you’re spending more time on the couch than you’d like. Use the information you find from evidence to change your life by scheduling your time differently. Lower your binge-watching time by adding time to read or go on a walk in your Calendar to replace it.

Your Calendar will display your time usage in percentages at first glance, but you can look at the hours and minutes you spend in particular meetings and activities as well. Set goals on what you want to accomplish, like a certain number of hours spent at the park with your kids a week, and use your analytics to gauge your progress.

Team Analytics

Calendar analytics work so much better when your whole team is on board. Everyone’s Calendars will work together to make team meetings a breeze and office productivity reach all-time highs. As a leader, you’ll be able to direct your employees so much better with personalized time analytics for each person.

Make sure you’re scheduling those one-on-one meetings with your employees with regularity. Have them come prepared with their Calendar analytics. An overview is fine if they have personal family information included in their Calendar. Talk with them about how their time is being used and how they can improve. Perhaps they need a better morning schedule or to pick a closer restaurant for their next lunch break.

In addition, you can share your Calendar as an example of how time analytics helps you use your time more effectively. For this to be an effective teaching moment, you need to be using your Calendar diligently; otherwise, you won’t make much of an impact. Strive to set the example with time management as the leader of your organization.

You’ll be amazed by everything you’re able to accomplish by using Calendar analytics to structure your everyday life. Not only will you be able to fit so much more into your schedule, but you’ll also feel less stressed as you plan things out and create the perfect balance.

Calendar Analytics Tell How You Use Your Time was originally published on Calendar by Hunter Meine.

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