5 Ways to Encourage Reading at Your Workplace

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5 Ways to Encourage Reading at Your Workplace

Many business moguls, including Warren Buffett, swear by reading. But while reading is a great way to grow, it’s awfully time-consuming.

If members of your team are struggling to find time to crack a book, productivity hacks can help you make space in your schedule. Tactics like time-blocking can prevent other priorities from stealing time you’d meant to spend reading.

Encouraging employees to carve out reading time makes sense on multiple levels. Not only is it a great approach to personal development, but it also builds community. Book clubs help team members connect from afar, and everyone appreciates a good book recommendation. 

Reading is a key employee development strategy, especially at a time when people are stuck at home. Take a look at these tips to get your team members into the habit:

1. Set the example.

Like other aspects of company culture, teamwide reading starts at the top. If you never read anything, then how can you expect your employees to do so?

Start by setting a goal for how much you want to read in a month. Also, make note of what you want to read. Once you get into a rhythm, you can challenge yourself with more frequent reading or more challenging literature.

Not sure what to start with? Consider some of this year’s top-rated leadership books, such as Brené Brown’s “Dare to Lead.”

Don’t worry too much about showing off your reading. In team conversations, you’ll naturally bring up ideas that you find interesting. Soon, others on the team will start to do the same.

2. Start an office book club.

Reading might not seem like a social activity, but it’s a great way to build relationships. The readers on your team can provide new perspectives, which are fun to discuss and can enhance your leadership skills. 

A book club is a great way to do this. Select a different book each month and designate a time to discuss it. Let a different person choose the next book when you’re finished. Make a game of it: Perhaps the first person to finish the current book gets to select the team’s next read. 

The books chosen do not need to be directly related to work. The benefits of reading can come from fiction as well. You might be surprised by what insights you can glean from even the most “left field” readings.

What if people can’t agree on what to read? Don’t force everyone on the team to read the same thing. A happy hour where people discuss their favorite books is less formal but still beneficial. 

3. Create an office library.

Sometimes, the barrier to reading is merely accessibility. If there are reading materials around, people are more likely to utilize them. 

Think about waiting rooms: Customers naturally pick up magazines left out to pass the time. An office library takes this to the next step by giving meaningful and varied choices to your team. 

Of course, you’ll need books to fill the library. Get your employees’ help choosing what to include. Aim for a good mix of nonfiction and fiction books. 

Bookcases are a must, but you can’t just put books on a shelf and call it a day. Change up your display periodically. Implement a checkout system so you can track what’s been removed and returned.

Finally, make sure your library has a reading space. Put a comfortable chair by a window. Leave out a selection of coffee and tea nearby. 

4. Set up a Goodreads account.

Goodreads is a site that tracks the books you’ve read. Readers are able to friend each other and see what people are reading. 

Until COVID-19 is over, this is one way to make an office book club work remotely. Set up a company account and ask employees to connect their personal accounts to it. Give a small incentive, such as a gift card, to the employee who manages to read the most books in a quarter or year. 

5. Stick with it.

A reading culture won’t take off by itself. The good news is, you don’t have to be the one to keep it going. Appoint a team member who’s a particularly voracious reader. 

Consider giving a raise or desirable title to the person leading your reading group. Even extra days off can make tempt people to take the position.

What if the book group’s leader is struggling to make enough time for it? Encourage them to delegate some of their other responsibilities. Creating culture can be a full-time position by itself, so don’t treat it as a small side project. 

When you put the right pieces together, you can have a robust reading culture. And when team members are constantly consuming new ideas, they become more valuable to the company. Treat reading like a critical part of their professional development because, after all, it is. 

Make Your Customer Experience Better

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Without customers, your genius, innovative, and potentially millionaire dollar idea is worthless. That may sound harsh. But, that’s just reality. Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. And, as such, you need to do everything to improve the customer experience.

What exactly is the customer experience?

I’m glad you asked. Forrester Research defines customer experience, also known as CX, as, “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.” That includes the first impression you’ve made with them to becoming a happy and satisfied lifelong advocate.”

To put that more directly, if customers have positive experiences with your company, the more likely they’ll come back for more. They may even begin to refer your business to others because you’re so awesome.

What’s more, studies show that consumers are more willing to pay more for a better experience. So far, this sounds like a win-win.

Isn’t the CX the same thing as customer service?

Not exactly. Customer service is just one part of CX.

That may sound confusing. But, think of it this way. You take your car to the maniac to get it fixed. Everyone at the shop is pleasant, and it was painless scheduling an appointment. However, when you pick your vehicle up, the problem wasn’t fixed. And, to make matters worse, they overcharged you.

Even though the customer service aspect was outstanding, the experience overall was terrible. But, if the mechanic fixed your car faster and cheaper then quoted, you would have a stellar customer experience.

Hopefully, that clears up the difference. Now, let’s explore nine ways that you can make the customer experience better.

9 Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience

1. Create a clear customer experience vision.

If you genuinely want to deliver an exceptional customer experience, then you first need to have a clear customer-focused vision. Besides providing you with a road map on where to go, these guiding principles are communicated with your team so that everyone is on board.

For example, Zappos has embedded its core values among its team. The result? The company has earned a positive reputation for fulfilling and wowing customer expectations.

If you’re stuck, McKinsey recommends answering the following key questions:

  • What is a company’s appetite for change in the near term? Is the goal to change the customer experience fundamentally or simply to improve it at the margins?
  • What is the gap between the needs and wants of customers and what they actually experience?
  • How can the company gain a customer-experience advantage against competitors?
  • At which point in the experience, should the company concentrate on having a real impact?
  • How do the overall capabilities of the staff support the customer experience the company wants to provide?

“One caveat: it is easy to err by aiming too low. In our experience, looking at historical performance and at whatever helped satisfy customers in the past can often make marginal tweaks seem good enough,” add Brooke Boyarsky, Will Enger, and Ron Ritter. “Understanding the fundamental wants and needs of customers must be a step in determining what a great experience for them should look like.”

That may seem like a lot to absorb. But, Robert Spector put it best. “Don’t reinvent the wheel. Focus on winning one customer at a time. Be honest and sincere. Do what’s right. There’s nothing magical about this. That’s been my guiding principle. To make it work, you have to live it every day. Make it your mindset.”

2. Get to know your customers.

“The most valuable resource you can give customers is your time. Listen to them to uncover their real needs. Only then can you find a way to solve their problems or meet their expectations. Treat the cause, not just the symptoms.” — Ginger Conlon

I would think that you already know who your customers are. At the minimum, you should have information like their age, gender, geographical location, and possibly even their income. But, you should also beware of their hobbies and interests.

While undoubtedly useful, you need to go above and beyond by really getting to know your customers. It’s the only way that you’ll understand what their wants and needs are, as well as what motivates them. From there, you can segment them and create buyer personas. In turn, this will help you connect with them by empathizing with them or creating more personalized experiences.

Sam Walton used to do this by having face-to-face conversations with Walmart customers — either at restaurants or in the parking lot. That might not be an option nowadays. But, you could survey your customers through email, your website, or even good old direct mail.

You could also use historical data, like past purchases, and analytics. For example, which channels are driving the most traffic to your site or which features of product customers are engaging with the most.

3. Audit the customer experience from multiple internal perspectives.

“Since the customer journey is affected by every facet of your business, you mustn’t focus on only one department when conducting an audit of customer experience,” writes Clint Fontanella for HubSpot. After all, “customers interact in some way with every part of your business, so to gain a complete picture of CX, you will need to consider the unique perspective of each one of your internal departments.”

In most cases, this would involve the following three:

  • Marketing. Because they are focused on customer acquisition, “they will have the best insight into brand awareness and user expectations.”
  • Sales. These team members are key players during the early part of the customer journey. As such, they “have information on the challenges that customers are encountering daily and how they expect your product or service to address those roadblocks.”
  • Customer service. Because they interact with your customers most frequently, they are most knowledgeable in identifying the pain points of your customers.

4. Leverage AI and machine learning.

Gartner predicted that by 2020, virtual agents, think chatbots, will manage 85% of customer interactions. Does that mean that you should solely rely on technology when it comes to interacting with customers? Of course. When it comes to more complex issues, customers always prefer human interaction.

However, a majority of people will always choose chatbots if it saves them ten minutes. What’s more, chatbots can be to:

  • Provide 24/7 service.
  • Answers simple questions quickly.
  • Can educate potential customers on the products or services you offer.
  • Assist reps by providing them with essential information like your name and problem os that the customer isn’t repeating themselves.
  • AI and machine learning can review past behavior to help with predictive personalization and smart suggestions.

5. Forget regular “business hours.”

As just mentioned, technology can be used to deliver 24/7 customer service. That’s great when someone wants to ask a question or resolve a complainant promptly. But what about more complex issues?

For example, let’s say that you’re on a business trip. As you’re eating breakfast, you spill coffee on your dress shirt. Here’s the problem. It’s 8 a.m., you don’t have any other shirts, and the meeting starts in an hour. No way can get the shirt cleaned and pressed in-time. And, most stores aren’t open.

However, what if there was only one store in town that was? Because that saved your day, you’ll probably become a loyal supporter of that establishment. Even better, you’ll want to steer as many people as you can in their direction.

6. Deliver an omnichannel experience.

As defined by TechTarget, this “is a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience, whether they’re shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone, or in a brick-and-mortar store.”

For example, you could welcome new customers with a discount on both SMS and email, signs-up for Facebook messenger updates, or can store online cart items on both their desktop and app.

Other examples would be Bank of America’s app that allows users to deposit checks and schedule appointments. And, there’s the Starbucks loyalty reward program. Even though it’s an app, users can add money via the app, website, or in-store.

7. Let customers help themselves.

As already mentioned, customers demand speed — hence why they’ve embraced chatbots. However, before interacting with a bot, their preferred choice is self-service. 70% of customers expect websites to include a self-service application. What’s more, 73% of customers prefer using a company’s site over live chat, social media, or SMS.

How can you make this a thing? Well, determine what your customer’s most common questions are so that they can be answered on the FAQ section of your site. Also, because most people tend to be visual learners, use images like screenshots and tutorial videos as much as possible.

Moreover, make sure that your search field is easy to use. For instance, using tags for specific keywords so that they aren’t scouring through hundreds of pages. And definitely make sure that your self-service portals have been optimized for mobile users.

8. Build a customer-centric culture.

If you want to successfully adopt customer-centricity, which is something only 14% of marketers have said is a hallmark of their company. You need to build a customer-centric culture. And, according to Denise Lee Yohn over at HBR, you can do so by:

  • Instilling empathy as a universal value.
  • When hiring, gauge potential employees, their customer orientation.
  • Democratize customer insights so that everyone has access to crucial information.
  • Encourage direct interaction with customers.
  • Keep your team happy and satisfied. If they feel good about your company, so will customers. As Shep Hyken pit it, “If we consistently exceed the expectations of employees, they will consistently exceed the expectations of our customers.”
  • Tie compensation to the customer.

9. Measure, optimize, repeat.

Finally, it’s essential to know that making your customer experience better is an ongoing process. Track metrics and continually seek out feedback and data on how to improve. Most importantly, make sure that you follow through and repeat what has worked.

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

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

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

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

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

1. Send reminders about waits.

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

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

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

2. Check your seating layout.

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

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

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

3. Let in some natural light.

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

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

4. Make Wi-Fi easy to access. 

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

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

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

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

5. Provide refreshments.

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

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

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

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

6. Add art to the room. 

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

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

7. Set out reading materials. 

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

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

8. Take care of the kids.

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

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

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

How to Handle Zoom Fatigue

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Zoom meetings are on the rise — thank you, coronavirus! On the one hand, that’s awesome. During these last couple of months, I’ve relied on Zoom to catch-up with friends, family, and stay in-touch with my team. But, if I’m really saying how I feel about yet another Zoom meeting — I’m exhausted.

I’m definitely not the only one. Zoom fatigue is real. But why?

Why Are Video Calls So Draining?

Despite the convenience, Zoom meetings are actually more exhausting than in-person events. While the amount and intensity of the tired-feeling — it varies from one person to the next. The fatigue often occurs because you’re jumping from one call to another.

“When we’re on all these video calls all day long, we’re kind of chained to a screen,” said Suzanne Degges-White, a licensed counselor and chair of counseling and counselor education at Northern Illinois University.

“It’s just psychologically off-putting,” she said. “I’ve got to show up again but the thing is, we’re not really showing up anywhere.”

Additionally, video chats require more attention and energy than face-to-face interactions. Most notably, feeling pressured to be engaged “When you’re on a video conference, you know everybody’s looking at you; you are on stage, so here comes the social pressure and feeling like you need to perform,” explains Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor at Clemson University. “Being performative is nerve-wracking and more stressful.”

Another reason why? There’s a communication disconnect. “Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy,” states Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead (insead.edu).

“Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not,” adds Petriglieri. “That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally.”

As if that weren’t enough, you may also be anxious about your appearance and children running in. There are also technical errors that may turn 30-minute catch-up into an hour-long event. You may also be tempted to multitask and pay attention to someone’s background instead of listening to them. And even a 1.2-second delay in responding online gives the impression that they aren’t as friendly or focused.

How to Handle Zoom Fatigue

1. Take a few moments before clicking “Start” to settle and ground your attention.

“Take a few breaths, feel your body on the chair, notice whatever is present in your mind, and allow yourself to arrive fully to the moment at hand,” recommends Steven Hickman, Psy.D. “If you’re feeling unsettled or preoccupied, you might place your hand on your heart in a supportive and comforting way as if to say ‘I’m here for you. It’s ok to feel how you feel at this moment.’”

2. Avoid scheduling back-to-back Zoom meetings.

Just like scheduling any other type of meeting, back-to-back Zoom events aren’t encouraged. I know that you might be want to squeeze in as many meetings that you can in a day. But, let’s be real here. Even though you could fit in 8-16 meetings per day, that’s just not feasible. After all, you need to eat, use the restroom, prep, follow-up, and attend to other tasks.

What’s more, your brain and eyes need to rest in-between sessions. So, make sure that you space your Zoom meetings spaced out. For example, if you have a video call from 1 PM to 2 PM, then your next one should take place at least a half an hour later.

3. A “zero break” schedule.

“Even if it felt like you had no breaks between meetings before the coronavirus—you did,” writes Elizabeth Grace Saunders. “To get from one room to another, you had at least a few minutes of physical movement and a quick mental break.” Of course, that’s not always the case with videoconferencing, as you can jump from one meeting to the next.

“This marginless schedule saps your mental batteries,” adds Elizabeth. “To avoid this issue, schedule your meetings with some short gaps in between, or make it a rule to wrap up one call 5-10 minutes before the next one begins.”

Having these breaks “gives your brain a short time to process the meeting’s substance, make a note of next steps, and prepare for the next conversation.”

4. Reduce onscreen stimuli.

“Research shows that when you’re on video, you tend to spend the most time gazing at your own face,” recommends Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy over at HBR. “This can be easily avoided by hiding yourself from view.”

Unfortunately, “onscreen distractions go far beyond yourself.” For example, while on video, “we not only focus on other’s faces but we look at their backgrounds as well.” So, if “you’re on a call with five people, you may feel like you’re in five different rooms at once.” Besides looking at their faces, you also see “their furniture, plants, and wallpaper. You might even strain to see what books they have on their shelves.”

“The brain has to process all of these visual environmental cues at the same time,” explains Fosslien and West “To combat mental fatigue, encourage people to use plain backgrounds (e.g., a poster of a peaceful beach scene), or agree as a group to have everyone who is not talking turn off their video.

Another option? Select speaker view as opposed to the gallery. Now you’ll only be so that looking at the person who is talking instead of the entire group.

5. Use alternatives.

No disrespect to Zoom, but you don’t always have only to use the platform to communicate with others. I know that videoconferencing is all the rage. But, you can still pick-up the phone or shoot out an email. There are also instant messaging tools like Slack, Flock, Jabber, Troop Messenger, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts Chat.

6. Keep your home office and living area separate.

Because you’re working from home, it’s more challenging to have a separation between work and life. How can you turn off “work mode” when you’re spending all of your time in your workspace? Or, to put it more succinctly, have various zones in your home for the different parts of your life.

What if you don’t have a home office? “Change the lighting when you go ‘off-the-clock’ and change the playlist and ditch the coffee mug from your desk,” suggests Degges-White. “When you feel you’re working 24/7 and are unable to leave the office to see friends, having tricks to help you feel that there’s a boundary between work and play can be important.”

7. Say “no, thanks” or “some other time.”

Don’t feel pressured or guilty for declining a Zoom request. To be honest, we’re all getting a little tired of these video calls. So, if you’re upfront and honest about this, others will understand.

The caveat, though is that you must be understanding of others if they aren’t up for a Zoom meeting.

8. Be a professional.

Help others help you be setting an example by following some virtual meeting etiquette. After all, these vents can be much more tiring when participants do any of the following:

  • Not being engaged in the meeting or multitasking, like looking at your phone or playing games.
  • Eating or slurping your drink.
  • Tapping your fingers or moving around in a squeaky chair.
  • Not muting your mic when not talking. On the flipside, forgetting to unmute when it’s time to speak.
  • Using a distracting background or being a faceless silhouette.
  • Going to the bathroom.
  • Not giving your housemates a head’s up — you don’t want them to pop-in unexpectedly.
  • Failing to send out an agenda and having a moderator to keep the meeting on track.

Conclusion

Yes, you can take these few steps to lessen the tiring effects of numerous Zoom meetings so that you can handle things with a better style.

6 Remote Volunteering Opportunities That Are Perfect for the Pandemic

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

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

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

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

Giving Back From Afar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Proofread an e-book.

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

  • Procure eligible paper books.

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

  • Burn CDs and DVDs for people without internet access. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thrive in the Remote World

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

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

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

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

Build the right toolkit.

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

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

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

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

Create a dedicated workspace.

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

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

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

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

Plan to manage your time better.

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

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

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

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

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

Separate work and personal.

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

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

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

Schedule “lazy” time.

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

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

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

Focus on results, not your hours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maintain your mental health.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep things fresh and fun.

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

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

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

Don’t neglect your professional development.

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

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

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

Add a “done list” to your to-do-list.

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

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

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

Maintain your professionalism.

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

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

Final words of advice.

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

How to Honor Your Appointments in Times of Turnover

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

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

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

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

1. Accept the circumstances.

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

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

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

2. Let employees carry out existing appointments.

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

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

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

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

3. Notify your customers.

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

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

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

4. Reschedule appointments with flexible customers.

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

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

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

5. Provide a virtual option when possible.

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

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

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

6. Combine similar appointments.

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

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

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

You Don’t Have to be Uptight to be Productive

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old-fashioned alarm clock sitting on desk.

What do you think of when you hear the word “productivity?” I think for most of us, we conjure images of someone focusing on a task so intensely that they’ve entered a zombie-like form of meditative state. You might think of the type A personalities in your life who overwhelm you with their ambition, planning, overachieving, and urgency. Or, worst of all, because they’re all work and no play, they eventually go all Jack Torrance from The Shining.

Here’s the truth with productivity. While it does involve self-discipline, organization, and focus, that doesn’t mean you have to uptight. There are plenty of ways to get stuff done while still enjoying your life, and dare I say, have some fun along the way.

Kick-off your day with a pump-up playlist.

Creating and sticking to a morning routine is a common trait among the most successful and productive people. While everyone has their own unique ritual, it usually includes activities like physical activity, eating a healthy breakfast, reading, journaling, and setting a daily intention.

What else should be included? How about a playlist that gets you amped for the day? Research suggests that athletes who listen to motivational music during sports activities and exercise increase risk-taking behavior. Moreover, music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain. It can also improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory. And, according to researchers at John Hopkins, music can keep your brain young.

Besides your morning playlist, you may also want to have some music playing in the background while working.

Savor victories.

There’s a tendency to jump from one task to the next. I get it. With so much to do, you have to take moving forward. Like Short Round proclaimed in Temple of Doom, “Hey, Dr. Jones, No time for love!”

But, what happens if you just keep on going lie the Energizer bunny? Well, you’re eventually going to lose your passion. Instead of doing something because you love doing it, you’re just going through the motions. And, even worse, that will cause you to burn out.

Regardless of how big or small, always celebrate your accomplishments. After all, celebrating your achievements changes your physiology and psychology for the better, strengthens bonds and attracts more success.

Pat yourself on the back and treat yourself. You don’t have to go overboard. But, take a break and purchase a latte or purchase a new book you’ve wanted to read. As for team accomplishments, something as simple as handwritten thank-you notes — or an office party, to team outings are all effective ways to celebrate.

Make your workspace your own.

“Research suggests that we are more productive when we are working in spaces that reflect who we are. We feel more comfortable with familiarity,” wrote Max Palmer in a previous Calendar article.

“You know yourself best, so do what inspires you and sparks your creativity,” explains Max. “Start with functionality: You need a comfortable chair and a desk with enough space to spread out.” Personally, I’m all about standing desks. Even if you feel the same, then pair that desk with an ergonomic chair. Or, swap the chair out entirely for an exercise ball — which has been found to increase productivity.

Next, consider the form. “Maybe that means pictures of your friends and family, or perhaps it means Christmas lights and posters of your favorite ‘80s rock band,” Max adds. I’m also a fan of small plants and keeping my desk clean with the help of a basketball wastebasket. “Whatever it is, it should make you feel proud of your space and fresh well into the afternoon.”

Switch-up your environment.

Even if you love your workspace, spending too much time there can put you in a rut. So, whenever you feel like you need to kick yourself into high gear, work from somewhere else. At the time of this writing, that’s not possible because of COVID-19. But, if you’re working from home, consider setting up shop in a different part of your house or sitting outside.

Once we get through quarantine, consider working from a coworking space, coffee shop, or any other location that inspires you. It depends on your personality. If you need to be outside, work from a bench in a park. Prefer silence? Your local library is a great option? I’ve even heard of people who enjoy working in a hotel lobby or bar.

Dream of gamification.

To be clear, there are several ways that you can gamify your work. For starters, you could have a healthy competition with your colleagues. Using data visualization, you can track each other’s progress and display leaderboards.

Other ideas to gamify your life are:

  • Attaching rewards to lists, like taking a break about crossing off a to-do-list item.
  • Engaging in time-based challenges, such as giving you 60-minutes to finish a task.
  • Tapping into the element of surprise. You could send your team an unexpected gift or use dice to select your own reward randomly.
  • Making deals with friends or co-workers. Add accountability by challenging you and someone to complete several commitments by a specific deadline.
  • Using productivity apps. Download Habitica, Do-It-Now, Fitocracy, Productivity Challenger Timer, or Forest.

Get the most out of your breaks.

As noted earlier, you can’t work nonstop. You need to take frequent breaks to refresh and recharge. The key is to use this downtime wisely. Examples could be finding a sense of calm by meditating, taking a nap, or finding a creative outlet like writing. These activities can help put your mind and body at ease while also keeping you in the present.

You could also use this time to take a walk outside, exercise, engage with a hobby, or play a game. All are effective ways to blow off some steam and clear your head.

Socialize with your team or co-workers more often.

If self-isolating has taught us anything, it’s the importance of spending time with others. I mean, we’re social creatures, so it’s good for us emotionally, mentally, and physically. There was even prior research that “people who have a ‘best friend at work’ are not only more likely to be happier and healthier, they are also seven times as likely to be engaged in their job.”

So, take the time to get to know your co-workers. Have lunch with them, go on breaks together, and collaborate on projects. When appropriate, have some fun, like challenging each to some sort of competition, like a dance-off or fantasy football, and participate in team-building activities. And, it wouldn’t hurt to socialize outside the workplace as well.

Bring-in your four-legged best friend.

As a dog owner, I was thrilled about this as one study found that office dogs can reduce stress, increase productivity, and improve communication among team members. Furthermore, studies conducted at Miami University of Ohio show “pet owners are happier and healthier, have better self-esteem, and suffer less depression than those who don’t own pets.” And, researchers from Central Michigan found “that dogs fostered trust and collaboration among colleagues.”

Have snacks on standby.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to bring some joy into the workplace is through food. In fact, according to SnackNation, “67% of full-time employees with access to free food at work are ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ happy at their current job.” So. whether if it’s for your home office or for your entire team, have plenty of snacks available. Need some ideas? Well, here are 100 healthy snacks that will boost productivity.

Stop being productive and enjoy yourself.

“There’s too much emphasis these days on productivity, on hyper-efficiency, on squeezing the most production out of every last minute,” write Leo Babauta of Zen Habits.

As a consequence, we’ve “forgotten how to relax. How to be lazy. How to enjoy life.” So, Leo purposes that as opposed to increasing productivity, “it’s good to Get Less Done, to relax, to breathe,” occasionally — like when you can’t get motivated.

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but an obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” he explains. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax” and enjoy yourself. “Let go of the need to be hyperefficient” and feeling guilty.

If that seems impossible, don’t worry about it. Just breathe and take it one step at a time. Some ideas would be to spend more time outside, allowing more time to complete tasks, and surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” adds Leo. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything” and that “you don’t need to fill every second with work.” But, when it’s time to get stuff done, “get excited, pour yourself into it, work on important, high-impact tasks … and then relax.”

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

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

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

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

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

1. What are the conditions in my community?

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

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

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

2. How much space do I have?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Do I have a drop-in policy?

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

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

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

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

6. How will I publicize my policy?

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

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

7. Should I do it immediately?

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

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

The Art of Surrendering: Learning How to Let Go of Control

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You’re not going to like this. But, as a parent, I’m so tempted to belt out “Let It Go” right now. But, well, I just have to let it go. Obviously, it’s for some people to let go of control. And letting go of control is easier said than done. Here is the art of surrendering — learning how to let go of control.

As Steve Maraboli wrote in Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience:

Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t “should’ve” done something. You can only DO something. Renew yourself. Release that attachment. Today is a new day!

For so many of us, we simply just can’t let go of control. As Dr. Amy Johnson writes, there are three reasons why this is true.

The first is that control is rooted in fear. As such, we “control things because of what we think will happen if we don’t. Secondly, it’s “a result of being attached to a specific outcome—an outcome we’re sure is best for us as if we always know what’s best.” And, thirdly, when you’re in control mode, your “vision gets very narrow and focused,” and the adrenaline is pumping.

“And it doesn’t work,” proclaims Leo Babauta. “You can’t get a firm grasp on the fluidity of life.” As a consequence, “we get stressed, procrastinate, feel hurt, get depressed or anxious, get angry or frustrated, lash out or complain.”

What’s the solution then? Practice the art of surrounding.

As Leo explains, that may sound “lame to many people, or perhaps scary.” But, when you give into surrender, you’ll feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. In turn, your performance and productivity will improve. It’s a win-win.

So, how can you stop fighting against yourself, reality, and the universe? Well, here are the best ways to let go of control and embrace surround.

Accept the truth and be thankful.

“To let go is to be thankful for the experiences that made you laugh, made you cry, and helped you learn and grow,” writes Marc Chernoff. “It’s the acceptance of everything you have, everything you once had, and the possibilities that lie ahead.”

At the same time, it’s also “about finding the strength to embrace life’s changes.” What’s more, it’s also trusting your intuition, learning as you go, realizing that every experience has value, and continuing to take positive steps forward,” adds Chernoff.

Focus on what you can control.

“We can influence situations and people, but we have zero control over what the outcome will be,” states Stefan James. “Our emotional response is the only thing at our disposal.”

Here’s the thing, according to James, focusing too much on what we can’t control, steals “precious time and energy away from what we can control.”

“Focusing on what you can control takes preparation, effort, and discipline,” he adds. “It requires that you adopt the mindset of, ‘I am going to be the very best that I can be with what I have.’” That’s no easy feat. But it is possible. For example, you might not have control over the failure of the success of your business. But, “you can control how much time you devote to building it.”

Live in the moment.

In my opinion, this can be a challenge — especially if you struggle with anxiety. But it’s not impossible. There are plenty of simple ways for you to become more present.

The most obvious place to start is practicing mindfulness. As Dr. Travis Bradberry explained in a previous Entrepreneur article, this “requires you to observe your thoughts and feelings objectively, without judgment, which helps you to awaken your experience and live in the moment.” And, more importantly, it prevents life from passing you by.

Bradberry adds that even if you have a packed schedule, you can practice mindfulness by focusing on your breathing or going for a walk. He also suggests that you repeat one positive thing yourself and to stop what you’re doing whenever you feel stressed.

And, if you don’t have a chance to stop what you’re doing, touch your body. It “requires you to observe your thoughts and feelings objectively, without judgment, which helps you to awaken your experience and live in the moment. This way, life doesn’t pass you by.”

Other ways to live in the moment? Well, here are some techniques that I’ve tried out:

  • Become more minimal. I’m talking about decluttering your entire life. And I mean everything from your calendar to possessions to people that you no longer need or don’t bring your joy.
  • Focus on your priorities. Take a look at your to-do-list or calendar. While everything may appear to be a priority, the reality is that this isn’t the case. So, start focusing only on the things that are bringing you closer to your goals.
  • Stop and smile the roses. Excuse the cliche. But, what this means is slowing down and savoring what you’re doing at this exact moment. For example, let’s say you go for a walk after dinner with your family. You notice a stunning sunset. Just stop for a second and admire its beauty.
  • Don’t live in the past. Learn how to forgive and move on from past hurts. And, don’t obsess over your recent accomplishments. Instead, use both experiences to grow.
  • Stop worrying about tomorrow. It doesn’t exist. But, telling yourself that doesn’t always silence these thoughts. Try coming up with a plan to overcome most obstacles or turn to healthy distractions, like reading or speaking with a mentor.

Stop perfectionism in its tracks.

“Perfectionism prevents you from improving and discovering new opportunities,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a Calendar article. “And, it also wrecks your productivity since you’re spending too much time second-guessing yourself.” Overall, “it’s a terrible trait that can do serious damage to your business, relationships, and health.”

So, how can you let go and move if you’re a perfectionist? Well, here some strategies that you might want to employ:

  • Accept that perfection doesn’t exist and enjoy the process instead.
  • Set realistic goals that you’ll reach.
  • Welcome feedback.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Use “hypothesis” testing, like sending an email without proofreading it. You’ll realize it’s not the end of the world.
  • Thwart ruminating. For instance, distance yourself from a past event if you’re dwelling on it.

Conquer your fears with a list.

“Control is rooted in fear,” notes Lauren Stahl. “We try to control things because we are scared about what might happen if we don’t.” Here’s the key takeaway here, “fear is an allusion.” It’s “false evidence appearing real.”

Writing a fear list gives you a chance to identify what frightens you so that you can find ways to overcome them. Furthermore, a fear list can also help you track your progress.

And, speaking of lists, Stahl also suggests creating a freedom list. “Freedom means surrendering,” she explains. “It means you are at peace with yourself and have trust.”

Express yourself creatively.

Whenever I really can’t let go of something, I write my thoughts down in a notepad. There’s no rhythm or reason. I just pour whatever’s on my mind to that piece of paper. And, sometimes, that’s enough to acknowledge my feelings so that I can proceed.

Some people will burn that piece of paper, while others get more creative by composing lyrics instead. And, if you’re not a writer, then express yourself however you like through drawing or painting. Besides feeling like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders, you may be able to use these creative juices for improving your business.

Be your authentic self.

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are,” writes Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. “Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.”

In short, welcome vulnerability and stop viewing it as a weakness. Instead, realize that this means embracing your mistakes and shortcomings. When you do, you can highlight your strengths and be comfortable with who you are.

Seek moments of silence and solitude.

I know that this doesn’t seem possible. But, take a closer look at your schedule. The chances are that there are moments throughout the day for you to have some peace and quiet. For me, it’s in the morning before everyone else wakes-up. For others, it could be during their commute, in between meetings, or during an afternoon walk.

Regardless of when you have time to yourself, the idea here is to eliminate distractions, reflect, and enjoy your alone time. When you do, you’ll have an opportunity to make plans that align with your purpose.

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