Steps to Reopen Your Office — What to Expect from Employees

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Steps to Reopen Your Office — What to Expect from Employees

Like so many other business owners, you’re rearing to get back to work in your office. Specifically, going back to what life was like before COVID-19. Your main goal for right now maybe simply returning to the office.

That’s not unreasonable. The rollout of the vaccine is here — and things are looking up. According to JLL’s “Human Experience” report, three in four workers wants to return to an office in the future. However, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

In other words, don’t’ haphazardly and rush your reopening. Instead, start developing a plan that will ensure that you can safely and efficiently reopen your office. And, if you don’t know where to begin, here are some pointers to get the ball rolling.

Steps to Reopen Your Office — Brush Up on the Law and Health Guidelines

Without question, the step you must take is reviewing the legality of opening back up. For example, check your local guidelines to actually see if you can resume business operations. Even if you can, there may be limitations on how many people can be in the building simultaneously. The vaccine is helping a lot in getting permission to get back to work.

Because guidelines vary across states — you’re going to have to do this part on your own. But, simply Googling your state and business reopening guidelines should steer you in the right direction. If you rent your office space — you could ask your landlord. Or you can schedule a virtual meeting with stakeholders to discuss your reopening.

Another helpful tool? USA Today’s real-time tracker or COVID-19 trends and restrictions. It can at least give you an idea of whether or not your state is tightening or loosing-up regulations.

If you have the green light, there’s another legal matter to dig into. And, that’s if you can force employees back to work.

Well, that depends on the state. However, if your employers are considered essential or have a contract, employees must show up to work. But, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and/or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers paid leave if an employee or someone they care for has been impacted by COVID. If you have any high-risk team members, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may compel you to let them continue working remotely.

Create a Written Return to Work Plan

“Most employers will return to the office in stages, with some employees continuing to work at home for an extended period of time,” writes Dawn Ross, Partner at Carle, Mackie, Power & Ross LLP. To be frank — expect this new hybrid workplace to be “the norm over the next several years.”

“Instead of allowing this to happen haphazardly, create a written return to work plan detailing who will be returning to the office,” advises Ross.

At the minimum, your “return to work plans” should include information like, “When they will be returning, and outlining what precautions have been put into place to keep employees and the general public safe.” Many “of these steps will take a month or more,” start planning earlier than later.

What should be in your written plan?

As a part of your plan, Ross also recommends doing the following;

  • Survey your employees to find out who wishes to come back. While JLL found that a majority of employees want to return, another online survey shows that close to 30% would quit if forced back to the office.
  • Order PPE. Place your order for cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves.
  • Daily health checks. Both the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)” recommend that all employers consider some kind of health check for employees coming into the workplace,” adds Ross. Additionally, “several counties have issued Health Orders instructing all employers to create policies that require employees to complete a health check before coming into the office. Many counties have created a daily health check app for this purpose.”
  • Temperature checks and COVID-19 tests. At your expense, you can conduct and require employees to take temperature checks and COVID-19 tests.
  • Have positive COVID-19 contingency plans. If an employee tests positive, you need to have a plan. It must “address contact tracing, notifying local health officials, and cleaning the affected area, and must include a written notification to employees working in proximity to the positive employee without disclosing the employee’s identity,” advises Ross. You should also have a procedure in place in case you must quickly shut down if there is a spike in numbers or the virus mutates faster than we think.
  • Update IIPP plan. Your state has guidelines “requiring employers to include COVID-19 prevention measures in their Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (IIPPs).
  • Worker’s compensation. Employees may be entitled to worker’s compensation if they test positive for COVID-19. If so, you should initiate the claims process.

You should also think about how many people will be allowed in the office? And, will have shifts between work-at-home and work-at-office?

Other reopening considerations.

You’re not done just yet. If employees are working from home because they don’t want to return, or you’ve had to reclose, you should have the following in place;

  • “A written work from home policy that clearly states your expectations and requires your employees to commit to those expectations,” states Ross.
  • Depending on your state, you may be required to reimburse employees for work-related expenses.
  • Workplace safety can also apply to remote workers. You should provide them with ergonomically correct desks, chairs, and keyboards.
  • Changing employees from salaried exempt to non-exempt.
  • Taking a measured approach for those who do not want to return to the office.

If your business interacts with the general public, post required local postings for them to see. You can also refuse to serve customers who do not comply with safety precautions. And, you may also an Assumption of the Risk policy for customers.

Redesign the Office by Taking Recommended Safety Actions

Even with written policies in place, you’re still going to have to re-design the workplace before reopening. After all, you want to make sure that your team remains safe and healthy. Moreover, you have to follow local or state ordinances.

While this may seem overwhelming, the CDC has put together an extensive list of guidelines that your office should adopt. For starters, if the building has been unoccupied for an extended period of time, you should check for mold, rodent/pest, or mechanical problems. Don’t forget about looking for stagnant water and ensuring that ventilation systems are working properly.

In terms of decreasing transmission of COVID-19, concentrate on;

  • Encouraging healthy hygiene practices by providing each employee with sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Also, put up signage reminding people to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds and coughing into their elbows.
  • Practicing social distancing by keeping chairs/desks at least six feet apart. You could also install physical barriers and stagger arrival/departure times.
  • Reconfiguring walking areas so that everyone is walking in one direction.
  • Replacing high-touch communal items, like coffee pots, with pre-packaged or single-serving.
  • Discouraging large gatherings and canceling non-essential travel.
  • Intensifying cleaning and disinfection, such as asking everyone to wipe down their workspaces at the ends of the day

To ensure that everyone is on the same page, the CDC suggests including and involving all employees. Also, you should hold seminars, workshops, and drills, so that you are aware of new workplace safety practices.

Bonus tip: If you don’t have the funds to do much of the above, unlock capital. For example, selling off assists that you no longer need. You may also be able to receive assistance through organizations like the Small Business Administration.

Implement Safeguards For The Ongoing Monitoring Of Employees

You should be commended for coming this far. But, this is another critical step to take before reopening. And, that’s implementing safeguards that will monitor your team. These include;

  • Even if it’s not COVID, encouraging employees who are sick to stay home.
  • Conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks.
  • Monitoring absenteeism and offering more flexible time-off policies/schedules.
  • Having contingency plans if an employee gets COVID-19.
  • Keeping the lines of communication open with employees and Creating and testing emergency communication channels for employees and state and local health authorities.

What happens if an employee tests positive?

Cleaning and disinfecting the area where they were present is a must. The employee should also be quarantined until released by a physician or public health official. And, if any other employees were in close proximity, they should also be isolated for 14-days.

It’s important to keep all your employees notified. And, if they voice concerns, you may want to close the office back down until everyone tests negative.

Encourage Vigilance and Lead By Example

I get it. You’ve put in a lot of time in effort in reopening your office. However, that doesn’t mean things are going to go back to normal. You still need to maintain a regular cleaning and disinfection routine. You should also keep tabs on the number of COVID-19 cases in your area — if there’s a spike, you may want to be proactive and shut things down.

But, this shouldn’t completely fall on your shoulders. Even with these protocols in place, your employees need to hold themselves accountable.

Who is responsible for stopping the spread — all leaders and all employees

“The only way to create and sustain change is to have 200% accountability,” writes corporate trainer and author Joseph Grenny for HBR. “Employees must understand that they are not simply responsible for following safe practices themselves (the first 100%), they are also responsible for ensuring everyone around them does as well (the second 100%).”

Moreover, lead by example. If you aren’t practicing precautions like social distancing or mask-wearing, then why would your team follow suit? And, Greeny also recommends using moral messaging. “Make the moral case for changing behavior by telling stories of affected friends, family, or clients to bring the risks of non-compliance to life,” he writes.

Finally, create a culture of transparency. Don’t penalize employees if they experience symptoms or aren’t comfortable being around others. Let them know that it’s acceptable to remind others of the new workplace policies if they notice someone not following them.

How to Get More Referrals Leveraging Your Online Appointment Software

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How to Get More Referrals Leveraging Your Online Appointment Software

Referrals are a business’s best friend. People are four times more likely to make a purchase or book an appointment when referred by a pal, and they often become more devoted customers than those brought in through other methods. Appointment-based businesses in particular love returning customers and should be doing everything they can to gain new customers who promise high retention rates

Using your online appointment software and other resources, you can increase the number of referrals you get. This will grow your customer base and, in turn, your profits. Here’s how you can do it:

Create Program Awareness

To get things moving, you need to make customers aware that you have a referral program in place. Otherwise, they might not feel as inclined to bring your business to the attention of their friends. Begin with your website, where customers go to set up their appointments. 

Create a page about your referral program that they will see as they move through the booking process. Even a checkpoint asking whether someone referred them to the business will place the idea in their mind. Later on, it will be their name in that box as they refer family members and friends. 

Track Referral Counts

Keep track of how many referrals you receive from each customer. For starters, you’ll be able to see which customers make the most referrals. You can offer them special rewards for their efforts or even talk with them about becoming a brand ambassador for your company.

In addition, you can hold a sort of competition by making referral numbers public. Plan to award a prize at the end of the year to the customer with the most successful referrals. This will incentivize your clients to make an effort to get people to your business. 

Provide the Right Rewards

An effective referral program is only as good as the rewards it offers. A $5 discount is nice, but it doesn’t move the needle enough to make customers feel super motivated to provide referrals. Calculate the return on investment you would get by offering a larger incentive in exchange for a larger customer base.

For example, a free addition to a scheduled service — such as a tire rotation with an oil change — will have a much higher value and may bring new and old customers in more frequently. Extend the benefits to both the referrer and the referral, and people will be begging members of their circle to come in. You can also create tiers of rewards in which customers get larger prizes the more referrals they bring in.

Let’s talk about that customer contest. What sort of prize will be big enough, and within your budget, to offer at the end of the year? An evening at the best restaurant in town or free weekly service for a year can be a much stronger motivator to dedicated customers than the smaller perks they already enjoy.

Add a Newsletter

As part of your online booking process, add an option to sign up for your company newsletter. Let customers know that special deals will be available through the newsletter, as well as other useful news and information on a regular basis. 

Talk about your referral program in each issue of the newsletter. Consistent reminders will keep the program top of mind. Add in a link to your online appointment software; soon enough the timing will be right, and you’ll land some new customers. 

Blog posts are also easily viewed and shared by customers. Link your online appointment system to the bottom of each article, and every new reader brought in by a friend will be able to book a slot in seconds. 

Link to Social Media

Marketing through social media is a trend that keeps on growing and growing. Seventy-one percent of people are more likely to make a purchase (or, in this case, book an appointment) when they are referred to your business over social media. Consumers spend a lot of time on social media channels and can be heavily influenced by the content they see or their friends share with them.

Include links to your online booking software on your social media pages. Social media is a great place to spread information about your referral program and the rewards that come with it. The content you publish is easily shared to personal pages, where customers’ friends and family members will be able to get a glimpse of your brand and be directed to your booking platform in just a few clicks.

Ask for Feedback

At the end of each appointment, ask customers about their experience. Invite them to leave a review on your website detailing their experience for future customers. If their appointment was everything they were expecting and more, ask them to refer a friend. Simply asking for referrals will bring surprising results. Sometimes all it takes is a direct invitation to incite action. 

Even if a customer declines your invitation at first, the act of leaving a review will keep your business at the forefront of their mind for a while. If they strike up a conversation with a friend or family member, they might think about their appointment experience and take the opportunity to make a referral. Planting these seeds will allow you to reap results in the near future. 

As your focus shifts to referrals, your customer base will grow larger and stronger. Referrals have a domino effect, as your customers spur company growth forward. 

Why You Still Need an Online Calendar Even When You Use a Physical One

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Why You Still Need an Online Calendar Even When You Use a Physical One

If you already rely on a physical calendar, you might not see the need to add an online calendar to your arsenal. Your current time management system might seem to work just fine, but you’re missing out on a lot of potential by shirking additional technology.

Using a paper and digital Calendar, map, or any other hard copy is entirely up to you and beneficial in many cases. If you still need some convincing, check out the ways your daily life will benefit from implementing an online calendar to your existing system:

Online Calendars are Portable

As great as a physical calendar might be at home or in your office, you can’t expect to carry it with you everywhere. Even pocket calendars and portable planners can be burdensome at times. Worst of all, a physical calendar can be easily left behind, leaving you in the dark.

You can access your online calendar on any electronic device. All you need is a cell phone and a connection to the internet and you’ll have your calendar easily accessible. You can even adjust the settings in your Calendar to be able to view it offline.

Sharing is Caring

A lot of the events on your calendar will involve others. You’ll need to coordinate with coworkers and family members regularly, which is more difficult to do when trying to sync paper calendars. Sharing an online calendar keeps everyone on the same page with real-time updates and notifications.

You don’t have to share every detail of your online calendar with others. Choose to share individual events, or create a separate calendar that keeps your private events hidden. You can also decide if those you share with can edit events or simply view them, depending on what you’re trying to organize.

Last-Minute Changes Happen

Life is full of unexpected events. Making last-minute changes on paper calendars is messy, and sometimes impossible if you don’t have it on your person. It’s much easier to go with the flow and adjust to unforeseen circumstances when you also have an online calendar handy.

Let’s say you have a meeting with a client scheduled for 3 P.M. You come into the office and see an email in your inbox asking if the meeting can be bumped up to 2 P.M. With your online Calendar, you can adjust right then and there.

If you have your paper calendar handy, this is also possible, but lacks a certain detail. Your online calendar can also send you reminders of upcoming events. A digital reminder that your meeting was moved from 3:00 PM to 2:00 PM will help you remember the change even on a busy day when your attention is divided.

Different Calendars Have Different Uses

Physical calendars get crowded really quickly. There’s only so much room to add events and details, and the more you add, the more difficult it is to read. A better strategy is to designate your paper Calendar for one use, and your online calendar for another.

Your paper calendar, which is likely hanging on the fridge, can be reserved for family events. Your online calendar will contain your work responsibilities, daily routines, and personal events. The ability to create multiple calendars online allows for even greater organization than keeping a stack of paper calendars lying about.

Physical Calendars Can Get Lost or Damaged

No matter how careful you are, there’s a chance your physical calendar can get lost or damaged. This is especially true if you have one in reach of kids who can grab, smudge, and rip the pages from your calendar. If your paper calendar is lost or damaged, there’s no way to get back the information you lost.

Online calendars store all their information online. Some online calendars even offer cloud storage options for maximum accessibility and protection. Even if your cell phone gets lost or damaged, your Calendar information can be accessed from a different device, retaining all the details you need.

Online Calendars Have More Features

Simply put, physical calendars just don’t have the bells and whistles you can find in online calendars. You can’t drag and drop events or change color-coding on demand. One of the best features of an online Calendar is tracking your time to the minute. Time analytics really unlocks your productivity levels on a day-to-day basis.

Physical calendars have their merits, especially for those who prefer to write things down and add some calligraphy flair. However, not everyone has a legible chicken scratch, so being able to type out your event details is a helpful bonus to your online Calendar.

For frequent fliers, an online Calendar is a necessity. Thanks to the power of the internet, your Calendar will automatically adjust to changing time zones. This ensures you don’t miss that important business meeting because your paper calendar is still on Eastern Standard Time.

Both Calendars Allow for Different Time Management Techniques

For those using a Calendar to try and optimize their time, an online Calendar blows paper ones out of the water. You can implement more complex time management techniques than you could with pen and paper alone, which allows you to make more use of your time. In addition to time analytics, you can also try:

  • Timeboxing: Separate your day into blocks of time dedicated to specific tasks and activities.
  • Pomodoro method: Work in stretches of 25 minutes with a five-minute break to encourage focus and prevent burnout.
  • Eisenhower Matrix: Prioritize your tasks to get the most important stuff done, set aside nonsense, and delegate when possible.

These techniques are much more difficult to pull off with just a paper Calendar, but might work well with both. For example, drawing out your Eisenhower Matrix might help you visualize it better so you can type it out into your online calendar with more precision.

There’s nothing wrong with preferring one type of calendar over the other. Just be aware that you might be selling yourself short by not giving them both a chance to thrive together.

How to Establish Lasting Customer Relationships With a Standout First Appointment

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How to Establish Lasting Customer Relationships With a Standout First Appointment

The first impression is often the most important. With so many choices these days, customers can afford to be picky and make quick decisions regarding the businesses they patronize. When you finally hook a customer for a first appointment, that’s the time to reel them all the way in.

You only get one shot at a customer’s first appointment, so make sure you do it right. Putting in the effort for those initial encounters will boost your retention rates and have your business booked up all year long.

Send a Friendly Reminder

Start off on the right foot by sending a new customer an appointment reminder. A good reminder sets the tone for an upcoming appointment. It lets the customer know that you’re ready to serve them and that you’re anticipating their arrival. You would hate for the person to show up late for that first appointment or not at all.

Express your appreciation to the customer for entrusting you with their business and your excitement about seeing them soon. Make sure the appointment date and time are clearly visible and that the reminder includes links to any information that may be required beforehand. 

Start on Time

Making a customer wait past their appointment start time will tarnish even the best appointment experience. New customers may fear that every appointment is going to start late, costing them valuable time. To avoid raising such concerns, do everything you can to make sure you start on time.

A huge factor in appointment timeliness is reducing the number of appointments that run long. Overtime appointments push back start times for customers with later booking slots, which isn’t fair to them. Try adding some buffer time in between your appointments or increasing your appointment duration if overtime appointments are a recurring problem for your business. 

Online appointment software can also help get appointments started on time, especially for first-timers. For many industries, the first appointment is the longest, as the business collects initial customer information and gets any needed documents signed. When customers are able to complete these tasks online, they can walk through the doors ready to get started. 

Serve With a Smile

The importance of customer service can never be understated for appointment-based businesses. A NICE inContact survey found that 80% of customers will switch businesses due to bad experiences with customer service. That’s why appointment-based businesses can ill afford getting off to a rocky start with new customers.

So provide customer service training to all of your employees, as there are numerous factors that go into a good appointment experience. Much of it has to do with soft skills; listening, communication, and patience are all vital for a good customer service rep. You can use online resources to boost customer service as well, such as a website chatbot and a user-friendly app to help new customers acclimate quickly. 

Be Generous

For the first appointment a customer books, go the extra mile to wow them. Make them feel comfortable and welcome, and give them a taste of everything your business has to offer. After one great experience, they’re bound to come back for more.

For example, a hair salon could provide a enhanced package for first-time customers, letting them try out additional services at no additional cost. They’ll leave feeling extra pampered and have something new to look forward to on a return appointment. It can be easier to justify an add-on when you got it for free on your first appointment. 

Personalize the Experience

According to Gladlys “2020 Customer Expectations Report,” 84% of consumers said a brand that offers them personalized customer service will earn more of their future spending. Personalization helps consumers connect with a brand and vice versa, rather than feeling like another customer statistic. Pulling a ticket number at the DMV is an example of how a lack of personalization leads to a feeling of drudgery and low satisfaction rates among visitors.

Giving your customers choices allows them to personalize their experience by themselves. Accommodating different payment options and providing a variety of services is a great place to start. Updating your customers’ profiles to reflect their choices will maintain that personalization through following appointments. 

Ask for Feedback 

At the end of that first appointment, ask each customer for feedback on their experience. What went well and what didn’t? Knowing what resonated with them and what fell flat will enable you to make changes and ensure a better return appointment. 

Businesses that take feedback to heart enjoy higher customer retention than their peers. Even a small adjustment shows customers that you have their needs and desires in mind, which builds confidence and trust between you and them. Furthermore, when you show you’re receptive to feedback, gratified customers will refer you to friends, growing your client pool.

(Mostly) Stick to Your Guns

Each business has rules and regulations to uphold. The best example for appointment-based businesses is a late arrival/cancellation policy. Inform new clients of your policy ahead of time to ensure the expectations are clear. But if a first-timer runs late because they had trouble finding your location (or a parking spot upon arrival), do try to be understanding. Coming down on them too hard could make their first visit to your business the last.

Remind them, however, that you will need to enforce the policy going forward. Not to do so would be unfair to your existing customers. If you continue to have problems, look for ways to make your company rules more visible and easier to access in order to avoid future confusion. 

Nailing that first appointment will build strong relationships with your customers from the start, encouraging them to return soon and often. Make sure to keep up your customer service efforts with every appointment after that to keep them coming back again and again. 

The 6 Reasons Most Miscommunications Occur

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The 6 Reasons Most Miscommunications Occur

Miscommunications happen frequently with most everyone I know. Technology has allowed us to communicate faster but not necessarily better. While some miscommunication is merely annoying, it’s those awful miscommunications that occur at the most inopportune moments that put unnecessary stress on us all, creating conflict and can be a disrupting influence in relationships.

While some of the root causes for miscommunication seem obvious, I’ve found others by being on the receiving end or being when I’m the guilty party. From my own experiences, here are six reasons why I believe most miscommunication occurs:

1. You know what you are thinking but it’s not actually what you say. Sometimes what you are thinking makes no sense to anyone else but you.

I’ve been on both sides of this miscommunication link and it can be confusing for all parties involved. Writing or verbalizing what we think can be challenging, especially when we’re rushing. We may be delegating while in the midst of a business event or trying to multitask when we shouldn’t.

My team suffers a lot from this because of me. I delegate a task and expect them to know what’s going on in my brain. Well… that’s not the case and will never be.

Learn to let others know everything you’re thinking, even if it’s not all the way thought out so that together you can come up with the best possible outcome. I also like to verbalize my instructions as well as write them down in a recap so others know exactly what I mean. This over the years has helped me to sound a lot less like a jerk.

2. You are saying too much and complicating the communication. This leads to more and more miscommunications.

You are the only one of you. Not everybody is going to be able to do things as fast or as perfect as you. I had to learn this the hard way with my first business partnership. I would word dump things that didn’t need to be said. This cause a lot of miscommunication and ultimately ended our working arrangement.

I especially see this with the creative types because they have a tendency to use a lot of words that ends up complicating their messages. This can be just as confusing because the main point tends to get lost in the sea of words and explanations. In this case, write down what you want to say and then start trimming it back until you can create as simple a message without losing the primary idea. You most likely don’t need adjectives or exclamatory phrases to get your point across.

3. You are using poor grammar.

While it may seem more annoying than confusing, poor grammar can dramatically change the meaning of what you are trying to say. Even a misplaced comma can alter the entire context for someone who is reading it.

In this case, you need to bookmark a grammar page and start studying how to use certain punctuation and phrasing to help you clearly communicate. It just takes practice!

If you’re still bad after this, have someone proofread everything you put out. I personally do this and it’s improved my writing and communication greatly.

4. You overthink what you are reading or writing.

In either case, it’s important not to overthink your communications. This overthinking can involve your own perceptions that may be the polar opposite of the other person involved in the communication. This leads to different opinions of what the content of a message says and means.

For example, if we are already in a bad mood, we may read something the wrong way that the other person never intended. While the person writing the message can’t necessarily control the reaction of the receiver, you can make a concerted effort to take any emotion out of a communication and keep a professional tone to all business communications.

I personally always say “You can say anything to anyone, but how you say it will dictate if you get a positive or negative reaction.”

5.You are using texting shortcuts and emojis as replacements to part of what you are saying.

While I’ve used these myself in certain situations, it is typically just a smiley face to let the person on the other end know I’m pleased with their message. However, when I start seeing texting shortcuts and emojis I’m not familiar with, I don’t know how to take what the person is saying and I certainly don’t have time to go look up their cutesy emoji.

I was angry early one day with an employee. Later on in the day we had worked on a project. I thought everything had settled down and was okay. This was until she sent me a text with a string of emoji’s of a baby, baby bottle, a hospital and a pink bow. I thought, “Oh, so the little snot is calling me a baby! She surely should know it was not wise to call the boss a baby!” Later that evening in another work conversation over the phone someone told me how happy that employee had been because she had just found out that day about my new baby daughter. My temper had been wound-up, and I had nearly fired her over a miscommunication where she was being sweet.

You should probably avoid using these types of communication tools unless it’s with your best buddies. Stick to professional language because you can’t assume everyone knows what all these new acronyms and emojis mean.

6.You make too many assumptions.

There are those times when people don’t really listen because they think they already know what the person is going to say or they are just busy preparing their own answer. The same idea applies when making assumptions on what you think a person means in their email or text message without actually really reading it for context. It could be that you are tired, emotional, or distracted, or the messages could be coming from someone at work that you don’t necessarily like.

Slow down and read a message more than once while clearing out your assumptions. Focus, reflect, and then read it again before you draw conclusions. And, if you are still not sure, ask questions to make sure you understood the message correctly. I find that people with this skill can be hidden leaders in my company.

Conclusion

Effective communication takes practice, and I know haven’t perfected it yet. However, I keep these reasons for miscommunication in mind to remind me to take more care in how I read, write, and verbalize what I want from the communication I am sending out or receiving. Now, if I become angry over something, I take a step back. I decide to give the person the benefit of the doubt. Next, I assume they mean the best in the writing and in text.

One morning I noticed an employee highlighting and deleting an entire email. I asked about it. He said that he and his girlfriend had had a big fight and she had sent him a mean email. I inquired, “What did it say?” He said, “I have no idea.” He then explained to me that if he reads some long scathing remarks he can’t forget what was said or get them out of his mind — so he simply doesn’t read it.

When he sees the person again, he feels no animosity because he doesn’t know what was said. Later in the day, in comes the girlfriend to the office. “Oh hon, I didn’t mean what I said, I hope you will forgive me.” “Of course,” he says. “You are the most forgiving person I know,” she says. He just smiled. I realized then that there are many types of miscommunications that occur — and not all of them are bad.

What Are Scheduling Links and How Do They Work?

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What Are Scheduling Links and How Do They Work?

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

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

What Is a Scheduling Link?

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

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

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

How Do You Set Up Scheduling Links?

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

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

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

What Are the Benefits of Scheduling Links?

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

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

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

Are Scheduling Links for Business or Personal Use?

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

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

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

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

What Else Can Scheduling Links Do?

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

Meeting Buffer

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

Time Increments 

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

Notifications

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

Double-Booking Prevention 

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

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

15 Overall Productive Habits — to Have Overall

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15 Overall Productive Habits — to Have Overall

We all know someone who has done the impossible. They bust their tails off, while somehow being able to have a life. I mean, how can someone like Dwayne Johnson have multiple projects, workout for several hours daily, and spend time with his family?

Maybe he’s an anomaly. But, for someone who doesn’t defy logic, such as The Rock, it’s conceivable to have it all. It just takes having the right habits — such as the following 15 that you should have overall.

1. Set three goals for the day.

“For some strange reason, our brain is wired to think in threes,” states Chris Bailey, author of The Productivity Project. “As kids, we grow up immersed in stories that involve threes: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Three Blind Mice, and the Three Little Pigs,” he adds. “In high school, when we’re forced to dissect books like The Three Musketeers for English class, we break down the plot into three parts—the beginning, middle, and end.”

Even as adults, we’re still drawn to the number three. Think of the saying the “third time’s the charm.” And, during the Olympics or fantasy sports, participants are awarded either the gold, silver, or bronze medal.

“There is something oddly attractive about the number three which can help you a lot as far as productivity is concerned,” Bailey says. For example, as opposed to a to-do-list that could rival the length of a CVS receipt, create a must-do-list that only contains three items. It’s an effective way to keep you focused and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

Best of all? It’s incredibly simple to get started.

“At the start of every morning, fast-forward to the end of the day and ask” one question. “When the day is done, what three things will I want to have accomplished?”

2. Don’t succumb to complexity.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a common thread when it comes to productivity; it has to be extremely regimented and complex. Examples that spring to mind are bullet journals and the zero-based calendar.

I’m not saying that these can’t be effective—case in point, bullet journals. If you need a creative outlet and help to identify important and urgent tasks, it can be an effective tool. At the same time, they’re extremely time-consuming and intimidating.

I’d even say that for a lot of us, they’re unnecessary. You’re probably better off with a planner, calendar, or stick-it notes. In fact, research shows that we’ll stick with habits when they’re simple and doable.

3. Skip what you don’t know.

“This is a tip I don’t see often enough,” writes Ericson Ay Mires over at Lifehack. “If you hit a snag in your work, then come back to it later as you learn how to not get distracted.” And, in the meantime, aim your “attention on what you can do to keep working ‘mindlessly’ at all costs.”

In short, tackle the easy parts first and build-up momentum.

“Eventually, you can come back to the more difficult parts,” adds Ericson. And, “hopefully by then, it’ll have come to you, or you’ll have built up enough momentum that it won’t break your focus if you work on it.”

What if you’re still stuck? Get help from an expert who can teach you. Or, delegate the right tasks to the right individuals.

4. Don’t feel guilty about taking shortcuts.

I’m sure that we’ve all heard “there are no shortcuts to success.” While that’s true when it comes to learning a new skill or achieving a large goal, there’s nothing wrong with taking the easy route for simple tasks.

One example would be learning keyboard shortcuts for your calendar. You can also follow the 2-minute rule, using automation for redundant tasks, or using voice dictation.

5. Have a contingency plan.

According to Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

While it’s unreasonable to expect someone to have a back-up plan for everything, you’ll be able to put out “fires” if you;

  • Prepare and plan your ideal week in-advance.
  • Implement a triage system to identify where your priorities should be at the moment.
  • Surround yourself with good company who can help pick up the slack.
  • Hire a virtual assistant to be your calendar’s gatekeeper.
  • Allow yourself more time needed for tasks. And, leave blocks of time in your calendar blank so that you can shuffle your schedule when something comes up.

6. Stop aiming for perfection.

I would like to think that we all give it our best, as opposed to phoning it in. But, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be perfect. That’s just how the cookie crumbles.

As Salvador Dali once said, “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” It’s true. Perfection is something that you’ve constructed in your own mind. Constantly trying to pursue it will only cause anxiety, procrastination, and falling behind.

It takes practice and self-discipline. But, change your mindset to “done is good enough” if you’re a perfectionist. If there’s a serious error, you can always go back and fix it.

7. Declutter…everything.

A little bit of clutter? No problem. Studies have found that a messy desk can encourage a creative mind.

For the majority of us, though? Too much clutter in our lives doesn’t just hinder productivity. It also increases stress, sleep problems and makes it more difficult to unwind.

Overall, too much clutter is just trouble for your health and performance.

With that said, block out a chunk of time to declutter everything. I’m talking about your calendar, workspace, home, and relationships. Also, since it takes 66 days to build new habits, only focus on the ones that are meaningful to you.

I know that that might induce a panic attack. But, take a deep breath. You don’t have to do all this in one shoot.

Rather than overwhelming yourself, take baby steps. Maybe during a break from work, you spend 5-minutes straightening-up your desk. If you don’t have concrete plans this weekend, clean out your bedroom closet.

8. Become a creature of habit.

There’s nothing wrong with occasionally shaking things up or being spontaneous. On a day-to-day basis, though? Humans are creatures of habit.

What exactly does that mean? Well, establish a consistent sleep schedule — preferably based on your circadian rhythms. Try to work, eat, and exercise at the same time each day. And, implement morning and evening rituals that prime you for success.

Having structure makes it easier to plan how we spend our time. It also makes it easier to say no and promotes healthy habits. Routines also provide structure in an uncertain world.

9. Manage your energy, not your time.

“Whenever someone says they need to get more done during the day, the answer is always to improve time management,” writes Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar article. “The amount of time you have will never change,” explains Choncé. “What you do with your time can change, but it is heavily dependent on your motivation and energy levels.”

With that in mind, “it’s much more important to manage your energy over managing time,” she suggests. “All the buzz about time management hacks can be helpful to a certain point, but ultimately, you need to start by managing your energy first if you want to be more efficient and have a better-balanced schedule.”

Some pointers to get started, stop trying to be perfect and re-using previous materials. Take care of your wellbeing to avoid emotional exhaustion, keep information overload in-check, and develop new skills.

10. Weed out the non-important.

Productive people are extremely protective of their calendars. After all, time is your most valuable and finite resource. As such, they aren’t afraid to reject time requests if it doesn’t serve a purpose.

As an example, they get invited to a status-update meeting that’s going to be an hour long. They immediately know that this is a waste of time. As such, they decline the invite, but will also offer an alternative, such as a 10-minute phone call.

11. An active body equals an active mind.

“We all know exercise is good for our physical and mental health,” says Dr. Kristin Hillman, who lead researcher on a study regarding this topic at the University of Otago. “But these data suggest that regular exercise may also help make us more productive when it comes to getting tasks accomplished each day.”

The study found that “rats that ran 20 minutes a day for five days a week outperformed their non-exercised counterparts across the board.” These were in areas like problem-solving, persistence, and being able to complete tasks more quickly.

I know that this has been a struggle throughout COVID. But, you can work out and stay active from anywhere — even when working from home. For instance, as a part of your morning, do some cardio to get the blood flowing, and at night do yoga to relax.

Other suggestions include;

  • Setting alarms to remind you to stretch and move throughout the day.
  • Creating a “commute,” like taking a walk before diving into work.
  • Keep workout equipment and accessories visible.
  • Use technology like apps and “smart” fitness machines to keep you accountable.
  • Swap-out your old desk for a standing desk.
  • During calls, stand or walk.
  • Incorporate movement throughout the day, such as doing heal-raises or push-ups on the counter while the coffee is brewing.
  • Get outside and play as much as possible.
  • Partake in fitness challenges with colleagues, friends, or family.

12. Start a procrastination journal.

Procrastination is severely misunderstood. Sure, there are negative consequences like missing deadlines. But, procrastinating can be used to help you remove the unnecessary from your life.

But, that’s not all. If you actually dig deeper, you may discover what’s really causing you to drag your feet. Maybe it’s because you’re a perfectionist, lack self-confidence, or disorganized. Or, perhaps you’ve set unrealistic expectations.

The only way to get to the bottom of this? Start a procrastination journal. Record everything that you do, as well as what you don’t. Take note of when you get distracted, how long tasks have been on your to-do-list, and how you feel about them.

It may seem like a lot of work. But, if you do this for a couple of days, you should have a better understanding of what’s causing you to procrastinate.

13. Set clearly defined goals.

Clearly defined goals prevent you from falling into the “busyness trap.” Moreover, they can guide you in developing a plan of action and track your progress to keep you motivated.

A tried and true technique for goal setting? Use the SMART formula, which is short for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.

14. Rest your eyes.

Eye strain is a serious concern these days. In fact, since the pandemic, we spend 19 hours and 6 minutes per day between our phone, laptop, TV, and gaming devices. In turn, this can impact your productivity due to symptoms like dry eyes, mental fatigue, and headaches.

To counter this, take frequent screen breaks to give your eyes a much-needed break. One strategy you can try is the 20-20-20 Rule. Every 20-minutes, you look at something that’s 20-feet away for 20-seconds.

15. Learn from failures and move on.

“From a distance, failure seems noble,” writes Tracy Brower, Ph.D., MM, MCRw. “But in reality, it’s painful and messy.”

It’s true. If you’ve ever experienced failure, you’re well aware of how painful it is. You might feel anger and sadness. I couldn’t blame you if you also wanted to crawl into a hole and never reappear.

“It can also cost money and time (like the new suit you bought for the interview or the move you made to the city for the job that didn’t last),” adds Brower. “It can cause you to course correct (the meeting went sideways, and now you need to rethink the project).” And, it “can make you question yourself—who you are and what you’re good at. This is what makes it messiest of all.”

In short, failing is the worst. But, it can still be valuable.

  • Remind yourself that this has nothing to do with you as a person.
  • “Failure provides you with the opportunity to learn and consider how you can strengthen your game for the next go, even if it’s under unfavorable conditions,” says Brower.
  • Take into account that “the work you did as an investment in your process.”
  • Share your pain with others, whether if it’s opening up to a mentor or writing a blog post about your experience.
  • “What doesn’t break you makes you stronger is another tried-and-true mantra about failure,” Brower adds. “If you’re doing it right, you’ll gain resourcefulness, resilience, and perseverance from failure.”
  • Finally, take a step back, reflect, and then focus on the future using the lessons you learned.

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

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

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

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

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

15-Minute Meetings Can Be Great Braindump and Planning Sessions

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

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

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

Get to Know Your Clients Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Easy to Schedule and Automate Short Meetings

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

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

Summary

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

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

5 Ways Your Appointment-Based Business Can Boost Customer Retention

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5 Ways Your Appointment-Based Business Can Boost Customer Retention

Companies in the U.S. lose $136 billion dollars every year from a lack of customer retention. The worst part is that this switching can be easily avoided. It costs five times as much to acquire new customers as it does to retain them. 

Increasing your retention rates just requires a conscious effort to reach out to your customers. The following strategies will help you book more appointments and start to see more familiar faces over time:

Improve the Customer Experience

The obvious way to get customers to keep coming back is to provide them with an experience they won’t forget. Customers will be looking forward to their next visit if you make it more than worth their time. 

Take a trip through your customer journey and look for ways to make improvements. You can break down their experience into four parts:

Booking

How easy is it to book an appointment at your establishment? A difficult booking process is sure to cause frustration. Implementing online scheduling software will work out a lot of the kinks that come with appointment bookings, such as miscommunications, forgotten appointment commitments, and long hold times. 

Waiting

Reducing wait times for customers will put a big gold star next to your company name. If customers know you can get them in and out, you’ll get customers who are willing to squeeze in an appointment during their lunch break. You’ll also appeal to those pressed for time who simply can’t afford to lose a half-hour in a waiting room. Respect your customers’ time to the best of your ability, and they’ll feel comfortable making a return appointment. 

Service

From start to finish, the service you provide is the most important factor when customers decide to make a return or not. When you provide the best haircut, dentistry, massage, manicure, [your service here] in town, your customers will have no cause to stray. 

Departure

You might consider this part of the customer journey an inconsequential one, but you’d be wrong. Each time a customer heads out the door is an opportunity to end things on a high note. Ask them about their experience, crack one last joke, and encourage them to book a return appointment on the spot. 

How would these steps affect you as a customer of your own business? Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes will enable you to make the right adjustments.

Treat Customers Like Family

Of course, your customer service skills should also be top-notch. When your customers feel like they belong, they’ll have an intrinsic desire to keep coming back. You can accomplish this by treating each one of your customers like family. 

Start every customer interaction on the right foot. Address each person by name, and commit to memory the names of your regulars’ kids and/or significant others. Without being intrusive, learn details about your customers’ lives and use the information to develop closer relationships with them. 

Offer Return Incentives

Nothing boosts customer retention quite like an enticing incentive. An incentive program gives customers a reason to keep coming back or even increase the rate at which they book appointments. Your business can offer discounts for return appointments or allow customers to book multiple appointments at once for a lower rate.

Membership programs are especially effective at enabling customer retention. Points are accrued through purchases that can be used as credit for additional purchases, discounts, or prizes. Airlines and hotels are leaders in this field; their rewards programs are key to getting travelers to commit to their brand over the many others in their industries.

You can also appeal to other customer desires by making donations to their charity of choice or putting together community outreach efforts. To some customers, sharing values with a brand is the biggest motivating factor for continuing to patronize a business. 

Aim for Referrals

Referrals are one of the most effective ways of getting new business. In fact, customers are four times more likely to buy a product or book an appointment when referred to a company by a friend. Why wouldn’t you want more referrals filling up your appointment bookings?

A referral program can be one of the incentives you offer. For every referral that leads to an appointment, customers can earn points, discounts, or other rewards. This creates a chain of customer referrals to keep you busy day in and day out.

Another way to get referrals and maintain customer retention is to continue working on that customer experience. If you constantly exceed the expectations of your customers, they can’t help but tell their family and friends. One last statistic that demonstrates why referrals are worth cultivating: customers who come to your business from a referral have a 37% higher retention rate than customers obtained through other means.

Ask for Feedback

Sometimes the best way to figure out how to increase customer retention is to go directly to the source. Asking for feedback from your customers will give you an inside look on the best and worst aspects of your business. This knowledge will allow you to focus on what’s working and ditch what drives customers away. 

Let’s say you get 100 customer responses to a survey on various aspects of your business. There are bound to be a few outliers due to personal preference, so stick with what the majority seems to be saying. For example, if 88 of these customers say wait times are too long, you know that should become your next focus. If the responses are less conclusive, you may need to ask some follow-up questions. 

Be sure to calculate your retention rate now so you can see the difference once you start prioritizing retention goals. When you see what drives improved numbers, double down on those positive changes. More and more, you’ll see your customers sticking around for the long haul.

How Your Calendar Can Save the World

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How Your Calendar Can Save the World

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

Seek my part, devote myself

My small self

Like a book amongst the many on a shelf

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

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

1. Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Cultivate Gratitude

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

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

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

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

3. Volunteer Your Time

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

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

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

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

4. Offer Your Services

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

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

5. Make a Donation

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

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

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

6. Commit to a Regular Contribution

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

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

7. Be Informed

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

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

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

8. Get Involved Politically

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

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

9. Use Your Voice

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

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

10. Conduct an Energy Audit

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

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

11. Create Reminders to Power Down

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

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

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

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

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

12. Set the Ideal Temperature

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

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

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

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

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

13. Reduce Unnecessary Mail

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

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

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

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

14. Prepare Your Meals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16. Shop Locally

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

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

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

17. Run Errands At Once

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

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

18. Walk or Bike

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

19. Extend the Life of Your Lithium Battery

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

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

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

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

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

20. Frequently Check-In With Others

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

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

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

21. Take a Vacation

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

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

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

22. Add Holidays and Observances

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

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