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Team Service Opportunities That Build Character

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Character, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual.” It’s often composed of having the right values, doing the right thing, and being the right kind of person. Suffice to say, character plays a significant role in our success in life. The reason? It helps us develop personality traits like honesty, trust, courage, patience, and leadership.

While some believe that character is something that you’re born with, others argue that it can be changed and grown through some work. For example, you can develop your character by continuing to learn, improving soft skills, meeting new people, and spreading kindness.

If you’ve ever helped someone else, then you may see a link between volunteering and developing character. After all, giving back allows you to build important character traits like wisdom, confidence, and courage. It gives you a chance to strengthen your empathy, spread justice, improve your temperance, and encourage you to transcend.

The benefits of volunteering.

In addition to developing character, there are other perks of helping others. It’s been scientifically proven that volunteering is good for your mind and body as it counters the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also lower high blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and lessen the symptom of chronic pain.

Moreover, helping others gives you a sense of purpose and satisfaction. It opens up new opportunities to network and honing your skills — or trying out new ones.

But, hold on, there’s more. Giving back also comes with organizational benefits. It’s perfect for building stronger bonds among teams, gives your team a sense of achievement as a group. can be used as a learning event, and improve employee attraction and retention. Volunteering also has the power to boost morale, engagement, demonstrate your company’s values. And, if that’s not enough to sway you, it’s also beneficial for your bottom line

With all that being said, the point I’m getting at is that volunteering is one of the best things that you can do individually and as a part of a team. And, because of this, it’s time that you explore the best service opportunities for your team if you want to reap the benefits of volunteering, such as building character.

Getting Started With Team-Based Volunteering

For your team service to have an impact within your organization and others, you first need to take the following 8 steps. These have been developed by MovingWorlds, who have over 50 years of collective experience designing volunteer programs for individuals, companies, nonprofits.

Define your intentions.

Why do you want to volunteer? Is it altruistic or is there another reason? It’s alright to have another motive, like using volunteerism as a team-building activity. Discuss this with your team so that you can identify the purpose of giving back.

Audit your team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Evaluate the skills that you and your team possess. What industries are you familiar with? And, what knowledge or resources can you use to make the world better?

Document your learning and impact goals.

You don’t have to create a formal document. But, you should write down your goals so that you can refer to them as needed. To get you started, Mark Horoszowski, co-founder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org, suggests writing down goal-related statements like:

  • What can I learn about the organization and the industry I’m volunteering in?
  • What can I learn about communication and collaboration by working in a new setting?
  • Do I have any personal development areas that I can put into practice while volunteering?
  • What would indicate that we’re actually making an impact?

Pick a cause and find a partner.

Solicit ideas from your team on how you want to give back. Use your team’s strengths, interests, and passions to narrow down a cause. For example, if you’re all skilled coders who believe that this is a talent children need to learn, then you could work with a non-profit like Code.org, Mined Minds, or Girls Who Code.

You can do this during a brainstorming session or adding to an agenda of an upcoming meeting. Another way would be sending out an employee survey, poll, or questionnaire. Or, you could also work with placement partners like MovingWorlds, VolunteerMatch, or United We Serve who can connect your company with a non-profit.

Consider opportunities and threats.

Despite your best intentions, sometimes giving can have a negative impact. For example, if you’re not a doctor or teacher, then why volunteer to go to places in the world that are in need of these professions? Also, don’t get frustrated by the positive changes you are making aren’t always the most exciting, such as doing administrative work or coaching.

Develop a sustainability plan.

All good things must come to an end, like your team’s service opportunity. Come up with a plan on how you’re going to end the project. And, have a process for how others can seamlessly continue doing the work you’ve done.

Find support and sponsors.

Besides getting your team on board, find out if anyone within your network would also like to join. You should also look for other businesses to join in as well. Maybe you could get several local businesses to support various teams in a baseball little league.

Document and publicize your work.

Documenting your experience can “increase exposure of the organization and mission you worked on,” writes Horoszowski. It can also encourage you to reflect, learn, and inspire others to follow you and your organization’s lead.

Team Service Ideas

Now that we have that out of the way, here are 62 team service opportunities that you should pursue.

General Ideas

  • Plan an item drive, such as canned food, coat, book, or toy drive.
  • Cleanup up an outdoor area like a park or beach.
  • Donate or raise money for a nonprofit like the Red Cross.
  • Host a fundraiser for a local nonprofit.
  • Assemble care packages for nurses, first responders, or the military.
  • Plan a charity team building activity, such as “Pay it Forward.”
  • Participate in a charity race.
  • Mentor students or underserved communities.
  • Do pro bono work, such as the Accessibility Internet Rally in Austin, TX.
  • Help community members register to vote.
  • Volunteer as staff at an event, like a 5K or festival.
  • Offer to promote a cause or nonprofit event.

Helping Children and Schools

  • Coach or sponsor a youth sports team.
  • Tutor students.
  • Donate presents to a children’s hospital.
  • Perform at a children’s hospital.
  • Pack back bags filled with essential school supplies for teachers at an underserved school in your community.
  • Babysit so that parents can attend a PTA meeting or have a night out.
  • Donate used books to a school library.
  • Collect baby and children’s clothing so they can be donated to those in need.
  • Volunteers at a camp or afterschool program.
  • Sponsor a child in a foreign country.

Assisting Senior Citizens and Veterans

  • Pick-up groceries or medicine for elderly family or community members.
  • Visit nursing homes and spend quality time with the residents.
  • Host a bingo night for senior citizens.
  • Drive those who can not get to their doctor’s appointments.
  • Make birthday, holiday, and thank cards.
  • Host a holiday meal for seniors or veterans.
  • Plan a Memorial or Veterans Day parade.
  • Mow lawns, rake leaves, and shovel snow.
  • Teach the elderly how to use technology, like computers and smartphones.
  • Raise money for organizations like Wounded Warriors, or Charity Water.

Helping Animals and the Environment

  • Volunteer or donate food and cleaning supplies to local animal shelters, or women and men’s shelters.
  • Train service dogs or foster animals until they find a home.
  • Organize a spay and neuter program.
  • Take your pet to a retirement home or hospital.
  • Sponsor a recycling program.
  • Build a community garden or clean-up an existing one.
  • Participate or organize the cleanup of a body of water, park, or along roads.
  • Offer to watch your friends, family, or neighbors pet when they’re on vacation.
  • Adopt-a-highway or sponsor an acre of rainforest or wetlands.
  • Organize an office carpool or permit more work-from-home opportunities.

Improving Your Community

  • Help the homeless and hungry in your community, such as donating food and clothing.
  • Build a house with Habit With Humanity.
  • Volunteer at food banks, homeless shelters, firehouses, or schools.
  • Start or join a community watch.
  • Become CPR certified.
  • Paint over graffiti and repaint benches.
  • Become a local tour guide.
  • Create or sponsor a piece of pubic art, playground equipment
  • Clean up after a natural disaster.
  • Participate in and promote a community event.

In-house and Virtual Ideas

  • Celebrate as a team, like having a pizza party after accomplishing a major milestone
  • Create professional and personal development programs so your team can learn and grow together.
  • Establish a mentorship program.
  • Offer childcare for the parents on your team.
  • Raise money for an ailing or struggling team member.
  • Pick up the slack for a colleague who is ill.
  • Set up an Angel Tree during the holidays.
  • Assemble kits during work hours, such as hygiene kits, that can be distributed.
  • Host an event for your team, like a family-friendly picnic or team building activity.
  • Encourage your team to volunteer virtually if they can’t do so in-person. You can find virtual volunteering opportunities on VolunteerMatch, Serve.gov, or AllForGood.

Best Calendar Apps for Freelancers on the Go

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Freelancer working

If you are a freelancer, then you know the challenge of working in many different places. It used to be that there weren’t many tools that were easy to take with you. Now, you are free to work wherever without losing that ability to stay on task and on time. Helping you along are these best calendar apps for freelancers.

What Makes These the Best Calendar Apps For Freelancers

Here are our best calendar apps for freelancers to help them work more productively:

  • Calendar for smart scheduling, integration with a wide range of apps, and meeting transcriptions
  • Fantastical 2 for its machine learning and natural language processing that delivers smart scheduling
  • Vantage Calendar for its ease of use and visual representation of meetings and events
  • Cal for its simple interface and powerful search functionality
  • Google Calendar for its cloud functionality and wide-ranging use and features
  • Awesome Calendar for automatic synch with iPhone calendars, to-do list development, and diary 
  • Calendars 5 for its numerous calendar, event, and task views
  • Week Calendar for its multiple versions to suit freelancers who use iOS devices, iPads and iPhones, Android devices and a Web platform.
  • Pocket Informant for its ability to work as a virtual assistant to cover your calendar, tasks, projects, notes, and contacts
  • Peek Calendar for its human-directed user interfaces and glimpse feature
  • Tiny Calendar for its syncing between platforms to stay updated on events listed in Google Calendars
  • Calvetica for its speed, efficiency, multiple views and sync capability with Google, Exchange, and other calendars
  • MiCal for its support of eight languages and funtionality

Calendar App

Calendar

Calendar is made for iOS, Android, and Web access through its cloud-based platform that provides access from anywhere. This dynamic calendar app for freelancers and other small business owners offers a free sign-up process and simple process to get started.

The easy-to-use and navigate app includes machine learning so the app learns your schedule, contacts, and daily tasks. From there, it can handle the tedious work of scheduling and organizing meetings, events, and projects. Real-time information and integration with other apps like Lyft allow you to focus on the meeting rather than how to get there. By analyzing your historical calendar data, the calendar app can help you prioritize what you need to get done in a more productive way. This makes this the ideal time management tool to add to your freelance business.

Fantastical Guide

Fantastical Guide

Fantastical 2

Fantastical 2 is a calendar app does cost a small fee to download. However, it is a small price to pay for such a comprehensive calendar tool. It is made for both iOS and Android users as well as Mac computer.

The calendar app delivers some of the most advanced technology. This includes a natural language parser as well as synch support for Google, iCloud, iPhone Calendar, and Facebook. Dayticker is one of its best features because it lets you see appointments through an easy user interface. Just one note is that if you plan on using it on your iPad, you will need to pay for another download of the calendar app to use it there in addition to your other device.

Vantage Calendar App

Vantage

Vantage is a visual calendar app for iOS devices (iPhone an iPad) that is easy to use, has an integrated to-do list, and simple interface. It has a bird’s eye view that provides a new perspective on how to look at your calendar. Then, events are grouped in a stack format to show you how much is planned for each day. Just click on an item in the stack to learn more about that event.

To designate different events and to-do items, you can use various colors and stickers. Then, those cues will be displayed anywhere that particular event or task shows up on your calendar to quickly identify them. Additionally, Vantage syncs with various other tools you most likely already use as a freelancer, such as Facebook, iCloud, Google, and Exchange. Lastly, you can customize the colors and themes to show your personal style through your calendar.

Cal

Cal is a free calendar app developed by Any.do, a task manager app popular among freelancers. Some of the unique features include a simple and clean interface that shows you a clear daily view of what you need to achieve as well as powerful search functionality that provides feedback based on even the most vague information.

For example, if you let it know you need to do your taxes, it will send reminders about an upcoming day that taxes are due. Other things you ask deliver suggested apps that hep you achieve that purpose. However, those apps are typically affiliate apps, which means they have been paid to suggest those apps to you. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s important to keep that in mind. Another great feature is that when you plan an invite, the app can help you find a place to host that event based on the people invited and theme.

Google Calendar Guide

Google Calendar

Google Calendar is most often the default calendar of freelancers because it comes with their Gmail and Google account. However, there is so much that can be done with this calendar app. The cloud functionality means that you can access it from any device you use where you can sign into your Google account. That means it is available for the Web, iOS, and Android.

The Schedule View feature makes your calendar come to life with an easy-to-read format that tells you exactly what you need to accomplish each day. Also, it does some of the work for you because when you get an email that involves any type of reservation related to an event, Google Calendar will automatically add it to your personal calendar. Syncing your Google Calendar is simple. Other features include flairs that represent certain types of activities as well as machine learning capability that provides a way for the app to start learning your routine so it can suggest and mange calendar activity.

Awesome Calendar

Awesome Calendar is a calendar app that does come at a cost, but it delivers a host of valuable tools and features that make it a good investment for any freelancer. Some of the main features include automatic synch with iPhone calendars, to-do list development, a diary with the ability to embed visuals, weather, event alarms, and holiday listings for 35 countries.

It’s great for organizing your work as a freelancer and your life simultaneously. So many of the features also customizable by color, font, stickers, and more so you can make the calendar your own.

Calendars 5

Calendars 5 is made for the iPhone and iPad to help improve how freelancers and other business downers use their calendars. it offers easy task management, event management, synch, and scheduling functionality. This low-priced calendar app also inlaces natural language input.

That means users can type in something that they want to do and the app will parse the information, create an event around what you want to do, and invite the person mentioned in the input. Although it doesn’t work with Google Maps, it does provide map compatibility with Apple Maps.

Week Calendar and Cally

Week Calendar offers its Week Calendar and Cally apps for freelancers that use iOS devices. While the Week Calendar app is only for iPads and iPhones, the Cally app also works with Android devices and offers a Web platform.

The Week Calendar  works with other calendars so you can use them altogether within this app, such as Google Calendar, Exchange Calendar, and iCloud Calendar. Cally makes it easy to choose dates and locations for group events, invite participants, and receive notifications on progress. Both offer an intuitive experience for the user.

Pocket Informant

Pocket Informant helps freelancers stay on top of their work and personal lives all within one app. It works as a virtual assistant to cover your calendar, tasks, projects, notes, and contacts. The calendar app is available for iOS, Android, and Mac. There are so many functions that it may seem overwhelming at first until you start using the calendar app on a daily basis and understand how its Getting Things Done (GTD) integration really works to keep you organized, reduce tedious work, and eliminate repetitive tasks.

The one-button navigation is one of the best features for anyone working on the go. Also, triggers identify a keyword or attribute found in an event or task. Then, the triggers create the new event from the template you’ve designed. That reduces the work of putting together an agenda outline when scheduling a team meeting.

Peek Calendar

Peek Calendar is a low-cost app for iOS that has one of the beautiful and human-directed user interfaces available in a calendar tool.  Offering easy input to add items to your calendar, this calendar app can give you a “peek” at what your day is like rather than having to scroll through a lot of information to get to what you need to know.

One unique feature is the shading gesture, which helps you see what you need by darkening part of the screen rather than struggle due to the glare of the sun.

Tiny Calendar

Tiny Calendar is a free Google Calendar app that works for freelancers that use Android devices. It enables syncing between platforms to stay updated on events listed in Google Calendars. It improves upon what Google Calendar can do, including adding responsiveness, reliability, and accessibility.

You get multiple ways to view an even and your tasks. The calendar tool even works offline so you can add and manage it without an Internet connection. Other features include invitations, recurring events, intuitive gestures and calendar customization.

Calvetica

Calvetica is a fast, efficient calendar app that can be downloaded for a very low price. Available for the iPhone or iPad, this calendar app has multiple views to see how events and tasks overlap or involve multiple says. It syncs with Google, Exchange, and other calendars.

Cool features include attendee management, map integration to find events quickly, intuitive gestures, and customization for colors and calendar fears. There are alarms and alerts, time zone support, a 24-hour format, and responsive customer support. The developers of this calendar app regularly update it with new features and improved functionality.

miCal

MiCal is an iOS calendar app that offers a treasure trove of features that a freelancer would love. First, it supports eight languages, which is beneficial for those working with clients in various parts of the world. They will be able to enter their information in their native language for greater convenience.

There are eight different views to look at your calendar as well as task, schedule, and birthday reminders. You can quickly create new events by describing thanks to the natural language input feature. Additionally, it integrates with iCloud, Outlook, Facebook Events, Exchange, and Google Calendar.

Enhance Your Business Savvy During COVID-19

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Like so many of you, it’s been a challenge as of late. I’ve been trying to put on a strong face with the COVID-19 going on — but, internally, I’m a little anxious. I’m concerned about the health and welfare of my family, friends, employees, and business.

But, recently, I’ve decided to use this time as an opportunity to enhance my business savvy — as opposed to dwelling on the negative. And, here are some of the areas that I’ve been focusing on to improve my business acumen significantly.

Build better habits.

Habits, as Deanna Ritchie explained in a previous Calendar article, “are behaviors or tasks that we without thinking about.” As a whole, “habits can help us become the best possible versions of ourselves.” And when that happens, “we’ll be healthier, happier, and more productive.”

In short, habits are kind of important. Not just for our health and well-being. But also because they can help improve our business savvy. For instance, if you don’t have mental habits like positivity, resilience, and focus, it’s impossible to keep your eyes on the prize.

At the same time, habits can also be detrimental. “Examples would be hitting the snooze button, procrastination, watching too much TV, and smoking,” explains Deanna. “You probably don’t need to be reminded of this, but all are bad for your productivity and well-being.”

How can you perfect the art of better habits? Well, here are some suggestions from Deanna:

  • Start incredibly small and work your way up. Use the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM), as a habit recipe template to make this possible: “After I [TRIGGER], I will [TINY HABIT].”
  • Don’t be vague. Always create an implementation and make sure that it’s satisfying.
  • Stack your habits by tieing a new habit into an existing one.
  • Short-circuit the feedback loop to reshape any habit.
  • Remove any bias by creating the right environment.
  • Overcome possible excuses, like getting that guitar out of the closet and putting it next to your chair.
  • Create a habit calendar to track your progress and celebrate wins.

Create a Business Model Canvas.

“The Business Model Canvas (BMC) is a strategic management tool to quickly and easily define and communicate a business idea or concept,” explains Mike Ebinum, Sheda Director, in a Medium post.

It’s just a one-page document that works “through the fundamental elements of a business or product, coherently structuring an idea,” Mike adds. “The right side of the BMC focuses on the customer (external), while the left side of the canvas focuses on the business (internal).”

Both “factors meet around the value proposition, which is the exchange of value between your business and your customer/clients,” continues Mike. The BMC is often used “to quickly draw a picture of what the idea entails,” get a better idea of your business, how customers play a role, and where you want to go.

What’s more, this can help you clarify your value proposition and develop customer personas. It can even guide in which type of content to create and where to share it. And, the BMC will also identify the key activities, resources, partners, expenses, and revenue streams required for you to succeed.

Even if you’ve done this previously, it won’t hurt to give it another try. Maybe your business has changed over the years. Or, perhaps, it will allow you to spot any leaks and potential opportunities.

Listen to your employees, customers, and suppliers.

He may be a divisive figure. But, Steve Jobs had an excellent quote regarding hiring. “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

I hate to burst your bubble here. But, you don’t have all of then answers or here capable of running a business on your own. That’s why you brought on a talented team. They’re doing the things that you’re not great at. And, they probably have a pulse on aspects of your business that you aren’t aware of. For example, since they’re frequently interacting with them, your customer service reps can let you know their pain points.

In other words, your team is an untapped reserve of knowledge. Schedule one-one-ones with them and pick their brains so that you can learn as much as you can about their responsibilities so that you know every facet of your business. Besides, this gives you a chance to check-in with them, which builds trust and improves your leadership skills.

In addition to your employees, connect with your customers, suppliers, and vendors. Social media is a great way to interact with your audience to gather feedback on how your business can improve. Chatting with suppliers and vendors can build rapport and change your business for the better. It can also encourage you to make a change. Maybe after doing some digging and speaking with a vendor, you determine that they’re too unreliable.

Keep on learning.

Is there any better time than the present to finally improve your skills, expand your knowledge, or learn something new? In my opinion, this won’t just enhance your business savvy; it’s also a much-needed distraction. And, best of all, you can do this from the comfort of your home.

How can you keep on learning? Well, here are some ideas for you to try out:

  • Attend an online business school, training resource, or certificate program. Check out Coursera, Skillshare, or Wharton Online.
  • Read as much as possible. I’m talking about books like Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher & William Ury, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman, Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . And Others Don’t by Jim Collins. And, don’t rule out leading business blogs and websites. Obviously, there are millions of options out there. So, your best bet would be to search for whatever are you need assistance with. For example, if you want to bulk up your online marketing you might want to follow Copyblogger or Moz (or recommend these to team members, and then discuss them at a later date). To get you started, here’s a list of 100 business blogs compiled by the good folks over at Quickbooks.
  • Listen to podcasts. These are great when you’re going for a walk or doing things around the house. Jennifer Spencer put together a solid list of 20 podcasts that will help your business grow on Entrepreneur. But, I would add Entrepreneur on Fire, the Garyvee Audio Experience, and How I Built This.
  • Find a mentor, advisor, and coach. A mentor could be a local business owner, professor, someone like Richard Branson. You’ve never met him. But, he’s influenced you via the books he’s written. Advisors are those who you have a deeper relationship with you can help you improve in a specific area. Coaches are people that you hire to assist you in becoming a better business owner.
  • Volunteer. On top of giving back, this allows you to network and enhance your existing skillset. Of course, you can’t do this in-person currently. But, there are virtual volunteering opportunities for you to explore.

Pay attention to the latest business news.

I know that the news can be overwhelming and exhausting right now. But don’t completely shelter yourself from the latest business news. I mean, you don’t want to miss out on the recent developments and emerging trends, right? If so, you might be missing out on new business and growth opportunities.

You probably can’t go wrong with the old standbys like CNBC, Fortune, or the Wall Street Journal. Personally, I’m a fan of Morning Brew, SGN, and the Skim. Both are daily email newsletters that you can quickly consume. They’re also smart and witty, so it doesn’t always seem like doom and gloom. And, best of all, they keep me updated first thing in the morning so that I don’t have to watch the news all day.

Join a professional organization or an online community.

Some business owners and entrepreneurs might dismiss this. But, in my opinion, this is one of the best time investments you could make. After all, becoming a part of a professional association or online community expands your network, helps you learn new skills, and exposes you to industry trends. You can also use these organizations for professional growth opportunities, to meet or become a mentor, and getting your name out there.

Right now, unfortunately, you can’t do this in person. Thankfully, most of these groups have gone virtual. For example, the Chamber of Commerce is hosting virtual events and webinars. What’s more, there are more than enough online communities for you to join that can help you in business-related areas you like. Suggestions would be Startup Nation, GrowthHackers, LinkedIn groups like Bright Ideas and Entrepreneurs, The Small Business Bonfire, and Slack channels like Online Geniuses.

Develop (or update) your contingency plan.

“A contingency plan, also referred to as a disaster recovery plan, is a set of steps, written down and communicated to all, that describes how you and your team will respond in case of a future, unforeseen, disaster or hardship,” explains Debbie Madden over on Inc.com. The reason? It can help minimize losses and “continue operations as close to ‘normal’ as possible.”

“The key is to create a contingency plan early, communicate it to the entire company, and update it often (ideally annually),” suggests Debbie. And, to achieve that, it could contain the following four pillars:

  • Employee safety. Your people always come first, so make their health and wellness your top priority.
  • Communication plan. Determine a way to communicate with each other. It may sound outdated. But, Debbie has a landline just in case there’s no cell service or people can’t charge their devices.
  • Data backup and recovery. Purchase insurance, place everything on the cloud, and consider purchasing a generator. I’d also recommend that you step-up your cybersecurity knowledge to prevent attacks.
  • Finances. Create a budget and stick to it. And, make sure that you have an emergency fund in place. Debbie also suggests keeping cash-on-hand.

After getting all four pillars in place, “round out your plan by thinking through the specifics of your business,” writes Debbie. “You aren’t going to be able to predict which disasters will hit and when.” However, “if you think through a few worst-case scenarios, as unpleasant as this task is, you’ll be better prepared.”

Also, go through multiple disaster categories to help you prepare for both short-and-long-term events. You could also brainstorm with your team to know how your business is impacted and the steps needed to recover.

Go outside your wheelhouse.

Do something that’s not a part of your regular responsibilities. Maybe write a blog post, develop a social media marketing campaign, answer customer service questions, or do some bookkeeping. If you don’t feel comfortable doing a specific task, then don’t. The idea, though, is to help you learn new skills and how every cog in your business works. You may even empathize with specific team members after walking in their shoes.

And, now is the perfect time to experiment with new tools and strategies. For instance, maybe you’re trying out some time management and productivity techniques now that you’re working from home. Or, to stay in touch with your team, you’ve test-driving various tools that make virtual meetings more accessible and effective. And, you could finally give a new marketing campaign or service a trial run to see what sticks.

The 10 Best Business Calendar Apps of 2020

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No disrespect, but the days of hanging a calendar on the wall or placing one on your desk are probably over. You have a calendar with you 24/7 in your pocket thanks to your smartphone. It’s your smartphone and laptop where you can tap into the best business calendar apps. Now, we have the calendar apps of 2020 to keep us organized.

Unlike those old-school paper calendars, an online calendar allows you to access your calendar from multiple devices. Schedule meetings and appointments from anywhere, set-up reminders, create recurring events, block out time for specific events — all in your hand.

If there’s one catch, however, it’s that there are hundreds of online calendars and apps out there. So, which one should you rely-on? To be fair, the online calendar you’re using should already be pretty solid. Google Calendar, Microsoft Calendar, and Apple Calendar have been used by most people to organize and manage their lives successfully for some time. These may be already on your list of top calendar apps of 2020.

However, it seems like every day there’s some sort of new calendar tool launching. We decided to make your life easier and share with you the ten best calendar apps that are currently available. You can either switch over to a new calendar or use these apps to beef-up your existing online calendar.

Best Business Calendar Apps of 2020

We’ve put together a list of the ten best calendar apps of 2020:

  • Calendar for smart scheduling, calendar and productivity tool integration, meeting transcriptions, and analytics
  • Rooster for the ability to manage your calendar and to-do list simultaneously within one app
  • CloudCal for syncing with Google Calendar, Microsoft Exchange, Trello, Evernote, Eventbrite, and Meetup
  • Vantage Calendar for its clean interface and scrolling, visual calendar
  • Business Calendar 2 for its user-friendly dashboard and task organizer that syncs with Google Tasks 
  • Plan for its potential to improve organization and integration with your email, JIRA, Zendesk, Salesforce, and Github
  • TimeTree for sharing your calendar, tasks, and schedule with others
  • Fantastical 2 for its Apple compatibility, sync capability, natural language processing for smart scheduling
  • aCalendar for its customization features and automatic data import from Google Calendar and Facebook.
  • Trevor for its AI power to create smart scheduling and sharing

1. Calendar

Launched in 2017, Calendar solved one of the biggest headaches surrounding scheduling — it eliminated those back-and-forth emails.

By using a smart scheduling link, you can now share your calendar availability with others. When someone sees an open date that works for them, they chose the date, and it’s automatically added to everyone’s calendar.

The free app can also harness the power of machine learning so that it can make smart meeting suggestions based on your previous calendar date.

With Calendar, you can also quickly create events using natural language and a glimpse at your schedule with an innovative map view. It’s timezone friendly, categorizes projects, and has the ability to send invitation follow-ups — Calendar is ideal for teams.

2. Rooster

This app helps you stay on top of everything because you can manage both your calendar and to-do-list in one app. What makes this app unique is that it comes with a single-view design. That means you can just glance at both at the same exact time. With the QuickCal Keyboard, you can add appointments in just a couple of taps.

Another handy feature is the ability to prioritize your tasks by pinning your most important tasks at the top. You can also receive a summary of your schedule, share your calendar with others, and it works with Apple, Google, and Outlook Calendars, making it one of the best calendar apps of 2020.

3. CloudCal

CloudCal is an Android app that has been around for several years. But, it’s one of the few calendars that can unite all of your calendars in one convenient location, making it one of the top calendar apps of 2020. It syncs with Google Calendar, Microsoft Exchange, Trello, Evernote, Eventbrite, and Meetup. This makes organizing and scheduling your calendar a breeze.

The coolest feature offered by CloudCal is the ‘Magic Circles’ feature. This transforms days of the month into clock faces. This way you can see the hours when you’re busy and free with just a glance.

The app also allows you to customize your day, week, and month views, color-code your calendars, receive reminders and invite contacts to meetings through email.

4. Vantage Calendar

This app is equipped with a clean interface that provides a scrolling, visual calendar. This gives you a birds-eye view of your schedule. If you need more details, you can tap on an event to see more information.

Next to your events is your to-do-list. You can simply drag them over a date to make them appear there. To separate the various areas of your life you create “books.”

Vantage also lets you color-code your calendar, assign due dates to your todos, and iCloud, Google, Exchange, Facebook. You can only download Vantage on iTunes.

5. Business Calendar 2

Business Calendar has been a popular Android app for some time now. And, it’s easy to understand why. The app is user-friendly and was designed specifically with professionals in mind. As such, the app lets you navigate easily between month, week, or day ¾views. The task organizer syncs with Google Tasks, you can add event details with your voice, invite attendees to events, and create notifications for recurring events.

While you can download the app for free, you may want to purchase the Pro version to access all more of the robust features to get the most out of this tool that makes our list of top calendar apps of 2020.

6. Plan

This is a newer app that has a ton of potential since it can be used to organize your life.

With Plan, you can sync all of your tools. This means that instead of bouncing between a variety of apps, you can access your tools. You can use a calendar, email, JIRA, Zendesk, Salesforce, and Github in one platform. Plan states that this can save you and your team around 15 hours per week.

Speaking of teams, with Plan you can use its dashboard to see who’s responsible for certain tasks and when they’re doing it in realtime.

This calendar is optimal for one or two users — and you can use Plan for free. Larger teams will have to opt for the $9/month plan.

7. TimeTree

If you’re looking for an app that allows you to share your calendar, schedule, and tasks with your family or co-workers then TimeTree is arguably your best option.

With TimeTree everyone can put their schedules onto one shared calendar. You can then add and edit events or tasks so that everyone in on the same page. There’s also a communications section where you can add comments and attachments.

Perhaps the coolest feature is that you can share your schedule with anyone — even if they haven’t downloaded the app.

TimeTree offers support for Google, Apple Calendar, and Outlook Calendars. It can be downloaded for free at both the App Store and Google Play. You can also download the app directly to your desktop.

8. Fantastical 2

Fantastical 2 has long been a favorite among Apple users as one of the best calendar apps of 2020. It’s packed with features like the ability to sync schedules with others, create events and reminders quickly with natural language and time zone support, and alerts.

The app can also let you know when it’s time to leave for a meeting. There’s also support for Google, iCloud, Facebook, CalDAV, Exchanged, and iPhone calendar.

A lot of users really dig the “Dayticker” feature because it allows you to quickly see which days have been booked out and what’s available. Another popular feature is the “Today Widget” which allows you to access your schedule without having to open the app.

You can give Fantastical 2 a spin for free for 21 days.

9. aCalendar

Here’s another one of the most popular calendar apps of 2020 made for Android users that’s free to download.

With aCalendar, you can customize the calendar by changing the view or colors as you see fit. It transitions smoothly between day, week, and month view. And, you can use it to assign tasks, invite people to events, and create recurring events.

aCalendar also automatically imports all your data from Google Calendar and Facebook.

10. Trevor AI

Finally, we have one of the many AI chatbots that have been given a human name.

Trevor is pretty much a personal assistant that connects your calendar with your phone’s task list. Doing so can help you manage your time more efficiently. How? Because Trevor can find available time slots for you to complete these tasks automatically.

For example, let’s say that you need to pick up groceries or office supplies. You can tell Trevor what you need to buy and after analyzing your calendar Trevor can text you suggested times that would be best for you to run this errand. When you find a time that you like, text Trevor back and the app will schedule this task into your calendar.

Currently, the Trevor app only integrates with iOS Reminders and Todoist. But, more app integrations are expected to arrive soon.

Download Best Calendar Apps of 2020

Even better is that many of these best calendar apps of 2020 are free or low-cost. With more people working remotely than ever before, it even makes sense to see which best calendar apps of 2020 have team tier pricing to ensure everyone has access to these productivity tools.

 

10 Time Management Tips for Building a Business as a Parent

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Juggling parenthood and entrepreneurship is probably one of the most challenging experiences you’ll ever go through. But it’s not impossible. You can be successful and be a good parent. Try the following ten time management tips, and you may be surprised at how easy these tips will help you to build a business as a parent.

1. Live by your calendar.

“If it doesn’t exist on my calendar, it’s not real,” said Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec. More valid words have never been spoken. But, what exactly should go into your calendar?

Well, my calendar only includes date-specific appointments, my most important tasks, and blocks of time reserved for networking, learning, or relaxing. But before all of that, I schedule all of my personal obligations first, such as vacations, school functions, or doctor’s appointments.

“Plan as much as you can a year in advance and stick to it,” added Herjavec. For him, that’s booking his calendar a year in advance. That meant sitting down with his children’s school counselor and his assistant and going through “each” school holiday and event they had off.

“Because of that, I never missed a swim meet. I never missed a school play. I never missed anything,” Herjavec said. “I’d fly from L.A. back to Toronto to be with my kids for one day. That’s the great thing about having your own business — the freedom to control your schedule and to do with it what you want.”

2. Tune into your personal rhythms.

“For an efficient workday, that truly respects our human nature, the first thing to focus on are ultradian cycles,” writes Leo Widrich at Buffer.

“The basic understanding is that our human minds can focus on any given task for 90-120 minutes,” he explains. “Afterwards, a 20-30 minute break is required for us to get the renewal to achieve high performance for our next task again.” So, instead of focusing on how much you can get done in an eight-hour day, focus on what you’ll accomplish in the next 90-minute session.

Ideally, you should try to sync your personal rhythms with your family’s schedule. A family schedule can get tricky, but it is possible. For example, I’m up at 5:15 a.m. daily because I’m a morning person. Plus, the house is quiet. However, I’ve timed it to take a break at around 7 a.m. as everyone else is waking up. I’ve already worked for about 90-minutes and ready for a break. But, once my family is out the door, I’m ready to jump back into work.

3. Budget your time like you would with money.

As an entrepreneur, I’m positive that you’ve created and are sticking to a budget. If not, I don’t think your business will survive, right?

You can use the same concept to improving your time management by knowing what to spend your time on. For most of us, that would be getting organized, creating a healthy routine, setting goals, learning, recharging, and spending time with our family.

Another advantage of creating a time budget is that it allows you to see where you’re wasting your valuable time. For example, are spending countless hours each week on tedious daily tasks like bookkeeping, writing, customer service, or administrative tasks? While all important, these responsibilities aren’t the best use of your time and should be delegated.

4. Admit that you can’t be in two places at once.

Even heroes like Superman and The Flash don’t have this power. And, neither do you. The sooner you admit that, the sooner you will be able to create a more realistic schedule.

Now, I’m not saying that this will be a walk in the park. You’re going to have to make sacrifices and get comfortable saying “no.” But, if you know what your priorities are and schedule them first, you’ll have less conflict and friction in your life. Begin to understand that people who pare-down their tasks to fewer tasks, will get more done.

5. Don’t work from home.

As I’m writing this, the world is pretty much on lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. So, this advice isn’t recommended right now. But, as Mark Daoust, founder of Quiet Light Brokerage and father five, explains in a previous Entrepreneur piece, there’s an excellent reason why you should consider this.

“As I tried to focus on my work, I could hear my wife shushing the kids and telling them, ‘Daddy has to work,” he wrote. “I won’t do that again: I would feel guilty listening to family life happening just outside my door and feel that I should be involved.”

“And as if that weren’t bad enough, my brain would refuse to tell me where the ‘off’ switch was,” Mark added. “The kids would be telling me what they’d learned that day, and I would be mentally working on the business problems that had just unfolded. In short, there’d be too much to handle.”

“Instead, I’ve found that I need an outside office with a short commute,” he continued. “That short commute home helps me to turn off my work brain and enter back into family mode.”

Between the usual suspects, like coworking spaces and coffee shops, there are plenty of other free affordable options to work from. Some entrepreneurs have set up shop in parks, libraries, bars, and hotel lobbies. People like Maya Angelou even rented hotel rooms when she wanted to write without being interrupted.

If you can’t leave your property for whatever reason, there are a couple of other options. For example, I have a friend who has a car garage that’s not attached to his house. He converted it into an office so that he’s still technically at home, but has a little more privacy. I’ve also come across people who have placed tiny houses and used them as their workspace.

6. Learn how to leave work at work.

In a perfect world, you could clock out from work at a specific time and not think about it until it’s time to clock back in. Unfortunately, that’s not how we entrepreneurs believe. We’re always “on” and thinking about our business.

That’s not always a bad thing. I’ve had some of my best ideas when out in the real world and away from the office. But, you also don’t want to let work bleed into your home life — primarily work-related stress.

Again, this isn’t always the easiest of tasks. But, I’ve made it a point to quit work and be home at a specific time each day. If I do have to stay late, my family has plenty of notice in advance. Before I leave, I review my calendar for tomorrow and organize my desk. I then transition from “work” mode to “home” mode by listening to a non-work related podcast.

And, as I’ve already mentioned, I also schedule my family first in my calendar. So, if a client wants to meet with me on a Friday night and my family already has plans, then that meeting has to be rescheduled.

7. Get your family involved.

Of course, you can’t hire your family as full-time employees. But, you could have your kids lend a hand when they get home from school or when they’re home because of an in-service day. Maybe you could delegate some of the tasks to your partner when the kids aren’t around.

Besides giving you more opportunities to spend time with your family, this also teaches your children values that will make them exceptional. These include everything from responsibility to teamwork to problem-solving.

I’ve followed Sherrie Campbell, a psychologist, on raising children. Campbell has straightforward, understandable advice. Here are the seven values Sherrie suggests we can use to teach children about life to be successful. We all need actionable, doable information where children are concerned.

8. Prioritize your well-being.

As a parent, to both children and your business, how can you possibly attend to your well-being? Well, believe it or not, there are some realistic ways to achieve this.

For starters, when taking that break during an energy drop, go outside and walk. Meditate, journal, or do office exercises for a couple of minutes. All are realistic and don’t’ involve you waking-up earlier or adjusting your schedule too much.

You can also fill your office with healthy and nutritious snacks instead of eating from a vending machine. Also, you should get into the habit of preparing your meals for the entire week so that you don’t have to eat out. As an additional bonus, you can do this with your kids and also prep their meals, so you don’t have to do this throughout the week.

As for sleep? That can be impossible if you have a newborn, or children in general. But, there’s nothing wrong with taking a catnip if you feel rundown.

9. Be reliable and follow through.

When you block out time for specific tasks, then that’s where 100% of your attention should be. On the flip side, when you’re spending time with your children, then that’s what you should be focusing on.

That may sound easier said than done. But, if you’ve planned ahead and have established boundaries, it’s entirely possible. As a result, you’ll earn the reputation of being a reliable business owner and parent without spreading yourself too thin.

10. Don’t set it and forget it.

Finally, you need to reflect and adjust your schedule accordingly. For example, your children’s school schedule may be different this year because they’re in a new school. They may have dropped soccer and are not focused on playing a musical instrument — which means an entirely different calendar.

On your end, an organization that was meaningful to you a couple of years ago may now be considered a burden. So, why keep wasting your time there?

Make sure that your calendar is up-to-date and reflects what your priorities are at the moment.

12 Tips for Motivating Your Remote Team

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Even before COVOID-19 forced more people to work from home, there was already a surge in working from home. In fact, from 2005 – 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work. That figure would come out to roughly 3.4% of the population.

And while that’s all well and good, for both your productivity and health — it’s also challenging to motivate your team from a distance. The good news? There are ways, such as the following twelve tactics, for you to achieve this goal.

1. Check-in with them frequently.

“Human beings are social creatures by nature, which is inherently in conflict with remote work culture,” writes Ryan Bonnici in a previous Entrepreneur article. “And for every study that demonstrates the efficiency of remote work, there are medical and social scientists revealing the enormous consequences of social isolation,” he adds.

How can you help reduce this psychological toll on your team? Well, use technology to touch base with them often. Tools like Zoom, Highfive, Slack, and Microsoft Teams allow you to collaborate and stay connected with your remote team. There’s also Marco Polo. It’s an app that lets you send video messages to others that they can check when they have the availability.

2. Trust them.

Not everyone is cut out for remote work. But, those who prefer to work from afar do so because of the flexibility. So, go ahead and grant them that.

That doesn’t being completely hands-off. You still need to clearly define responsibilities, expectations, and deadlines, as well as checking in on them. But, beyond that, there’s no need to be micromanaging them. Get out of their way and let them do their thing. It’s a simple way to keep them engaged and motivated.

Another way to show your team that you trust them? By emphasizing what is produced instead of focusing on when and how much.

3. Implement a recognition program.

Creating a culture of recognition should always be a top priority for you. After all, it’s a surefire way to retain top talent, boost engagement, and encourage high performance. But, you already knew that. The problem is that you may not know how to implement this virtually.

Well, that shouldn’t be a concern if you use the following checklist from Justworks;

  • Identify the behaviors, which should be aligned with your values, that you want to reinforce.
  • Determine who is eligible for rewards and how often they’ll be given.
  • Have a structure in place to help you select candidates.
  • Select the type of award you want to give out.
  • Let your team know about the program through a group email or meeting.

4. Help them solve their time management problems.

It’s hard to maintain your motivation when time management is an issue. After all, when you struggle in this area, you aren’t producing your best work, more likely to miss deadlines, and unable to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

The solution? Help them with any of their time management problems by:

  • Stress the importance and benefits of time management to them.
  • Set goals together.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity.
  • Help them identify what’s causing their time management problems so that you can come up with solutions.
  • Reward their success through incentives or even just a handwritten thank you note.

5. Invest in their skills and development.

A key driver in retaining and motivating your team is helping them improve or learn new skills. In a perfect world, you could do this through mentorship or providing in-house training opportunities. Since this isn’t possible, you’ll have to do this via online learning platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, or LinkedIn Learning.

6. Create a virtual water-cooler.

Water-cooler chats often get a bad rap. But, they’re beneficial. Studies have found that these personal interactions make work more enjoyable and meaningful. They also foster a healthy and collaborative work environment. And, these informal conversations can boost productivity, spark creativity, and help people practice their conversational skills.

Of course, when you have a team working from all over the world, these water-cooler talks aren’t possible. But, you can create a virtual water-cooler by;

  • Always be friendly in how you communicate with others. It also wouldn’t hurt to convey your emotions through animated gifs and emojis.
  • Create events like video presentations and webcam hangouts. You could also encourage your team to play online games against each other or start a book club.

7. Create a visual scoreboard.

“Even if your team regularly communicates and has a culture of accountability, they still need a way to capture shared goals,” writes the folks over at 6Q. “Creating a visual that represents progress not only motivates employees with a competitive streak but also clarifies key performance indicators and priorities for the entire team.”

A straightforward way to do this would be to create “a spreadsheet that tracks progress over time or produce a PDF of fancy graphs that represent quarterly goals, choose a consistent method easy to digest for your entire team.” You could also schedule “weekly or monthly meetings to update the scoreboard and periodically realign to be sure the data you measure reflects your business’s initiatives.”

8. Take an interest in your team’s workspace.

You don’t want to overstep your bounds here. But, this shows that you genuinely care about your remote workers and want them to succeed. That’s why Automattic, creator of WordPress, gives its employees state-of-the-art technology and $2,000 to build a home office. At Calendar, we’ve shipped out Autonomous SmartDesks to team members, as well as voice assistants, to help our team members upgrade their home offices.

9. Take the good with the bad.

Research by the psychologist, Roy Baumeister, shows that “people are more strongly impacted by bad events, such as negative feedback,” writes Nell Thayer Heisner. “To avoid letting setbacks hinder the success of a project, managers must address them outright and be sure to counteract critique with positive reinforcement of good thinking and contributions of workers who may have gotten off course.”

“When keeping this in mind, workers will continue to move forward rather than looking behind at past mistakes,” adds Nell. In turn, the entire team will “make progress and effectively collaborate to advance toward the goal.”

10. Always pay them on time.

Besides the legal obligations, this is one of the easiest ways to show your team that you appreciate everything that they do. Sure. There are other ways that you can do this, like writing them handwritten notes or surprising them with gifts. But they need that money to survive. So, if you can’t provide that for them, then they’ll undoubtedly go to someone else who can.

11. Get to know them.

Although this may not seem possible at first, it’s pretty easy—issue surveys and polls. Schedule telephone one-on-ones and solicit their feedback. And, if possible, try to meet with them in-person occasionally — especially when they work for you many years.

Remember, face-to-face meetings are 34 times more successful. If this isn’t an option, at least give video conferencing a try.

Another option? Have your team take a personality test. That may sound a bit much. But, it can help you determine what your team member’s strengths and weaknesses are, communication preferences, and how they make decisions.

12. Cut out the unnecessary.

While you should get to know your team members, there is such a thing as too much communication with them. As such, make it a point to only schedule meetings and phone calls when necessary. If they are, then make sure that they’re short and concise.

The same is true with emails, texts, and Slack. Contacting them too much doesn’t just distract them. It may also be a sign that you’re a micromanager or don’t respect their valuable time.

5 Reasons Why Customer Engagement Is Everything

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If there’s one thing your company can’t survive without, it’s customer engagement. Engaging your customers as people is the single best way to show you care about them. 

Hosting events, sending personalized emails, and giving holiday discounts are all great engagement tactics. While these interactions may seem small, they can payoff with big rewards. An engaged customer represents 23% more revenue than an average customer, and acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing one.

If you’re staring down difficult competition, set yourself apart with customer engagement. For five reasons, it’s a great business strategy:

1. Builds brand awareness

Brand awareness describes how familiar someone is with your company’s values, products, and services. When they see you as an important part of their life, a customer is more likely to return that value to your company. 

Creating more brand awareness doesn’t have to be expensive. Nonprofit associations like BoatU.S. do a great job of engaging their customers inexpensively in a way that keeps their brand top of mind. The organization sends out monthly newsletters, as well as a bimonthly publication. Every issue shares recreational boating skills, DIY maintenance, safety tips, news, insight from experts, and lifestyle profiles.

Some brand awareness efforts that engage people are even free. Getting attention for your brand on social media is as simple as sharing entertaining content like videos, podcasts, blog posts and infographics. If you’re looking for a spendier, more meaningful option, you can also contribute to community causes, offer free samples, or provide on-site service

2. Generates social capital

Social capital is the value you gain from interpersonal relationships with other people. Connecting with your consumers and building rapport with them gives you both a boost of social capital.

Maybe your company offers digital marketing services. You might see an accounting firm advertising on TikTok, for example, and instead suggest they move their spend to LinkedIn ads. Simply reaching out with some free advice is a great way to build social capital. 

You can go a step further by following up with preferred customers in a personal way. Depending on the amount of business you do and your budget, you can follow up by writing personalized thank yous, meeting for coffee, sharing social media posts, or inviting them to company parties. 

When you help your customers crush their goals with your services, you better believe they will tell their friends about it. This social capital associated with referral leads improves conversion rates by 30%. Say “hello” to more business! 

3. Creates emotional investment

The big business push of this decade is the focus on data. But the truth is, every business partnership relies on emotional connection. 

The ability to make your customers feel something is the art of creating emotional connection. Maybe you engage in person with a lunch meeting or happy hour, or maybe you use social media. These investments won’t bring you gobs of instant revenue, but they will help customers see you as a person behind the business. 

Emotional investment is why Oreo’s social media efforts during the 2013 Super Bowl generated so much engagement. When the event experienced a power outage, Oreo capitalized on it rather than fall silent like the other brands. The Oreo tweet, “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark” went viral, with 14,200 retweets and more than 1,000 comments.

Did that social media post make Oreo any money? Maybe not, but it’s humor helped customers remember that someone was having fun behind the screen. 

4. Identifies switching barriers

A switching barrier is anything that might keep you from switching from one brand to another. 

These barriers can be financial costs associated with switching, like an early termination fee from switching from Verizon to AT&T. They can also be procedural, like the time it would take you to load your favorites and card information from the Starbucks app to the Dunkin’ Donuts app. Or, these switching barriers can be relational: You have a favorite employee that works at Chili’s, so you go there instead of Applebee’s.  

What is your switching barrier? Maybe it’s your client services team that answers phone calls from customers immediately. It could be the way your easy-to-use software tool customizes reports better than your competitors.

Whatever your switching barrier is, you can reinforce it by following up with clients. Find out why they’ve been so loyal. Ask them about things they like, things they would improve, and even things your competitors are offering that they wish you offered. Show them you care, and they’ll stick with you. 

5. Helps you home in on your target user

A perk of customer engagement is that it’s a feedback loop. When you engage your customers, you see all sorts of new opportunities to delight them.

You can’t please everyone, so it’s important to prioritize. Engaging existing customers encourages you to take the good, the bad, and the ugly feedback in stride. Saying “thank you” and making an effort to are great ways to demonstrate your commitment to them. That, in turn, helps you build better products and streamline your sales efforts. 

If you want to make money, you have to win hearts. Customer engagement encourages people to share your story, return your good deeds, and stick with you. It puts your product developers, marketers, and salespeople on a firmer footing, and for everyone, it makes business more fun.

10 Types of Businesses That Can Benefit From Scheduling Software

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To your customers, your team, and your company’s bottom line, time is priceless.

Whether you run a deli or a software startup, you have to ensure that your team never misses a scheduled deadline or appointment. And these days, many customers would rather schedule appointments online as well. 

Still wondering if scheduling software is right for your business? Read on to learn about ten surprising industries that rely on it in their daily operations:

1. Medical clinics

Did you know that more than 50% of healthcare facilities now use online scheduling software? The medical industry is harnessing the power of automation to reduce the cost of no-shows and administrative overhead. In addition to the added convenience for patients, this digital capability allows doctors and healthcare professionals to better manage their hectic schedules, reducing burnout and employee turnover

2. Bars and restaurants

Online reservations are user-friendly for customers. To help them seat more guests, hosts and hostesses at many bars and restaurants use scheduling automation every day.

Through online scheduling software, eateries can help their patrons beat long waits — all while tracking their staff’s ever-changing schedules and availability. Plus, online scheduling platforms can be used to track eligibility for promotions and loyalty programs. 

3. Caterers and event planners

Businesses that provide event services or planning are responsible for organizing and tracking dozens of different schedules leading up to the big day. On paper, that’s tough if not impossible.

Online scheduling tools allow event planners to effectively manage different types of staff. They help event managers keep tabs on caterers, DJs, security personnel, and more. And many platforms have custom settings for how far in advance an event (or order) can be scheduled. 

4. Call centers

To provide stellar customer service, companies need to make contacting their reps a seamless process. With an online scheduling tool, customers can book appointments and phone calls from a widget or link in your staff’s email signatures

Given the fast-paced nature of the work, this feature is especially useful for call centers or teams dedicated to customer support. Online booking lets these businesses avoid over-scheduling while giving team members a tool for efficient time blocking and stress management.

5. Nonprofit organizations

Even nonprofits are utilizing scheduling automation to expand their mission and reach. Nonprofits have to manage a mix of volunteers, paid employees, and external stakeholders. They use appointment scheduling tools to keep schedules straight, freeing up the team to spend more time on things like donor newsletters and social media campaigns. 

6. Consultancies

Many people in professional services, such as law or finance, use scheduling software to increase the amount of face time they get with clients. Automation is particularly useful for booking initial consultations and meetings during non-core hours. A CPA during tax season might rely on an online scheduling tool to give people on the waitlist clarity around when they’ll be seen. Automation tools let them make use of every slot on their schedule. 

7. Salons and spas

With our modern, fast-paced lifestyles, it can be easy to forget appointments that are dedicated to self-care. Salons and spas that focus on beauty and wellness can decrease missed appointments with SMS and email reminders that are automatically sent from online scheduling software straight to their clients. This attention to detail only adds to the sense of luxury associated with these services, helping these companies make their customers feel like VIPs. 

8. Shipping and retail

From warehouses to supermarkets to specialty shops, companies in the B2C space see online scheduling as a game-changer. They use it to streamline shipping, receiving, and managing workers in the field.

Not only do scheduling automation platforms allow team members to share calendar access across locations, but they can be used to make out-of-office periods easier. Online scheduling systems can be configured to show certain team members as unavailable, minimizing confusion.

9. Home services

Whether a customer is experiencing an emergency plumbing issue or wants to schedule their yearly HVAC maintenance, online scheduling software provides easy access to at-home services. It also makes rescheduling or cancelling appointments easy, just in case another appointment conflicts with the initial service call. Customers can also book appointments from their mobile devices while at work or picking up the kids from school. 

10. Schools and education services

Online scheduling software is even being used to enhance the college experience. With many busy schedules among students and professors alike, scheduling automation is helpful for managing office hours, labs, library reservations, and more. Students who use scheduling tools get more out of their education, while professors and assistants can organize all their teaching commitments in one place. 

In every industry, scheduling software has value. The key is getting creative to make the most of it.

Create convenience for your customers. Simplify your employees’ lives. Minimize misunderstandings and double-bookings. There’s more than one reason to use scheduling software. What’s yours?

4 Business To-Dos to Tackle For Spring Cleaning

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Business professional sitting outside working on laptop next to spring flowers

Just as spring brings nature back to life, spring can also be a time to renew your business. Spring-cleaning your company can mean less clutter, more clients, and more time to interview prospective employees.

But unlike your home, spring-cleaning your business isn’t as simple as throwing things in the dumpster. Here’s how to be strategic about it:

1. Give your brand a fresh look. 

You know the saying: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Although this applies in certain contexts, your company’s brand is not one of them.

Ask yourself: Is our website outdated? Does our motto still ring true? Does our product’s packaging attract attention? If you’re second guessing the success of something, chances are it should be changed. 

According to Forbes contributor Jessica Kleinman, there are five words to live by during the rebranding process: research, input, goals, support and process. 

Rebranding brings drastic changes, so you must be prepared before making any decisions. Start by meeting with your team to talk about the pros and cons of your company’s brand. Compile the feedback, and then make the final call about what’s in your budget to improve. 

When announcing your plans, explain how you expect the company to benefit from the brand changes. Support is key: If your team isn’t behind the changes, make tweaks until you all agree. Build all those details into a brand style guide. 

2. Get organized. 

Spring means it’s time to kiss the office clutter goodbye. 

Start by throwing away anything that you no longer need. This means no more stacks of papers, capless pens, and broken staplers sitting on your desk. Next, find an organizing strategy that works for you. Try out color coding, filing documents chronologically, or digitizing old records. 

Once your physical space is decluttered to your liking, shift your sights to your schedule. This is the work of becoming a better time manager: Create a master list of the tasks on your calendar, decide on what’s important, and adopt a prioritization method. 

Just like the organization of your desk, how you shift your schedule requires you to decide on a system that works for you. You could use the chunking method (blocking out specific times for uninterrupted work) or the ABCDE method (assigning a letter to a task depending on importance), for example.

3. Reflect on old goals and create new ones. 

This business to-do is similar to a New Year’s resolution — except that the chances of success are hopefully greater.

Whether you’re assessing personal or team goals, it’s important to think about previous ones. Did you achieve them, or did you forget about them? Can they be altered and improved?

Whatever the answer, one helpful approach to goal reflection or setting is the SMART method. Pin down what your goal is and then follow the break down. 

A SMART goal should be:

  1. Specific: Achieve specificity by using the 6 Ws: who, what, when, where, which and why? If the goal doesn’t answer these, narrow it more. For example, would you rather “get more clients” or “increase your account volume by 50% in eight months”? 
  2. Measurable: From minutes spent on the phone to dollar amounts, use measurable parameters to anchor your goal.
  3. Attainable: Your goals should be within your reach. It’s important to challenge yourself, but be realistic and recognize your limitations.
  4. Relevant: Any goals set should align with the company’s mission. 
  5. Timely: Create a clear timeline with action items to work toward goal achievement. 

A goal with these five components has a greater chance of becoming a reality than one without them. And when your employees understand what, exactly, you want to achieve, they’ll be more likely to buy in. 

4. Plan a getaway. 

All work and no play isn’t sustainable. If you’ve been working hard, it’s time to reward yourself with that long-awaited vacation. 

To avoid inconveniencing yourself or coworkers, avoid overlapping out-of-office periods. Also, do any work you can ahead of time. Write down deadlines or delegate tasks for anything you can’t finish before taking off. 

Do your best to minimize the amount of work you’ll have to do when you get back. Vacations are a time to kick back and relax. They give you time to clear your head in order to hit the ground running once you return. Increased productivity, less stress, and better mental health lie on the other side of your trip. 

If you’re a city person, why not spend a few days in New York City or Chicago? For seclusion, opt for a backpacking trip through the wilderness or a yoga retreat. 

Don’t let spring pass you by before planting seeds for a stronger year. Plan ahead, focus on business needs, and don’t forget to take care of yourself as a person, too. 

4 Reasons Leaders Waste Valuable Meeting Time

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4 Reasons Leaders Waste Valuable Meeting Time

The meeting that could’ve been an email: We’ve all been there. As much as we want every meeting we attend to be productive, almost every one of us has left a meeting wondering: “Was that really necessary?” 

According to a study by Harvard Business Review, 71% of senior managers in a range of industries say meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Executives spend 23 hours per week in meetings, on average, up from 10 hours in the 1960s.

Almost nobody actually enjoys meetings. So why do leaders waste so much time in them?

1. They get sidetracked.

Given how long they spend in meetings, many leaders struggle to create an agenda for each of them. Some are thinking ahead to the next one, while others try to tackle every meeting on the fly. 

Meetings should always have a defined purpose. Make that reason clear when calling the meeting, and prepare an agenda immediately after scheduling it. Give other participants a chance to comment on and contribute to it.

Setting a specific agenda ensures that you show up prepared, and it also gives your team members an idea of what to expect. Whether you prepare to use a written list or a series of slides, developing an agenda allows you to guide the discussion. 

2. They are disorganized.

Business leaders have hectic schedules as is, and meetings only add to the craziness. Staying organized is key for productive meetings.

Use scheduling software to manage your meetings. Calendar allows you to pick times and dates for your events, share your availability with others, and avoid scheduling conflicts. What’s more, Calendar’s dashboard shows where and with whom you spend your time, helping you make sure that your schedule aligns with your priorities.

Without a shareable scheduling system, it’s tough to know who’s coming to a meeting or whether someone might need to duck out part way through. Those details let leaders structure meetings in ways that make the most of everyone’s time. 

3. They have too many meetings on the calendar.

Between meetings, interviews, and training sessions the number of meetings on your calendar can add up quickly. It’s important to know when meetings are appropriate and when they are not:

  • When you should have a meeting: when you need to plan for the long term, get or give feedback on major projects, host executive-level negotiations, or deliver employee performance reviews.
  • When to keep meetings short (or not have them at all): when you need to share weekly progress updates, present revenue and expense breakdowns, brainstorm for marketing assets, or explain changes to your personal schedule.

When leaders use good judgment, they can cut out meetings that are unnecessary and focus on the ones that matter.

4. They can’t keep their employees focused.

The most wasteful type of meeting is one that attendees do not find valuable. If you want your employees’ meeting time to be spent effectively, it’s important to keep them engaged throughout.

There are multiple ways to make meetings more interesting:

  • Add visuals to presentations. Photos and videos can drive home key points. Beware, though, that adding too many visuals wastes time by distracting attendees.
  • Encourage group participation. Activities encourage buy-in from non-presenting members of the meeting. Ask people to raise their hands in response to certain questions, or request suggestions around a challenge. 
  • Keep all meetings under 50 minutes. Meetings that last for an hour or more should be split into two or more sessions. Set a timer if your meetings consistently overrun their slots.
  • Identify key takeaways at the end of each meeting. Concluding meetings with action items not only makes them more meaningful, but it provides markers for future measurement. When meetings begin with a review of the prior one’s action items, participants feel a sense of purpose and accountability.

Unproductive meetings may seem like a fact of life, but they do not need to be. Schedule only the meetings you need, always develop an agenda in advance, and keep participants engaged. Neither you nor your employees have time to waste.

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