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You Don’t Have to be Uptight to be Productive

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old-fashioned alarm clock sitting on desk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Savor victories.

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

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

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

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

Make your workspace your own.

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

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

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

Switch-up your environment.

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

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

Dream of gamification.

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

Other ideas to gamify your life are:

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

Get the most out of your breaks.

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

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

Socialize with your team or co-workers more often.

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

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

Bring-in your four-legged best friend.

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

Have snacks on standby.

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

Stop being productive and enjoy yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

Should Your Startup Have Summer Hours?

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It happens every year as the weather gets warmer — employee productivity comes to a screeching halt. Employee productivity taking a slight dive at the beginning of summer isn’t breaking news. Business owners have noticed this trend for years. It’s said that when agencies in New York realized that employee productivity decreased in the summer, specifically on Fridays, they began to offer “Summer Fridays.”

More recently, studies show that productivity drops by 20 percent, attendance dips by 19 percent, and project turnaround times increase by 13 percent. Additionally, 45 percent admit that they get more distracted. In particular, 63 percent socialize more with coworkers, 51 percent take longer breaks, and 49 leave early a few days a week.

While there some ways to keep your team motivated throughout the dog days of summer like having meetings outside, providing refreshments, encouraging more frequent breaks, and rewarding proactive staff, is there something more useful than establishing summer hours?

Some research reports that having a shorter workweek is counterproductive because to leave earlier on Friday; people have to put in more time Monday through Friday. As a result, they become more stressed and less productive. At the same time, most people can work from home — which can improve their output.

So, before making a final decision, let’s go over the pros and cons of your startup having summer hours. And, if you think it will work for your business, I’ll throw in some pointers on how you can implement them.

The Benefits of Summer Hours

The main advantage of summer hours is that it grants employees a more flexible schedule so that they can maintain a healthy work-life balance. While this is important for year-round, this is especially true during the summer. For example, if you have children, you may want to work four days a week so that you can enjoy a three-day weekend with them. Or, you may have to adjust your hours so that you work when they’re not around.

Having a flexible schedule increases employee productivity since it prevents burnout, builds trust, and makes people happier. “Our policy is basically that if you need to leave early to get somewhere, you come in early to finish your work or make sure all of your responsibilities are handled before you leave,” David Heath, CEO, and Co-Founder of the sock company Bombas, told Entrepreneur. “It shows your team that you trust them to handle their own responsibilities.”

Consulting firm Adecco also found that shortened workweeks “increase employee morale and all the good things that go with that, such as higher retention, candidate attraction, and productivity.” Roy Cohen, author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide,” tells CBS News that “A half-day on Friday motivates employees to work as hard as possible to get as much done as they can in four hours, and it is empowering.”

Finally, technology allows most of us to work whenever we want. Believe it or not, getting away from common workplace distractions, and changing up your routine can boost your productivity.

The Drawbacks of Summer Hours

Of course, there are some disadvantages to summer hours. Most prevalently, it’s the additional stress some of your team members may have. They may feel too much pressure to get as much done as possible in less time. Instead of having five days to complete all of their work, they’re done to three or four days.

Moreover, some people may use shortened workweeks as an excuse to slack off. It can also be more challenging to schedule meetings since employees aren’t in the office as much. And, it may be conducive for your specific business.

“Flexible schedules may not work with certain client-facing positions that are heavy on client service and which require the same employee to interface with the client,” Midge Seltzer, co-founder and executive vice president of Engage PEO told Business News Daily.

These types of schedules are also harsh on new business ventures. “Companies just starting need every minute of every day to ensure their success,” David Daneshgar, co-founder of BloomNation.com told Care.com. “We are a growing startup facing major competitors.” For his company, June through August is a summer hustle.

Types of Summer Hours Policies

As you weigh the pros and cons, you should also take into consideration the various types of summer hours models. These include:

  • Half-day Fridays. Here employees can leave work early, such as noon or 1 PM. To make-up, for these hours, they will have to put in an additional hour Monday – Thursday.
  • Early Friday dismissal. Another option is to let your team depart in the afternoon, such as around 3 PM. Having an early day allows them to wrap-up their priorities and still get out early.
  • Shorter hours on any day they chose. Having a few days where employees can decide a shorter day can be a win-win since it keeps your startup open five days a week while also allowing employees to enjoy their summer.
  • Every other Friday off. Another way to keep your business operating while also giving people Fridays off is to alter their schedules. The schedule means one employee works on Friday but will have off next week. Another employee is working when their colleague is off.
  • Every Friday off. You may wish to shut-down the shop every single Friday. Again, your team may have to put in more hours during the week. Or, you could be generous and give them unlimited time off.
  • Allow employees to work from home. Working from home doesn’t have to be on Fridays. For example, you may only need your team to come in three days a week. They can then work from home the other days.

Making Summer Hours Work For You

If you want to implement summer hours at your startup, there are a couple of final factors to consider. At the top should be knowing how flexible your business and specific jobs are. If you provide a service, you may need to have some technical support available as much as possible.

Additionally, you should be aware of deadlines, the stress level of your team, and whether or not they’re reliable. To get a better understanding of this, you may want to survey them to gather their feedback. You could also give the shortened hours a trail run and track your team’s progress.

If you do decide to go forward, make sure that you communicate the new policy and stay consistent with it. You don’t want to start off giving employees off every Friday to backtrack and implement half-days on Fridays. It’s confusing, and they may have already made plans.

And don’t forget to keep track of everyone’s hours. Depending on the state where you operate, you may have to pay overtime to employees if they work more then 8 hours per day — this is the case in California.

If your startup has summer hours, how have they worked out for you and your team?

Don’t Let Vacation Season Dampen Team Productivity

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With summer on its way, you’re likely receiving more requests for time off. While you want your team to enjoy the season, you’re also worried: How will all the vacations affect productivity?

Even with a strong PTO policy, this can be difficult to manage. And as workers will point out, vacations can boost individual productivity. The wrinkle is, missing hands can slow down the rest of the team.

But before you deny those requests, beware: You don’t want to create a company culture in which people are afraid to take time off. Workers are already taking fewer days off out of fear of appearing “replaceable.”

You need to strike the right balance. Here’s how to keep your team strong while ensuring everyone gets a taste of summer:

1. Preview the season’s work.

Setting expectations before summer takes off is a great way to get team members to think about timing. If they know a major project will be due in early July, then you shouldn’t see a flood of PTO requests for the week before.

This is the kind of discussion to have at a team meeting. Plot out upcoming campaigns and talk through how much work each will take. Revisit the company’s mission, and explain how each campaign connects to it. 

If employees know what’s coming and why, they’ll plan ahead. There may be phases of a project that involve them less than others, during which workers can squeeze in a summer camping trip. 

2. Review your PTO policy.

During the same meeting when you preview the summer, bring up your company’s PTO policy. Often, violations occur when workers simply forget the rules. 

Explain how many consecutive days they can request off. Also, discuss how much prior notice employees must provide beforehand in order to get approval.

Be transparent about the approval process. There are a number of ways to decide who gets to take time off if requests conflict:

  • On a first-come, first-serve basis
  • A rotating vacation schedule
  • Based on seniority
  • Based on who took time off least recently

If you do have to deny someone’s request, work with them. Perhaps they get first dibs over another desirable slot, such as Labor Day weekend. 

3. Create a company vacation calendar.

A calendar that shows who’s taking time off when is an important organization tool. This can help cut down on overlapping vacations.

Make sure you have a system to separate pending from approved requests. Consider color-coding them, or perhaps you simply reply “Maybe” to requests you’ve seen but have yet to approve. That way, workers can be courteous of others’ vacations and rearrange their own schedules to stay productive.

4. Ask people to work ahead.

There’s no substitute for working ahead. Not only does it help the team member on vacation keep their mind off work, but it also minimizes dependencies. Otherwise, the rest of the team may have to wait for the worker to return. 

Before they go on vacation, help employees outline what they’ll accomplish before they leave. Encourage them to get a jump start on a project they’ll be expected to contribute to when they return.

Remember, this applies to leaders as well: If you were expecting their help on a project during their week off, you may have to put together the brief ahead of schedule. Model the behavior you want to see from your team.

5. Over-communicate.

It’s critical that nobody on the team is caught off guard by a vacation. A vacation calendar identifies who’ll be out when, but it’s not enough.

Before someone’s time off begins, initiate a conversation: What’s been done, and what’s left to do on projects that span the out-of-office period? That way, team members can plan to work around the missing person’s portion or pick up the slack when necessary.

If you need to cross-train an employee to handle the work, touch base with them before the other worker leaves. Encourage them to shadow the vacationer for a day to see how he or she works.

6. Promote working at peak vacation times. 

If you get an overwhelming number of requests at similar times — say, around the Fourth of July — consider rewarding employees who hold down the fort. Doing so can give those who really need a vacation more space while showing appreciation to the rest of the team.

Great ways to incentive working at peak times include:

  • Bonus pay
  • Gift cards
  • Additional time off to be used later
  • Free snacks or meals

Don’t buy them a yacht, but don’t worry too much about how much those incentives cost. A fully functional team is more than worth a catered lunch or a few Starbucks gift cards. 

Vacation season doesn’t have to mean making new hires or sacrificing productivity. If you plan ahead and prepare your team, everyone can enjoy the summer. You might even be able to take a vacation of your own. 

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.

The 10 Best Productivity Scheduling Apps

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Schedule

There have always been plenty of ways to increase your productivity. The key here, is that the information about productivity is always changing. You can’t pick one productive way that fits you — and then never read another article or study about productivity. There will always be another app.

You can use hacks like the Pomodoro Technique, create a daily routine, and plan your entire day. You can even ditch bad habits, such as multitasking and having too many meetings. Just remember to always have eyes and ears to newer and faster processes and tools that will help you on your way.

How fast will you become — for now — a lot faster. Later, who knows –but, you will become more and more amazing.

Another effective way to be more productive is by “embracing” new things — including scheduling apps. These handy apps eliminate those back-and-forth communications when scheduling appointments, events, and even tasks. A quick app entry will make every part of your life quicker.

The problem — you may be thinking is that there are too many scheduling apps available on the market. This means that you may end-up spending too much time searching for a scheduling app that best suits your needs. To help narrow down your decision, here are the best productivity scheduling apps out there.

1. Calendar

Instead of playing phone tag or exchanging lengthy email threads, Calendar uses a smart scheduling link to essentially automate your scheduling. Simply send your availability via email or through an embedded link. The other party then picks the best date and time for them. After that — the event is added to everyone’s calendar. Literally three or four clicks. Boom! Done.

Even more promising is that Calendar uses machine learning to make suggestions for when, where and how your meetings can take place. Calendar also sends follow-ups to ensure that every attendee confirms the meeting.

You can even use the free Calendar app to help manage your team. This because the apps intelligently categorizes project meetings in order to determine the relationship between your plans and the people attending the meeting.

2. Plan

Plan is best described as a “one commander center” for all of your tools. That’s because it syncs with the tools that you and your team use on a daily basis. This includes your email, calendar, Salesforce, Zendesk, JIRA, and Github. Now you don’t have to toggle between tabs since all of this information can be viewed in one dashboard.

Additionally, with Plan you can see who’s exactly working on what and when it’s expected to be completed in real-time. As a result you and your team will never miss a meeting or deadline for a task or project.

Plan is free for one to two users — but you’ll have to select the $9/month plan if you have more than three users.

3. Any.do

Any.do stores all of your todos, lists, and reminders in one convenient location. The app also comes with a calendar so that you can plan out your day, week, or month. There’s also location based reminders and how you can share your tasks and calendar with others.

As if that weren’t enough Any.do also comes with Assistant. This feature automatically analyzes all of your tasks so that it can automatically do it for you. This means if you have recurring tasks, events, or meetings Any.do Assistant will take care of it for you on it’s on.

The app syncs across all devices and plans start at just $2.09/month.

4. Notion

Notion is another app that places all of your work in dashboard. This includes everything from your calendar, lists, todos, notes, Kanban board, and spreadsheets. Like Plan, this means you and your have team have everything needed to stay on the same page without switching between applications.

Notion integrates with Google apps, Slack, Twitter, Figma, and around 50 other popular apps. However, one of the coolest features is that the interface will fade away when you start typing. That means you won’t get distracted by notifications while working.

You can try Notion for free and it works across most devices. Later you can pick the plan you want, after trying it out.

5. Doodle

Doodle has been a favorite scheduling app for years. And there’s a good reason why. It’s one of the simplest ways to find the best availability for everyone to meet — it’s also kind of fun.

Simply suggest a date and location and then invite participants to vote in a poll. When the votes are in you can then select the most popular option. Since Doodle integrates with your Google or Facebook account events are automatically synced to everyone’s calendar — even if the don’t have Doodle account.

For individual users Doodle is free. However, for teams and more robust features like reminders, you’ll have to go with a Premium account starting at $39/year.

6. Accompany

You just scheduled an appointment with a high-profile individual. You obviously want to be prepared when meeting them. This involves beefing up your knowledge regarding their company or the latest news involving them, their organization, or industry.

Instead of searching for this information yourself you can let Accompany do the legwork for you.

Containing the profiles for over 250 million people, Accompany provides a rich calendar, executive briefings, and a curated news feed. This allows you to quickly view information like quarterly reviews and professional history so that you’re completely prepared for the meeting.

While Accompany is free, it’s only available through the App Store.

7. IFTTT

IFTTT is one of the best productivity tools around. That’s because you can essentially automate everything from controlling your smart devices to scheduling social media posts to muting your phone at bedtime. For example, whenever you publish a blog post on WordPress IFTTT will automatically post it to Facebook.

There are a ton of date and time triggers that can make you productive. This includes reminding your team to submit expense reports at the end of the month through Slack, receive SMS and calendar reminders, and saying when you’re busy/available with blink (1). The possibilities are endless.

8. Acuity Scheduling

If you’re in the service industry then you definitely want to check out Acuity Scheduling. It allows clients to book appointments online so that you no longer have to deal with those back-and-forth communications. Acuity also lets clients reschedule events on their own and even pay for your services through PayPal, Square, and Stripe.

When an appointment is booked Acuity will automatically add the appointment to your Google, Outlook, iCloud or Office 365 calendar.

If you’re working solo, Acuity is free. Plans start at $15/month. Acuity is also part of our top calendar apps for business owners.

9. Setmore

Setmore is another tool that lets customers book an self-book appointments with you in real-time. Because Setmore integrates with WordPress, Wix, Weebly, and Facebook there are a variety of ways for customers to book your services. Once an booked, you, your team, and the customers will receive SMS and email reminders to help lessen no-shows.

You can also use the Android or iOS app to create recurring events, book classes, and accept online payments. For larger businesses there’s even a live call answering service — but you’ll need the $89/month plan.

10. Sling

Finally, if you have team then you’ll want to use Sling. This app will schedule your team in a matter of minutes while also eliminating conflicts by receiving real-time updates on double-booking and time off request.

You can also use Sling track your team’s hours and export these timesheets for payroll. And, you can keep communicate more effectively with your team through group messages or creating a unique newsfeed for your team.

Sling is free if you’re just looking for a tool to schedule your team, for additional features you’ll have to select a paid plan which starts at $1.75 per user.

Get Some Sun With These 7 Team-Building Activities

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There are plenty of ways to promote teamwork at the office. Many favorites, however, can only be done outside.

As the weather improves and social distancing drags on, people are spending more time outdoors. Getting outside together strengthens bonds at a safe distance, building trust and promoting productivity.

Best of all, team-building delivers those benefits even when it’s unstructured. Making memories outdoors doesn’t require metrics or days of planning. Fresh air and positive attitudes are all it takes.

What are the easiest, most enjoyable ways to get your team outdoors? Our favorites include:

1. Have a picnic.

The company picnic is a staple for a reason: Breaking bread brings people together without breaking the bank. 

If you have the means, you can get your picnic catered. You can also keep it simple, however, by asking everyone on the team to bring a dish to share. Create a sign-up list to make sure you don’t wind up with nine bags of chips and no entrees.

Play some games, invite family members, and have fun. Nothing beats a classic. 

2. Make it a cook-off.

Do a couple of people at the office claim to have the best chilli recipe? Add a little healthy competition to an afternoon outside by making it a cook-off. 

If you’ve got a large group, split people into teams. Mix and match across departments that you don’t wind up with marketers v. salespeople. The whole point is to help people create new connections.

Set up a scoring system. Maybe the best salad is worth two points, the best appetizer three, and the best entree five. Ask board members to be judges, or select them from the team through a lottery system.

Give a small prize, such as a gift card, to members of the winning cooks. The real winners, however, are the people who get to enjoy the tasty food. 

3. Join a sports league.

In the mood for more healthy competition? Join a local sports league. Look for opportunities to face off against other businesses, which can encourage company pride. 

Find a sport that appeals to as many people as possible. Some popular sports likely to have organized leagues include:

  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Volleyball
  • Bowling
  • Ultimate frisbee

Sports leagues promote health and wellness. To a degree meals and movie nights don’t, they also pull people out of their comfort zones. Just be sure to emphasize the team aspect rather than trying to win at all costs. 

4. Attend a sporting event.

Would you rather watch sports than play them? In that case, treat everyone to an outdoor sporting event. 

Yes, many matches are on pause during the pandemic. That makes them all the more special, however, when people can enjoy the experience again. 

Plus, sporting events aren’t just for sports lovers. Stadiums offer lots of food, shopping, and tailgating opportunities.

With that said, stadium prices are steep: Consider giving team members an allowance so that they can grab a beer or a t-shirt without stressing about what’s in their wallet. 

5. Experience live music.

If you want to have a good time with your team, you can’t go wrong with live music outdoors. Music has so much connective power that it’s often referred to as a universal language. 

Of course, not everyone listens to the same kind of music. If an artist that a lot of people like comes to town, though, why not get the team tickets? Those who don’t want to attend can simply give their tickets to family members of the workers who do. 

Better yet, attend a nearby music festival together. Because they include multiple acts, their appeal is broader than any one show. 

6. Take a field trip.

Remember how much you looked forward to field trips when you were in school? Your team members think about them in the same way: as a break from the daily grind. 

Consider the following activities to engage your team:

  • Visiting an amusement park
  • Going to the zoo
  • Hiking at a national park
  • Enjoying a day at the beach

Everyone could use a day away from work now and again. Charter a bus to your destination, and enjoy the thrills of a roller coaster or the calm vibe of a park. 

7. Go camping.

Camping is not for everyone, and it takes a little more planning than the other ideas on this list. With that said, spending a day out in the elements can rally everyone together. 

Camping does not need to be hardcore. Adjust the trip to a level that works for your team: Cabins might be a better choice than tents, and pre-made meals can avoid the challenges of cooking for a group over a fire.

Don’t underestimate the business value of enjoying an afternoon outside together. The best memories are made not in the office but in the great outdoors. Get out there, and start making them. 

7 Before-Bed Steps to Prepare for Tomorrow

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You toss, you turn, and you toss some more: You just can’t seem to stop thinking about tomorrow long enough to fall asleep. 

A great way to put your worries to bed? Get a jump on the next day. Doing a little prep work in the evening can help you be more productive tomorrow.

Be proactive: Think through what parts of your morning routine you can do the evening beforehand. There are plenty of things to do before calling it a night. Here’s where to start:

1. Schedule Your Next Day

There’s something romantic about planning your schedule at the crack of dawn. But the morning isn’t the best time of day to get your schedule together. 

Before going to bed, figure out what you’re doing the following day. This activity can help you clear your mind. Scheduling becomes one less thing to do in the morning. 

When putting your schedule together, remember that the most productive people:

  • Focus on one task at a time.
  • Group similar tasks together.
  • Automate or delegate what they can.
  • Put their most difficult task first on their to-do list.

Spend five minutes each night putting together your plan of attack. That way, in the morning, all you need to do is refer to what you created the night before. 

2. Pack Your Lunch 

Preparing your lunch the night before work does a couple of things for you: First, the task doesn’t eat up your morning time. Second, you won’t waste time at work contemplating what to eat for lunch. 

Even better, you can prep your lunches for the whole week on Sunday night. You can also use the time to prepare lunch for your kids as well. If they’re old enough, they can even join in the preparation. 

Once you’re done, simply store the food containers in the fridge. Grab them on your way out the door, and you’re done. 

3. Prepare Breakfast 

Why stop with lunch when you can do the same thing with breakfast? From egg cups to breakfast burritos, there are plenty of easy morning meals you can prepare at night.

Most importantly, get your coffee ready. If you have a fancy coffee maker, you can set it to brew when you wake up. If not, just add the grinds and the water. That way, you only need to flip a switch.

As with lunch, your kids can also join in on breakfast prep — but probably skip the coffee for them. 

4. Select Your Wardrobe

One of the more time-consuming morning tasks? Picking what to wear. If you have a lot of options to choose from, you might waste 15 minutes simply finding your favorite sweater.

If selecting clothes before bed is difficult, try simplifying your wardrobe. Use the 10-5 rule: 10 pairs of underwear, socks, and shirts; five pairs of shorts and pants. 

Fold your chosen clothes and put them next to your bed. Just like making your bed, keeping your clothes tidy can help you feel more put together. 

5. Do a Quick Clean-Up

Undone chores have a way of staring you down in the morning. Before going to bed at night, get some chores out of the way. 

You don’t have to do a full-on cleaning, but do tackle the things that are bothering you. A few priorities include:

  • Sweep or vacuum common areas.
  • Put dirty clothes in your laundry basket.
  • Organize your toiletries.
  • Wash your dishes. 

Cleaning is an underrated form of self-care. When you declutter the physical space you inhabit, you also declutter your mental space.

6. Hop in the Shower

We’ve all taken showers that were longer than they needed to be in the morning. Standing under warm water can make it more difficult to get started, especially when it’s cold outside. 

There are pros and cons to showering at night instead of in the morning. If you are looking to save some time, though, hitting the shower before bed might be right for you.

Showering before bed can help you sleep better and allow you to shower at your own pace. Showering at night is also a good hygiene option to keep your bed cleaner. 

7. Pack Your Essentials

At night, go ahead and pack up your work bag. Make sure you’ve got your laptop, folders, notebooks, and whatever else you need.

Be sure to also put things like your keys and wallet somewhere that won’t be easy to misplace. It’s a good idea to keep them in the same place all the time. Do so, and you won’t need to spend precious time searching for them when you’re trying to get out the door for work. 

Once you’ve started doing your next-day prep at night, it’s hard to imagine doing it all in the morning again. Make the switch: Mornings are not the time to cram, and bedtime is not the time to stress. 

Sales Meeting Hacks During COVID

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Has anyone ever been excited about attending a sales meeting? Probably very few. Now try convincing your sales team to get pumped about an upcoming meeting during a pandemic. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Thankfully, you can use the following hacks to ensure that your meetings will be fruitful and worth their time. And, they may actually have a little fun and look forward to these events during this strange and stressful time.

Sales Meetings 101

It’s a stressful and uncertain time right now. The last thing that you want to is to pile on even more stress onto your team member’s shoulders. That’s why you need to do a little planning and preparation in advance before scheduling a meeting.

If you don’t think that meetings have been stressing your team out, think again. Between getting pulled away from their work, the fear of public speaking, and experiencing technology problems (this accounts for 90% of meeting stress), it’s easy to understand why so many people dread meetings.

To relieve this stress, you need to make sure that all meetings aren’t just necessary — but also productive. You will assure a session is productive by:

  • Setting a single goal or objective for the meeting.
  • Designating a meeting leader, time, date, and location.
  • Setting a time limit and keeping it short — preferably around 30-minutes.
  • Inviting the right amount of people — ideally around seven attendees.
  • Addressing tech issues before the meeting.

Does this preparation seem like a tall glass to fill? Your preparation is not only possible but beneficial if your meeting contains the four elements of a successful meeting.

Use a standardized agenda.

An agenda lets participants know exactly what to expect. It’s the foundation of any productive meetings as it contains the following components:

  • A header that identifies who’s calling the meeting, assembling the body, type of meeting, date and time, start and end time, and location.
  • Key objective that answers two crucial questions. Why are we meeting? And, what do we hope to accomplish?
  • The topics that will be discussed — limit this to 5. If you want to get your team more involved, ask for their input on what they want to be covered. Milestones, pipeline updates, obstacles, monthly targets, noteworthy insights, and what your competitors are doing are solid topic ideas.
  • The meeting work plan. Also called the agenda body, this is everything that will be discussed and in what order. Always start with your most time-sensitive or urgent matters.
  • Allocate the right amount of time to each topic.
  • At the conclusion, make sure you follow-up with the attendees by distributing minutes and assigning responsibilities.

The agenda should always be sent to invitees a day or two in advance so that they have time to prepare.

Provide value.

You want your team to walk away with valuable information that they can use to close more deals. Examples would be training, customer feedback, or the latest news or trends influencing your business.

Team participation.

Don’t bore your team. Keep them engaged by adding some interactivity to it. Ideas would be answering questions, playing games, or breaking your team into groups and having them answer questions.

Also, include use data visualization. It’s more efficient, allows everyone to focus on what’s important, and helps attendees make faster decisions.

Be consistent.

More then ever, we’re striving for normalcy. And, routines and rituals can provide that since they give us certainty. Think of rituals as actions with meaning or emotion attached to them,” Tonya Dalton, a productivity expert, told Healthline. “Rituals keep our day moving along but are infused with joy, pleasure, or positive emotion.”

What does this have to do with meetings? Well, if they’re recurring, then make sure that they take place on the same day and time.

Super-special bonus element: Make your virtual meetings rock!

As of this writing, you have no other choice but for the location of your sales meeting to be remote. So, pass along the following tips so that your virtual meeting will be productive and professional.

  • Work from a quiet, carpeted room.
  • Use a neutral background and have good lighting. But, if it’s within reason, encourage attendees to have some fun and change their backgrounds digitally.
  • Have the meeting on a laptop and not your phone.
  • Test the technology before the meeting, as well as your mic and camera.
  • Raise your webcam to eye-level.
  • “Make the conference application as small as possible and position it adjacent to your computer’s camera,” suggests Joseph Liu on Forbes.
  • Always dress like you’re in a real, professional meeting.
  • Turn off all notifications during the meeting.
  • Look at your camera, not screen, when talking, and mute the mic when you’re not.
  • Avoid multitasking.
  • Learn videoconferencing tricks, such as these six tips about Zoom that Calendar Co-Founder shared on Entrepreneur. If you use Teams, here are 25 gems over at Medium.

Shake Up Your Sales Meetings

Even though you want to give your team consistency, you also don’t want them to get into a rut. That’s why you should occasionally switch things up. It will keep your team engaged, motivated, and will give them something to look forward to.

If you need some creative ideas, Salesforce has the following 6 suggestions:

  • Pump up the volume. “Ask a different team member before each meeting to share a track that gets them particularly motivated or energized before they begin their first outreach to customers in the day.”
  • In the news. Open the meeting “with a brief overview of the trends or stories that stand out, and discuss what they might mean for what the sales team needs to do in terms of approaching customers and prospects.”
  • We shall overcome. Your meeting is the perfect time to provide your reps with strategies and tactics. Or, “even additional information they can use to persuade customers to think differently about whatever’s stopping them from making a purchase.”
  • Sell me this pen. Close your meeting with a fun role-playing exercise where team members must pitch for something like, well, a pen.
  • Here’s what I noticed. When recognizing your reps, outstanding work “be specific about the behaviors and actions that demonstrate a real effort to provide value to customers or the organization.”

Need some other ideas? Well, you could have a meeting with colleagues from departments or experts to expand your rep’s knowledge and skillset.

Another idea would be to have goal-setting sessions. And, you can never go wrong with meetings helping your team overcome roadblocks, reviewing metrics, sharing prospect feedback, and sharing company information.

Because the word “meeting” is often associated with negativity, you could even call these events by a different name. Examples could be:

  • Calling your recurring meetings “team cadence,” “daily huddle,” or “weekly meetup.”
  • Instead of a status update, try “progress check.”
  • A one-on-one could be referred to as a “coaching session.”
  • You could use a “brainstorming session” when generating ideas.
  • For problem-solving, try “root-cause resolution.”
  • Training meetings could be titled “skills certification.”
  • When making an announcement, use “press briefing.”

Use Sales Meetings to Boost Morale and Motivation

“Psychological experiments have shown that the way a meeting starts, sets the tone for the whole meeting,” says Alexandar Kjerulf, aka the Chief Happiness Officer. “Start the meeting with complaints, problems, and mutual blame, and that’s what you’ll get.”

However, if the meeting has a more positive vibe, they will be more engaging and fun. That’s why Kjerulf suggests that you kick-off each meeting by asking participants “to briefly (= less than 30 seconds) share something positive.” Examples would be sharing successful sales stories, asking what they’re grateful for, or telling an exciting or funny story.

You can also use sales meetings to boost your team’s morale by:

  • Recognizing your team’s hard work and dedication and thanking them for all that they do.
  • Let your team members show off their unique skills and help them enhance their existing skillsets.
  • Prioritize time with each team member so that you can find out their personality traits. Knowing this allows you to customize meetings and rewards.
  • Remind them of their purpose. Research from Dr. Valerie Good of Michigan State University shows that purpose is the primary source of motivation in sales. “Instead of focusing on financial payouts for sales personnel to perform better, concentrating on meeting the intrinsic needs of salespeople can lead to better objective performance outcomes.”
  • Always be honest and transparent with them — even if it’s not good news.

Harness the Power of AI

“Artificial intelligence, which consists of natural language processing, machine learning, and bots, is still in its early stages,” explains Calendar Co-Founder John Hall. “We’re already witnessing its influence in areas like scheduling. Take intelligent calendars as an example. By using machine learning, they can “suggest when and where a meeting should occur after reviewing past invites. You can also create a new event just by speaking into your smartphone.”

That can be a game-changer right now. Instead of going back-and-forth with the team, who currently are juggling not only their work but also home responsibilities, a smart calendar could determine that 1 p.m. is an ideal time.

We may not be there just yet, “but AI can record meetings and transcribe and email notes after they’ve concluded,” adds Hall. That information could be used for future reference and replace having someone keep minutes. “It can make smart suggestions on the invitees and documents needed” and “automatically assign tasks and meeting roles.” AI “may even be able to read the room so it can make suggestions on how to keep specific attendees engaged.”

What’s Your Most Productive Work Time? Here’s How You Can Find Out

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Beach at sunrise

Whether you call them your golden hours or peak work times, or biological prime times, these are when we have the most concentration and energy. As such, we shouldn’t waste these hours. Instead, we should spend them on our most important and challenging tasks. But, before we get there, we first need to identify when you’re actually the most productive.

The most productive hour, day, week, and month of the year.

You likely already know when your most productive time is. For example, I’m a morning person, and wake-up at 5:15 am every day. Because of this, I’m more alert in the A.M. But, I also have also worked with people who are night owls, and forcing themselves to wake-up as early as I do would be counterproductive.

However, after analyzing 1.8 million projects and 28 million tasks gathered from Priceonomics customer Redbooth, says that the most productive time of year is at 11 am on a Monday in October.

That timeframe is extremely specific, but they also found “that most people don’t really get going until 7 am (a typical start time). The study shows that after 5 pm (typical finish time), work quickly tapers.”

However, the “percentage of tasks completed (9.7%) peaks at 11 am — just before the typical person takes lunch.” The data has shown that productivity takes a hit between 11 am and 1 pm, “and after 1 pm, productivity never quite returns to its peak.”

“The highest percentage of tasks (20.4%) are completed on everyone’s favorite day of the week: Monday,” Priceonomics reveals. “Tuesday (20.2%) is just behind — and after that task completion perfectly tapers off as the days progress toward the weekend.” Fridays are “nearly 20% less productive than Monday.”

“We complete far more tasks in the latter months — September (8.8 percent), October (9.5 percent), and November (9 percent) — than in the earlier months,” notes the post. “We only complete 7.2 percent of our yearly tasks in January,” The reason?

Priceconmics suspects that it “maybe because the early year is typically for setting goals, not completing them — and as we near year’s end, we’re struggling to get everything done.” You have to learn how to work smarter — not harder.

How to find your most productive hours.

Hopefully, the data from Priceconomics can be of use. For example, instead of scheduling a meeting on Monday mornings, you do that on Friday afternoons when most of us aren’t as productive.

But what if you want to find out when you’re most productive? Well, here is a simple process that can help you figure this out.

Choose a time tracking period.

The first step you need to take is to determine when you want to start tracking your time and for how long. Some suggest that you can get away with just tracking your time for a week. But I disagree. The longer you follow your time, the more accurate of a picture you’ll have. Ideally, you should do this for 30 days.

Get the right tools.

You can honestly stay old school and use a pen and paper for this activity. You could also use a notebook or index cards. Other options would be creating a spreadsheet (or this one from Chris Baily) or premade worksheets like the 168 Hours Timesheet.

If you prefer to go digital, you may want to try out time tracking tools. Some of the best available are RescueTime, Clockify, Toggl, or ATracker — and of course, Calendar.

Maintaining your time log.

Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, actually tracking your time.

Jeremy Anderberg writes that there are two necessary frameworks for tracking your time. The first tracking is using the time of day. If you go this route, “you’ll write down your activity for a set chunk of time, say 9–9:15 am. Set a timer for every 15 minutes (at first, at least; it can be longer as you’ve gotten into it), and take a quick second to jot down what you’ve been doing.”

The second is by the task. “With this method, you’ll go about your day and activities as normal, and simply write down what time you change tasks and start something new,” explains Anderberg.

Jeremey suggests that you try both out and see what works best for you. “For my first few days of time-tracking, I did so by the task. I’d write down, to the minute, when I started and stopped doing something and moved on to a new activity.” For him, this helped “figure out how long things actually took, and how my day was naturally being structured

“After that, I went into tracking by time increments, which is more useful for planning purposes, understanding what times of day you’re more likely to waste time, how to structure your breaks, etc.,” he adds. “Another benefit is that when you have a timer to “remind you to write down what you’ve been doing, it re-focuses you if you’ve gotten off track.”

Regardless of which approach you take, there are some essential things to keep in mind:

  • Be honest and consistent.
  • Record your activities in real-time.
  • Note when you start and end an activity, as well as the duration.
  • Be meticulous and include as many details as possible. For instance, instead of just writing done “working,” record the specific thing that you were doing. But, you don’t have to be perfect.
  • Don’t just focus on your workday. Create categories and subcategories for home, family, social, commuting, and health and wellness.
  • Make sure that you write down how you feel for each activity.
  • Leave room for additional notes like what interrupted you or if a task took you longer then expected to complete.

Chris Bailey, the author of “The Productivity Project,” also suggests that you eliminate factors that may affect your productivity, such as caffeine, diet, waking up without an alarm, or staying up too late. He also recommends keeping a log of your energy levels every hour.

After you’ve done this for around month, go ahead, and analyze your data. Pay close attention to patterns — primarily when there’s a surge or dip in focus or energy. For most of us, because of ultradian rhythms, this would be after working for 90 to 120 minutes.

You should also be on the lookout for how much time you’re dedicating to low, medium, or high impact activities and where you can improve. Think about using time tracking — don’t think of it as time policing.

How to create more “peak” hours during the day.

That may seem like a lot to take in. But, after a week or two, tracking your time should become a habit. But, the main takeaway here is that you also listen to your gut. As I’ve said, you probably have a clue when you’re most productive without having to track your time. But, it’s still worth doing to see what exactly you’re doing and spending your time.

Knowing this, you can then use your “peak” hours more wisely. For me, I’m ready to tackle the day before 8 am. So, I block out from 8 am to 10 am for the most critical task of the day in my calendar. I then take a 30-minute break and get back to work until noon.

Since my energy may start dropping by then — my afternoons are spent on lower energy tasks like meetings. Then I have a snack later in the afternoon, take a break, get revived, and get going again for several hours.

I’ve also been able to create more “peak” hours in the day by taking care of my health — mainly getting enough REM sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and finding ways to relieve stress like meditating and exercising. The reason? All of these can impact your productivity.

Additionally, I also remove the unnecessary items from my calendar. The easiest way to do this is through delegation or dropping them entirely. It’s an effective way to ensure that you aren’t wasting your golden hours on things that aren’t important.

The Best Remote Work Setup To Keep You as Productive as Ever

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Just a few months ago, remote work was a luxury. But for many of us, it’s now a necessity that’ll take some getting used to. 

Not only do you have to adapt your workflow and make communication simpler for team members, but you also have to adjust your work environment to optimize productivity. That desk in a dark, dingey corner of your basement is far from an ideal workspace. 

What does an ideal remote workspace look like? To get more out of your day, upgrade your desk with:

1. Your office favorites

When you’re at the office, you have access to all the tools you need for the job. Highlighters, legal pads, your favorite pens — whatever helps you work faster and more efficiently. At home, you may not.

Splurge a little next time you’re at the office supply store. If you really want that top-of-the-line desk organizer, get it. Throw those cute paper clips that cost too much in the cart, too. Those small joys are worth it. 

Think, too, about your personal wellbeing. A water bottle at your desk keeps you hydrated. If you don’t have a coffee maker to keep you when the days get long, invest in one.   

Other than that, be selective about what you keep at your desk. When you take a broad essential, it opens the floodgates for a stream of inessential things. Before you know it not only does your desk get cluttered but also your mind. 

2. Lighting

You know how hard it is to work in a dim space. Adequate light reduces eye strain and fatigue.

Studies suggest access to natural light trumps a host of other office perks. It makes workers more energetic and can even improve mental health.

Keep lighting in mind as you perfect your home office setup. Instead of working in a space that is wholly reliant on artificial light, move your workspace to a room with a window.

If you don’t have that kind of natural light available, there are also lamps that simulate daylight. These are great for fighting seasonal affective disorder during times when you find yourself inside a lot. They are also useful if you need to work at night. Don’t let your circumstances keep you from getting the right amount of light. 

3. Plants and greenery

Another way to foster a productive work environment is to surround yourself with plants. Like natural lighting, greenery brings the great outdoors inside. 

Studies have shown that plants can give you a productivity boost of up to 15%. The reason is reduced stress levels: A little nature can help you move forward with ease and certainty. Caring for your plants can provide a sense of purpose.

Maybe now is the time to start the garden you’ve been wanting to grow in your home. If you don’t have a green thumb, you can always buy pre-grown plants. Either way, the added greenery will cheer you up whenever you look away from the screen. 

4. Sounds

Home noises can be distracting, but not all sounds are bad for productivity. Boosting your productivity is as easy as tuning into the right ones. 

Classical music can actually enhance brain function. It’s called the Mozart Effect, and it’s been known to help students perform better on tests and study better. The same kind of focus is great for powering through your more involved work tasks.

If you’re not a classical music fan, a great alternative is nature sounds. A relaxing waterfall or a chorus of birds make great background noise. And if you need a pick-me-up along the way, you take a break to listen to some of your favorite songs.

To enjoy your nature sounds or songs to their fullest, get some stereo speakers. Noise-cancelling headphones are an even better solution, but they can be pricey.

5. Art

You might assume that a focus-first workspace should be as bare as possible, but that’s not the case. Enriching your environment with art can actually increase your productivity. 

What art you choose isn’t necessarily important. What matters is that your selections inspire you and make you think. You don’t need to be an expert in art history to appreciate something that’s aesthetically pleasing to you. 

Experiment with different media. Choose some paintings for the walls. Add a small sculpture to your desk. Hang something with stained glass in your window. 

6. Aromatherapy

Your home workspace should look, sound, and feel like your own — but it should also smell appealing. Aromatherapy is a great way to give your home office that finishing touch.

Smell is an underappreciated sense. An essential oil diffuser can give you a whiff of lavender when you’re stressed. Try mint or eucalyptus for an energy boost. If you’re feeling short on fresh air, why not go for a soft forest scent?

Whether you’re working remotely by choice or doing so by necessity, you can always improve your space. Experiment: If a stationary set doesn’t bring you joy, find one that does. Make it your own, and you’ll see the difference in your mood, output, and more. 

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