time management Archives - Appointment - Online Appointment Scheduling Software

Productivity Journal vs. Time Trackers

By | Scheduling | No Comments

Like many others, I’ve spent years on a productivity quest. That may sound hyperbolic. But, think about it. We’re constantly adjusting productivity strategies and experimenting with new hacks.

Sometimes this works out, other times they don’t. And, that’s okay. Productivity is discovering what works best for you and being flexible enough to implement these changes.

But, I have noticed something throughout this journey. All of these hacks and techniques are pointless if you first haven’t tracked your time.

That more sound laborious. However, being productive gives you purpose. It’s also good for your health and wellbeing. And, because you’re getting more done in less time, it improves the quality of your personal and professional lives.

To figure this out, we can use one of the following methods; productivity journals and time trackers. While there are differences, both have the same goal; helping you become a lean, mean productivity machine.

Each method gives you a chance to pinpoint your personal production peaks. They also give you a chance to clarify your goals, track your progress, and reflect on what works and what doesn’t. They can even let you know where you’re wasting time and what’s getting in the way of your productivity, such as your biggest distractions.

Possessing this knowledge allows you to make the proper adjustments so that you can finally work smarter, not harder. But, which method should you use? Well, let’s figure that out.

What Are Productivity Journals?

As the name implies, productivity journals are journals that document your productivity. Although you might be tempted to think of this as a diary, that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Sure, it’s a place to log your activities, but the logging of those activities is more matter-of-fact than emotionally driven,” explains Jessica Greene over at Zapier. “It’s more ‘I worked on a blog post all day’ and less ‘Writing this post reignited my dreams of launching my own blog.’

“You can add entries to a productivity journal as often or infrequently as you want,” adds Greene. “Each time you complete a task, at the end of the day, or even once a week. And you can document that information wherever you want: A paper notebook, an app, or anywhere else that saves text.”

The only criteria are you “save everything you write in it” and keep in one location. Why? Well, you’ll need this information so that you can “go back and access previous entries to see how you spent your time on different types of tasks and projects.”

How do you use it?

The best thing about productivity journals is that they’re flexible and simple to use. In fact, you can create a powerful productivity journal in just three steps:

  • Record. List your big goals for the day, week, month, quarter, or year. Keep this to no more than 8 items so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Next, break these down into more manageable mini-goals.
  • Analyze. Track your progress, tasks, and emotion for a month. You’re doing this to pick up on patterns so that you know your energy highs and lows, where you succeeded, and what needs to be developed upon.
  • Improve. Analyze your data so that can clearly see where you need to improve. For example, what if you notice that you have the most energy and focus in the morning? Then that’s when you would start scheduling your most important or challenging tasks for the day.

Another practice would be writing down your top goal for the day. It will remind you what you’re working towards on a daily basis, explains Jari Roomer. Other key components for this method would be setting 1-3 daily goals/targets/intentions, the lessons learned, and your daily wins. Roomer also suggests jotting down any thoughts or ideas that pop-up.

For more complex journaling practices you could try Interstitial Journaling. “During your day, journal every time you transition from one work project to another,” explains Tony Stubblebine—Founder and CEO of Coach.me. “Write a few sentences in your journal about what you just did, and then a few more sentences about what you’re about to do.”

He adds that this world well with the Pomodoro Technique. After working for a 25-minute block, journal for 5-minutes. At the minimum, note the time, what you just accomplished, and what you’re going to do next.

The pros and cons of journaling.

As someone who enjoys writing, I’m a champion of journaling. I find it therapeutic and it gets all of these ideas out of my head so that I can focus. Moreover, it brings clarification to my goals and allows me to reflect on my progress.

Additionally, assist you in prioritizing problems and identifying solutions. Science has also found that journaling can stretch your IQ, invoke mindfulness, improve your memory, and spark your creativity. It can also help you develop emotional intelligence, self-discipline, and stringer communication skills.

That doesn’t mean that productive journaling is flawless. It can also be time-consuming and difficult to analyze. Mainly this is because journaling focuses more on how you feel. That makes it easier to overlook certain problems, such as unconscious behaviors like spending too much time on a website.

The best tools for productivity journaling.

If you want to give productivity journaling a chance, you just need a notebook and a pen. However, there are notebooks specifically designed for this task. There are also some digital options if you want to be more eco-friendly and access your planner from your devices.

1. The Productivity Planner

Printed on sustainable paper, this planner is pretty straightforward. It helps you set your most important and secondary tasks for the week. It also allows you to rate your productivity for the day, plan your week, and stay focused with the Pomodoro work system.

2. Bullet Journal

“Created by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer, in 2013 bullet journaling is simply a method for note-taking and day-planning using good ol’ paper and pen,” explains Calendar co-founder John Hall. In other words, it’s a “customizable journal that’s a cross between a planner — to-do list — and diary” designed for rapid logging.

3. Franklin Covey Planners

Considered the grandfather of all planners, these will help “you to identify values, create successful habits, and track and achieve your goals.” What’s more, there is a variety of options ranging from daily planners to monthly calendar tabs.

4. Passion Planner

Sure, the #pashfam rely on this to organize their lives and keep track of their goals. But, for them, they consider the Passion Planner as a “paper life coach.” They offer a variety of colors and options like weekly, annual, and academic.

5. The SELF Planner

“The Self Planner helps you master your time, focus on what’s important, and take control of your life — every day,” states it’s site. “Use the various templates to get clear on your priorities, mastermind your future, and infuse every day with the things that matter most to you.”

6. The ONE Thing Planner

Based on the personal planners of coauthors Jay Papasan and Gary Keller, this planner is intended to help your identify your priorities. From there, you can use it to make sure that your daily activities are aligned with them.

7. The Mastery Journal

The makers behind this journal state that this “will guide you in mastering productivity, discipline, and focus in 100 days.” It was developed by entrepreneur John Lee Dumas, who used these skills to build multiple multi-million dollar businesses.

8. The High-Performance Planner

You can use this planner to get into the right mindset, prioritize your goals, rate your performance, and strategically plan your day. Since it’s also a journal, you can capture thoughts and ideas and take note of where you need to improve.

9. The Morning Sidekick

If you want to have a productive day, then you need to start off on the right foot. And, that’s exactly what this journal does. It encourages you to self-reflect, plan your day, and map out your biggest task. There are also pages to track your progress to hold yourself accountable.

10. Note-taking apps.

Finally, if you want to go digital, you’re in luck. If you use the big three, then there’s Microsoft OneNote, Apple Notes, and Google Keep. But, there’s also the popular Evernote app that’s ideal for everyone. If distractions are an issue, try out Simplenote.

Of course, you could also track your productivity using a spreadsheet management expert and author Jim Collins or this one from Chris Baily. There are also premade worksheets like the 168 Hours Timesheet.

What Are Time Trackers?

Time trackers essentially do the same thing that productivity journals do. They shine a light on when you’re most energetic, focused, and motivated. Additionally, they can pinpoint when and where you’re wasting your valuable time.

The key difference? Time trackers are digital tools that run in the background of your devices. That means they track your time automatically without you even realizing it. Better yet, they analyze the data and make suggestions on where and how to improve.

How do you use it?

Here’s what’s great about time tracking apps and software. Just download it and you’re pretty much all set. Some tools will just automatically track and categorize how you’re spending your time on your computer or phone.

Others, however, will require you to hit start, pause, or end. Usually, these types of solutions are used more for billing purposes. But, they can still provide an accurate picture of what your screen time looks like in real-time.

The pros and cons of time trackers.

The main advantage with time trackers is that you don’t have to manually do this task. You can essentially set it and forget it. That’s perfect if you feel that journaling is too time-consuming and tedious.

Another perk is that these tools are more accurate and objective then productivity journaling. They are literally monitoring your activity to see when you’re most productive and what distracts you. They will then analyze this information and show you how you can work better.

But, just like journals, there are issues with time tracking. Most notably, they don’t take into account the emotional context of work. Why is that important? Because emotions provide insights into what motivates you and how to improve your performance.

Another drawback is that there isn’t offline functionality. You may even forget to track tasks like checking your email or attending meetings. And, there are also times when the app or software is buggy and provides inaccurate reports.

The best time tracking tools.

If you decide to use a time tracking tool, here are some of the best options available.

1. Calendar

Calendar is a scheduling tool that also provides analytics to see where your time is going. It uses machine learning to review data like meeting distribution. As a result, it will make smart suggestions on when and where to plan your next event. It can even provide a breakdown of who you’re spending time with.

2. Toggl

Available for iOS, Android, the web, Toggl offers a basic version or a more robust paid option. It’s a popular time tracking tool thanks to its simple interface. In fact, you can get started with just one-click. If you forget, it will remind you to start tracking. Another cool feature is the ability to track idle time.

3. RescueTime

As with Toggl, RescueTime is available for Android, Apple, and desktops. It also only takes one-click to get started. However, it automatically tracks the time you spend on apps, websites, and documents. It can even block the most distracting sites and apps as well.

4. Timely

Timely is another tool that will start to automatically track your time by running quietly in the background. It also uses AI to analyze and categorize how you’re spending your time. It can be used for individual use or for teams.

5. Harvest

If you’re flying solo, Harvest is an excellent tool for tracking billable hours. If you have a team, Harvest can keep track of your team’s time via timesheets. In addition to being compatible with most phones and browsers, it also integrates with tools like Slack, Trello, and Zapier.

6. Clockify

What makes Clokify stand out is that it’s 100% free. But, don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s subpar. With this tool, can track hours using a timer, categorize time by project, and mark time as billable. It also provides a visual breakdown of how you’re spending your time.

7. Timeular

Unlike the other selections listed here, this is actually a nifty 8-sided dice. After assigning an activity to each side, you simply place it on your desk. When it’s time to start an activity flip it to start. It is accompanied by a mobile and desktop app as well.

8. Wrike

Wrike flawlessly combines project management and time tracking. Although it may not be the most accurate time tracker, it’s definitely helpful when collaborating with others.

9. Time Doctor

Time Doctor is a fully customizable tool designed for teams. It takes screenshots to track activity, reminds you to stay off distracting apps and sites, and even monitors when users take breaks. You can also organize it to track the time spent on specific projects and clients.

10. Forest

Forest is an app that’s mean to keep you focused and present. How? By being a gamified Pomodoro timer, time tracker, and app blocker all rolled into one. Even better, the app has partnered with Trees for the Future to plant real trees.

The Final Verdict

Which method is more effective? Well, that’s totally up to you depending on your preferences and goals. If you want to stop wasting time on your screen, time trackers can produce more accurate insights. If you want to improve your motivation, productivity journaling may be the way to go.

In my opinion, I think a hybrid approach is best. Journaling gives you that much needed emotional context, while time trackers deliver hard data. Combining that information gives you a better understanding of how you’re spending your time and where to improve.

How to Structure Your Day When Working from Home

By | Time Management | No Comments

Up until recently, working from home was almost taboo. It was a luxury. Only a small percentage of very trusted people and freelancer’s enjoyed this freedom. But, the worldwide COVID epidemic has made the old luxury — the new normal for thousands of people. Here is how to structure your day when working from home.

How how you done working from home?

Some, have embraced working from home — and they have thrived. Others, not so much. I’m not passing any blame here. Getting used to working from home and your new schedule will take time to adjust to. And you had to adjust mighty fast as things shut down.

If there’s something you’re still, struggling with, here’s the best way that you can structure your day when working from home.

Find your most productive hours.

Here’s the best thing about working from home, you have the flexibility to set your own schedule. The caveat? You must determine when your most productive hours are. An issue to consider, right now, is that you have to do a little bit better balancing act.

If you’ve recently made the switch from the traditional 9-to-5 workday, knowing your most productive hours may seem odd. However, thanks to ultradian rhythms (and many other productivity tips we have on Calendar) — we can teach you how to find your “best” time of day. different times of the day when alertness, energy, and focus are high. Hence this explains if you’re a morning bird or night owl.

Now, you may have an idea of when these hours are. I mean if you’re an early riser and ready to tackle your work in the AM, then that’s a sign that you’re a morning person. If it’s the opposite, then you wouldn’t want to force yourself to work on your most important task before the sun shines through your curtains.

Not sure when your most productive hours are? No worries. Here are some strategies you can try to find out:

  • Track your time for a specific period. Ideally, you want to track your days for around a month to get a more accurate picture.
  • Use the right tools. A simple pen and paper method will suffice. You could also create a spreadsheet. But, there are also digital tools like RescueTime, Clockify, Toggl, ATracker, and Calendar that can do this for you.
  • Maintain your time log. There are two ways to track your time. The first is by the time of day. For example, you can write down everything you accomplished in a specific timeframe and how you felt. The second is by the task. Here you would note when you started an activity and when you moved on to something else.

Whatever tools or methods you use, be honest and consistent. You should also record your data in real-time. And, try to be as meticulous as possible.

Start the day right.

I know that the first step to starting your day right involved a little elbow grease. But, from here on out, it’s going to be much easier to plan out your day.

Regardless if you wake-up at five am or noon — if you want to have a productive day, you need to establish a morning routine. While the exact activities can vary, the idea here is to let your brain know that it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

What should be including in this ritual? Well, here are some of my personal favorite techniques:

  • Plan the night before. You don’t have to overthink this. Just simply jot down the three main things you want to accomplish tomorrow. You could do things like reviewing your calendar and prep your meals.
  • Wake-up feeling refreshed. Get enough sleep, preferably between 6 and 8 hours. And, if possible, try to wake-up naturally or use an alarm clock. It’s a simple way to avoid looking at your phone first thing in the morning.
  • Focus your mind. I like waking-up prefer everyone else to take advantage of the peace and quiet. I then use this time to exercise, eat a healthy breakfast, read, and write in my journal.
  • Set a daily intention. It’s been found that writing down your goals enhances your achievement of them.
  • Have a daily affirmation. “Affirmations are short, powerful yet simple statements intended to help you manifest a particular goal,” writes Choncé Maddox. “This is power is positive thinking and it only takes a few minutes to recite some positive affirmations.”

Another suggestion would be to create a daily compass. These are any activities you should check before jumping into work. For instance, you might want to check your email or Slack messages to make sure that the afternoon meeting hasn’t been rescheduled.

I also strongly suggest that you get dressed. And, I would also remove distractions like turning off your phone before starting your workday.

Have a dedicated workspace.

There’s a belief that when working from home you’re just plopped on the couch all day. That’s not exactly the most productive environment to work in — what with distractions like the TV, kids and housemates.

In a perfect world, you would have a swanky home office. You know, like all of those amazing pictures you’ve seen on Pinterest. The reality is that most of us don’t have such a luxury. But, at the very least, you should have a quiet space that’s dedicated to work.

Make sure that you have all the tools you need and you keep it free from clutter. And, if you work from the same place daily, it gives you some much-needed structure.

Add work blocks to your calendar.

“A more tactical piece of advice, particularly if your work situation had regularly provided this structure for you, is to use your calendar as a friend in helping you manage your time,” suggests Vivian Nunez, founder of Too Damn Young. “Setting work blocks on your Google Calendar and color-coding them to match different projects or tasks will give you a visual cue for the way time is breaking down for you.”

But, let me go a little more in-depth here. Remember when you determined when you were most productive? You would block out those times for your most important work.

Let’s say that you’re peak performance hours are from 9 am to 11 am. You should reserve that time period for your most important or challenging task of the day. By adding that to your calendar, you’re ensuring that something that’s less important will occupy that slot.

Furthermore, time blocking untangles your mind and helps you identify your priorities. And, you can even use this strategy to create buffers between tasks and block apps when you don’t want to be interrupted.

Give yourself permission to take breaks.

Data from NordVPN Teams found that remote workers in the U.S. increased their average workday by almost 40%. That means we’re adding an extra three hours to our workdays!

“The data as well revealed that employees are starting work earlier, but finishing at the same time,” said Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN Teams. “This is perhaps because people are not commuting, and instead of sitting in traffic, they choose to work.”

That’s just not going to fly. Putting in more hours may work right now. But, eventually, you’re going to burn yourself out. That’s why taking frequent breaks is essential.

Whether if you use the Pomodoro Technique or follow the 52/17 Rule, make sure to give yourself a breather. You need this downtime to recharge and refocus.

And, here’s the best part. You can spend this time however you like. If you want to go for a bike ride, take a nap, chat with a friend, or watch a TedTalk, that’s your provocative.

Enforce boundaries.

“If this is your first time working from home and you still haven’t found a routine that works for you, then you might find you’re just as distracted as you were at the office,” writes Laura Martisiute in a Calendar article.

“From loud kids to a chatty spouse to household duties (doing laundry never seems so appealing as when you have to write a boring report), it’s critical that you learn how to overcome distractions when working from home,” adds Laura. The key is to let others know your schedule.

In my experience, sharing my calendar is the most effective way to do this. When my family can see my schedule, they know when I have meetings and focused on deep work. On the flip side, they also know when I’m available to spend time with them.

Make time to socialize.

It’s not surprising that remote workers struggle with depression and loneliness. It can also be difficult to commute and collaborate with your team members. The solution to both? Block out time to socialize with others.

Now, in a non-COVID world, you could meet up with others at a coffee shop or conference room. But, the way things are now, you’re going to have to rely on tools like Slack or Zoom. Just be mindful of your usage as there is such a thing as Zoom fatigue.

Set an end time and stick to it.

Another way to prevent working too much is to establish a stop time. More importantly, though, you need to set up a routine to help you transition from work to relaxation.

Similar to your morning ritual, this can vary. But, here some ideas to help you wind down:

  • Clean out your inbox.
  • Organize your workspace.
  • Create a to-do-list for tomorrow.
  • Send a “goodnight” message to your colleagues.
  • Log out of your work accounts, like Slack.
  • Turning off your computer.
  • Reflect on what you accomplished.
  • Have a mini celebration, like going for a walk or putting on your sweats.

It may be tempting to worry about work. But, like breaks, you need your evenings to rest and recharge.

Example of a structured WFH workday.

  • 6 am – 8 am: Exercise, breakfast with family, get dressed, and review calendar.
  • 8 am – 9 am: Write in a journal, catch-up on emails, update social media, and check-in with coworkers and employees.
  • 9 am – 12:00 pm: Deep Focus on your top priorities.
  • 12 pm – 1 pm: Eat lunch with family, go for a walk, check inbox.
  • 1 pm – 3 pm: Deep Focus on second priority.
  • 3 pm – 3:30 pm: Have a video call with your team.
  • 3:30 pm – 5:30: Work on your third most important task of the day.
  • 5:30 pm: Wrap up whatever you are working on and wind down.

I usually try to get a couple of hours of work done in the evening after relaxing for a couple of hours. These hours have turned out to be quite productive, as well. You have to be flexible enough with your work schedule to add and subtract your times to meet the situation.

If your kids are kind of wild between nine to noon in the morning — get up at five and get your work done then. Don’t sit at your desk from 9 am to noon and scream at everyone to shut-up because you are working! Written here is the ideal work from home schedule.

But, please, change your schedule to fit your situation — and make this time of COVID better than ever.

20 One-Minute Hacks that Will Boost Your Productivity

By | Time Management | No Comments

Even the most successful people have had their struggles with productivity. If they didn’t, then there wouldn’t be the insurmountable resources available at their disposal. But, whether it’s a book, video, podcast, or article like this one — the quest to produce more in less time goes on forever. Here are 20 one-minute hacks that will boost your productivity.

Here’s the thing though. Boosting your productivity doesn’t have to some grand, life-altering spectacle. In fact, sometimes the most powerful methods are the smallest ones. Case in point? The following 20 hacks that only take around a minute to complete, but will definitely give you that much-needed productivity boost.

1. “What’s one thing I’m committed to doing today?”

When you wake-up in the morning don’t look at your phone. After all, it will make you more stressed out and overwhelmed, as well as more difficult to prioritize tasks. And, it can even make you feel like you’re already behind in your day.

A better idea is to ask one simple question, “What’s one thing I’m committed to doing today?” It’s a simple and effective way to focus and prioritize what’s most important. If you can’t just settle on one item, then consider creating a 1-3-5 to-do list. Here you would simply jot down one large task, three medium-sized tasks, and five small tasks that you want to complete.

2. Make your bed.

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day,″ retired U.S. Navy Admiral Seal William H. McCraven said in a commencement speech at the University of Texas. “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another.

“And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed,” added McCraven. What’s more, research from the National Sleep Foundation has found that making your bed in the morning can lead to better rest at night.

3. Eat cake for breakfast.

“It doesn’t literally have to be cake,” says Beyond the Headline podcast host Jenna Abdou. But, “the point is to find a way to eat something that brings you joy in the morning.” Additionally, Abdou believes that this can also be used as a mindfulness exercise and help you practice gratitude — both of which boost your productivity.

Whatever you have for breakfast, Abdou says, “Savor it without using your phone or thinking about work and responsibilities.” Instead, “Enjoy the moment, and think about all of the things that are going right in your life.”

4. Disable notifications.

According to one study, it was found that when working in front of a computer, the average person gets distracted or interrupted every 40 seconds. That’s just mind0boggling. The easiest solution here would be to just turn off your smartphone or at least disable email, social media, or instant messaging notifications.

You can also set screen time limits on your Android or iPhone. Or, you can block apps or distracting websites at certain times using tools like Offtime, Freedom, Moment, or RescueTime.

5. Adopt positive affirmations.

“We tell ourselves things we want to believe and over time we convince ourselves that they are true,” explains Deanna Ritchie, Editor-in-Chief at Calendar. “If we allow ourselves to repeat self-deprecating thoughts, we will also start to believe these thoughts — even if they aren’t true.” Eventually, “These thoughts weaken our well-being and can lead to loss of motivation, decreased self-worth, and even depression.”

Want to counter this debilitating mindset? Repeat positive self-affirmations. In fact, research shows that these have the power to decrease stress, increase creativity, and improve problem-solving skills.

Deanna suggests that when you aren’t feeling motivated, try out the following four self-affirmations:

  • “I Will Make Today a Great Day.”
  • “I Have a Lot to Offer.”
  • “I Will Never Give Up.”
  • “I Am Imperfect, and That’s OKAY.”

6. Say “no” to at least three things.

I do this every Friday when planning out next week. I just scan my to-do-list and calendar. I then identify three commitments that aren’t worth my time. For instance, I could swap out an hour-long virtual meeting with a 15-minute phone call or not RSVPing to an event that I was on the fence about.

7. Abide by the two-minute rule.

Made famous by David Allen in “Getting Things Done,” this is a straightforward concept. If there’s something that takes you under two minutes to do, just do it instead of putting it off.

Moreover, as James Clear explains, you can also use this technique to stop procrastinating and form new habits. Examples would be reading one page of a book at night or tie your running shoes as opposed to proclaiming that you’re going to run 3 miles.

8. Work on Pomodoro time.

Hopefully, you’re aware of this popular time management strategy. If not, it’s where you break your time into 25-minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break. After four Pomodoros, you would take a longer break, like 15-minutes. The reason why this works is that it helps you eliminate burnout and manage distractions.

9. Apply the spider technique.

Another way to fight back against distractions? Try out the spider technique.

“If you hold a vibrating tuning fork next to a spider web, he will come out because he thinks it is a prey,” explains Sabine Staggl. Co-founder of Noisli. “If you repeat this over and over, the spider won’t come out anymore because he has learnt that there will be no prey waiting for him.”

“The same goes for your distractions,” adds Staggl. “You can train yourself and learn to not pay attention to the distractions around you.” And, you can do so by forcing yourself to re-focus, knowing your weaknesses, and avoiding them. For example, if noise is an issue, then you could invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones.

10. Optimize your life in seconds.

Here’s a common problem when it comes to productivity. We tend to add things to our life. For example, because health plays such an integral role in how productive we are, you might begin an exercise regiment.

What’s the issue here? Well, if you’ve never made much time for physical activity before, then suddenly adding an hour to your day for this activity can be overwhelming. Instead, you make incremental improvements. In this case, you could walk when on the phone, go outside for one-on-one meetings, or invest in a standing desk.

Other suggestions would be learning keyboard shortcuts or avoiding Parkinson’s Law. You may also want to download time tracking software to help you see how you’re spending your time.

11. Try one-moment meditation.

Why should you meditate? Well, science shows that it has the ability to reduce stress, control anxiety, enhance self-awareness, and lengthen attention spans. But, that’s not all. It can also improve sleep, prevent age-related memory loss, and diminish the perception of physical pain.

Best of all? You can meditate anywhere. Seriously. Martin Boroson, Founder of the One Moment Company, states that instead of wasting time when stuck in traffic or waiting in-line, use that moment to find peacefulness and become more present.

12. Learn your ABCs.

As noted over at HBR, the ABC method is a quick and easy way to improve your focus and prevent distractions from interrupting you. First, you need to become aware of what’s distracting you. Next, breathe deeply. And, finally, choose what you want to do next thoughtfully.

13. Clear up your computer and desktop.

A clean desk or desktop can be like taking a deep breath, allowing you to focus,” says psychologist Pamela Rutledge. On the flip side though, a cluttered one can make you feel anxious. It’s also much harder to locate items when you need them.

And, if you make this a daily habit, it will only take a moment to achieve. For example, throw away any trash that’s on your desktop, return items to their home, remove unnecessary desktop icons, and close tabs when not being used.

14. Eat, drink, and chew gum.

I’m talking about consuming “brain” food like blueberries, fish, and avocados. Staying hydrated and drinking coffee more strategically. And, when do need an energy boost, smell citrus or herbs like rosemary. These have been found to stimulate alertness and improve focus.

And, when all else fails, chew a piece of gum. It’s very simple. But, this can increase the flow of oxygen to parts of the brain in charge of attention.

15. Look at a photograph.

“When I face a tough decision, I look at a picture of myself as a toddler that I carry in my wallet,” said Google Associate Product Marketing Manager Martin Aguinis. “I ask myself, ‘Am I making this younger version of me proud?’”

“Looking back at this picture reminds me that I need to compete with myself to produce more,” adds Aguinis.

If that’s not your cup of tea, then view images of cute animals like puppies. As one study shows, this can improve your focus since it can make us more alert and engaged.

16. Delegate by following the 70 percent rule.

As you know, delegation is a tried and true way to free-up your time. But, what tasks should you hand-over to others?

Don’t spend too much time thinking about this. Instead, follow the 70 percent rule. In a nutshell, this means that if 70 percent of something can be done better by someone else, then delegate the responsibility to them. Like, I know a little bit of coding. But, when it comes to troubleshooting my company’s app, I have more talented developers work on it.

17. Automate recurring tasks.

For all of those tedious and recurring tasks you have, use a tool like IFTTT or Zapier to automate them. One example could be having a recently published WordPress article automatically shared on your social channels.

18. Use dictation.

According to a study from Stanford, speech-to-text is three times faster than writing. So, consider using your voice to add calendar entries or compose messages or to-do-lists.

19. Change-up your work location.

I’m known for working in multiple places throughout the day. Like I might work from my desk in the AM, but then get out of the office and work from a local cafe. Even if you can’t do that, at least experiment with different work stations in your office or home to keep you from falling into a rut.

20. End each day by asking “Did I do my best?”

To me, this reminds me of Ben Franklin’s daily routine. But, this technique has been used by freelance writer Daniel Dowling to replace ambitious and unrealistic goals.

While it may seem vague, it completely transformed his productivity. “Without asking myself if I’d done my best each day, I’d either have wallowed in self-reproach or failed to reflect on my performance at all,” explains Dowling. “Instead, I’d turned self-criticism into a self-improvement habit.”

You Don’t Have to be Uptight to be Productive

By | Time Management | No Comments
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.”

6 Virtual-Meeting Dysfunctions to Nip in the Bud

By | Business Tips | No Comments

Even once the pandemic has passed, virtual meetings aren’t going anywhere. When team members return to their offices en masse, they’ll continue to hold digital meetings due to their convenience. 

But just like in-person meetings, you can waste a lot of employee time with virtual meetings. Whether long or short, you need to make sure that every minute of a meeting is worth it. A single hiccup can throw off an otherwise productive meeting. 

Take control of your virtual meetings. Avoid these six dysfunctions in order to keep them on track:

1. Technical Difficulties

At the best of times, technology can be tough to manage. If the meeting’s leader is having issues, the resulting disorganization can derail the entire thing. 

Don’t assume that everyone knows how to use the program. In the meeting agenda, include a tutorial about how to log into the meeting space. Offer alternative ways to attend, such as calling in by phone instead of using video.

Before logging in, cover your bases. Make sure you have a solid internet connection and the latest version of your video conferencing software. Start early to make time for troubleshooting.

2. Poor Speaking Dynamics

During in-person meetings, speaking dynamics tend to be pretty natural. In a virtual meeting, however, even the closest team may struggle to balance listening and speaking. 

Virtual meetings make it more difficult to see cues that indicate someone wants to speak. The trouble is, the most important contributions are often made in the moment. The solution is to designate a facilitator to keep things moving.

A facilitator can take on the following responsibilities:

  • Opening and closing the meeting
  • Reviewing action items
  • Polling the group to check for consensus 
  • Calling on people to give their thoughts
  • Reframing talking points when there is a disconnect
  • Ensuring nobody only speaks or listens 

A good facilitator knows when to step in and when to step back. Natural conversation isn’t the enemy, so long as it’s on-topic and constructive. Choose your facilitator prior to the meeting, ideally through a team vote to ensure the person has everyone’s respect. 

3. Waning Participation

When people attend a meeting in person, they have more incentive to participate. But in virtual gatherings, it’s easy to go unnoticed. People can mute their voices or turn off their screens altogether. 

This is another issue a facilitator can help with. By throwing out a new prompt, he or she can revive discussion if it’s died. It isn’t always obvious to the wider group when it’s time to move on. It’s the role of the facilitator to make those decisions. 

Another solution is to lay out the ground rules before the virtual meeting begins. Discuss the kind of participation that is expected in the meeting. Decide whether people should respond through the chat or audibly. You can also provide a shared document for silent brainstorming.

4. Personal Distractions

When you’re not in the same room during a meeting, distractions can be a big problem. Someone’s child or pet might interrupt them during the meeting. Their computer may make notification sounds that reverberate in the meeting room. 

Personal distractions can quickly become group distractions. Don’t be rude about them, but do address them promptly. Remind everyone of the meeting’s goal, and remember to be compassionate. There’s no reason to get upset if the distraction is one they can’t control. 

5. Too Many People

You could hypothetically fit a whole company into a virtual meeting. But just because you can include the whole team doesn’t mean you should. Huge meetings can be overwhelming for everyone involved.

The only exception? General meetings intended for a specific announcement. But that’s a situation in which you could pre-record your message and let employees watch it on their own time. 

Instead, utilize breakout groups. Convene multiple virtual meetings, perhaps divided along departments or functional groups. Ask the leader of each meeting to report back with the consensus and action items.

6. Unprofessional Aesthetics

Just because a meeting is virtual does not mean it should be unprofessional. Paying attention to your surroundings and personal presentation is key.

To make sure your look doesn’t distract attendees or communicate “I don’t care”:

  • Use a neutral background.
  • Emphasize books or plants around you.
  • Make sure your room is silent.
  • Keep your camera at eye level.
  • Dress as you would for an in-person meeting at your company.

That isn’t to say you can’t have fun on certain video calls, such as team happy hours. With that said, it’s important to distinguish between meetings that call for professionalism and those that let you cut loose a little bit. 

Don’t let digital meeting dysfunctions get in the way. There’s never a good time for kinks, so work them out now. Otherwise, you’ll be dealing with them at the worst time: when the team needs to get down to business. 

Reclaim Your Time by Learning the Art of Saying No

By | Time Management | No Comments
Regain Your Time by Learning the Art of Saying No

As a parent, there’s a two-letter word that drives you wild whenever you ask your kids to do something. And that word is the dreaded “no.” Anyone with young kids will relate to the beginnings of the “no” word at about two years old. But here is how you can reclaim your time by learning the art of saying “no.”

For as infuriating as that response can be, there are times when there’s a lesson you can learn from them. And, that’s the gentle art of saying no.

To be fair, that doesn’t mean rejecting every time request — or just being defiant because you can. If so, you could be potentially missing out on opportunities. Besides, you don’t want to earn that reputation of being difficult.

The power of saying “no.”

Instead, it’s all about being more selective so that you aren’t wasting your valuable time. In turn, you’ll be able to improve your focus, performance, and productivity. And, most importantly, as Steve Jobs once said, “It’s only by saying NO that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

Furthermore, mastering the art of saying “no” gives you more control and lets you establish your own boundaries. If not, because you’re a people pleaser or just afraid to upset others, you’re giving up control to them. I mean, if you don’t respect your time, then why would anyone else?

“One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that no one will protect my time or prioritize my needs as vigilantly as me,” Damon Zahariades wrote in The Art Of Saying NO: How To Stand Your Ground, Reclaim Your Time And Energy, And Refuse To Be Taken For Granted. “That’s understandable. Most people act out of self-interest; they naturally put their own priorities ahead of others’ priorities,” Zahariades states. “But it means each of us is responsible for making sure our personal needs are met.”

“No one is going to do it for us,” adds Zahariades. “Moreover, it’s important that we attend to our own needs before attending to the needs of others.” Will this make you uncomfortable? Sure. “But allowing your needs to remain unaddressed while you continuously cater to others is the path toward resentment and bitterness. It can even become a health issue if you run yourself ragged.”

What you should say “no” to and how?

Most of you know that I write for Entrepreneur magazine — let’s quickly go over the things that you should say “no” to, courtesy of Matthew Toren in an Entrepreneur article.

    • Tasks that can be easily outsourced. Are you spending the bulk of your day on tedious activities that aren’t pushing you closer to your goals? I’m talking about administrative work, accounting, lead generation, HR, IT, or marketing as some common examples. If so, hire someone else to take on these tasks.
    • Actions that don’t match your vision. Before saying “yes,” ask one simple question; “does it match your vision?”
    • Things that distract you destroy your time. Whether if it’s smartphone notifications, chatty co-workers, meetings without an agenda, or unproductive uses of your downtime, identify these and eliminate them.
    • Unhealthy habits. Eating junk, not getting enough sleep, smoking, and toxic relationships can do serious harm to your health and well-being. And, when you spend time on unhealthy habits, you’re taking time away from more productive ways.
    • Things that aren’t up to you or in your control. “There are things in this life that are inevitably out of your control — lots of them, actually,” writes Toren. But, you do have a choice. “You can fret and freak out about things such as the government, the economy, your partner, the weather, or any other variable outside your power, or you can choose to say ‘no’ to the stress that comes from getting upset about things you can’t control.”

Practicing the art of saying “no.”

Now that you have an idea of what time requests to decline, how can you say “no” to them? Well, here are seven ways to achieve that goal effectively.

1. Saying no doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person.

So many of us struggle with saying no because we don’t want to offend others. After all, we don’t want others to believe that we’re selfish or unkind. But, in reality, that’s not the case.

As Chantalle Blikman perfectly explains over at Tiny Budha, this was something we were taught as children. “If you said no to your mom, dad, teacher, uncle, grandparents, and so on, you were most certainly considered to be being rude, and you would have probably been told off for it.” As such, “Saying no was off-limits, and yes was the polite and likable thing to say.”

But, as adults, we are “capable of making our own choices, as well as knowing the difference between wrong and right,” adds Blikman. “Therefore, no shouldn’t be an off-limits word, but rather something that we decide on ourselves, based on our own discretion.”

While this is still a challenge, the first thing you must do is realize that you should never feel guilty or ashamed of saying no. If you’re direct and honest, then others will respect and understand your decision. You will not believe how much your decisions to say no will up your productivity.

2. Plan your “no’s” in advance.

In my opinion, this will make saying “no” a breeze going forward mainly because it’s almost like creating an automatic response. For instance, if you have implemented a “No Meeting Wednesday” rule, and you have a meeting invite for a Wednesday, it’s much easier to turn down that request.

If you haven’t instituted such policies yet, then identify where you want to spend your time. Ideally, this will be based on your priorities. If you have to finish a task by the end of the day, then you can’t leave the office to play golf with a friend. Quality family time a priority? Then you would reserve Friday evenings as the night that your family spends together.

3. Take baby steps.

“Choose some easy, low-risk situations in which to practice saying no,” recommends Peter Bregman for HBR. “Say no when a waiter offers you dessert” or “when someone tries to sell you something on the street,” Bregman writes. “Go into a room by yourself, shut the door, and say no out loud ten times.” While this may sound ridiculous, it’s a great way to build your no muscle without serious repercussions or guilty feelings.

4. Consult your calendar.

Unless it’s an extremely urgent matter, don’t feel pressured to say “yes” or “no” on the spot. Go ahead and respond with a phrase like, “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” Obviously, you want to be respectful of the other person’s time. So, set a time limit, like by tomorrow or the end of the week.

The reason why this strategy works well is that it gives you time to pause and reflect. Maybe you weren’t gung-ho about the request initially. But, after sleeping on it, you decide it’s worth your time. So, you check your schedule and see when you’re available. But, I strongly suggest that you share your calendar with them so that they can know when you’re free.

There’s another variation to this. Let’s say that you get invited to a BBQ next weekend. Before committing, let them not that you have to speak with your family first to make sure that you don’t already have plans.

5. Be brief and polite, but firm.

“You don’t always have to explain yourself when telling someone no,” notes Daniel Potter over at Grammarly. “Still, it’s often more considerate to provide a straight-up no rather than a non-response, because leaving people wondering tends to read as thoughtless.”

At the same time, you don’t want to offer too brief of an explanation. As an example, instead of responding with “I can’t help with that,” try, “Sadly, I’m afraid I can’t help with that.” Using “sadly “shows you recognize the answer probably won’t thrill the recipient, and it brings you no joy to say so.”

Another example? “Thank you for thinking of me for this assignment. I can’t take more work on right now, but please keep in touch.” What makes this response work is that it shows your appreciation while also leaving the door open for possible work in the future.

What if they aren’t taking “no” for an answer? Bregman recommends being “just as pushy as they are” without being a jerk. You may also want to incorporate a little humor here as well.

6. Use the words “You are welcome to X. I am willing to Y.”

Here’s an example from the pages of Greg McKeown’s bookEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. A friend needs a lift to an important meeting, and their car is in the shop. You can say that you’re “welcome to borrow my car. I am willing to make sure the keys are here for you.”

Using this phrase lets them know, “I won’t be able to drive you.” McKeown explains, “saying what you will not do, but you are couching it in terms of what you are willing to do.” It’s an efficient “way to navigate a request you would like to support somewhat but cannot throw your full weight behind.”

“I particularly like this construct because it also expresses a respect for the other person’s ability to choose, as well as your own,” statesMcKeown. “It reminds both parties of the choices they have,” while setting reasonable boundaries.

7. Offer an alternative.

Let’s say your business partner wants to meet for lunch tomorrow. You already have plans. But, you suggest this Friday since you’re available. It turns out that this works for them as well. Crisis averted.

Another alternative could be referring them so someone else who has more experience, knowledge, or interest than you do. Or, let’s say that you have a team member who has volunteered to take on a new project. While this is encouraged if the project is time-sensitive and you’re concerned that you would have to micromanage them to ensure it’s completed on-time, suggest another project that has more leeway.

 

7 Before-Bed Steps to Prepare for Tomorrow

By | Time Management | No Comments

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. 

The 10 Best Calendar Apps (What You Should Look For)

By | Time Management | No Comments
8 Pieces of Productivity Tech to Add to Your Arsenal in 2020

Perhaps the number one reason why we’re addicted to smartphones is that they contain our entire lives in the device. You can check-in with friends, family, and clients, while booking a flight, running your business, and listening to a podcast. Here’s what you should look for in the ten best calendar apps.

But, they’re always useful in organizing our lives. Especially when you have the following ten calendar apps.

1. Calendar

Tired of those back-and-forth emails when scheduling a meeting or appointment? If so, then Calendar has got you covered.

This handy app lets you share your availability with others through an embedded link or email. This way, they can find a date and time that works for them. Once they do, the event is added to everyone’s online calendars.

Calendar can also harness the power of machine learning. Machine learning means that it uses previous data to make smart scheduling suggestions, such as when, where, and what types of meetings you should schedule.

You can also easily create an event using natural language, while the map view gives you a glance at your upcoming schedule.

2. Fantastical 2

This iPhone app has often be cited as the best calendar app for the iPhone. That’s because it’s packed with features, such as:

  • Multiple views including a list view in portrait mode by either week or month or a landscape mode for a week “block” view.
  • Supports multiple languages, like English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese.
  • Ability to create event using natural language.
  • Also, it works with the iPad and Apple Watch.
  • The addition of the view widget — replaces the stock iOS Calendar widget. With this extension, you get a snapshot of your day without opening the app.

You will have to purchase Fantastical 2 for $4.99.

3. Google Calendar

While this stock calendar comes preinstalled in every Android device, Apple users can download it as well. They probably should go ahead and do that.

With a free account, this powerful app will events and schedules from your Google account. If you used your Gmail address to book a flight, hotel room, or doctor’s appointment, the date and time would be added to the calendar. You’ll then receive a reminder through a push notification on your phone when the event approaches.

When creating events, you can color-code your calendar so that you can quickly identify the various types of activities you have scheduled.

4. Calendars 5

If you’re curious, this is the fifth version of Readdle’s Calendars app. That explains why it’s called Calendars 5. It also means that the developers had plenty of opportunities to make this iPhone app as high as possible.

Calendars 5 comes with features like several view options; list view, day view, week view, and month view, as well as an integrated task manager and ability to enter events using natural language. Additional features include being able to create custom alerts, recurring events, and sharing your tasks and activities with others.

5. Microsoft Calendar

For business owners, it’s tough to find a better suite of tools than Microsoft Office 365 — although Google is pretty much right at the top as well. That’s because this app combines your emails, calendar, and much more into one convenient location.

The calendar itself is loaded with functions like being able to import or export to other calendars and share your calendar with others. You can also personalize your calendar using add-ons, like getting a weather report, automating responses to invites, receiving reminders, and receiving an agenda in your email every morning.

6. Tiny Calendar

If you want a simple calendar app that’s available for either Android or iOS, then look no further. Tiny Calendar is a straightforward calendar app where you can view multiple layouts. You can create emails or push notification reminders, and make edits offline. You can even use your device’s GPS to add specific locations to events, and it syncs with other calendars, such as Google Calendar.

The free version should be enough if you need the basics. The paid version — which is $7 — comes with additional features like accepting and sending invites. It also exports other calendars and can create recurring events.

7. Jorte Calendar

Jorte isn’t just another calendar app. It’s also an organizer where you can take notes and manage tasks. It also integrates with Google Calendar, Evernote, and Microsoft Office to make your life run a bit smoother. And, it works for Android and iOS.

As for the calendar itself, it’s pretty solid. There are daily, weekly, or monthly views, the ability to create recurring events, and there are even countdown features that let you know how much time is remaining for a specific event.

For the more robust features, you’ll have to select the Jorte Premium option at $3 per month or $30 for the year.

8. SolCalendar

SolCalendar is known for being one of the most well-designed calendar apps on the market. Some people claim that it’s more of a life management tool than just your standard calendar app.

This app comes with a widget so that you receive a summary of your most important activities. There are stickers and emojis for marking select dates. You can also receive weather reports, share your calendar with others, and integrates with Google Tasks.

Best of all? It’s free for Android users to download.

9. TimeTree

Do you need an app to keep your family or team on the same page? Then download this free app for both Android and Apple users.

With TimeTree, you can share everything from work schedules to tasks to notes. This way, your team knows when you away on travel while your family knows when your flight arrives. It also ensures that every family or team member stays on-top of assigned tasks. You can also send reminders to others.

10. 24me

Finally, there’s this handy personal assistant that comes equipped with a calendar, to-do list, and notes. This way, you can automate everything from paying bills to wishing a happy friend’s birthday. It has reminders — like calling a client or scheduling appointments — by linking to your contacts. You can link to Facebook, TaskRabbit, and your bank account.

Put, if you want to stay on top of your bills, remember birthdays, schedule events, and manage your to-do list, this is the app for you.

The free app is available for Android and iOS.

Criteria for an Amazing Calendar App

What makes these apps considered the best? It’s because they fit the following criteria:

  • Can easily and quickly view appointments — preferably in a click or two.
  • Can easily add, edit, or search for appointments, like being able to use natural language.
  • Integrates with the apps you use daily, such as Calendar or Google Calendar.
  • It is compatible with all of the devices you use. For example, if you have all Apple products, then go with Fantastical 2. If you have a Samsung phone and iPad, then you’ll want an app that works on both Android and iOS.
  • Comes with a clean and contemporary design.
  • Integrates with your email — not a problem if using Calendar, Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook.
  • Allows you to schedule an unlimited amount of appointments.
  • Has the features you need. If you work with a team, for example, then you need to be able to share your calendar with others. If not pre-installed, then look for an app that can be customized to meet your needs.

What criteria do you look for when choosing a calendar app?

Slice Your No-Show Rate With These 5 Tips

By | Scheduling | No Comments
appointment guide

It’s not just you: Cancellations and no-shows are time-wasting issues at every service company.

Missed appointments cost the healthcare industry alone $150 billion dollars a year. With those stakes, you can’t just accept frequent cancellations and no-shows.

You may not be in charge of your client’s schedules, but there are ways to significantly reduce cancellations without upsetting or alienating customers. Take a look at the following ways to do just that:

1. Check for a common cause.

If you see a spike in cancellations, it doesn’t mean that your customers are careless or inconsiderate. There are plenty of other reasons that could be to blame, such as:

  • Customers have issues with your scheduling system that they don’t know how to articulate.
  • Your hours of operation have recently changed.
  • You aren’t sending out appointment reminders.
  • External circumstances, such as the pandemic, are keeping customers away

To get to the root of the issue, reach out to your customers. If they cancel by phone, you can simply ask them. If they cancel on scheduling software, you can provide a portal that lets them check their reason among common ones or provide their own. 

Get data from at least a dozen customers before taking any action. You may need to readjust your availability, send stronger reminders, or provide incentives like discounts to get customers in the door.

2. Default to self-service scheduling.

Having a centralized scheduling software for your company can save you time, not to mention the headaches that come with cancellations. Unless clients request otherwise, ask them to book appointments themselves online. 

With self-scheduling, customers can:

  • Schedule appointments at any time.
  • Choose times that work best for them.
  • Reschedule appointments.
  • Sign up for waitlists.

Customers crave autonomy. Even if something comes up at a time they schedule, they’re much more likely to reschedule if they can handle it themselves.

When that happens, scheduling software helps you shift your own plans. There might be a waitlisted person ready to take their place, for example. 

3. Institute a cancellation policy.

A strong policy can deter cancellations. Just the mention of “policy” can get customers to take your time more seriously. 

A cancellation policy is an opportunity to let your clients know how cancellations and no-shows affect your business. Done right, it can help them understand their role in your success. 

What should your cancellation policy include? Outline a preferred time frame for cancellations as well as a method for notifying your company. Within a certain number of days of the cancelled appointment, a fee may apply. 

Once you create a cancellation policy, be sure to let your clients know about it. Revisit it quarterly, and again make sure clients are abreast of any changes you make. 

4. Require payments beforehand.

If you’ve already paid for an appointment, you are incentivized to actually make it. That’s why prepayments can be a lifesaver when it comes to reducing cancellations and no-shows.

Clients don’t have to pay the full price for the appointment, either. You can charge a deposit beforehand and bill the remaining balance at the time of service.

What if clients want to pay afterward? Offer that option to reliable customers. Treat it as an additional incentive for them to make their appointments.

5. Enhance your customer experience.

One reason that you might be getting frequent cancellations is that customers simply are not excited about the experience you offer. A stronger experience not only reduces no-shows, but it also attracts more customers in the first place. 

Maybe the issue is ho-hum customer service. Perhaps your clients worry that they will wait too long to be seen once they arrive at your office. These are the kinds of mistakes that spur negative conversations about your company, causing others to second-guess their appointments. 

It’s critical to create the sort of environment where customers feel welcomed. Instead of dreading their appointment, they ought to be excited for it. Signs that you’ve got it right include positive feedback and early arrivals. 

Cancellations happen, but they should not get to a point where they make you sweat. You have more control over cancellations than you think. The key is solving them in ways that put the customer first. 

6 Tips to Supercharge Customer Support With Scheduling Software

By | Scheduling | No Comments

What distinguishes your business isn’t just the quality of your product or service; it’s also how your product or service is delivered. In fact, 73% of consumers say the experience is their main consideration after price and product quality. 

One way to ensure that you’re delivering a great experience is using scheduling software. By using automation technology to manage from appointments to service calls to follow-ups, you’ll help your company stand out. 

Scheduling software is a set-it-and-forget-it system for customer support. But like any system, it isn’t foolproof. Use these six tips to get it right:

1. Default to self-service.

Most scheduling software gives you a choice: Either you schedule clients’ appointments, or you let them do so themselves. Letting clients choose is a win-win: Your team saves time, while your customers are able to book when and as often as they want.

From transportation to lodging to restaurant reservations, online booking is what today’s customers are used to. In healthcare, for example, 77% of patients see self-scheduling as important.

Why do customers insist on self-booking? The practice lets them:

  • Schedule appointments during hours when you’re closed for business. 
  • Take time to compare your availability to their own calendar.
  • Cancel and reschedule appointments on their own.

 

2. Send purposeful reminders.

Reminding customers about their appointments is important because they have busy lives. In the rush of modern life, it’s easy to forget even things they schedule themselves. 

Sending reminders can reduce your no-show rate, but it can also demonstrate that you are eager and ready to provide for your customer. Customers shouldn’t have to contact you to make sure you’ll be ready for an appointment. 

The reminders you send should be timely and meaningful. You wouldn’t send the same notification to someone whose appointment is booked for tomorrow as you would a person who has an appointment a couple of months from now. And if every reminder looks the same, customers are less likely to pay attention to them. 

With scheduling software, you can automate reminders based on how far away the meeting is. These can be delivered through emails or text messages, and you can tailor the notification to match the circumstance. 

3. Be flexible with payments.

Depending on your line of business, you might be able to accept payments before or after an appointment. If you can, give customers that option.

Some people like to make payments when they book so they can forget about it. Others would rather wait to pay in person. Still others want to receive the service before they pay. 

Scheduling software that integrates with payment services lets your customers choose. Providing that flexibility shows that you’re confident in your product or service. 

4. Add value with follow-ups.

With scheduling software, you can keep customers in the loop of what’s going on at the business. Doing so takes you from just a business to a part of their community. 

When you follow up, include an incentive or educational content — and ideally both. You can offer customers a range of items, such as:

  • Discounts
  • Bonus gifts
  • Invitations to events
  • Tip and tricks
  • Refund policies

Like reminders, these follow-ups should be unique to the situation and customer. Try dispensing certain ones, like discounts, after a set number of appointments. Others, like bonus gifts, might be best sent for the customer’s birthday. Exclusive event invitations might be based on the customer’s package or price point. 

5. Keep their data secure.

Customers value security. Keeping their information secure is simple with scheduling software. 

For example, you can set appointment notifications to be sent only to team members who need to know about them. This is particularly important in industries like healthcare, which are governed by privacy frameworks like HIPAA.

Scheduling software also encrypts sensitive information. That way, payment details or patient records aren’t compromised in transit. 

6. Always ask for feedback.

Do not expect customers to give feedback if you don’t ask for it. After an appointment, around renewal times, and whenever you roll out a new service, reach out to customers for comments.

Use your scheduling software’s reminder and follow-up features to do this. Include a quantitative portion — a 0-10 satisfaction scale — and a qualitative prompt. Often, the best insights into what you could be doing better come from customer comments.

There’s no single formula for customer support, but there is a singularly important tool: a scheduling system. To take your customer experience to the next level, embrace it. 

Register Now & Get a 30 Day Trial Register Now