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How to Plan Your Lawn Care Routine

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Lawn Care

Warmer weather is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you can ditch the winter coat, take a walk, and maybe hit the pool. But, on the other hand, you have sunburns, bugs, and lawn care to worry about now. Here’s how to plan your lawn care routine.

What Kind of Time Constraints Should You Have for Your Lawn Care Routine

With sunburn and bugs, you can apply a spray and go your way. With lawn care, on the other hand, a bit more time investment is required. Grass needs to be mowed, debris needs to be picked up, and weeds will need to be continuously eradicated.

To keep your mowing, fertilizing, and other necessary tasks in order, the best thing you can do is learn to manage your time. Using an online calendar will help you keep your lawn care routine nailed down while optimizing your efforts so you can go back to enjoying the best of what summer has to offer:

Contract Some Assistance

Lawn Care in the summer isn’t always the most fun activity to pursue. Blistering heat and seasonal allergies on top of manual labor are enough to make anyone consider downsizing to a home without a yard. Instead of pushing yourself until the breaking point, consider contracting some assistance to keep your lawn care routine on track.

There is likely a kid or two in your neighborhood willing to mow your lawn once a week or two for $20. That money is well-spent if it means you get to maintain a nice yardwithout needing to leave the air conditioning for too long. Plus, those kids will learn the value of hard work and have to spend money on some fun summer excursions.

Professional contractors will cost more but can be just as helpful. For example, you can enlist a company that does an annual pest control spray on your lawn or takes care of obnoxious weeds. These recurring services are easy to set up and will continue to run until you make a cancellation.

Keep Track of the Weather

The ever-changing weather will really affect how and when you should take care of your lawn. For example, mowing your lawn the day after a rainstorm isn’t always the best idea because wet grass can clog up mower blades. However, the day after a storm might mean that you will have many sticks and leaves strewn about your lawn that need to be picked up and disposed of.

With an online Calendar, you can note essential changes in the weather and how your lawn care routine will be adjusted accordingly. Otherwise, you might be ill-prepared for a sudden change in weather that disrupts your ordinary routine. Being prepared for changes in advance is the best way to maintain normalcy.

The first days of spring are a perfect example of this. Farmers and gardeners need to be aware of those random days that feel like winter in early spring. Keeping track of the weather ahead of time allows them to protect their plants and crops from cold snaps that would otherwise ruin their harvest.

Know Your Plants

Part of lawn care for you might involve caring for various flowers that add some color to your home. Different flowers and plants follow different timelines for their care and growth. For instance, daffodils bloom in March and April, while peonies typically won’t start blooming until May.

If you’re planning on growing daffodils and other early bloomers, your lawn care routine will need to start earlier than usual. You will need to use your calendar to plan accordingly. Tilling the soil, beginning a watering schedule, and clearing out winter debris will need to be done before planting flowers.

If flowers and a garden aren’t in your summer plans, you can let your grass dictate when your lawn care routine needs to begin. Once your lawn looks long enough to clip for the first time, your lawn care routine can officially start.

Record What You Do

A good lawn care routine is developed over time. Each year you can learn a different trick that makes maintaining your property easier and more efficient. If you record what you do with your lawn and garden — and learn new things about its care — your lawn care routine for the following year will be even better.

Online calendars are perfect tools for recording a lawn care routine. You can look at the previous summer to see how often you needed to mow, water, and fertilize your lawn. This will act as a reference for the next year. So lawn care is less of a guessing game and more of a surgical procedure.

You can even keep an eye out for what your neighbors are doing. Your experienced, elderly neighbor may very well have lawn care down to a science. You can learn a lot by asking them about their procedures or trying to emulate their actions and timeline.

Even though it’s hard work, lawn care can be incredibly rewarding. First, you’ll have a home and yard that you can be proud to live in. A good yard can also be the site for memories by hosting events, playing with your children, or even just reading a good book in a lawn chair overlooking your achievements.

Image Credit: Armin Rimoldi; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Plan Your Lawn Care Routine was originally published on Calendar by Max Palmer

3 Time Management Tips for New Businesses

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Time Management

There are a lot of factors that go into starting a business. You need enough capital to begin operations before you can hope to turn a profit. You need a good idea that can sell and the systems to back it up. The most important factor of all, however, just might be your time management.

You could have a million-dollar idea or a million dollars to start a business, but you won’t get very far if you’re not managing your time properly. With all the hats you’re wearing as a business founder, you need to make the very best use of your limited hours. Wasted time is wasted money, and the lack of efficiency can even hurt your business image.

Here are some ways you can get your time management skills in the right place when starting a new business:

1. Maximize Time Management during Training

Even if you start your business by yourself, eventually you’re going to need some help if you’re trying to grow. This means hiring employees and training them in their positions. In order for training to be effective, you need to set aside time for it and have a good plan in place for carrying out training while maintaining business operations.

Start by creating a timetable for training your new hires. How long should training last, and what skills and company knowledge should new employees have acquired by each milestone? Now you can create an actual plan to make that happen instead of pushing back certain trainings indefinitely.

There are two specific tactics you might consider to make training more time-efficient. E-learning modules will enable new hires to self-schedule training during what might otherwise be downtime in their days. They can even do their learning remotely on the go. And because the training takes place via an online module, it doesn’t require other employees to step away from their usual work to train new hires.

That said, there is some employee education that is better accomplished in one-to-one fashion. Sometimes there’s no good substitute for seeing for yourself how something gets done. To help show your newbies the ropes, allow them to shadow an employee with the same role or one who performs similar duties. The veteran employee can share knowledge the rookie employee needs without having to sacrifice their time management in their day-to-day responsibilities.

2. Get on the Same Page — In Your Calendar

Part of your training plan might include making sure you have enough staff on hand to complete necessary tasks while training is taking place. While e-learning and shadowing will minimize the amount of time current employees have to spend training new hires, they’re still likely to spend some. You’ll need to ensure that your customers are still being taken care of and no one is feeling overwhelmed while attention and resources are temporarily diverted toward training. Proper scheduling will make this a lot easier than it might sound at first.

A team calendar will help ensure that all your bases are covered with collaborative time management. Participants in training sessions will get automatic calendar invites, alerting them to where they need to be and when. Veteran employees will know when they need to find a colleague to cover the phones, for example, and the team calendar will show them at a glance who is available. This simple tool will help you keep everyone on the same page every single day so long as you keep it updated. Using a team calendar will help cut down miscommunications and help everyone stay on top of everyday responsibilities.

Beyond the training phase, a team calendar can be used to organize team meetings, coordinate individual schedules, and outline project deadlines. Managers can even look at scheduling links as a way to effectively plan meetings with their direct reports. This tool eliminates the back-and-forth emails and helps prevent accidental overbooking.

3. Allow Hybrid Work Options When Possible

Effective time management is about getting as much done in as little time possible. Sometimes that means rethinking where the work gets done. You can save your team a lot of time by enabling hybrid work options for positions that make sense.

If you hired a web designer or a social media manager, almost everything they do will be online. They can do their job just as well from home as they can in the office. By allowing them to work from home, they can save time and money on commutes and lunches out. The time they regain can allow them to get some extra projects done throughout the week.

The ability to work from home also means that employees can still get tasks done; even when they’re home with a sick child or waiting for the dishwasher repair person. The work-life balance that hybrid work provides can also make your employees happier and more fulfilled, causing them to use their time on the clock more productively.

Time management isn’t easy, but it also doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right planning tools, and flexibility, your new business will be in a great place right from the get-go.

Image Credit: Anete Lusina; Pexels; Thanks!

4 Ways to Boost Your Productivity When You’ve Hit a Wall

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4 Ways Boost Productivity Hit Wall

If being productive were easy, everyone would have scads of Employee of the Month plaques and closets stuffed with achievement awards. Alas, productivity doesn’t come so easily to everyone. A lot of dedication and resilience is required to maintain peak productivity over long periods of time, and even those who are able to do so need all the help they can get.

It’s likely you’ll hit a wall every now and then, even when your best intentions are focused on being productive. What the world’s greatest achievers do when they hit that wall is to find a way around it. Here are a few strategies that they use to boost their productivity during these times and that you can implement in your own life as well:

1. Take a Screen Break

Most jobs today require people to spend a lot of time in front of a screen, and your position is probably no exception. Everyone from marketers to music producers spends hours in front of a computer navigating through different tools and apps to complete their daily tasks. After extended periods of time, the strain from screen light and the sameness of the work can take a toll on your productivity.

You can fix this by scheduling in some period screen breaks. Taking a pause from work does not mean switching to your smartphone to scroll through social media. Instead, take a short walk outside or do some simple meditation. This will allow your mind and body to reset and recover from the stress and strain of the workday. You’ll be able to return from your quick break feeling refreshed and reenergized.

2. Eat a Healthy Snack

Your body uses up a lot of energy while working, even if you’re just sitting at a desk. Getting up for a stroll can help, but what if you are in a time crunch and need to kickstart your productivity to meet an upcoming deadline? Try a healthy snack instead.

Even a couple bites of the right foods can give you the energy you need to push through the next hour or so of work. A protein bar is an excellent example of a snack that can provide a lot of energy in a short period of time. Healthy snacks are always best because they contain ingredients that will actually lift you up rather than give you a quick sugary buzz.

Many people drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks to boost their productivity throughout the day. This is a fine idea as long as you’re able to moderate your intake. While caffeine does boost your brain’s serotonin levels, too much coffee can leave you jittery and worse off than before you grabbed your third cup.

3. Get an Accountability Buddy

There will be days when, despite your best efforts, there is nothing you can do to boost your productivity on your own. On days like this, you’ll benefit from having an accountability buddy. This is a friend, family member, or co-worker who will keep you accountable to the goals you set and the responsibilities you hold to make sure you’re doing everything you need to.

A common example of an accountability buddy is a gym partner. Unfortunately for many of us, getting motivated to exercise is not an easy task. A gym buddy will inspire you to continue chasing down your health and wellness goals even on the days when you’d rather sleep in.

An accountability buddy can help keep you honest when you’re trying to start a business, break a bad habit, or even finish one last task before clocking out of work for the day. If you know your buddy’s going to ask whether you made all four of your planned sales calls today, for example, you’ll be less tempted to leave the fourth for tomorrow. In return, you can be an accountability buddy for them. Together, you’ll help each other to be a little bit better every single day.

4. Switch Gears

If you’re stuck on a particularly difficult task or project, it’s much easier to hit a productivity wall. Instead of bashing your head against it repeatedly hoping it will budge, consider changing course for a moment instead. By shifting gears to a new task or project, you can maintain your productivity for the day and avoid losing momentum.

Let’s say you’re a student working on a particularly difficult math assignment. One of the early problems is giving you a lot of trouble, and now your productivity is at a standstill. Instead of redoing the same problem over and over again, skip it for now and give the next one a try.

By changing gears ever so slightly, you can reset yourself while still getting work accomplished. The next problem might be easier to solve and may even shed some light on what you were doing incorrectly before. At the end of the day, you’ll at least have part of the assignment completed instead of struggling with the same equation all day long.

Once you’ve developed the perfect strategy for breaking down your productivity barriers, you’ll be able to fill your days with many more achievements. Don’t be afraid to take some breaks every now and again, but also be sure you don’t let a little wall get in the way of having a productive and fulfilling day.

Image Credit: Anna Shvets; Pexels; Thank you!

When Time Management Can’t Help

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When Time Management Can't Help

The concept of time management is often misunderstood and generally unsuccessful in minimizing overload and stress. Although the emphasis on efficiency is admirable — true overload is self-defeating and futile.

Initiate clear time guidelines for selecting what types of activities you won’t do, and develop processes like establishing a day when managers conduct no meetings. There is a zen to taming time, not confronting it.

Remember, there is no such thing as time in the metaverse.

The persistent sensation that there is never enough time causes much stress. We do need to learn time management to tame and manage our time. We aim to convert hour-long sessions into half-hour sprints or schedule more minor activities to reduce wasted time.

But we want to use time management as a stress reducer — not an anxiety producer. As we improve our efficiency, we may add more duties and begin to feel a more significant strain. Attack the core causes of worldly stressors: the sheer amount of work, choices, and diversions.

But time management should be used to reduce stress by freeing up time to take care of yourself. Maybe get to the gym, take a walk or have a massage. Think time management for freedom — not time management as a whip.

Time Management’s Trap

The shift to remote work after the Covid-19 epidemic created a fascinating natural experiment illustrating the time management problem. Working from home saves time (commuting and business travel), and approximately half of remote employees say they are more productive.

A study by Atlassian found that self-reported time savings and productivity increases are ineffective. The average workday has grown by 30 minutes worldwide — the reverse of results from individuals spending their time more efficiently. Complicating matters, the extra 30 minutes of work have mostly come at the price of evening leisure time.

Time management assures us that we can easily accommodate all of our tasks by being more efficient. But, like digging a hole at the beach, time management requires a lot of water to fill it. An hour on your schedule is like a signal flare proclaiming your ability to take on another project or position. So keep thinking about your ability to now claim the freedom to take care of yourself.

Time management has never been useless—productivity matters. But in a society plagued by burnout, we need techniques to reduce the anxiety producers rather than accommodate the volume.

You will want these three options to escape the trap.

1. Reduce task volume

“I’ll handle the budget update for next week’s meeting,” “I’ll pick up something for supper on the way home,” and so on.

As soon as you agree to take on an extra task — the pressure to deliver starts. Any agreement to be broken or renegotiated adds stress and guilt to the situation. The way you hold the line depends on whether your to-do list grows from assigned duties. Or does it grow things you choose to take on?

Prioritize tasks instead of time. When a supervisor asks you to accomplish something, answering with “I don’t have time for that” may seem overly abrupt. Instead, ask, “Where should I prioritize this task versus x, y, and z?” Answering in this manner achieves two goals. In the first place — this gives your superior a glimpse of what you’re working on — and sometimes lets you off the hook. Nevertheless — they set the priority, not you.

2. Reframe the dialogue from a binary option to a collaborative debate

If you want to add tasks, calendar-block first. We typically overestimate our capabilities, leading to over-exertion. Our calendars show some daylight, so we believe, “I can certainly do this by Friday.”

Then comes Friday, and we have to renegotiate.

Best advice — get your self-care actions and family obligation on your Calendar first. If others are synced to your Calendar, and you don’t want them to see your plans, frame the verbiage differently.

My weekly massage appointment says, “On point meeting with Sarah H.” I do combine the massage time with my lunch hour and pound a boiled egg down on the drive over. The point is, we’re not trying to get out of our intense, crowded, stressful work — we come back refreshed and work harder and faster. Putting in time for yourself makes it so that you don’t resent the extra half hour, hour, or longer you stay after work.

The issue is that your Calendar typically only displays synchronous work (tasks you compete with others simultaneously). Then you include meetings, phone calls, etc. Your to-dos are a list of agreements with others for asynchronous labor (tasks you do alone, not in real-time with others).

The answer? Merge your Calendar and to-do list by scheduling time for each task. Getting the complete picture of your obligations (and self-care) allows you to assess your capabilities before taking on more.

3. Decide on principles

We’ve spent the last couple of years making decisions: Do I send my kids to school? Can I visit them? Is it safe to go to work? Constantly facing difficult decisions with limited information can lead to cognitive overload. The overthinking and unknowns in cognitive overload are where mental work demands outpace our coping ability. Cognitive overload raises the chance of mistakes and leads to feelings of overwhelm.

You might start by replacing choices with absolute principles. For example, the science of weight loss management teaches us that “I won’t eat after 7 p.m.” is more successful than “I won’t nibble after 7 p.m.”

Can I have this cup of yogurt? How about some fruit?

The ultimate guideline of no eating after 7 p.m. closes the door. The choices vanish — the result is less overload.

Author and podcaster Tim Ferriss calls the overload scenario “finding the one option that eliminates 100 decision.” Ferriss set a goal of not reading any new books in 2020 — he would finish the ones he’d started. Since writers and their publicists bombarded him with dozens of new or impending books every week, this blanket principle relieved him of hundreds of book-by-book choices.

Steve Jobs famously wore the same thing (a black t-shirt and jeans) every day to avoid morning clothing selection weariness. Jon Mackey is a managing director of a Canadian business. He built his establishment with “No meetings on Fridays.” After failing to safeguard time for serious work by choosing which meetings to accept or refuse, Jon Mackey devised a weekly concentration day.

4. Minimize Distractions with Structure Not Will

Diversions prevent us from completing activities and making critical judgments. Interruptions contribute to overwhelming by preventing us from feeling like we are making headway against the causes of the pressure.

Trying to ignore digital platforms with fortitude puts you up against an army of our generation’s brightest brains. These most brilliant brains focus on exploiting what Facebook founder Sean Parker calls “vulnerabilities in human psychology” to grab your attention. When it comes to distraction, structure always wins.

Several company executives set aside time throughout the day to switch off their laptop’s Wi-Fi to concentrate. Others have scheduled 30-minute meetings for their staff to ask questions and obtain guidance. Then fewer individuals ask, “Can I grab you for five minutes?”

Cathy Engelbert, past Deloitte CEO, banned back-to-back conferences. So instead, it was a 10-minute break for SMORs or tiny minutes of reflection. This fast recovery break meant she wasn’t distracted by the following meeting or carrying over the previous meeting’s agenda.

Conclusion

The answer isn’t to become more efficient and just accept more work, choices, and diversions. Instead, reduce your workload, make choices based on principles, and create a structure to prevent distractions.

Have your new mantra be, Simplify, and make your time management choices reflect a renewed determination to take care of yourself, your loved ones, and your life.

When Time Management Can’t Help was originally published on Calendar by Hunter Meine.

Image Credit: Tara Winstead; Pexels; Thank you!

Should You Have Full Meetings or a Quick Slack Chat?

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Should You Have Full Meetings Quick Slack

Before COVID the question of whether you should have a full meeting or a quick slack chat would not even have been on the radar of issues needing to be addressed. One study showed that 55 million meetings are held worldwide each week. Another study discovered employees spend two hours a week attending unnecessary meetings. This is not only a massive waste of time but $541 billion in resources as well.

In light of the studies — it is not surprising that most of us question each and every meeting on our Calendar. And, certainly, the seeming craziness has gotten more ridiculous following COVID-19, but what action to take is less apparent.

Virtual meetings used to take up two hours a week, but now they take up more than ten. In other words, we spend one-fourth of our work week in virtual meetings, whether through Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and the like.

However, it might be possible to replace your full meetings with a quick Slack chat to save you and your team time, money, and sanity.

Not All Meetings Are Quality

“Meetings have become a necessary evil in the post-pandemic world,” notes Howie Jones in a previous Calendar article. “Many, if not most, can be done remotely. On Zoom, or some other remote platform. And there are ways to keep them from becoming too annoying.

Meetings are not completely effective even in ideal circumstances, say people from all levels of a company, including the CEO, he adds. The pandemic, the current turbulent labor market, and the pressing needs at home make today’s corporate climate a challenging one.

“Executives and teams simply cannot afford to squander time and resources,” says Howie. Meetings typically squandered people’s time and rewarded grandstanding and egomaniacs before Covid-19. “In 2019, Korn Ferry reported that 51% of workers thought the excessive time spent on calls and meetings hampered their effect at work, while 67% stated excessive meetings hindered peak performance.

Only 11% of respondents thought all meetings were useful. Sometimes, though, a meeting is the best approach to bringing everyone together.

It’s About The Medium

Meetings can be very productive. Others can be awful. No matter what, they play an important role in the work of every organization. What separates them, however, is the goal of each meeting, as well as the medium.

For example, meeting one-on-one for a performance review has a more formal vibe than the laid-back atmosphere of catching up over lunch. There’s also a different feel to a scheduled meeting at a conference table compared to an impromptu chat at someone’s desk.

Electronically, emoji-filled texts convey a different mood from emails. What’s more, Slack notifications are handled differently than a distracting ringing phone. Regardless, use every channel at your disposal to reduce or prep for meetings. And, don’t overlook tools like Calendar which allow you to streamline schedules.

Whatever you meeting you choose, make sure you have everything you need for productive interactions. And, to ensure that, you can answer the following questions;

  • Are you going to need to refer to your documents during the conversation?
  • Can this conversation be conducted over the phone while you walk?
  • Does it matter to you that you can see each other?
  • Would a file-sharing program be better suited for this particular collaboration?

After you’ve established the best method of communication, make sure you formally document those guidelines. In the case of a chat function, it might be perfect for exchanging short ideas. On the flip side, it’s not ideal for sending documents or important dates. After all, a long conversation can lead to too many details being missed.

It’s probably best to send information via email. As for collaboration, you can’t go wrong with Google Docs — particularly when real-time evaluation is needed. When you need to talk privately or have a two-way brainstorming session, the trusty phone should suffice.

Providing these guidelines lets your employees know what to expect from a phone call or an app notification. Additionally, creating clear expectations makes communication more effective, avoids misunderstandings, and reduces stress.

Meetings That Go Great With Slack

Generally, video chat, phone, or in-person meetings are some of the best methods of handling meetings. However, Slack interactions can be used to replace certain types of meetings.

The daily status meeting.

“One of the best candidates to be replaced by activity in Slack is the daily status meeting,” states the Slack Team.

During these meetings, team members share what they are working on today, what they finished yesterday, and any issues holding them back. But, the facilitator may find it difficult to enforce and prevent discussion creep even if you limit each update to 60 or 90 seconds. For example, if you have a dozen people on your team, you would spend at least 15 minutes every morning in these meetings, which would amount to three person-hours per day, they add.

If you want to avoid this problem, you should set a start time for this kind of meeting so everyone can submit an update on time. By using Calendar, you can easily manage this.

Brainstorming sessions.

New ideas are the lifeblood of businesses. Meetings to brainstorm are essential if you want the river of ideas to flow.

“Brainstorming meetings are designed to generate a lot of ideas over a short period of time—and they’re critical if you’re trying to solve a problem or achieve a goal,” says David Chaudron, an organizational psychologist and the managing partner of consulting firm Organized Change.

How can brainstorming meetings be successful? Don’t focus on the outcome of the meeting, but on the ideas.

According to Chaudron, brainstorming sessions should be open to ideas “without having to judge them right then. Figure out what works and doesn’t work after you do the brainstorming. It’s important you have a separate [meeting] just for the brainstorming itself.”

When using Slack for brainstorming sessions, you should integrate it with collaborative tools like Dropbox or Google Drive. You should also set up a dedicated brainstorming channel in Slack. And, whenever you brainstorm, always create tangible materials such as sheets, documents, or even doodles

Reviews and approvals.

‌‌Another type of meeting that might be handled better through text is a project review and approval meeting. It is possible for these meetings to lack focus, resulting in lengthy and ineffective gatherings.

As an alternative to meeting face-to-face or video conference, upload any relevant images or documents to Slack. Once completed, you can ask for feedback from everyone involved. Depending on the culture of your workplace, some people request emoji responses here.

Furthermore, Slack can also be used to discuss how to improve the current project or how it might be structured in the future. By doing all of this over Slack, participants can think about their responses at their own pace, as opposed to feeling like they’ve been put on the spot in a face-to-face meeting.

Team building activities.

During team-building meetings, members gain a better understanding of each other, develop trust, and strengthen their cohesion. Increased productivity and employee satisfaction can be achieved by improving employee collaboration as well.

Through the use of games or team challenges, team-building meetings are meant to create a fun and interactive atmosphere. Leaders and organizers have a great opportunity to connect with their teams and build stronger bonds.

Virtual team-building meetings are becoming more and more important as more people work remotely. These programs engage and connect remote workers who may feel isolated from their teammates and organizations. It is important for companies to engage with remote employees to prevent morale and the company culture from deteriorating.

Post-survey meetings.

Because there are so many types of surveys, each of which serves a different purpose, you can use surveys to improve virtually all aspects of your team.

In low-trust environments, anonymous surveys can assist with tracking team morale, employee feedback can be collected and analyzed, and there are also team feedback surveys. Moreover, running surveys in Slack saves time and stores historical data for future reference. And, Slack threads are perfect for follow-ups.

Are Slack Meetings Better?

In a nutshell, no.

You can easily conduct daily check-ins, brainstorming sessions, and review meetings using a text-based application, like Slack. It’s also handy for team-building and surveys. The majority of other meetings, however, are better conducted by phone, video chat, or in person.

You can enhance your team’s connection and relationship with face-to-face meetings. Even when people are many miles apart, phone calls can help them feel connected. Both make teams more productive.

In others, use Slack for quick chats or collaboration. But, for more complex and detailed conversations, a full meeting still serves a purpose. Furthermore, you can use Slack to prepare for one-on-ones and full meetings. For example, you can send attendees the agenda, prep questions, and a log to track progress.

When appropriate, use Slack to save time and energy so that your team’s meetings can be as productive as possible. And, more importantly, quick Slack chats can improve efficiency and preserve your and your team’s energy.

Image Credit: Tirachard Kumtanom; Pexels; Thanks!

Should You Have Full Meetings or a Quick Slack Chat? was originally published on Calendar by Deanna Ritchie.

How to Marie Kondo Your Schedule (or Work Life)

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How To Marie Kondo Your Schedule

Marie Kondo is a master of organization. She began a tidying consultant business as a 19-year-old student and has since become an author and TV show host. She is now heralded as a master of tidiness and organization and is an individual who many look up to when trying to get their messy lives back on track. While much of Kondo’s advice is for tidying up your physical space, she can teach you a lot about tidying up your schedule and your time management.

By taking her decluttering approach to your schedule, you will be less stressed and have more free time. Here are just some of the ways you can channel your inner Marie Kondo to take control of your daily schedule:

Combine Your Calendars

Your schedule consists of many different parts. There’s your work schedule that contains your weekly shifts, team meetings, and project deadlines. A family schedule reminds you of all of your kids’ after-school events and homework due dates. Finally, you have a personal schedule for pursuing hobbies and tending to certain responsibilities, such as bills and dentist appointments.

Managing all of these calendars separately can be exhausting. Instead of clicking through multiple calendars trying to get through every day, try combining them into a single schedule. Most online calendars have this function, allowing you to combine your separate schedules and even share them with others.

Once you’ve combined your calendars, all you need is a proper organizational method to keep everything tidy. This could be as simple as color-coding your events based on different criteria. For example, all of your work events could be labeled in red so that at a quick glance you know exactly what’s going on at work that day.

Prioritize Your Task List

Some tasks need to take higher priority than others. Subconsciously, it can be difficult to remember which items on your task list should be labeled as higher priority. If you haven’t made a priority list before starting your day, you can get caught up in the menial tasks that get in the way of completing meaningful work.

Start by writing down your entire daily or weekly task list. Next, start marking the tasks that have urgent due dates or can’t be delayed. Other parameters you can use include the amount of time required to complete each task and whether certain events rely on another person.

Once you’ve done this, you can lay out your schedule more effectively. Low-priority tasks can take a back seat to the items that made the top of your list. This can help you cut down on the busywork and focus on the tasks that really matter.

Learn to Say No

A big part of Kondo’s philosophy is learning to let go of certain things. Clutter builds up when we are unable to discard certain items or clear our space of the things that hold little value. You can bring this same mentality to your schedule by learning when you should say “no” to certain events and commitments.

Sometimes you need to decline an invitation to a meeting that you know you won’t benefit from. You can say no to certain tasks that aren’t your responsibility rather than forcing you to pick up others’ slack. And you can even learn to say no to certain bad habits, such as sleeping in or going out to eat for lunch every day.

By saying no every once in a while, you can free up your schedule a little bit. This will give you more time to focus on the most important things in your life rather than letting a jam-packed schedule stress you out.

Let Automation Do the Work

Any time there’s the possibility of automating your schedule, you should look into it. By automating simple tasks, you can save time for the things that really matter.

An example of automated schedules is scheduling links. These links display your availability to others. For example, a client of yours can look at your scheduling link to see when you might be free for a phone call. They can book a time with you straight through the link, automatically filling your schedule with important events.

Another thing you can do is add recurring events to your calendar. These events will cycle through your calendar on a designated loop. You won’t have to constantly add events to your schedule, and you’ll always receive the reminders you need for each event.

Time management requires discipline and a concentrated effort over time. However, it certainly helps to have people like Marie Kondo to learn from. Take advantage of the tips above to seize control of your life through more effective time management.

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5 Time Management Hacks That Will Restore Your Work-Life Balance

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5 Time Management Hacks Restore Work Life Balance

The widespread shift to remote work prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic has had an erosive effect on the boundaries between work and life. While many have found work-from-home arrangements to be incredibly beneficial, they can blur these lines if you aren’t careful. The result is an “always-on” mindset that can upset your work-life balance.

Whether you’re in the office or at home, there is a solution. It involves consciously separating your work from the rest of your day — and managing your work time well so your personal time can remain free from work-related concerns.

1. Create a More Productive Workspace

The key to keeping work from seeping into your personal life is to do that work as efficiently as possible. That starts with creating a workspace that is conducive to your productivity needs.

Set up your desk with efficiency in mind. If a second monitor would keep you from having to switch repeatedly between scores of open tabs, get one. If jotting down notes sparks your creativity, have a notepad handy. Keeping a store of snacks and a bottle of water at hand will prevent mid-morning wooziness and the resulting productivity dip. Consider your organizational habits and determine how you can refine them for a more efficient workflow.

Most importantly, make an effort to isolate this space from the rest of your day as much as possible. If you have a dedicated room for your home workspace, leave your laptop there and close the door at the end of the workday. If your WFH office is one end of the kitchen table, close your laptop and remove papers and files to a “work box” when you knock off for the day. Whatever approach you take, the point is to help yourself distinguish your work from end-of-day relaxation.

2. Eliminate Outside Distractions

Another way to work more productively — and thus ensure your personal time stays your own — is to reduce distractions as best as you can. Once you put the first tip into practice, you’ll probably have eliminated several attention drains already. But others — outside noises, communications from others, etc. — you can’t simply prevent. You can, however, decide how you and your technology should respond.

When you’re on the clock, silence all unnecessary notifications you might receive and let friends and family know you’re working. If the neighbor’s lawn mower or chatty family members are distracting, invest in some noise-canceling headphones or listen to a speech-blocking noise generator. Anything inessential that you can’t prevent from drawing your focus away from work can likely be mitigated in some way.

3. Use Time Blocking

Time blocking is a method in which you set aside a predetermined chunk of time on your schedule to get particular tasks done. By grouping work by type — say, answering all your email at once or scheduling an hour to knock out the last section of a sales report — you eliminate task switching and enable more focused work.

Time blocking has another advantage that is particularly helpful to the perfectionists among us. If you’re prone to giving a paragraph another pass or running the numbers one more time, the knowledge that the clock is ticking will encourage you to wrap things up in the appointed time. Time blocks don’t need to be long — in fact, smaller chunks may work best if you need some external time pressure to get tasks done in an efficient manner.

Another benefit of time blocking is that it doesn’t have to be a merely personal experience. You can put an hour block on your calendar that announces you’re occupied at that time. If co-workers look to see whether you’re free, they’ll instead see that you’re busy and hold off on reaching out until after your task is complete.

4. Disconnect When the Day Ends

Work creeping into your personal time is common and hard to avoid. By implementing the productivity tips above, you’ll be better able to check critical tasks off your workday to-do list, increasing the likelihood that your evening will be your own.

When your work has set hours, there is no more effective method for keeping it confined than fully disconnecting from all work notifications, communications, and platforms once those hours end. If you work in an office, join the daily end-of-the-day exodus. Otherwise, you’ll be giving away your free time — which is utterly invaluable to your mental health and work-life balance.

If you work from home, you’ll have to rely on yourself to disconnect when the workday is over. Set yourself a timer for when to turn off email notifications and set your Slack status to unavailable. Receiving various notifications may not feel like a problem, but they can keep you distracted from yourself and your loved ones. Allowing them will only damage the quality of your free time, further harming your work-life balance and making it harder to relax.

5. Take Your Personal Time Seriously (After a Fashion)

Now that you’re disconnected, what should you do? Make sure to take this time seriously — by which we mean doing what relaxes you the most. Your personal time is valuable, but that doesn’t mean you should stress yourself out trying to fill it with “meaningful” activity. If all you want to do is kick back and watch TV, then that’s the best way to spend your time.

Your situation will vary depending on whether you have family or other obligations, but it’s important to commit to having time of your own. If that means binge-watching the second season of “Bridgerton” rather than writing the Great American Novel, so be it!

It’s entirely too easy to let your work life bleed into your personal one, but you need to resist that impulse. Taking time for yourself is the best way to recharge so that when you’re back to work the next day, your productivity will be running on a full battery.

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How to Make Sure Your Business Is Running As Productively As Possible

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Make Sure Business Running Productively as Possible

Starting a business entails more than just having a good idea. You could have the best new product of the century, but your business can still flop if you’re not running it properly. Efficiency and productivity are nearly as important as offering high-quality products and services.

There’s also a fine line between being busy and being productive. Learning to differentiate between the two and lean into the latter will be key to growth and success in your business. Here are a few things you can do to ensure that your business is running as productively as possible:

1. Define the Needs of Your Customers

Start by assessing whether your customers’ needs have changed since you started your business. Since we live in very uncertain times, consumer needs are constantly evolving. If your current business model no longer fits these needs directly, your operation won’t be able to run as productively as possible.

One way to define the needs of your customers is to simply ask them yourself. They know what they want better than anyone else. You can include a survey link to physical and digital receipts or even send an email to your most loyal customers to request their feedback. You can’t work productively if you have the wrong goals.

2. Implement Changes as Necessary

If you find out that your customers’ needs have changed, your business must change with them. In particular, you should be looking at changes to your operation that will allow you to meet those needs more efficiently. Even without direct feedback, looking for positive changes is something you should always be doing.

This might include implementing new online appointment software that makes it easy for customers to make bookings or getting a new program to aid in online transactions. You might be doing fine enough without these additions, but they’ll only make your business better as you add them to your system of operations. Complacency can be dangerous, especially as other businesses are likely making the changes that your customers are looking for.

Don’t be afraid to try something new in an effort to make your business as productive as possible. In the worst-case scenario, your investment may not yield the improvements you expected. So do away with the change and learn from your mistakes.

3. Learn How to Delegate

If you’re running a top-heavy organization, it will be nearly impossible to reach maximum productivity. Successful business owners and leaders know how to delegate certain tasks to others rather than trying to do everything on their own. More can be accomplished when the workload is dispersed more evenly.

Some task delegation may require new hires. For example, your growing startup might need a full-time marketing lead or accounting expert to take some of that responsibility off of you. With another member on your team to complete those tasks, you have more time to work on other projects and get more done.

The hardest part of delegation is learning to trust others. Not everyone will do things the same way you do, but you have to learn to trust their judgment. Trust can be built through consistent communication with your employees. In addition, providing the necessary training can give you the peace of mind that your employees are well-equipped to take on any task that you assign them.

4. Undergo a Business Audit

There are several reasons why you should consider having a business audit performed. Sometimes all you need is a second set of eyes to optimize your business operations. When it comes to productivity, a qualified auditor can look for inefficiencies in your business and provide suggestions on how to fix or mitigate them.

Other reasons to get a business audit are to review your cybersecurity, scout out potentially fraudulent activity, or obtain certifications required to take your business to the next level. A successful audit will also look good to investors if you’re planning on seeking a funding round for your small business.

5. Automate Processes and Tasks

The true secret for maximum productivity is business automation. If you’re able to automate certain business processes, the tasks they involve can be completed hands-free. Some tasks can even be accomplished outside of business hours without the need for direct supervision.

Let’s say you implement that online appointment software. This will allow customers to look up appointment times and create their own bookings. Those appointment slots will be automatically entered into your business calendar. You no longer need to have someone on the phone to confirm every single appointment your customers make.

Other forms of automation include email marketing, billing, and everything from data analytics to supply chain management. Thanks to automation, your daily to-do list will be a lot shorter, but you’ll still accomplish all of the same important tasks.

Above all else, making sure your business is running as productively as possible requires consistent effort. Never settle where you currently stand. Continue to strive for improvement, and your business will elevate its productivity all along the way.

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Never Tell People You’re ‘Too Busy’ (But Show Them That Your Time Matters)

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Never Tell People Too Busy Show Them Your Time Matters

As a business owner, your time is always in short supply and you may feel like you’re constantly busy. It’s a struggle to fit every meeting, deadline, phone call, and commitment into your online calendar. That’s even before you make time for family and personal endeavors.

Part of this balancing act involves dealing with the people around you. You never want them to feel like you’re too busy to be an effective leader, business owner, parent, or friend. Giving them this impression can hurt your relationships, reputation, and business.

Managing your time while still showing others that their time matters to you is a challenge, but it’s not an impossible one. Here are a few methods you can implement to find a balance and keep everyone — including yourself — happy:

Communicate Your Priorities

Make sure anyone who wants to meet with you knows your top priorities. This will set accurate expectations for the future about how you use your time. For example, if you explain to your clients that your weekends are reserved for family activities, they’ll be more likely to respect your boundaries during those days.

Your responsibility is to then reciprocate that respect for your work connections. Intentionally set aside time where you’re able to devote your attention to work meetings and client phone calls without interruption. This way you’ll always be able to address your clients’ and colleagues’ needs as they come up without letting work spill over into your other time commitments.

Make Efforts to Reschedule

When you have to decline events, which will happen on occasion, make an effort to reschedule if possible. This will show others that their time and concerns are still important to you.

If you need to cancel a scheduled meeting, be the one to take the initiative when rescheduling. Words are empty if they’re not backed by actions. By reaching out with your updated availability, the person you’re meeting with will know that you actually want to meet with them and respect the time they’re setting aside for you.

The biggest problem with rescheduling is trying to resync calendars. This can be easily bypassed by using scheduling links. You can send over a link containing your availability in a single email. The other party can then select an available time slot to reschedule the meeting. No extensive back-and-forths are required.

Focus on Shorter Engagements

Instead of continuing to turn down meetings and commitments because you’re too busy, try focusing on shorter engagements. They will take a smaller portion of your day while still allowing you to touch base with the many important people you need to interact with.

Those long, weekly meetings can be replaced by emails and quick phone calls interspersed throughout your day. The best part is that you don’t have to tell anyone that you’re taking this new approach because you’re feeling too busy to commit to large time blocks. All they’ll see is that you’re committed to reaching out regularly and making an effort to respect their time by being brief and direct.

Improve Your Time Management

If you truly value your personal time and that of others, you’ll make a greater effort to improve your time management. Few people are actually using all of their time effectively. There are many improvements you can likely make that will open up more time for other people.

For example, you might have missed the last team brainstorming meeting because you had a few conflicting deadlines to address. How many of these conflicts could have been avoided through better time management? It might be time to start time blocking or looking for ways to fight procrastination so that this doesn’t occur in the future.

Recognize When Being Busy Isn’t Enough

An important side note is that there is a key difference between being “busy” and being productive. Being busy isn’t always a good thing, especially if you’re not accomplishing much. Not only will busywork make it more difficult to show that your time matters, but it can also lead to higher levels of stress and anxiety.

Those are good reasons to begin prioritizing your regular task list. Some commitments, such as meetings with tenured clients or nightly dinners with family, will receive higher priority. Conscious prioritization will help you to decide which tasks and events you can justify putting off or rescheduling and which ones deserve your attention the most each day.

Of course, this doesn’t mean those low-priority tasks should be completely forgotten. You can’t get out of cleaning out your inbox forever. What’s important is not allowing these smaller tasks to derail everything on your schedule, especially those responsibilities that are of greater magnitude.

Respecting your time and the time of others is one of the most important things you can do as a business owner in any industry. Keep working on it, and everything from project management to client retention will become easier for you.

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4 Time Management Myths You Don’t Want to Fall For

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Time Management Myths Don't Fall For

Your time is extremely valuable. You need to treat it as such. Unfortunately, there are several time management myths that might cause you to use your time poorly despite your best intentions.

There’s no universal time management method that everyone will agree with, but there are some pitfalls you should be aware of. These common myths can actually do more harm than good if you’re not aware of the fallacies they present. Here are four time management myths you’d do best to turn aside:

1. Your Self-Worth Is Determined by Your Productivity

There are many people who will let you know your worth as a person is determined by how much you get done in a day’s time. While it’s good to try to be productive every day, this statement is too extreme. You shouldn’t beat yourself up just because one day isn’t as productive as the last.

Not every single day in your calendar needs to be jam-packed with to-do list items and deadlines for you to feel like the day was a success. There will always be something to do every day that you won’t have time for, so pushing yourself to achieve the last few items you weren’t able to complete is not worth the mental strain. They can be added to tomorrow’s to-do list, and you should pat yourself on the back for the things you were able to accomplish today.

Another dangerous aspect of this mindset concerns self-care. If you’re placing value solely on the number of boxes you can check on a to-do list, you’re not going to be doing a good job maintaining your mental and physical health. Don’t be afraid to slow things down every once in a while to avoid burnout and keep your spirits high during the long trek of life.

2. There’s No Such Thing as Work-Life Balance

Saying that work-life balance doesn’t exist is a false statement, plain and simple. Work-life balance is not only possible to achieve, but should also be encouraged. People who tell you otherwise are probably approaching time management — life, even — incorrectly.

The secret to work-life balance is to create definite boundaries between your job and your personal life. When you’re at work, you should devote all of your time and attention there. When you’re at home, you should shift gears and focus entirely on your family and yourself. Trying to constantly mix the two simultaneously can get messy.

You can set boundaries and stick to them by planning your time more intentionally. By using an online calendar you can add time slots for a range of activities, from “conference call” to “date night” and even some “me time.” Stick to the designated time slots each day and ask others to respect your time. This will make it easier to create the work-life balance you seek.

3. This Time Management Technique Always Works

There are many different time management techniques crafted by very intelligent people. The problem comes not in trying someone else’s technique, but in assuming the same approach to time management will work just as well for you. Time management isn’t as amenable to copy-paste solutions as some people might lead you to believe.

For example, many productivity gurus will recommend that you start each day by “eating the frog.” By this, they mean that you should choose your hardest, most important task and knock that one out first. They claim that this will ensure you get your critical work done at a time when — they assume — you’re mentally freshest.

But maybe you’re not a morning person. Perhaps starting off with an arduous, complex task will cause you to stall out, leaving you discouraged and unable to move forward with your other work. In that case, you might be better off starting with a “quick win” instead. Accomplishing a worthwhile but less daunting assignment may give you the boost you need to fly through the rest of your day’s responsibilities — frog and all.

Don’t be afraid to try multiple time management techniques to see what works best for you. If time blocking doesn’t fit your time management style, it’s not a hopeless endeavor. You might find success with the Pomodoro technique, the Eisenhower Matrix, or a combination of several time management tactics that fits your specific needs.

4. Multitasking Helps You Get More Done

The ability to multitask is often seen as a strength. However, multitasking can actually be an ineffective way to approach time management. You might not even get more accomplished by multitasking, despite what many tend to believe.

The problem with multitasking is that it divides your attention between projects. This may cause the quality of your work to go down for every task you’re working on. Multitaskers are more prone to mistakes that take time to correct, completely eliminating any headway they achieved in the first place.

It’s almost always better to approach each of your tasks individually. Your focused effort will allow you to complete each one faster and more effectively. Quality is typically valued over quantity, especially when tasks are done right the first time.

Whenever you read or receive time management advice, be sure to think it over thoroughly, taking into account your own temperament and needs. By identifying the time management practices that truly work for you — not just those that are supposed to work — you’ll be able to use your limited time more wisely.

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