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The Importance of Giving Up – to Soar 9 Jul 2020, 12:00 pm

Way back in the day, I came home from little league. My mom asked me how it was. Without hesitation, I told her that I wanted to quit. She asked me why? I told her I was sick of the coach letting his son pitch because the son was so awful. Then, when the game was nearly lost — Coach would put me in as pitcher — and he’d expect me to win the game — no matter what had to be done.

If I couldn’t pull out the win — Coach would rant and scream at me and the whole team. I wanted to quit. If I complained, Coach would stick me in the outfield swatting away at flies. I didn’t mind if I was playing first base like Frank Thomas or Jeff Bagwell. My mom told me that I’d never get as much training as I would receive pitching under that kind of pressure.

It was then that my mom threw a Vince Lombardi quote in my direction. “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” And, in case I forgot, there were also some pretty amazing outfielders I could emulate like Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwenn, and Mickey Mantle.

I gave up on my dream of being the starting pitcher for every game — I stopped resenting the coaches’ son. Instead, I focused on what I was good at — hitting and running, and I tried to make sure I helped pull out a win under stressful circumstances. And, in hindsight, that was a win-win.

I gave up on my dream of being a major league baseball pitcher.

That’s not to say it was easy to switch my mindset. No one likes giving up on their dreams. But, this taught me a valuable lesson. There are times in life when throwing in the towel is important.

The Scientific Case for Giving Up

“Realizing that an attempt to achieve something is not accomplishing its goal, and then stopping that behavior, can actually be beneficial,” writes Claudia Lopez-Lloreda for Inverse. “When confronted with a difficult challenge or obstacle, animals often ‘give up’ to conserve energy between attempts or to identify other strategies to succeed — or reassess if the effort is even worth it.”

A research group led by Misha Ahrens at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute was responsible for this finding. But, Ahrens is far from the only researcher to scientifically prove the benefits of giving up.

“A laser-like focus on one goal (like a promotion) often prevents us from seeking out new opportunities for learning and growth,” writes Jennifer Gueringer on the NetCredit blog. “In fact, a survey of Stanford Business school alumni found that those who held five or more positions in 15 years were nine times more likely to reach senior management than those with fewer roles.”

“The effects are physical, too,” adds Gueringer. “A Concordia University found that teenage girls who were unable to disengage from difficult goals exhibited increased levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory molecule linked to diabetes, heart disease and early aging in adults.”

You’ll Accomplish More

I know that sounds counterproductive. But, bear with me for a second.

Recall a time when you were procrastinating. Maybe you were dreading the task, just not feeling it, or didn’t have the skills or knowledge to complete it. Regardless of the exact reason — you stubbornly kept trying to tackle this task.

What happened next? You may have originally blocked out two hours of time to get this thing done. Now you’re approaching three or four hours. And, before you know it, you’ve screwed up your entire schedule for not just the day, but the entire week. The reason? What you have planned to do today gets moved to tomorrow and so forth.

Also, even if you were able to cross this item off your list, you’ve spent way more energy on it then you should have. As a result, you’re too drained to focus on anything else that’s of importance.

The better option here would be to move on to something else that you can actually do well. You may even want to delegate or outsource to someone else.

You’ll Be Happier and More Creative

As Raj Raghunathan Ph.D. writes in Psychology Today, there is something called ego depletion which suggests that “willpower is a limited resource.” If you’re obsessed with achieving a goal, that means you’re sacrificing other goals “whose achievement also depends on the same pool of willpower.”

There’s also hyperopia. It’s similar to the above where you “sacrifice your present-day enjoyment for the sake of a future that may never really arrive.” What does that mean? Well, “it may be more important to give up on goals that take too much out of us than to pursue them at all cost.”

Speaking of goals, if a goal is tied to a reward — it may sometimes hinder creativity and problem-solving.

“Rewards can perform a weird sort of behavioral alchemy: they can transform an interesting task into a drudge,” Daniel Pink wrote in his book Drive. “They can turn the play into work,” Pink adds. “And by diminishing intrinsic motivation, they can send performance, creativity, and even upstanding behavior toppling like dominoes.”

Besides goals, here are some other things that you should give up if you want to be happy and successful:

  • Perfection. You already know that perfectionism is unrealistic, stressful, and prevents you from finding new opportunities.
  • FOMO. The so-called, Fear Of Missing Out can cause you to spread yourself too thin and it diverts your attention away from your priorities.
  • Negative self-talk. If you engage in negative self-talk, it holds you back from achieving your dreams — and it can do other weird things to you too. Just watch someone who loves this awful habit — you hate to be around them, huh?
  • Comparing yourself to others. Comparing yourself to anyone but yourself is unproductive and self-destructive.
  • Toxic relationships. Spend time with people you love and who love you back. Toxic people are a waste of time, energy, and will only drag you down.
  • The fear of failure. Everyone fails. Accept that fact, and learn from each experience — or don’t learn from it — just get past it.

The End is the Beginning is The End

Do you need one final reason for quitting? How about it gives a clean slate to live the life you want?

Yes — quitting at anything is usually easier said than done. But, take that leap of faith and ditch the things that are holding you back and causing you distress. For example, if you’re miserable because you feel like you’re in a dead-end job, quit and launch your own business.

Quitting a job may not be in your future and it’s going to be hard and scary. But, this type of quitting is a better option than being stuck in a situation that is depriving you of living the life that you want. Remember, life is short. So, use your life, and spend this valuable resource however you want.

How to Know When It’s Time to Give Up

There isn’t an exact answer to whether it’s time to give up. But, Cloris Kylie Stock from Tiny Buddha has put together five signs that may help you decide if now is the time to quit — or if it’s time to buckle down and win.

  • You aren’t enjoying life to the fullest because your quest to solve a problem as taken over your life.
  • No matter how hard you try, you can’t visualize a positive outcome.
  • You start to feel poorly about yourself.
  • Even though a goal involved others, you’re the only person who has an interest.
  • When you wake-up in the morning, you think about giving up.

Remember to analyze the pros and cons of what and when to give up. The “give-up” should come rarely in your life, and it should only be deployed when it will be for your greater good. Plan carefully — make your give-up a win-win.

The Importance of Giving Up – to Soar was originally published on Calendar by .

The post The Importance of Giving Up – to Soar appeared first on KillerStartups.

How to Make a Splash in an Oversaturated Market 9 Jul 2020, 11:00 am

Crowded markets are, by definition, hard to stand out in. If yours is one of 100 companies offering identical services, you can’t do the same things everyone else is doing. You need to differentiate.

But differentiating isn’t as easy as it sounds. Pivoting in a different direction than other brands in your space takes ingenuity.

Make Your Business Stand Out

The beauty of the internet is that it’s torn down any and all barriers to entry in most industries. It used to be that you needed lots of cash or investors, business expertise, suppliers, and a deep prospect list to launch a successful business. Today, you can use a drag-and-drop website builder, a website to source products from, and a social media presence to build a seven-figure company with minimal experience. 

But here’s the deal: These low barriers to entry come at a price. If you’re able to easily start a business, so is everyone else. And it doesn’t matter if you’re selling spatulas or providing accounting services — the competition is fiercer than it’s ever been.

Anyone can start a business and go toe to toe with you. What are you doing to make your business stand out? What’s the differentiating factor between your brand and theirs?

Here are a few big-picture ideas you can adapt for your startup:

1. Double Down on the Competition

 

 

If you’re offering the exact same product or service as the competition, how are you going to stand out? For most businesses, it’s price. A brand lowers its price, thins out its margins, and then hopes and prays that competitors don’t do the same with their prices. It’s a game of diminishing returns.

What you really need to do is increase the value you’re offering. At the very least, this lets you stand out in an industry where everyone is comparably priced. At best, you can actually charge a premium.

Take the carpet cleaning industry as an example. An extremely saturated industry with lots of competition in local and national markets, most of these companies use the same five- or six-step process to clean. Emerald Carpet Cleaning of Dublin recognizes this and chose to use a proprietary 10-step process. It doesn’t take the company much extra time, but it does result in a better end product. There’s also the differentiating factor of saying your brand uses a 10-step process when everyone else is using a six-step process.

How can you double down on the competition, offering a superior product or service that produces a better end result — and more appealing marketing? This is one way to stand out.

2. Give Away Your Best Knowledge for Free

 

 

This tactic applies more to service-based businesses and companies that sell knowledge, but it could be applicable to any company in a saturated niche.

By giving away your best knowledge for free, you build trust and establish a loyal following. And guess what? Customers won’t believe you’ve just given away your richest nuggets. They’ll trust there’s more where that came from. When they need better service or insights, they’ll trust you over a competitor who hasn’t done anything for them. You’re a proven commodity; the competition is a gamble. 

Influence & Co., a content marketing company, has capitalized on this approach. The agency recommends that its thought leader clients share their knowledge with prospects and customers — not only will customers be “stickier,” but they’ll be better vetted in the lead funnel. Influence & Co. practices what it preaches, offering a knowledge bank of information on content marketing to inform prospects just getting started.

3. Tap Into Socially Conscious Veins

 

 

Millennials make up an increasingly large portion of the marketplace. In fact, Pew Research noted earlier this year that Millennials had overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest generation. Most businesses either specifically focus on Millennial customers or include them as part of their target audience. Either way, you need to appeal to them — the numbers are on their side.

There’s a multitude of ways to appeal to Millennials, but one appealing option is to tap into their desire to support social causes. Companies like TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker are examples of brands that give away a product to charity each time a product is purchased. You don’t have to follow this model, but let it serve as an inspiration. Can you donate to clean water organizations with each purchase? Could you supply meals to children in need in your community? The options are endless.

4. Niche Down

 

 

As the saying goes, there are riches in niches. You might think that casting a wider net allows you to grab larger market share, but it actually undercuts your ability to stand out. By zeroing in on a very specific market, you’re able to immerse yourself in your target demographic’s wants and needs. This enables you to tailor your products, services, and messaging in a way that resonates.

There will always be competition. For most of us, the competition is heavy. But rather than get salty about the fact that other people are reaching for the same customers and dollars you are, get excited about the opportunity to improve through differentiation. 

The ball is in your court: How will you stand out today, tomorrow, and in the years to come?

The post How to Make a Splash in an Oversaturated Market appeared first on KillerStartups.

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay —You Can Still Work 7 Jul 2020, 12:00 pm

In addition to your existing responsibilities, you’re probably also worried about the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, and the uncertainty of the future. It’s fair to say that feeling overwhelmed is the new normal. But, it’s okay not to be okay. You can still work.

Obviously, “not being okay right now” is going to interfere with your work. And, here’s where it becomes a vicious cycle. You can’t focus and fall behind — then it’s A LOT worse — and you’re even more anxious.

Here’s the thing though. It’s okay to not be okay right now. There’s a lot going in the world and you have every right to feel this way. At the same time, you can still be productive — even if it’s not at the level you’re accustomed to.

Clear your calendar.

When you have a minute, pull up your calendar and give it a look. Are there any tasks that could be delegated or deleted? Any upcoming meetings that could be rescheduled or replaced with a quick phone call? What about recurring events or commitments that no don’t fit into your schedule?

The point of this exercise is to clear the clutter from your calendar so that only your priorities are booked. The reason why this can be effective is that your day may not seem as overwhelming since there isn’t much left on your plate.

And, whatever is left can then be broken down into more manageable pieces. That makes getting started a whole lot easier.

Meet in the middle.

Sometimes we tend to get stuck in the linear trap. What exactly does this mean? Well, take writing a blog as an example. If you’re generating a top ten list you start with one and follow the sequence until ten.

But, sometimes when you’re stuck, that can be overwhelming. That’s why a writer friend suggested to Therese Borchard to start in the middle.

“There is less pressure in the middle,” explains Borchard in an Everyday Health article. “The beginning and the end are too weighted.”

“I’ve been using this wisdom not only when I am stuck as a writer,” Borchard adds. “But also when I’m paralyzed by the laundry, when the dishes chase me, when my cluttered desk scowls at me, when I can’t concentrate at work, when socializing is less enjoyable than a dental cleaning.” And, you can even apply it “to larger things, too: choosing a career, navigating a stagnant relationship, figuring how I’m supposed to parent.”

Why is this effective? Because life isn’t always linear. “As much as I want to place it between bookends, it’s messy and confusing, absurd and irrational,” states Borchard. “It lacks a beginning and an end, a straightforward path with an explanation” and is “full of questions with few answers.”

Lean into the wind.

Raymond DePaulo, M.D., author of Understanding Depression has a phrase to use whenever you’re trying to work while depressed: “You have to lean into the wind.”

What on Earth does this mean? Well, there are several ways to interrupt this phrase. But, personally, I think it’s about reminding yourself that this is temporary. And, more importantly, using these changing patterns to your advantage.

For example, when you’re in a good place and feeling uber-productive, get as much work out of the way. If you do happen to fall into a slump again, you’ll be ahead so that you won’t have that anxiety of falling behind.

On the flip side, when you’re feeling down, use that time to attend to yourself. Maybe engage in a little self-care, recite positive affirmations, or just take the day off.

Spruce up your workspace.

When was the last time you cleaned and organized your workspace? If you can’t recall, then right now is a great time to do so. After all, a tidy workspace saves you time, reduces stress, and can even fuel creativity.

And, while you’re at it, decorate and personalize your workspace as well. A study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology discovered that this can increase productivity and overall energy. Additionally, you may want to invest in a standing desk and ergonomic furniture.

Deactivate the “Me” centers of your brain through meditation.

What exactly is a “Me” center? Well, according to Rebecca Gladding M.D., this is “the part of the brain that constantly references back to you, your perspective and experiences.” It’s referred to this “because it processes information related to you, including when you are daydreaming, thinking about the future, reflecting on yourself, engaging in social interactions, inferring other people’s state of mind or feeling empathy for others.”

Since this is the default mode network (DMN) that’s responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts we want to turn this off. After all, it’s been found that mind-wandering is associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about both the past and future.

Thankfully, meditation can deactivate these “Me” centers. As a result, this will help pull you back into the present and encourage you to focus on the task at hand.

Don’t believe the 8-hour workday lie.

Prior to social reformer Robert Owen calling for “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, and eight hours rest,” factory workers put in a brutal 12 to 14 hours. While that’s definitely progress, this remains that standard for employees well over a century later. And, that’s not conducive to most modern gigs today.

“It’s all but impossible to actually work for eight hours a day in the jobs so many of us now have,” writes Lizzie Wade opines over at Wired. “Like most people writing hot takes and think pieces about productivity, I’m focusing on knowledge workers here—those of us who work at desks, mostly in front of computers, in offices or from home.”

Wade is right on. According to a study from Stanford, working long hours doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, once you’ve clocked in 55 hours per week, productivity plummets so much that it’s pointless to work any more.

So, I propose that you change that mindset. If you’re able to knock out your top priority for the day, some administrative work, and a video meeting in around 4-hours, I would say that you had a productive day. In other words, focus more on the quality of what you’re doing instead of the hours you’ve put in.

Phone a friend.

If you have someone that you trust a friend, family member, or colleague, call them up when you’re not at 100%. Mainly this is because talking can lead to catharsis. In turn, you feel a sense of relief and have cleared your head so that you can focus.

What’s more, talking to someone else gives you the opportunity to spitball ideas or solve a problem together. Even if you aren’t using these ideas at the moment, you can use them to steer you in the right direction. For example, if you’re struggling with fresh content for your business, you and a co-worker could at least develop a list of ideas to work from. They may not be developed just yet, but it’s a starting point.

Cut yourself some slack.

I can’t stress this enough if there was ever a time to be kind to yourself, it’s now. So what if you only worked for 4-hours or took an hour-long walk outside? Is it really the end of the world if you didn’t respond to an email today or cross-off all the items on your to-do list?

Give yourself a break here and do the best you can. Giving yourself a break may mean admitting that you’re not perfect. It’s about making yourself a priority and practicing self-kindness. And, it’s the perfect time to reevaluate your goals to make sure that they’re reasonable.

But like David Kessler says — “You don’t have to find a meaning.” Sometimes you just have to go through this “meaningful moment.” (I just watched David Kessler at a grief conference – Open to Hope. Amazing.)

Stop chasing productivity.

“Every waking moment of your life does not need to be optimized to make you a better, more profitable you,” says career coach Meghan Duffy. “Pandemic or otherwise, you have worth outside of your output.”

Personally, I’ve found that between the pandemic, social issues, and a lot more time to myself, that being included in the 48% of Americans who considered ourselves “workaholics” was no longer a priority. There are just more important things in life besides work.

In fact, I’ve cherished the moments of literally doing nothing as of late.

“Sometimes doing nothing, lounging on the couch and relaxing are great forms of self-care,” explains Elizabeth Beecroft, LMSW. That may sound counterproductive. But, having disconnecting and unplugging have done wonders for the mind, body, and soul.

Ask for help.

Finally, if you are truly struggling then please meet with a mental health professional. Since many of them provide online or phone sessions, it’s never been easier to fit a session into your busy schedule. Most importantly, you have someone to talk to and they can offer strategies to help you cope and manage your anxiety or stress.

Some of your productivity right now, in this current moment, may be taking care of yourself. Taking care of yourself will mean that you can get back to your work.

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay —You Can Still Work was originally published on Calendar by .

The post It’s Okay Not to Be Okay —You Can Still Work appeared first on KillerStartups.

Make Your Customer Experience Better 2 Jul 2020, 12:00 pm

Without customers, your genius, innovative, and potentially millionaire dollar idea is worthless. That may sound harsh. But, that’s just reality. Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. And, as such, you need to do everything to improve the customer experience.

What exactly is the customer experience?

I’m glad you asked. Forrester Research defines customer experience, also known as CX, as, “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.” That includes the first impression you’ve made with them to becoming a happy and satisfied lifelong advocate.”

To put that more directly, if customers have positive experiences with your company, the more likely they’ll come back for more. They may even begin to refer your business to others because you’re so awesome.

What’s more, studies show that consumers are more willing to pay more for a better experience. So far, this sounds like a win-win.

Isn’t the CX the same thing as customer service?

Not exactly. Customer service is just one part of CX.

That may sound confusing. But, think of it this way. You take your car to the maniac to get it fixed. Everyone at the shop is pleasant, and it was painless scheduling an appointment. However, when you pick your vehicle up, the problem wasn’t fixed. And, to make matters worse, they overcharged you.

Even though the customer service aspect was outstanding, the experience overall was terrible. But, if the mechanic fixed your car faster and cheaper then quoted, you would have a stellar customer experience.

Hopefully, that clears up the difference. Now, let’s explore nine ways that you can make the customer experience better.

9 Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience

1. Create a clear customer experience vision.

If you genuinely want to deliver an exceptional customer experience, then you first need to have a clear customer-focused vision. Besides providing you with a road map on where to go, these guiding principles are communicated with your team so that everyone is on board.

For example, Zappos has embedded its core values among its team. The result? The company has earned a positive reputation for fulfilling and wowing customer expectations.

If you’re stuck, McKinsey recommends answering the following key questions:

  • What is a company’s appetite for change in the near term? Is the goal to change the customer experience fundamentally or simply to improve it at the margins?
  • What is the gap between the needs and wants of customers and what they actually experience?
  • How can the company gain a customer-experience advantage against competitors?
  • At which point in the experience, should the company concentrate on having a real impact?
  • How do the overall capabilities of the staff support the customer experience the company wants to provide?

“One caveat: it is easy to err by aiming too low. In our experience, looking at historical performance and at whatever helped satisfy customers in the past can often make marginal tweaks seem good enough,” add Brooke Boyarsky, Will Enger, and Ron Ritter. “Understanding the fundamental wants and needs of customers must be a step in determining what a great experience for them should look like.”

That may seem like a lot to absorb. But, Robert Spector put it best. “Don’t reinvent the wheel. Focus on winning one customer at a time. Be honest and sincere. Do what’s right. There’s nothing magical about this. That’s been my guiding principle. To make it work, you have to live it every day. Make it your mindset.”

2. Get to know your customers.

“The most valuable resource you can give customers is your time. Listen to them to uncover their real needs. Only then can you find a way to solve their problems or meet their expectations. Treat the cause, not just the symptoms.” — Ginger Conlon

I would think that you already know who your customers are. At the minimum, you should have information like their age, gender, geographical location, and possibly even their income. But, you should also beware of their hobbies and interests.

While undoubtedly useful, you need to go above and beyond by really getting to know your customers. It’s the only way that you’ll understand what their wants and needs are, as well as what motivates them. From there, you can segment them and create buyer personas. In turn, this will help you connect with them by empathizing with them or creating more personalized experiences.

Sam Walton used to do this by having face-to-face conversations with Walmart customers — either at restaurants or in the parking lot. That might not be an option nowadays. But, you could survey your customers through email, your website, or even good old direct mail.

You could also use historical data, like past purchases, and analytics. For example, which channels are driving the most traffic to your site or which features of product customers are engaging with the most.

3. Audit the customer experience from multiple internal perspectives.

“Since the customer journey is affected by every facet of your business, you mustn’t focus on only one department when conducting an audit of customer experience,” writes Clint Fontanella for HubSpot. After all, “customers interact in some way with every part of your business, so to gain a complete picture of CX, you will need to consider the unique perspective of each one of your internal departments.”

In most cases, this would involve the following three:

  • Marketing. Because they are focused on customer acquisition, “they will have the best insight into brand awareness and user expectations.”
  • Sales. These team members are key players during the early part of the customer journey. As such, they “have information on the challenges that customers are encountering daily and how they expect your product or service to address those roadblocks.”
  • Customer service. Because they interact with your customers most frequently, they are most knowledgeable in identifying the pain points of your customers.

4. Leverage AI and machine learning.

Gartner predicted that by 2020, virtual agents, think chatbots, will manage 85% of customer interactions. Does that mean that you should solely rely on technology when it comes to interacting with customers? Of course. When it comes to more complex issues, customers always prefer human interaction.

However, a majority of people will always choose chatbots if it saves them ten minutes. What’s more, chatbots can be to:

  • Provide 24/7 service.
  • Answers simple questions quickly.
  • Can educate potential customers on the products or services you offer.
  • Assist reps by providing them with essential information like your name and problem os that the customer isn’t repeating themselves.
  • AI and machine learning can review past behavior to help with predictive personalization and smart suggestions.

5. Forget regular “business hours.”

As just mentioned, technology can be used to deliver 24/7 customer service. That’s great when someone wants to ask a question or resolve a complainant promptly. But what about more complex issues?

For example, let’s say that you’re on a business trip. As you’re eating breakfast, you spill coffee on your dress shirt. Here’s the problem. It’s 8 a.m., you don’t have any other shirts, and the meeting starts in an hour. No way can get the shirt cleaned and pressed in-time. And, most stores aren’t open.

However, what if there was only one store in town that was? Because that saved your day, you’ll probably become a loyal supporter of that establishment. Even better, you’ll want to steer as many people as you can in their direction.

6. Deliver an omnichannel experience.

As defined by TechTarget, this “is a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience, whether they’re shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone, or in a brick-and-mortar store.”

For example, you could welcome new customers with a discount on both SMS and email, signs-up for Facebook messenger updates, or can store online cart items on both their desktop and app.

Other examples would be Bank of America’s app that allows users to deposit checks and schedule appointments. And, there’s the Starbucks loyalty reward program. Even though it’s an app, users can add money via the app, website, or in-store.

7. Let customers help themselves.

As already mentioned, customers demand speed — hence why they’ve embraced chatbots. However, before interacting with a bot, their preferred choice is self-service. 70% of customers expect websites to include a self-service application. What’s more, 73% of customers prefer using a company’s site over live chat, social media, or SMS.

How can you make this a thing? Well, determine what your customer’s most common questions are so that they can be answered on the FAQ section of your site. Also, because most people tend to be visual learners, use images like screenshots and tutorial videos as much as possible.

Moreover, make sure that your search field is easy to use. For instance, using tags for specific keywords so that they aren’t scouring through hundreds of pages. And definitely make sure that your self-service portals have been optimized for mobile users.

8. Build a customer-centric culture.

If you want to successfully adopt customer-centricity, which is something only 14% of marketers have said is a hallmark of their company. You need to build a customer-centric culture. And, according to Denise Lee Yohn over at HBR, you can do so by:

  • Instilling empathy as a universal value.
  • When hiring, gauge potential employees, their customer orientation.
  • Democratize customer insights so that everyone has access to crucial information.
  • Encourage direct interaction with customers.
  • Keep your team happy and satisfied. If they feel good about your company, so will customers. As Shep Hyken pit it, “If we consistently exceed the expectations of employees, they will consistently exceed the expectations of our customers.”
  • Tie compensation to the customer.

9. Measure, optimize, repeat.

Finally, it’s essential to know that making your customer experience better is an ongoing process. Track metrics and continually seek out feedback and data on how to improve. Most importantly, make sure that you follow through and repeat what has worked.

Make Your Customer Experience Better was originally published on Calendar by .

The post Make Your Customer Experience Better appeared first on KillerStartups.

An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Generating Predictable Income 2 Jul 2020, 11:00 am

One of the biggest benefits of being an entrepreneur is that there’s no cap to your income-earning potential. You can diversify your products or services, maneuver your way into new markets, or tap new audiences to grow your revenue.

But this is a double-edged sword. On the flip side of things, entrepreneurs have no guaranteed income. How you manage this friction will play a large part in your overall success or failure. 

5 Tactics and Strategies for More Predictable Income

There’s no such thing as guaranteed income (outside of annuities, of course). Whether you’re an employee, a self-employed freelancer, or a business owner, there’s always the possibility of income evaporating. However, the risk for sudden changes in income is much higher for entrepreneurs.  

As an entrepreneur, here are a few safe and effective tactics for making your income more predictable. These solutions won’t necessarily make you rich, but they will cut out some of the risk. 

 

1. Set Clear Goals

 

It’s impossible to reach what you don’t aim for. Saying you want more predictable income is one thing. But what does “predictable” mean to you?

For some, predictable income means making the exact same income each month. For others, it might mean a 10-15 percent variance. Then, there are those who are fine making a baseline figure — such as $5,000 per month — but would prefer to make twice that in a good month. 

Don’t just say you want predictability. Define it, and determine precisely what it is you want or need to be happy and financially stable.

2. Track Everything

 

 

If you’re serious about setting and reaching income goals, you have to be religious about tracking. You need to track revenue — both gross and net — on a rolling basis. Monthly isn’t enough. Think in terms of weeks (or possibly even days).

By concentrating your tracking efforts, you prevent a scenario where you get to the final day of the month and suddenly realize you’re nowhere close to your income goal. Staying current with your numbers on a rolling basis allows you to forecast and optimize for greater accuracy.

3. Use Subscription Revenue Models

 

 

What if you could start each month with a very clear idea of your minimum revenue for that month? With a subscription revenue model, you can. Customers pay in advance, and you know precisely how much you’ll earn. (However, your revenue could go up if you add new customers.)

Plus, it’s important to remember that customer retention is far cheaper than customer acquisition. By utilizing a subscription model, you actually increase the profitability of each one of your customers.

It doesn’t matter if you sell physical goods, information products, or consulting services — there’s plenty of creative freedom here. The marketplace is more receptive to subscriptions than ever before; seize the momentum.

4. Lock in Retainers and Contracts

 

 

If you sell services, try to avoid one-off sales, where a client pays on an as-needed basis. This is good for the client, but bad for you. Whenever possible, entice clients to commit to retainers and contracts.

By switching to retainers and contracts, you’re able to project revenue into the future. This allows you to focus on adding value, as opposed to constantly selling to new clients.

5. Secure the Right Insurance Policies

 

 

You can’t control everything. As hard as you may try to establish predictable income, there are always larger factors at play. The right insurance products can help you offset some of these risks.

For example, you need a contingency plan in place for a situation in which you become sick, injured, or unable to work for a long period of time. A good disability insurance policy could provide steady income for a period of a few months to years. It won’t be 100 percent of your income, but it should provide at least two-thirds.

Likewise, there are certain policies you can get to offset losses that occur due to factors beyond your control (such as cyberattacks, natural disasters, or even global pandemics).

Take Control of Your Finances

There’s nothing easy about making money. (If you’ve figured out the secret, please share.) Whether you’re making $50,000 per year or $5 million, there’s a considerable amount of effort that goes into generating income. As hard as it is to come by, income can easily slip away.

By seeking out a higher degree of predictability in your income, you can enhance your financial situation and sleep easier at night, knowing you’re protected against worst-case scenarios. But don’t wait until tough times strike — start brainstorming and implementing strategies today.

The post An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Generating Predictable Income appeared first on KillerStartups.

How to Handle Zoom Fatigue 30 Jun 2020, 12:00 pm

Zoom meetings are on the rise — thank you, coronavirus! On the one hand, that’s awesome. During these last couple of months, I’ve relied on Zoom to catch-up with friends, family, and stay in-touch with my team. But, if I’m really saying how I feel about yet another Zoom meeting — I’m exhausted.

I’m definitely not the only one. Zoom fatigue is real. But why?

Why Are Video Calls So Draining?

Despite the convenience, Zoom meetings are actually more exhausting than in-person events. While the amount and intensity of the tired-feeling — it varies from one person to the next. The fatigue often occurs because you’re jumping from one call to another.

“When we’re on all these video calls all day long, we’re kind of chained to a screen,” said Suzanne Degges-White, a licensed counselor and chair of counseling and counselor education at Northern Illinois University.

“It’s just psychologically off-putting,” she said. “I’ve got to show up again but the thing is, we’re not really showing up anywhere.”

Additionally, video chats require more attention and energy than face-to-face interactions. Most notably, feeling pressured to be engaged “When you’re on a video conference, you know everybody’s looking at you; you are on stage, so here comes the social pressure and feeling like you need to perform,” explains Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor at Clemson University. “Being performative is nerve-wracking and more stressful.”

Another reason why? There’s a communication disconnect. “Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy,” states Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead (insead.edu.)

“Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not,” adds Petriglieri. “That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally.”

As if that weren’t enough, you may also be anxious about your appearance and children running in. There are also technical errors that may turn 30-minute catch-up into an hour-long event. You may also be tempted to multitask and pay attention to someone’s background instead of listening to them. And even a 1.2-second delay in responding online gives the impression that they aren’t as friendly or focused.

How to Handle Zoom Fatigue

1. Take a few moments before clicking “Start” to settle and ground your attention.

“Take a few breaths, feel your body on the chair, notice whatever is present in your mind, and allow yourself to arrive fully to the moment at hand,” recommends Steven Hickman, Psy.D. “If you’re feeling unsettled or preoccupied, you might place your hand on your heart in a supportive and comforting way as if to say ‘I’m here for you. It’s ok to feel how you feel at this moment.’”

2. Avoid scheduling back-to-back Zoom meetings.

Just like scheduling any other type of meeting, back-to-back Zoom events aren’t encouraged. I know that you might be want to squeeze in as many meetings that you can in a day. But, let’s be real here. Even though you could fit in 8-16 meetings per day, that’s just not feasible. After all, you need to eat, use the restroom, prep, follow-up, and attend to other tasks.

What’s more, your brain and eyes need to rest in-between sessions. So, make sure that you space your Zoom meetings spaced out. For example, if you have a video call from 1 PM to 2 PM, then your next one should take place at least a half an hour later.

3. A “zero break” schedule.

“Even if it felt like you had no breaks between meetings before the coronavirus—you did,” writes Elizabeth Grace Saunders. “To get from one room to another, you had at least a few minutes of physical movement and a quick mental break.” Of course, that’s not always the case with videoconferencing, as you can jump from one meeting to the next.

“This marginless schedule saps your mental batteries,” adds Elizabeth. “To avoid this issue, schedule your meetings with some short gaps in between, or make it a rule to wrap up one call 5-10 minutes before the next one begins.”

Having these breaks “gives your brain a short time to process the meeting’s substance, make a note of next steps, and prepare for the next conversation.”

4. Reduce onscreen stimuli.

“Research shows that when you’re on video, you tend to spend the most time gazing at your own face,” recommends Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy over at HBR. “This can be easily avoided by hiding yourself from view.”

Unfortunately, “onscreen distractions go far beyond yourself.” For example, while on video, “we not only focus on other’s faces but we look at their backgrounds as well.” So, if “you’re on a call with five people, you may feel like you’re in five different rooms at once.” Besides looking at their faces, you also see “their furniture, plants, and wallpaper. You might even strain to see what books they have on their shelves.”

“The brain has to process all of these visual environmental cues at the same time,” explains Fosslien and West “To combat mental fatigue, encourage people to use plain backgrounds (e.g., a poster of a peaceful beach scene), or agree as a group to have everyone who is not talking turn off their video.

Another option? Select speaker view as opposed to the gallery. Now you’ll only be so that looking at the person who is talking instead of the entire group.

5. Use alternatives.

No disrespect to Zoom, but you don’t always have only to use the platform to communicate with others. I know that videoconferencing is all the rage. But, you can still pick-up the phone or shoot out an email. There are also instant messaging tools like Slack, Flock, Jabber, Troop Messenger, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts Chat.

6. Keep your home office and living area separate.

Because you’re working from home, it’s more challenging to have a separation between work and life. How can you turn off “work mode” when you’re spending all of your time in your workspace? Or, to put it more succinctly, have various zones in your home for the different parts of your life.

What if you don’t have a home office? “Change the lighting when you go ‘off-the-clock’ and change the playlist and ditch the coffee mug from your desk,” suggests Degges-White. “When you feel you’re working 24/7 and are unable to leave the office to see friends, having tricks to help you feel that there’s a boundary between work and play can be important.”

7. Say “no, thanks” or “some other time.”

Don’t feel pressured or guilty for declining a Zoom request. To be honest, we’re all getting a little tired of these video calls. So, if you’re upfront and honest about this, others will understand.

The caveat, though is that you must be understanding of others if they aren’t up for a Zoom meeting.

8. Be a professional.

Help others help you be setting an example by following some virtual meeting etiquette. After all, these vents can be much more tiring when participants do any of the following:

  • Not being engaged in the meeting or multitasking, like looking at your phone or playing games.
  • Eating or slurping your drink.
  • Tapping your fingers or moving around in a squeaky chair.
  • Not muting your mic when not talking. On the flipside, forgetting to unmute when it’s time to speak.
  • Using a distracting background or being a faceless silhouette.
  • Going to the bathroom.
  • Not giving your housemates a head’s up — you don’t want them to pop-in unexpectedly.
  • Failing to send out an agenda and having a moderator to keep the meeting on track.

Conclusion

Yes, you can take these few steps to lessen the tiring effects of numerous Zoom meetings so that you can handle things with a better style.

How to Handle Zoom Fatigue was originally published on Calendar by .

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Bidsy.com brings bid-work to gig work for B2B and B2C. 25 Jun 2020, 6:02 pm

Contracting has always been difficult, given the many considerations one must weigh when entering any formalized relationship. Codifying a “working together” document takes time and patience, two things that are regularly in short supply.

This is especially true for small and independent business owners, who rely on a whole retinue of different suppliers, contractors, gig employees and other people in order to get through the business day with everything important accomplished.


Bidsy.com provides an automated forum where one can establish effective B2B and B2C relationships for one’s home or business management. Developed in 2020 by Caleb Filson, the site allows users to simply list what they need done, and then to begin immediately receiving bids from local contractors willing to do the work.

The system is designed, from the ground up, for easy usability. Contractors themselves are responsible for setting their bids on all the warm leads they generate simply by being on our platform. Customers don’t have to wade through listings and reviews, they just have to wait until they’ve received enough bids, and then use the linked reviews to make a no-pressure contracting decision.

 

Because our system is designed with ease-of-use paramount, users don’t have to worry about interacting directly with belligerent bidders trying to “game” the system and rip people off. Bidsy.com is designed equally for small business owners and homeowners, as the best forum for finding the extra hands you need to get you through the hardest days.

As CEO Filson said in a recent interview, “Bidsy.com is the website where people post a project they need completed, so local businesses signed up on Bidsy receive a notification and are able to contact the customer to arrange a quote.”

“This saves customers the hassle of trying to contact several businesses for their project,” Filson continues. “The customer just ‘Bidsys’ it, and then let the businesses come to them. This saves businesses the hassle of trying to understand things like SEO and AdWords; they just sign up on Bidsy and are sent warm sales leads.”

Photos
Bidsy

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Thrive in the Remote World 25 Jun 2020, 12:00 pm

Even before COVID-19 changed the world as we know it, remote work was having its moment. In fact, according to Global Workplace Analytics, “Regular work-at-home has grown 173% since 2005, 11% faster than the rest of the workforce (which grew 15%) and nearly 47x faster than the self-employed population (which grew by 4%).”

Will this trend continue following the pandemic? Well, Global Workplace Analytics anticipates “that 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.”

While that exact estimate could change, I feel comfortable in predicting that remote work isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s just going to become the norm.

So, whether you’re new to the game or a seasoned veteran, it’s imperative that you learn how to thrive in the remote world.

Build the right toolkit.

Have you ever started a project, like putting together a piece of furniture or an elaborate dish for dinner, only to be dismissed that you don’t have everything needed to finish what you started? It’s almost like a punch to the gut as it just takes the wind out of you.

The same idea is true with remote work. If you don’t have everything you need to get your job done, then it’s impossible to succeed, let alone thrive.

Depending on your exact work, this will be different for everyone. But, at the minimum, you should have the right hardware and software. For most of us, that means:

  • Reliable internet connection.
  • Computer/laptop — ideally with a mic and camera for virtual meetings.
  • Apps for communicating and collaborating with others like Google Drive, Slack, Zoom, and Trello.
  • Security solutions like VPNs.

Create a dedicated workspace.

You may have noticed that in the previous section, I left out a dedicated workspace. It wasn’t something that I forgot and added later. It’s just that this can play a huge role in your productivity if working from home.

If possible, have a dedicated area solely reserved for work. For instance, you could turn a spare bedroom or garage into an inspiring home office. I know that there are a lot of amazing ideas you can find online. But, you really just need a surface to work on, ergonomic furniture, and a quiet space free of distractions.

You can, however, make space your own by adding personal touches like pictures, plants, and knick-knacks. That’s all up to you. The key is to keep your work area clean, clutter-free and has the room for you to get work done. For example, if you need to look at blueprints, then you need a desk or table large enough to accommodate this.

What if you don’t have space for a home office? Any location in your home could work — just as long as it has the fewest distractions and temptation.

Plan to manage your time better.

Having autonomy is pretty sweet. You can set your own schedule and work however you prefer without someone questioning your every move. At the same time, if you’re new to the game, it may be challenging to adjust to not having as much structure.

For some, that means getting sidetracked by distractions like household chores or streaming services. Others have the problem of not knowing when turn-off work mode.

Regardless of which camp you’re in, if you work remotely, then you must learn how to manage your time more effectively.

While there a variety of techniques worth trying, Choncé Maddox, in a previous Calendar article, has used the following ways to improve her time management:

  • Track your time. “To plan a schedule that’s realistic and productive, you have to give yourself a good idea of how you spend your time,” writes Choncé. “Plus, you’ll want to know how much time it takes you to complete specific tasks.”
  • Plan a realistic schedule in advance. Next, plan out a daily schedule that’s not only realistic, but also takes into account breaks, lunch, physical activity, and household chores.
  • Plan around your energy levels. We all have energy highs and lows during the day. Find out when these are so that you can plan accordingly. For example, if you’re a morning person, then that’s when you would tackle your most important task of the day.
  • Avoid irreverent meetings. Don’t accept meeting invites unless it serves a clear purpose. Instead, consider alternatives like a quick phone call or email.
  • Create caps on your calendar. “Schedule gaps in your calendar to accommodate anything that might pop up or just to give yourself a much-needed break,” recommends Choncé.

Separate work and personal.

The biggest drawback to working remotely is that there aren’t boundaries to separate your work and personal lives. Having a home office is a start as this establishes a physical boundary. But, even then, it’s hard to forget about work when you’re still thinking about a project or checking your notifications round the clock.

Eventually, without these boundaries, your work bleeds into your personal life and vice versa. As a result, you become stressed and ultimately burned out. To avoid this, have set “business hours” and reduce your screen time. For example, on the weekend, leave your phone inside if you’re during yard work.

You can also try some mental tricky. For instance, taking a shower in the morning could be your transition into work mode, while shutting down your computer signals the end of your workday.

Schedule “lazy” time.

“Don’t make the entire day about work. I know, it sounds counterintuitive,” writes Colleen Trinkaus. “But often regular remote workers find themselves letting work creep into evenings and weekends.”

As mentioned above, remote workers tend to work more. That’s because they don’t have to deal with a daily commute or work “later into the evening because they aren’t seeing their colleagues leave for the day.”

To avoid this, “monitor your daily workload – and if you realize you’re putting in overtime, sprinkle in some free time throughout the day to do what you please,” suggests Trinkaus. Ideas could be grabbing lunch with a friend, taking your dog to the park, or reading. In turn, these “breaks will help reset your mind and prevent burnout.”

Focus on results, not your hours.

“The eight-hour workday is an outdated and ineffective approach to work,” explains Dr. Travis Bradberry. “If you want to be as productive as possible, you need to let go of this relic and find a new approach.”

Even though the eight-hour workday is antiquated, so many of us continue to fall into this trap. We convenience ourselves that if we don’t put in a set amount of time at work, we haven’t had a productive day.

The truth is that “the length of the workday didn’t matter much,” adds Bradberry. It’s how we structure our days. Ideally, this would be working for around an hour and then taking about 15 minutes off to rest. More importantly, it’s how we spend that hour working.

Take email as an example. You may spend 60-minutes cleaning out your inbox and responding to messages. But, is that a priority when you have a deadline to meet? No. It just means that you’re busy and not productive.

How can you determine what your priorities are? Well, you’ll want your priorities to be what’s most important to you, your leaders, and the organization. A straightforward way to identify these would be to “write down all of the tasks that are tied to your professionally for the next month,” recommends Calendar Co-Founder John Hall. Next, trim down this list by focusing on only the three items that account for 90% of your value to your business.

If you knock-out the “big three” during your workday, then it’s been fruitful — regardless of how many hours it took to complete them.

Maintain your mental health.

Remote workers often experience symptoms of anxiety and depression at a higher rate than people commuting into traditional office spaces,” reports Dr. Amy Cirbus, Ph.D., LMHC, LPC, and Manager of Clinical Quality at Talkspace. “Specifically, they report feelings of isolation and loneliness and high rates of worry about job performance and stability. Insomnia and sleep disturbance are common, along with increased fatigue, irritation, sadness, and feelings of disconnection.”

“Remote workers report a lack of concentration and focus that can compound and exacerbate these mental health challenges,” adds Dr. Cirbus. “It can lead to a loss of self-worth and a questioning of one’s abilities.” When combined, “these symptoms can have a significant impact on job performance, job satisfaction, and the efficiency of productive work.”

Because of this, it’s necessary for you to maintain your mental health when residing in a remote world.

There are several ways to achieve this. Going back to the previous point, take frequent breaks is a start. However, you should spend doing healthy activities like practicing gratitude, going outside, meditating, or any other type of physical activity that will release endorphins.

You should also spend your downtime, like during the evening or weekend, to do the things that you enjoy. It could be a hobby, hanging out with friends, enjoying a little self-care, or learning something new.

And, there’s also no shame in seeking out help when needed. It could be calling a family to vent or working with a mental health professional.

Keep things fresh and fun.

As someone who has worked from home for some time now, I can tell you that I wouldn’t change it for the world. At the same time, it can get redundant. If this isn’t addressed, it can be challenging to stay motivated. And, it may even put you in a slump.

That’s why I try to keep things fresh and fun. For example, I challenge myself to complete a task by a specific time. It’s like a video game where I’m trying to beat my previous score. My reward? Going for a walk or treating myself to a cappuccino at my favorite cafe. Although, I also cherish turning in projects before a deadline and getting a sincere “thank you” from my colleagues.

It’s also been essential to socialize with others. It could be a weekly team meeting, virtual lunch, or team building activity that makes me feel like a key part of the team. And, if I have the capacity, I’m always willing to take on new responsibilities or change-up my scenery.

Don’t neglect your professional development.

There’s a misconception that just because you live in a remote world, you’re going to get overlooked for career advancement opportunities. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Grab the bull by the horns and take an online course to earn a certification. Stay up to date on the latest industry news and trends. Attend webinars, workshops, and conferences. And, expand your professional network, both in-person and online.

Even if this doesn’t land you a promotion, it can make you a valuable asset for someone else.

Add a “done list” to your to-do-list.

According to research for her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam “found that dieters who keep daily diaries tracking what they ate tend to lose more weight.” Why? Melissa Dahl explains over at The Cut that the “act of writing it all down allows people to honestly reflect on their food choices, and to notice patterns and identify trends that they can then change, if necessary.”

“Plus, it’s a nice little pat-on-the-back — proof that even if you didn’t get everything on your ‘official’ to-do list done, you did make some progress on something,” adds Dahl.

Vanderkam believes that this same concept can be applied to productivity since it keeps us focused on your priorities. More importantly, it allows us to acknowledge and celebrate our accomplishments.

Maintain your professionalism.

Finally, just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be taken seriously. However, to prove that you should:

  • Clean up your online presence, like update your LinkedIn profile and not post questionable content on social media.
  • Actually get dressed and not work all day in your pajamas.
  • Be respectful of other’s time, such as meeting deadlines and arriving early for video calls.
  • Following virtual meeting etiquette. Besides being on-time, consider your background, muting your mic when not speaking, and not multitasking.
  • Not responding to your co-workers in a timely manner.
  • Messaging or calling others at an inappropriate time, like late at night or during the weekends.

Final words of advice.

Even if you didn’t believe that you were cut out for remote work, the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures probably haven’t given you much choice. Regardless if things ever go back to resembling some sort of normalcy — it’s likely that remote work is here to stay for a while. And, if you want to thrive, then you need to perfect the advice listed above.

Thrive in the Remote World was originally published on Calendar by .

The post Thrive in the Remote World appeared first on KillerStartups.

TravelBirds is putting the Social back into Travel Reviews. 24 Jun 2020, 9:30 pm

Travel review sites are notoriously unreliable. Often the haunt of many spammers, the sites can quickly go from useful to aggravating if you’re simply looking for good, reliable information about what to see and do.

Anonymous commenting accounts are a large part of the problem found on legacy travel review sites. Readers can’t even be sure if the people commenting have actually seen the site they list, or whether they are posting paid review content.  


TravelBirds launched just this year, the brainchild of Max Darby, who currently runs the stie himself. It was designed to bring some of that “personal touch” feeling back to travel booking, by building a place for travel-vertical sharing among friends and family.

The site is designed with a unique Founder/Trailblazer rubric which applies icons to the accounts of users who are the first to report on a given city/specific attraction. In this manner, users develop a sense of “personal responsibility” for each new item they list, and are able to keep track of, and correct, other people’s reviews about attractions already listed.

The upshot is a travel directory where the users create all the valuable content for free, simply by engaging in the regular back-and-forth tug-of-war that is social media, in a forum specifically designed to engineer this dynamic.

As CEO Darby explains,  “With an ever changing world and busy lives the importance of making every moment count matters. TravelBirds is the best way to share with family and friends what to do with those moments.”

Badges and social are the most novel part of the TravelBirds site, and if you visit them at usetravelbirds.com you can browse their deep archives of site-specific photos, maps, and other helpful resources for all your travel planning needs. 

Photos
Travel Birds

The post TravelBirds is putting the Social back into Travel Reviews. appeared first on KillerStartups.

You Don’t Have to be Uptight to be Productive 23 Jun 2020, 12:00 pm

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.”

You Don’t Have to be Uptight to be Productive was originally published on Calendar by .

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3 Tips for Startups Branching into New Markets 23 Jun 2020, 11:00 am

For most startups, growth at any cost is the name of the game. While some have taken that mantra all the way to the bank, many will find that striking a happy balance between growth and stability is a wise path forward.

When looking for ways to grow, new markets are often the first places to which startups turn. Disrupting the right sector can provide some big gains for your organization, but it also comes with some hefty risks. Branching out into new markets is always an exciting prospect — one that startups need to be very careful about taking on.

There’s no set guide for taking over a new market, but there are a few guidelines every startup should follow. If you’re looking to move past your current sector into something different, remember to:

1. Choose an adjacent need.

Some opportunities are closer to your current line of business than others. Choosing a related issue lets you leverage your current infrastructure into new lines of revenue. 

In telehealth, for instance, the tools and rules are similar regardless of your niche: protect patients’ privacy, prescribe medications carefully, and ship everything securely. Those similarities have led telehealth startup Nurx to take on home STI testing after its success providing birth control online. Although the patient pools may not overlap entirely, the legwork behind the service lines is similar. 

Before moving on, however, make sure you’ve mastered your current swim lane. Branching out too early can make you a jack of all trades, master of none — which isn’t a good look, especially in a space like healthcare. 

2. Know your competitors. 

Startups are the world’s giant killers, designed to upturn and disrupt every industry they enter. If you’ve already founded a successful startup, odds are that you have specific targets in mind when it comes to dominating your corner of the market. Once you branch out into other regions, however, the story might not be so simple. 

Each industry has its own dynamics that you need to be aware of before you break in. Even industry giants like Google can suffer from this, with its Stadia game console not exactly making waves in the months since its release. Despite Google’s nearly unlimited amount of resources, it simply didn’t fully comprehend the market it was entering, instead treating it just like the digital services space in which it’s so successful.

Before you stake your claim in a new space, be sure you know whose territory you’re stepping on. Reaching out to some advisors or mentors might be of help, but the only way to know things for sure sometimes is just by taking the plunge yourself. 

3. Map a growth plan.

It may sound a bit presumptuous, but you need to know what you’re going to do once you grow. While you may currently maintain a barebones team, expansion and growth of your revenue is sustainable if it’s matched by growth in your business infrastructure. 

Popular gaming startup Zynga took the digital world by storm in 2008, when it began to see big returns from numerous online games like Farmville. Its team soon grew to nearly 500 employees, over 300 of which had to be laid off after Facebook, where many of Zynga’s games were published, slashed Zynga’s ability to charge users. Zynga’s team was huge, but it wasn’t large enough to transition to a new platform in time to keep revenue up.

As you grow in new spaces, you need to expand your team in a way that accounts for potential left turns like Zynga’s. You never know what the platforms you depend on could do to affect your revenue, so be prepared to forge ahead without them.

Breaking into a new sector can be a huge boom-or-bust moment for your business. Taking the right steps beforehand can help push the dial ever closer to the “boom” side of the scale. By carefully scouting and making a plan now, you can sit back and let the account sheet grow in the future.

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Curius uses Better UI to Remind us Relationships are not Binaries. 18 Jun 2020, 1:48 pm

Binaries don’t exist in nature. They’re a ruse our neuro-anatomy conjures up to make sense of a complex and senseless reality. This is why many people hold the concept of binaries as so sacred; it’s the best (and often only) way they know to understand life, the universe and everything.

However, since binaries aren’t real, they can be a very limited model for describing things that are spectrum-based, like gender or social incompatibility disorders. Many people love to fight about binaries, because they provide the illusion that one can be either right or wrong on positions of no moral matter.

Curius applies this “nothing in binary” philosophy to its new social network from the ground up. Realizing that “a relationship” can mean many different things to many different people, the constructed their UI to be non-polar. 

Founder Harrit Diwan approached the common mobile “feature” of “swipe left or right” and asked “what if neither of those responses fits my model?”

George Box famously opined that “all models are wrong, but some are useful,” and the Curius model is definitely far less wrong than the dated and binary left/right touch screen UI interface model.

Curius is designed to take advantage of the full six degrees of separation that the mobile interface offers. Each new suggested relationship allows the user to react in six different manners:

Curious is currently available for iOS closed pre-order, and is developing an Android version as well. You can get yourself on the early access list at: https://www.curiusapp.com/.

Photos
Curius

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The Art of Surrendering: Learning How to Let Go of Control 18 Jun 2020, 12:00 pm

You’re not going to like this. But, as a parent, I’m so tempted to belt out “Let It Go” right now. But, well, I just have to let it go. Obviously, it’s for some people to let go of control. And letting go of control is easier said than done. Here is the art of surrendering — learning how to let go of control.

As Steve Maraboli wrote in Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience:

Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t “should’ve” done something. You can only DO something. Renew yourself. Release that attachment. Today is a new day!

For so many of us, we simply just can’t let go of control. As Dr. Amy Johnson writes, there are three reasons why this is true.

The first is that control is rooted in fear. As such, we “control things because of what we think will happen if we don’t. Secondly, it’s “a result of being attached to a specific outcome—an outcome we’re sure is best for us as if we always know what’s best.” And, thirdly, when you’re in control mode, your “vision gets very narrow and focused,” and the adrenaline is pumping.

“And it doesn’t work,” proclaims Leo Babauta. “You can’t get a firm grasp on the fluidity of life.” As a consequence, “we get stressed, procrastinate, feel hurt, get depressed or anxious, get angry or frustrated, lash out or complain.”

What’s the solution then? Practice the art of surrounding.

As Leo explains, that may sound “lame to many people, or perhaps scary.” But, when you give into surrounder, you’ll feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. In turn, your performance and productivity will improve. It’s a win-win.

So, how can you stop fighting against yourself, reality, and the universe? Well, here are the best ways to let go of control and embrace surround.

Accept the truth and be thankful.

“To let go is to be thankful for the experiences that made you laugh, made you cry, and helped you learn and grow,” writes Marc Chernoff. “It’s the acceptance of everything you have, everything you once had, and the possibilities that lie ahead.”

At the same time, it’s also “about finding the strength to embrace life’s changes.” What’s more, it’s also trusting your intuition, learning as you go, realizing that every experience has value, and continuing to take positive steps forward,” adds Chernoff.

Focus on what you can control.

“We can influence situations and people, but we have zero control over what the outcome will be,” states Stefan James. “Our emotional response is the only thing at our disposal.”

Here’s the thing, according to James, focusing too much on what we can’t control, steals “precious time and energy away from what we can control.”

“Focusing on what you can control takes preparation, effort, and discipline,” he adds. “It requires that you adopt the mindset of, ‘I am going to be the very best that I can be with what I have.’” That’s no easy feat. But it is possible. For example, you might not have control over the failure of the success of your business. But, “you can control how much time you devote to building it.”

Live in the moment.

In my opinion, this can be a challenge — especially if you struggle with anxiety. But it’s not impossible. There are plenty of simple ways for you to become more present.

The most obvious place to start is practicing mindfulness. As Dr. Travis Bradberry explained in a previous Entrepreneur article, this “requires you to observe your thoughts and feelings objectively, without judgment, which helps you to awaken your experience and live in the moment.” And, more importantly, it prevents life from passing you by.

Bradberry adds that even if you have a packed schedule, you can practice mindfulness by focusing on your breathing or going for a walk. He also suggests that you repeat one positive thing yourself and to stop what you’re doing whenever you feel stressed.

And, if you don’t have a chance to stop what you’re doing, touch your body. It “requires you to observe your thoughts and feelings objectively, without judgment, which helps you to awaken your experience and live in the moment. This way, life doesn’t pass you by.”

Other ways to live in the moment? Well, here are some techniques that I’ve tried out:

  • Become more minimal. I’m talking about decluttering your entire life. And I mean everything from your calendar to possessions to people that you no longer need or don’t bring your joy.
  • Focus on your priorities. Take a look at your to-do-list or calendar. While everything may appear to be a priority, the reality is that this isn’t the case. So, start focusing only on the things that are bringing you closer to your goals.
  • Stop and smile the roses. Excuse the cliche. But, what this means is slowing down and savoring what you’re doing at this exact moment. For example, let’s say you go for a walk after dinner with your family. You notice a stunning sunset. Just stop for a second and admire its beauty.
  • Don’t live in the past. Learn how to forgive and move on from past hurts. And, don’t obsess over your recent accomplishments. Instead, use both experiences to grow.
  • Stop worrying about tomorrow. It doesn’t exist. But, telling yourself that doesn’t always silence these thoughts. Try coming up with a plan to overcome most obstacles or turn to healthy distractions, like reading or speaking with a mentor.

Stop perfectionism in its tracks.

“Perfectionism prevents you from improving and discovering new opportunities,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a Calendar article. “And, it also wrecks your productivity since you’re spending too much time second-guessing yourself.” Overall, “it’s a terrible trait that can do serious damage to your business, relationships, and health.”

So, how can you let go and move if you’re a perfectionist? Well, here some strategies that you might want to employ:

  • Accept that perfection doesn’t exist and enjoy the process instead.
  • Set realistic goals that you’ll reach.
  • Welcome feedback.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Use “hypothesis” testing, like sending an email without proofreading it. You’ll realize it’s not the end of the world.
  • Thwart ruminating. For instance, distance yourself from a past event if you’re dwelling on it.

Conquer your fears with a list.

“Control is rooted in fear,” notes Lauren Stahl. “We try to control things because we are scared about what might happen if we don’t.” Here’s the key takeaway here, “fear is an allusion.” It’s “false evidence appearing real.”

Writing a fear list gives you a chance to identify what frightens you so that you can find ways to overcome them. Furthermore, a fear list can also help you track your progress.

And, speaking of lists, Stahl also suggests creating a freedom list. “Freedom means surrendering,” she explains. “It means you are at peace with yourself and have trust.”

Express yourself creatively.

Whenever I really can’t let go of something, I write my thoughts down in a notepad. There’s no rhythm or reason. I just pour whatever’s on my mind to that piece of paper. And, sometimes, that’s enough to acknowledge my feelings so that I can proceed.

Some people will burn that piece of paper, while others get more creative by composing lyrics instead. And, if you’re not a writer, then express yourself however you like through drawing or painting. Besides feeling like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders, you may be able to use these creative juices for improving your business.

Be your authentic self.

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are,” writes Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. “Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.”

In short, welcome vulnerability and stop viewing it as a weakness. Instead, realize that this means embracing your mistakes and shortcomings. When you do, you can highlight your strengths and be comfortable with who you are.

Seek moments of silence and solitude.

I know that this doesn’t seem possible. But, take a closer look at your schedule. The chances are that there are moments throughout the day for you to have some peace and quiet. For me, it’s in the morning before everyone else wakes-up. For others, it could be during their commute, in between meetings, or during an afternoon walk.

Regardless of when you have time to yourself, the idea here is to eliminate distractions, reflect, and enjoy your alone time. When you do, you’ll have an opportunity to make plans that align with your purpose.

The Art of Surrendering: Learning How to Let Go of Control was originally published on Calendar by .

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Team Service Opportunities That Build Character 16 Jun 2020, 12:00 pm

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

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

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

The benefits of volunteering.

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

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

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

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

Getting Started With Team-Based Volunteering

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

Define your intentions.

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

Audit your team’s strengths and weaknesses.

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

Document your learning and impact goals.

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

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

Pick a cause and find a partner.

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

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

Consider opportunities and threats.

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

Develop a sustainability plan.

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

Find support and sponsors.

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

Document and publicize your work.

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

Team Service Ideas

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

General Ideas

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

Helping Children and Schools

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

Assisting Senior Citizens and Veterans

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

Helping Animals and the Environment

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

Improving Your Community

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

In-house and Virtual Ideas

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

Team Service Opportunities That Build Character was originally published on Calendar by .

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Should Your Startup Have Summer Hours? 11 Jun 2020, 12:00 pm

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

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Summer Hours

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

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

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

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

The Drawbacks of Summer Hours

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

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

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

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

Types of Summer Hours Policies

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

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

Making Summer Hours Work For You

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

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

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

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

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

Should Your Startup Have Summer Hours? was originally published on Calendar by .

The post Should Your Startup Have Summer Hours? appeared first on KillerStartups.

Top Appointment Apps For Scheduling Your Business 9 Jun 2020, 12:00 pm

Are appointment apps and calendar software a necessity? They are if you want to schedule and track appointments, accept online bookings from clients, and send appointment reminders automatically. The top appointment apps and calendar software programs are also useful in blocking off internal meeting times, organizing your schedule, and even accept deposits or prepayments. As a result you can save time while increasing revenue.

Here is our guide for what makes up an appointment app, why you should use an appointment app, and what to look for when you decide to add this tool to your business. We’ve also selected the top ten appointment app solutions for this year and into the future.

What is an Appointment App?

An appointment app is a convenient way for your clients or customers to schedule appointments. The application may also be referred to as online scheduling software or mobile booking software.

Many of today’s appointment apps go beyond just a basic scheduling portal. They now offer comprehensive business,  calendar, and time management capabilities that add efficiencies for your clients, team, and business as a whole.

Benefits of Using an Appointment App

There are many compelling reasons to add an appointment app to your business:

Around-the-Clock Scheduling

Rather than only be able to take appointments during business hours because you rely on staff to create the schedule, you can use an automated scheduling system that can make appointments at any hour and any hour. Customers may not always be able to reach you during business hours. Or, they may prefer to make an appointment without having to call and then be placed on hold.

With 24/7 scheduling through an appointment app, your customers and prospects can schedule their appointment when it’s convenient for them. Doing so can help you attract and retain more customers.

An Enhanced Experience

The traditional appointments process can take a lot of time, with multiple back and forth communications about the best day and time. Even then, the appointment may not be set and require more time to reschedule. It can start to feel like a real hassle for your customer.

With an appointment app, your customers have access to a simple scheduling process where they can see the available time slots and reserve a time that fits their needs. They can also get reminders or use the system again to easily reschedule the appointment.

Increased Search Visibility

As a service business, attracting local customers may be your top priority. It’s important to have a strong online presence and appear in front of prospects on their search queries. Appointment apps can help you do that by integrating with search engines through Google Search and Maps so you appear when those customers look for your service..

More Business Insights

Appointment apps often include data analytics tools so you can learn more about your audience, such as your most popular service or the busiest days and times each week for your business. You can then take this data and make better business decisions about when to schedule employees, types of promotions, and more. A physical appointment book will never be able to reveal such business insights.

Time and Cost Savings

Removing a legacy appointment system that uses paper processes and consumes significant amounts of time can be a real savings for a small business. An appointment app eliminates paper costs and reduces manual processes, saving both time and money. Those savings can be applied to other parts of your business, allowing you to focus more on service as well as use the extra money to grow your enterprise.

Less Risk of Human Error

Humans make mistakes. For example, when scheduling an appointment, one of your employees might have transposed the numbers in a phone number or they added the customer to the wrong time slot. Multiple people could be using the same appointment book and double-booked in a time slot. Those human errors create dissatisfied customers.

An appointment app reduces those human errors by automating the scheduling process. The customer puts their information in while the app sends reminders and only schedules open time slots. Fewer human errors mean happier customers.

What to Look For in an Appointment App

Those benefits all lead to greater business success. The only problem is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of appointment apps and calendar software to choose from. Here are some factors to consider when you researching the ideal appointment app for your business:

Ease of Use

It’s important to have an appointment app that your customers can immediately feel comfortable using. It’s got to be simple and convenient, including a clear process for scheduling an appointment with the fewest amounts of clicks and screens to navigate.

Booking and Attendance Features

The appointment app solution should include features designed to ensure that customers compete the booking process and actually show up for their appointment. Look for features like rescheduling, appointment confirmations and reminders, and waitlists.

Marketing Tools

The appointment app should also be able to help you get the most out of your marketing efforts. Features that can help you do this include a shareable booking link, search engine booking tools, and social media booking buttons.

Staff Capabilities

Along with customer service and marketing, you also want an appointment app that can help oversee your team. It helps to have an appointment app that can support multiple users so other team members can see or change anything in the app as well as plan the employee schedule for the week or month.

Payments

Although it is not a must, being able to integrate payment processing with your appointment app adds a new level to your customer experience and further reduces the labor required for your service business. It is especially beneficial for those businesses that take deposits at the time of booking, often used for late fees, cancellations, and/or “no-shows.”

Overview of Best Appointment Apps

Although our list of appointment apps may not include all these factors in every solution, you can’t go wrong with the following 10 solutions for 2020 and beyond. Here are the top ten appointment apps we selected and why each one stands out as an ideal tool for your business.

  1. Appointment: Appointment app with longest track record of success
  2. Calendar: Appointment app with powerful technology like machine learning for intuitive assistance
  3. 10to8: Appointment app with integrated payment processing
  4. VueMinder: Appointment app made for Windows users
  5. Setmore: Appointment app with a live call answering service
  6. Grapple: Appointment app for scheduling meetings
  7. Calendarwiz: Appointment app for sharing schedules with groups, teams, and clients
  8. Evie: Appointment app that automates your entire meeting schedule and calendar management process
  9. Square Appointments: Appointment app that embeds social channels in your scheduling process
  10. Bookeo: Appointment app with text notifications

Now, dive in deeper to each of our top appointment apps for 2020 and beyond.

The Best Appointment Apps for 2020 and Beyond

1. Appointment

Appointment

Considering that Appointment.com has been providing online appointment scheduling since 1999, you’d be hard-pressed to find a company with more experience in this area. What makes Appointment.com continue to stand out among other leading online appointment scheduling software is that the company continually evolves to meet their modern user’s needs.

Appointment.com comes packed with features like allowing customers to book an appointment with you 24/7 — even if you don’t have a website. Customers can also cancel or reschedule an appointment on their own. If you have several locations, employees, or services that’s not a problem either since Appointment.com handles these multiple options for you.

Additional features include the customers ability to pay through PayPal, allowing them to create gift certificates, and send out reminders via email or SMS. It also syncs with leading cloud-based calendaring solutions like Outlook, Google, and iCal.

If none of these features are right for your business, Appointment.com’s powerful API allows you to customize it to fit your specific needs.

Following a 30 day free trial Appointment.com offers plans starting at $29/month.

2. Calendar

Calendar

If you want to meet with a client or your team, scheduling events can be a time-consuming process. Calendar can be a major time-saving assist for you.

With Calendar you simply share your existing cloud-based calendar, such as Google Calendar or Outlook, via email or an embedded link on your website. Those persons trying to schedule with you can then see your availability and pick a date and time when you are both free. After they’ve chosen a time, the event is automatically added to everyone’s calendar.

Even better, Calendar harnesses the power of machine learning. This means that it can analyze your previous meeting data to make smart suggestions on where, when, and what type of meetings to schedule.

You can currently sign-up for Calendar for free.

3. 10to8

10to8

If you’re tired of no-shows, then you may want to look into 10to8.

This online appointment software sends automated confirmation emails and SMS to clients. It also sends them reminders and gives them the ability change or cancel the appointment. Because it syncs with Google Calendar and Outlook all new appointments or changes are automatically updated in your calendar. If there are any questions or concerns, there’s a helpful two-way calendar-integrated chat so that you and your clients can address them in real-time.

10to8 also accepts online payments through PayPal, Stripe, SagePay without additional charges. You can also coordinate between multiple staff, calendars, rooms and locations seamlessly.

10to8 offers a free plan if you book fewer than 100 customers per month. If you book more than that, monthly plans start at $9.6.

4. VueMinder

VueMinder

VueMinder is a calendar program specifically designed for Windows users. Unlike some of the other apps and software you can view your schedule directly on the Windows desktop background. However, it does sync with Google Calendar and Apple Calendar. This means you don’t have to completely switch to Outlook.

That’s just scratching the surface. With VueMinder you can schedule daily, weekly, monthly, or annual events and appointments. You can also define tasks and break large tasks into smaller sub-tasks. Other useful features include the ability to store contact information, color-code your calendar, and create customized popup reminders. VueMinder will also send reminders through SMS and email.

While you can download a free version, access to more of the robust features require you to purchase the software starting $49.95.

5. Setmore

Setmore

Setmore is the only online appointment scheduling calendar software that provides a built-in live call answering service. To ensure that appointments are kept it will then send out alerts and reminders. If an appointment must be rescheduled you can easily do so by using the software’s drag and drop feature where you just move the appointment to a new time slot.

What makes Setmore unique is that it integrates with Facebook, Instagram, Slack, WordPress, and Weebly. This gives your clients more opportunities to share your calendar with clients and team members. Thanks to Setmore’s mobile app, you can book, manage, and sync your calendar while on the go.

For those of you have have under 20 staff logins and calendars, Setmore is free. For larger businesses, plans start $25/month.

6. Grapple

grapple

One of the newer meeting schedulers on the market is Grapple Meetings. Through the app you can select various meeting times and then create a poll. Once you do a page is created where clients and team members can select the availability that works best for them.

Participants can then view what selection other individuals made. That may not sound important, but it makes scheduling and rescheduling for groups much more easier and efficient.

You can sign up for Grapple for free. Doing so gives you access to both it’s collaborative software and in-built meeting scheduler.

7. CalendarWiz

Calendarwiz

CalendarWiz is a customizable calendar that can be shared with groups, teams, or clients. Just simply create a single or recurring event and share it with invitees through email, your website or social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can brand your calendar by changing the calendar colors to match your brand and adding your logo.

After an event has been created and shared, you can send an invite with a request to RSVP — you can also track who has accepted or declined the invite. Everyone will then receive automatic reminders and announcements to reduce no-shows.

CalendarWiz also lets you color code events, prevent double-booking with the self-service feature, and let your community suggest calendar events.

Following a 30 day free trial, plans start at $9/month.

8. Evie

Evie

Evie is an AI scheduling assistant that automates your entire meeting schedule and calendar management. How? Just Cc Evie whenever you mail attendees. Then ask Evie to help schedule a meeting or a call or to send out an invitation. That’s it. Evie handles the rest by finding an optimal time for everyone to meet based on everyone’s calendar.

Evie can then send out calendar invites and request meeting follow-ups automatically. More advanced features include the ability to include location information in emails, reschedule or cancel meetings, set meeting duration times based on your preferences.

If you schedule five meetings or less per month Evie is free. If you schedule more than five, you’ll have to choose a plan starting at $20/month.

9. Square Appointments

Square Appointments

With the free Square Appointments your customers can book an appointment with you 24/7 via a free online booking website. However, Square Appointments can also be embedded on your social channels like Facebook and Instagram. Because it syncs with your calendar, your availability will always be accurate and up-to-date.

You can also prevent no-shows by sending clients appointment reminders through email or SMS. You even have the option to charge a no-show fee. And, if the client must cancel or reschedule the client can do so on their own — meaning no more back-and-forth emails.

With Square, you can also accept payments remotely.

10. Bookeo

Bookeo

Bookeo can accept client bookings from your website and Facebook page anywhere, anytime. It then sends out automatic confirmation emails and email and text reminders. You can also receive email or text notifications when an appointment is cancelled or rescheduled.

Furthermore, Bookeo allows you to customize your calendar. You have the option to set business hours, appointment lengths, and color-code your various services.

Bookeo also lets you accept online payments and can be integrated with your existing marketing tools like Google Analytics and MailChimp.

You can try Bookeo for free for 30 days. After that, plans start at $14.95 per user/month.

Top Appointment Apps For Scheduling Your Business was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

The post Top Appointment Apps For Scheduling Your Business appeared first on KillerStartups.

Leading With Empathy From Home 4 Jun 2020, 12:00 pm

As you’re all well aware, the world is going through a pandemic. As a result, people are anxious, frightened, and suffering. And, they’re looking for answers on how this crisis is affecting them and when things can go back to “normal.” Here are a few suggestions about leading with empathy from home. Recently, I returned to the quote listed below.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  — Leo Buscaglia

While you can’t address all of their concerns, as a leader, you can at least be empathetic with your team. Even before COVID-19, empathy was often seen as one of the most important leadership skills to possess. After all, empathy is in our DNA and can create a more loyal, engaged, and productive. Empathy can also increase happiness, teach presence, and foster innovation collaboration.

However, empathy is more important than ever before. But, how can you be there for your team when this virus has forced you to be apart? Well, you can fix that problem by leading with empathy from home using the following ten techniques.

1. Support your team’s emotional and mental health.

I don’t think that I need to pull up any figures that highlight just how stressed and anxious everyone is right now. With that in mind, you don’t want to put any additional emotional or mental strain on your team. So, ditch the “tough love” approach and offer your support during this trying time. Social support has been found as the best way to alleviate stress.

How can you be supportive right now? The most obvious place to start is merely letting your team members know that you are there from them. Make it known that they can reach out to if they need to discuss any issues — even if it’s not work-related. In a way, this kind of like having a virtual open-door policy.

You should also schedule frequent check-ins with them to see how they’re doing. If they’re taking care of family members or busy homeschooling their children, you may even want to suggest that they take some time off. Most importantly, if you notice signs of distress, please have them contact outside sources like a support group, crisis outline, or mental healthcare professional.

2. Ease-up on rigid schedules.

Not that long ago, having a regimented schedule was one of the drawbacks regarding flexible schedules. Right now, though, that doesn’t matter.

Yes, for many businesses, they still need their team to be accountable and meet deadlines. But, they can still achieve these without putting in a specific set of working hours each day. As long as they’re getting stuff done, it doesn’t matter when they’re working or for how long.

In the past, studies have found that flexible schedules leade to happier and more productive employees. And, considering that they currently have other priorities, like taking care of themselves and loved ones, this is the best gift you can give them. And, they will reward by continuing to deliver quality work.

3. Rethink how you ask questions and listen.

Actively listen to your team. While that may sound simple, it’s going to take some effort. For instance, listening means giving the other person 100% percent of your attention when they’re conversing with you via Zoom, the phone, email, or Slack. Listening also involves making yourself as available as possible without wearing yourself out — I suggest sharing your calendar with your team so that they can see when you’re free to chat.

Additionally, you also need to ask empathy-building questions, like:

  • How are you feeling?
  • What’s distracting you?
  • How can I support you?

If they respond with a short answer, like “fine” or “nothing,” don’t accept that. Be honest with your team, and encourage them to open up so that you can get to the root problem.

4. Model healthy work habits.

Although you need to be available for your people, the truth is you also need a break. So, set regular “business hours” and lay down some guidelines. For example, suggest that there’s no work-related contact after work hours or during the weekend.

And, even though you can’t go out, let your team know how you’re spending your downtime. Maybe share with them a project you’re doing around your home or a new hobby you picked-up. And encourage them to let you and the rest of the team know how they’re enjoying their downtime.

5. Train yourself to be more patient.

Whether if everyone is adjusting to working from home or meeting virtually, expect some growing pains. We’re all trying to adjust and get through this together. And, one way to handle this is by training yourself to be more patient.

Personally, this is something that I’m still working on. And, according to studies, it depends on your personality, history, and situation. But, it is possible by:

  • Identifying when you’re impatient and what emotion you’re feeling.
  • Reframing how you think about the situation.
  • Thinking with purpose in mind.

6. Normalize the new normal.

If you’ve ever sought advice about effectively working from home, you were probably told to get dressed and set up shop in a quiet, dedicated workspace. Both suggestions are correct in working at-home procedures. But, that was a different time and place.

Take that home office you’ve carefully set up. It’s now being shared by your spouse for their work stuff and likely even your kids while they are on the “learning virtually” track. At this time, because of the non-virtual sharing — your team might have to use the kitchen table to work, or even meet on a video chat. Don’t chastise them for choices that they have to make that may be totally out of their control. Space is limited, and they need to work whenever they can.

Problematic choices have to be made right now — even down to getting dressed. Obviously, if a team member is on camera they’ll be wearing clothes, but let it slide if they’re in sweats or jeans and a T-shirt. The last thing that should be on their minds is getting all dressed up like they would if they were in the office.

7. Educate your team.

There are several ways you can do this. Pass along information on how your team can stay safe and healthy during this pandemic. Advice from the CDC and WHO are reliable sources for this. You could also let them know what your insurance plans do and do not cover.

What’s more, keep them up-to-date on your business and the industry so that they’re not left out in the cold. And, while you’re at it, provide them with resources on how they can be more focused while working from home.

8. Give them something to look forward to.

It’s impossible to make too many plans right now. But, you can still give your team things to look forward to besides work. You could start a virtual book club or host a number of events remotely. Ideas could be a happy hour, movie night, or online game tournament. Another idea could be sending them a care package containing handwritten notes, healthy snacks, or items that could make them more productive at home, such as headphones or a standing desk.

9. Meet more frequently.

Yes. Meetings are usually dreaded because they are boring, pointless, and distracting. But, right now, connecting with others is crucial — particularly for your team members who live alone.

Schedule more meetings than you normally would, like a brief 10-minute daily huddle or weekly progress meeting. Besides offering your team to interact with others, it also gives you more of a chance to monitor how they’re doing with their work and life.

Just remember to follow some basic virtual meeting etiquette guidelines. These include picking the right technology, speaking clearly and concisely, not multitasking, and muting your mic when not speaking.

10. Help others.

Finally, lend a helping hand to your team. If you have the means, this could be financially assisting them. But, you could also purchase an app like Calm or Downward Dog to help them relax.

You could also ask each person how, as a team, you can help each other. Maybe you could purchase gift cards to local businesses, put together with care packages for health care workers, or volunteer virtually.

Helping others isn’t just a welcome distraction. It gives back to the community, builds camaraderie, and puts you and your team in a better mood.

Leading With Empathy From Home was originally published on Calendar by .

The post Leading With Empathy From Home appeared first on KillerStartups.

Reclaim Your Time by Learning the Art of Saying No 2 Jun 2020, 12:00 pm

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.

Reclaim Your Time by Learning the Art of Saying No was originally published on Calendar by .

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What’s Better in Coffee than Butter? 29 May 2020, 1:19 pm

So-called “Bulletproof Coffee” is a western interpretation of traditional Tibetan “Yak Butter Tea.” It was first popularized in the west in 2004, by entrepreneur David Asprey, by replacing the tea with coffee and the yak butter with regular dairy butter.

This combination yields a drink that provides powerful wellness and satiety benefits, especially for people on low-carbohydrate or no-carbohydrate diets. However, it also introduces a number of drawbacks for western markets.

One of these is drawbacks is the fact that dairy butter can never be vegan, and so can’t be used to make a vegan version of bulletproof coffee. Vegans need complete proteins and whole oils like everybody else, so an innovative substitute for butter was required.

The entrepreneur who embodied that innovation is one Clinton Bondzuk, CEO of startup Avocajoe Brands, which was founded in 2019. Avocajoe products don’t simply replace the butter in bulletproof coffee with vegan alternatives; they make it qualitatively better, with an improved taste and mouth-feel, and a better macronutrient and micronutrient balance.

“Avocajoe Brands is a beverage and nutrition startup, focused on increasing consumption of heart and brain healthy monounsaturated fats to the masses through avocado based products, Bondzuk explains. “Our flagship product is a ready-to-drink ‘butter’ coffee made with avocado and avocado oil.”

Avocajoe currently plans to offer three different formulations as the basis of their product line. The original version is already available for sale, with dark roast and mocha versions slated for after open launch.

Another product further up the pipeline is a coffee-free children’s beverage designed to provide the natural oils needed to support brain development and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Avocajoe is currently running a kickstarter campaign which was, at the time of this writing, roughly half-way towards securing its $20,000 financing goal, with about a month of the campaign still remaining.

Photos
Avocajoe

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Best Calendar Apps for Freelancers on the Go 28 May 2020, 12:00 pm

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

What Makes These the Best Calendar Apps For Freelancers

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

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

Calendar App

Calendar

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

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

Fantastical Guide

Fantastical Guide

Fantastical 2

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

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

Vantage Calendar App

Vantage

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

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

Cal

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

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

Google Calendar Guide

Google Calendar

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

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

Awesome Calendar

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

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

Calendars 5

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

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

Week Calendar and Cally

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

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

Pocket Informant

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

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

Peek Calendar

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

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

Tiny Calendar

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

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

Calvetica

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

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

miCal

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

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

Best Calendar Apps for Freelancers on the Go was originally published on Calendar by .

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