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5 Secrets to Successful, Productive Meetings

5 Secrets to Successful, Productive Meetings

As a young professional, chances are that you will spend a fair amount of time in meetings. 21st century employees have developed a love-hate relationship with meetings. On the one hand, meetings are a great opportunity to pull a team together to solve problems and generate ideas in an interactive manner. On the other hand, many meetings tend to veer off topic quickly and fail to accomplish their intended goals. The good news is that meetings do not have to be bland and unproductive. Implementing the following 5 strategies during your next meeting will help you get the most out of your meetings and minimize time-wasting.

1. Distribute the Agenda In Advance

Every meeting should have a stated purpose. Each meeting attendee should know exactly what the meeting will be about well in advance of the meeting. Usually, 24 hours ahead is a good time to distribute agendas.This will allow everyone time research and prepare necessary input. That way, everyone shows up to the meeting ready to have a meaningful dialogue.

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2. Restrict the Number of Attendees

Some meetings do not require the entire team to attend. While it may be easy to send the meeting invitation to everyone on the email distribution list, being a little more selective with whom you invite can pay off in a big way. People tend to be more open and candid in small group settings than they are in large groups. Only invite the team members who are necessary to accomplish the goal of the meeting. Everyone else can be filled in later.

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3.  Sideline off-topic conversations

As stated earlier, each meeting has to have a specific purpose. All discussions that take place during a meeting should be in alignment with the meeting’s purpose. You certainly want to welcome new ideas and perspectives, but not at the expense of the task at hand. If someone brings up a point that is sure to derail the meeting onto a time-consuming tangent, quickly suggest that the group table that topic for a more appropriate time. By sidelining potential tangents, you keep everyone focused on current mission.

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4. Stay Within Your Time Constraints

It is extremely important to develop a reputation for starting and ending your meetings on time. If invitees know that they can trust you to respect their time, they will be more likely to show up on time and participate fully. Make sure you budget enough time to fully discuss each item on the agenda. A single meeting should generally be held to 60 minutes or less. So if you think your meeting will last longer than that, consider breaking the agenda into two parts so that you are not monopolizing too much of the participant’s time at once.

5. Give Out Homework

One of the problems with so many meetings is that nobody takes action on the topics discussed in the meeting. This leads to more dreaded “meetings about meetings” so that the team can be reminded what action items came out of a previous discussion. In order to avoid this situation, before ending every meeting, be sure to identify specific individuals to be responsible for any action items that come out of the meeting. Send out a followup email confirming each person’s commitment to each action, and go ahead and set up a time for a status meeting to make sure everyone is staying on track. Giving out homework at the end of each meeting is essential to making sure the time was well spent. After all, the goal of meetings is not simply to talk about plans and strategies. Meetings should be about implementing those plans and strategies. The homework is the implementation.

Featured photo credit: Benjamin Child via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on November 19, 2019

Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

I imagine that like me, you say that you never have enough time and that you just cannot cope with 60 dozen things all at once.

How on earth do you get out of that spiral?

Many people never sit down and look at how to work smarter, rather than harder and even longer hours. But not you, you’re smart enough to try to learn effective ways to work.

So how to work smarter not harder? Here are 12 smart ways you should be following:

1. Improve Your Time Management Skills

Easier said than done? Well, no actually, because there are a few simple rules that can really help you to manage time better.

For example, when setting up a top priority task, you need to switch off the phone and ignore your email first. Then you need to abandon any ideas of multitasking as that will slow you down and ruin your focus.

Finally, set a reasonable deadline and do everything in your power to meet it.

“When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.” — Sir Ray Avery

2. Speed up Your Typing and Use Shortcuts

These days we’re all keyboard slaves. So why not speed up your typing and try to get rid of the two finger syndrome. In fact, when you save 21 days per year just by typing fast!

This is exactly what I am doing now, so I cannot honestly say I am practicing what I preach!

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But help is at hand. Try some of these apps and games to help you type fast: 8 Most Effective Games and Apps to Learn to Type Fast

Using shortcuts on the keyboard is another time saver and can speed up your work.

For example, press F2 to rename a selected file, while CTRL + I will put selected text in italics.

There are so many of these. If you make the effort to learn them, they really can be helpful.

3. Learn How to Use Productivity Tools

It is well worth downloading all the useful tools and apps that can highly boost your productivity. Take a look at these 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools and install whatever fits your needs.

Now that is really a great way of working smarter, not harder.

4. Use Your Phone Wisely

Instead of writing emails, sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone and talk to the person responsible. It saves time, especially for important or urgent discussions.

If that colleague works in the same office, it is even better to go and talk to him or her. It gives you a break, you get some exercise and you actually make human contact which is becoming quite rare in this electronic world.

5. Keep a Tab on Your Tabs

If you are like me, you might well find that you have a ton of tabs open at the top of your browser.

In order to find the one you want, you have to search for them as they are off screen. Having all these tabs open slows down your browser too.

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One solution is to use OneTab which can keep a neat list on the screen of all these tabs when you want to quickly get to one of them or you want to remind yourself which ones you have open.

6. Use a “To Don’t” List

We all know about to do lists and I find that they are generally great. They give me a great sense of achievement as I cross off the tasks done.

But often, I find that we are doing non-essential tasks or ones that can easily be postponed. That is why many people recommend the to don’t list.[1]

Some people prefer to savagely prune the to do list while others prefer to have two separate lists, to do and to don’t. You just have to work out what works best for you when you are trying to save precious time to become more productive.

7. Expect Failure and Fight Paranoia

When failure rears its ugly head, some people get a bit paranoid and fear that this may become a trend.

Projects will go wrong and failure should be expected rather than feared. Learning lessons from failure and analyzing what went wrong is the best way forward.

“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” — Richard Branson

And here you can find 10 Great Lessons Highly Successful People Have Learned From Failure.

8. Be Concise

Rambling on at meetings, in emails and even when introducing yourself to new clients can waste a lot of people’s time.

One way is to practice and sharpen your “elevator speech,”[2] which tells people in 30 seconds or less why they need your skills and how they can benefit from doing business with you.

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Just think of the many situations where this could be useful:

  • Making new contacts
  • Talking about yourself at a job interview
  • Meeting people at conferences or parties
  • Phone calls to new clients

9. Ask the Right Questions

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” — Naguib Mahfouz

How do you get feedback? The secret is to ask the right questions at the right time.

When you do this, you are gathering the information you need to help in decision making. This will save you time and you will be able to cut meetings to a minimum.

Forbes magazine reports on research that they carried out on asking the right questions.[3] When that happens, the positive effects are increased by 400%. There are also other benefits in staff motivation and a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

Lifehack’s CEO Leon has shared about how to ask for feedback to learn faster: How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

10. Learn as Much as You Can

You should always be on a steep learning curve. Look at your skills profile and determine where you need to fill a gap. Talk to important connections and network in your niche.

Keep up to date on trends and developments. It is a fact-changing world. When an opportunity arises, you will be the best equipped to seize it because you have never stopped learning. Just another way of working smarter.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

11. Look After Your Greatest Resource

No, your greatest resource is not time. It is YOU.

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If you do not get enough sleep, exercise and relaxation, you find that you become less and less productive. You begin to work longer and longer hours, which is the exact opposite of what you want.

What you should be doing is making sure you are in the best shape. It is useful to remember that you need a break of 15 minutes after every one and a half hours of work.[4]

Taking breaks and getting fresh air and exercise is one of the best ways of working smarter, not harder.

12. Don’t Fall into the Trap of Working Smarter and Harder

As a society, we are obsessed with doing everything smarter so we are more efficient and we save time all around.[5]

But the most important thing to remember is to accept when we are ready to switch off that computer and not fill up the time with even more work!

The Bottom Line

The key to greater productivity is to work smarter, not harder. Working smarter saves precious time and energy for the things that really matter — your life goals, your personal growth, your health and your relationships.

Stop working for more hours and start working smarter!

More About Working Smart

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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