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Make Meetings Less Hateful And More Productive

Make Meetings Less Hateful And More Productive
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When many people envision meetings, they picture a boss or supervisor spouting off demands and statistics for an extended period of time while employees stare mindlessly toward the head of the room. These meetings can be an enormous waste of time if bosses don’t involve employees, and the employees lack focus and dedication to the completion of a specific agenda. But when meetings are interactive, focused, and well-scheduled, they can be incredibly productive. Three aspects to focus on when putting together an office meeting are:

1. Making them memorable

Each meeting should stand out on its own in order to make it unique and worth remembering. Schedule meetings for odd times, such as 9:17 rather than 9:15 or 9:30. Communications manager of TINY Pulse Neal MacNamara explains that consistently scheduling meetings at 8:48 has “eliminated tardiness almost completely” within his company. Such a simple change will keep employees on their toes the morning of the meeting, and no one will come in dragging their feet a few minutes late.

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Use ice breakers to begin the meeting, but have them relate directly to the current agenda. Give employees time to get their thoughts out into the air, so they’re not afraid to speak up when the discussion swings toward the topic they were talking to a colleague about minutes earlier. This “connection before content” method has allowed employees at LivePerson to get to know each other better, and feel more comfortable speaking up about an issue they had been facing.

Josh Neblett, cofounder and CEO of the e-commerce company Etailz, believes the final 5-10 minutes of a meeting should be used for any questions or concerns that may have arisen throughout the meeting. Rather than telling employees to “come see me in my office if you have any questions,” this deliberate time is set in order to confront problems head on. This is especially effective because it’s likely that more than one person has a similar question, and the leader of the meeting can get the answer out to everyone right away rather than answering it individually five different times.

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2. Making them effective

All meetings should have a specific agenda that dictates exactly what topics will be discussed. CEO of Brivo Steve Van Till created “No Re-hash” ping pong paddles for all employees to use throughout a meeting when someone brings something up that has either already been discussed at length, or will detract from the agenda at hand. Instead of belaboring the point or wasting time saying “We’ve already talked about this, but if you have any questions…”, other members of the meeting can simply raise the paddle, and the speaker will know to save what he has to say until he can speak with the boss privately.

Other offices have implemented punishments for coming in late to meetings. These punishments aren’t severe; rather, they are humorous and embarrassing ways to deal with interruptions and tardiness. One company forces latecomers to walk in singing a nursery rhyme or other song, which, of course, makes them uncomfortable when the focus shifts from serious business to such a menial interruption. Another company has implemented a policy which forces employees to donate to the company charity if their cell phone goes off and interrupts a meeting. These detractors certainly work more than any actual discipline would while still maintaining a high sense of employee morale.

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3. Making them short

Everyone likes short meetings, right? Well, all meetings could be short if the time is used effectively. While employees should be held accountable for their timeliness and attentiveness during meetings, the person who called the meeting is the one who needs to have effective time management skills in order to be effective. Having (and sticking to) a clear, concise agenda is the first step in putting together a meeting that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Many companies implement a thirty-minute timer, knowing that people are hard-wired to be able to focus for only 25-30 minutes at a time, and anything over that time period will go in one ear and out the other. You may also consider ‘punishments’ have been implemented for running over time, such as donating to the company charity or holiday party jar. This way both attendees and the people running the meeting have to adhere to the time restriction.

Conclusion

Meetings have a bad rap because they often detract from a company’s productivity, which is the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do. Like all other progressive and innovative measures taken in the business world today, revamping the structure of meetings by thinking outside the box allows leaders to make efficient use of meetings, and makes sure employees get the most out of them.

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Featured photo credit: 140811-N-AF077-043 / Ash Carter via farm4.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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