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How to Make Meetings Twice as Productive

How to Make Meetings Twice as Productive
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Many companies have gotten into the habit of scheduling an unnecessary number of meetings with their employees, leading to employee frustration and irritation. In addition to unhappy employees, there has been an abundance of research showing that most meetings are a productivity killer! So how you make meetings more productive? Follow these tips:

 1. Create a “parking lot”

Employees can become frustrated when conversations begin to trail away from the original agenda of the meeting. This leads to a lot of meetings running over their scheduled times, causing annoyance and stress among employees. What would a great leader do to prevent this common occurrence? Create a list of “parking lot” topics as the meeting is in session. If something comes up during a meeting that is an important issue or valid point, but just not relevant to the current agenda, write it down so you can schedule a follow-up time to discuss it. For example, if a meeting has been scheduled to discuss hiring new distributors, don’t let the conversation turn to the results of a recent business-to-consumer marketing campaign. Let employees know that you’re acknowledging the importance of that issue, but it’s not the time or the place to discuss it.

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2. Be mindful when scheduling

As much as you would like to think that your employees are 100% tuned into everything you have to say at all times during the workweek, you’re wrong. Monday morning is the unofficial designated time to catch up on whatever emails came through over the weekend, and plan for the remainder of the week. Scheduling a meeting during this time means you’ll have employees with a lot on their mind, not paying close attention to what you’re discussing. The same goes for Friday afternoons, where people are more concerned with wrapping up for the day in order to get out of the office at a reasonable time. If possible, try to schedule meetings for the middle of the week, and never do it during a lunch hour!

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3. Leave the laptops

We’ve all been in meetings where the distracting click click clack sound of typing has caused us to lose focus of what’s being presented. Make it a blanket rule in the office to leave laptops behind when attending a meeting. Not only will this prevent people from searching the web or checking emails, it’s also been proven that taking notes with a pen and paper is more effective!

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4. Weekly meetings don’t have to be weekly

It’s not uncommon to have a weekly meeting scheduled on your employees’ calendar, whether it’s a one-on-one check-in or a team meeting to discuss upcoming projects. However, it’s important to note that there will not always be updates or items to discuss on a weekly basis, and whenever that is the case, give your employees time back in their day by canceling for the week. Even though the meeting is automatically scheduled to occur every week, it’s not set in stone! Be respectful of your time, and your employees’ time and only meet when necessary.

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5. Be prepared for technical issues.

Hosting a meeting that requires a PowerPoint presentation or audio conference? It’s your responsibility to plan ahead for technical disasters. Get to the meeting room before your meeting is scheduled to begin, and work out any issues with the equipment. Don’t wait until the scheduled start time to get everything plugged in and up on the screen, while your employees sit around twiddling their thumbs. It’s the little details like this that lead to employee frustration with the number of meetings on their calendar.

What are your secrets to keeping meetings effective and productive for employees? Tell us in the comments below!

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Joel Goldstein

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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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