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Increase the Benefits from Meetings You Can’t Get Out Of

Increase the Benefits from Meetings You Can’t Get Out Of


    Are you beyond tired of sitting through endless successions of meetings, with no time between to organize your thoughts and capture follow-on actions?

    Much is made about shorter meetings, having no formal meetings at all, making everyone stand so they stay focused in shorter daily or weekly meetings, and myriad other ways to make people more effective via quirky or gimmicky techniques. Several articles have appeared here on Lifehack recently about improving meeting productivity overall, and Chris Brogan’s Nail Meetings Down Tight and Take Your Laundry Off The Line are two great ones. Mike Vardy’s post on using MeetingBurner to support great virtual meetings is also a great resource.

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    Right now, though, I’m going to give you six ways to make any meeting more effective for you beginning right now. These techniques will work for you even if you have no control over the meeting content, length, or style.

    Read the pre-briefs.

    Seems obvious, doesn’t it? It is obvious, but it often doesn’t get done. If you knew how many leaders – from junior to very senior – of major and not-so-major public and private organizations I’ve seen walk into meetings with absolutely no foreknowledge of the meeting’s content, except maybe the topic, you would be appalled. And it would instantly become obvious why progress moves with glacial slowness. Read the pre-briefs. Have some idea of what you’re likely to hear. Then, you’ll have an idea of where to look for problems and opportunities.

    If the pre-briefs are terrible, privately tell the person who prepared them. They should appreciate it; no one wants to look like an idiot in public. If you don’t have the horsepower to approach them, use your network.

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    Pay attention.

    Don’t use the time to prepare for your next meeting. Don’t have impromptu meetings with your neighbor. If the meeting isn’t worth your attention, it isn’t worth attending. Focus your attention on what is being said and presented. Are they congruent? Is the speaker presenting information you know to be inaccurate, or overly optimistic or pessimistic? Are all stakeholders present, or is something being discussed someone else really needs to know about or contribute to? Engage your mind on the meeting, even if you don’t find the meeting engaging.

    No messaging.

    Yes, I could have put this under  “Pay Attention,” but enough people violate this that it deserves a separate mention.

    If you are reading email or texts, or writing new ones, you cannot be fully engaging your attention on the person speaking or on their presentation. And I often find the real information is hiding on a slide and never mentioned aloud, while the conversation goes on around it.  And, messaging during a meetng is just bad manners.

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    Take notes on printed presentations (as well as notepaper).

    I have a system of flagging and coding critical information I need to remember, and to visually cue my eyes to follow a certain path through the notes. I also have a special coding system to flag actions for me and others, and to indicate at a glance whether I initiated the action or it came from someone else.

    Use an assistant.

    Even if it’s a peer. A good executive assistant’s worth is immeasurable, especially one with the ability to learn what you need to know, and when you need it. If you’re fortunate enough to have one, let them tell you what he or she believes is important for you from the meeting. Integrate the insight into your own notes. If you don’t have an assistant, try reaching an agreement with a peer to provide this support for each other. You’ll both gain greater benefit from the meetings you attend, and you’ll have a greater incentive to pay attention for the entire thing.

    Taking notes on the presentations themselves allows you to jot questions, concerns, or follow-up actions next to the material, automatically creating a connection and preventing you from having to write as much. A paper-saving alternative is to write a memory-jogging note first on your notepad, and then jot the slide number or subject so you can refer back to it. I also typically write the name of a presenter and their main subject at the section of my notes where they begin speaking. If I end up with no notes for them, then it’s only cost me a single line on the note page and I can go back and see who spoke on a given topic if I have a question later.

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    Walk out.

    Really. Get up and walk out. Is it rude? That depends on how you handle it.

    Make it clear you have limited time when you accept the invitation. Show up for as long as it takes to glean what you need, and then quietly leave. If you’re one of several attendees, it should be clear you have other commitments. If the meeting is for you, then you just made it clear your time was being misused.

    Take care, and have productive meetings,

    (Photo credit: Bored in a Meeting via Shutterstock)

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      Last Updated on June 19, 2019

      8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months

      8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months

      Everyone has the ability to learn a life-changing skill not just this year, but in the next 6 months.

      By life-changing, I mean something that can have a positive impact in your life moving forward, even if it’s something you can’t envision today. Certain skills we can immediately reap the benefits of, while others will be life-changing when we least expect it.

      In this article, we’ll share 8 life-changing skills you can learn in 6 months, where you can learn them, and how you can get started today.

      1. Speed reading

      Bill Gates has been known to state that if he had one superpower, it would be the ability to read faster. What Bill and the rest of the mega-successful understand is that knowledge is power. The ability to process information faster from books, articles, and reports is what will help us learn faster, and therefore improve each aspect of our life faster as well.

      Where you can start learning: Speed reading courses are becoming more popular, as more people realize how important it is with the limited time we have. You can check out free courses like Read Speeder or you can start learning how to use Spritzlet, which allows you to speed read articles online with a browser extension.

      2. Public speaking

      Research shows that people fear public speaking more than death itself. There’s something terrifying about being in front of dozens or hundreds of people, and exposing yourself completely. It’s when you’re most vulnerable, but learning how to public speak is a life-changer.

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      Warren Buffett has given advice to recent graduates that the number one skill you can have to succeed is public speaking skills. Everything from communication, confidence, and sales is developed when you develop your public speaking skills.

      Where you can start learning: Luckily, there are great communities out there like Toastmasters that organize local meetups all around the world. You’ll find amazing public speakers that are looking to get to the next level to beginners that are just getting started. Check out Toastmasters’ website here.

      3. Spanish

      As the third most spoken language in the world, the ability to speak Spanish will allow you to reach over 500M people around the world. No matter where you live, knowing how to speak Spanish is becoming increasingly more important, with the Hispanic population and economy spreading quickly worldwide. If you’re living in the US, this is even more important, with over 30% of the population being Hispanic.

      Spanish is also on this list, because it’s one of the easiest languages to learn. Sure, Mandarin is an important language to learn, but it’s an incredibly difficult one to learn. If we were to measure the level of importance and the time to learn for all the languages available, Spanish would make it to the top of the list.

      One of the biggest reasons why people never reach fluency in any foreign language is: using the wrong method, and lack of time.

      It turns out that humans retain only 5% of what we learn from lectures, 20% of what we learn from apps (visual cues), and 90% of what we learn from immediate immersion. Yet, how do 90% of learn a new foreign language? Language schools (lectures), books, Duolingo (apps), etc that don’t provide the real-life immersion required for our brains to learn faster.

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      Where to get started: If you want the most effective way to learn a language, learning from real-life interactions is the best way to do it. There are great websites like Rype, which offers Spanish coaching for busy people, solving the issue of lack of time and bringing real-life immersion to your screen. With Rype, you can book as many lessons as you want, at any time of the day, any day of the week, allowing you to fit it into your schedule, no matter how busy you are.

      4. Accounting

      If you’re looking to get into business, accounting is one of the core fundamentals you’ll need to succeed. While you don’t need to be an expert, you definitely should understand the basics.

      This skill can also be used to manage your personal finances, to meet your financial goals, and having more control over your life.

      Where to get started learning: If you didn’t learn accounting in school, no worries. You can either teach yourself using books, or check out free accounting courses online.

      5. Microsoft Excel

      Most people reading this probably have a basic understanding of Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. While this is a good start, there are so many powerful functionalities that are hidden, which could make your life a lot easier.

      Excel is also a great asset to have whenever you’re looking for a job, as many corporations rely on Excel to organize and manage multiple parts of the business.

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      Where to get started learning: With the popularity of Excel, you can find tons of free resources and videos online to learn. Check out Excel Exposure, Lynda, and Excel with Business.

      6. Blogging/Vlogging

      Blogging is a powerful tool if you want to spread your ideas, build your brand, or grow your business. Since it was introduced, blogging has taken on a life of its own, and today there are ~2M blog posts being written on a daily basis.

      Where to get started learning: Anyone can start blogging today. All you need is a content-management system like WordPress, which is completely free. Personally, I think the best way to start learning how to blog is to just start writing. There are techniques you can learn on how to promote your blog, but the best way to grow your blog is to write great content.

      7. Weight training

      Yes, weight training is a skill. It’s not as advanced as learning how to code, nor will it take as long as learning a new language, if you just want to learn the basics.

      We’re not promising that you’ll get a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but you will see much faster results for whatever goal you have, just by understanding how to workout properly. And of course, when you’re dealing with an activity that involves physical strain, you’ll always want to caution yourself.

      Where to get started learning: There are amazing body builders that are sharing all of their secrets for free on Youtube. You can check out Bodybuilding.com’s Youtube channel to get started.

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      8. Photo and video editing

      In the digital world that we live in, from Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook, there is no avoiding photos and videos. In fact, social media has increasingly gone away from text sharing and almost everything to photo and video editing.

      Where to get started learning: For photo editing, you can use Photoshop. For video editing, you can use iMovie or Final Cut Pro. Keep in mind, there are dozens of editing software tools for video and photo editing, but what’s more important are your editing skills, not the tool itself.

      Check out education websites like CreativeLIVE or Skillshare, where you can learn from experts themselves on how to best use design and software tools.

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