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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 October 24, 2018

      8 Things to Remember When You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life

      8 Things to Remember When You Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life

      Sometimes in life, we find ourselves at a dead end, or a crossroads, or on a path that seems to go nowhere and say “I don’t know what to do with my life…”

      No matter what stage you are at in life, if you are unhappy with it, or unsure as to how to proceed, then you need to reevaluate.

      When I was in high school, I remember thinking that I had to pick a career at which I would be happy for the next 50 or so years of my life. What a daunting task. How do you know what’s going to make you happy for the rest of your life, especially if you’re only 16 and you’re still getting a thrill out of watching “The Breakfast Club?”

      You can’t know. You can’t know what’s going to make you happy even five years from now. But you can know what makes you happy now and if you’re current position — or school track — isn’t it, then you need to move on.

      When my oldest children were contemplating their college careers and job prospects, I often told them to just go and take classes or try things they thought might be interesting and if they didn’t like the class or workshop or whatever, then cross that off your list. Life is often about trying things and realizing what you don’t want to be when you “grow up.”

      I spent a year substitute teaching in an effort to see if I wanted to become a public school teacher. I enjoyed that year immensely, but after talking with teachers and doing some of their job for a year, I realized that was a career that was not for me.

      1. It’s okay you can’t figure out the whole future

      Remember, you don’t know what’s coming next. Life is full of interesting twists and turns, but if we continually pursue things that we enjoy doing whether for a job or hobby, it will make the journey interesting and more fun.

      Maybe you enjoy making jewelry right now. Maybe you can sell it. In five years, you might be a successful jewelry designer or you might have moved on to another craft. It doesn’t matter. You have the experience of your jewelry design to fall back on and help you with other projects in the future.

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      2. Try to be comfortable with discomfort

      Sometimes life is uncomfortable. Sometimes we don’t have enough money to do all of the things we want to do. If you have something you really want to pursue, then you must be able to live with some amount of discomfort in order to do that.

      For example, I want to mush sled dogs and run the Iditarod. In order to do that, I had to give up my neat, tidy suburban home and move my family to a cabin in Alaska.

      We don’t have running water or regular electricity and our cabin is much smaller than our old house, but we don’t mind the discomfort of those things because we live in a beautiful place and I get to pursue my dream.

      3. Life is uncertain, go with it

      Stuff happens. I thought I had it all. I had a great job and a great house in the woods. Then I got fired, lost my house and turned 40 all in the same week. Then I found out I was pregnant. Quite the week.

      I laid on the couch for a couple of days, depressed, but then we got it together, made a plan and moved to Alaska.

      Take uncertainty and turn it on its head. Every bad thing is an opportunity to make something good happen.

      Besides, it’s really never too late to change your life course when something goes wrong! Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof:

      How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

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      4. Overcome distractions and stop procrastinating

      You’re not getting younger. Sorry, but it’s true. If you don’t start taking the time to pursue your dreams, you might find yourself at the end of your life with nothing to show for it but a lot of Facebook posts and a bunch of TV shows you just had to watch.

      If you are serious about pursuing a dream — whether it’s designing jewelry, professional skateboarding or being a rich and famous computer guru, you better get on it.

      Take those first steps. Turn off your Facebook notifications and get working. You won’t get anywhere merely thinking about how great you could be.

      Better yet, learn these steps to stop procrastinating and start to focus on what truly matters:

      What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

      5. Ask yourself questions

      Take some time for yourself. Ask yourself big questions. And small ones.

      Learn about yourself. Meditate. Write down the things that interest you and things you could see yourself doing if time and money were no object. Dream big. Quiet your mind and really imagine yourself doing those things.

      By asking yourself meaningful questions, you’re building yourself an invincible Motivation Engine like this and whenever challenges arise, you know how to deal with them.

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      6. Volunteer or shadow someone

      If there is a job or hobby you are interested in — from grooming dogs to being a zookeeper — volunteer or job shadow and see if it’s an occupation you really want to do.

      All the dreaming in the world isn’t going to help you if you don’t go and get your hands dirty. Sometimes, we think we want to do something and then once we try it, we realize it might not be the kind of work we like after all.

      Or it might be more involved than we realized. It’s important to get hands-on experience and do a lot of reading by those with first-hand experience before we give up our current life to pursue a dream.

      7. Save up

      If you need to move or go to school to pursue your new dream, it might be pertinent to get a job doing something — anything — and save up the money to allow you to do it.

      I worked for many years to build my writing and editing portfolio and I now I can write and edit articles from my wee little cabin, get paid, and use the money to pay for the equipment and food I need to run my dogsled team.

      Would I love to be able to make money just from running dogs? Sure. But it’s not possible right now while I’m building and training my team.

      I don’t have a reputation in dog mushing yet, but I do have a reputation in writing. So I do one job I love to pay for the other.

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      8. Answer the door

      Opportunity may be knocking but if you don’t answer the door, how can you take advantage of it? You must take opportunities when they are presented to you.

      Sometimes it’s not the right time, but it doesn’t matter. Opportunities happen when they happen. Answer the door or that opportunity might walk on by and knock on someone else’s door.

      Final thoughts

      The most important thing to remember when trying to figure out what do with your life is that no action is an action in and of itself. You must make decisions and try things — even if you end up hating them or wanting to do something else.

      Remember, it’s never too late to start again. (Jack’s story is an inspiring one about rebooting life at a later stage of life!)

      At the end of your life, you won’t regret trying things and failing, but you will regret not ever trying at all.

      Close that laptop and go get your life.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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