Archive | December, 2010

Efficient Meetings: Stop Wasting Time!

Efficient Meetings: Stop Wasting Time!

How many times have you sat through an interminable meeting, wondering why on earth you are there? I have often found myself resorting to counting ceiling tiles with boredom, or planning the week’s grocery shopping in my head. The last meeting I went to was so pointless that I had a great opportunity to think about who I was going to invite to my birthday party. Not all meetings are like this, of course, but the majority are. The annoying thing is, it only takes a few simple time management tips to create efficient meetings– but it seems that most people running meetings don’t know about these. Meetings are an essential part of human existence. When you sit for hours with your accountant going through your tax return you might dispute this! But we humans are social animals. Meetings are not just about business. We might meet with friends to plan a party, or with family to plan an event like a wedding or holiday.

The key word here is plan. Every meeting needs a plan.

Things come in threes: and there are three parts you need to think about when planning a meeting: the preparation, the meeting itself and a recap at the end.

Preparing for your meeting

Whatever the size or scale of your meeting, it will need planning. The three P’s of meeting planning should help:

Purpose: What is your meeting’s aim? You need to have a goal. Don’t just hold a meeting because you always do. If the purpose of your meeting is just to update people, why not send an email instead.

People: Once you know what your meeting is for, you can make sure the right people are attending. Remember – top of anyone’s list of time management tips is the reminder that people’s time costs money. Think for a moment how much an hour of someone’s time costs your company. Will your meeting achieve enough to justify that cost? Are you engaging people at the right level? Managers are busy people who may want to send a deputy to your meeting, but if it is management-level authority that you need, then this might be a waste of time. Use time management tips to help in reducing meeting time.

Papers: All good meetings need to communicate in advance. You should send out a formal agenda – or at least an email with some idea of the meeting’s content and purpose – so that participants come ready to engage with the topic. Good time management tips include sending the papers out in good time (up to 48 hours in advance) and keeping them brief. This gives everyone a chance to read and absorb the topics.

Running the meeting

A good meeting has a limited agenda. This is where your pre-planning comes into play. An hour-long meeting should only have two or three topics for discussion. If you include more, and you risk over-running your time, and over-loading your participants with information.

If you worry about meeting time management, tips to follow include making sure that everyone knows what the agenda is, and then sticking to it during the meeting. If new topics arise, make a note of these for the next meeting.

Someone should take notes of your meeting. A formal meeting may need ‘minuting’ in detail. Even for an informal meeting, it is a good idea to make a note of any actions – who has agreed to do what. If there are more than two or three participants, it is generally not a good idea for the person running the meeting to take the notes at the same time.

Action replay

At the end of every meeting, there needs to be a recap of what has just happened. This helps to focus the participants on what has happened. The person running the meeting should summarise the proceedings of the meeting (very briefly!). It is also a good idea to run through any actions which people have agreed to undertake. After the meeting, send out a quick email with a summary of actions, and formal minutes if required.

This might all seem like a lot of work – but it pays off in the long run. If you everyone is in agreement about the purpose and outcomes of a meeting, it will be more effective, and hopefully shorter. You might even decide that you don’t need a meeting at all. Then you would have more time to plan that birthday party in peace.

While I was planning my party, I came across a new problem – there were many duplicate contacts in my phone’s address book and in my outlook contact list. Fortunately there is software that can help with removing these duplicate contacts – leaving me with more time for party planning, and other fun activities.

Armed with techniques for efficient meetings, Stop Wasting Time!

Additional relevant articles:

Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

Increasing your workflow with The Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

I’ve planned out my work session and set my timer. Now I have to get to work – the timer is ticking away, so there isn’t a moment to lose! Since I’ve given myself a limited time frame in which to accomplish as much as possible, I want to be as productive during that time as I can. Probably more than any other aspect of The Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve, methods for maximizing productivity will vary from person to person. However, the creators of these techniques offer a few suggestions for increasing productivity within your work time.

Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

Francisco Cirillo, the creator of the Pomodoro Technique, offers a suggestion for structuring each work session to keep you on track. He recommends using the first 3 to 5 minutes of the session to review what you’ve accomplished on the current task so far. This keeps the task fresh in my memory and cements what I’ve already learned. Reviewing what I’ve already done can also help me clarify what steps should be taken next.

Using this structure, I would work on the next steps in my task for 15 to 20 minutes after reviewing my previous accomplishments. Then I use the final 3 to 5 minutes of my work session to review what I’ve accomplished during this work session. Cirillo recommends starting the review at the end of the work session and working back to the beginning. He calls this an “effect-cause procedure”; I determine what I accomplished at the end of the session, then work towards the beginning to determine whether that’s what I actually intended to accomplish. This helps me to evaluate whether my work flow is helping or hindering my productivity, and I can tweak it to accomplish more next time.

In “The Accomplishment Zone” of the Results Curve, Pierre Khawand states that accomplishments occur when we are focused on a task. The resulting suggestion is simple: I must stay focused on a task long enough to get into the “zone” where my productivity increases. Khawand suggests that it takes around 30 minutes to reach this zone, but it’s been my experience that I get there much faster when I’m working on a task that I truly enjoy and find interesting. It might take the entire 30 minutes, or even longer, if it’s a task I don’t particularly care for.

At first glance, it appears that the work structures from the Pomodoro Technique and the Results Curve contradict each other. The Pomodoro Technique asks us to set aside a few minutes at the beginning and end of each session, while the Results Curve encourages us to focus on one task for as long as possible. However, it’s my opinion that these strategies actually complement one another. Reviewing previous work at the beginning of a session can plunge my brain into the middle of my task and help me get to that focused, productive zone more quickly. Once I’ve reached that zone, I don’t snap out of it when I perform the review at the end of the session; instead, my high level of concentration helps me to evaluate my work flow and quickly form ideas for how to make the next work session even more productive.

With these time management methods, you can effectively complete tasks at the intended time and be more productive. As you are refining your workflow using task lists, you can also clean up your Outlook, Mac, Gmail or Google Apps address books by removing duplicate contacts using the Scrubly duplicate contact remover tool. You can scan your contacts free by visiting

by utilizing the Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve, you will soon be on top of managing even the most daunting projects!

Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

7 Tips on Establishing Positive Daily Routines

Establishing Positive Daily Routines!

positive daily routinesIf you’re constantly overwhelmed and feeling disorganized, it is time to establish some good habits and get yourself a positive daily routine that works for you and takes advantages of your strengths and weaknesses. Here are some tips to help you get into positive daily routines.
Tip 1 Identify your Peak Hours: There are specific times of day where people can do their best work. Most people already have a general idea of when they are more productive and have more energy and ability to focus.

For example, you may already know if you’re a morning or a night person, but there may also be a few hours during the morning or afternoon that are also particularly good for you. That is why you should take a couple of days to pay close attention to your energy and focus levels as the day goes on.

Tip 2 Identify your Slow Hours: Everyone also has times of day where they struggle to stay on task. Some people may even get sleepy, especially after lunch or before dinner. In some cultures, long breaks are in everyone’s schedule during these times!

Tip 3 Plan Challenging Tasks During Your Peak Hours: Now that you know when your peak hours of productivity are, rearrange your schedule as best as you can to maximize your hours. Plan to work on challenging tasks during those times and you will get a lot accomplished. This is probably the most important key for success in forming your good habits.

Tip 4 Plan Easy Tasks during slow hours: Plan easier tasks or take your breaks during your slower times. There is no sense in trying to work on your most difficult assignments during a time you know you will struggle to focus. You may not be able to take a two-hour siesta, but if you can, that might really behoove you. If not, you can probably at least count on doing your easier work during your down time.

Tip 5 Be Flexible: Flexibility is one of many good habits you can work on when establishing your daily routines. Having a framework for the day will help keep you on task, but when things come up and you have to change your schedule, don’t stress. If you have been forming good habits with regard to scheduling your day, interruptions should not completely set back your work schedule.

Tip 6 Stay on Task: I know — I just told you to be flexible. However, that should be in regards to outside interruptions or emergencies. Once you have the advantage of a schedule that is tailored to your strengths and weaknesses, stick to it as much as possible to maximize your productivity. Then, when circumstances beyond your control interfere with your schedule, you will be able to handle the interruptions.

Tip 7 Streamline Your Contacts: One final tip for your list of new good habits is to remove duplicate contacts from your email address books or any other application that has contact lists. You can use software applications to do all the work for you.

Relevant Articles:

Optimize your Productivity with Daily/Weekly Routines
The Daily Routines of 17 CEO’s
Finding Your Peak Hours
Maximizing your Productivity Throughout the Day

Using either The Pomodoro Method or Results Curve will also help with establishing your positive daily routines.

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