Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.

 

4 Tips To Make Your Meetings More Productive and Less Time Consuming

Meetings cost us time and money. Having numerous people in a conference/meeting hall is costly by any measurement. Moreover, what is even worse is the cost of an interrupted work flow. In the business world it is tough to do away with meetings. After all, they help an organization, big or small, realign their efforts according to their goals after a healthy discussion with other employees.

As more and more organizations begin to embrace a culture of empowerment and inclusion, managers tend to express themselves more frequently and for longer durations, often causing meetings to become more comprehensive but exhausting as well. Add to this the fact that most of them do not come down to a decisive conclusion, and there is room for improvement.

But there are ways you could keep a tab on the productiveness of a meeting. Here are 4 tips to kick start this process.

1) Have an agenda and communicate your objectives

Needless to say but according to Forbes more than 60 percent of meetings in US don’t have prepared agendas. It is important to realize that, setting an agenda before the meeting begins can cut unproductive meeting time by great extent. The meeting agenda has got to be specific, rather than be vague. For instance, “Amsterdam Project” isn’t as effective as something like “Determine priorities and workforce for Amsterdam Project.” At this point it is also important to keep in mind that the agenda is communicated with your team well ahead of time.

Everyone who enters the meeting room should know, in advance, the objective for keeping the meeting, apart from why they were invited and how are they expected to contribute.

2) Start to time to end it on time

Don’t make exceptions is the first thing that should strike you when beginning the meeting. If one of your colleagues arrives late, instead of starting late or starting all over again, explain to him or her on which pointer the team is currently at. Resist the temptation to delay the meeting summarize the progress for late arrival(s). Unless and until the person’s role in the missed out pointers is critical, ask them you’ll update them once the meeting is done. Remember time is money, and in meeting the time of your team is at stake.

3) Avoid multitasking and stay focused

As the meeting progresses, determine time limits for each pointer and make sure to stick to each of them. In other words, avoid too much dynamism when the meeting is under progress. Reschedule anything that not on the agenda, for a discussion sometime later. One hack that does wonders in keeping to the time allocated to the meetings is placing priority items that are bound to have minimal discussion right at the beginning of the agenda and consequently that is where your meeting should begin. Needless to say the contentious items are bound to go down the agenda.

Another factor that hampers the productivity of your meeting is multitasking. It is technically impossible to check your mailbox and listen at the same time. So make sure to make a formal announcement asking your team to switch off the phones and pagers before you begin the discussion. Only then will your team participate wholeheartedly in the meeting.

4) Inculcate a process of for anonymous feedback

What’s the point of conducting a meeting when other’s opinion is not taken into consideration? This opinion is different from the one you look forward to while discussing a problem in a meeting. Most of the times it is important to take note of what your seniors and juniors thought about the meeting as a whole and what else could be done to make it better and productive. Based on the recaps and responses to the meetings, assess your and your teammates’ performance. Maybe someone needs to listen more, someone needs to express more. Anonymous feedback from fellow employees will help you run more meetings that are more effective, and will help you and your staff get. Anonymous feedback from your employees will not just assist you in running more effective meetings, but will help you and your staff reap more results out of the shared time.

Meetings are powerful, irrespective of the fact that they have small teams or large ones. They help in disseminating important information and help shape the direction of the work your company is into. Productive meetings not just help in setting up efficient, effective organizational processes but your staff ventures back into the office way more informed and empowered. If you are struggling with low productivity in meetings give a shot to the above steps to set a culture of clear direction and plan of attack.

Guest Author Bio: Chris Jordan is the Marketing Manager at Weekplan, a weekly planner web application, used by over 300K users. Read more about Weekplan here.

4 Ways to Stay Productive and Healthy While Working from Home

We've come a long way with technology through the years, so much so that it has given many people the flexibility to work from home. The ability to challenge the status quo of traditional office jobs lures many of us to regularly take advantage of this “perk.” At the same time, this work-from-home capability can negatively impact both productivity levels and our overall health. For example, the desire to wander off and mindlessly snack throughout the day, or the tendency to stay holed up in the house far into the evening hours can become a regular occurrence.

How do we make sure our home serves as both an escape from work and one that encourages increased productivity and an overall positive state of well-being? It’s all about finding the right balance between work and play. By incorporating the simple tips below, you’ll be on the right track for staying healthy and productive the next time you’re working from home. 

1. Get plenty of sleep 

We’ve all heard  a lot about the overall health benefits of good sleep. But did you know that according to the RAND research group, the U.S. loses $411 billion each year because of poor productivity due to lack of sleep? In fact, not only is our production impacted, but frequent sleep deprivation can affect our brains in more negative ways than you would think. 

For one, there is a strong connection between lack of sleep and depression. Studies have shown that people who have insomnia are more likely to be both depressed and anxious. Additionally, a good night’s sleep can help prevent the buildup of toxins attributed to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease - ostensibly, these toxins are flushed by the body when we get a decent amount of shut-eye. 

Set yourself up for success from both a work-from-home and a general well-being standpoint by getting between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Better yet, incorporate the tech aids I've discussed in the past into your routine for an even better slumber. 

2. Invest in the right equipment

If you're anything like me, your computer may be your single most-used piece of equipment during the work day, so make sure it helps you achieve maximum productivity. Do your research and invest in a quality laptop that will allow you to get the job done, especially if you’re working as an entrepreneur or freelancer. Take into consideration key factors like cybersecurity and storage space, both of which you’ll find on laptops like HP's business laptops. It just so happens that 2016 was a record-breaking year for the number of data breaches, so it’s now more important than ever to ensure that your work is always protected. 

If you like to store your information and business files on your laptop, you'd better have backups. Purchase an external hard drive and rent cloud storage to ensure that you’ll have access to your files even if you do experience a tech emergency. Online storage options like Dropbox and Google Drive can provide the necessary backups for one-person businesses or small-business solutions. 

3. Wake up earlier

Some may find it difficult to fully wake up without hitting the snooze button a few times, but this new study may have you rolling out of bed as early as you can. According to Science Daily,  "morning people" tend to make smarter, healthier decisions when it comes to food. 

Not only do our biological clocks influence when we wake up, they also impact our metabolism. By rising early, participants in a recent research study ate a healthier breakfast and continued to make smarter food choices throughout the day unlike their night owl opposites. 

If the thought of waking up earlier is still a little daunting to you, actively attempt to go to bed earlier in the night to make the sound of your alarm just a bit less jarring. If you're an iPhone user, take advantage of iOS 10's "bedtime" feature that reminds you when it's time to go to bed so you get enough sleep before your target bedtime.

4. Make your workspace gadget-free

Our mobile devices and other tech gadgets have grown to become an extension of ourselves in the past decade, amplifying their potential to become never-ending distractions. Whether it’s a phone call from mom, a notification that someone liked your Instagram photo, or even the cheerful ring indicating you’ve just received a text, cell phones and other always-on tech can negatively impact our productivity. 

To solve the problem of being sidetracked by notifications, consider making your workspace a gadget-free area. The average person checks their phone around 110 times per day, so imagine how much time you’d have to get your work done if you didn’t waste it doing just that.

Many phones have "Do not disturb" features that can help by silencing alert and incoming messages. This is very useful, especially if you're about to dig into a project that requires deep concentration.

What about you - do you have any techniques of your own that help you stay healthy and productive while working from home? Share in the comments below! 

Keep on top of your email with Sanebox

For the last 4 of years, I've had a secret weapon to help me deal with email: SaneBox. SaneBox is a service that is phenomenal at dealing with email overwhelm, and it works with just about any email service you can throw at it. Here is a video with a brief overview.

Why is SaneBox useful?

From my perspective, SaneBox automates the handling of a lot of your email, allowing you to "clear the decks" by providing a concise inbox with only those emails which are a priority for you. Your other emails are still there, they just get filed in other folders so you can deal with them when you want to. Here are some of the default folders I like best:

@SaneLater This folder contains items that are important to me, but not necessarily urgent. I deal with them when I choose to.
@SaneNews This houses items that I've subscribed to and want to read during my "reading and research" blocks. They tend to be messages from mailing lists, blogs, and other items that are of intellectual or professional interest to me.
@SaneBulk Things like email coupons, sale announcements, reward programs and so forth tend to end up here. I generally don't look at this unless I'm looking for something (like a coupon code for a particular store). I also create an email rule to purge this folder of anything older than 30 days.
@SaneNextWeek By dropping emails in here, they go away until next week. Very handy.
@SaneArchive Think of this as your "cold storage" folder - drop things in there and they will be searchable and retrievable, but still out of sight.
@SaneBlackHole This is my favorite. When I don't want to hear from someone again (i.e. a persistent spammer, a phishing email, etc. I just move the message into this folder - I will not hear from that sender again. Currently, I have 4989 contacts in my "Black Hole" list. If you change your mind about someone (i.e. someone who was dead to you is now OK again), SaneBox makes it easy to find and un-blacklist them.

I've also created specialized folders like @SaneReceipts, which is where all of my email receipts are kept.

My favorite SaneBox features

Sample of my Digest - click to enlarge.

  • The Daily Digest. This is not a feature I expected to use much, but it is indispensable. Every day, I get an email showing which emails have been sent to folders other than my inbox. The thing that makes it valuable is that I can "train" SaneBox very easily - without having to open an email at all! If I notice something show up in my @SaneLater box (the default folder for things SaneBox doesn't recognize), I simply use the Digest View to redefine where that message should go. Very easy.
    • I've attached an image of a digest (click the thumbnail to enlarge), so you get a sense of what it looks like - this one shows things in my @SaneBulk folder.
    • If I want to read an email "just this once" I click the "Inbox Once" button and it moves immediately (future emails will still go to the @SaneBulk folder).
    • I use this to "cherry pick" messages from individual folders, click to move them to the inbox, then click "Delete All" to nuke the remaining items, which magically disappear from my email accounts.
  • Maintain a focused inbox. By nature of the way it works, SaneBox has helped me keep a solid, focused inbox. I get somewhere in the neighborhood of 350-500 emails per day across all of my main accounts. SaneBox filters this down to roughly 20-25 emails in my main inbox every day. That is huge.
  • Easy training from any device. I don't need a specific "app" to be able to use SaneBox. To train it about which messages go to which folders, you simply move the messages to the right place. The service notices what you've done, and that kind of message goes to its new destination from that point forward.
  • Easily defer emails without losing track of them. I mentioned the @SaneNextWeek folder earlier - that is very useful. Even more useful is the ability to selectively defer emails and have them show up in your inbox when you want to. By simply bcc'ing an address that SaneBox deciphers, you can tell it when you want to see the message again. Here are some examples:
    • bcc: friday.3pm@sanebox.com and the email will show up in your inbox again Friday at 3pm. 
    • bcc: 2weeks@sanebox.com and you'll see it again in 2 weeks
    • You can either use these kinds of special aliases to defer an incoming email until you want to pay attention to it, or you can use it to remind you to follow up on emails you've sent. This is a fantastic feature.

Risk-free trial, and a special offer for you

There are a lot more features, these are just my favorites. I have SaneBox managing 4 different email accounts for me, and couldn't imagine going back to the old way of doing things.


If you're interested in trying it out, go to www.sanebox.com/curiosity for a special offer to Genuine Curiosity readers! Sign up for a free trial and you'll get a $15 credit towards a SaneBox subscription if you decide to keep using the service. 


Note that I also get some free time on my subscription if you sign up. As I mentioned earlier, I've been using SaneBox for years, so when they approached me about reviewing their service and setting up this offer code for you, it was an easy "yes."

If you try it out, I would love to hear about your experiences with SaneBox.

Diet Trumps Exercise

In the past, I've shared how I lost 50 pounds in 6 months. The techniques there have served me well.

However, this last year, I've gotten a bit lax in the diet department, and noticed that I'd put some of the weight back on. I was no longer following a specific plan, and wasn't logging my meals any more. When I initially got serious about getting back in shape again, I tried to compensate by exercising more. After several months of this approach, I really wasn't making any progress on getting the weight off again.

I decided to go back to what I know (as explained in the post linked above), with some basic goals:

  • exercise at least 3 times per week.
  • consume calories at or below my daily target to maintain my goal weight
  • lose at least a pound a week until I reach "steady state" at this new calorie level

Sure enough, I started noticing progress pretty quickly. I'm not on track to get my weight back to where I want it in the next few weeks. It is clear, from my experience, that diet and exercise together can help you meet your fitness goals (duh, right?)

However, if you can only do one of those things, you'll probably see the most benefit from paying attention to your diet. In my opinion, this is because I might skip a day or two of exercise, but I never skip a day or two of eating - and slow & steady wins the race, for sure.

Exercise here, there, and everywhere

For the last couple of months, I've been working to get back into a more regimented exercise routine. With the winter in full force in the Portland, Oregon area I have not been out riding my road bike and didn't want to get totally out of shape. Here are some things I've done, in hopes that you might get some ideas from them.

Exercise anywhere - no equipment required

As I've mentioned here, I travel fairly often and I have found the gym selections at hotels to be very unpredictable. While I take advantage of some of the weights, machines, and cardio stations at hotels sometimes it just doesn't work out.

mvw.png

When that happens, body weight exercises are a great alternative. The challenge I have is knowing what to do when I attempt this path. Recently, I came across a great site called "Man vs. Weight" that has some helpful resources for this - a huge number of calisthenics and other similar exercises that require little to nothing in the way of additional equipment.

In particular, I like the post called "113 Killer Push Up Variations," which gives you a customizable set of choices to find the right kind of pushup workout for you (and, yes, knee pushups are included to help you when you first get started with this kind of exercise). I grabbed a clipping from this article to give you a sense for what the options are when you're selecting exercises (at right, click to enlarge).

Take it inside

One of the changes I made was to buy a Peloton indoor fitness cycle. I love it, as it is like going to a class but I can do all my riding in a spare room. There are different types of classes available and you can attend either live or on-demand (I tend to use the on-demand classes because I can do them on the spur of the moment, and select a class length, goal, and level of difficulty to match what I need).

I am confident that this will help me transition to my road riding much more easily than last year.

By the way, if you're interested in purchasing a Peloton, use this link and we'll both get two months free on our Peloton class memberships (thanks in advance!)

Put them together

I am a big fan of putting these two together - the Peloton routines I use are more focused on legs and cardio, and adding in some variations of pushups can help me get a more comprehensive workout, as well as work on my core strength.

After all, mixing things up is good to keep your body from getting too "bored" with a workout, and the more tools in the toolbox to add variety, the better.

What about you? What resources, routines, tricks, etc. do you use to make it more likely you'll workout year round (and in any kind of location)? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments.