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.

Close Multiple OS X Alerts With One Shortcut

If you're like me, sometimes you come back to your Mac screen and find a bunch of alerts hanging around on the screen - a collection of items ranging from "you didn't eject this disk properly!" warnings to calendar alerts, or alerts from other applications. Look familiar?

I know these alerts are meant to be helpful but when you're in a hurry (and sometimes there are many more than 4 of these), it can be annoying to through the process of clicking on each individual alert box to close them all. And, as far as I know, Apple doesn't provide a way to "mass approve" these alerts.

If that bugs you, too - I have a solution that lets you get rid of all the open alerts in one keyboard shortcut!

Applescript Is for Closers

Using a simple Applescript you can close all open items at once (note that it clicks the first button choice on each of these, so it will Close every alert - if there are any you want to Snooze, Accept, etc. make sure you do that before you run or automate this script).

Here is the script:

my closeNotif()
on closeNotif()
    tell application "System Events"
        tell process "Notification Center"
            set theWindows to every window
            repeat with i from 1 to number of items in theWindows
                set this_item to item i of theWindows
                    click button 1 of this_item
                on error
                    my closeNotif()
                end try
            end repeat
        end tell
    end tell
end closeNotif

This is pretty straight-forward and doesn't do anything scary - it simply automates clicking on the first button in each of the alerts until there are no more alerts on the screen.

Automation Is Your Friend

To make this really useful, we turn to automation, and there are a couple of options:

  • You can save this script as a file on your system, create an Automator Service that calls the script, and then assign a keyboard shortcut to run the Service through your computer's System Preferences. I won't describe the full process here, but you can find instructions for creating such a service elsewhere online.
    • Note: I tried this approach first, but found myself stumbling on a bunch of odd problems related to "Accessibility" permissions with Automator Services - they were a pain to work through.
  • My preferred option is to automate this with Keyboard Maestro, which is one of the most useful (and often under-rated) utilities I've ever used.

If you have Keyboard Maestro, the process is pretty easy - you just set up a workflow as seen below, and assign a hotkey to run it (I use Command-Option-0 because it is easy and doesn't conflict with anything on my system:

This is one of my most-used shortcuts - I hope you enjoy it!

Can't afford a standing desk? Build your own for under $22

Lately, I hear about standing desks all the time - from podcasts, random conversations, and so forth. Recently, I started using one at work (we have a bunch of the ones from Varidesk at our office), and I love having the ability to stand up while working, particularly on conference calls.

If a standing desk sounds interesting to you, but you don't want to break the bank, here is a great option: build it yourself!

I got a tip about this from another person located in Portland, who kindly sent me a link to this infographic. Enjoy! If you decide to do this, let us know how you like the results.

Out of the Office: Smartphone Apps for Busy Employees

Continuing the theme from my last post, let's take a look at things that can help you be more productive on the go.  


As you may know from this blog, I'm a bit of a gadget addict and I try out a lot of new phones.  With each release of new lines of smartphones comes not only temptation, but also plenty of new or updated apps to help you stay or become more productive. The lines are blurring between personal and work devices, as companies decide to implement 'Bring Your Own Device' (BYOD) policies. The need for BYOD polices only grows due to the fact that many of us are on the go and no longer sit at a desk nine hours a day. We need apps that keep us moving, whether we're on our computer in the office or our smartphone in another location.

One of the ones I've been considering is Blackberry - thanks to a friend of mine who's been showing off his new Blackberry Q10 with its excellent keyboard.  Although Blackberry is now targeting the main consumer audience with it's latest smartphones and OS system, Blackberry began as a phone targeted to business users so it seems appropriate to look at the best business apps currently available so you can keep your competitive edge no matter where you are.

Mobile Communication

In the car: If you are frequently on the road during your workday, you can safely deal with emails and text messages without needing to pull over with the free DriveSafely app. It reads you your emails and texts, and then lets you respond by voice giving you complete voice-controlled messaging and emailing.

At busy times: While you want to make sure you don't miss any wanted communication, it would be nice to be able to ignore annoying robo calls and unwanted text messages. AlertMatrix lets you assign priority tones to the people you want to hear from so you know exactly who is contacting you and can safely ignore non-priority contacts.

Restaurant conferences: Wanna go to lunch but still get all your work taken care of? Conduct conferences on the go with the free Panaton Conferencing app. It plays well with, Plaxo, Outlook and Google and does not require that invitees have a PIN to participate.

Mobile Office

Expense reports: Keep on top of your expenses as you incur them and even export them to a spreadsheet with Exgis Expense Tracker.

No FedEx, no problem: No need to find a copy machine while you are out and about. Turn your Blackberry into a scanner for free with PDF Scanner, where you can convert paper, business cards, and documents into PDF documents and even send those documents to co-workers or your boss.

Computer at hand: If, in spite of turning your smartphone into a mobile office, you still need to access your computer, RDM+: Remote Desktop for Mobiles gives you full access.

Mobile personal assistant: Perfect for managing projects and employees on the go, Nice Office allows you to manage email, calendar, contacts and tasks. You can store documents online and send them to your customers or team members. Nice Office also includes some CRM functionality.

What about you?  Are you using the new Blackberry Q10 or Z10?  Do you have any killer productivity apps to share?  And how do you like the device so far?  I'm all ears.

Free lesson on getting your inbox to zero

As many of you know, I'm quite "into" following trends in personal productivity.  Today, during my news crawl, I noticed that has a limited-time offer to get a free "LifeHack Lesson" on how to get your inbox to zero.  Of course, I couldn't resist so I clicked on the link in the article to check out the advice they're giving.

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Well, I must say the advice looks pretty good. It's a short, prescriptive guide for getting your inbox to empty - just as advertised.  If you're looking for a good little program to get "in" to "empty" head over to LifeHack and grab a copy before the free offer expires.

Still "Managing my Now"

As for me, I'm still using Michael Linenberger's "Managing Your Now" system, with ToodleDo as my task repository - just as I described a few months ago.  It is still working very well for me, though it still isn't always automatic.

The challenge I have is that I've switched from Outlook (where Tasks were in the same pane of glass as my email & calendar) to a hybrid solution comprised of a few different apps.  I find that that small amount of friction still gets the better of me sometimes, and I forget to check my lists as often as I should.  If you've found a good solution to this kind of problem I would love to hear it.

I'm tempted to put a goal in Beeminder to coax myself to develop a more disciplined set of habits around this, but haven't quite been able to pull the trigger on that one yet.  We'll see...