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Meetings can be effective ways of sharing information or reaching a decision. However, ineffectively run, they can swallow up your time without giving much benefit. Just as jobs have a cost, meetings have a cost; not only for you but for all who attend. After any meeting ask yourself, “was my contribution worth my investment?”
Here are some tips for running meetings in the most effective way possible:
1. Hold meetings when trigger events occur
Many regular meetings are little more than a case of doing something because it’s the “correct” way to do things or it’s always been done that way. The management team feels it is a “good thing” to communicate, but are unclear what they would like to communicate. Time is alloted for discussion and discussion expands to fill the time.
It is more effective to hold meetings when specific events show them to be necessary. For example, a deliverable is delayed by two weeks. How does this effect the overall timing of the project and what steps can be taken to keep the whole thing on track.
By scheduling meetings to occur on trigger events, you ensure time is invested in the solution of a problem, only when the problem occurs.
2. Use the Agenda Effectively
The agenda is effectively the to-do list for the meeting. It shows the aim and discussion points in priority order.
Using an agenda focuses the meeting, and provides a guide for keeping discussion on-track. Circulating the agenda sufficiently in advance, allows people to prepare for the meeting so it isn’t held up for lack of information.
3. Setting the time of the meeting
You can schedule the meeting to take advantage of the attendees:
- Where people tend to waffle excessively, you can schedule the meeting just before lunch or going home, giving participants an incentive to keep things brief.
- Where people are time conscious, write the cost per minute of the meeting on a flip chart can have a focusing effect.
- Always start meetings on time. When meetings start late, you are in effect penalizing all those who arrived on time. Start without the late-comers.
- If you’re have a problem with people consistently showing up late, start a meeting at an unusual time, say19 minutes past the hour. This can improve punctuality.
4. Other Useful Techniques
- Invite the minimum number of attendees needed to a meeting. The more people in attendance, the more discussion there will be. Inviting people who are not needed wastes their time.
- Make sure that decisions made at a previous meeting have been acted on. This ensures that the meeting will not just be seen as a ‘talking-shop’.
- At the end of the meeting, prepare minutes summarizing the points discussed and defining action steps on the decisions. This ensures everyone understands what has been decided and who will do what.
Meetings can be effective methods for reaching decisions. They can also be huge time wasters. When you invest time in a meeting, you should expect a sufficiently large pay-back to justify the investment.
With all the preparing and qualifying leading up to London summer Olympics, you hear a lot about the goals athletes are expecting to meet during the games. They know the only way they are going to reach the medal podium is by having goals to work towards.
Do you know anyone who is successful? Have you spent time talking with them about their success? Chances are, they credit setting goals as a major step in their success, and continues to be important as they look for new ways to challenge themselves.
Setting goals is not just for champion athletes or wealthy people. Everyone needs goals to give them direction. It’s not complicated. However, it can be challenging. The process of goal setting can be of value to you in building drive and commitment, important factors in achieving success.
Guidelines for setting goals
- Goals should should stretch you, yet be realistic and attainable. Challenging but realistic goals produce better results.
- Write Goals down and post them where you can see them daily. Stick them on your computer or your bedroom mirror, anywhere you spend a lot of time.
- Write your goals as positive statements that focus on successful outcomes.
- Write an action plan for accomplishing your goals. This is where short-term goals come in. Each short-term goal achieved, keeps you motivated and moving forward.
- Set a time frame: specific but reasonable.
- Celebrate your accomplishments. Once you have reached a short-term goal celebrate it; give yourself a reward.
- Revise as necessary. Sometimes things happen that you cannot control, you must not let that deter you from accomplishing your goals, revise and rewrite.
- Prioritize you goals. List your goals in order of importance to you.
Now, get out there, set some goals and go for “gold”.
Everybody faces challenges in managing certain aspects of their lives. Someone who loves to go trail riding on a bicycle will have no problems motivating themselves to exercise. However, putting aside time to sit and read might be problematic. On the other hand, the reader might have problems putting down the book and getting active.
This self-management checklist can be applied to any area of your life where you need to gain some control.
- Set specific goals. You can’t measure achievement if you don’t know where you’re going. Set specific goals such as: I’ll walk for 30 minutes per day; or I’ll write a 1,000 words each day; or I’ll lose 20 pounds.
- Set specific times. You need to determine when you are going to accomplish your goals. Work with specific times; whether it’s a deadline for a one-off project or regular times for on-going behaviour.
- Track your progress. Write it down. You can use a journal, a calendar, a graph or any other form that works for you. Make sure you track both your successes and failures so you can refine your systems.
- Set rewards or penalties. You’ll need some motivation to help you move forward. Set small rewards to mark the completion of small steps. Set larger rewards to mark major accomplishments. You might even set penalties for not reaching goals. You could, for example, make a donation to a food bank every time your weight went up instead of down.
- Take small steps. If you’ve been sitting in front of the TV for ten years, don’t try and run a marathon tomorrow. Changing a habit takes time and you need to start slowly.
- Break it down into pieces. Regardless of your readiness, if the task seems overwhelming, you may never get started. Break down large tasks in to small, logical and manageable pieces.
- Monitor time increments. Use a timer to help you stay on track. Set it to the best interval to help you measure your progress.
- Share your goals. Telling someone what you hope to accomplish can add another level of motivation. It’s easier to fool ourselves than to fool others. Tell someone what your goals and your deadlines are; get them to check on you to see if you met the goal.
- Have a work buddy. It’s not just enough to share your goals with someone, you need to have a buddy that can meet with regularly. Keep your goals on someone else’s agenda. This should give you an added sense of responsibility and motivation to reach your goals.
- Review with your buddy. Have your buddy do more than review accomplishment. Review the written track of your regular progress. They might spot patterns you don’t see and give you some help for getting back or keeping on track.
- Eliminate distractions. Reading through e-mail may seem productive, but it’s not going to help you read three chapters of a book. If need be, turn off the phone, shut down the computer and throw the television in the garbage.
- Review and rework your system. Your self-management plan may not work the first time you try it. There will be times when your self-management process falls apart. These steps are not static, but need to change and grow with you. Make time to review your process and see what changes can be made.
Some people look at self-management techniques as cumbersome, getting in the way of productivity. The truth is, if you look at successful and productive people, you’ll find some type of system guiding them. Give it a try.
Do you have trouble remembering things? Are you having trouble sleeping or is your stomach in knots? Are you sleeping too little or too much? All of these can be symptoms of stress. A certain amount of stress is good –or
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even necessary– for all of us, but it is easy for it to get out of hand. Here are a few simple tips that can help you deal with stress.
- Evaluate the situation. How important is this activity to the overall goals and direction for my life? If it’s not really that important, don’t sweat it.
- Be positive. Positive thoughts can generate positive results and negative thoughts, negative results. Even something as simple as changing your perception from, “I have to get the done by Monday,” to ” I am going to get this done by Monday” can make a big difference.
- Visualize a successful outcome. Rather than focusing on the pressure of finishing a task, focus on the benefit or reward that will come from completion.
- Reward yourself. If the situation or project doesn’t have an intrinsic benefit or reward, create one. “Once I’ve finished painting the bedrooms, I’m going to spend a day relaxing at the beach.”
- Change the things that cause you stress. For those stressors that can be changed, do so. If you hate going to the supermarket at peak shopping times, reschedule for quiet periods. If lack of sleep adds to your tension, get to bed earlier.
- Strive for excellence, not perfection. Recognize that any number of factors can affect the perfect completion of a job. Strive to make your work the best in can be under the circumstances.
- Take care of your health. A fit body responds better to stress.
- Have fun. Play as hard as you work. Develop a sense of humour. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
- Have a quiet place. Go somewhere that takes you away from the things that cause your stress. Have a peaceful corner at home. Take a walk in a park. Get away from the office at lunch hour and sit on a bench.
- Talk to someone. A friend or family member can be a good place to get things of your chest. In more serious situations, perhaps a support group or a counsellor is in order.