Our time is a valuable, limited resource; and we need to use it wisely.

The following ten tips will create an effective and productive meeting that stays focused and on point, with an engaged and motivated team.

Ten Tips for an Effective Meeting

(1) Request items from participants that they want to add prior to publishing an agenda, which should be sent out at least two days before the meeting with clearly stated objectives, asking yourself:

a.  What information do you want others to leave the meeting with?

b.   What do you want to make sure is covered?

c.    How much time will you allot to the meeting?

(2) What do you want from participants?

a.   What support do you need?

b.   What agreements do you want?

c.   What commitments are needed?

d.   What additional resources, if any, are required?

(3) Make sure all materials needed by the participants are included with the agenda to give everyone adequate time to prepare.

(4) A consistent agenda with time frames for each item creates a productive and on-track environment to quickly reach decisions. An example would be: review objective(s) (5 minutes), action item review (30 minutes), discussion item (30 minutes), round table (15 minutes).

(5) Post norms—meeting etiquette—at each meeting, which participants have agreed to follow, such as one person speaks at a time, meeting times are honored, etc., which will be needed to refer to when, in the heat of the moment, people might forget the rules of engagement. It is the facilitator’s responsibility to keep the meetings on track by reminding them of the norms so that feelings aren’t hurt, emotions are kept in check, and the meeting can move forward.  Healthy conflict strengthens a team. Rude behavior weakens it.

(6) Especially if participants are located in diverse places and face to face interaction is not an option, allot time for getting to know each other. This allows team members to connect with each other and build relationships, which will lead to working together more effectively. One way is for everyone to share a picture, a brief description of their role, and an interesting fact about themselves. (I had—and still miss—two aquatic frogs named Eleanor and Franklin who lived in our bathroom, as an example).

(7) Document actions in a simple table—succinctly describe the action, who is responsible, time-frame for completion, and updates. Each succeeding meeting, you can add comments in the update box. Everything is contained in one place. If agreed to, have a rotating scribe at each meeting that updates the minutes.

(8) Because everyone is very busy, what agreements that were reached can quickly be forgotten. Productive meeting minutes document decisions, actions, and points for further discussion. It documents everyone’s commitments and agreements. It is NOT a transcript of the meeting. Minutes should be succinct, to the point, and specific.

(9) If the allotted time for an agenda item is not enough, ask for agreement to continue discussing this item and bumping another item to the next meeting, having a separate meeting, or table the item for discussion for the next meeting.

(10) Honor time commitments. Running over can impact everyone’s day.  Staying on time keeps everyone focused and energized.

Effective meetings require up-front planning!

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Peter Drucker said “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

When you accomplish a lot of tasks, you may feel productive and efficient; but are you truly effective? Today’s business culture stresses “Do more, faster, with less!”  With deadlines looming, it is easier to just try to do it all, instead of taking the time to sift through everything to find the few key items that are most important to getting the job done.

If you implement the 5 Steps to Being More Effective at Work below, you can simplify your work, accomplish more (really!), reduce your stress (wouldn’t that be nice), and feel more confident in achieving your goals.

Step One:  What’s My Destination? (My Vision)

Determine what you want from your career and what your desired outcomes would be.  The clearer you are on your “big picture,” the more tangible and the easier it will be to achieve.

Step Two:  What Should I Consider? (My Strategy)

As your Vision becomes clearer, strategize on how you will obtain those tangible outcomes.

Step Three: How Will I Get There? (My Plan)

The secret to achieving your Vision is taking the time to plan what works best for you—what you want to do, what you want to change, and what you want to leave behind.

Step Four:  What’s on My Plate? (Making Room for My Plan)

For your Plan to work, you must decide where to focus your attention. Take charge of your environment (physical and mental), clear away clutter, unnecessary appointments, or tasks that detract from your Plan.  Make a list of everything, and prioritize each item from most important to least important.  Items at the bottom will never get down.  They just suck energy, so delete them.

Step Five:  Where’s My Focus? (Staying on Track)

It is critical to keep your focus on what will move you forward toward your Vision.  Create measurements you can use to check if you are on or off track against those prioritized items on your list from Step Four.

 

Although, this exercise will take some time to think about and act upon, as my clients have learned, it is well worth the effort.

Let your motto be:  Do the Right Things, Not Everything!

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What’s on my plate?

So many details competing for attention—meetings, emails, projects…and so little time. It is discouraging, overwhelming, and disheartening.  No matter how hard we try, we can never, ever get it all done.  We just keep getting more.

I tried and it almost killed me. I learned that no matter how many hours I put in, I couldn’t do it all, and was determined to work smarter—what were the right things to get my objectives done, rather than work on everything that came along.

To decide what is really important and what is just getting in the way, step back to get a clearer view of what is on your plate. David Allen writes in his book, “Getting Things Done,” list everything work-related, personal, or community focused to sort out what requires your attention now, what can be dealt with later, delegated to someone else, or unceremoniously dumped. This takes a while but is well worth it.  It gets it out of your head, off of those sticky notes that get lost, and on to one list that can be dealt with more easily.

Now that you have your list, I suggest using these questions as a guideline for further action.

  • How does each item impact the successful completion of my commitments and goals?
  • What can I eliminate because it keeps sinking to the bottom of my list and has just become an annoyance when I see it, or it just does not have any impact?
  • What requests can I say no to?

As you begin to focus on the right things, not only will you feel in control and more confident and less stressed, others will notice too.  Worked for me. It can work for you too.

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