images-9Meetings are an important tool to align and coordinate multiple people. Each meeting requires a chairman or chairwoman who steers this process in order to ensure that the meeting is held in an efficient way without wasting the participant’s time. The following rules help you to become a good meeting chairman.

1) Confirm the objective of the meeting:

Everybody needs to be aligned on the purpose of the meeting at the beginning. This reduces unnecessary side discussions. Teams also work better when having a common goal. I therefore recommend starting each meeting with a greeting and the statement of the objectives for this specific meeting.

images-72) Define key roles:

Every meeting requires three key roles to function.

- The chairman moderates the meeting and manages the time and the agenda. It is his/her responsibility to start and end the meeting on time.

- The administrator takes the minutes and records decisions and action items. In the ideal case the administrator also follows-up on the action items to make sure that the responsible persons implement them. If there is a follow-up meeting the administrator reports on the implementation progress.

- The participants contribute to the meeting with their ideas and also are responsible for the implementation of tasks. Never assign tasks to people  who are not present at the meeting. If the task itself cannot be completed by any of the participants assign someone to delegate it to the appropriate person. Since the participants are supposed to contribute with their thoughts it is important to reduce distractions. Don’t allow people to use their laptops or mobile devices to check or write e-mails during the meeting.

3) Summarize at the end of each agenda item:

Confirm all action items and decisions made at the end of each agenda item. This ensures that you can really close the item and helps the minute taker too. You might also ask the minute taker if he has any questions. The better the minutes are the less work you will have later in checking them.

4) Write and confirm minutes during the meeting:

images-14I have seen a company that had two projectors with two screens in each meeting room. One screen was to share the presentation material related to the agenda. The second screen was usually reserved for the minute taker and every participant confirmed that the wording of the minutes correct. This procedure allows agreeing on the minutes during the meeting so that there is no necessity to send around drafts for confirmation. This saves time to all participants and the implementation of actions and decisions starts immediately after the meeting.

If you do not have the space or budget for such a technically perfect solution you can also help yourself with a large display on the meeting table or by reading the wording of the minutes loudly at the end of each agenda item.

5) Close the meeting on time:

images-11As a general principle you should close each meeting on time, regardless if you are the chairman or a participant. As a chairman people will very soon know you habit and act in a way that in a way that allows finishing all items within the planned time. As a participant you can state that you have to go to the next meeting or that you scheduled a phone call. Finishing a meeting on time is not only a good time saver but also a courtesy to all other participants who have busy schedules too.

6) Properly close the meeting:

When the meeting come to an end properly close it. Thank all participants for their contributions and confirm the most important decisions and action items. If you know that the ream requires another meeting on this project or topic immediately arrange the schedule for the next meeting. With everyone at the table it requires significantly less coordination effort. What usually might take up to an hour or more will be completed within a few minutes.

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images-2Every day we have multiple opportunities to interact with other people. This includes people we already know but most of the times we are surrounded by people we do not know yet. Have you ever actively thought about how you  approach people you don’t know? Does is regularly happen to you that would like to talk to someone you don’t know but you hesitate and miss the opportunity? A change in your mind-set with regards to other people can make a huge difference in your approach.

images-31I recently read the book of Steve Pavlina “Personal Development for Smart People” and found a simple but very effective advice on how set your mind-set to be more open when meeting new people.  One of his ideas is to image that you already are connected to all other people. I tried to apply this idea for a few weeks and the results are amazing. I am living a Tokyo - the largest city of the world - and you basically don’t care about people these many people you interact with every day. Thinking that you are connected already makes you more friendly in the first place. It probably is common sense that people then react in a nice way and both feel good.

But it also is amazing how much easier it becomes to approach totally new people. I tried this on a fair for Japanese food last week since it was the perfect occasion to interact with strangers. The idea of Steve Pavlina changed my approach and I never felt uncomfortable talking to someone . Discussions with other people started in a very natural and open way with a human touch.

You also have t be aware that this approach does not become a habit immediately. It takes a few weeks until you automatically apply it to every person you meet. But I can assure you that it is worth going for it. It does not cost money or hours of preparation - just a though to be connected already before you start talking.

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images-5One of the first things to learn is time management is to write things down - even if you have a good memory. Scientific research showed that we remember much more things when we write them down. According to Baddeley’s model of working memory our memory consists of a phonological loop, a visual and an episodic loop. These loops represent short time memory and it seems that they reinforce each other. This means that the probability to remember something is much higher if you write it down - even if you don’t need the notes later.

The second reason for taking notes is that you free your mind. Permanently reminding yourself that you don’t have to forget this or that simply causes stress. Once you wrote down all items you can focus your mind on achieving the task you are currently working on.

imagesI therefore recommend having a note pad with you where you takes meeting notes, reminders or where you can do brainstorming. Taking it with allows you to also turn idle time into productive time - regardless where you are . Although I am a large fan of electronic devices I believe that there is no alternative to having an A4 note pad, so that you are quick and also have sufficient space. On top of the paper you might also use an electronic help such as evernote in case you travel a lot. It allows you to take quick notes by voice, picture or text through your mobile phone and automatically synchronizes it with you PC at work or at home.

images-3It is absolutely mandatory that you plan a fixed time to review your notes once a day. The best time to do this is when you plan your day. During this time you transfer tasks into your to-do list, update your calendar and schedule other activities related to your notes.

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Mar

02

 

When I was busy it often I often  got a sandwich or lunchbox and I ate at my desk.  It is only much later that I realized that this is a very bad habit.

 

  • Eating at your desk does not make you more productive. Whilst eating you are not really focused on your work and how often did you take this opportunity to just surf the Internet.
  • Taking a short break boosts productivity which makes up for the “lost minutes”.
  • Eating at the desk creates clutter and dirt, and you might spend time re-arranging the stuff on your desk to create space to eat.
  • When your mouth is full it is difficult to pick-up the phone anyhow.

 

The conclusion is that even if you only have the time for a short sandwich you better take a short walk away from your desk. You will return more refreshed and once back to your working environment you can immediately re-focus on getting things done.

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Since you are reading this time management blog you might have a large backlog of emails, tasks and a desk full of documents for filing. If this is a case you need to attack this problem from two sides. You need to clear the backlog and you also have to implement new working methods so that no new backlog can build up. Because it is difficult to handle both at the same time, I recommend a sequential approach:

1) Park your backlog

Your backlog probably accumulated for some time. Remove the urgent tasks and place the backlog of documents inside a sideboard for example.  If you are dealing with an e-mail backlog you create a folder called “backlog” and move your entire inbox there. The urgent emails shall remain in your inbox. You now created the mental freedom required to focus on the improvement of the processing of your inbox. 

2) Improve your daily task management

 If a backlog could accumulate you probably have a problem in processing the flow of incoming emails, postal mail and tasks. I recommend to apply the following step by step:

3) Reduce your backlog

Now that your inflow is under control it is time to get rid of yoru backlog.  I recommend to plan a few hours for this in your calendar and to process the backlog in one or very few batches. The benefit compared to the batch process is that you feel great and motivated afterwards. Going step by step might feel as if there was no progress and you might even lose motivation.

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Networking is an important part of business and there are all kind of opportunities to expand it. Although it is easy to participate on networking events it seems difficult to make useful contacts and to turn these into business. It happened many times to me that I returned with a large pack of business cards without having any proper follow up. After a while I decided to change the approach.

Instead of trying to make as many contact as possible I focussed on quality. When going to a networking event I set myself a goal to return with one promising contact. That approach keeps me relaxed during the event and after I have chosen my most promising contact it is much easier to properly follow-up on this one and to forget about the other ones.

When writing this post I wondered how others capitalize from networking events. PLease share your experiences and ideas in the comment section. Thanks.

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If you run a private business or if you run a your business from home you should separate you private and business phone number. You will have the following benefits:

  • Easy separation of business and private phones
  • Proper end of business day, where you switch on voice box
  • You can be more professional on answering your business phone
  • More quality time on private matters since you take care of them when you really have time

Separating both phone numbers technically should not be an issue. If you are not sure on how to best realize it discuss it with your telecommunications carrier.

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Many people use a mobile phone for business. Although it is good to be available almost anytime, there are times you do not want to available to anyone anytime. Especially during your vacations you want to make sure that you only get interrupted for important matters than cannot be resolved without your attention.

I made good experiences with the following procedure:

1) Switch on your voice box:

Change the settings of your mobile phone so that all calls land on the voice box and switch it off. You might eventually have to change the message to the voice box informing callers that you are on vacation until a certain day and that you check your voice box three times a day

2) Listen to the voice box 3 times a day:

Make sure that you check the messages three times a day, in the morning, at noon and in the evening. You can now enjoy your vacation without being on your mobile all the time but still be sure to be informed in case of urgency. 

3) Inform your colleagues:

 Inform your colleagues and most important business partners about this procedure. In case of urgency they feel comfortable that their message on the voice box will be heard and that you will react.

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Are you that you are familiar with all functions of your phone? Did you configure it that it saves you time? If not it is time to read its manual and to spend a little bit of time checking the following typical functionalities:

  • Redial, return a call, put on hold, call forwarding
  • Voice mail
  • Speaker and teleconferencing
  • Speed dial for frequently called number, address book
  •  etc.

I know that reading manuals can be painful first, but I am sure that it will pay off when you find out and configure a few functions that might give a few minutes every day.

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Establish the habit of closing each telephone call with a summary of the discussion and especially of the next steps. Since you cannot see the caller’s body language it is a good idea to make sure that there is no misunderstanding and the responsibilities for the next steps are clear. It might require a little bit of extra time but it quickly pays off since it reduces potential clarification calls at a later stage.

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