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Tag Archives: staying focused

Not getting things done in your meetings? Here’s a powerful way to change that

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been sharing specific ideas on the blog about getting things done, on improving your productivity.  As I have mentioned in earlier video posts, many leaders tell me that poor meeting management seriously hampers their ability in getting things done.  And in fact, my last two instalments in this video series (four-column agendas, “action minutes”) have focused specifically on ideas to overcome this.  So I thought I’d share another tip today on how you can make your meetings a powerful source of getting things done.  It is to assign three key roles in every meeting.

Assign three key roles in every meeting

There are three critical roles that are required for every successful meeting.  The three roles are chairperson, timekeeper, and minute taker.  Now, this is important, the three roles must be filled by three DIFFERENT people.  If you’ve been to the meeting from hell, you already know what happens when the same person plays all three roles – it doesn’t work out that well!  Continue reading

For amazingly productive meetings, switch to “public action minutes”

In our last video blog in our series on productivity tools for leaders, I gave you one idea on how to have useful and productive meetings.  Specifically, to issue an agenda using a four-column format.  Today, I’m continuing on that theme of productive meetings with another tip – always take and issue action minutes within 48 hours.

Always issue action minutes

Now I know what you’re thinking: 48 hours?  Yes I know, some of you are lucky if those minutes arrive the day before the next meeting!  But let’s just talk about this for a moment.  I have yet to meet one person who says to me “Oh Merge, I love taking minutes.”  In fact, almost everyone I know just hates it!  Some of you would much rather walk across hot coals than be volunteered as the minute taker for your next meeting!  We hate taking minutes … BECAUSE for most of us it’s a lot of work and it’s a pain in the neck!  Yet there is a way to get past this.

Are you ready?  This is a cool tool!  A very effective and painless approach to taking minutes is to focus only on recording action items.  Use a three-column format.  Take a sheet of blank paper and draw two vertical lines to create three columns.  Then title the columns as follows: Continue reading

One practical tip to eliminate loss of productivity in meetings

One of the biggest complaints I hear from leaders is about their loss of productivity due to the time they spend in meetings.  Most leaders attend more than 60 meetings a month.  Research shows that over 90% of meeting goers admit to daydreaming; over 70% do other work during meetings; and almost 40% say they have occasionally dozed off while in a meeting.  Clearly, loss of productivity due to meetings is happening every single day.  So for the next four video blog posts, I’m going to focus on specific ideas to stop the loss of productivity that is occurring for you due to those meetings.  Today’s tip: always, always issue a four-column agenda, distributed at least 48 hours in advance of your meeting.

Always issue a four-column agenda

The most common reason we don’t issue agendas is because it seems like a lot of hard work.  But it doesn’t have to be!  One of the best, easiest and most effective ways to develop an agenda is to use a table format using four columns.  Take a sheet of blank paper and draw three vertical lines to create four columns.  Then title the columns as follows: Continue reading

Here’s how to prioritize your endless to-do list

In my first strategy in our new series on productivity tools for leaders, I talked about the importance of writing things down.  One of the biggest advantages of making a to-do list is that you can now assess everything that needs to be done in totality, and determine how to prioritize.  And towards the end of the last tip, I promised that I would show you how to prioritize by giving you a simple two-by-two matrix.

Prioritize by using a simple two-by-two matrix

I call this matrix the impact-implementation window.  On a piece of paper, draw a two-by-two grid.  Along the vertical axis, from the bottom to the top, write “low impact” and “high impact”.  Along the horizontal axis, from left to right, write “easy to implement” and “hard to implement”.  You now have four boxes.  Then take everything in your to-do list and record it, as appropriate, in one of the four boxes. Continue reading

To improve your productivity, write things down!

Earlier this month, I promised that in 2020 I would specifically focus on a video series on productivity tools for leaders.  In each video blog, I plan to give you one practical and useful technique to reclaim control of your time, to improve your productivity, or to even get more done through others.  Today, I am excited to kick off this brand-new series with one specific suggestion that I hope you’ll take to heart and implement right away.  And of course, expect more productivity strategies to come in the weeks and months to follow.

Write things down!

Today’s tip: write things down.  It’s simple, but don’t let the simplicity fool you into thinking it is lightweight.  It’s not.  Writing things down is a very powerful to improve your productivity.  So get into the habit of making a to-do list.  Whenever you think about something that needs to be done, stop and make a note.  Right then, not later, because later often means never.  The benefits of writing things down to improve your productivity are many. Continue reading

Productivity tools for leaders

Brand-new video series for 2020

I’m so excited to kick-off another brand-new video series for 2020.  For the last few years, I’ve focused on a different subject each year.  Last year the topic was “How to develop and grow your people” – we did 25 videos.  And in 2018, we put out 33 specific tips on how to motivate your employees.  So this year, I’m going to focus on … drum roll please … Productivity tools for leaders.

In my leadership training and mentoring practice, a frequent refrain I hear from my clients is that they start their days with the best of intentions only to get to the end feeling like they’ve gotten nothing substantial accomplished.  So you tell me.  Have you ever felt that a full day has gone by, yet time seems to have escaped you?  Or that instead of checking things off your to-do list, it seems to be longer than it was at the beginning of the day?  If so, then I think that this year’s video series is tailor-made for you. Continue reading

Boost productivity at the office by using music

jenniferbuchanan2Jennifer Buchanan is not only my professional colleague and friend, but also the only music therapist I know!  If you’re wondering what a “music therapist” is, then I’m so glad you asked!!  Music therapists use music to curb stress, boost morale, and restore health, and Jennifer is a recognized leading expert on bridging the gap between academic research in the area of music medicine and the public, speaking internationally to a wide variety of education, healthcare, government, and corporate audiences.  Because this is an area that not many people are knowledgeable about yet, I was delighted when Jennifer agreed to guest on the blog.  I asked her to share some insights that would be useful to leaders everywhere, and I was thrilled when she decided to write about how to use music to boost productivity.

5 Steps to Boosting Productivity at the Office using Music

Do you feel you need a boost at work? Music may be the solution.  The music industry has proof that you should listen to music while you work. In a survey commissioned by the UK licensing organizations PPL and PRS for Music, 77 percent of surveyed businesses say playing music in the workplace increases staff morale and improves the atmosphere.  The results were greater productivity.

So how do we make music at work?

There is no easy solution to developing a productive playlist for two or more people. Like all good work procedures and strategies, it takes time and it starts with being proactive instead of re-active. Take the time to identify the diverse needs and cultures of the group you belong to. Here are five suggested guidelines or steps for helping your organization use and select music at work: Continue reading

Leaders, how do you minimize distractions?

CyclingThe topic of how to minimize distractions to maximize productivity came up again this past weekend.  My husband, an avid cyclist, rides his bicycle to work daily (at least while the weather is still cooperating).  Recently, he moved offices, and so his daily cycling route has changed.  Even though almost his entire journey is on bicycle trails, the path itself is quite serpentine, twisting and winding its way through tree groves and up and down many small hills.  In a passing comment to me this last weekend, he said “I find that I can’t really enjoy the view on my bike rides anymore because I need to concentrate and pay attention to the path.  A couple of times I’ve been distracted by birds or squirrels in my peripheral vision, and I found myself almost veering off the trail and into the brush.  This is not a straightforward pathway, so I have to really stay focused on what is ahead of me, otherwise I run the risk of getting into trouble.”

His comment about getting distracted by birds and squirrels got me thinking about how often we lose focus at work by the well-known (and notorious) “squirrel”. Continue reading

“Being present” (or not) sends a powerful message to those around you

Young businessman sitting on sofa at office listening to talkingAre you “present” in your conversations with others?  I asked this question back in December 2009 after an unpleasant experience with a professional colleague.  If the mail I get on this subject is any indication, this apparently continues to be an issue of epic proportions.  Evidently, being present is not something that managers and supervisors do well!  So what exactly is “being present”?  If you repeatedly glance down at your watch while a co-worker is talking to you, you’re guilty of not being present.  If you supposedly “listen” to what a staff member is saying while pecking away at your keyboard, phone or instant message, then you’re at fault for not being present.  If you are the supervisor or manager who gets easily distracted away from the person in front of you by other pressing issues or people around you, then you are probably one of the people that I hear repeatedly about.

You might ask “So what?”  Why should I care that people complain about this behaviour to you Merge?  The answer is because your actions are a huge indicator of the respect you give (or don’t give) to your staff and co-workers.  When you can’t be bothered to be fully present in your conversations and interactions, you devalue and demoralize people, essentially telling them that they are not important.  Continue reading

Don’t multitask, be present when it comes to employee interactions

Back in March 2013, I wrote a blog post titled Focus on the present in order to achieve big things in the future. In it I talked about how not to let current short-term challenges get in the way of future long-term goals. Today’s blog post takes a slightly different tack on the word “present” – specifically that it’s important to BE PRESENT in order to maximize productivity and team performance. Let me explain.

Female architect using tablet computer, looking awayYou’ve done it (we all have) – glanced at your email while talking to one of your employees. Or shuffled through papers on your desk while simultaneously carrying on a conversation with one of your staff. Stop. Not only is it not working, but you’re also doing more damage than good. You may think that you’re being productive by doing two things at the same time, but the truth is that you’re doing neither well. Not only that, and perhaps more importantly, you’re jeopardizing your relationship with your staff. You may not intend to do so, but your inattentiveness is disrespectful to the very people who ensure your department’s success. Instead, choose to be present. Continue reading