A good agenda is the first step to any successful meeting. If you want to make the best use of everyone’s time, turn your bullet points into questions that drive to the outcomes you’re looking for.
For example, instead of a general topic like “Budget Problems,” try a specific question like, “How will we reduce our spending by $100,000 by the end of the fiscal year”? Or replace an item like “Strategic Planning” with a challenge like, “What is the key market threat we need to be aware of, how could it affect us, and what can we do to anticipate?” Preparing these questions before the meeting will make it easier to determine who should be there and how much time you’ll really need.
Ultimately, a questions-based approach to your agenda can bring focus, engagement, and better performance to your meetings. And if you can’t think of questions to ask, maybe you don’t need that meeting after all!
When you’re working from home, you may find yourself feeling distracted by your looming personal responsibilities. You don’t have to push aside nagging thoughts such as, “I really should put in a load of laundry,” or, “Isn’t it time to do exercise?” — you can use these impulses to your advantage.
Physical chores may provide welcome relief after hours of video conferences and calls, thought work, and you can build them into your schedule. For example, if you’re having trouble starting a slide deck, decide ahead of time that you’ll walk the dog as soon as you get the first three slides done.
Weaving the daily responsibilities into your workday can help you feel more productive both personally and professionally, leaving you feeling more refreshed and energized for the days ahead.
It’s hard to get people to pay attention in meetings when everyone’s in the same room — let alone if they’re all calling in from home.
How can you get people to actually participate in a virtual meeting? The key is to create structured opportunities for attendees to engage. Do something in the first 60 seconds to help participants experience the problem you want them to solve. For example, you might share statistics or anecdotes that dramatize the topic. Then assign people to groups of two or three and give them a very limited time frame to take on a highly structured and brief task. Be sure to give them a medium with which to communicate, like a WhatsApp group.
If you’re on a virtual meeting platform that allows for breakout groups, use them liberally. Then ask the teams to report back. Never go longer than five to 10 minutes without giving the group another problem to solve. The key is to set and sustain an expectation of meaningful involvement.
Otherwise, your participants will retreat into an observer role, and you’ll have to work extra hard to bring them back.
Writing a speech or presentation is challenging, and memorizing it takes even more time and effort. But whether you’re speaking at a conference, setting a direction for your team, or persuading upper management to greenlight an idea, it’s important to know your presentation cold.
Transitions can be especially tricky, so break your talk into sections and rehearse the shifts between the sections. Note any troublesome segues and practice them repeatedly. Then, spend time each day memorizing your speech. You might consider recording and listening to it whenever you’re driving, exercising, or running errands. Or you can rehearse a portion of your script right before bedtime or multitask as you brush your teeth.
Finally, have a plan for any slip-ups. Prepare two or three go-to phrases, such as, “Let me refer to my notes,” or “I’m struggling to remember my next point. Let me take a moment and step back.” The lapse will be less awkward for everyone when you don’t panic and do what you need to move on.
When you’re writing for work, it can be tempting to rely on industry jargon or big words to puff up your ideas. But overblown language doesn’t make you sound smart, and it can be off-putting to readers.
Most people are drawn to a more conversational tone. So, choose shorter, more familiar words and explain things in a way that anyone could understand. For example, write “things that could affect the merger” instead of “issues potentially impacting the successful completion of the merger.”
Also, whether you’re writing an email or a formal proposal, make sure that your content is glanceable since it probably will be read on a screen — and these days, often a phone.
Assume that your readers will be distracted, busy, and on-the-go.
Formatting can help: Try using subheads, bullet points, diagrams, and tables to highlight your key takeaways. Short sentences and short paragraphs help too.
A good rule of thumb is “one thought per sentence.” If there are too many linked ideas in one sentence, your readers may get lost and just give up.
Some jobs have very clear lines between when you’re “on” and when you’re “off.” But when you work in a role where the lines are blurred — or potentially nonexistent — it’s important to protect your non-work time.
If you feel like work is taking over most of your waking hours, start by clearly defining what “after hours” means for you. Take into account the number of hours you’re expected to work each week, as well as personal commitments like taking your kids to school, making a certain train, or attending an exercise class you really enjoy.
When do you need to start and stop to put in the appropriate amount of work time? Then, develop mental clarity about what needs to get done and when you will do it. Keep track of your tasks and plan them out. Make sure you block off time for an end-of-workday wrap-up, where you review and make sure you did everything you needed to do for the day. Lastly, communicate with your colleagues about how (or if) you want to be contacted during your off-hours. Really guard your time.
If you don’t, you won’t get the mental break that everyone needs.
We should all strive to do our best, but if we always aim for perfection, we may blow deadlines, annoy colleagues, and miss out on opportunities.
Instead of never being satisfied with “good enough,” talk to others about their standards. What does a good job look like to boss, peers, or client? Let’s seek their feedback on expected results, costs, and timelines rather than trying to meet extremely high standards. Then check in regularly with these colleagues. Don’t wait until the project is finished, build in checkpoints where you share your progress at 50% or 80% done. Your boss or client just might tell you that the work is good enough at that point.
You can also try small experiments where you relax your standards slightly. What happened? Were your worst fears realized? Finally, consider how perfectionism impacts your relationships. Are you setting unrealistic standards for those around you? The need to have it “perfect” will often annoy others, and in extreme cases, drive them away. For their sake — and yours — let’s learn to be satisfied with good enough.