Are you dog tired of bad meetings that waste time and money? How many times have we begrudgingly allowed our time, energy, and enthusiasm to be drained away by longer than necessary, poorly designed and executed meeting? Too many most likely.
We are not alone. On an average day in the U.S. there are 11 million meetings. Recent estimates indicate that meetings in the U.S. waste $37 billion annually. It has been estimated that employees spend an average of one-third of their time in meetings. Every meeting requires time, money, and resources....it may be one of the biggest investments your business might make. 
It could be different. Meetings can be seen as a valuable investment or a lost expense depending on how it is managed.
Defensive moves: Know how much it costs – if you don’t know the cost, there is no way to compare the value. There are some spreadsheet examples online for measuring this. Be sure to note time used for meeting preparation and ‘lost opportunity’ costs. These tools often ignore follow-up time (such as preparing notes or follow-up actions), the number of times someone forgets an assignment, and travel costs (especially the cost of lost family time when traveling outside of standard business times). 
These costs don’t happen just once. They happen every time a meeting is scheduled and repetitive, routine meetings can be one of the most expensive meetings you may have. Why? Because they may happen every week (or twice a week! yikes!), often lack organization, fail to get the right things done, and are typically not very efficient. The average salary cost for a meeting is $338 (and that is just for the time in the meeting). 
Fight back...part I.
Is every meeting necessary? Probably not. If you don’t need it, don’t do it... but also don’t assume just because you don’t need it, no one else does either. Most employees attend an average of 62 meetings a month. 
Defensive moves: Check to make sure that the meeting and time is worth it with those who will be attending. Especially for meetings scheduled near holidays and Fridays. Consider using the time for something else that is important...might be a great time for a little team building or strategic planning.
Don’t let people steal your time. There are multiple problems and opportunities here... Do you really want to go to that meeting and once there, how long are you willing to listen to dribble? Meeting participants report that an average of 33.4 percent of every meeting is unproductive. 
Defensive moves: If you are not sure you want to go? Don’t say ‘yes’ if ‘maybe’ will do! Once in the meeting, you might consider setting and sticking to a timeframe.
Some people will take as much time as they possible can and are often so focused on their topic (or perhaps making a presentation) that they don't consider other needs. Set specific times in the agenda, make sure the speaker understands those parameters, and if that time includes questions and answer time.
If the speaker can’t get to their main goal within the time allowed, negotiate with the group for another five minutes. Don’t let them assume that you will extend the meeting (perhaps making everyone late to their next meeting or worse) or let them come back to your next meeting. This can be, unfortunately, a painful learning experience for some. Respect everyone's time and efforts. If the speaker can't wrap it up in time, walk them out.
Make it Count! No record of the meeting? It didn’t happen. Next week, no one will remember who attended, what was presented or decided, or actions that might move the group towards a goal. There is nothing to share, reference, related to assignments, agreements, progress, or accomplishments.
Defensive moves: Keep the meeting and record creation simple. Ask for volunteers to take notes for a particular topic. Capture information manually, via sound or video recording (there are free apps for cell phones). Don't note every word or conversation. Do note decisions, assignments, and agreements. Review the decisions, assignments, and next steps at the end of the meeting (people will be more likely to remember them!) and use them to 'restart' the group's creative thoughts ('gee we really got a lot done last time') when you meet again.
Make sure the ‘right’ people are at the meeting. The ‘right’ people may be the ones that can actually approve things (like expenditures or actions), they may also be the ones that can help balance power in the group so that all interests are represented.
Defensive moves: Find out who the right people are and invite them. Have a face-to-face meeting with them and help them understand their role and why it is important that they or another ‘right’ representative are there. Make sure that their efforts and attendance are recognized and that they feel a part of the group. Worse case, reschedule the meeting when all of the 'right' folks can attend.
Level the knowledge of the group by making sure that everyone understands the issues, purpose, and goals. If a participant needs more, schedule an briefing or provide other background information prior to the meeting.
Part II will show you a unique way to create agendas that get things done, build trust and collaborative team spirit, and SAVE TIME!
1The True Cost of Meetings (https://www.readytalk.com/meeting-resources/infographics/true-cost-meetings-infographic)
2 Meetings Survival Guide, Cispus Collaboration Institute Workshop Training Guide (http://www.awsplearningcenters.org/cispus-institute) by K. Collier
Small business owners get busy. After all they wear at least 27 different hats everyday taking care and growing their businesses. Keeping things organized and uncluttered can be a daunting task even for those who don’t wear 27 different hats.
Could clutter hurt your business?
"Some clutter is normal and may be the byproduct of a high-functioning, well-engaged mind," Robin Raflo Hurtado, LCSW, a geriatric outpatient care coordinator for Piedmont Sixty Plus Services, says.1 Clutter is known for facilitating falls and attracting pests in the home, and that idea could be applied to workplace safety as well. It also affects productivity and increases the production of cortisol (the stress hormone). (Like small business owners need more stress!!! Yikes!)
Can everyone safely escape your workplace in an emergency? Can the firefighters get in?
An over cluttered environment can affect our performance and wellbeing at any age. True clutter is more than just being messy. It can facilitate accidents, draw pests, and impact one’s ability to safely escape during an emergency. It is known to create a more stressful environment and sometimes signal more serious mental health problems. 2
Can hoarding affect a business, just like a home?
Why not? How easy would it be to hang on to outdated promotional items, reports, and other materials? Attacking some of this clutter may delay moving your business to a larger, more expensive venue where you can store more junk...
Does the glare from all of the paper on your desk hurt your eyes?
As someone who collects paper, the diffused paper glare can create distraction and eye stress. Light scattering.3
Can you easily find stuff?
You know, like promotional flyers, bills, orders, tax receipts, and other paper critical to your business? If so, this could lead to major problems for your small business affecting both customers and suppliers.
Is there a way to assess business clutter?
Maybe. The Institute for Challenging Disorganization has a personal assessment tool that seems like a fairly good fit for assessing a business with a few slight modifications. This site has both a questionnaire and answer interpretation information. The questionnaire is subjective tool with a scale, rather than just yes/no answers and was designed for professional organizers to determine how clutter affects your quality of life. The interpretation could be eye-opening when applied to a business.
Some questions do not need modification to fit a business environment, such as “I can’t find things when I need them because of clutter.” Others may need a slight change such as substituting the word “business” for “home” as in “I try to avoid thinking about the clutter in my business.” It seems like a great tool for periodically measuring the impact of clutter and gauge the impacts on your quality of life.
1 Is clutter and disorganization hurting your health? From https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/is-clutter-and-disorganization-hurting-your-health
2 Does Clutter Affect Children? Even The Littlest Family Members Get Irritated With A Mess. From https://www.romper.com/p/does-clutter-affect-children-even-the-littlest-family-members-get-irritated-with-a-mess-15905653
3 Why Doesn’t a Plain White Piece of Paper Reflect Light but a Mirror Does? https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-doesnt-a-plain-white-piece-of-paper-reflect-light-but-a-mirror-does/
Is it possible to organize your electronic mail? SURE Here are a few tricks that can help get things organized and save a little time.
Every email system has its own bells and whistles (functions) but basically all of them to the same things. For instance, all of them can sort things by date, by subject, etc. What is the first thing readers see? The subject line. A subject line can be formatted to help you quickly identify priority action items.
1 Make the subject line interesting and unique enough to make the reader want to see more and make it stand out from other similar messages. This will help the reader when they get the message and the sender when they get the reply.
BEFORE Staff meeting 8 am
AFTER We're #1! Let's celebrate at the 8:00 staff meeting
Sorting out the important stuff. Typically, there are several ways to sort information--even email messages. Most often messages are sorted so that the newest message is first or by the sender’s name, but there are other ways to sort data such as the subject line. To start the process, set up the subject line in the message you will be sending. The format will hold, unless edited, as a default when replying. Two examples follow formatting the subject line for sorting by a business name or by a priority marker:
LUCKY YOU (Business): New Furniture (topic)—Your order was shipped! (attention grabber).
CRITICAL (Priority) Project Saturn (topic)– Can’t find the keys to the rocket? (grabber)
When the subject line is sorted, all of the mail related to ‘Lucky You’ or ‘CRITICAL’ messages clump together. All of the various projects under that Business/priority also clumps together.
The same kind of sorting algorithm used elsewhere on your computer applies and can be really handy in retrieving data regardless of location. One trick is to add a symbol at the beginning of the data like an explanation mark (e.g., !CRITICAL: Project Saturn) which typically forces these file names and subject lines to the top of most alphanumeric type of sorts.
2 Keep all of the mail related to an active project where you can easily find it; archive it when it is done. Keeping active information so that it is close at hand works in the paper and electronic worlds. It is possible to save email in one place along with your documents, maps, balance sheets, etc. in one file directory (file drawer). Further organization in that directory is also useful so every file related to budget, for instance, is filed under budget rather than filing thousands of email messages in one ginormous directory.
3 Limit how often you use “Reply All.” It is easy to get overwhelmed by mail, and each of us most likely has a different threshold for that amount. One thing that can greatly increase the amount of email is the overuse of ‘Reply All.’ Generally, the option “Reply All” is rarely needed, but it is easy. Most of the time it just irritates busy people and often wastes time. Routine, improper use of any tool can create problems. Sometimes there are legal reasons to use this or distribution problems that make sense. Let the use make sense and everyone is OK.
4 Consider a phone call. This might seem old fashioned but sometimes email is not the best communication tool. It often fails to convey emotion. It may take a lot of time to edit the message especially if the topic is complicated. Email records and remembers your words and some words just shouldn’t be remembered.
Business Retention& Expansion
Entrepreneurs often wear at least 27 hats and have to do many tasks to make a business succeed. Email processing can be one of those hats and take an extraordinary amount of resources out of an already packed schedule!