Getting Things Done...
We just had a great meeting before lunch. We got a lot done, and made lots of assignments. After lunch, no one remembers what the assignments, tasks, and agreements were. What went wrong?
Have you ever gone to a meeting like this? It is almost like tredding water... everyone is busy at the meeting, but the task is not moving forward, and no one is doing the follow-up work they volunteered for. A lot of meetings have this problem, and it has generated a bad rap for many meetings that DO get things done. What can you do to fix this problem? 
Fight Back! Meetings can be used to leverage group knowledge, skills, and resources... but only if the time is managed well!
Defensive Moves: How you manage the meeting can make a big change. 
--Capture tasks, assignments, agreements and review them with the group at the end of each segment. --Ask the group if any tasks, assignments, or agreements were missed or need clarification. Make sure there is time within the segment to do this.
--Plan time to review tasks, assignments, etc. within the agenda. This time is needed at the end of each meeting segment, especially if the audience changes. So let’s say you have dedicated 35 minutes for a topic, and questions/answers. Add another five minutes to review tasks, assignments, and decisions.
--When doing the review: Repeat the task (assignment or agreement), due dates, and end products as a question. It could go something like this: ‘Jim, you agreed to provide meeting minutes for the group by the end of next week. Are you still on for that task?’ Look at Jim directly and watch (the whole group will often turn and look the same direction). Wait for agreement. If Jim doesn’t agree, there is an opportunity to see if someone else can do the task. If Jim says ‘yes’ and then fails to do the task, it will reflect on him, and not on the meeting.
--Document the list of tasks, assignments, agreements in the meeting notes. Not only does this show that the group is making progress, but it can also help the group not go back and rechew topics and decisions.
--Note the tasks, assignments, and agreements right before the meeting ends and before people start to leave. People will often remember the last things said at a meeting and that is a great time to repeat this information, special due dates, or the next meeting details.
--Celebrate your success. If there was a meeting and no meeting notes, it will be difficult to celebrate your progress. In essence, if there are no meeting notes, it will be difficult to prove that a meeting occurred. Celebrations are important wins worth noting.
 What if attendees remember nothing from your meetings? (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-if-attendees-remembe_b_13979484)
 Meetings Survival Guide, by Kath Collier, Cispus Institute (http://www.awsplearningcenters.org/cispus-institute)
Leveraging a strategic agenda as a ‘Dance Card’
Some meetings are just complicated. There may be a number of topics, with a number of speakers, with a number of different pieces of equipment, multiple room set ups, and other support needed. This can be further challenging when there are a lot of people who want to help, but haven’t a clue what to do. If your meeting is high risk, it is worth doing a bit more planning.
If your meeting is high risk, it is worth doing a bit more planning....
Enter the ‘Dance Card.’ Cards were used over a hundred years ago as a way for women to track formal dances and dance partners. In many ways, a large, active meeting is very much like a formal dance with different speakers, partners, outcomes, etc. It is useful to have a way to know what is happening/when, and keeping track of how things are getting done. The ‘Dance Card’ idea can be used to create such a tool.
At times, there may be an argument for two agendas, but things change and having two agendas that get out of sinc is a risk. Keeping all of the detail in one place, and fairly simple, can keep the process from becoming too messy. A Dance Card is not the kind of agenda all of the participants see, but the kind that managers really like... they want to know what to expect in a high-risk meeting. It is like pulling back the curtain and being able to see what the Wizard of Oz is really doing...
Defensive Moves: Start with a strategic agenda, reformat the file so that your table can be wider (such as rotating to landscape view, changing table widths, etc. so that you can add more columns and information). Depending on your meeting, you will want to add columns to the table. Information on the expanded agenda or ‘Dance Card’ might include logistics like:
CAPTION: What the example (image above) shows: A large full-day meeting that splits into three work groups in different rooms mid-day, with hosted lunch and breaks, and final reporting out at the end. There are notes being taken by different people and only in some sessions. There are notes detailing when handouts (HO) are used/ needed and distributed, as well as equipment (tracking equipment may not be as important if you have enough for every room and do not require additional set up).
Defensive Moves: Presentations that are more than a simple talk can benefit from a ‘Dance Card’ agenda. This is particularly true if there are multiple speakers, a demonstration, or audience participation. It could document speaker roles and transition times, how to move people or equipment for the demo (for instance), and how to do the set up before the meeting moving things in for a demonstration for instance, or even to document what will be said. “8:20 move demo table in to spot marked w/green tape.” Think talk shows – everything done by the host is documented and practiced so that the show is as perfect and trouble-free as possible.
Defensive Moves: ‘Just in case assistance’--the ‘Dance Card’ could include other information such as who to call if there is a problem with the room (power failure, fire alarm, feedback, the tricky power plug, etc.). Knowing a few key bits of information could save lives in an emergency.
Defensive Moves: ‘Now What?’--To keep from getting lost or forgetting what to do, the ‘Dance Card’ could include more detailed presentation notes such as “Introduction: Icebreaker: First car exercise”; “Name tags supplies are with Linda...,” “Door prizes can be picked up at...” An example might also be to use equipment, such as a pointer, "USE POINTER/point@timeline.” Any announcements or reminders could be noted along with who would be making them.
A Dance Card could also include who is doing clean up, or room set up (as in chairs and tables, room design, etc.). It could also list emergency numbers if the power goes out or if there is a problem, where the fire exits are, non-emergency information, etc. This tool could be easily expanded to cover logistics for any number of people over any number of days. What makes it particularly useful is that it captures and communicates what needs to go on, who needs to do it, identifies areas where additional services may be needed, and makes it possible to share this information with everyone supporting the meeting. Add whatever is needed to ensure the best meeting possible—your participants are counting on it!
An agenda is more than a grocery list and more than just a road map. It can force you to think through how to make a process work smoothly down to the tiniest detail. When the stakes are high, this tool can be a life saver, make that complicated meeting function efficiently, and staff look like consummate professionals. Make your meetings more efficient, effective, and productive.
REFERENCE: Meetings Survival Guide, by Kath Collier, Cispus Institute (http://www.awsplearningcenters.org/cispus-institute)
Grab a bunch of business cards from a variety of locations. You can learn a lot about marketing by looking at what other people have done both in what they did and didn’t do. Most of the time business owners want to use their cards as one of their primary marketing tools. Too often, they make some really unfortunate mistakes....
Is the card easy to read? The type on your card needs to be large and bold enough so that people can easily read your email address and phone number. If the type is too small, no one can read it and the tiny type just wastes space....in other words, maybe you don’t need them.
Green is great, but green on green or green and red will go gray for about 8 percent of your male customers 3]. Can you afford to immediately lose almost 10 percent of your customers? If you want to use green make sure there is strong contrast between the type and background. Adding a pattern to the background and even the lettering can also help them stand out.
What's on Your Card?
Does your card stand out? Squint your eyes to blur the type. Does the design of your card demand attention? The use of color logos and graphic images can help draw the reader’s eye. Make the images work for their space by contributing to the message you want readers to get (as in very competent and professional). Bold contrasts and simple lettering can help a card standout, the design does not need to be fussy.
What’s on the back? There is a good chance that half of the cards in your pile have nothing on the back. Why waste perfectly good advertising space? The card back could include your mission/vision statement, or a larger version of that itty bitty contact information. The cost is minimal, the opportunity for marketing your company? Outstanding.
Squeeze every penny out of your marketing budget starting with your business cards!
REFERENCE: Red-Green Color Blindness, (https://www.color-blindness.com/red-green-color-blindness/)
Part II. Strategic Agendas--
One of the most powerful tools you can use to improve your meetings
Look up the definition of an agenda. Over and over, you will see that it is frequently described as only a list of topics—akin to a grocery list. Really? Since when is a grocery list an effective tool for managing a meeting? A grocery list is totally inadequate because it will not be:
Defensive Moves: Think of an agenda as a strategic tool. How could you leverage it? A strategically designed agenda can be used to manage a meeting, manage speakers, and demand the best use of everyone’s time. How? 
Defensive Moves: Don’t buy-in that a list is an agenda. In a list, all topics/processes have the same importance and priority. Each speaker can and will assume that their topic is the most important, potentially using up excessive amounts of time compared to other, perhaps higher priority, topics or needs such as bio-breaks.
Defensive Moves: Demand a strategic agenda – or at least one that is well thought out for any meeting lasting more than 2 hours (for example). Protect your and the group’s time and resources. Consider developing a standard: Any meeting longer than 30 minutes (for instance) requires an agenda with at least clearly stated goals and purpose. OR set a group standard that presentation time will not be extended more than 5 minutes, unless the entire group agrees.
Defensive Moves: Try to end the meeting on time or 5 minutes early every time. Five minutes may not seem like a lot of time, but if you have another meeting to go to, it just might get you there on time. Getting done just a little early is always a gift, especially if you are able to accomplish what you needed.
An agenda is more than a grocery list. It can be used to make your meetings more efficient, effective, while saving time and resources. It helps manage group expectations and helps a group manage the meeting. More to come...
1 Why Sitting May Be Bad for Your Brain (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/well/move/why-sitting-may-be-bad-for-your-brain.html)
2 Meetings Survival Guide, Cispus Institute (http://www.awsplearningcenters.org/cispus-institute)
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.
Do you have mixed feelings about electronic mail (email)? Email can really be an excellent tool for sharing information, but also frustrating when the box gets over full and people share too much. But heh, what do we expect when more than one-half of the global population (somewhere around 4.3 billion by 2023) has a SEND button close at hand? 1
And SEND they do. By 2021 it is expected that 124.5 billion business emails will be sent/received each day. The average office worker will be receiving/sending 121 messages per day which is a relief until you consider how much time even that much can eat out of your day (multiply it times 3 minutes and POOF! more than half of your day is gone just dealing with email!) 1
Here are five ideas for helping recapture some of that time:
1 Limit how much time you spend reading mail and how frequently you process mail. It is just like the paper mail. There is a certain amount of it that is pure junk and doesn’t deserve your time and the real important stuff doesn’t always float to the top. What’s the first mail the average person reads? The first one on the list, good or bad, important or not...
2 Consider setting up specific times of the day for checking the email, and hope for a few more free minutes later. Spending 10-15 minutes at the beginning of the day may help you re-enter the work environment and remind you of key activities underway.
3 Limit who sends you mail. This can be done by marking mail as junk. Most email applications allow you to do this. It will help reduce the mail, and in some cases where there are repeat offenders it can even get them blackballed off of a site. Think of it as a 'no call' list for email.
4 Clean out your mailbox, at least a little, every time you use it. One of the easiest things to do is to delete junk messages. There is something wonderful about getting rid of 50 email clutter in one swoop. If you delete a message by mistake, there is a good chance you can retrieve it from a delete file (perhaps before the end of the session). Then focus on the more critical or time-burdened stuff. This will help keep it relatively clean but the mail box can grow tremendously over time and get junkie.
4.3 When a mailbox gets really junkie, try resorting the mail by date with the oldest first. It is usually easier to clean older mail because it is less relevant (theoretically). Remove anything that is sensitive (e.g., that has personal information like address, account numbers, etc.) as soon as you can to minimize the spread.
4.6 If you MUST use email that contains sensitive information, consider passwording the file. The password generally hangs with the file through an email process and even a conversion into a different file format. This is NOT the most sophisticated security trick, but the password can be very long and very, very difficult to hack. Software makers will not hack the file if you don’t know the password. So, a password will keep a lot of prying eyes from seeing your data, and should you forget the password, those eyes might be yours. Be sure to send the recipient, perhaps in a separate email message or by phone, the password.
5 Consider organizing the important messages into folders or saving them as files or documents. This provides an opportunity to add identifiable information to the file name that might make identification easier. Consider how you might look for things--by a topic name or project number? Naming email by date may be hopeless if you get very many messages. Typically, email applications have the ability to create folders that can hold message, they have ways that you can save the files offline and give meaningful names to the files, it may even be possible to glob all of the messages related to a particular topic, for instance, into one file.
And finally, don’t assume that email is or will remain private, as once you press SEND you lose total control of where it goes and who sees it. Some applications will let you cancel and retrieve mis-sent mail, but not very many.
1 The Shocking Truth about How Many Emails Are Sent, https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/2019/05/shocking-truth-about-how-many-emails-sent/
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!