Posts tagged "Time Management"

Decision Making

enforcing decisions

Meetings provide a forum to reach decisions on issues through a collaborative process. Decisions which are taken without the consensus of all the affected departments or individuals leads to confusion, frustration and an unhealthy work environment. Listed below are a few guidelines on how to reach decisions within groups or teams effectively.

  • Ensure that the meeting facilitator or any other participant doesn’t take all the limelight. This will lead to an extremely biased view which will not be well received by all the participants. Every person in the meeting has the right to voice his/her opinion and have them factored into the decision making process.
  • Maintain an optimal size and type of the group to ensure you don’t reach a deadlock. This requires you to be selective in who you invite to the meeting. Calling two aggressive participants with three passive individuals will not yield an optimal outcome.
  • To reach an effective decision make sure that all participants have clearly understood the problem or issue which is being resolved to avoid any sort of confusion. An incorrect perception of what is being discussed is common and should be clearly stated in the agenda sheet for reference.
  • Once all the solutions to the problem have been discussed a decision used should be reached by a consensus. A voting systems will clearly identify those individuals who are for the solution and against it, this can be later explored in individual meetings if time is limited in the group meeting.
  • When a decision has been made and has received a majority consensus those individuals who were not in favor of the decision should do their best to buy into the proposed solution. Passive resistance to the solution becomes a major threat in implementing the solution. If you are strongly not in favor of the decision you may call another meeting to convince key individuals, however if the rest of the team is behind the decision you must do your best to go with the majority.
  • The facilitator of the meeting should do a summary of the decision which was reached through consensus at the end of the meeting. This will outline the problem we tackled, the solutions and the groups choice. This provides a great time for participants to clarify any confusion that they may have had.

If senior management has already made a decision on the particular issue do not call meetings to re-iterate the decision. If you need input from some departments calling a “review” meeting about the option selected is a better strategy.

Good decision making skills is a critical success factor for all teams. By leading meetings where you can reach timely and collaborative decisions you will be able to help your team reach fantastic results. Poor decisions which do not have the buy in of the team will result in poor performance which has a detrimental impact on your team.

Help your team to start making better decisions today!

Group Participation

Business Meeting Participation

Business meetings are productive when all the attendees are active contributors to the discussion. Without adequate participation a biased decision may be formed based on the input of only a few participants. As the facilitator of a meeting it is your job to make sure that you get everyone in the meeting to become active contributors. Being a facilitator doesn’t require you to be extremely knowledgeable of the discussion. The following tips will help increase group participation in your next meeting.

  1. Take a count of who is going to be attending the meeting. This will help you seat the participants in a manner where all the quiet individuals will not be isolated into a corner. It will also help you structure the list of questions, specifically when you are talking about certain agenda points. Lastly knowing the participants background and personalities will help in anticipating barriers which may act as impediments.
  2. Avoid times such as right before lunch, right after lunch or nearing the end of office hours. These are times when the participants are least attentive and will not be very willing to provide feedback. Choose your time wisely, early morning meetings or an hour after the lunch break are optimal timings for meetings.
  3. Introductions from all the participants helps break the ice and allows for free flowing conversation. This helps to create a friendlier environment to encourage participation.
  4. If the meeting has a technical focus do your best to keep the jargon to the minimum. This will allow all the participants to get an idea of what is being discussed and to provide their opinion or feedback.
  5. Ask open ended questions such as “What are you thoughts on this method?” “How do you think you would implement this process?”. If you do not get appropriate answers to your questions then paraphrase them to make the respondent understand the question correctly.

Everyone at a meeting assumes a certain role. These roles may be habitual or may arise during certain discussion. Examples of roles which may take place during meetings are, the constant nit picker, quiet listeners and yes men. Take a look at your participation in meetings you attended recently. Did you take on any one role in the meetings you attended? If you did, you need to fix this by bringing balance to the image you are portraying.

You have to remember that you were invited to the meeting to give your insights on what is being discussed. You have to take this responsibility seriously and make sure that you voice your opinions in a clear and concise manner. This will give you greater visibility in your organization as well as help you establish a level of authority on a given subject matter.

Do your best to be an active participant at your next meeting!

Time and Focus

Time Bound Meetings

If there are two components which should be tracked meticulously in every meeting “Time & Focus” top the list. When we lose track of these two components is when meetings fall apart and after endless hours of debating and discussing an issue no measurable progress is made towards the goal. To keep track of these components special attention needs to be paid to them to ensure that you have effective meetings.

Keeping Time: Time encapsulates both, being on time to your meetings and running them in such a manner that they start and end according to the time stated in the pre-meeting agenda. A few pointers on enforcing time during a meeting are;

  1. If you are chairing the meeting make sure that you reach the meeting on time. It is your responsibility to set an example about punctuality. By the same token if you are supposed to sit in on a meeting also make sure that you arrive on time. Even if your company has a culture of being late for meetings you need to start with yourself. Punctuality is essential and a defining aspect of effective organizations. If you have a habit of being late for meetings I highly suggest that you make a concentrated effort to rectify this.
  2. Assign someone to keep track of time. Reminders can be provided at checkpoints, reminding the participants how much time is left to keep everyone focused on completing the required agenda in the stipulated period of time. Keep track of how many meetings go into overtime. This can be a key metric to analyzing and calculating the effectiveness of your meetings for future optimization.
  3. For participants who reach meetings late you do not need to do a re-cap unless critical. You can fill the participants in after the meeting has concluded. Demerit points can be assigned to individuals who are continuously late. This can be included in the individuals performance review and needs to be taken seriously.

Keeping Focus: Losing focus during a meeting is quite easy. Any off-topic comment can send the meeting on a completely new tangent which will have a negative impact on both the timing and quality of the meeting. A few pointers on enforcing focus during a meeting are;

  1. Use your agenda pointers to help keep track of the meeting’s progress. When discussing an agenda point, allocate a certain action to that point once discussed and cross it off the list. This will help  bring closure to the point and make it harder to come back to discuss the point again.
  2. Ask only relevant questions during the discussion. When an off-topic comment or question is asked it has the ability to completely derail the meeting from the agenda. If you are the facilitator of the meeting do your best to keep off- topic questions to the minimum.
  3. Keep distractions to the minimum. There should be no cellphone conversations allowed during the course of the meetings. This has to be taken seriously to remain focused on reaching the goal in the time allocated.
  4. If the meeting is scheduled to take 2 hours do your best to incorporate at least one break for 5 – 10 minutes to keep participants focused and attentive.

Once you are able to bring these two key components under control you will enjoy shorter and more effective meetings.

Whats the Agenda?

Pre Meeting Agenda

Starting a meeting without a pre-defined plan results in confusion, frustration and is a waste of time. The agenda for a meeting has to be used as a guide to steer the conversation towards achieving the outlined goals. It is not good enough to have the agenda in your head and to go with the flow during the meeting. You need to have a clearly written agenda which should be communicated to all participants before the meeting. This allows everyone to do some preliminary research on the topics which are to be discussed to make it more productive. When setting up a meeting follow 4 basic steps to produce the agenda:

  1. Have a clear goal for the meeting: Every meeting should have a clear focus. Writing down this goal in a clear precise manner helps to visualize the outcome which is required. Some meetings may not appear to have a clear focus, especially in the early phases at a startup company. However you need to pinpoint quantifiable areas. When you are discussing the viability of your service goals for the meeting “Reach a consensus on which functionalities are viable and necessary in the alpha version of the service.” Writing down and communicating the focus of the meeting will create boundaries to work within and will result in more productive meetings.
  2. Determine the intermediate steps required: When you set an agenda for the meeting do your best to avoid generalization of intermediary steps. For example if you are in a meeting where the goal is “Select a vendor for a CRM solution” discussing “Advantages of CRM solutions” or “How CRM will impact the company” are not relevant to reaching the goal and if you want to assess advantages, disadvantages and impact of the solutions they should be categorized in specific manageable discussion points. You have to ensure that each of your intermediary steps helps you reach your goal. Keep goals as specific as possible to avoid irrelevant or vague discussion points.
  3. Select the right people to attend: Decision makers or those with a direct connection with the goal should be invited to the meeting. Inviting individuals who have no direct impact on what is being discussed, results primarily in wasting resource time, and may slow down the meeting causing digression into unrelated topics. If you are selecting a psychometric vendor; the IT manager, finance manager, head of HR should be invited. These will be key decision makers who will be able to arrive at a conclusion quickly and effectively. Calling someone from the quality control department may not be a wise choice. Simple as this may seem we still seem to be dragged into meetings where we add no value. Make sure each resource at your next meeting is adding value otherwise you are wasting company resources.
  4. Identify potential barriers before hand: Barriers and roadblocks are common in most meetings. Being an effective meeting leader will require you to forecast these barriers before the actual presentation. This will allow you to manage conflict between opinions more effectively. To handle this situation you will need to know the individuals who will be taking part in the meeting, their personalities, their respective departments and their temperaments based on prior meetings to keep the meeting running on time and moving towards reaching your goals. If you are pitching to a customer you can use past experiences with other customers to predict areas where resistance is expected.

Agendas are essential blueprints to having successful meetings. Make sure that you communicate a clear and specific agenda before the meeting and do your best to keep the discussion in line with the points. Following this will impact greatly on the productivity of your next meeting .

Not another meeting!

Meeting Scheduling

Peter Drucker states in his book, The Effective Executive, “We meet because people holding different jobs have to cooperate to get a specific task done. We meet because the knowledge and experience needed in a specific situation are not available in one head, but have to be pieced together out of the knowledge and experience of several people.” However in todays workplace I feel that meetings have been overused and have reached a stage where they have become more of an impediment than a catalyst.

Effective meetings are critical to any business whether you are a 2 person startup or a multinational organization. They are the building blocks of effective communication throughout an organization. You can have three kinds of meetings, good ones, bad ones or unnecessary ones. Effective meetings are ones where there is a prepared agenda, focused and time bound, encourage participation, decisions are made and actions items are assigned with completion dates. These factors are the basis for any effective meeting.

Meetings are a direct cost to any organization. The hours which are spent by the participants in unnecessary or ineffective meetings add up. We have to ensure that even at a startup company meetings are well planned out as losing focus during a meeting is  simple if it is not controlled. Using these principles I have been able to achieve more effective meetings which have had a direct impact on efficiency, team morale and collaborative decision making. During the course of the following week I will highlight each factor in a lot more detail. I look forward to any comments or feedback along the way from readers who have been able to make their meetings more effective.

5 steps to manage your time better

“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.” Anthony Robbins

Time is probably the one asset that not many people think twice about spending. We need to start paying attention to where we are spending this non-renewable resource of ours. By taking control of where you want to spend it will be critical in achieving any degree of success. Below are 5 steps which provide a rough outline on how to start managing time better and achieving the results we have always wanted but never had the time for.

  1. SMART Goals: The first step will be to set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound goals for ourselves. We need these to provide the direction for where we will be allocating our time and energies. Without them life will pass us by and we will have no control over the course it will take. To read more about how to set SMART goals please click here.
  2. Prioritize: The second step will be to correctly prioritize the goals and task list which you have made for yourself. It is essential to focus attention on the activities which provide the greatest return on our investment. By following the 4D formula through which we dump, defer, delegate or do tasks, will help chart a list which will provide an efficient way of sorting tasks. To read more about how to prioritize your tasks please click here.
  3. Time Management System: The next step will involve charting the week in using preparation, best and rest days categories. This will allow you to achieve a balance as well as perform at optimal levels when you are doing the activities you excel at. To read more about how to implement this time management system please click here.
  4. Productivity Boosters: The fourth step will introduce you to productivity boosters to help manage time more effectively. It is essential that prior to buying PDA’s and tasking software you have a clear routine in place to help make it more efficient. To read more about these tools please click here.
  5. Balance: The fifth step is the most critical in managing time more efficiently. We need to bring balance to all areas of our life. We do this by setting goals in areas such as health, family, self and spiritual growth. These will help us avoid burnouts, strained relationships and other problems which occur when we live an unbalanced life. To read more about how to bring more balance to your daily routine please click here.

These initial steps will provide you with a framework to utilize your time in a more efficient and productive manner. Time management is not easy in the world we live in today due to ever increasing distractions and constant connectivity. Do not let life take over, make sure you chart a course as to where you want to go and then schedule your life around those goals. I wish you the best of luck.


“You must master your time rather than becoming a slave to the constant flow of events and demands on your time. And you must organize your life to achieve balance, harmony and inner peace.” Brian Tracy

I have talked solely about how to manage time to become a more effective entrepreneur. Another dimension is how to manage  time more effectively as an individual. We need to strike a balance in our daily lives and give substantial attention to other areas which will have a direct impact on its quality. Key areas where I have been focusing on to have a more balanced routine are;

  • Health & Exercise: We all have very busy schedules and often find ourselves rushing to work in the early hours of morning and returning too tired at night to even think about what this routine is doing to our health. Schedule a weekly exercise routine to get yourself physically and mentally in better shape. Avoid eating fast food and other unhealthy stuff regularly, these have a severely damaging effect on our health. Make a conscious effort to exercise and eat right.
  • Family & Friends: When life gets busy this is an area where sacrifices are made regularly. The effect of this sacrifice is not felt in the short term, as time goes by ties are strained and you could find yourself alone. Make an effort to use your rest days to spend time with family and friends. These are the memories which will be cherished further down the road.
  • Grow yourself: We should be in a constant state of learning. Pick up a new hobby and dedicate an hour or two every week to develop it. Read a variety of material to keep yourself up to date and informed. If you do not make an effort in this department you may find yourself disconnected from life. Schedule sometime every week to make sure you remain connected.
  • Spiritual: This doesn’t necessarily involve formal religious activities. It should be a dedicated time in the week to make sure that you are connected with yourself. It could be in the form of walks, reading or conversation. This area will help us remain grounded and allows us to see the bigger picture.

A healthy balance is essential for us to manage our time effectively, efficiently and wisely. By setting yourself goals in areas other than business/career, will help us grow more. It allows us to become more self aware about life and our purpose. Make a commitment today to yourself that you will do your best to bring a more balanced approach on how to lead your life.

Productivity Boosters

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency. Bill Gates

The first Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) I got myself was in college. I still remember how frustrated I was when nothing changed after I got it. When I came across this quote by Bill Gates it all made sense, applying technology boosters to our own life will not yield the results we want if our life does not have structure. Today I rely on many productivity tools which help me organize my day in a much more efficient manner.

Contactizer Pro: This is a key program I use to keep track of my day, week, month and year.

Yep: Manages all my documents, receipts, invoices and bills

Yojimbo: Manages important information when I am surfing the internet

Marsedit: Manages all my blogging related activities

iPhone: Can’t imagine life without it

All of these tools have made a difference to the way that I manage information. These tools will only work when you have the discipline to work towards certain goals with perseverance and diligence. Those three characteristics will have a direct impact on how much these tools aid you in organizing your day.

Time Management System

“Many people seem to think that success in one area can compensate for failure in other areas. But can it really?…True effectiveness requires balance.” Stephen Covey

When scheduling my week, month and year I use the following time management system. The system basically asks you to break up your week into three different types of days. The break up is:

  1. Preparation
  2. Best
  3. Rest

This system truly is very simple, yet, it is often overlooked by many of us. Examples of when this system is not used are days when you feel you are not giving your best to what you are doing, looking to find more time in the day to complete a critical task, thinking your life is purely about work and nothing else.These are thoughts which come to mind even though we have a goals list which is prioritized. By implementing this system I have been able to bring balance into my life and to make sure that I am in sync with all aspects of it.

To use the system effectively you need a prioritized goals list as well as clearly outlining  the functions or tasks you excel at and bring the greatest amount of value to. Once you have marked these, you need to categorize your week into preparation, best and rest days. For example, due to an excess work load I am experiencing this month, I have allocated 2 preparation days, 4 best days and 1 rest day.

Preparation Days: These are the days when I plan the critical tasks which need to be completed during the course of the week or month. These include research for proposals which need to completed, tabulating psychometric tests scores which have been conducted, set and plan agendas for meetings scheduled during the week and coordination which needs to be done for events taking place during the week. Everyone’s preparation days will be unique to the core tasks at which they excel.

Best Days: These days include a number of tasks which create the greatest value. These would include finalizing and sending out proposals, giving presentations and meeting prospective clients, consultations and feedback sessions with clients who have taken our psychometric tests and internal strategic planning meetings. These are tasks which are made easier when prepared for in detail and make my best days a lot more productive. Choose tasks which you have skills and passion for to ensure that you make the most of these days.

Rest Days: These days include tasks which are not related to business . With the advent of Blackberry’s and iPhones, these rest days are slowly becoming extinct. You should do your best to allocate activities or events where you can relax and unwind during these days. I usually spend time with friends and family during this day, reading the ever increasing backlog of unread books and catching up on some sitcoms and shows which I enjoy. These days are essential for a balanced lifestyle.

By targeting a number of prep, best and rest days in a month I have been able to allocate  time more efficiently and have become more effective at the tasks which I excel at. I hope this system can help you as much as it has helped me.


” I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything…at least not at the same time. So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.” Dan Millman

If you have constructed a goals list and have broken it down into several sub goals it can be intimidating at first. We need to prioritize the list we create to manage time more effectively. Without prioritizing we will remain stuck in an over burdened state where we will not find the time to finish anything efficiently. Prioritizing goals is a critical step and needs to be done carefully to ensure that you concentrate on the activities which have the greatest return for your efforts. By focusing on the “right” things you will move towards your goals at a more effective and faster pace.

The Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule is an apt principle to describe the prioritizing process. You need to identify the tasks which you do daily and which result in the greatest output. Concentrating on those top 20% of activities will result in you working at your optimal. In essence the principle is very straightforward and logical one, yet we find ourselves bogged down everyday doing tasks which are not in the top 20%. For example if you are a salesperson with 100 clients on your roster, you should be focusing your efforts on the top 20 clients who are generating 80% of your revenue. This principle forces you to make choices between what is important and critical and what is not. When I look at a task sheet I usually mark it using the 4D formula which is;

  • Dump it: Tasks which are not relevant to reaching  stipulated goals. For example if I am swamped with work, going to buy myself a new TV isn’t essential at this time  and I will cross it out.
  • Defer it: Tasks which are important but not urgent are put into this category. For example if I am told that I need to select a new vendor for our air conditioning servicing contract for the next quarter I will file it away for a later date.
  • Delegate it: Tasks which are important but for which I may not be the best person need to be delegated. For example, if my company is looking to invest into a new web conferencing solution, I will delegate the research to an assistant so that I can have all the relevant information to make an informed and faster decision.
  • Do it now!: Essential tasks which I am the most efficient at doing should be done with the highest priority. For example if I am head of marketing and need to deliver our marketing plan for the next year to the Board I should be focusing my energy to make it the best I can.

By focusing on the important tasks and at which we are the most efficient, we will find ourselves completing and accomplishing  more during the course of the day, week, month and year. So if you haven’t prioritized your task and goal list make sure you do it as soon as possible to ensure that your time is allocated to those activities which produce the greatest amount of value.