Home working tips, how to stay sane!

Home working tips

For some of us switching to home working has been very straight forward, for others not so much. Here’s some home working tips to be productive and more importantly avoid going insane!

Home working is now the new normal for most of us. For some it’s business as usual for others it’s a whole new world. But, there are things you can do to make it a whole load better. Here’s our favourite home working tips and remember keep having better meetings!

Create a schedule

It sounds kinda obvious but having a schedule and sticking to it helps keep work-life balance in check. It’s all too easy to overwork and get into bad habits. Don’t, it will kill your productivity. Why not try something like RescueTime it’s a great tool for keeping track of your time.

Set some ground rules

This is especially important if you have kids. It’s important that everyone in your space knows when you’re working and they give you the space you need during these times. But, don’t be surprised if the kids dive in when your Zoom has overrun into family time. It happens to the best of us 😉

Have breaks and stick to them

When you’re in the office the amount of breaks you have is huge. Whether that’s structured like your lunch or the 5 minutes you grab to get coffee and chew the fat with Dave in accounts. Breaks matter, they allow your mind to relax even for a short time. It’s incredibly difficult to stay focused for long periods without a break and the quality of your work will deteriorate if you try to.

Create a space to work

If you can use a separate room from the other people in your space. That’s difficult especially right now when whole families are home on lockdown. Having a space to concentrate free of distractions will help your day run smoothly. The kitchen table on the other hand can be problematic especially if you’re sharing it with a 7 year old’s art project.

Keep in contact with people

Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re cut off from colleagues. Jump on Slack or better still drop your work mates a quick call to check in. It’s important not to coccoon yourself into a bubble, just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you’re alone.

Don’t miss meetings

Just as you wouldn’t turn up late or not at all to a meeting face to face then you absolutely shouldn’t do this remotely either. If you’ve got your schedule down meetings play an important role in decision making and business as usual. For a lot of us the realisation is dawning that we can do our roles equally as well from a laptop in the shed as we can in our offices.

If all else fails!

If all else fails you could do what this guy did and make a fully functioning spiderman web shooter. We’re guessing he may have missed a few meetings along the way though!

Above all give it time, we’ve been on lockdown for a few weeks at most depending on where you are. If you get a routine in place quickly you’ll soon settle into a rhythm.

Amazemeet’s a great tool for running meetings, especially online.

Try it Free.

How to have great online meetings

how to have great online meetings

As many of us are now working from home, this week we share some tips on how to have great online meetings.

Most of us assume that online meetings run exactly as their face to face counterparts do but that’s not always the case. Over recent years the amount of online meetings has grown exponentially, making them a much more viable option for all kinds of businesses not just the kind of people you’d expect. Technology has played a role as has a changing work place environment and businesses general attitude to home and flexible working.

As I’m sure you know we’re all about better meetings and there are nuances to meeting online that it’s worth considering before you dive in.

Pick a platform, there’s lots.

This is the point you’d expect us to bemoan how the technology has facilitated our failing meeting culture but, we’ll skip that for this article 😉

A quick web search will throw up a large number of platforms available for online meetings, there’s loads out there, from the basic freebies to super sophisticated (i.e. expensive) software options. Our advice? Do your research. There are so many options, so take the time to work out exactly what your business requirements are and select a solution accordingly.

Once you’ve made a choice, take the time to fully understand the platform and its functionality. As with all areas in business, it’s imperative to plan and be prepared. So be sure to do a few practise runs with friends or colleagues, before your first actual meeting. Not being on mute when the dogs barking can be a little embarassing with clients in the meeting!

When you’re confident you know what you’re doing, here’s our advice for running an engaging and productive online meeting.

Communication is key.

Communication is key. This isn’t just regarding the meeting itself, but in the run up to it. Firstly, make sure you let ALL the expected participants the exact date and time. There is nothing worse than a bunch of people sat looking uncomfortably into their webcams waiting for someone to join who actually has no idea their supposed to be there in the first place.

As with all types of meetings, make sure you create and circulate an agenda for the meeting beforehand. Allocating time limits to each section can help keep things on track and stop breakouts that wander off at a tangent and throw the whole meeting out. Pulling everyone back on track is much harder online than face to face, so ensuring the agenda is followed is key. Time limits also stop sections rambling on and people becoming disengaged.

Assign a facilitator.

It’s a really good idea to nominate someone to lead the meeting (usually the person who has requested and set the meeting up, but not always).

Although you’ve spent the time familiarising yourself with the platform, assume no one else there has ever used it before. The meeting lead should explain how the platform works, as well as getting everyone to introduce themselves prior to kicking off the agenda.

Make up for the lack of face to face interaction.

We’ve all sat in those meetings. The really dry ones that seem to run forever and send you into a total stupor. Online meetings can especially suffer as there can be a lack of personality with not being face to face. Combat this with exciting visuals, video, sound and try to making the meeting as interactive as possible (remember, this is a meeting, not a presentation). Try and inject some humour (if appropriate) and encourage people to comment, questions and feedback. Many of the available platforms include the functionality for things like live brainstorming and polls, all of which help to ignite and sustain people’s interest.

Assign the follow up.

Finally, ensure you follow up the meeting with an email, summarising the main points of discussion, tasks and next steps. And, as always, thank everyone for their time and encourage post-meeting feedback.

Find a tool that helps you manage it all.

You may have noticed that running a great meeting online is similar to the a face to face. Albeit without the human interaction. A great way to ensure you tick all the boxes is to use a tool that helps you plan, run and action your meetings.

Amazemeet’s a great tool for running online meetings and the enhanced functionality that’s coming with the version 3 launch will build on this.

Try it Free.

The addiction of meetings, how to break the cycle.

It’s official we’re addicted to meetings. We have reached the zenith of meeting culture, in some organisations employees spend at least 50% of their time in meetings. It’s become somewhat of a joke at certain organisations, like the BBC in the UK, where some employees entire working week is spent in endless rounds of meetings with little notion of effectiveness or concrete outcomes.

Technology has done us no favours simply making “the drug” more accessible and more easy to schedule than ever before. Like all addictions we know it’s bad for us but we do it anyway. Management research is almost uniformly hostile towards endless meetings but in this age of post truth and post facts we carry on regardless failing to have the better meetings we strive for.

Meetings have variously been described as the “silent productivity killers” but this belies the fact that from time to time they do need to happen. Actions needs to be discussed and outcomes agreed and this often works best when a collective of minds come together. In fact meetings can be amazing, they’re not, but that’s where Amazemeet comes in.

 

 

So how do we break the cycle of something we are so deeply addicted to?

 

One of the major culprits in ineffective meetings is the lack of an agenda. It seems kinda obvious but so many meetings take place without a clear idea of why?

The agenda goes hand in hand with the outcomes. Without a clear idea of what is being discussed and what decisions need to be made meetings can be like meandering down the river on lazy Sunday afternoon.

Often overlooked, how many times have you sat in a meeting thinking I really don’t need to be here or worse I really shouldn’t be here? It’s become culturally normal for purposeless meetings to be called simply as a way of exerting management control or even worse as de facto therapy sessions, inviting as many people as possible to the theatre. Just think if you spend 2 hours a week in one of these that’s over 2 weeks starring at a colleague who is probably thinking the same thing.

You need a way to say no. Or to be more precise you need a way to say no that actually benefits what the meeting is trying to achieve.

 

Can we actually change this?

 

Like any cultural shift it’s not going to be easy. But then we got used to using our phones to book cabs instead of standing on the sidewalk with our arm held out.

We believe the key lies in outcomes. Demonstrable better outcomes from following a process and a format to have more effective meetings will be the real driver. When you can genuinely say:

That meeting was productive

I didn’t attend that meeting, I got on with my tasks and the meeting was better for it.

When we meet we know things will move forward.

We meet less and more effectively and we’re a happier company for it.

Then we know we are moving forward. That kind of sentiment can’t be ignored. In fact I bet there’s a lot of people who will want some of that.

 

Amazemeet is building a community and a platform to make meetings better. Be a part of this sign-up below.

Making Brainstorming Work; CEO of Medium on How To End Meetings

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Making Brainstorming Work

Image: jeanbaptisteparis 

To make brainstorming work, have two meetings to determine “what to do” and then “how to do it”.

Brainstorming if not properly conducted can waste time and creative juice.

To make it work, leadership influencer Dan Rockwell has a tip: Successful brainstorming calls for two meetings.

The first meeting is a “What might we do” meeting.

The second is a “How might we do it” meeting.

Divide the efforts and focus maximises creativity and follow through. 

Originally from the blog of Dan Rockwell

Tell Me What You Heard

hearing-ear

Image credit: Paul Townsend

Explaining something to someone and not sure they got it – simply ask them to tell you what they understood you said.

In some cultures, the concept of “saving face” is very important.

Sometimes in meetings, when a person explains something and others don’t quite understand, they wouldn’t ask because they don’t want to be thought of as slow, lack of knowledge, or being distracted.

In other cases, it’s simply misunderstanding.

The consequences: misalignment, unclear expectations, may lead to recurring meetings in the future.

As you explain something to someone, make sure they got it by asking them to say what they have understood from you.

How To End A Meeting

end-meeting

Image: Robert McGoldrick 

At the end of the meeting, have a “closing round” to give each participant a chance to comment on the meeting and know where the group is at. At the end of meetings, have a closing round to give each person a chance to comment on the meeting. h/t @ev Click To Tweet

Ev Williams, CEO of Medium has a wonderful idea: The facilitator/host goes around the room asking everyone to make comments, say how they feel about what were discussed.

This allows people to get things off their chest and receive feedback about how the meeting can be improved. They might come up with ideas/ issues that are worth noted but otherwise ignored.

At Amazemeet, we have a section called “Off topics” so these points can be recorded – have you tried that?

Closing rounds can also get the ones who didn’t have a chance contribute to voice their thoughts. And most of all, these rounds can be fun and positive they”re a great way to better meetings.

So try that out and let us know how it went!

Originally published by Ev Williams, CEO of Medium

Meeting Scheduling: 4 Tips To Do It Right

meeting scheduling 4 tips

Often time, the way a meeting is scheduled determines how successful it is.

This month’s productivity tips focus on how to transform your usual meetings  into productive, short, and well-spent time – by reflecting on the old old ways of how they are usually conducted, trying to understand the design flaws no one questioned before.

Our featured leadership and time management influencers offer some tips to blow a fresh air into your stuffy, lengthy, and ineffective meetings.

Let’s dive in.

Parkinson’s Law in Meetings

time

A meeting is as long as it’s designed to be – start with the agenda, not time, and collaborate on making duration estimation.

Parkinson’s Law is stated as “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

In the context of meetings, the duration of the meeting is as long as it’s designed to be. If one sets out to have a 1-hour long meeting, it is usually the time it takes regardless of the significance of the agenda discussed.

For example : a manager wants to hold a 30-minute meeting to reach a decision, even though the decision can be reached in 5 minutes, chances are that the discussion will expand to fill the full 30 minutes.

To stop wasting time on this type of meeting, start with the agenda, not the duration.

Make it clear what the things are that you want to talk about – start with Purpose and Agenda, estimate beforehand, and together with other participants how long each item takes, then come up with the meeting duration.

Try this on Amazemeet’s canvas.

Start short meetings X minutes before the hour

clock

Efficient meetings are short ones. The easiest way to have a short meeting is to start it X minutes before the hour.

For example, a meeting at 8:40 that is scheduled to go to 9 rarely goes past 9.

One reason for this is most other events and meetings start on the even hour. So there is often an urgency to finish the short meeting.

And “odd” meeting start times are easy to remember.

I encourage everyone to set their device alarms a couple of minute before each meeting so they are not late.

From Jim Estill – a Leadership blogger and influencer at CEO Blog – Time Leadership

image: clock

Scheduling Meetings like Warren Buffett

Schedule meetings one day in advance so you get to determine how you spend the next foreseeable 24 hours as you feel like it.

Badly timed meetings are bad.

Warren Buffett has been said to usually not schedule his meetings more than one day in advance.

Someone who wants to meet him will be told to call in on Thursday if they want to meet him on Friday.

By doing this, he can determine how he wants to spend his time in the next 24 hours instead of weeks or months in the future. His schedule is therefore relevant, not prescient.

Try doing this for your next meetings, the ones when someone just asks for your time and attention – not dependent on other factors.

This won’t make you as successful as Buffett, but it gives you the power to decide how to spend your next foreseeable hours, and puts you into a more pro-active position in how to conduct your meetings.

Originally written by Jason Fried

image credit

The magical 30-minute meeting

pinapple-halved

Halve the time of your normal 1-hour meeting to experience more focus and success. h/t @peterbregman Click To Tweet

Often we allocate 1 hour for most meetings, phone calls or appointments. Why should that be our standard allotment for so many things?

When we halve that slot – compressing time – people are more likely to: focus on critical points instead of stretching to reach the 1 hour by doing unnecessary tasks and having going-no-where conversations (think Parkinson’s Law).

Moreover, everyone will tend to be on time and come prepared (now that you only have 30 minutes!). Every minute makes a difference.

Most importantly, compressing time spent on meetings and other tactical work gives you more unstructured time to spend on activities and people you love.

Originally written by Peter Bregman

image credit

Synthesis Work, Manager Daily 5 Minutes and Personal Goals in Meetings

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Outcomes Over Outputs

Outputs are the “what”and outcomes “why”; always ask “Did your outputs make the difference that you expected in your outcomes?”

The 101: Outputs are what you produce e.g pizza, outcomes are what happen as a result of producing and consuming them e.g satisfy my hunger and impact are the effect they have, usually on the longer term e.g got fat.

Outputs are the ‘what’ and outcomes are the ‘why’.

So ask yourself ‘WHY am I doing WHAT I’m about to do’ and if you can’t answer that clearly consider not doing it.

If it is unclear/fuzzy ,take a little time to make it clearer.

In designing your meetings – consider the ‘Purpose’ as your ‘Outcome’ and the agenda and the actions as the ‘outputs’.

At the end of your meeting - did your outputs make the difference that you expected in your outcome? Click To Tweet

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Read more about Managing Outcomes vs Outputs by Deborah Mills-Scofield on Harvard Business Review

Stop Using Meetings For Synthesis Work

business-meeting

Use meetings to chart the course and finalise, not synthesising on the spot. h/t @helpscout Click To Tweet

Collaboration is not useful in every situation. When coming together as a group, people are better at planning and deciding on projects than creating separate pieces, and fixing them together.

To create and produce require deep work and alone time.

If you do this kind of work in the meeting, it not only makes the meeting unnecessarily longer, but also unproductive.

So next time, hold back from synthesising individual works during the meeting, do that in everyone’s own time, and only come together to decide and finalise.

Originally from the blog: https://www.helpscout.net/blog/bad-meetings/

The Daily 5 Minutes For Every Manager

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Everyday managers would speak to at least one of their employees for 5 minutes without an agenda to nurture relationships.

“Managers keep a checklist of names so they don’t miss anyone and make this 5-minute talk a daily habit ” – said Rosa Say – acclaimed Leadership and Workplace Culture Coach.

Both sides will start treating each other like people as employees will share their family stories, their struggles and even ideas for improvement.

Managers will know their subordinates better as individuals, therefore gain a more accurate basis of judgment.

In the workplace, acts to facilitate employee-manager relationship are quite underused.

Making an effort to understand one another improves clarity of responsibilities and working expectations.

Originally from the blog of Rosa Say

Never Attend Any Meeting Without a Personal Goal

erik-weihenmayer

Have a clear personal goal attending any meeting. h/t @simpletonbill Click To Tweet

Ask yourself: as a result of this meeting, what can you know, how do you want to feel, what do you do after.

Bill Jensen suggests asking yourself these KNOW- FEEL- DO questions before attending any meeting:

KNOW: What is the one thing you must KNOW that you couldn’t get without attending the meeting? What information, action, advice?

FEEL: How you want to FEEL during the meeting? Included, active, to experience moments of new insights.

DO: As an outcome or result of this meeting, what is the one thing you expect to DO?

Don’t have the answers? Either don’t attend, or make yourself a clear purpose to address these questions during the meeting.

Originally published on medium by Bill Jensen

Image fun-fact: Speaking of setting personal goals, on May 25th 2001, Erik Weihenmayer reached the summit of Mount Everest – and still remains the only blind person to have ever done that.