Tame your recurring meetings


We all have them – recurring meetings. They are in your calendar. Someone invited you to these meetings a long time ago and they just repeat every day, week, or month. Very often they do not have any meaning, yet they are in your calendar so you attend them. And you usually waste your time. What can you do about it? You can tame such meetings! How? Start by reading this post.

There are a few things you can do to make the most of of such meetings. And it does not matter if you are the organizer of a meeting or an attendee. Stop wasting your time in meetings that have no added value for you. How can you do this? You can find a few tips below:

  • Challenge the agenda of the meeting – A day or two before the next recurrence of the meeting, check if there is an agenda defined for it. Send a short e-mail to the organizer with the question “What will the topic of the meeting be?” If you don’t receive an answer or the answer is “There is no agenda,” politely but firmly say that you won’t attend it. You can do the same as an organizer. Contact all invited people and ask if they have anything for a meeting. Unless you have an agenda prepared, tell them that if you don’t receive an answer by the given time you will cancel the meeting.
  • Challenge the frequency of the meeting – Do you have a meeting that recurs every week, but there are rarely enough topics to talk about, so you keep canceling the meeting? Change the frequency of the meeting. For example, do a biweekly one. Suggest this to the person that created that meeting.
  • Suggest a main topic for each meeting and a person responsible for preparing it – If the meeting ends up with just talking about random things and the group still insists on meeting regularly, you can propose to have a main focus for each gathering. That way, there will be at least one subject to talk about and your time won’t be wasted. Always ask to nominate one person to prepare the main topic. Then everyone will be engaged from time to time.
  • Challenge the length of a meeting – What you do usually takes as much time as you plan for it. That means that even if you have a defined agenda that could be done in 30 minutes and the meeting is scheduled for 60 minutes, you’ll fill the whole 60 minutes.. If your observation is that the meetings are planned for a longer time than you really need, ask to make them shorter. You will manage to finish everything you need to, and you won’t waste any extra time.

I did the above things and changed a few of the recurring meetings I usually organize. Now we spend less time stuck in meetings, and these meetings are more to the point. We know why we meet and what we want to discuss. And now I try to ask the same of organizers of other meetings.

Can you share how you deal with recurring meetings? Do you attend them?


6 rules to plan a productive day


There are many good practices for managing your calendar. There are also several good practices for scheduling meetings in the most efficient way. I know many of them and I still make simple mistakes. This post is partially written to remind myself about them, but I hope you will find it useful too!

There are days when my calendar looks like the one below – meetings all day, without any breaks.

Too many meetings…


When I see something like this, I know I’ve failed to follow my own rules. You may ask what is wrong with a schedule like this – there’s even time for lunch! ;) There are a number of things that make this bad planning:

  • There is no time to grab a coffee, go to the toilet, or eat a snack during the day – the whole time is occupied by meetings.
  • If meetings are in different meeting rooms on different floors, I have no chance of being there on time.
  • There is no time scheduled for processing emails, returning calls, etc.
  • There is no time to simply rest and catch my breath.

I bet that at least some of you have such days. I’ve noticed that I’ve had many of them recently. As a reminder for myself and for you, I am listing a few rules to remember when scheduling your day:

  1. Remember work you have to do and plan it in your calendar – Answering e-mails, writing reports, doing research. If you know you have to do such things during the day and you are constantly being invited to the meetings, then put such events in your calendar. Call it work, research, communication, etc. That way you will have time to do it.
  2. Schedule time needed to prepare for a meeting – Some time ago, in the post about  meetings, I wrote what to do to prepare for a meeting. There is a number, not a small one, of things to do before a meeting. These preparations take some time, and it is smart to plan that time in advance.
  3. Schedule time needed to process notes from a meeting – usually you take notes during meetings. Taking notes makes the most sense when you process them afterwards.
    1. You should scan your notes looking for action points to add to your ToDo list.
    2. If you take handwritten notes, you may want to digitize them.
    3. If you store notes in applications like Evernote or OneNote, you should plan time for putting them in the right notebooks, tagging them, and adding dates and other information.
  4. Plan time for lunch and breaks – If you have a lunch break, put it in your calendar. That way you will have time for it and no one will invite you to the another meeting at that time.
  5. Put events for travel, working from home, etc. in the calendar – If you know that you won’t be in the office for awhile, then that information should be in your calendar. You will avoid being invited to meetings that you aren’t able to join.
  6. Leave the first 2 hours of each day empty in your calendar – Spend the first two hours on processing your todo list, planning your day, and doing your MITs. Don’t plan any meetings then.

If I remember these 5 simple rules, my day at work is usually more productive and much calmer. It’s so easy to forget about them, though. If we plan our days while keeping these rules in mind, we can leave the office much less tired.

Do these rules make sense for you? Do you find them useful? Is there anything else you would add to the list?


Photo by   keso sCC BY

The first words are the hardest


I like to talk to people. For me, talking to people is rewarding, and in most cases I learn a lot from each conversation that I have. If I know the interlocutor, starting a conversation is not a problem for me. But when I meet new people it is quite hard to begin chatting. Lately I’ve been attending a lot of project meetings, business dinners, and other types of business meetings, so I’ve had to come up with a strategy for starting conversations. If you have a similar challenge with speaking to new people, I have a few tips for you.

Please remember that what I am going to list below are just some ways to get chatting. Usually after starting a conversation you come up with so many interesting subjects to discuss that it isn’t a problem to continue. But it’s not about making small talk – it’s about starting a more meaningful conversation.

What do I do to prepare for a meeting with new people? Below you can find a few tips.

  • Prepare for the meeting – If I’m going to a business dinner, I read about the place we will eat before I go. I research the type of cuisine there and find some recommended dishes. I read about my partner’s company and their recent projects. I know what country/town that person comes from. All of these things are great conversation starters because you can tell your guest what is interesting about the place where you’re meeting, ask about their latest project, etc. You can also ask what place is the most interesting to see or visit in the city your guest comes from. Ask for tips on what to do if you go there. You may know that the person you’re meeting with shares your passion, like running – talk about the best routes to run in each others’ cities.
  • Use what you’ve learned recently – Trivia you’ve learned recently can be a great conversation starter. I am sure you read a lot, watch movies, listen to podcasts, browse the internet, etc. While doing that you learn a lot. Use this to start a chat! You read an article about a bank in Germany that has negative interest rates and asks customers to pay for keeping their money? Talk about this. It’s something that influences everyone – they will be interested! (I talked about it with a customer I had dinner with recently. This started a 30 minute long and very interesting discussion about banking systems).
  • Talk about your last project/activity – You are working on something interesting? You were part of a challenging project? You are preparing for a marathon? You are learning to dance? Share this with the people you’re talking to. It may be interesting to them, and it will help them learn more about you. Just observe how they react to what you say and see if you should carry on speaking about these topics.
  • Know what is happening in the industry – If you meet with people that work in a similar company as you, talk with them about what is happening in your industry. What are the trends? What are some emerging technologies? Are they embracing those new things?
  • Learn new things about your guest’s job – If you meet someone for the first time, you can ask some questions about their occupation. What do they do? How do they do it? What is interesting about their job? What are their challenges? People generally like to share this information.
  • Weather/location/travel/language – This is the last resort :) If you don’t know how to start a conversation, just talk about the weather (how warm it is for this time of year, or how the weather is where your guest lives) or how your guest traveled to your location. Ask questions about your guest’s language – you always can use this as an opportunity to learn new words :)

These are just a few ideas for what to do if you don’t know how to start a conversation (like myself). Remember, they’re just ideas to get the ball rolling. From my experience, I’ve learned that after a few sentences you learn so much about the person you’re talking to that you can easily continue and enjoy the conversation. As I wrote in the beginning, the most important thing is to start. Everything that follows is much easier.

What do you do when you meet new people? How do you start a conversation? Are you the type of person that can just talk to everyone immediately? Or maybe you wait for someone else to start? I am very interested to hear your stories. Please comment here or on Facebook – or, like you often do, just talk to me :)

Photo by  JakeandLindsay Sherbert/ CC BY

How often do you run a meeting and is it an efficient one?


For as long as I can remember meetings have been part of my work. Now, when I manage a team, I spend even more time in meetings. Since so much of my time is spent in the meeting room, I want it to be as useful and as efficient as possible. We all know how unproductive meetings can become and how easy it is to waste time in them.

Over time, I tried to implement a few techniques to make meetings more useful for me. Recently I have written two blog posts about those techniques on my company’s blog.

These posts cover what should be done before, during, and after the meeting. You can read them here:

Run an efficient meeting or cancel it – Part 1 – covers everything that should be done before the meeting.

Run an efficient meeting or cancel it – Part 2 – covers everything you can do during and after the meeting.

I encourage you to read these articles and try the techniques yourself, maybe just a few of them, not all at once. I guarantee you that if you try at least one of them, you will benefit from it.

If you have any questions or comments, add them here – I will answer all of them :)

Good luck!


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