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How to kill endless meetings and stay productive

Despite their drawbacks, meetings remain an integral part of any modern workplace. The rise of office silos and remote workers make regular check-ins an absolute must for keeping everyone on the same page. Meetings aren’t going away anytime soon, so how can we work to cut down on their time and productivity drains?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question. While it’s impossible to take one simple step to eliminate meeting waste, you can start considering your meetings not as routines, but as investments. Instead of regularly planning and attending meetings thoughtlessly, think beforehand about how you can get the greatest ROI on the time you spend effectively meeting with others.

If you’re looking to put an end to endless meetings and start having productive meetings in your workplace, here are a few places to start:

1. Optimize Your Meetings in Advance

The single biggest cause of meeting overload isn’t ingrained habits or bad office policy; it’s bad meetings. Most meetings begin without any agenda to speak of, and directionless meetings are hardly meetings at all.

A meeting that accomplishes nothing is bound to simply lead to more meetings down the line. You can put an end to this cycle by scheduling valuable, productive meetings for your team.

Start by focusing on the purpose of a meeting. Every meeting you have should be necessary for your success, as well as your business’s and employees’ success. Moreover, meetings that cover too many topics or areas are likely to go over their planned time and alienate participants.

Remember, productive meetings only last as long as they absolutely need to. To train yourself to shorten meetings, you can use tools like “speedy meetings” if you learn more about google calendar. This allows you to automatically shorten your scheduled meetings by five minutes so you have time to get things done in between meetings.

2. Make Your Meetings Democratic

Who schedules meetings in an office? Generally, executives and upper management are the ones who call meetings and set their agendas. While it’s important for those in charge to get their directives across to other employees, meetings that come directly from above aren’t going to be very engaging for everyone else.

Instead, try planning some meetings from the ground up. Deciding on a direction or general topic for a meeting before asking for concerns or questions from your employees goes a long way toward keeping people engaged in meetings, and meeting engagement is one of the best ways to keep meetings short but meaningful. Even something simple like an anonymous Google poll can give attendees the freedom to make their voices heard.

3. Invite the Right People

We’ve all been there — sitting in a meeting and silently wondering why we’re even there in the first place. Every minute someone spends in a meeting they don’t belong in is a minute wasted, and it even has the potential to drag down the efficiency of the meeting itself.((Harvard Business Review: How Working Parents Can Get the Most Out of Calendar Apps))

One way of figuring out who belongs in a meeting — and who doesn’t — is to go back to the meeting’s focus. With the topic of the meeting in mind, think about who either would directly benefit from hearing that topic discussed or would have something meaningful to add to the discussion.

Meeting attendance goes both ways, however. If, while deciding on the makeup of your next meeting, you leave out someone who should’ve been there, a significant amount of time could be wasted trying to catch that person up.

Make sure to think a bit outside the box when it comes to who really belongs in a meeting. If your design team is meeting, for example, it would probably be best to have a product manager and software engineer sit in to make sure that everything discussed is in line with other teams’ goals, too. Trends seem to support this theory.((Hotjar: CX trends for 2019)) The right guest list for a meeting now could save several future meetings later.

4. Use Digital Tools Instead

Technology like video conferencing has made meetings easier than ever, regardless of where participants are or what they’re doing. The proliferation of technology has also produced a new wave of apps that make it increasingly possible to drastically cut down on the number of meetings in your office.

Communication platforms like Slack let you create separate channels for people to chat. For some of your meetings, consider creating a dedicated Slack channel for that topic instead of hosting an in-person meeting. Ask the relevant questions you want answered, or start a discussion. Watch as a digital meeting takes place without anyone needing to fully stop working.

Other collaboration apps like Trello let everyone see exactly what everyone else is working on, eliminating the need for constant check-in meetings. If there’s a certain type of meeting you’re looking to cut down on, search for software that can transfer the function of that meeting to a digital space.

Bad meetings are eating away at company revenue the world over, so it’s important to do what you can to get your office’s meeting schedule under control. By thinking about meetings as assets for your business, you can make the most of one of corporate America’s favorite pastimes.

More About Productivity at Work

  • How to Be Productive at Work: 9 Ground Rules
  • 7 Effective Time Management Tips To Maximize Your Productivity
  • How to Be More Productive: 4 Tiny Tweaks for Maximum Productivity

CamTrader brings you human interest articles from around the web to spice up your day. We hope you like it.

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time. Read full profile

How to kill endless meetings and stay productive

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We’re in the middle of a meeting epidemic. Executives now spend an average of 23 hours a week in meetings, with 71 percent reporting that those meetings are generally unproductive and inefficient. [1]

Despite their drawbacks, meetings remain an integral part of any modern workplace. The rise of office silos and remote workers make regular check-ins an absolute must for keeping everyone on the same page. Meetings aren’t going away anytime soon, so how can we work to cut down on their time and productivity drains?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question. While it’s impossible to take one simple step to eliminate meeting waste, you can start considering your meetings not as routines, but as investments. Instead of regularly planning and attending meetings thoughtlessly, think beforehand about how you can get the greatest ROI on the time you spend effectively meeting with others.

If you’re looking to put an end to endless meetings and start having productive meetings in your workplace, here are a few places to start:

1. Optimize Your Meetings in Advance

The single biggest cause of meeting overload isn’t ingrained habits or bad office policy; it’s bad meetings. Most meetings begin without any agenda to speak of, and directionless meetings are hardly meetings at all.

A meeting that accomplishes nothing is bound to simply lead to more meetings down the line. You can put an end to this cycle by scheduling valuable, productive meetings for your team.

Start by focusing on the purpose of a meeting. Every meeting you have should be necessary for your success, as well as your business’s and employees’ success. Moreover, meetings that cover too many topics or areas are likely to go over their planned time and alienate participants.

Remember, productive meetings only last as long as they absolutely need to. To train yourself to shorten meetings, you can use tools like “speedy meetings” if you learn more about google calendar. This allows you to automatically shorten your scheduled meetings by five minutes so you have time to get things done in between meetings.

2. Make Your Meetings Democratic

Who schedules meetings in an office? Generally, executives and upper management are the ones who call meetings and set their agendas. While it’s important for those in charge to get their directives across to other employees, meetings that come directly from above aren’t going to be very engaging for everyone else.

Instead, try planning some meetings from the ground up. Deciding on a direction or general topic for a meeting before asking for concerns or questions from your employees goes a long way toward keeping people engaged in meetings, and meeting engagement is one of the best ways to keep meetings short but meaningful. Even something simple like an anonymous Google poll can give attendees the freedom to make their voices heard.

3. Invite the Right People

We’ve all been there — sitting in a meeting and silently wondering why we’re even there in the first place. Every minute someone spends in a meeting they don’t belong in is a minute wasted, and it even has the potential to drag down the efficiency of the meeting itself. [2]

One way of figuring out who belongs in a meeting — and who doesn’t — is to go back to the meeting’s focus. With the topic of the meeting in mind, think about who either would directly benefit from hearing that topic discussed or would have something meaningful to add to the discussion.

Meeting attendance goes both ways, however. If, while deciding on the makeup of your next meeting, you leave out someone who should’ve been there, a significant amount of time could be wasted trying to catch that person up.

Make sure to think a bit outside the box when it comes to who really belongs in a meeting. If your design team is meeting, for example, it would probably be best to have a product manager and software engineer sit in to make sure that everything discussed is in line with other teams’ goals, too. Trends seem to support this theory. [3] The right guest list for a meeting now could save several future meetings later.

4. Use Digital Tools Instead

Technology like video conferencing has made meetings easier than ever, regardless of where participants are or what they’re doing. The proliferation of technology has also produced a new wave of apps that make it increasingly possible to drastically cut down on the number of meetings in your office.

Communication platforms like Slack let you create separate channels for people to chat. For some of your meetings, consider creating a dedicated Slack channel for that topic instead of hosting an in-person meeting. Ask the relevant questions you want answered, or start a discussion. Watch as a digital meeting takes place without anyone needing to fully stop working.

Other collaboration apps like Trello let everyone see exactly what everyone else is working on, eliminating the need for constant check-in meetings. If there’s a certain type of meeting you’re looking to cut down on, search for software that can transfer the function of that meeting to a digital space.

Bad meetings are eating away at company revenue the world over, so it’s important to do what you can to get your office’s meeting schedule under control. By thinking about meetings as assets for your business, you can make the most of one of corporate America’s favorite pastimes.

Illustration by Ben Jennings

Illustration by Ben Jennings

Last modified on Tue 26 Jun 2018 15.06 BST

J ust off to a meeting? Stop right now. Turn back. You will be stuck in an overheated room, chained to a table for an absurd length of time and stopped from proper work. Worse, we are now told that just sitting there is a killer. It shortens life. You will die.

According to Public Health England, we are so addicted to meetings that we don’t realise the threat they pose to ourselves and our organisations. Its chief executive, Duncan Selbie, told this week’s annual meeting that sitting in meetings “haemorrhages productivity”. It slows metabolism and affects the body’s capacity to regulate its sugar and thus blood pressure. This leads to obesity, diabetes, cancer … and death. So don’t do it. Don’t go.

The Get Britain Standing campaign agrees. It says that sedentary office activity is now as dangerous to health as smoking. It takes an hour of exercise to eliminate the toxins built up in one round-table session. Meanwhile, the Columbia University Medical Center this week produced a no less alarming statistic. After tracking 8,000 individuals in all walks of life, it concluded that inactivity for 13 hours a day (including sleep) makes “risk of death” 2.6 times more likely than it is for inactivity of less than 11 hours.

The best meeting is spent walking, like in The West Wing. (The fact that all West Wingers seem on the verge of a heart attack is apparently irrelevant.) Mike Loosemore of the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health rather desperately advises regularly standing up and getting a glass of water. Neanderthals must be laughing themselves sick at what Homo sapiens has to do just to survive.

While we can take that with a pinch of salt, it feeds a wider meetings malaise. All the revolutions of the internet – Skype, Facebook, Twitter – have not diminished humankind’s craving to gather in tedious conclave. Executives ruthless towards workplace productivity are careless of their own offices. Meetings are the cocaine rush of the corporation. I am told there are scores of executives at the BBC, an institution famously addicted to the meetings culture, who are so high on the stuff that they spend the entire day in meetings, and return home with no one any the wiser, except those who pay their salaries.

Walking and talking in The West Wing.

It is half a century since C Northcote Parkinson first addressed the meeting as social anthropology, yielding his celebrated “coefficient of inefficiency”. It calculated that a meeting of just five people was “most likely to act with competence, secrecy and speed”. Few such bodies exist because five swiftly expands to nine: and two of the nine tend to be “merely ornamental”, people whom no one has the heart to exclude.

Above nine, said Parkinson, “the organism begins to perish”. Once the meeting reaches 20 people, it may as well go on to 100, since by then most of those present are not contributing. They are spectating, talking to each other, squabbling or forming lobbies. Nowadays many are peering at their phones or tablets – pretending to take notes, or frantic not to fall asleep. All are praying for “any other business”.

Management research on meetings is uniformly hostile, yet like most research it has not the slightest practical effect. A recent study by Microsoft, America Online and Salary.com found that the average person works only three days a week. The rest of working time was regarded as wasted, with “unproductive meetings” heading the list. Workers on average regard a third of any meeting as pointless.

Minnesota University’s “decisions” guru, the psychologist Kathleen Vohs, has shown that most executives have a limited stock of “cognitive resource”. It depletes over time, like physical energy. People get impatient, they tire and take worse decisions. Curiously, they leave feeling exhausted, despite hours spent doing nothing at all. Four-hour board or “strategy” meetings are probably disastrous to the firm, inducing torpor, claustrophobia and misjudgment.

Yet still recruits arrive from management schools and consultancies, brilliant zombies doped to the eyeballs in presentations “delivering strategic solutions going forward by thinking out of the box”. They are like chateau generals, kept well away from the front line, versed in the parlour games of the articulate classes. They are for coffee and biscuits, not the watercooler.

Nothing is likely to cut this flab. The meeting has become the ceremony of executive importance: who calls it, who chairs it, who presents to it, who is invited and who is not. Its status is a classic cause of office “fomo” – fear of missing out. It soon develops its Harlequinade, the bad jokesmith, the unstoppable talker, the maddening interrupter, the toadies, bad-mouthers, extroverts and those who just sit in silent despair. None is producing goods or services. In short the meeting is the office as religion. Its sacraments, creeds and acolytes are found in agendas, minutes and note-takers. Its liturgy is the canticle of the PowerPoint. The modern office even has its ritual sanctuary, the “meeting room”: 11.00 for matins, 2.30 for vespers.

Describing meetings as “secret killers of productivity”, Forbes magazine recently suggested they be simply banned, or held “only on Wednesdays” – all other decisions to be taken in absentia. Anyone who needs to be consulted – the “coordination” role of meetings – will find out soon enough. If not they don’t really need to know. The few brave organisations that have experimented with this drastic step report phenomenal improvements in workrate. One worker who said that if he missed a meeting, “my boss would probably kill me”, was told: “In that case he probably should.”

The number, length and size of meetings must be a sound Parkinsonian indicator of an organisation’s productivity or decay. The FTSE or the government should publish an annual league table of meetings per employee per week. It would illustrate the thesis by economist Joseph Schumpeter that all organisations have a natural lifecycle: they grow, they fatten, they ossify into meetings, and they die – unless funded by the state.

I bet Apple had few meetings in the early Steve Jobs days, but I bet it has thousands now. If so, as Parkinson warned of all who broke his laws, sell the shares. As for that meeting, skip it – and live.

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

How to kill endless meetings and stay productive

How to kill endless meetings and stay productiveHave you been wondering how to get more work out of your staff? There’s one easy way: Stop having meetings. Unnecessary meetings cost the U.S. economy $37 billion a year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics once estimated.

As Copyblogger’s Sonia Simone recently commented, “When multiple times a month, I get an auto-reply saying ‘I’m in an all-day meeting,’ your company is broken.”

Nobody loves to go to meetings, except maybe deadwood employees who’re looking for a way to avoid their tasks. The basic fact is that while workers are in meetings, they are not accomplishing their work.

Still, we can’t kick the meeting habit. Despite all the statistics that show meetings are a colossal waste of time, they continue to be scheduled — some three billion of them annually, by some estimates. And yet sometimes we need teams of people to coordinate what they’re doing, or to plan something that needs to happen.

The good news is, there are ways to get this done while spending a lot less time in meetings. Here are seven suggestions:

1. Have a limited, focused agenda. Meetings that ramble on or try to tackle too much end up a confusing, unproductive, overlong mess. Don’t try to solve all your company’s problems at one meeting. Instead, keep it to one theme and leave other topics for another time.

2. Reconsider regularly scheduled meetings. Maybe that regular weekly staff meeting could be a biweekly or monthly meeting, if there aren’t so many pressing issues to discuss.

3. Cut the attendee list. Consider carefully who really needs to be at a meeting, and let everyone else skip it. Send them a memo afterwards if they need to be in the loop.

4. Shorten the timeframe. Think hard before scheduling a meeting to run over an hour. Most participants will be completely glazed at that point and won’t absorb much more.

5. Use the internet. Instead of assembling everyone at once, which is bound to be inconvenient for some participants, use a platform such as Campfire to collaborate and share views. Many training meetings can be abolished in favor of online-based trainings workers take when it fits their schedule.

6. Send a memo. If the meeting is simply to impart new policies or plans, make a video explaining it, write a post for the company blog or send a good old-fashioned memo.

7. Reinvent your meetings. If workers are snoozing at your meetings, you can learn to make your meetings engaging and useful. There’s even a new book, The Culture Game, on how to make meetings productive.

How does your company cut down on meetings? Leave a comment and add to our list.

How to kill endless meetings and stay productive

One thing everyone can agree with is their universal hate of meetings. Every organization has them and they seem to take on a life of their own.

In theory, meetings are supposed to help leaders and their employees keep up to date, pass along information and make decisions. The reality is that very little gets accomplished.

Leaders have the power to stop this meeting madness. Meetings are necessary for productivity, communication, and transparency–but many companies handle them poorly. The problem lies in a “status quo” mentality. People are so used to going through the motion that they don’t realize there’s a better way.

Too much discussion doesn’t leave enough time for any doing. This is why many leaders, and in turn, their followers, literally spend more time in meetings than doing their jobs.

I decided to apply the same problem-solving process I use for assessing any business problem to meetings. I created a model consisting of several elements that have been proven to fundamentally change the nature of meetings, get better results and recover enormous amounts of time that can be put to more productive outcomes.

Here are my five tips:

1. Cut time length and be disciplined about attendees.

Keep meetings short and sweet. Shoot to have meetings last no longer than 30 minutes, or less if that can get the job done.

Attendance should be on a “need” basis, not simply inviting the names that come to your mind. It’s not necessary for three people from a single department to attend a meeting–have one attend and report out to the team, allowing the other two to do real work.

2. Prepare an agenda and send materials out in advance.

Focus your objective by making sure the agenda is clear and crisp. Clearly express why this meeting is scheduled, what will be discussed and what type of outcome you expect.

Send this information out at least 48 hours prior to the meeting, providing your employees sufficient time to prepare and formulate their own thoughts and ideas. Most importantly, you’ll be able to skip the “catch up” segment of the meeting and immediately start talking about solutions and action. This will allow time for meaningful discussion and ultimately new decisions.

3. Stay on target.

One of the biggest meeting pitfalls is going off target–discussing tangential issues that are interesting but irrelevant to the stated purpose of the meeting. Whoever is leading the specific meeting needs to take charge and manage the conversation to ensure the stated objective can be solved.

Distracting conversations need to be interrupted, not tolerated. Argumentation without facts needs to be called out.

Remember, you’re in the meeting to solve a problem, not merely to vent. Staying focused will allow you to achieve the stated outcome from the agenda.

4. Appoint a rotating Meeting Czar.

The biggest problem with meetings is that no one “owns” them. Someone needs to oversee them, but this would be a terrible, thankless job and no one would want to do it.

I devised a program where a member of the leadership team becomes the “Meeting Czar” for two weeks.The employee’s job is to:

  1. Approve all requests for meetings.
  2. Approve the individual attendees.
  3. Ensure an agenda is created and pre-meeting materials are sent out in advance.
  4. Set the time limit for the meeting.
  5. Lead the discussion and ensure that the stated objective is achieved.

It’s a tough responsibility, but as each leader gets a turn every two weeks, they begin to realize how important it is to manage this process well. They also discover how much more productive the entire team can be and love the dozens of hours they recapture.

Attack this problem with a vengeance. Your team will love this and you’ll find renewed engagement from everyone in your organization.

How to kill endless meetings and stay productive

When computers came to the workplace, we were sold with promises of increased time savings and productivity. Then big data came along and we were told we would work better and smarter. Now we have more data than we could ever use, but instead of making our work more efficient and smarter it has only made it busier and less meaningful.

According to the Harvard Business Review article “Smart Rules,” companies are now collecting six times the number of performance metrics than they did in 1955. With all this extra data collection and analysis, there’s less time for meaningful work. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a Boston Consulting Group report found that managers in the most complex organizations now spend 30 to 60 percent of their time in meetings and 40 percent of their time writing reports (generally used for meetings).

According to Lisa Bodell, CEO of futurethink, thought leader, and author of the award-winning book Kill the Company and Why Simple Wins, complexity is the enemy of meaningful work and is destroying our companies. Between endless meetings and countless emails, workers in complex companies only get 6.5 hours of meaningful work done–in a week.

The complexity trap.

Complexity is a danger to all organizations. According to Bodell, if your company operates with complexity, it cannot operate with speed. So newer organizations, who provide simpler answers for customers can swoop in and take your business because you’re too slow and too busy working on reports.

Don’t believe me? All you need to do is look at the success of companies like Uber (simplified rides), AirBnB (simplified hotels), and Netflix (simplified media streaming), and compare them to all the complex and slower to change businesses they left in their wake: taxis, hotels, and movie rental shops.

The complexity trap, unfortunately, is inevitable. As your business processes grow, regulations, meetings, and metrics increase. As Bodell makes all too clear, workers don’t get promoted for doing less in their organizations, they get promoted for doing more, even if those tasks are writing up reports of endless metrics.

Why simple wins.

In order to escape the complexity trap, organizations need to simplify their procedures and create more time for meaningful work. According to Bodell, companies that operate with simplicity operate with less waste, have reduced turnover, and increased customer satisfaction.

Bodell points to UPS as a brilliant example of simplicity. In 2004, UPS implemented a decision to simplify delivery routes that changed their whole business. Delivery routes were modified so drivers avoided left turns whenever possible. UPS found that left turns involved wait times in traffic, increased fuel costs from idling engines, and more potential for accidents as drivers crossed oncoming traffic. By eliminating left turns, UPS cut delivery times, fuel costs, and accidents, while increasing customer satisfaction.

Southwest Airlines also made things simple by only using one type of aircraft instead of multiple models, which made it easier for pilot training, ongoing maintenance, and travel bookings.

So how can you simplify your work? Here are three simple ways to kill complexity in your business:

1. Identify areas to simplify.

Bodell advises employees and leadership to start killing complexity by making a list. Write down what tasks you do each day; then circle the most important (and meaningful tasks). When you look at the list, there will most likely only be a few things circled. The uncircled masses that surround your meaningful tasks are where you can start reducing needless work.

2. Kill a stupid rule.

Too many regulations stifle a business. In fact, much of what you do and how you do it isn’t even a regulation–it’s an assumption or a process at your company “we’ve always done this way.” These rules (or assumptions) are usually the processes that make work much more complex and fill it with meaningless tasks. With your co-workers, come up with a list of stupid rules (or assumptions) you can get rid of to simplify the work process.

3. Empower decision-making.

Finally, as organizations grow, the decision-making becomes more complex and layered. You become slower to respond to change and are prone to be bypassed by younger and simpler companies. By empowering employees to make their own decisions, you will need less meetings, which take away from meaningful work.

Bodell suggests tasking team members with making two decisions a week without you (within parameters of the budget and what’s permissible by law, of course). Two great customer service companies–Zappos and Ritz-Carlton– do this all the time, empowering their employees to take ownership of satisfying the customer.

As time goes on, increase the employee empowerment to make decisions. You will find your company responds quicker to events with more empowerment.

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Productivity Hacks To Improve Focus And Concentration

A Complete Training To Effectively Increase Your Concentration and Focus By Boosting Your Personal Productivity.

Doing twice the work in half the time is just the LAST step of achieving long-term success for your personal and professional goals.

Before boosting your productivity, you need to increase your focus and concentration by eliminating all those useless activities that have nothing to do with your goals: time wasters and distractions.

First you need to eliminate distractions, prioritize tasks and improve concentration, then you can focus on developing self-discipline and boosting productivity.

This course will teach you how to focus on what really matters to achieve your goals by increasing productivity, prioritizing high-value tasks and getting rid of time wasters.

Check the time you spend every day focusing your attention on social media or watching videos of someone else’s life: is that time useful for achieving your personal or professional goals?

This focus + productivity formula will solve the root cause of wasting time: reset your priorities and get results faster!

What will you be able to do upon completion of this course?

How To Identify And Focus On The High-Value Actions That Improve Your Performance And Results

Reset Your Priorities, Redirect Focus And Get the Right Things Done

Stop Procrastinating and Complete your To-Do List Every Day By Mastering Self-Discipline

Create A Daily Success Routine Based on Your Personal and Professional Goals

Develop The Productivity Mindset for Long Term Success

Get Rid Of Time-Wasting Habits and Improve Your Concentration At Home

Kill Distractions, Achieve Deep Focus and Become 10x More Productive At Work

Effective Ways To Meet Your Deadlines Every Time

Boost Productivity to Achieve More in Less Time

Improve Your Work Environment and Optimize Productivity

Powerful Concentration Techniques To Learn Faster and Improve Memory

What you’ll find in the course:

Getting Started: Improve Focus by Eliminating What Prevents You From Reaching Your Goals

Create high performance habits that will make you successful, get rid of time wasters that hold you back from meeting your deadlines and improve concentration to get twice the work done in half the time. Kill distractions and stay focused on what really matters to achieve both your personal and professional goals.

Productivity Killers: How To Identify Time Wasters And Get Rid Of Them – How to identify your personal productivity killers and how to eliminate them to improve concentration

The 8 Wastes In Everyday Life: Opportunities For Improvement – Every time you identify waste, identify an opportunity and plan for change

Parkinson’s Law: How Focus And Time Management Can Improve Your Life – Manage your time more effectively and improve concentration and shartp your attention at home and work

Mental Focus: 6 Effective Ways To Set and Meet Deadlines Every Time – How focus and concentration are essential to meet deadlines within specified periods of time

5 Ways to Kill Distractions To Improve Concentration – Focus on the essentials, avoid distractions and stop procrastinating

The Next Level: Multiply Your Productivity And Achieve More in Less Time

Golden rules to achieve deep focus, improve your concentration, do the right things at the right time, boost your productivity and train your brain to learn faster. High productivity techniques to improve your work performance and maximize results.

Achieve Deep Focus And Improve Your Work Performance – How to Effectively Improve Your Concentration and Work Better

The Art Of Doing One Thing At A Time – You Can Achieve Anything If You Focus On ONE Thing.

What Time Of Day Are You Most Productive? – The Best Time Of The Day To Study Or To Work: Day or Night? You can find your most productive work times and patterns just by paying closer attention to your daily habits.

Create a More Productive Work Environment: Say Goodbye To The Boring Office – Boost your workplace productivity: how much work is accomplished in a particular work environment, over a particular period of time?

Top 3 Laws Of Productivity To Improve Efficiency – The Laws Of Productivity You Should Apply To Work Smarter, Not Harder

Conquer Your Concentration: 4 Strategies For Training Your Brain To Learn Faster – How To Improve Your Concentration By Training Your Brain With These Learning Strategies

BONUS MATERIAL

From theory to practice: downloadable resources to use as a reference and exercises designed to put into practice what you have learned in order to maximize your chances of success by developing goal-oriented productive habits.

ENROLL NOW! Stop wasting time and start investing it!

How to kill endless meetings and stay productive
You know those days, right? The ones when you can’t seem to get anything done?

You spend a few minutes tapping away in a Google Doc, followed by an embarrassing amount of time falling down the YouTube black hole. You answer a single email before grabbing your phone for a not-so-brief scroll through Instagram.

Despite a lengthy to-do list, you just can’t focus on anything—and it’s infuriating. You know you need to get stuff done, yet those looming deadlines aren’t enough to convince you to actually buckle down and focus.

What gives? Why can’t you zoom in on the task at hand? And, more importantly, how can you give your attention span a much-needed kick in the pants?

Reason #1: You’re, Like, Really Tired (And Killing Off Brain Cells)

Are you yawning at your desk? Do you feel bleary-eyed, foggy, or like you’re trudging through cement? Are you debating a third (ok, fourth) cup of coffee?

I have news for you: You’re overtired, and it’s really hindering your ability to concentrate.

One study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine shows a direct correlation between sleep deprivation and impaired cognitive function—including your working memory and cognitive speed. Another facet that really takes a nosedive? Vigilant and executive attention.

That means not catching enough zzz’s can really sabotage your focus.

Here’s what’s even scarier — continued lack of sleep might actually destroy your brain cells. As part of a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, when mice were deprived of sleep, the researchers discovered that locus ceruleus neurons (LCns) in the mice’s brains—which are essential for the brain’s alertness—began to die off.

Since these neurons were continuously firing without enough rest, they became damaged and were eventually destroyed. The mice lost a whopping 25% of their LCns after just three days of 4-5 hours of sleep.

Scientists hypothesize that the same thing could happen in human brains. So, basically, a lack of sleep could quite literally kill your brain cells. No wonder it’s so hard to focus when you didn’t get a good night’s rest.

So, What Can You Do About It?

Your first instinct might be to scramble for another caffeine boost, but that’s really just a bandaid.

In lieu of putting your head down and napping at your desk, there are a couple of things you can do to wake yourself up without slapping yourself across the face.

One of the best things you can do is head outside for a quick walk. Not only does that get your blood pumping, but it also exposes you to natural light. Research published in the International Journal of Advances in Chemical Engineering and Biological Sciences states that some exposure to daylight enhances your attention, as well as your work performance.

And, instead of reaching for the coffee pot, grab a big glass of water instead. 75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration, and sleepiness is one of the most common symptoms. So, chugging some water might be just what you need to perk up again.

Of course, these quick fixes can help when you feel bogged down in the middle of your workday, but they’re no replacement for actually getting a full night’s rest.

Evaluate and rearrange your schedule to ensure that you’re giving yourself enough rest each night (according to the National Sleep Foundation, you should be getting anywhere from seven to nine hours) and can show up to work feeling alert and recharged.

Reason #2: All News Is Bad News (For Your Focus)

There’s no shortage of distractions in your average workday—and I’m not just talking about the colleague who keeps dropping by or the seemingly endless meetings that break up your day.

You have a life outside of work, and it’s hard to check personal to-do’s at the office door. When big things are happening outside of the office—whether they’re good or bad—it becomes increasingly tough to set those aside and tackle your work. That’s because your emotional state is directly tied to your level of focus.

Let’s look at both positive and negative events here. We’ll follow the cliché and start with the bad news first. To put it simply, negative news has a severe impact on our mood.

“In particular. negative news can affect your own personal worries,” says British psychologist Dr. Graham Davey, in a HuffPost article about the negative news cycle. “Viewing negative news means that you’re likely to see your own personal worries as more threatening and severe, and when you do start worrying about them, you’re more likely to find your worry difficult to control and more distressing than it would normally be.”

While that quote is related to news programming in particular, it can be applied to any sort of negative news you receive—such as an upsetting update about a family member’s health. It sends you into a funk that tanks your mood and makes it that much tougher to dedicate your attention to your task list.

What about good or exciting news, then? Shouldn’t that have the opposite effect? It does, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

When you’re pumped about something, it increases your adrenaline. Adrenaline can be great, but levels that are way too high can actually lead to anxiety, which results in decreased work performance.

It’s called the Yerkes-Dodson Law, and it basically states that there’s an optimal arousal level for getting your stuff done. And, a thrilling event puts you way too far past that optimal level—which makes it hard to concentrate.

Just think, if someone asked you to generate an important report immediately after you were told you’re getting promoted, it’s probably going to be tough to focus. You’re way too hyped up, and that amped emotional state makes it almost impossible to handle even the most routine tasks.

Pointless meetings, endless interruptions, and an anxiety-inducing news cycle are no longer part of your job description.

Productivity Pitfall #1

“I feel like the meetings I host aren’t always effective.”

The Fix

Do a meeting audit.

The Expert

Rebecca Sutherns, PhD, is the founder of Sage Solutions, a consulting firm that specializes in collaborative strategic planning.

First, think about the meeting’s purpose and whether it’s even necessary. What are the minimum requirements for the discussion—could it be a one-on-one phone call? An email? The main reasons to hold a meeting (or Zoom conference) are to reduce blind spots and increase everyone’s buy-in, so plan to meet if those goals are top of mind.

Then assess your guest list. Too many people are invited to meetings they don’t need to attend, and we’ve all been at meetings where people say, “Oh, I can’t make a decision on that. I have to ask so-and-so.” Check that the invite list is complete (and that “so-and-so” is there).

Also, change up the locations of face-to-face meetings. People often think more creatively when they’re in varied spaces, so try hosting your weekly meeting in different spots.

For a more productive gathering, plan how the meeting will run. Put together a bulleted agenda with actionable items, like “Brainstorm about this idea,” or “Make a decision on x.” If you can manage the details and focus of the meeting well, people will be more engaged. Visuals also help people stay interested and retain information; consider putting together a quick presentation to keep the meeting flowing.

Finally, what gets written down is what lives on after the meeting, so make sure documentation happens. Follow up right afterward with an email that lays out next steps and states who will do what by when. Define what “done” looks like for each to-do item so everyone has similar expectations.

Too many people are invited to meetings they don’t need to attend.

Productivity Pitfall #2

“I want to stay up to date on the news, but sometimes I find myself spiraling.”

The Fix

Curate your news intake.

The Expert

Jenna Lee is a journalist, writer, and producer. She is the founder of Leep Media and SmartHer News and a former co-anchor of Happening Now on Fox News.

Whether you’re working from home or the office, staying informed throughout the day can feel like a full-time job, especially during an election year that coincides with a pandemic. Being thoughtful about where you go for news is critical to ensuring you’re getting information you can trust.

Start by signing up for the daily email briefing sent out each morning by your favorite news source (try AP Morning Wire from the Associated Press for a sampling of what’s happening all over the world). Or listen to a daily radio briefing or podcast on your commute or lunch break.

If you feel overwhelmed trying to stay on top of everything, focus on just three topics, like how the economy is doing, where our soldiers are, and maybe health innovations—that last one is a great way to include optimism in your news diet.

Also, consider following photo-journalists on social media. They can add interesting perspectives because they’re actually in the regions they’re reporting on.

Productivity Pitfall #3

“I feel like I’m always interrupted, both in the office and when working from home.”

The Fix

Protect your time by setting expectations up front.

The Expert

Deborah Grayson Riegel is a keynote speaker, executive coach, and consultant who teaches leadership communication.

Get ahead of interruptions by asking to be left alone. For even better results, specify why. Say something like “I’m on deadline to get this sales presentation to a client.” One fundamental way we build trust with others is by explaining our decisions, even if the person doesn’t agree with them.

Don’t be reluctant to ask for the time you need: Research shows that once concentration is broken, it takes about 23 minutes to regain a flow. Your request shouldn’t be aggressive or passive; it should be assertive. After you ask coworkers or family members for a certain amount of alone time, close your door, put on headphones, turn off notifications, and disconnect from all outside sources—you can even put an auto response on your email and text messages. This signals to others and yourself that you’re focused on something important.

If you still get interrupted, try saying this: “I’m in the middle of something. You can have five minutes of my time now, but please know that I’m distracted and you won’t have my full attention. Or you can have my full attention at x o’clock. Which do you prefer?” If they choose five minutes now, you have to honor it.

This story originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Real Simple.