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How to Run an Efficient Team With Fewer People

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How to Run an Efficient Team With Fewer People

A quick glance at the Fortune 500 will show you some well-oiled corporate machines that dominate their respective industries. Small companies and startups will try to emulate those same business models with varying degrees of success. Is it possible for a small organization to run as efficiently as a business behemoth?

The answer is yes, but you might have to customize your approach to fit your specific team. Running a small-scale team is a much more intimate and detail-oriented matter, but when done correctly, it can be just as efficient as any company you compare yourself to.

This article will help you and your team increase your efficiency and help your small business find great success even with fewer people on deck.

Lean on Automation

When operating with a small team, look for ways to automate basic tasks that take up a lot of time when performed manually. This frees up your team members and allows them to focus their attention elsewhere, getting much more done in a regular day. 

Take online appointment software, for example. With this solution in place, customers can book their own appointments, check future availability, and even make payments without the help of a customer representative. You’ll no longer need to have a team member on the phones all day helping customers do those things.

You can automate a whole bunch of tasks — outreach emails, invoice reminders, social media posts — if you have the right tools for it. Look for solutions that will take control of basic tasks so that your team can focus on more complex assignments. 

Focus on Communication

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it once again. Communication is absolutely vital for teams of all shapes and sizes. Even one miscommunication can be quite disruptive.

Improving team communication doesn’t have to be complicated. Try using project management software or an instant messaging platform to keep everyone on the same page. Hold consistent meetings and touch base with your employees on a regular basis. Ultimately, successful communication comes down to the effort you put into it, so don’t let a day go by where you’re not communicating with your team in some way. 

Another important aspect of communication is gathering feedback. Ask your team about what’s working and what’s not working, then use that information to change your workflows. Few things will improve your team’s efficiency more than listening to their process improvement ideas and putting them into practice. 

Manage Workloads

Some miscommunications are worse than others. One side effect of bad communication is poor workload management. With a small team, especially in a startup, there’s a chance that some members are taking on far more tasks than their peers, which creates a distinct disparity between co-workers. If the imbalance persists, it can begin to breed resentment.

You might appreciate that your hardest-working employee is taking on as many assignments as possible, but the truth is that they’re likely experiencing some diminishing returns on their productivity. If they’re biting off more than they can chew, it won’t be long before errors occur or something has to be pushed aside.

By managing the workload over your entire team, projects can be distributed more evenly. This will likely result in tasks being completed much faster than if a single person was trying to do everything on their own. 

Build a Positive Culture

Company culture might seem superficial, but employees are valuing culture more now than ever. A positive company culture will draw in better employee prospects, which will naturally increase your efficiency by introducing more good workers into the mix.

In addition, your culture will directly affect team morale on a daily basis. If your team enjoys coming to work every day and mingling with their co-workers, they’ll work harder and more efficiently together. A poor culture will cause team members to drag their feet and potentially even look for a different employer.

How do you build a positive culture? There are a number of different approaches, and the ones you choose will depend on your team’s values. Casual wear, a revamped break room, team lunches, and after-work activities are all possibilities to consider. 

Promote Autonomy

As a leader, it’s important to be hands-on with your team. However, you need to avoid becoming a micromanager. Going too far in the “helping” direction can actually hurt productivity and efficiency. 

While remaining involved, promote autonomy throughout your team. Make yourself available for questions and guidance, but don’t stick your nose in when you’re not needed. This might be difficult to achieve if you’re an entrepreneur working on your startup, but it’ll pay off in the long run.

If you want to measure how these tips are working for your team, start tracking some key metrics (hours worked per process, cost of goods/services sold, etc.) that you can compare over time. As you see those numbers improve, you’ll know you’re turning your small team into an efficiency powerhouse. 

5 Industries Benefiting from Improved Productivity and Efficiency

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5 Industries Benefiting from Improved Productivity and Efficiency

Over the past few centuries, society has undergone several Industrial Revolutions where improved productivity was the main focus. Each one introduced different kinds of innovations like mechanized fabric making, product standardization, and digital communications. Certainly, they were different in terms of what they brought to the societal table. Yet, they all had one thing in common: They enabled exciting methods of workforce efficiency on unparalleled scales.

Today, we’re nestled somewhere around the Fourth or Fifth Industrial Revolution. As a result, efficiency and its cousin, productivity, have arisen as hallmarks of successful companies. Indeed, top organizations like Apple and Microsoft do things better, faster, and cheaper than competitors.

As a result, these companies are frequently used as examples in business school curricula. When have you heard of “the greats” without hearing of Apple and Microsoft? Moreover, these businesses’ efficiencies continue to keep them in leading positions worldwide and force other organizations to keep up — or get left behind.

For instance, Amazon has mastered what is coined McDonaldization. That is, Amazon’s workplace engine runs like that of a fast-food chain. How so? People get exactly what they want when they want it at an affordable price.

No matter where an individual is under Amazon’s reach, they can expect the same level of service. The system is efficiency-in-action — and it turns consumers into loyalists. The Amazon example provides other businesses with the inspiration and impetus to boost their own company productivity ratings.

Leaning into efficiency — even when it’s a tough sell

Of course, becoming efficient isn’t simple and doesn’t come without growing pains. If it did, every startup or enterprise would run like clockwork without minimal amounts of time, human resources, or financial waste.

Efficiency takes tremendous planning, work, and dedication, right down to the individual level, which is why some sectors historically have lagged behind. Not anymore, though. Plenty of industries are finally embracing the realization that efficiency will bring myriad opportunities.

At the same time, business leaders have realized that an efficient culture doesn’t have to be robotic. Productivity can be fun and rewarding. Workers don’t necessarily disengage just because their employer values productivity. Instead, they can start to see themselves as part of the solution. Plus, if they can help cut out waste, they may see personal gains like a shorter workweek.

Improved productivity in industries not known for productivity

So which industries are becoming known for adopting more efficient processes? The following five are finding and testing exciting ways to boost productivity.

Industry #1. Media and entertainment

Video game development may be a thriving field. Nonetheless, companies have had trouble finding workers to fill roles. Part of the problem is that the technologies needed to produce games evolve rapidly. Consequently, job candidates who graduated a few years ago may not have impressive resumes or appropriate credentials.

Credentials within each market have to be updated, and some workers have not taken that opportunity — leading to problems with efficiency within video game developing companies. Why? The companies are struggling to put workers into positions.

Fortunately, the industry has found a workaround that’s both efficient and effective. As Gearbox Entertainment president Randy Pitchford has explained while on the speaking circuit, “hiring for aptitude could transform this industry.” Pitchford has seen how recruiting people with the right cultural fit, determination, and spatial skills can have more bottom-line effects than hiring someone for background alone.

Understanding gaming industry needs and the unique way of sourcing tomorrow’s gaming performers has allowed Gearbox and other entities to get projects to market (and consumers hungry for entertainment) faster than ever before.

Industry #2. Education

Although education has experienced improved productivity with the advent of technologies like the computer and the Internet, it’s still antiquated. Still, it’s undergone a bit of metamorphosis during Covid due to the rise in online learning. And that’s opened the door for education advocates, administrators, educators, and parents to discuss revamping the educational process.

Take grading systems, for instance. Instructure, the maker behind Canvas, conducted a research study during the pandemic. The study showed that about half of educational setting stakeholders felt that students were falling behind. At the same time, plenty of respondents felt the way to help kids and teens recovery shouldn’t include high-stakes testing.

Instead, 76% of teachers felt that formative assessments were better to determine if students were progressing. So if formative assessments become mainstream, they may help teachers more efficiently bring all students to a standard level.

Industry #3. Healthcare

Medicine, in general, hasn’t always been the pinnacle of productivity. How many stories have we all heard about long waits to get from the lobby to the exam room? Or the inability to schedule an appointment within three months, especially with a specialist?

These hiccups have made healthcare a place fraught with frustrations for all parties. In other words, it’s the perfect zone for a focus on improved productivity.

Healthcare has enjoyed an efficiency renaissance recently thanks to integrated healthcare portals. Many of the larger hospitals and healthcare systems are creating centralized places for records, communication, billing, insurance, and more.

By streamlining all documentation and giving patients more immediate access, providers are improving their service. They’re also putting power in the hands of patients who can schedule emotional wellness telemedicine visits and pay their bills online.

Industry #4. Retail

Consumers fell out of favor with brick-and-mortar shopping during Covid. Instead, they tended to do most of their purchasing online through sites and apps. Though they’ve returned to their favorite retailers now that they can, they’ve altered their buying behaviors.

More than ever, they value efficient interchanges — and don’t necessarily want to spend hours browsing or waiting in lines. Instead, they want the speed that can only come from highly efficient workflows.

To satisfy the public’s needs, retailers have made several efficiency changes. For one, lots have added self-service kiosk checkouts. Others have bumped up their digital spaces, adding buy-now, pick-up-in-store choices.

More retail companies are promising curbside delivery with prepayment. Not surprisingly, shoppers are taking advantage of these current opportunities to get what they want faster.

Industry #5. Real Estate

Who would have thought that real estate would take off during and after the pandemic? It happened, though. Even during the strictest lockdown periods, people found ways to connect with realtors and virtually visit properties. As soon as they could, they snatched up residential and commercial deals–sending Zestimates soaring sky-high.

Until the middle of 2021, the housing market kept going up and up. The higher prices delighted everyone, from agents to sellers to investors. But, at the same time, it highlighted the need for improved productivity with so many people clamoring to enter into the real estate market.

Even though buyers and sellers can once again meet in person, they’re not stuck doing real estate the same way. Realtors and realty companies have begun to use the web more effectively. They’re exploring ways to ramp up efficiency from streamlining documentation through online e-signature portals to showcasing even luxury properties online.

Some are even testing the waters with augmented and virtual reality. The more they can get a potential buyer to connect with available properties, the faster they can close a sale.

Some experts say that we’ve entered into the Fifth Industrial Revolution. Others say we’re only on its cusp. A few are looking forward to predicting the Sixth Industrial Revolution, which could be a combination of AI and biotech.

Regardless of which Industrial Revolution is upon us, all organizations and industries can benefit from an upsurge of innovation, adaptability, and efficiency.

How Implementing New Tech Tools Can Improve Team Efficiency

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How Implementing New Tech Tools Can Improve Team Efficiency

Everywhere you turn, there’s a new tech tool promising to offer you more time, energy, or sales. They sound amazing on the surface, but if you choose the wrong one, they can produce more frustration than solutions.

The good news is, there are productivity and efficiency tools that are worth your time. In this article, we’ll cover some new tech tools and how you can introduce them to your team. After you’re done reading, you’ll be inspired to integrate them into both your work and personal life.

Collaboration Tools

Organizing your team’s workload is essential to accomplishing your goals and should be the first place you pursue improved productivity. Adding collaboration software to your arsenal is a great way to harness the power of your team. 

Team members today are often working remotely, off-site with clients, or scattered throughout the office. This makes managing workflow a challenge if you don’t use tech to bridge the gaps. 

Project management tools like ClickUp and Asana break projects down into discrete tasks and allow you to assign responsible parties for each one. The entire team can see when deliverables are due, which tasks depend on others, and who gets the baton next. Prioritizing how team members collaborate, plan, and execute can be the difference in whether or not they reach their goals.

Calendar Management Tools

It’s no secret that time, the best-known nonrenewable resource, is gold when it comes to business and life. Calendar management can be a game-changer when it comes to wrangling the hours your team has available to work. Identifying the time spent in meetings, pursuing new business, or completing administrative tasks can pinpoint where to improve efficiency. 

Giving team members and sales prospects the opportunity to self-schedule commitments can eliminate time waste as well. Just think, how many emails have you exchanged trying to find a mutually beneficial time to meet with a colleague or client? Using a tool to help tackle calendar chaos makes managing your team’s time, and efficiency, effortless.

List Management Tools

Oh, lists. Don’t we love them? They can be so satisfying to write down, check off, and — ideally — move on from. 

But at what point do we step away from all of the list-making and get to the task-doing? Luckily, there are list management tools that tech pros praise and use to get their most important work done. The best part? Many of them integrate with other much-loved and -used tools that help you manage your schedule, team, and conversations. 

Use list managers to keep track of work responsibilities, and you and your team will be checking off completed tasks in short order. Apps like Todoist and Any.Do even allow you to share tasks with another person and assign priority levels. 

Messaging Tools

Say you’re working from home and so are your colleagues. What’s the most efficient way to reach out for a project status? If you send an email, chances are you’ll wait hours for a reply. When your team is spread out (and even when it’s not), real-time messaging platforms like Slack and Google Chat can be a godsend. 

They’re also more efficient. How many times has a traditional check-in been derailed by a debate about the latest blockbuster? Messaging platforms provide channels where you can keep the sales team’s eyes on #sales and the teamwide discussion of “Black Widow” in #entertainment. 

Messaging tools keep it simple, keep it focused, and — even better — keep a record. You can easily check back to what was said or committed to as a way of tracking progress and assignments. Employees can get instant answers to questions, removing obstacles to making progress. That’s a win-win, whether you’re in the office or working remotely.

How to Get Started

So you’ve decided to implement some of the new tech tools you’ve learned about with your team. But where do you begin? First, you’ll want to determine which ones you’d like to prioritize. As with any behavioral change, a clear message from team leadership is critical. For simplicity’s sake, it’s best to integrate one new tool at a time to have the best chances of it sticking. 

Second, be intentional. Once you’ve chosen a tool, have a conversation with your team about why you want to implement it and how you think it will help. In high-performing teams, transparency, buy-in, and active listening are key. 

Hold a meeting with a set agenda, leaving space for conversation and questions. At the meeting, share how you selected this new tool, provide research, and pitch its features and benefits. Be sure to establish expectations on how the team will use it and how you’ll monitor its effectiveness. 

Finally, reinforce the new tool and be its champion. As the leader of your team, you’ll be looked to for guidance, pointers, and reassurance. Educate yourself, devise a plan, and execute it as you implement this tool and others with your team. With your new tech assistants, you’ll become productivity masters in no time. 

5 Potential Barriers to Automated Appointment-Making

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5 Potential Barriers to Automated Appointment-Making

Automated scheduling makes life for appointment-based businesses so much easier. However, that may not be the case for all your clients. There are some potential accessibility barriers that every business must be aware of, especially when moving most of their operations to an online platform.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990 to help eliminate everyday discrimination against people with disabilities. This includes barriers to employment, schooling, and working with businesses. The internet has helped a lot of people with disabilities accomplish great things, but there are still struggles to overcome. Businesses should take the following factors into account as a strong first step toward making online scheduling available to all:

1. Visibility

The most common disability you’ll come across when operating online is visual impairments. There a variety of different issues that may affect your customers, each with its own required solutions:

Low Vision

There are lots of factors that can contribute to low vision, from cataracts and astigmatism to simple aging of the body. Individuals with low vision will struggle with small bodies of text, complex fonts, and poor spacing between words. Minor tweaks to your website and online appointment software, as well as enabling text enlargement as a feature, will accommodate their needs.

Some of your customers may be legally blind, rendering all the text and images on your website inaccessible to them. These individuals typically rely on screen readers to navigate the internet, getting all their information from sound. Read through your appointment process and see how each heading and set of instructions sounds in your head. If everything flows smoothly, you should be in the clear. 

Color Blindness

The average person can clearly distinguish different colors. Those who suffer from color blindness, though, lack such perception. This can be a challenge for them in many aspects of life, including working through websites that rely on color signals for navigation.

For example, red is a common color used to indicate an error in a form field that’s needed to finalize an appointment. Red can be a tricky color for many color blind people to identify, causing them to miss the details that require their attention. Using textures or symbols alongside colors will help direct them just as well as any other customer. 

Light Sensitivity

Some people are really sensitive to light, which can make it difficult for them to navigate your website if it includes bright colors. Many apps include a “dark mode” setting for this very purpose. Replacing white with black is a simple tactic that can make all the difference for those with high light sensitivity. 

You might think that adjusting the brightness on a device is enough, but don’t count on it. When looking to comply with ADA regulations, go above and beyond to meet the needs of every customer you serve. 

2. Hearing Impairments

While the internet is considered to be a primarily visual medium, there are certain aspects that only function with an auditory component. You might not realize that you’re alienating those with hearing impairments until you revisit your website with a fresh perspective. 

Does your website have a video that’s used to explain how your appointment software works? If you do, make sure that those with hearing impairments receive equal direction. Enable closed captioning or provide a transcript of the video so that all the information can be read as well as heard.

3. Dyslexia

Contrary to popular belief, dyslexia is not a visual problem. It’s considered a language-based learning disability that makes reading and writing a challenge. People with dyslexia are just as smart as anyone else. However, their brains have a harder time connecting letters and words together when reading things like your appointment booking portal.

Simple fonts such as Ariel are easier to process. Avoid using italics if possible, as this can cause letters to run together or seem foreign. In addition, videos and images can guide those with dyslexia through your appointment booking software if you make them an option. 

4. Motor Function

Motor skill disabilities pose another potential obstacle to online appointment booking. Trying to operate a sensitive mouse or trackpad can be frustrating for customers with even minor struggles with motor functions. Your job as a business is to make website navigation and appointment booking as easy as possible for everyone.

This demographic normally gets by through keyboard commands rather than a trackpad or touchy mouse. Make sure customers can navigate through your appointment booking software by using arrow keys and shortcuts. Even customers with perfect motor skills will appreciate having several options for website navigation. 

5. Sensory and Memory Issues

Ever experienced a sensory overload? When there’s too much going on in your vicinity, it’s practically impossible to focus. People with sensory processing issues can experience such sensory overload all too easily. If your online booking software is too loud and busy, it can be too overwhelming for these individuals to schedule appointments online.

There are also those with short-term memory problems who will struggle with a long and complicated booking process. Take time to evaluate how your online booking software can be simplified to cater to both of these types of customers, as well as anyone else who might simply be in a hurry. 

There are many unique disabilities and hardships that each of your customers push through on a daily basis. Get to know them so that you can serve them better, both through your online appointment software and your in-house service. You’ll feel a greater sense of satisfaction knowing that no customer will be turned away or feel discouraged when interacting with your business.

What is the Best Desk Setup for Productivity?

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Your work environment plays a massive role in your productivity. Try to get stuff done when you’re hunched over your coffee table, or slouched on the couch with your family screaming in the background. It just doesn’t work. But what is the best desk setup for your productivity?

If you could only afford one item for your office — that one item needs to be your desk. Your desk will make a difference in productivity. That’s not saying the occasional make-shift desk, like your kitchen table or coffee shop couch, doesn’t have its place. It’s just that you need a proper place to work day-in and out.

What’s more, besides having a desk, you also need to set it up properly so that it’s inspiring and motivating.

If that’s something that interests you, then check out this handy guide on what the best desk set up for productivity. Here, I’ll cover what the best standing desks are, how to set your desk up, and the only things that should be placed on top.

The 10 Best Standing Desks

Before you set up your desk for maximum productivity, you first actually need, well, a desk. But, what type of desk?

Well, nothing against your current desk, but my money is on one that allows you to sit and stand. A desk that you can use both sitting and standing is not as large and bulky as other office furnishings. That means more office space and less clutter on top. More importantly, being able to stand-up throughout the day is beneficial to your health, such as reducing obesity and heart disease.

Research also shows that standing desks can reduce back pain, improve your mood, and boost energy levels. As a result, you’ll be more productive and efficient.

With that in mind, if you’re considering investing in a new desk, here are ten of the best sit-stand options on the market.

1. UPLIFT V2 Standing Desk

Forbes, Lifehacker, and Wirecutter have all named this desk as the best standing desk. And, there’s a good reason why. It can be fully customized to meet your specific needs.

For starters, there’s a wide range of desktop size options from 42″ x 30″ to 80″ x 30.” You can also choose from a variety of materials and styles like bamboo, laminate, whiteboard, eco curve. You even have many shapes, such as L-Shaped, Curved Corner, and 120 Degree, to pick from.

As with many other standing desks, there’s a control module that allows you to select your preferred height. In other words, when it’s time to adjust from a sitting position to a standing one who just hit a button and adapt to the taller height.

There are also a lot of nifty add-ons for this sturdy desk, such as a power strip, cup holder, and under-desk hammock. Best of all? Pricing starts at just $539.

2. Jarvis Whiteboard Standing Desk

There’s not too much difference between a Jarvis desk and UPLIFT. They have a similar appearance, come in a variety of styles and shapes, and adjust heights. Even the price point is the same as the Jarvis desk, starting at $529. However, the desktop is a little thinner than that of UPLIFTs.

But, unlike other options, Jarvis has a model where you can scribble ideas and thoughts directly onto the desktop. The whiteboard tops are Greenguard-certified, scratch-resistant, and made from recycled materials. Plus, they’re easy to clean and keep your desk free from clutter — like pens and notepads, that may be distracting to you.

3. Lander Desk

At first, you may think that the Lander Desk is your run-of-the-mill standing desktop. And, you would be correct with that assumption. After all, it looks like every other standing desk has similar specs, and comes in a variety of colors.

What separates the Lander Desk from its competitors, however, are its revolutionary features. For example, there’s the hi-resolution LCD control paddle. That means you can easily adjust the height by just tapping twice up or down. There’s also a built-in coach that reminds you to stand at intervals. And, you can even adjust the height using your smartphone via the desk’s app.

The Lander Desk is capable of lifting to 360 pounds, has an exclusive 3D-laminated surface, and features an ergonomic “comfort edge.” If you like, you can also add-on a monitor arm, keyboard tray, or storage drawers. Pricing starts at $1,049.

4. Apex Elite Series

Sure. Compared to other standing desks, there may not be as many options for customization with the Apex Elite Series. But, that doesn’t mean it should be excluded from this list. The reason? It comes with a contoured desktop making it both spacious and stylish design.

But that’s just the beginning. The desk adjusts quickly at 1. 5″ per second. Furthermore, thanks to the customizable preset, you can easily switch to your desired setting with sitting or standing height as the day goes on. Also, you can purchase add-ons like a cable management tray and a three-drawer file cabinet. The price is affordable, starting at $649.99.

5. StandDesk® Natural Wood Adjustable-Height Standing Desk

Durable steel frame? Check. A fast and quiet motor that quickly adjusts from 24.5″ up to 50.25″? Yep.

So, what makes this standing desk so unique? It’s all about the durable top with a natural wood finish. Besides brightening up your workspace, these tops are handcrafted and have been selected from natural eco-sustainable wood pieces and free of toxic compounds or chemical air pollutants. That’s great for the environment and the air quality of your office.

As with other options, there are several upgrades available such as a power strip and cable management tray. Pricing starts at just $784.85.

6. Ergotron WorkFit-T

Do you love your current non-standing desk? No problem. Just purchase a convertor like the Ergotron WorkFit-T and place it on top of your existing desk. Now when you want to stand, you just hit a button, and you have handy a standing desk without spending a fortune.

Most of the models can hold around 40 pounds and have enough space for a monitor and keyboard. If you want a smaller desk that doesn’t require as much space — there are compact converters available.

Depending on the exact desk model, you can purchase a sit-stand station from Ergoton for just $199.

7. Seville Classics Airlift Tempered Glass Electric Standing Desk

Looking for a clean, simple, and affordable electric standing desk? Look no further than this beauty from Seville Classics.

It features a tempered glass top, that’s neon-dry erase ready, with rounded edges. That means you can jot down notes mark off your calendar directly from your desktop. The dual motors rapidly and quietly lift the desk from 29 inches to 47 inches high with the press of a button. There’s also dual USB charging ports for simultaneously charging your devices. Best of all? This desk starts at just $399.

8. Varidesk Pro 60 Full Electric Standing Desk

If you want more of a high-end or large workspace, then this is the desk for you. It’s 60 by 30 inches, can rise from 25.5 to 50.5 inches, and contains a stability crossbar. As for the desktop, it’s a durable laminate with chamfered edges in a variety of finishes, such as the stunning reclaimed wood finish.

The desk also comes with a cable management tray at no additional cost and can be assembled in a matter of minutes. Pricing starts at $795.

9. Autonomous SmartDesk 2

If you’re on a budget, then the Autonomous SmartDesk 2 should definitely be on your radar. The home office model is reasonably priced at $399, while the business edition costs $479. Not too shabby considering that both have the familiar frame and ergonomic designs that other more expensive desks also have. Some of the people who have the SmartDesk also claim that it’s quieter and more durable than it’s competitors and is incredibly fast to assemble.

The biggest drawback though, is that there aren’t as many options when it comes to the size and color.

10. FlexiSpot ClassicRiser Standing Desk Converter

Here’s another converter if you want to give your existing desk a sit-stand experience. The catch is that it doesn’t have an electronic control panel. Instead, you have to squeeze to lift the desk, which should accommodate users up to 6’1″ — other models can accommodate users up to 6’5″ tall.

The ClassicRiser also features an extra-wide keyboard tray and space-saving vertical adjustments. And you can’t beat the price at $249.99.

Getting the most out of your standing desk.

While there’s no denying that standing desks are fantastic in several ways, they look sleek and make you more productive; there are some caveats to be aware of.

For starters, standing too much can cause health problems. “Standing idly can cause problems, mostly vascular,” Dr. Andrew Elkwood, MD, founder and director of the Center for Treatment of Paralysis and Reconstructive Nerve Surgery at Jersey Shore Medical Center, told NBC News. “Standing all day puts a lot of pressure on your legs, which can cause swelling, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids.”

The solution? Alternate between sitting and standing about every hour.

At the same time, if you’ve just gotten a standing desk, then you probably can’t stand for an hour anyway. You have to build some strength up. You can achieve more exceptional core strength by standing in 10-15 minute increments.

“Using a standing desk does take some getting used to,” says Jonathan Webb, VP of Workplace Strategy at KI. “We get so used to sitting in a sedentary position all day, so we forget that we have this sit/stand desk to use. I encourage users to set alarms on their phones or on their computers to remind themselves to stand up — and sit back down. You can set the times whenever you want a change. After a while, switching will become second nature to sit and stand throughout the day.”

How else can you get the most out of your standing desk? Experts suggest that you do the following:

  • Work in yoga moves for your neck, shoulders, back, and legs.
  • Practice good posture.
  • Take frequent breaks from typing.
  • Position the keyboard and mouse at belly button height to create a bend in the arm that is 80-85 degrees.
  • Use a standing desk mat and accessories like ergonomic chairs and keyboards.
  • Wear shoes with firm insoles and arch support.

10 Amazing Desk Setup Tips for Increasing Productivity

Now that you’ve invested in a standing desk, it’s time to set it up for maximum productivity. I mean, you didn’t think that you would just assemble your desk and dive right back into work, did you? I wish it were that easy. But, if you prevent getting distracted and overwhelmed, then you can’t afford to skip this part.

1. Dream up your ideal workspace.

First things first, set aside a couple of minutes and think about your dream workspace. Sure. You may not fulfill every detail. But, this gives you an idea of how you want your desk and workspace to look and feel. The reason? It will keep you energized and inspired — that’s a big deal considering Americans spend 8.44 hours per day at their workplace.

For example, let’s say that the great outdoors gets those creative juices flowing and keeps you invigorated. Well, your ideal workspace should tap into that by having a wood-finished desk. You could also surround yourself with plants and place your desk close to a window. Extra points for using a tool like Nosli or Calmsound that plays nature sounds in the background.

2. Location is matters.

Speaking of location, you should place your desk near a window — regardless if you’re into nature or not.

“Lighting can affect everything from workplace safety to productivity to mental health,” says Deanna Ritchie writes in a previous Calendar article. “More specifically, natural light is essential for circadian rhythms and can boost happiness and Vitamin D intake.”

“If you haven’t been able to install more windows in your workplace, you can use mirrors or reflective furniture,” suggests Denna. “But, find a way to amplify the natural light you do have. Or, you can purchase full-spectrum lightbulbs that can mimic the appearance of natural light.”

An additional consideration on the location of your desk would face away from visual distractions, like a door or entrance. You may be tempted to see who is walking past or entering your office than keeping your focus on your work. Also, if you work best in silence, then you should find a quiet place instead of placing it in the center of an open -office design.

3. Set your desk up ergonomically.

“Another critical consideration is your workspace’s ergonomics–how efficiently and safely you can work at your desk and with your computer,” writes Melanie Pinola over at Zapier. “It’s about setting up your environment to keep you healthy and avoid problems such as repetitive strain injury (RSI), back pain, or even fatigue.”

You can do this by making sure that your desk is the right height. “Your desk should ideally let you type on a keyboard with your arms and hands roughly parallel to the floor. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your legs should fit comfortably under the desk when sitting. You’ll want to be able to comfortably cross your legs under the surface,” writes Pinola.

Or, you could visit Ergotron’s Workspace Planner. When there, just enter your height, and it will determine the best desk measurements for you.

On top of the height of your desk, you can also think more ergonomically by:

  • Keeping “your monitor or laptop screen between 20 and 40 inches in front of you.” Pinola also recommends that “the top line of the screen is at or below your eye level.”
  • Placing your keyboard and mouse “close enough to your body so you can hold your elbows comfortably by your sides, preventing strain on your shoulders.” You may also want to try out a keyboard tray or stand “that positions the keyboard pointing downwards.”
  • Purchasing an ergonomic chair so that you can sit after working in long sessions. Look for a chair that provides lumbar support, can recline, and can be adjusted so that it’s the proper height.

4. Feng Shui your desk.

“The better the energy in your office and at your desk, the better the quality of your energy,” writes Rodika Tchi for The Spruce. “Good feng shui is not just about things looking good. A room may be visually appealing and well-designed, but lack elements that are essential for good feng shui.”

Most standing desks use materials like wood, glass, metal, or laminates that activate feng shui. The same is true with the colors and shapes available for most sanding desks — mainly the standard rectangular desktop and various colors that represent a specific feng shui element.

We’ve also covered the placement of your desk. If you need a reminder, though, the least beneficial arrangements would be facing the wall, back to the door, and in line with an entrance. You may also want not to face a window as well.

But, here’s an essential part — feng shui your desk’s surface.

“A constantly cluttered desk is terrible feng shui. Of course, it all depends on your definition of clutter!” adds Tchi. “If you are working intensely on a project that is due soon, then it is certainly okay to have your desk busy for a while.”

“For a while does not mean forever, though,” she explains. “Once the project is done, the desk has to be cleared. Having old, unnecessary items occupying your space is bad feng shui.”

If you can, you should clean your desk at the end of each day. But, that’s not an option, then you should block out time on Friday afternoon to do this.

Tchi also writes, “that when it comes to a good feng shui desk, less is ideal.” Or, in other words, “place only the very minimum on your desk surface.”

Finally, you should learn more “about the powerful Bagua, also called the feng shui energy map.” That may sound complicated, but it just means you’re dedicating various spaces to create good feng shui. For instance:

  • Upper Left: Wealth and Money area
  • Upper Right: Love and Marriage area
  • Mid Left: Health and Family area
  • Mid Right: Creativity area

5. Keep your values to the forefront.

“Something I’ve always found helpful and have suggested to plenty of clients throughout my years is to put a reminder of your values front and center. Whether that’s with a Post-it Note, a printout, or a computer screen background,” says life and career coach Kelly Poulson. “That way, when you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to decide what to tackle next, you can use those values to help you decide what to do.”

“For instance, if you value flexibility and haven’t had much lately, it might be time to reprioritize a bit, so you remember to honor what matters to you. It’s effortless to get swept up in work and spend time on less important things,” explains Poulson.

6. Put everything in P-L-A-C-E.

Need a simple and effective way to de-clutter and keep your desk organized? I recommend trying out the P-L-A-C-E approach from the book “Organizing for Dummies,” which goes as:

  • Purge. Get rid of what’s unnecessary, like pens that are out of ink.
  • Like with like. Create centers for similar items.
  • Access. Make sure that everything you need can be easily accessed — even if it’s in a drawer underneath your desk.
  • Contain. Don’t just let stuff overrun your desktop. Use drawers and containers when needed.
  • Evaluate. Does this system work for you? If not, make adjustments until it does.

7. Make sure that your desk is habit-friendly.

“Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior,” writes James Clear. “We tend to believe our habits are a product of our motivation, talent, and effort.” And, while these qualities do matter, “your personal characteristics tend to get overpowered by your environment” over time.

So, how can you design an environment that promotes success? James suggests trying out the three following strategies:

  • Automate good decisions. “Whenever possible, design an environment that makes good decisions for you,” writes James. One example would be “using software to block social media sites can help overcome procrastination by putting your willpower on autopilot.”
  • Get in the flow. As James explains, this is “where good habits ‘get in the flow’ of your healthy behaviors.” If you wanted to get more exercise, then you could keep a gym bag next to your desk or invest in equipment like stretch bands, free weights, yoga mats, or a balance ball chair.
  • Subtract negative influences. Here’s an example. Instead of surrounding yourself with junk food, have healthy and brain-boosting snacks within eye level.

8. Set up a workflow for your desk.

“In his book How to Set Up Your Desk, Matt Perman offers a simple system: Move through projects on your desk from left to right. Keep the right side of your desk free and store the majority of your supplies and incoming papers on the left,” writes Pinola. “As you start to deal with paperwork or other items that need your attention, move them to the right and then finally off your desk at the end of the day (or back to the left to resume working on in the morning).”

Even cooler? You can also use this concept when working on your computer. “If you work with multiple windows or monitors, keep your ‘inbox’–email app, Twitter app, Slack app, tabs of articles you need to reference, etc. on the left,” explains Pinola. “Keep the apps and tabs you’re directly working on in the right half of your monitor. Move things left to right to organize your projects visually. It’s like Kanban boards, but with paper on your desk or tabs in your browser.”

Just remember to use this setup at both work and home “to minimize friction switching from one environment to the other.”

9. Schedule breaks.

Yeah. You have a million things to get done. But, that’s just not possible from frequently stepping away from your desk — even if it’s your ideal setup. Mainly, this is for your health and well-being, like preventing eye strain and reducing stress. However, getting up from your desk can also make you more productive by:

  • Improving your focus.
  • Helping you solve problems.
  • Encourages creativity.
  • Prevents burn out.

Having a desk that allows you to adjust from standing to sitting can help. But, don’t be afraid to get up and move around the office or take a walk outside. Ideally, you should take a 17-minute break after working for around 52-minutes.

10. Be playful.

“The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression,” says researcher Brian Sutton-Smith. So, why not have a little fun with your workspace by incorporating a little fun or the things that you love into it?

For example, you could swap out an office chair for an exercise ball or have Legos nearby to fiddle when thinking. You could also surround yourself with knickknacks from home or items that put you in a better mood, like inspiring quotes or drawings that your children made. Just remember not to overdo it and limit these personal items to no more than five.

The Only 10 Things That You Should Have on Your Desk — If You Want to Be Productive

As already mentioned, you need to keep your desktop clean and clutter-free. It’s not just wise, hygienically; it also prevents your mind from getting distracted. Think about it. If there is a pile of papers on the top of your desk — your mind will wonder what’s in that stack.

But don’t take my word on this. A study published in The Harvard Business Review found that a messy desk can negatively affect productivity and performance at work. That means if you have unnecessary or sensitive documents on your desk, they should be trashed or filed. Moreover, you should avoid eating at your desk — it’s just gross and discourages you from taking a much-needed breather.

Additionally, you should have a drawer in proximity to your desk. Having this will let you store your phone, grooming items, or office supplies. Besides being a distraction, these are things that don’t need to be displayed.

1. Calendar, planner, or notebook.

Like most of you, I rely on an online calendar. For me — it’s Calendar.com. It works exceptionally well. I also keep a notebook on the top of my desk so that I can quickly jot down thoughts, ideas, or notes, and even a to-do-list. One of the essential productivity hacks is to stay on top of your schedule and calendar your days.

2. Ergonomic keyboard.

Ergonomic keyboards are a must — if you want to reduce strain. That’s because they’re designed to keep your hands, wrists, and arms a comfortable and natural position. Check out affordable options like the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard to the pricier KINESIS Freestyle Edge.

And, while you’re at it, don’t forget to purchase a computer mouse. Logitech’s MX Vertical and Anker 2.4G Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Optical Mouse are both solid choices.

3. Desktop or laptop stand.

If you’ve got a keyboard and mouse on your desktop, then you’ve probably got a computer or laptop accompanying them. To prevent damaging your neck, shoulders, and back, you should look into an ergonomic stand. Some of the best options are the AmazonBasics Ventilated Adjustable Laptop Computer Holder Desk Stand, AVLT-Power Laptop Riser Stand, or ENHAO Monitor Stand Riser.

4. Desktop organizer.

The easiest way to avoid desktop clutter? Get yourself an organizer so that you can keep your desktop nice and clean. It also helps you give everything a “home” so that you can quickly locate a pen, marker, or document when you need it.

Best of all? There are a wide variety of organizers out there that can fit your needs and taste. So, just make a quick search inquiry and find one that you like.

5. Clock or timer.

Some people don’t like having a clock on their desks. And, that makes sense. Instead of working, you may be tempted to keep checking what time it is.

On the flip side, having a clock lets you keep track of your time in a good so that you can take frequent breaks. Even better, invest in a kitchen timer or a gadget like the TimeCube that helps you implement strategies like the Pomodoro Technique.

6. Headphones.

Whether you need a Spotify playlist to get you in the zone or just need to block-out background, it wouldn’t hurt to keep a pair of headphones on your desktop. If you’re looking for some suggestions, Rolling Stone has a list of options that cost under $100. You may also want to get a headphone stand.

7. Desk lamp.

Want to avoid eye strain? Then you need to have a desk lamp — it also helps you avoid mistakes since you can see exactly what you’re reading or typing. Ideally, you should purchase a LED desk lamp that matches your aesthetic and fits on your desk.

If you have the extra cash, I’m all about the Dyson Lighcycle series. Not only do they look cool and sleek, but they also stimulate natural daylight and can be linked to your phone.

8. Water bottle.

Is this the sexiest entry on this list? Of course not. But, drinking plenty of water isn’t just beneficial to your health. It can also boost your productivity. One study found that drinking water increases productivity by 14 percent since it reduces anxiety, improves your mood, and keeps you energized.

9. Plants.

Always remember the plants. Plants can make you more productive, improve your mood, and even remove pollutants from the air. They’re also affordable and come in sizes that are small enough to fit onto your desk. If you’re someone who will let a plant dry up and die — even fake plants will lift your spirits and help with the aesthetics in your office.  Examples of great desk plants include the ZZ plant, snake plant, Dracaenas, Aglos, Peace lilies, and Philodendrons.

10. Things that make you happy.

You don’t want to go overboard with any one thing. But, there’s nothing wrong with surrounding yourself with things that make you happy. Pictures of loved ones, inspiring quotes, art, and knickknacks can all have a place on your desktop. Just keep these items neat, tidy, and organized.

How Do You Measure Your Efficiency?

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Why Online Appointment Software Should Be on Your Christmas List

There’s a misconception that productivity and efficiency are the same things. But that’s kind of a problem when it comes to improving your performance. But how do you measure your efficiency?

Ben Mulholland explains this nicely over at Process Street. Productivity “measures output over time, whereas efficiency measures input versus output. Together they can tell you how quickly something is completed, the resources it takes to get there, and (through analysis) whether the whole thing is worth your investment.”

Or, as Jessica Greene from Zapier, explains, “Productivity measures how much you do or produce within a given timeframe. Efficiency, on the other hand, is about being productive with less effort.”

“So if you answered 50 more customer support tickets this week because you worked through them as fast as possible, you were more productive,” writes Jessica. “But if you answered 50 more tickets because you used a text expansion app to respond to commonly asked questions, you were more productive and more efficient.”

In other words, “to be more productive in a way that won’t burn you out in the long run, you have to figure out how to be more efficient.”

Hopefully, this clears the difference between productivity and efficiency.  But, more importantly, I hope that you understand why it’s essential to measure your efficiency. And, here’s how you can do just that.

Performance metrics.

If you have employees, you probably use performance metrics to see how, well, they’re performing. Typically, they fall into one of the following four categories.

Work quality metrics

“Work quality metrics say something about the quality of the employee’s performance,” explains Erik van Vulpen over at HR Analytics. “The best-known metric is a subjective appraisal by the direct manager.”

Examples include:

  • Management by objectives. The management objectives are goals that an employee works towards and receives points if he reaches them.
  • Subjective appraisal by the manager. Usually, a nine-box grid holds the stats for assessing performance and potential done by the manager.
  • Product defects. Product defects are usually involved in an industry that manufactures products. You could determine performance by the number of defects the employee was responsible for.
  • The number of errors. Similar to the above, the “number of errors” can be applied to programming.
  • Net promoter score. “NPS is a number (usually between 1 and 10) which represents the willingness of a client to recommend a company’s service to other potential clients,” explains Erik van Vulpen.
  • 360-degree feedback. 360-feedback is when peers, subordinates, customers, and managers are asked to asses the individual’s performance.
  • 180-degree feedback. 180-degree feedback is a simpler alternative to the above where only direct colleagues and managers are involved.
  • Forced ranking. Forced ranking is when a manager ranks their team from best to worst.

Work quantity metrics

“As quantity is often easier to measure than quality, there are multiple ways to measure this employee performance metric,” notes Erik van Vulpen.

  • The number of sales. Applicable if this is you or your employee’s responsibility. You may also want to look at the number of (potential) client contacts one has, the number of phone calls one makes—the number of company visits and the number of active leads.
  • The number of units produced. Besides traditional manufacturing, this metric can be used in areas like content creation. For example, you could use the number of keys someone can hit per minute on their keyboard.
  • Handling time, first-call resolution, contact quality, etc. Mainly, each of these metrics is relevant if involved in customer service. But, as you can see, most measurable usages in one area can be figured for application in another area of production.

Work efficiency metrics

Work efficiency is finding the balance between quantity and quality. To achieve the resulting number, “metric considers the resources (e.g., time and money: quantity) needed to produce a specific output (that’s quality).

Organizational performance metrics

Finally, Erik says that “Organizations can also use employee performance metrics to assess their own competitiveness,” such as:

  • Revenue per employee. Calculate the income per FTE (Full-time equivalent).
  • Profit per FTE. Similar to above, but focuses on profit instead.
  • Human Capital ROI. Here you would asses the value of human capital, such as knowledge and personal attributes.
  • Absenteeism Rate. Absenteeism is usually a self-explanatory metric. If you want to dig deeper — I’d suggest finding out the “why’s.” The why may have to do with the work or people at work. Check your environmental factors.
  • Overtime per Employee. “Employees who are willing to put in the extra effort are generally more motivated and produce more (in terms of work quantity),” writes Erik van Vulpen.

Can you use these metrics also to help you identify your efficiency? Sure. But, there are more natural ways to find your metrics.

Achieving goals.

Weren’t goals a part of management by objectives? Yes. But, as Choncé Maddox writes in another Calendar article, “Goals, in general, can be challenging as they often prompt you to change your life in a major or minor way.”

What’s more, it’s not always easy to tell if you’re even close to reaching your goal, let alone achieving them. And, to muddle things up, even more, goals are constantly changing depending on what your priorities are at the moment.

One way to get out of this predicament is to use a strategy like the SMART goal formula.

“SMART goal is an acronym to describe goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound,” explains Choncé. “For example, setting a vague goal such as ‘I want to lose weight this year’ probably won’t give you the best results.”

What if you said that you wanted to “lose 40 pounds in 10 months by getting on a low-carb diet and exercising four days per week?” According to Choncé, “That’s a much better goal that follows the SMART formula. You’re specific by saying how much weight you want to lose, giving yourself a deadline, so you know when to expect results, and specifying how you’ll reach your goal and measure your results over time.”

Work quality.

Yes. Work quality was another performance metric you can use to measure your team’s efficiency. But, I think when it comes to yourself, we can simplify this.

Are you meeting deadlines? Did you also meet the requirements of the task or project?. For example, were you able to crank out an 1200 work article or cover all of the meeting agenda points in the time allotted? If so, then I’d say that you’re pretty darn efficient

Punctuality.

What does this have to do with efficiency? In my opinion, quite a bit. It shows that you’re able to manage your time correctly. For instance, if you’re running late to a meeting, maybe it’s because you underestimated how long the previous task took to complete. Or, perhaps you’re so disorganized that it totally slipped your mind until the last minute.

Behavioral traits.

Efficient people avoid bad habits. I’m talking about failing to plan ahead, not having a routine, multitasking, procrastinating, or being easily distracted. They also try to everything on their own when there should be tasks they’re delegating so that more of their time and energy on what’s important.

Feedback from others.

Now we’re circling back to feedback. And, there’s a good reason for that. We have a tendency to be biassed towards our own self-assessments and performance. You may think that you’re killing at work until someone brings it to your attention that you actually haven’t been delivering your best work as of late.

Hearing feedback from others can also be challenging. But, instead of avoiding peer or management feedback, solicit it from people you trust. Try asking a peer, business partner, or family member.

To become more efficient, expect more of yourself.

Hopefully, you know how to measure your efficiency. But, there’s one last step you should take. Raise your expectations.

Let’s say that met you have a met or requirement, instead of being complacent. Push yourself to go above and beyond. It’s great that you can write a 1200 word article in under three hours. But, can you produce the same number of words in under two? How about upping the word count?

You don’t know what your true limits are — because you can always up-your-count on almost anything. Try it. Pushing your limits, keeps you engaged, and forces you to embrace better habits so that you can become more effective and efficient.

7 Habits of Highly Efficient Professionals

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How to Tell Challenging Customers the Truth

Success can be measured in hundreds of different ways. When asked about achievements, some professionals might look to their salary, their list of publications, or their charity’s social progress. Despite how an individual determines whether or not they are successful in their professional lives, or how that success might compare to someone else’s is a personal calculation. Here are seven habits of highly efficient professionals.

Successful people will agree — at least part of their success is due to their high level of efficiency.

Watching for and building on habits that bring success, most professionals continue to learn and grow in their craft throughout their whole lives. Here are a few of the habits that people put into practice for success. Many of these ideas are mentioned in great detail in books, business school, podcasts, content, and events.

1. Dedicate Yourself.

A key to creative, professional, and personal productivity is vision and being able to envision exactly what you’re working toward. Without vision or purpose, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time paddling about aimlessly in the proverbial river of life. As Jason Fried wrote in his bestseller REWORK, “When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.”

The real secret to being effective in life is simple. You need to know precisely what you want and pursue that goal as you see it in your mind.

2. Eliminate Distractions.

Being a workaholic isn’t necessarily a good thing; it all depends on how you’re getting your work done. If you can do something in a minute that might take the next guy five minutes to complete, then it doesn’t matter if you work a four-hour day, just as long as you’re accomplishing your goals. Many find that making a morning routine helps.

Try to find efficiency in your daily routine. Creating efficiency is the same thing as eliminating distractions. Don’t get caught up in e-mail, Facebook, or all the other time-wasters on the internet. Instead, focus on the end task and nothing else.

3. Talk the Talk.

Communication is everything. To be an effective participant in a meeting or team, you’ll need to communicate effectively. Otherwise, your ideas and input might not be considered for what they’re worth, and then what?

Another part of “talking the talk” is being easy to reach. E-mails, phone calls, or text messages should be dealt with as they arise. If you’re working on something at a critical stage, you can eliminate all unnecessary communication.

4. Take Another Look.

If a problem seems unsolvable, taking a few steps back can make a world of difference. Genuinely successful people can create new perspectives for themselves. They learn to see issues, people, or situations from several angles and allow for a more coordinated response.

It’s rare today that a problem is black-and-white. Competent professionals can recognize the many facets and solutions to every question or issue.

5. Be Flexible.

A branch that can’t bend with the wind will break. Flexibility and the ability to adapt to uncertain scenarios makes you a valuable employee. The ability to see the entire problem and make spur-of-the-moment decisions can make a real difference in reaching one’s goals.

Be ready to embrace change as it comes. If you allow yourself to be open to opportunity, then an opportunity will make a habit of presenting itself.

6. Cool Down.

Living a life of high productivity or high stress can leave people a little high-strung or tightly wound. No one can work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and walk away unscathed. Check yourself if you want the chance to be a highly efficient professional.

You should be able to detach from your work. Calendar time and fill that time with an activity that will allow you to recharge and rehab your body and mind. Take time to exercise. You’ll find that if you allow yourself time to recharge, you’ll do better work whenever you are working. The brightest flames tend to burn the hottest and the quickest, but there’s no sense in burning yourself out.

7. Organize.

Organizing yourself doesn’t necessarily mean having a clear, empty desk and ten pencils sharpened and neatly arranged. Being organized is a state of mind, and it will manifest itself differently for everyone. Some people find productivity only in a clean, open space, while others need every surface of their work area to be covered in quotes and images before they can find inspiration.

The bottom line is that a successful individual knows how, when, and where their best work is done. A successful life is hard to measure. Remember that as the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, a man or a woman is only a sum of their actions, not a sum of their plans, hopes, or wishes.

If you want to be efficient and successful, you’ll make a plan. Calendar that plan, and follow the steps you’ve laid out for yourself. Most people out there would be millionaires already if wanting that goal was all you had to do. Wanting is the natural part — doing what’s required is a little more difficult.

4 Reasons Leaders Waste Valuable Meeting Time

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7 Ways Appointment Software Supports Sales and Marketing

The meeting that could’ve been an email: We’ve all been there. As much as we want every meeting we attend to be productive, almost every one of us has left a meeting wondering: “Was that really necessary?” 

According to a study by Harvard Business Review, 71% of senior managers in a range of industries say meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Executives spend 23 hours per week in meetings, on average, up from 10 hours in the 1960s.

Almost nobody actually enjoys meetings. So why do leaders waste so much time in them?

1. They get sidetracked.

Given how long they spend in meetings, many leaders struggle to create an agenda for each of them. Some are thinking ahead to the next one, while others try to tackle every meeting on the fly. 

Meetings should always have a defined purpose. Make that reason clear when calling the meeting, and prepare an agenda immediately after scheduling it. Give other participants a chance to comment on and contribute to it.

Setting a specific agenda ensures that you show up prepared, and it also gives your team members an idea of what to expect. Whether you prepare to use a written list or a series of slides, developing an agenda allows you to guide the discussion. 

2. They are disorganized.

Business leaders have hectic schedules as is, and meetings only add to the craziness. Staying organized is key for productive meetings.

Use scheduling software to manage your meetings. Calendar allows you to pick times and dates for your events, share your availability with others, and avoid scheduling conflicts. What’s more, Calendar’s dashboard shows where and with whom you spend your time, helping you make sure that your schedule aligns with your priorities.

Without a shareable scheduling system, it’s tough to know who’s coming to a meeting or whether someone might need to duck out part way through. Those details let leaders structure meetings in ways that make the most of everyone’s time. 

3. They have too many meetings on the calendar.

Between meetings, interviews, and training sessions the number of meetings on your calendar can add up quickly. It’s important to know when meetings are appropriate and when they are not:

  • When you should have a meeting: when you need to plan for the long term, get or give feedback on major projects, host executive-level negotiations, or deliver employee performance reviews.
  • When to keep meetings short (or not have them at all): when you need to share weekly progress updates, present revenue and expense breakdowns, brainstorm for marketing assets, or explain changes to your personal schedule.

When leaders use good judgment, they can cut out meetings that are unnecessary and focus on the ones that matter.

4. They can’t keep their employees focused.

The most wasteful type of meeting is one that attendees do not find valuable. If you want your employees’ meeting time to be spent effectively, it’s important to keep them engaged throughout.

There are multiple ways to make meetings more interesting:

  • Add visuals to presentations. Photos and videos can drive home key points. Beware, though, that adding too many visuals wastes time by distracting attendees.
  • Encourage group participation. Activities encourage buy-in from non-presenting members of the meeting. Ask people to raise their hands in response to certain questions, or request suggestions around a challenge. 
  • Keep all meetings under 50 minutes. Meetings that last for an hour or more should be split into two or more sessions. Set a timer if your meetings consistently overrun their slots.
  • Identify key takeaways at the end of each meeting. Concluding meetings with action items not only makes them more meaningful, but it provides markers for future measurement. When meetings begin with a review of the prior one’s action items, participants feel a sense of purpose and accountability.

Unproductive meetings may seem like a fact of life, but they do not need to be. Schedule only the meetings you need, always develop an agenda in advance, and keep participants engaged. Neither you nor your employees have time to waste.

How to Handle a Meeting-Happy Client

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What to Do if Appointments Keep Running Long

Saying “no” is tough for everyone, including entrepreneurs. You want to do right by your clients, but you can’t spend your whole day meeting with them.

Every moment you spend in a meeting is one you can’t spend working on your business. Don’t let meeting-happy clients pull you away from your other priorities.

Start by keeping a time log so you know exactly how you’re spending your time. If one or two accounts are responsible for a disproportionate amount of your meeting time:

1. Get to the root of the issue. 

Clients know their time is limited, too. If they keep asking to meet with you, look for common themes. Show that you’re working to solve their needs, and you should see those requests fall off.

Try this: When the client reaches out, respond by asking for more details about the reason for the meeting. In many cases, a meeting simply isn’t necessary. If it’s something that you can address yourself, do it. Report back, and ask if the client still wants to meet.

2. Delegate. 

If your client constantly asks to meet — especially if it’s for a legitimate reason — one solution might be to ask a team member to take the meetings. That way, the client feels supported, and your schedule stays open.

Be sure, though, that the client respects your employee’s time. Ask them to schedule meetings at least 48 hours in advance, and ensure meetings last no longer than an hour. 

3. Be direct and quick.

What if, despite you solving the client’s issue, he or she still wants to meet? Say no, but don’t beat around the bush.

Being decisive and clear benefits everyone. Think of it like tearing off a Band-Aid: It’s better to get through the pain quickly than let it fester. In fact, a great client will appreciate your straightforward, timely response.

4. Provide additional resources.

Just because you say “no” to a meeting doesn’t mean you can’t be a good partner. If you can’t solve the client’s issue yourself, share content about it or make a referral to someone who can.

If multiple clients have come to you about this issue, consider developing a whitepaper or similar asset around it. A robust content strategy can be a great way to bring in new business. 

5. Template your responses. 

No matter how well you handle meeting-happy clients, there will always be more. Prepare yourself for the next one by setting up templates. Make each response is decisive and inoffensive.

Start with two: For those that you see no reason to meet with, “My calendar is booked for the foreseeable future” is a good response. For the rest, say something like, “I would love to discuss this with you further, but let’s wait for our next scheduled meeting.”

Practice makes perfect: The only way you’re going to get better at saying “no” to your clients is by doing it over and over again. Own your schedule, and don’t be ashamed of it. 

6 Ways to Use a Spare 15 Minutes at Work

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6 Ways to Use a Spare 15 Minutes at Work

When you’re used to moving from task to task or meeting to meeting, fifteen minutes of downtime can be a bit unsettling. You don’t want to waste half of that time thinking about what to do and wind up regretting it.

Luckily, there are so many ways to spend downtime at work. The key is to have a plan to make the most of it:

1. Declutter.

Decluttering can significantly benefit your mental state and productivity levels. Maybe there are papers piling up all over your workspace, or perhaps you struggle to find office supplies you need. Downtime is perfect for reorganizing the area that you work in. 

But decluttering doesn’t end there. Your digital workspace is just as important as your physical one, so use your downtime to get rid of unneeded files and create new folders for organizing the ones that you do need. 

2. Respond to emails.

How often do you open up your email to find an empty inbox? Don’t let them pile up; spend your spare 15 minutes deleting unnecessary ones and responding to others.

Which are worth answering immediately, and which should you put off? Apply the two-minute rule. If you need more time than that to answer any one message, shelve it until your dedicated time to answer emails. 

3. Get some reading done.

Fifteen minutes is plenty of time to read through some news articles, informative editorials, or blog posts. If none of those tickle your fancy, haul out an inspirational book

What if you aren’t sure what to read? Take those 15 minutes to prepare your reading list. Send out emails asking for suggestions. Order them according to your interests and the insights you expect to gain by reading them. 

4. Play a game.

Games are not a waste of time when they have a purpose. If you’re feeling a little burned out or are struggling to get your brain in gear, play a game of Sudoku or a word search. Keep a booklet of puzzles in your back pocket for cab rides and airport lounges. The New York Times has some mini-crosswords that won’t take as long as their larger ones. 

5. Listen to a short podcast.

Podcasts are another good way to stay informed during periods of downtime. There are dozens of business podcasts whose episodes are 30 minutes or less. Put on a pair of headphones, and take a walk. 

What if you’ve got a little more time? Throw on a TED Talk. Learn something new by selecting one outside of your field. And if you do need to cut it short, podcasts can always be paused and resumed later. 

6. Meditate.

If you get anxious during the workday, why not take 15 minutes to meditate? Even short periods of meditation can significantly boost your productivity and reduce your stress levels.

Consider using a meditation app like Headspace or Calm to guide your sessions. Otherwise, simply listen to your breath, and try not to judge your thoughts. You can meditate in an office, a conference room, or while walking. 

Downtime is not the same as — or shouldn’t be, anyway — wasted time. Fifteen minutes may seem like a small amount of time, but when you use it wisely, it can make a big difference in your day.

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