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3 Magic Tricks To Have a Productive Meeting

Business meetings are notorious time-sucks. What promised to be a productive hour soon devolves into tangents, unrelated questions, and circular arguments. For all that you accomplished, you could have just sent an email.

There are several ways to take back your time and ensure that you will have a productive meeting. The easiest are listed below.

Make your meetings shorter

Leadership expert Peter Bregman advocates for 30-minute meetings because they make participants hyper-aware of how their limited time is being used. This means fewer tangents and unrelated questions, with everyone focused on the task at hand. People also listen better when they are already focusing, making it less likely that any participants “zone out” over the course of the meeting. The shorter meetings incentivize participants to be on time, to arrive prepared, and to practice brevity given the limited time they have to accomplish the items on the agenda.

Make your meetings smaller

The more people in the room, the more likely it is that your meeting careens off track. Bob Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, senior fellow at Brookings Institute, and author of Extreme Productivity states that attendees who are not essential to the decision-making process are the ones most likely to send your meeting off the track. They are less likely to be invested and listening to what’s going on, and the larger number of people limits each individual’s feeling of responsibility for the meeting’s outcome.

Pozen recommends including only those individuals who are directly involved in the decision making process. If you are worried about offending someone who is left out, send an email summarizing what occurred during the meeting to keep them in the loop.

Make it a standing meeting

No, not standing as in weekly or regular. Standing as in actually standing. On your feet. Not only is this model better for your overall health –your metabolism is faster while you’re on your feet – it can cut your average meeting time by a whopping 34%. That’s because people are more likely to remain focused and alert during a standing meeting. And the desire to sit back down as soon as possible ensures that everyone will stay brief and to the point.

5 Tips To Increase Productivity at Work

Remaining productive at work is a breeze on some days and a significant challenge on others. No matter how hard we try, we cannot add more hours to the day. Our only options for increasing productivity in the office, therefore, are working smarter, or working harder. If you’re anything like us, you definitely prefer the latter.

In our experience, increasing productivity is easy when you employ a few of the five tips and tricks listed below.

1. Set Deadlines… And Stick To Them

While too much stress in the workplace can be distracting, and even damage your health, a small amount of self-imposed stress can actually make you more productive. Setting your own deadlines on when a project or assignment should be finished discourages procrastination and improves focus. It also allows you to track your progress, stay aware of your schedule, and ensure that you’re not spending too much time on any single task.

2. Take Short, Scheduled Breaks

You will find this piece of advice in every productivity checklist, but do you ever actually do it? Research shows that taking short breaks during long tasks – or long work days – allows you to maintain a consistent level of performance. Taking no breaks during long tasks leads to a steady decline in performance. So, when quality matters, give your brain a break!

3. Work in 90-Minute Intervals

Florida University researcher K. Anders Ericsson, who studies elite performers in athletic, artistic, and professional fields found that the best performers typically practice for no more than 90 minutes at a time. They start in the morning, take breaks between sessions, and rarely work for more than 4.5 hours a day. While this exact model may be hard to justify to your boss, the general structure should be easy enough to implement in your daily work routine.

4. Employ the Two-Minute Rule

The Two-Minute Rule is simple – if a task takes less than two minutes to complete, finish it immediately. Trust us, this is far quicker than remembering to come back to it later (if you actually do remember!), transitioning off of what you were doing previously, completing the task, and then transitioning back to the rest of your schedule.

5. Spend More Time Doing Less

A growing body of research shows that the less people work, the more productive they are. Seems contradictory, right? Perhaps not. Activities like sleeping, exercise, and yes, taking small breaks when needed, have been shown to dramatically increase employee performance. For example, a recent Harvard University study indicated that inadequate sleep costs American companies a whopping $63 billion each year! So, be sure to safeguard your down-time. It may just push you to the next level in your career.

How Accounting & Finance Professions Should Be Leveraging Social Media

If you’re reading this, chances are you already know 1) how to use social media and 2) how useful it is for growing your professional brand. What you may also know is that social media can be a difficult field for finance and accounting professionals due to the large amount of regulation and oversight within the industry. In fact, up to 91% of financial firms cite unclear guidelines from FINRA and/or the SEC on how to properly use social media as a major barrier to entry.

Those difficulties should never stop you from leveraging the power of social media to extend your professional network, connect with clients and industry influencers, and become a powerful voice within your field. While your company may be floundering about how and whether to enter the social media stage, you should be building your own social media presence in the following ways:

1. Don’t spend any money. 

Social media, when done right, should not cost you a cent. When creating your own platform, you are the expert. You have your own, personalized content swimming around in your head from your own unique experiences and expertise. Take the time to sit down and write your own posts, giving careful thought to your target audience and the value of what you’re posting. Your posts should be detailed enough to provide valuable information to your readers, but not so valuable that they don’t need your or your company’s expert services!

Finally, avoid too much self-promotion. Think of your own experiences on social media networks – if you can spot self-promotion a mile away, so can your readers. Keep your content rich in value, and watch your community take shape.

2. K.I.S.S.

The acronym above stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. Consider the place social media occupies in your life, or the life of other busy professionals: generally, it’s something you skim on your phone in thirty-second intervals while you’re waiting for something else to occur. You don’t have time to read everything on your LinkedIn feed, so you scan recent posts until an attractive photo or flashy headline catches your eye. You grant this post a second glance, and decide within 7 seconds whether or not it is worth your time.

When posting, take pity on your readers. They’re just as busy as you are, and are likely just as cursory in their social media skimming. You need to catch their attention quickly, and often must condense your message to ~7 seconds in order to keep it. So, keep your posts clean, simple, and to the point (generally about 3-4 lines). Include pictures whenever possible. Balance these punchier posts with value-rich long-form posts (Facebook and LinkedIn both allow for these types of posts directly on their platform, though a blogging is an even better alternative).

3. Connect.

The entire point of social media is to connect like-minded individuals in spite of limitations imposed by space and time. So, find the author you admire on Twitter and follow them. Connect with a former colleague on LinkedIn. Like on of their posts, or retweet some of their content (making sure to tag or “@” them), and/or respond to something they’ve said. You’ll be surprised at how often this leads to a follow request and future conversations.

Furthermore, use these platforms to connect with your customers. If you see a past or present customer struggling with a concept you have experience with, engage them. Ask questions, comment, send direct messages, and respond to complaints or concerns. If they’re pleased with what you’ve done, they may just give you a shoutout.

4. Prioritize LinkedIn.

Instagram is pretty, Facebook is full of gossip, and Twitter is flashy, but they’re all about as substantive as a high school clique when it comes to your professional goals. To extend the metaphor further, LinkedIn is the nerdy kid who grew into a business mogul after graduation. You never thought much of them when you were young, but they are extremely interesting now.

LinkedIn is extremely focused. Those who use it know to keep their vacation photos off and their professional face on when posting, so your newsfeed is much more likely to be full of compelling, professional content. And this goes both ways, as those who use LinkedIn do so specifically for that professional content. Your own professional posts are much more likely to find the correct audience, and generate the desired engagement, than they are on any other site.

5. Track your activity.

There are many ways to track the success of your social media endeavors. This will allow you to measure the success of your endeavors, and to adapt if you’re not reaching your goals.

  • Track your engagment. To start, consider getting a bit.ly account. This free service allows you to create customized, shortened links (essential for Twitter), and even goes so far as to track clicks. This way, you can see whether something you posted generated engagement, as well as how and when that engagement was generated. Note that there are many products that provide similar services, so do a little research when deciding what approach is best for you.
  • Set a goal. Decide how many followers you would like to gain over a specific period of time, and then hold yourself to that goal. If you reach it, excellent! How do you think that was accomplished. If not, how can you change your activities to reach your next benchmark?
  • Provide links. Be sure to link your social media profiles to your website, include them in your personal email signature, and ask your company about incorporating them into your company profile.

At the end of the day, social media is what you make of it. And, in social profiles as in life, it is always best to be yourself. Constantly check in with your professional goals to determine how social media could best serve you in your career, and be honest with yourself about how much time and energy you have to devote to your profile(s). While we recommend about 1-6 hours per week, your own needs and goals may require a different time commitment.

Can’t we all just get along?

Millenials vs Gen Xers vs Baby boomers vs Veterans… Each generation is unique and has various qualities to offer. I’ve read numerous articles scrutinizing Millenials, trashing Gen Xers and criticizing Veterans. Then, I came across this article. Author Colin Dyer finally presents a realistic approach to the generational differences in the workplace.

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VIP voted as one of DFW’s Best Places to Work!

We made the cut! We are proud to be recognized by the The Dallas Business Journal as one of DFW’s Best Places to Work in 2013. After going through an extensive selection process, 58 North Texas companies made the cut. The annual awards program, produced with independent research firm Quantum Workplace, is in its 11th year. Check out the article from Dallas Business Journal to see who else made the list.

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Useful Hashtags for Job Seekers

Never underestimate the power of social media when it comes to job hunting. See these useful hashtags for job seekers. A large chunk of a businesses’ advertisement budget is dedicated to their social marketing campaigns to try and build brand awareness and followers. As a job seeker, you need to do the same as these companies by marketing yourself as well.

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Why you should avoid asking "tell me about yourself" in an interview

Most interview candidates come prepared to answer interview questions such as “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your weaknesses?”  

“Tell me about yourself” usually elicits answers like “I’m a motivated self-starter that loves individual accountability; but don’t worry, I also love working collaboratively.”

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