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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 To Negotiate Your Starting Salary

You’ve done it! You’ve made it through all of the interviews and have finally received a verbal job offer! You are now in the strongest position you are likely to have to negotiate the salary you deserve.

The time between the verbal offer and the signing of an official offer letter is one of the most important times in the employment process, where you have the unique opportunity to establish a strong starting compensation package that fits your needs, possibly setting you up for increased overall earnings throughout your career. Many employers are eager to see whether their job candidates will showcase their negotiation skills – a highly valuable skill set in many industries.

Unfortunately, nearly 50% of job applicants fail to take advantage of this important opportunity, and accept their employer’s first offer without question. Women are particularly prone to this mistake, which may play a role in the persistence of the gender pay gap.

Unless your future employer has explicitly stated that the starting salary for your position is non-negotiable, you should be negotiating your salary. As awkward as it may be, these seven tips could earn you thousands of dollars in the future.

1. Do Your Research

Gather all of the information you can on common salary ranges for your industry, position, company, and geographic location. Many websites – such as salary.com, payscale.com, indeed.com, careeronestop.org, glassdoor.com, and jobsearchintelligence.com – have company- and industry-specific salary information on-hand, providing you with an excellent idea of how your potential employers value your position. Some companies even publish this information online, if you’re willing to dig hard enough.

2. Know Your Worth

Now that you understand how the skills required in your position are valued by your industry, work toward a full understanding of your own skills. All of them, not just those explicitly relevant to your position. What soft skills do you posses that raise your value as an employee? Do you have other work experiences that make you unique? Reach out to your mentors and ask them for their input. Then write them down. Use this information to identify what you’re worth based on your salary range research, and pick a number that you feel accurately describes your skill sets and fits your financial needs.

3. Do Not Give the First Number

Many employers will ask about previous salaries, or request that you make your salary request first. If this happens, politely demure, keeping the focus on your enthusiasm for the position and a desire to fully understand how its responsibilities are valued by the company. If your employer continues to push, simply state that your responsibilities and role within this company will be different, therefore you would like to discuss their salary expectations.

4. Assume The Best

Do not assume that your future employer is trying to stiff you with a low salary. It’s likely they are simply trying to offer you a number slightly lower than the full amount they are willing to pay in an attempt to save money for the company. Do not assume that your attempts to negotiate will be met with annoyance. Many employers expect to negotiate a salary, which is why they offer a lower number at the outset. Approaching the negotiation as an opportunity to secure your true value will not be seen as greedy or selfish, but as further proof of your abilities.

5. Don’t Make It Personal

Do not ask for a higher salary because you have recently purchased a new house or are concerned with the cost of living in a new location. These are not your employer’s concerns. Keep your negotiations focused on your skills and what value you bring to your new company.

6. Practice

As with any skill, practice makes perfect. Find a friend or trusted mentor (preferably one who has experience in salary negotiation) to practice with. Have them walk you through different scenarios so that you can practice what you are going to say and how you can keep the interaction positive. Then, reverse roles. This will allow you to put yourself in your hiring managers position and experience, in a small way, what their perspective and responses may stem from.

7. Don’t Be Afraid

Regardless of how it feels, those 20 minutes of salary negotiations with your future employer could set you up for a lifetime of success. So, buckle down, do your homework, and just take the plunge. You may be surprised at what you accomplish.

softs kills you need to succeed

The Soft Skills You Need to Succeed

We spend most of our time and energy focusing on the development of “hard skills” – degrees, accomplishments, certifications – never realizing that we’ve been developing an entirely different set of essential skills throughout our entire lives. While we were sharing swings on the playground, standing up to a bully in high school, and negotiating a chore chart with our college roommate, we were in fact developing “soft skills.”

Soft skills are the qualities we often take for granted while we are applying for a job or squirming in an interview. They are, however, the skills that allow us to communicate effectively, work well with others, and build professional relationships. As such, they are immensely important assets that we should be sharing with potential employers. In some cases, they may even be more influential in getting us hired than our work history and past accomplishments.

Here are some of the top soft skills employers look for:

1. Communication Skills

Communications skills are not limited to your ability to captivate a room or write the perfect email. Even more essential is your ability to exchange thoughts, ideas, and information with your team members and customers. Effective communication keeps office operations running smoothly, minimizes conflict among team members, and ensures that the customer is both satisfied and well-informed. All of which are great for business. This quality will likely be on full display during the interview process, so be sure to let this skill speak for itself through your actions and words.

2. Teamwork and Collaboration

The ability to play well with others is even more important once you leave the playground. Employers want to know that their employees can get along well, as this allows them to generate creative ideas and collaborate for the efficient and effective completion of tasks. Whether leading, following, or monitoring progress, a valuable employee will be sensitive to the needs of their colleagues and willing to contribute in a variety of ways. Be sure to emphasize the quality of your professional relationships in previous and current positions, and include examples of effective teamwork in your answers to interview questions.

3. Adaptability 

Employers want to know that you are committed to the longterm success of your business and industry, and that you are willing and able to keep pace with important changes that may come your way. A passion for learning, an interest in expanding your skills and testing your wings are all important qualities that bode well for your career and your employer’s bottom line. Your résumé should tell the story of your continued growth, and you should highlight your interest in continuing this trajectory when in discussions with your potential employers.

4. Problem Solving

This one is a no-brainer. Employers are always on the lookout for employees who can think on their feet and resolve the many unanticipated problems that arise in a fast-paced work environment. When issues arise that could delay or hinder a project – just before the hard deadline, no doubt – an employer wants to be confident in their staff’s ability to rise to the challenge and handle obstacles effectively. Be sure to share your own experiences with a potential employer by clearly describing how you identified a problem, your approach to resolving that problem, and the colleagues you either included or supported through its resolution.

5. Sense of Humor

No, your employer is not interested in your extensive collection of knock-knock jokes. But they are looking for employees who can bring some levity to tough situations. One person’s light-hearted take on a setback can be extraordinarily valuable for the entire work atmosphere, and bring some much-needed positivity to otherwise negative situations. Whenever possible, showcase a lighthearted attitude in your application, cover letter, or during your interview with a bit of strategic silliness or self-deprecation. You may be surprised at how well it’s received.

When it comes to your soft skills, it’s best to show, rather than tell. Start by making sure there are no typos on your résumé or cover letter, and that your language is clear and concise. Call attention to your soft skills by demonstrating how you have used them effectively in your career. For example, instead of stating that you are a great problem solver, describe how you helped identify inefficiencies in business processes and the process by which you and your colleagues improved them, being sure to include the results of your endeavors.

Finally, be sure you’re always improving on your existing soft skills or challenging yourself to learn more. Work with a mentor, take a course, or volunteer your time to continuously improve your most essential tools for success.

Mastering Productive Office Conversations

Let’s face it, we’ve all made mistakes when it comes to productive office communication. Communication skills are something we all must practice every day, since evidence shows that poor communication in the office can lead to stress and even drops in performance. Here are some expert communication tips to help you maximize productivity and create positive working relationships with your supervisors and peers.

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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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