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Why Your Next Meeting Needs a To Do List: Boosting Workplace Productivity

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How to Use a To Do List to Boost Productivity at Your Next Meeting
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Why Does Your Business Need a To Do List? Moving Creative Ideas From Conception to Completion is the Key Marker for Professional Success.

We’ve all been there. You sit down with inspired, like-minded folks to collaborate on a personal or professional adventure and the ideas start pouring forth like manna from heaven. Creativity is at an all-time high, you’re blasting through obstacles to map out the big picture and passion runs deep as your visions come to life right before your eyes. You’re about to be a part of something big. This is really happening!

And then you leave the meeting.

Why Your Next Meeting Needs a To Do List

What happens now? What was that plan again? What do I need to do next? Do I need to make that phone call or is she doing it? Wait, what did we say? Didn’t you mean this? I’m confused.

How do you channel that ball of ambitious energy into clearly defined, actionable items that boost productivity and actually get things done? How do you make sure that every attendee took away the same information? Using a simple to do list can set clear expectations that will provide purpose and planning to take your creative ideas from conception to completion.

Define: State Your Intentions

The pre-meeting to do list

A simple to do list can boost productivity before your meeting even begins. Set the stage for focused energy by clearly defining the purpose of your meeting and what you need to accomplish during your time together. Be intentional by listing each objective concisely and directly. This allows attendees to modify their expectations and prepare appropriately, which will boost productivity and set the stage for an effective business meeting. A pre-meeting to do list might look something like this:

To Do List

  1. Choose an Event Date
  2. Identify 4 Potential Venues
  3. Assign Clients for Sponsorship Requests
  4. Design Website Copy for the Development Team

Focus: Stay the Course

The in-meeting to do list

The largest threat to an effective meeting that must accomplish the pre-defined objectives is the rabbit trail. When ideas are freely flowing and excitement begins to build, focus can easily shift to new ideas and projects that don’t line up with the original intent for meeting. While these ideas and projects may be fantastic and deserve attention, they don’t serve a purpose for the here and now.

There are two ways to steer attendees back on course while also acknowledging the potential that was discovered off task. While losing focus is definitely a fundamental mistake that restricts present productivity, ignoring truly creative ideas that pop up unexpectedly can also be a misstep for future productivity. You can have the best of both worlds.

Most importantly, a strong leader must be present and able to capture the attention of the group with ease and authority. A productive meeting is not a dictatorship, it’s a democracy. An appropriate leader respects that every attendee has a voice, but can and will take action to gracefully shift the team back to the task at hand.

To Do List

Create a “call box” for off task ideas that deserve attention and have potential, but not at that moment in that meeting. If brainstorming sparks an organic topic that could develop into an action plan for the future, reserve the right to pause conversation, take note on your to do list that an item has been placed in the call box, with the collaborative agreement that it warrants more discussion at a later date.

To do lists are essential to channeling focused productivity in any meeting. It should be an extension of the pre-meeting to do list, with a bit more depth and direction for the allotted time. An in-meeting to do list might look something like this:

  • Choose an Event Date
    1. Decide between weekend or weekday
    2. Discuss seasonal obstacles
      1. Tourist season
      2. Weather preferences
      3. Competing events
    3. List top 3 potential dates
  • Identify 4 Potential Venues
    1. Review team recommendations
    2. Narrow down the list for second round review
    3. Consider potential obstacles
      1. Budget
      2. Size
      3. Layout
      4. Parking
      5. Permits
    4. Make final selections for future review
  • Assign Clients for Sponsorship Requests
    1. Split client list by industry type
      1. Medical
      2. Legal
      3. Corporate
    2. Review sponsorship packages
    3. Create teams
  • Design Website Copy for the Development Team
    1. Brainstorm landing pages
    2. Identify appropriate content
    3. List call to action opportunities

Assign: Time to Take Action

The take home to do list

The objectives accomplished in any meeting serve one important purpose – to identify the tasks that must be completed next in order to move forward with a project or directive. Meetings are set with the specific intention to collaborate and convert on a common goal. The only way to be sure what is discussed is then actualized in an efficient and productive manner is to create the take home to do list.

Boosting Productivity

As you move through your in-meeting to do list, have a corresponding list prepared that will provide specific assignments that achieve your in-meeting objectives. Be as detailed as possible, and focus on setting S.M.A.R.T. goals that are measurable and time driven. After the meeting, make sure each attendee is given a copy of the take home to do list so that everyone remains on the same page and has a clearly defined reference. A take home to do list might look something like this:

  • Event Venue
    1. ACTION ITEM: KELLY
      1. Call all 4 venues
        1. Confirm date availability
        2. Schedule walk throughs
        3. Provide feedback on each venue to team at next meeting with final recommendation
  • Client Sponsorships
    1. ACTION ITEM: Team Assignments
      1. Medical: MOLLY and SAM
      2. Legal: JACK and LISA
      3. Corporate: LINDA and BOB
        1. Pitch sponsorship opportunities to 15 clients each
          1. All initial asks must be done within 1 week
        2. Update master list with end results (Success/Fail)
  • Website Copy
    1. ACTION ITEM: DENA
      1. Create website mock up (layout) for three pages as an example (Make final selection for template, font, color scheme)
    2. ACTION ITEM: JEREMY
      1. Develop website copy for 2 main landing pages
    3. ACTION ITEM: JIM
      1. Create 4 blog posts for publication when website goes live
    4. ACTION ITEM: MICHELLE
      1. Connect with Development to set up a meeting 3 weeks from now
  • Call Box Items – Assigned to the agenda for 2/25/15 meeting
    1. Event Catering (Dale’s BBQ is running a special through June)
    2. Interns (Local college could supply for parking/tickets/etc.)

Report: The Results Are In

The post-meeting to do list

Meeting coordination often drops off after the last person leaves the conference room. To this point, you have defined your objectives for the meeting, worked through your task list, and assigned appropriate projects. All done, right?

Female Architect - To Do List

Wrong. Accountability is the last piece of puzzle for long-term success and is the fire that can boost productivity and keep team members on task long after the meeting has come to a close. Proper team communication means continuing the conversation at a later date to bring your original objectives full circle to completion. Developing a list of results not only provides a sense of satisfaction as the team moves closer to the end goal, but can also identify potential areas that need more attention in future meetings.

This type of follow up does not have to be absolute or even announce full completion. It is simply a method of reporting progress to the team to keep the lines of communication open. A post-meeting to do list might look something like this:

  • Date and Venue: KELLY
    1. Venue A – Contacted – Meeting 3/15
    2. Venue B – Contacted – Date Unavailable
    3. Venue C – Met 3/12 – Good candidate
    4. Venue D – Met 3/13 – Not big enough
  • Client Sponsorships
    1. Medical: MOLLY and SAM
      1. 25 contacted
        1. 20 yes
        2. 5 no
      2. 8 calls scheduled
      3. 2 in person meetings scheduled
    2. Legal: JACK and LISA
      1. 18 contacted
        1. 14 no
        2. 4 yes
      2. 10 calls scheduled
      3. Working to identify more clients
    3. Corporate: LINDA and BOB
      1. Linda – Vacation this week – Back next week
      2. Bob
        1. 8 calls made – pending response
        2. 12 contacted
          1. 9 yes
          2. 3 no

Who Knew?

A Simple To Do List is a Powerful Asset

In a world where technology is constantly evolving and new methods of communication are being introduced to market at rapid fire pace, who knew that you could boost productivity with a simple to do list? The US Navy was spot on when they developed the K.I.S.S. principle (“Keep it Simple, Stupid”) in 1960. Avoid unnecessary complexity and stick to the basics.

The to do list is a powerful asset for any meeting and can be the catalyst for forward momentum that keeps your team members informed, motivated and on task. The to do list has one purpose – to get things done. There’s simply no better way to boost productivity than using this type of laser beam focus to achieve results efficiently and effectively.

How to Use a To Do List to Boost Productivity at Your Next Meeting

 

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Organizational Tips

How You Can Use Scrum to Get Organized

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How You Can Use Scrum to Get Organized
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I know what you’re thinking. What the heck is Scrum? Stick with me here – I promise it will be worth it. Scrum is a management and control process that software developers use to break complex projects into incremental pieces, driving focus and productivity with more effective, higher quality results. I came across it in the corporate world and quite frankly, didn’t give it much thought. Since Scrum was designed for software developers, which I most certainly am not, I figured it didn’t apply to me.

How You Can Use Scrum to Get Organized

Then Somer and I ran into a problem with our brand management. As you know, we have The Studio Hampton Roads, Modern Femme Movement and the Hampton Roads Creative (plus this blog!). Sometimes our to do list is so long, it can feel incredibly overwhelming and even harder to prioritize. We do our best to Think Big, Focus Small, but sometimes the sheer volume of work has us wide-eyed and frozen.Check List

It occurred to me that we needed some process management. Something definitive that detailed our workflow and developed our priorities and set our intentions. Something like…Scrum. Scrum works with these ideas, called sprints, where you focus the team’s energy on selected projects and selected projects ONLY. That’s the key. Software developers have to get to the end goal, but all of the code necessary to reach the end goal can leave developers overwhelmed, and hopping from one project to the next and back again, producing stress and lower quality work.

Once a sprint has been defined, the team must stay on the specified work for the duration of the sprint. They cannot be pulled to other projects, redirected or given more work. They are “in sprint” and any additional projects or adjustments are to be assigned to future sprints.

BINGO. Well, I guess SCRUM is better here.

We reviewed our projects lists for each brand and broke them up into sprints. Once we assigned the sprints, we were off and running. While we were in one sprint, we were 100% focused on the work assigned to that particular sprint. We couldn’t veer off course, swap to another brand, or take on new work. Before we knew it, more was being accomplished with less stress and less mistakes.

calendarFor the software development world, sprints are usually two weeks in length due to the complexity of their work. For us, a week long sprint worked best. In a pinch, we’d break into three day sprints. You can choose what length of time works best for you. The important piece is to stay focused on what is in the sprint and embrace the peace of mind that comes with knowing other work that must (and will) be accomplished is assigned to future sprint.

This can apply to small business, blogging, school work, just about anything! Focus your energy, organize your workload, and accomplish a larger volume of higher quality work. Don’t get lost in the busy of bouncing back and forth between everything you have to get done, accomplishing nothing well or maybe not even at all. Scrum can be your key to focused professional energy and long-term small business (or life!) success.

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Blogging Resources

Social Media Scheduling 101: The Basics

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Social Media Scheduling | The Very Basics
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Why is social media scheduling important? 

Today’s culture, both personally and professionally, is driven by real time transparency. There are any of a million ways that we can interact with the world and share our life journeys, which has been the doorway to maintaining friendships, keeping family from afar close and celebrating life with like-minded individuals. But on the other hand, every time that phone blips that a new message has popped up, we’re driven by madness to look. It’s exhausting!!!! And ultimately incredibly time consuming. As a small business owner, the drive to build a following can be intoxicating and the pressure to be available to your clients 24/7 is crippling. How do you actually “do” your business if you’re always distracted by social media? Social media scheduling is the very best way to continue to curate and share content with your audience, while allowing yourself to focus on higher priorities in your personal and professional life.

If I schedule social media am I lying to my followers by “pretending” to be online when I’m not?

Any way that you can automate your workflow to save time and develop a routine, you are being true to yourself, your clients and most importantly, your family. The key is to appear to be accessible during high traffic times, but not actually be sitting there glued to your phone or computer hanging on every word uttered to the social media gods. Social media scheduling allows us to cater to multiple audiences at their individual peek times, gives us the opportunity to stay active and engaged while on the go and makes sure we have time to focus on what really counts.

Social Media Scheduling | The Very Basics

Where do I start?

I have two go-to programs that can work for even the most basic new learners (and have lots of advanced features for those in the know). And bonus…they’re FREE! What we’re moving towards is organized strategy. Social media scheduling allows you to develop a marketing strategy for your business and then execute it. You simple couldn’t do that properly on the fly and would get lost in the weeds. These next two tools can help put you on the path to a social media presence that translates to growth and long-term sustainability.

If you’re just digging into the social media behemoth, let’s put a simple tool to work for you while you get your bearings. Similar to how Instagram can cross post to Twitter and Facebook, Friends + Me can take your Google Plus posts and push them to several other platforms. I personally post to Google + and it carries over to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. One action = 4 social media networks.

I’ll admit, this tool can be visually tricky and take a little getting used to if you’re heavy handed with links and tags. Once you get comfortable with how your posts will appear in the different feeds, you’ll tailor your original content to work across the board. It’s a fantastic way to save time by not having to manually cross-pollinate your content to each and every platform individually. It’s a great way for new learners to “phone it in” while you up your social media knowledge and a stellar way for a seasoned social media vet to knock out a task list for simple content shares.

fplus

Hootsuite is the other tool I rely heavily on. In short, it’s a one-stop shop for me to manage all of my profiles on the various platforms that I use. In its most basic form, I schedule all Twitter activity (content sharing) in here or via their Hootlet (content curating).  I can tell you it’s really the Hootlet that is life changing. This little plugin is ridiculously awesome. It allows me to wrap up items of interest in a nice little box with a beautiful little bow instantly and schedule directly from my point of interest. I can open it up from any source and schedule a tweet/share from any of my accounts instantaneously without having to copy/paste links or images into Hootsuite itself. That save of a few clicks is amazing!!!

hootlet

Here’s a snap shot of my actual Hootsuite dashboard (Don’t freak out! I have a million accounts!):
hootsuite
I am able to jump in between accounts and platforms with the click of a tab, and I can schedule posts from the top bar to any of my accounts with just a few clicks. Admittedly, I pay for the Pro version because I work the account with my business partner and I am in love with the bulk tweet upload feature (I can schedule 350 tweets at once just by uploading a simple Excel file!). Instead of having 15 different internet tabs open for each of my feeds and profiles, I can have one program open that allows me to move among them without having to constantly sign in and out depending on which profile I want to use. Again, the goal is to save time by reducing clicks and hops all over the internet and to streamline your visibility to the information that matters most to you. Here are the profiles my business partner and I manage either completely or to some degree on Hootsuite:

 

– Twitter (8 different profiles)
– Google Plus (2 business profiles)
– Facebook (4 business pages and 1 personal profile)
– Facebook groups (2 community groups)
– Instagram (3 profiles)
– Stumble Upon (1 profile)
– LinkedIn (1 profile)

 

Can you imagine if I had to sign in and out of each of these accounts at various parts of my day in order to engage on all platforms?

 

So. How does this ultimately save time? Have I just traded time spent manually posting for time spent scheduling automation? The key here is to carve out time and stick to it. Don’t be scheduling all day! It defeats the purpose. Here are some quick rules to keep in mind:

  • Set a specific day each week (or even an hour each morning/night if that’s better for you) that is devoted to scheduling the next weeks’/days’ tweets/posts/etc. Make that a calendar time in your routine. Stick to it! I do all of my scheduling first thing in the morning. That way my social media profiles are working in the background while I am completing my normal business day and any activity can just be responsive.
  • Commit to a time each evening that the phone/computer gets put away. For example, clients at The Studio now know that our business booking hours are Monday – Friday from 8AM – 5PM. If they email us during that time, they expect a response. But if they email outside of that time, they know they’ll hear from us during the next business day. We’ve educated them and we’re training ourselves. Now, when that email dings with a new inquiry, I don’t look at it if it’s after hours. They know, and I know it will be there tomorrow.
  • Give yourself a break! Cut yourself some slack! It’s ok to take a break from time to time on social media. It’s ok to not post every meal, every night out, every stylish outfit. Let go of the pressure to perform. Focus on enjoying the interactions with people and sharing your heart. You’ll find it not only comes more naturally, but more purposefully. Be IN your life. 

Pin this to your Small Business Tips & Tricks Board or your Blogging Resources Board! Don’t have one? Follow me!

Did you like this post? Check out How to Create Hyper-Linked Email Signatures in Gmail!

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Organizational Tips

How to Store and Prepare Your Used Items for Resale

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Store and Prepare Your Used Items for Resale | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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Using Your Resources: How to Resell Your Used Items and Buy Second Hand was the first post in this “series,” and hopefully, by now you’ve had an opportunity to read through that and determine where you want to attempt to sell your used items.

The next logical step is how in the world to keep yourself organized so that you have a steady flow of items ready for sale and can keep product “moving through the pipeline” without sucking hours from your already jam-packed schedule. The key here is ambitious preparation and forethought. A little “do it now!” vs. a “I’ll do it later!” can make staying organized a breeze.

How to Store and Prepare Your Used Items for Resale - Infographic - Tips and Tricks for Consignment and Online Sales

Here are some things that I do to stay organized with my sale items. Note: These particular steps make the most sense for consignment sales, yard sales and/or mommy swaps. Consignment stores are a bit different, but you can glean some useful tips for how to store for those too!

1. NEARBY STORAGE: I have available storage bins at the ready for new additions that no longer fit the boys in their bedroom. The most recent size(s) or season are stored under their train table so that if they try something on and it doesn’t fit, it immediately goes into the boxes. This keeps our drawers full of clothes that fit and prevents me from having to do massive sorts constantly. I try not to mix sizes and keep like items together, especially pajama sets or coordinating sets, so no hunting for missing pieces later and I know with a glance what size/season is in each box.

How to Store and Prepare Your Used Items for Resale - Storage Containers

2. BE THE OVERACHIEVER: Yup, I am that person that starts prepping for the next consignment sale the day after the most recent consignment sale is over. As soon as the hosting group’s ticketing system is cleared out and released for the next event, I start entering my items for the next sale. I print and apply tags and even hang items on hangers if required. If things need to be zip-tied or put in plastic bags and taped closed, I do it right when I am moving items from the nearby storage in #1 to the long-term storage I’m going to describe here shortly. By the time those items hit the long-term storage bin, they are prepped and ready for sale and I don’t need to see them again until I drop them off to be sold. Similar can be done for yard sales too. As you are going through items to sell, stick a price tag on them and box them up. When your next yard sale comes around, you get out the box and you’re good to go! This prevents the brutal all-nighters trying to price items or get them entered into a consignment system before the deadline. (BONUS TIP: If you are selling items online, a great time saver is to list all of your available items on a spreadsheet with their price tag and where you posted them so that you can track what is sold and what is still available. This also helps you compare which online sources are producing the best results for you!)

How to Store and Prepare Your Used Items for Resale - Organize by Size and Season

3. LONG-TERM STORAGE: I have a gigantic bin in my garage that stores all of my “ready to sell” items. It’s easily moved from the garage to the car (by the husband) and easily stored out of the way until the next event. Anything that is in that bin has been itemized, tagged, priced, etc. etc. and is literally ready to come out of the box and onto the sales floor, wherever and whatever that may be. In that box I keep everything I need to get items sale ready. I have safety pins, ticket paper, plastic bags, zip ties and hangers (which you can get free usually at your local dry cleaners or keep an eye out for the super cheap ones when they go on sale!), pens and markers. And tape! I don’t have to hunt for anything. Super efficient and super fast. A great tip for those items getting shipped would be to have packing envelopes in there too! If I have items in there that cross seasons (this can be tricky with consignments sales), I keep the furthest away season on the bottom and layer a trash bag on top to separate from the next upcoming sale items. That way I know when I deliver my items, I empty the bin until I hit the trash bag and the know those items underneath are for the next, next sale. (See!! Crazy overachiever!)

How to Store and Prepare Your Used Items for Resale - Long Term Storage

4. CAR QUICK STORAGE: If I’ve posted an item online that I am sure is going to sell quickly locally, I pop it in my car so I have it with me in case someone contacts me to buy while I’m at work. That gives me the instant opportunity to meet at a public place during my lunch hour or right after I finish up for the day, rather than having to schedule a time/location later in the week. Get it gone!

How to Store and Prepare Your Used Items for Resale - Children can help with boxes

 

Quick Reminders! Get Your Items Sold
1. Neat and clean (safety pin matching items or sets together).
2. Price fairly! Rule of thumb is usually 50% of what you paid and then down from there depending on use and quality. Potentially up from there if it’s a large popular item, but be nice!
3. Quality images. Poor pictures discourage buyers. Quality pictures project quality products!
BONUS SELLING TIP! 
Be careful with laying out items on tables. Hung items typically sell better.
Plus, messy tables = annoyed buyers and buried inventory.
 
How to Store and Prepare Your Used Items for Resale - Hang Items Instead of Putting Them on a Table
Do you have any tips for staying organized with resale items? Anything that has worked awesome for you?
Feel free to share!

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