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Ways You Can Start To Read One Book Per Week

Reading is something that I have always loved to do. One of my favorite things to do with my parents growing up was to visit the bookstore. I’d save up a few bucks, head over to my favorite authors, and pick out something new. Then I’d get into trouble staying up late with a flashlight so I could finish that book as soon as possible.

I’ve lost the habit of getting lost in a good book as I’ve grown older. Some of it has to do with the amount of time I spend online. When I’m writing, I try to avoid reading just so I don’t inadvertently copy the work of someone else.

Yet there is a lot of value which can come from reading books. Fictional books take us to new worlds to challenge us. Non-fiction books ask us to set aside our preconceived notions to teach us something new. Every book we read encourages us to read another book. And another. And then another. I’ve found that it is often more important to understand the book than it is to sit down for a few hours to read it cover-to-cover.

Here’s how I’ve started coming back to reading books, at least one per week, and maybe this process can help you as well.

#1. I spend time with the promotional materials. I treat the back cover and the flaps of a book, if it has one anyway, as if it were a 30 second movie promo. I like to picture the plot, see what the character looks like in my mind’s eye, or have a chance to evaluate the learning opportunities being offered to me. If I’m interested, then I keep going. If not, then I put the book down.

#2. For non-fiction books, I cheat and look at the final conclusion. The whole point of a non-fiction book is to provide a fact-based argument. It must have a conclusion to be a valid read. If the conclusion isn’t there, then I put the book down. I do that if the conclusion is a yawner as well. If I’m intrigued, then I work backwards through the material to see how that conclusion was reached.

#3. I skim past repetitive dialogue. Honestly. How many times can a character “smirk” in a book? Using a thesaurus is a lost art today. So is the inclusion of meaningful dialogue that moves a plot forward or helps you as a reader to put yourself into the shoes of a favorite character. If the dialogue is repetitive or the descriptions pointless, I just skip them. Sometimes you can skip entire pages and not lose your place.

#4. Focus on the Table of Contents. I love books that have a thorough Table of Contents. This is another test that lets me know if the book I’m thinking about reading is going to be worth my time. I’ll linger over particularly interesting phrases or even skim through a specific chapter to check out what the author has to say. If I stay intrigued, then I finish the book. If not, it sits on the bookshelf unread.

#5. I engage with the text. I’ve started to take notes as I read, both fictional and non-fiction books, because this helps me to “experience” the text in a different way. I’m doing more than absorbing information or using my imagination when I’m writing down key points. This allows me to retain more of what I read so that it becomes useful data I can recall if needed.

Reading books like this is definitely a change from what I used to do in my youth. I’ve also found that I tend to remember details more clearly with this process and that helps me get through books more quickly.

Do you love books as much as I do? If you read on a regular basis, I’d love to hear about your reading process and how it has helped you.

3 Things You Should Do At Every Meeting

Meetings can be beneficial when proper preparations are made for them. The only problem is that many people treat meetings as an unwanted necessity instead of something that can potentially benefit them. I see this happen all the time. People go to meetings without even thinking about the topics that will be discussed, feel lost during the meeting, and then don’t apply any of the concepts that were communicated to them afterward.

This is why I’ve instituted what I call the “post-meeting wrap-up.” It’s a few minutes after a meeting where we informally get together and go over the key points that were discussed one more time. If assignments were handed out, I’ll review those one more time. The goal is to cover these 3 things.

#1. Review the decisions and steps decided upon.

There can be a lot of information offered in a meeting and sometimes people get lost trying to sort out the data. By taking a few moments to review the key decisions that were made and what the next steps will need to be, I can make sure that everyone gets onto the same page. This lessens the amount of time spent individually reviewing these topics with those who might have gotten lost in the shuffle.

I like to use flow charts to communicate which people are responsible for specific action steps because this gives people a visual reference to understand what their role happens to be. Flip charts, spreadsheet handouts, or your preferred tools can also work here to reinforce the decisions made and actions that must be taken.

#2. Get communication points developed.

It always happens. Once I’m out of a meeting, someone comes up to me and asks me what happened. I want the people in my meetings to have the same answer when they get asked this question. It eliminates a lot of the gossip which develops when different answers come from meeting attendees.

To do this, I like to ask the group what they felt were the most important items we discussed during the meeting. We’ll talk about what the vision of our action steps happens to be, what our mission statement will be as we move forward, and the value of the core ideas we’ve all discussed. It’s not that I want people to hand out a scripted response. I just want us all on the same page, communicating the same ideas from the individual’s perspective.

#3. Ask for feedback about the meeting.

It would be naïve to think that I’m perfect in every meeting. I might forget to send out planning materials. My presentation might have been a little confusing. People in the meeting might not have felt included. Sometimes I can catch these issues on my own, but I want to catch them all so I can make each meeting be a little bit better. That’s why I always ask for feedback before everyone heads back to work.

I prefer asking for feedback immediately instead of waiting to send out an email later because the meeting is fresh in the minds of its participants right after it concludes. An email for feedback is also easy to delete or ignore. This allows me to make sure everyone got the message I wanted them to receive and vice-versa.

Meetings aren’t always fun, but they can be useful with the right plan of action. These are the steps I follow and it has helped me see a nice increase in productivity levels and consistency in the action steps which we take afterward.

Do you have strategies that you use to make meetings more effective? I’d love to hear about some of the ideas you’ve implemented to make your meetings more productive.

How You Can Be an Extrovert in Your Next Meeting

I hate talking in meetings. Even “hate” may not be a strong enough word. Everyone watches you talk, judging every word you say, waiting to pounce on something with which they may disagree. You have to convince everyone of your expertise, become vulnerable, and sometimes you even have to speak above the loudest voices in the room. It’s enough to turn even the biggest extrovert into an introvert.

That’s actually my secret to being able to engage in meetings. You can become an extrovert by following many of the traits introverts have when it comes to a conversation. I listen first. I process all of the information that is coming my way. Then I speak only when I have a well-thought opinion that can influence the discussion in what I believe will be a positive way.

There are other ways that can help you engage confidently with others during a meeting when you don’t really want to say anything. Here are some of the methods that help me and hopefully they’ll be of help to you as well.

#1. Do your prep work before the meeting. It always comes down to your information. If you don’t know what’s going to be discussed at a meeting, then you’re going to have a steep learning curve in a chair that will probably be uncomfortable. Take an hour or two before the meeting, go through the information that will be discussed, and you’ll be able to think on your feet – or in your seat – more effectively.

#2. Be forthright. There will be questions that someone may ask that you cannot answer right away in a meeting. Instead of trying to fake it to make it, try offering a honest approach. I like to say something like this: “That’s a great question. I’ll need to think through that for a bit to give you a good answer.” You can ask people to come back to you. You can say you need time to research the subject. If you need extra time, I’ve found there’s nothing wrong in asking for it.

#3. Practice your public speaking. Whether you’re in a meeting with 5 people or 500 people, the butterflies in your stomach will float around when it’s time to make a presentation. This is why I make sure there is time to practice my presentation before I have to make it. My family are often my first draft volunteers, but I also try to make sure I have a dress rehearsal with some trusted co-workers. This way I can get feedback, know where my stumbling points are, and be able to reinforce my confidence. I also highly recommend Toastmasters.

#4. Learn to ignore your discomforts. Some people get so worked up that they get sweaty or red in the face when they have to speak in meetings. I’ve even met folks who break out in hives – as if they were allergic to speaking during a meeting. People go to meetings for ideas. They’ll ignore your discomfort if you can present a solid idea. As you get more comfortable, these physical symptoms will typically disappear as well. Take a few deep breaths, push forward, and you’ll find people are listening more than they are looking.

#5. Contribute by asking questions. Sometimes there really isn’t anything for me to say during a meeting, but I might be asked to contribute anyway. In those times, I like to ask questions about what I’ve heard. I always write down a question or two so I can start a discussion if called upon and this helps as it seem like I’m speaking when in reality I’m encouraging others to speak instead.

You can hate meetings, but still get a lot out of them with the right approach. Take the lessons learned from the introverts and use that to be an extrovert when needed at your next meeting, even if you don’t want to be there.

How do you handle dealing with difficult speaking situations at work? I’d love to hear about some of your strategies and coping mechanisms and how you use them.

Is That Meeting Really Necessary?

The email notification comes in at the worst possible time. I’ve got 5 things that need to be done, all with critical importance, and not enough time to even get one task completed. Another meeting has been scheduled and it has been “strongly suggested” that I attend. Just about any issue that comes up at work prompts us to schedule a meeting these days, doesn’t it?

Sometimes meetings can be a good thing. Often meetings are treated as if they were a Google search instead. If a solution isn’t found instantly, let’s see if someone else can do that for us, right? Here is the process I try to follow when I’m deciding whether a meeting is necessary or not.

#1. Review the situation. Sometimes all I have to do is ask someone a question if I’m seeking clarity on an issue. Sometimes I can coordinate with others over the phone or with emails so the structure of a project can be created. Instead of resorting to a default “let’s call a meeting” attitude, my rule is to strategically review each situation and to only call a meeting if I’ve exhausted every other resource.

#2. Who has the expertise? Just because I’ve been assigned a project doesn’t mean I’m the expert. Sometimes I need a little outside advice to make things happen. That’s a great time to schedule a meeting because you are bringing in resources you need. Far too often, however, the temptation is to seek out that advice when it may not be needed because I’d rather procrastinate on the project. That’s a bad time to schedule a meeting. Sometimes you just need to staple your pants to a chair and work.

#3. I need an answer right now. When I’m about to finish something, but I need a second opinion, it’s nice to have a real-time conversation with someone. I’ve found there’s no better way to get the feedback you need for a quality result. Sometimes that feedback doesn’t need to happen right away, which means a meeting isn’t really necessary. I can send an email or a voicemail and wait for them to get back with me. If I need fast feedback, then a meeting can be a good thing.

#4. What is the purpose? I like to have face-to-face meetings when I’m negotiating something. Although you can do this over a video call, the body language of the person across from me is something I want to see and only a face-to-face meeting can really convey that. Answering questions, training classes, or even conflict resolution can happen outside of a traditional meeting structure quite often and take less time when you do. That’s why I feel it is important to look at the purpose being considered first.

#5. What will be the time demands? If I pull 5 people into a meeting which lasts an hour, that’s 6 hours of productivity that may be loss [when I include myself]. Now think about 20 people in a 3 hour meeting or some of the other marathons we’ve all attended in the past. The time of a meeting must meet or exceed the value of each worker staying productive with their assigned tasks. If it does, then let’s do the meeting. If not, then let’s communicate in some other way.

I’ve found that by following this process, it has been possible to reduce the number of meetings I’ve had to request. As for the meeting requests you’ll receive… that’s a different story. How have you worked to reduce the number of meetings you’ve had to call at work? I’d love to hear some of your ideas and how they’ve worked for you.

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