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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Have you served and volleyed today?

“None of you will be able to wipe the smile off my face tonight. I’ve just heard my wife and I are expecting our first child …”

This was a comedian’s Opening Line at a recent show.

He looked delighted. Could hardly speak for smiling. And the minute he said “first child”, everyone started clapping.

Until he interrupted us, saying “Let me finish… I’m smiling because I’ve heard my wife and I are expecting our first child to leave home. She’s only nine. I hope she takes her two brothers with her.”

A great start. In fifteen seconds, he had his audience in the palm of his hand. He’d given them a reason to cheer, applaud, be involved, be surprised, laugh…

And it worked because he split his opening into two. The first half set it up; the second finished it.

And, to get people listening to us, we can do the same.

For example, my favourite email title is the half-sentence “Jane, a quick question to ask…”

Jane will open this straight away. Three reasons:

  1. Her name grabs her attention
  2. The word “quick” means it won’t take her long
  3. It’s intriguing – she wants to know what the question is (the second half of the sentence)

Another example: when I’m making a presentation, my first sentence might be “I have a question for you…”

Everyone looks at me. They want to know what it is. And I’ve already ‘got’ my audience without doing anything (the question I then ask needs to be a good one!)

Other good opening half-sentences:

  • At the start of regular weekly meetings – "I thought we could try something different this week…" They want to know what it is
  • And five minutes before the end of your meeting – "I’m conscious of time. One quick question…" That stops them speaking. You can now close it down
  • When you want to find the best way to do something, ask "Can I ask your advice about something…?" They’ll say ‘yes’ (who wouldn’t?!) You then ask them
  • When you want someone to do something for you, "Can I ask a favour…?" They’ll say ‘yes’ (again, who wouldn’t?) You then ask them to help you
  • When you want someone to instantly listen – "Do you know the three biggest reasons why customers don’t buy from us…?"
  • When you want to stop people being grumpy “Do you know the one thing we haven’t thought of yet…?” They’ll ask what it is. You then say something positive about the situation. Or ask what a good solution might be. Anything to change their focus
  • When somebody asks you to write a communication for them – “Yes, of course. But can I quickly ask you something…?” They’ll want to know what it is. You then ask them what headings they want in it. Know these, and you’re much more likely to write what they want the first time

And so on.

I call this technique ‘serve and volley’. The serve sentence sets up the point; the volley finishes it off. Much easier to do than serving an outright ace in one sentence.

And (serve) so I have a surprising question for you…

Action point

… (volley) who can you ‘Serve and volley’ today? Prep both your shots/sentences before you play/speak with them.
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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Want an extra 40 hours a year? Change the way you run your meetings!

Today’s post is a really easy one…

          Don’t have one-hour meetings.

And that’s it.

You see, most meetings last 30 or 60 minutes.


Two reasons – because:

  1. Outlook is split into 30-minutes chunks, and
  2. that’s how long they’ve always taken

Two dreadful reasons for deciding how long a meeting should last.

And it gets worse. Have ten people in your meeting? That means your meeting cost ten hours of a resource. Was it really worth that?

But there’s a very easy way to fix this.

Stop saying “the meeting will last one hour.”

Instead: “the meeting will last a maximum of 45 minutes.”

That way, people arrive thinking:

  • It finishes in only 45 minutes, so we’d better crack on; and
  • Since you said “a maximum of”, if we work efficiently, we’ll finish early

Do this for just one meeting every day, and you save over an hour every week.

Do this every week, and that’s 40-50 hours a year.

That’s an entire working week.

And, because you’d have spent that week in meetings, what a rubbish week it would’ve been!

Even better – if you want to save more than one week, make these changes too:
  • Invite fewer people. Remember, you can always send some people your Actions Arising – they don’t all need to attend everything
  • Have fewer agenda items
  • Vary something. Meetings are often too long because of the habits we’ve let ourselves get into. You know the type of thing – every Monday, we meet at 10-11am, in the same room, sitting in the same chairs, discussing the same stuff. So, break your habits and do something different. Change the venue, start time, duration, seating arrangement, chairperson, agenda order… anything to shake things up
  • Replace ‘Any Other Business’ (often a pointless chat) with ‘Actions Arising’ (ensures there are some)
  • Don’t automatically make them the ‘45 minutes’ I mentioned above. If something can be done in ten minutes, book it in ten minutes

All these ideas are pretty simple.

But the easiest of all is to stop having one-hour meetings.

Right now.

Action point

Look at today’s meetings. What will you do to shorten at least one of them?

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Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Want more time in your day? Try this simple productivity hack today!

If your Inbox was a desk, and each email in it was a piece of paper – what’d your desk look like?

Would it be lovely and clean, and easy to work on?

Or covered in stacks of paper – on many different subjects, from many different people – randomly piled in an irritating, distracting mess?

Next question: which desk would be nicer to work at?

So, here's how to tidy your desk/empty your Inbox…

It's pretty simple. Just remember the Golden Rule:

Only read emails once!

Most emails can be dealt with in one hit, by doing one of the following:

  • Responding – for emails that are important and/or quick to deal with, just hit Reply and act on it
  • Delegating – for emails somebody else can deal with, forward it to them, telling them what you want them to do with it (don’t just send it ‘FYI’ – that doesn’t tell them anything)
  • Deleting – my favourite! If you don’t need it, delete it

After you’ve done these, take the email out of your Inbox, and put it into a folder/the bin.

So that’s the easy emails. But what about the emails you don't need to act on now?

Well, simply drag them out of your Inbox, and into a diary entry on the day you’re going to reply to it.

For example, I’ve just had an email that needs a reply by Friday. So I dragged it into Thursday’s diary. I don’t need to look at/think about it until then.

And, to ensure my diary never gets cluttered by doing this, I have a daily "answer emails" diary entry. So this email has gone into Thursday’s.

And that’s it.

I love this Tip. It's been a Life Changer for me – and for hundreds of my customers.

Best of all?

It's really quick.

Each email now takes seconds only. In fact, on average, each email takes me 15 seconds to act on.

So, you can remove four from your Inbox every minute. That's forty in ten minutes.

Your desk is starting to look a lot clearer…

Action Point

Two actions:

  • Apply today's Tip to every email you receive from now on
  • To remove your email backlog, pour yourself a glass of wine one evening, and spend 20-30 minutes acting on/diarising each email. Then remove them from your Inbox...
This will free-up loads of time.

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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Do you find it difficult to say 'No' to people? Here are 2 simple steps to help you say 'No' and be loved for it!

You need to know how to say ‘no’.

Or you’ll end up saying ‘yes’ to everything.

Including things you don’t want to do; aren’t good at; or hate.

And who’d want their day to be packed with stuff like that?

Here’s how to do it…

When you’re asked to do something you don’t want to, remember the phrase – ‘no, but how about…’

In other words, say ‘no’ to their request, but offer an alternative way you can help them.

This often leads to a better outcome for both of you:

  • You don’t have to do the thing you didn’t want to do; and
  • They get a good solution, albeit via a different route than they’d expected

So, the secret to being good at saying ‘no’ is to be able to identify alternative ways of delivering what they want. After all, if you can think of lots of alternatives, you now have wriggle room.

I’ve always been OK at this. But I got really good when I wanted to stop working Fridays. I wanted to spend even more time on my hobbies, and activities that gave me a sense of fulfilment. But what would I do if someone said ‘can you work on Friday?’

Well, we have lots of options:

  • We move the day to Thursday
  • We move the venue, so they come to me between my consultations
  • We do it by phone, instead of face-to-face
  • If it absolutely must be Friday, I could recommend other people they could use instead

So, when people ask if I can work Friday my answer is “I can definitely help you. But we might have a challenge with the Friday. Can we explore a couple of options?”

People always respond positively to this. They like the fact I can definitely help. And they’re happy that I’m willing to explore other options, rather than saying ‘no’ outright.

So, to say ‘no’, you need two things:

  1. To have a number of alternatives for them 
  2. Say ‘yes, I can definitely help you. But not like that. Let’s explore other ways we can do it’

Today, someone’s going to ask you to do something you’d rather say ‘no’ to. How will you respond?

Action point

Find something you want to say ‘no’ to. This’ll either be something you’ve recently been asked to do; or something you know’s fast approaching…

And then, do the two actions highlighted in the post:

  1. Identify alternative courses of action
  2. Script how you’ll respond, so they feel helped
And of course, if the person who’s asking you to do this new task is your boss’s boss’s boss’s boss… maybe just suck it up and do that one!

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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Do you ever find it difficult to remember to keeping in touch with the important people in your life? Try these 5 simple steps!

You have lots of important people in your life.

Do you speak with them enough?

As much as you want to?

As much as they want you to?

If not, here’s a simple technique to make sure you do…

People tell me they usually contact people because of an event. Examples:

  • You and your partner have a lovely meal out, after the event of them pointing out you’re working too hard
  • A supplier shows wonderful customer care, after the event of a complaint
  • You hold your first team meeting for a few weeks, after the event of them falling behind target

And, of course, that’s good. Events should cause things to happen.

But there are two problems if we rely on events as our trigger:

  • There might not be one. That means you won’t speak to these important people for ages; plus
  • People begin to realise that – every time you get in touch - something bad has probably happened!

So, try this instead – the KITE approach. Where KITE stands for ‘Keep In Touch Every’. Here’s how it works…

  • List. Create a list of all your ‘important’ people. This shouldn’t take long. Just look at the contacts in your phone, and identify who you should speak to regularly
  • KITE. For each person, write how often you should talk with them. So, should you Keep In Touch Every week, month, quarter, year?
  • Group. Group all the ‘weeklies’ in one list, ‘monthlies’ in another, etc
  • Diarise. Put in recurring diary entries, reminding you to get in contact with them. So the ‘weeklies’ would have a recurring weekly diary entry; the ‘monthlies’ a recurring monthly one, and so on. 
  • Do. When the diary entry appears, contact them

And, when you do get in contact, remember - Person #5 doesn’t know what you’ve said to Person #4. So, you can often use similar messages to all the weeklies, tweaked slightly so each feels personal to them.

KITE means you never forget anyone. After all, your diary’s memory is much better than yours.

Also, it means you’re in control – not the occurrence (or not) of external events.

So, do you keep in touch with people as often as you should?

Action point

Do your KITE five steps.

If you’ve got 20 minutes now, do them now.

If not, identify now when you’ll do it later. It’ll only take 20 minutes. But, once your recurring diary entries kick in, you’ll always be proactively contacting them, rather than reacting to events. Better for both of you.

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