Monthly Archives: May 2013

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“By the time a big company gets the committee to organize the subcommittee to pick a meeting date, your startup could have made 20 decisions, reversed five of them and implemented the fifteen that worked.”

Steven Gary Blank, The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Startups That Win

By Phil White, Words Guy

One of the reasons that many small companies get things done without a bloated staff is that their people are busy doing, not talking. Now, that’s not to say that it’s unnecessary to confer with colleagues, to plan, to strategize. But I would wager that 75 percent of business meetings are either unnecessary, unproductive or both.

At Access, more than 80 percent of employees work remotely, which is one of the reasons the company avoids a meet-about-the-meeting-about-the-meeting practice that slows down some companies where most staffers are at a single location. I truly believe that having a bunch of conference rooms challenges people to fill them, almost as if workers worry that the meeting spaces will get lonely if they get five minutes to themselves. There’s also, I think, a misplaced fear of not looking “busy” enough, particularly for mid-level management – you know, the people whose job it is to assign projects but not do them. They worry that if they’re not pulling 11 others into a room to waffle for an hour about e-mail subject line best practices, the “audience” for an upcoming case study or what color the T-shirts should be for an upcoming tradeshow (but Steve, I like Galway green!) that they’ll be seen as a failure, as both an employee and a human being. To quote the Grinch, ““Wrong-o”

To avoid such time-wasting silliness, here are some questions to answer before you send a meeting invite to your unsuspecting colleagues:

1) Can you just send an e-mail?

If you can get the required info through an e-mail or instant messenger chat, skip the meeting.

2) Does your meeting have a defined purpose and if so, what is it?

If you don’t know why you’re meeting, chances are the other invitees won’t either. Know what you need to know, and how to get it.

3) Is the meeting a good use of time?

There are enough distractions during the typical work day. Is your meeting truly needed, or is it just another one?

OK, so you do need to schedule a meeting. Here are some tips to make it effective:

A) Who are your People?

Big meetings are hard to manage and wanting to impress the e-team with your rhetorical flourishes or “feeling bad” about leaving out someone on the team are not good reasons for sending unnecessary invites. Keep the invitee list to those people who absolutely must be present

B) Preparation and Planning Prevent Poor Performance

Let people know in advance what the meeting agenda is, and what you expect from each person.

C) Stick to the Agenda

Meetings have a nasty habit of meandering, particularly on a Friday afternoon. So try to keep yourself and others on topic so you can wrap things up in 30 minutes or less, if possible.

D) Close with Clear Next Steps

Once you’ve got through the agenda items, people need to know what’s next. So identify action items and who’s responsible for each one before you close the meeting.

By Megan Cullor, Implementation Consultant, Formatta & Roving Editor of Tech Reviews and Such

I’m ba-ack! This time I’m here to tell you all about my OTHER favorite productivity app, Wunderlist. I consider Wunderlist to be a perfect companion to my OTHER other favorite productivity app, Evernote, even though they’re not at all integrated — yet.

Wunderlist is a free to do list app that allows you to manage your tasks across as many different lists (categories) as you’d like. As I do in Evernote, I have categories for work, personal, etc. And also like Evernote, Wunderlist is cross-platform compatible, and tasks are synced in the cloud. I have Wunderlist installed on a PC, a MacBook Pro, and also my iPhone and my iPad, and my tasks are always up-to-date across all of my devices. Sigh. . .

I’ve tested many different task managers in my day, from the really simple, everything’s in one list kind of app, to the more complex, Getting Things Done (by David Allen) approach apps, and this is my favorite. I don’t follow the GTD method anymore, so I just need an app that allows me to categorize, set priorities, rearrange lists, and set due dates and reminders, and Wunderlist does all of that quickly and easily.

I love the way Wunderlist handles reminders. You set them up specifically for each device, so you can have desktop reminders on your PC, but not your MacBook, or notifications on your iPhone, but not your iPad, for example. And Wunderlist will also send email notifications if you’d like. Super handy. I tend to dismiss pop-up alerts as I see them, but if I have an unfinished task sitting in my email inbox, I’ll leave it as unread so that I can take care of it later. Yes, I know, I could just check my to do list . . .

They’ve recently introduced repeating tasks, which you can set up to repeat daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or even customized, such as every 2 days. And you can also add subtasks to your tasks. Handy for bigger tasks that need to be broken down into smaller chunks.

Another little bonus that I love are their backgrounds. They have a wood grain background that’s super attractive yet unobtrusive, and it’s the one I always go back to. It’s like sitting in a library, feeling very important, surrounded by my many leather-bound books. (And if you don’t get that movie reference, then we shouldn’t be friends. Seriously. Go away.)

Wunderlist also just started offering a Pro account, allowing you to assign tasks to members of a shared list — great for project collaboration, choose from additional backgrounds, assign an unlimited number of subtasks to a task, and more. I haven’t upgraded yet, but maybe if they offer an even more awesome wood grain background (if that’s even possible), I’ll consider it. It’s so pretty.

My other other favorite Wunderlist feature is the new browser extension that adds the current browser content as a Wunderlist task. For example, I wanted to watch a video on YouTube later so I clicked the Wunderlist button in Chrome and it parsed the text, adding the video name and URL to the task, along with a displaying drop-down list of my categories. Click Save and it’s automatically added to Wunderlist. Blam.

In conclusion (finally!), check out Wunderlist. It’s free, it’s portable, and it has a wood grain background (if you want). Did I already mention that?

By Phil White, Words Guy.


Injuries stink. It’s bad enough when we see our favorite athletes go down during debilitating holy-crap-I-wish-I-didn’t-just-see-that moments (for me Derrick Rose in game 1 of last year’s Chicago Bulls round 1 playoffs game, Russell Westbrook down and out in this year’s playoffs). But when it happens to we recreational athletes, it’s suddenly real. Though we’re not hoping to lead our team to a pro sports championship, qualify for the Olympics or secure a seven-figure shoe deal, being unable to run in that 5K, play in the last softball league game of the year or complete a set a new personal best in a Crossfit WOD can be equally galling.

About three weeks days ago I was playing basketball, having come out of retirement (Michael Jordan comeback, it isn’t! Not even the Wizards one.) recently after three years out due to family, work and life pulling me away. All was going well until the ball got knocked loose from an opponent’s hands and I went for the steal. Ball traveling at speed + outstretched hand = jammed fingers.

So much for my paddleboarding plans. Ditto pullups, dips, death-by-rowing-machine intervals.

Even opening a jar of almond butter might be a stretch (pardon the pun). Nice purple bruise that made my left hand look like someone had been throwing blueberries at it. Which would be weird.

I moped around for a few hours, cursing my bad luck.  But then I realized that while not having full use of a hand is annoying and would keep me off the water, I was hardly incapacitated.

So I did something I haven’t done in years. I ran.

My old knees are not friends with hard pavement, so I stuck to grass and, to mix things up a little, went up and down verges, around trees, in and out of lamp posts. Then I did my best old slow guy’s impersonation of Usain Bolt for the final 200 meters. Yes, drivers passing by probably thought I was nuts. So did my legs. But my cardiovascular system will be thanking me when I get back on the board, in the gym and on the court. I also did a lot of power-building plyometrics (think box jumps, split jumps, every kinda jumps), high rep sets of step ups, single leg squats and lunges – thanks for the idea, Mr. Dave Kalama – and a ton of core work. Even some yoga strength poses like Warrior III.

So if you’re injured, quit complaining about what you can’t do and focus on what you CAN DO. Use the opportunity to challenge your body in new ways, and get creative. You’ll help lift your mental state out of “miserable”, get better at some exercises you’ve probably avoided for too long and help recovery by increasing blood flow. Good enough for D Rose, good enough for you and me.

UPDATE: Two weeks after jacking up my hand, I returned to the court for two hours of full court 4-on-4 (with old guy breaks, of course). All was well until I went up for a rebound and two guys’ arms came down on my left – same freaking side as the hand injury which had kinda healed, of course – and strained the rotator cuff. Guess me and my running shoes are about to become buddies again…