The Best Way to Leave a Meeting Early

Consider this sobering fact: if you spend, say, five hours a week in meetings that are boring or irrelevant, that's roughly six full work weeks each year that you're wasting and will never get back.

Obviously, it's in your best interest to attend only those meetings that are relevant to what YOU want to accomplish. Unfortunately, your coworkers (and bosses, alas) might not see it that way.

Many people believe that "communication" has value in and of itself, rather than just as a means to an end. They therefore hold meetings in the wrongheaded belief that talking is the same as working. (Hint: it's not.)

There are people (executives, even) who use meetings as a way to establish authority. For these idiots, nothing says "I'm the boss" better than forcing everybody to sit in the same room for a couple of hours.

(See the end of the post for a real-life horror story from my own personal experience.)

Anyway, since you can't avoid every dumb meeting, it's in your interest to learn how to extract yourself gracefully from the dumb meetings you can't avoid. Here's how:

1. Have a compelling excuse.

As much as you'd like to say "I'm leaving early because I know this is going to be a snooze-fest," you'll need to come up with a reasonable excuse for leaving early. 

Match the seriousness of the excuse to the clout of the meeting leader. If a peer calls the meeting, then "I've got another appointment" is excuse enough. If your boss's boss's boss called the meeting, then the excuse should be something like "I'm having brain surgery."

2. Arrive early.

When you arrive early, you can claim a seat near the door (see #3 below) and have time for a quick chat with the meeting leader (see #4 below) before the other attendees arrive.

In addition, arriving early communicates to the team leader that you think their meeting is important, even if you privately believe it's a load of bollocks. Leaving that impression smooths the way for you to leave without ruffling the meeting leader's feathers.

3. Sit near the door.

Obviously. 

4. Inform the meeting leader.

I read a couple of recommendation that you should warn the meeting leader by email before the meeting that you'll be leaving early.

I'm not sure I agree.

If you forewarn the meeting leader, you might get pushback  If you wait until just before the meeting starts, on the other hand, the meeting leader doesn't have time to argue with you or question your priorities. Plus they'll be thinking about getting the meeting started.

5. Leave yourself wriggle room.

When you tell the meeting leader you'll be leaving early, keep the exact you're going to time to yourself, because that leaves you with the maximum flexibility. Heck, you may be able to duck out fifteen minutes after it starts. (Hooray!)

However, if the meeting leader wants to know exactly when you plan to leave, provide a time that's at least 10 to 15 minutes earlier than when you actually need to leave.

Why? Simple.

When you longer than the time you claimed that you need to leave, it implies that you respect the meeting leader so much that you were were willing to be late to your other appointment.

Also, leaving yourself some wiggle room gives you a better opportunity to leave during the most convenient break. (See #8).

6. Recruit a note-taker.

Just before the meeting starts, turn to somebody who's sitting close to you--preferably somebody with less clout than you--and ask, loud enough for others to hear: "I have to leave early... can you take notes after I've left?"

This locks down the impression that you believe the meeting is important (even though you think it's not). Such a statement also gives your coworkers notice that, when you disappear, it wasn't because you were bored. (Even if you were.)

7. Don't spread out.

Since you're gonna want to make a quick exit, don't lay out all your stuff. Keep everything in a neat pile so that--ZIP!--you can leave a moment's notice.

8. Wait for the break.

The best time to slip away is when everyone's on a bio-break.

However, if you're unfortunate enough to work with people who have strong bladders, you can leave when there's a break in the action, like when there's a natural pause in the presentation.

I personally tended to make my escapes when somebody of lower status than me asked a question, since that implies that while I care about the meeting (which I didn't), I don't care  about what that particular dude has to say (which I didn't.)

9 Give a "nod" then leave.

Since you've laid the groundwork and soothed the egos, all you need do to make your exit is to quickly gather your stuff (see #7),  give the meeting leader a respectful "nod," and, woohoo!, you're free.

Easy-peasy.

Brain Research Discovered This 1 Thing Is What Makes Work More Productive and Employees Happier

Over the last three decades, extensive workplace research on "employee engagement" from several credible sources has informed leaders and HR professionals on strategies and "frameworks" for improving teamwork, productivity, and company performance.

While the evidence is obvious by now that "people quit managers, not companies," few scholars, scientifically speaking, examine workplace productivity and thriving work cultures by starting with how the brain works. 

That's why Dr. Paul Zak's research is so compelling. He is founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High Performance Companies.

Dr. Zak's discovery

Zak's team measured the brain activity of people while they worked and discovered that trust is truly the secret sauce of what makes work exciting, productive, and innovative. While this may not come as a shock to many, Zak set out to understand why two people trust each other in the first place.

It came down to one word: Oxytocin.

Basically, Zak's team was the first to discover that the brain chemical oxytocin "facilitated trust, generosity, connection to others." In Zak's lab studies, it's oxytocin that allows us to determine whom to trust.

Digging deeper, he was able to find the promoters and inhibitors of oxytocin. As you may have guessed, high stress is a big inhibitor -- it kills the ability to effectively interact with others. If this is the case, kiss your teamwork adiós.

What leaders and managers need to after are the promoters of oxytocin -- figuring out the job tasks, team atmosphere, and leadership behaviors (like empathy and compassion, for example) that will release the feel-good neurochemicals in the brain, like oxytocin. 

Managing for trust eight different ways

In Zak's research, he found that eight specific "trustworthy" management behaviors will do just that, thus increasing trust and boosting performance across an enterprise. They are:

As a result, Zak says that "Employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies."

Zak adds a trust bonus for those suffering from stress: "They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance."

Bringing it home: The return on trust.

If you want the hard numbers, data collected from Zak's surveys revealed these findings:

  • Respondents in high-trust companies had 106 percent more energy
  • They were 76 percent more engaged at work than respondents whose firms came from low-trust companies.
  • They also reported being 50 percent more productive.
  • They were 50 percent more loyal, planning to stay with their employer over the next year
  • They were 88 percent more likely to recommend their company to family and friends as a place to work.

That begs the question: Do you work for a high-trust organization? Leave me a comment.

Most Productive Morning Ever: How to Set the Stage for a Great Tomorrow

You go to bed with great intentions: Get up early, hit the gym, arrive at work ready to tackle that tough assignment.

But even if you jump out of bed as soon as the alarm rings, you encounter obstacles right away. You spend too much time figuring out what to wear. Your oatmeal takes forever to make. You brought work home, so you have to repack your bag with files, laptop, charger and everything else. And where the heck did you put your car keys?

The result? You start your day with a snarl instead of a smile. And instead of being super productive, feel like you're playing catch up right from the start.

That's why productivity experts advise that the best way to start your day is to kick it off the night before. Whether you're a morning person or a night owl, evening is the best time to prepare for a great day tomorrow.

Here are four ways to do so:

1. Stage-manage your entrance. In theatre, "stage-manage" means arranging for a certain effect or impact. Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check Email in the Morning, suggests that you have all your "props" staged the night before so you have everything set to go. That means: You've prepped breakfast and made (and packed) your lunch. You've chosen what you're going to wear and laid out all the pieces. Bags--gym and work--are filled and positioned near the door. As a result, you don't have to spend any time or effort organizing, and in the morning you're serene and prepared.

2. Plan your attack. Craig Jarrow, creator and author of Time Management Ninja, advises that you should "use your calendar to look into the future. When you do your planning, don't only look at today; look a week or even a month forward. This gives you the opportunity to prepare or adapt calendar activities before they're upon you."

3. Manage your mind. One key ingredient of a productive day is a good night's sleep. So one worrier I know make a list every night of every tough problem she faces tomorrow. Then she puts the list in their work bag and zips the bag closed. The idea? To shut away all the problems she'd ordinarily obsess about overnight. As a result, she decreases anxiety dreams--like when you have a big test tomorrow and haven't studied--and sleeps more peacefully.

4. Psych yourself up for success. Chris Palermo, an employee engagement consultant who is currently job-hunting, believes that night-before preparation puts yourself in a positive mindset that leads to success. In fact, Palermo believes that your night-before preparation should ideally start on Sunday evening for the week.

"It's not uncommon to hear people lament Sundays as the end of the weekend," writes Chris. "But I look forward to the coming week; because I'm always absolutely convinced my next opportunity is right within reach. I typically do a quick run-through of my 'job boards' on Sunday night--and begin setting up my plan for the week: which jobs I'll apply to, which people I'll be emailing, with whom I need to follow up and which conversations I hope to have.

"It's easy to get jazzed up and anticipative as I read each description and envision myself in that company. Each week, I can easily see my week's activities culminating in a Thursday where three companies are fighting over me. A positive attitude is vital in this journey. And that's why I don't dread Sunday nights--because each Monday morning I get to get up and embark on the plan I've set up; the one that introduces me to my new employer!"

Want to be productive tomorrow? Start tonight.

7 Things I Learned From My Near-Death Experience

Around midsummer last year, I had a couple of heart attacks, which resulted in a sextuple bypass. As I've described earlier, that operation entailed sawing my ribcage open, pulling arteries from elsewhere in my body and attaching them to my heart to replace the arteries that were almost entirely blocked.

As I posted earlier (and right after the event) the experience and its aftermath made me reevaluate my priorities. I decided to spend less time worrying about work and more time enjoying my family, neither of which were perhaps particularly original, although the feeling was definitely heart-felt.

It's been a little over six months since then. I'm in better shape than I was before the heart attacks but the simple truth is that my life expectancy is now much shorter than it was before. In thinking about what happened and what's coming, I've learned a lot about myself, my goals, my emotions and other people.

Here are some observations, for what they're worth:

1. Doctors can be curiously negative.

Both my cardiologist and my GP seem unable or unwilling to help me stay positive about my prospects. It's bad enough that I have a genetic propensity for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes... does that news really need to be delivered with such doom and gloom? Their advice has been about on the level of "if you're lucky, you'll die before you get diabetes." Not helpful, guys.

2. Most people don't "get" it.

My erstwhile business partner assumed a heart attack meant I'd be in the hospital overnight to have a stent installed and be back on my feet in a week. Another of my clients cancelled an ongoing contract because I wasn't fully back to speed within a month or so. I must say, however, that my editors at Inc.com were very understanding and allowed me to lighten the load. 

3. People say stupid things.

One of my relatives wanted to know if I'd seen a tunnel of light or a circle of angels. (Uh, no.) Another relative insisted upon providing details of how, when he was hospitalized, he had frequent sexual fantasies about one of the nurses. (TMI, dude.) It wasn't just other people. I also said some stupid stuff... like making a joke to my cardiologist about enjoying the fentanyl while in recovery. (Not funny.)

4. Obits can be weirdly fascinating.

In the past, I pretty much ignored the obits. Now my news feed is full of them. I immediately calculate the difference between my age and the age that person died and then read the obit to see what they died of. As awful as this sounds, I can't help but feel a bit cheery if the death was something preventable, like an overdose. The worst are when a relatively young person dies of heart disease. 

5. I really regret wasting time.

I resent every minute that I spent working at a job I hated or staying in a bad relationship. I cringe when I think of the thousands of hours I've wasted playing computer games or watching mediocre television. I think of all the times in my life that I could have been kinder to other people or accomplished something noteworthy. Now I have, what, 5? 10? 15? maybe 20--if I'm lucky--years left?.  No way will I make those same mistakes.

6. Every moment is precious.

When I was young I felt immortal and therefore didn't appreciate the many good things in my life. I breezed through experiences because I figured I'd always get a second chance. Once I realized--in my gut--that I'm getting a do-over and that This Is It, I find myself savoring experiences in a way that was impossible in the past.

7. The longevity freaks are dead wrong.

There are bunch of nouveau-riche baby boomers in Silicon Valley who think they'll become immortal by transferring their brains into computers, becoming plasma vampires, or other varieties of pseudoscience. What they don't realize is the most important thing I've learned: that I didn't really start living until I almost died.

Here’s What to Do If You Absolutely Must Pull an All-Nighter

Let's get the disclaimer out of the way first: All-nighters are terrible for you. The sleep deprivation they require is liable to make you irritable, impair your thinking, and diminish your productivity and creativity. And the more all-nighters you pull, the worse their cumulative effects.

But as we all know, it's not always possible to do what's right for your body 100 percent of the time--especially when you're on a deadline. So if you absolutely, positively have no choice but to pull an all-nighter , here's how to do it with the greatest chance of success.

Catch up on sleep beforehand

If you're lucky enough to see an all-nighter coming (instead of having one sprung on you), then you can set yourself up for the best chance of success by stockpiling sleep time in advance. That means getting plenty of sleep in the nights leading up to the all-nighter and maybe even taking a nap on the day of the all-nighter if you're able.

Eliminate distractions

As the night drags on and you get more and more tired, the harder it will be for your brain to multitask or to stay focused in the face of distractions. So eliminate as many of them as you can. That means silencing your phone, turning off the TV, clearing clutter from your desk, and minimizing open tabs so you can focus exclusively on the task at hand.

Crank up the lights

Dark or dimly lit rooms are scientifically proven to be conducive to sleep--which is the opposite of what you want when pulling an all-nighter . Instead, keep the room as bright as possible to help trick your body into thinking it's still an appropriate time to be awake. The closer the light is to your face, the more effective it will be; so consider scooting a few lamps closer to your desk.

Mind what you eat (and drink)

You've heard the saying "food is fuel?" Well, that's especially true in an all-nighter situation. The fuel you consume during these sessions can make or break your efforts to stay alert, so pay attention:

  • Drink plenty of water; hydration is critical for concentration
  • Use caffeine, but don't go overboard. Too much can backfire by making you jittery, which can diminish your capacity for focus
  • Resist the temptation to gorge yourself on sugary treats and eat small, frequent snacks containing protein and complex carbs instead. This will provide you with sustained energy and minimize energy crashes
  • If you do find yourself craving sugar, consider chewing some gum. Research suggests doing so may boost alertness and cognitive performance

Take short activity breaks

Instead of falling down an Instagram rabbit hole, use your breaks for short bursts of physical activity. Do a few jumping jacks, walk quickly up and down the hall, or strike a few yoga poses. This will help get your blood flowing, which can have an energizing effect that keeps you going longer. Physical activity may also boost cognitive performance.

Once you've survived your all-nighter, it's important to mind your recovery the next day. As much as possible, try to stick to your normal routines so you can get right back on track with your regular sleep schedule. Avoid driving if at all possible, eat well, and plan to go easy on yourself. Before you know it, this will all be a distant memory.

6 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Do to Get a Jump on the Competition

We all get 24 hours in a day to do what we need to do. How is it that some people seem to accomplish so much more than others? What's their secret? How does Beyonce do it?

I've actually become one of these people over the years, after realizing that there was a more efficient way to get tasks checked off my to-do list than to horde them all for myself. I am someone that always has many projects on their plate, work commitments, an active social life, and just when I think I can't possibly do any more, I do something crazy like take on a new consulting client.

How do highly functioning people do it? For many it's possible that they just need less sleep, work really quickly (we all have a different method and pace of work) or are very motivated. The explanation is often far simpler than that.

You're probably familiar with the saying, "work smarter, not harder." It's time to realize that working smart is just as important as working hard, and mastering the art of outsourcing and delegating is a valuable skill set.

I oftentimes get asked if I could go back in time and do something over again, what would I do differently when starting my company Bikini Luxe. My answer is always the same, "I wish I had learned how to delegate earlier, and allowed people to help me sooner. I was an overachiever, and thought I could do it all."

When I discovered that I was better off focusing on my strengths, and outsourcing work to people who were better at the tasks I suffered through, I ultimately got more work done. Not only more work, but also better quality work.

Here's how to delegate and work smarter, not harder.

First, realize that nobody can do it all.

Brush aside any impressions that you have that there is shame in asking for help. There are lots of talented people out there who can help, and by acknowledging their talents with respect and harnessing those talents, you are showing that you can be an effective boss, entrepreneur or manager.

Use skilled freelancers.

By learning to master the skill of outsourcing and delegating to a virtual assistant, not only will you save countless, priceless hours, but you can also save tens of thousands of dollars when compared to hiring an in-house employee. If you're on a budget, check out a service like Fiverr, which often has high-quality professionals offering low cost service solutions.

Find a virtual assistant.

Virtual assistants can be a valuable asset to your business and a great way to buy back time. How much money are those tedious and repetitive tasks costing you?

If you've considered outsourcing some of your work, but don't believe there's anyone competent enough to do your work other than you, you should consider at least testing a VA before settling on that conclusion.

Learn to delegate.

Once you have prioritized what's important to you, the next step is to delegate the rest. How do you decide who does what? Matching the requirements of the task you're delegating to the abilities of the person you're delegating to.

Keep track of your staff and your workers.

If you find people that you trust to work with you, you should have no trouble letting some of the work go. If you're nervous at first, start slow. Establish controls, put limits on the work and what they will do, and provide support by keeping up to date with projects. Eventually, you will withdraw from the processes and procedures learn to focus on the results.

Don't forget to say thank you.

When the job is done, give recognition where it's due. Saying thank you is part of how you build a trustworthy team. The better the relationship you have with these people, the easier they will make your life.

Remember that delegation and outsourcing low-value, low-priority tasks will allow you more energy to focus on what you love and what you do best, and ultimately, to grow your business and create new opportunities for yourself. This was key in the building of my own brand, and is probably the best piece of advice I could offer anyone struggling to build their business.

Why Practicing Self-Compassion Improves The Most Competitive People’s Performance

Here in America, we love to compete.

Some of us like to compete on the basketball floor. Others prefer to compete in sales. And other academically-minded folks push one another for intellectual dominance in publications.

The point is that no matter where you look there are individuals pushing themselves mentally and physically to achieve their best performance yet--especially when that means out-doing the next person.

What most people fail to realize, however, is that this hyper-masculine undercurrent of our competitive culture has a lasting impact on the way that we think. Many of the voices that we hear around us make their way into our heads--including the unhelpful ones.

Think back to your younger years. Picture your athletic coaches, your gym teachers, your overly strict and ambitious school teacher. Really take this second to imagine competitive role-models in your past.  

Now that you have those images, play out the voices, tones, phrases, and words they used to motivate you.

When I think back, I see many coaches that were fantastic people. Individuals that taught me valuable life lessons and helped fan the competitive fire burning in my chest today.

But I also see moments when they became frustrated. When they became so enraged by my team's performance that they would yell, break clipboards over their legs, and threaten additional sprints to provide some much needed motivation to improve our performance.

That's the life of competitive sports. And that's also the inner voice that I adopted to motivate myself through difficult moments.

Over time and self-reflection, I realized that my inner voice was hurting more than helping my performance. And I'm not alone.

Most people build an internal voice to help push them--to move them through adversity and keep them focused on their personal and professional goals. That inner dialogue is normal and can be helpful.

But that inner voice can also become hurtful.

When you were young and impressionable, you constructed that voice from bits and pieces of other people--coaches, teachers, and parents. But you were young enough that you may not have had the ability to filter out the good from the bad, the helpful from the unhelpful.

The problem is that the voice used for motivation can quickly become used for punishment--meaning that you've become your own worst enemy. 

When you're feeling down and sad, for example, your inner voice may tell you that you're worthless. Or that you're being lazy. Or that you're just plain weak.

And while those thoughts may be valid from your perspective, they certainly do nothing to improve your situation. In most cases, such thoughts just make you feel worse than before.

Unfortunately, most people have learned--through their social conditioning--to associate self-punishment, or negative self-dialogue, with improved performance.

Starting when they were young children, they discovered that critiquing themselves led to improved performance. They listened to their inner coach critique themselves, which fueled them to achieve their goals.

But after a certain point, that inner coach needs to learn when to shut up.

That inner critic leads to suffering when it doesn't know how to quietly fade into the background. And it can prevent you from improving your life by keeping you stuck in a negative cycle of failure paired with self-blame.

That's why self-compassion is an incredible alternative that actually improves performance and emotional wellbeing long-term--no matter how competitive you are.

Self-compassion is no different than compassion you extend to love ones when they're suffering, except that you consciously direct it back towards yourself when encountering challenges.

Dr. Kristin Neff developed three components to self-compassion. These include:

1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgement

Self-compassion involves being warm and kind to ourselves when suffering rather than engaging in self-criticism. Next time you're going through a difficult moment, think about how you would treat a friend in a similar situation and offer that same support to yourself.

2. Common humanity vs. Isolation

When we encounter difficult situations, our inner dialogue is often founded upon a feeling of isolation--that we are going through these challenges alone or that we're being treated unfairly. Instead of falling into that trap, take a step back and recognize that everyone suffers, meaning that you are not alone in this discomfort.    

3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification

Another important aspect of self-compassion is being mindful and noticing your thoughts. This helps you take a larger, more balanced perspective to expressing your feelings and prevents you from being overly attached to your emotions.

No matter how competitive you are, self-compassion can and will work for you. It doesn't take away your competitive spirit, it merely changes the wording to be more aligned with your greatest good.

Yes, it will feel strange at first to treat yourself with the same warmth and support you'd give to others in similar situations. But it will feel more natural over time.

And the more that you practice bringing this mindful quality of love to yourself in spite of your inadequacies, failures, and shortcomings, the happier you'll become. And the faster you'll achieve your personal and professional goals.