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3 Project Management Tools

Posted by | General Productivity | No Comments

Here at Less Meeting, we’re no strangers to the project management world. Many of us are former PM’s and many of our users are PM’s trying to find better ways to manage their always growing workload.

Along the way, we’ve picked up a few tips from users who are using software to help maximize their efficiency.

Here are our top 3 Project Management Tools:


Starting at $20 per month, Basecamp is one of the most common project management tools used by Less Meeting users and is built upon the principle of simplicity. 

Jason Fried (co-founder of Basecamp & 37Signals) follows the philosophy of “less is less” and allows users to form discussions, add to-do lists & files, manage calendars and keep track of projects in one very easy to use interface.

If you are looking for something easy to use without over complicating your current process, this is your tool.



Starting at $24 a month per user (for a yearly subscription), Liquid Planner is less complex than Microsoft Projects, integrates with Salesforce.com, and includes some convenient features that many other tools are missing (like analytics and reporting):

  • Unlimited projects
  • Free training and support
  • Software integrations
  • Phone and tablet applications
  • Document sharing
  • Regular feature updates 

 


Starting at $25 for 5 team members, users can share files, create group discussions, assign tasks, collaborate on writing, set reminders, track time, and manage tickets & milestones.

ActiveCollab has a great mix of straightforward features, but also has additional features for teams that tend to do a lot of writing / collaborating. 


What other tools are you using to help manage your projects?

Stress Free Meetings by Carthage Buckley

Posted by | Meeting Tips | One Comment

Meetings are often used within business to solve problems. If used effectively, meetings are a fantastic tool for solving problems. If they are not managed effectively, meetings can create more problems than they solve. Poorly managed meetings regularly run over time, fail to stick to the agenda, result in unnecessary disputes and can be a general source of stress. These factors mean that many people dread meetings or come up with an excuse not to attend.

The solution is to focus on creating stress-free meetings. Stress-free meetings solve a specific issue in the minimum time required, causing the minimum disruption to the attendees. Once you have implemented stress-free meetings, people will be happy to give up their time to attend and contribute.

12 Tips for stress-free meetings

The following tips will help you to create stress-free meetings which invitees are eager to attend:

1. Only meet when necessary

Too often, people have meetings for the sake of having meetings. If there are not any issues to be resolved or important information to be delivered, then a meeting is usually unnecessary. Before arranging a meeting, take a look at the objectives of the meeting and ask yourself ‘Could this be dealt with by email?’ If the answer is yes, forget the meeting and send the email.

2. Set a strict agenda

It is tempting to try to solve all the companies’ problems in one meeting but it is not possible. Meetings work best when they focus on one main topic or area of the business. Keep the agenda narrow and focused. Set specific beginning and end times for each item on the agenda and make sure that everybody understands exactly what the meeting is about.

3. Only invite those who need to be there

You are not the only one with a hectic schedule. You need to be respectful of other people’s time.  The objectives of the meeting are important to you but that does not mean that they are important to everyone. People who are required to attend a meeting, which is unimportant to them, resent being there and resent the person who invited them. They can often become disruptive by dragging the conversation off track or making comments on issues that they do not fully understand.

4. Offer options

Make sure that it is acceptable for non-essential attendees to decline your meeting request e.g. you can arrange to copy them in on the minutes. Alternatively, they may only need to be there for part of the meeting. If so, arrange for them to attend that part and leave afterwards. As you will have set specific times for each item on the agenda, this will be easy to arrange. They will be grateful for your attempts to facilitate them.

5. Appoint a strong chairperson

An agenda is only as good as the person who enforces it. Appoint a strong chairperson who will make sure that people stick to the point and that the agenda is strictly adhered to.

6. Send the minutes of the previous meeting in Advance

Valuable meeting time can be wasted by arguments over the minutes of the previous meeting. If you pre-distribute the minutes, you can require people to raise any objections prior to the meeting, where they can be handled without disrupting the meeting. Then, the minutes can be read swiftly, and agreed to, at the beginning of the meeting, allowing you to move onto to the agenda.

7. Agree a group contract

For long meetings or regular meetings, agree a group contract beforehand. This sets out how people are expected to behave and communicate, along with the process for handling disputes. All attendees can be required to agree to it before the meeting.

The most effective way to do this is for the organiser, or chairperson, to draft a contract and send it to all attendees, allowing them to raise any objections they may have. If no objections are made, attendance will be viewed as agreement.

8. Set up working groups

Meetings are often dragged off track when discussions about minor issues on the agenda escalate. Where it becomes apparent that the issue needs to be tackled, it is better to set up a working group to tackle it, and then get back to the agenda. The working group can then meet separately, prior to the next meeting, and report back with their conclusions.

9. Schedule Breaks

If it is anticipated that the meeting is going to last a while, breaks should be built into the timetable. If attendees know when they are going to be able to have their toilet break, make a phone call, send an email or have a cigarette; they are less likely to pop in and out of the meeting. Instead, they are likely to give their full attention.

10. Refreshments

For longer meetings, it is essential that there are refreshments available for those in attendance. People who are thirsty, or hungry, lack concentration and are likely to make less valuable contributions.

11. Stand up

If you are aiming to keep the meeting brief, you might consider requiring the attendees to stand up. This prevents them from getting too comfortable. As nobody likes to stand for too long, they will be motivated to keep to the point. If the meeting is long, it can help to allow people to stand up and move around the room. This will help them to stay alert.

12. Have an effective wrap up process

At the end of the meeting, summarise the main points and inform the attendees of the date of the next meeting. At the first opportunity, distribute the minutes of the meeting and request agenda items for the next meeting. Don’t forget to set a closing date for submissions for the agenda of the next meeting.

Conclusion

If they are not managed effectively, meetings can create a lot more problems than they solve. Confusion, arguments and stress can occur as a result of badly organised meetings. The alternative is stress-free meetings. Stress-free meetings solve problems with the minimum of inconvenience.  With stress-free meetings, you get attendees who are motivated to be there and have a valuable contribution to make. At the end of the meeting, these people are glad that they attended. They leave with a sense of progress and achievement. If your meetings are unproductive and stressful, it is time that you focused on creating stress-free meetings. The 12 steps listed above will help you to create the effective, productive and enjoyable meetings which everybody wants to attend.

Carthage Buckley is a Stress and Performance Coach with Coaching Positive Performance. Carthage has more than 10 years international experience working with entrepreneurs, executives and ambitious professionals; helping them to eliminate stress and maximize performance.

Less Meeting Update #3 – Improved Calendar Sync & Outlook 2013 Support

Posted by | Features Update | No Comments
As we wrap up our series on our latest release we have two under-the-hood calendar sync updates we’re excited to announce.

1. Improved Calendar Integration

We’re consistently improving the calendar sync feature so that the meetings you see in Less Meeting match up with your calendar.While we’ve made a number of incremental updates in the past we’ve done a major overhaul this time around. Note that this will only affect new meetings that you schedule.No action is needed to set this up – you’ll start seeing the improvements automatically!

2. Outlook 2013 Beta

We’re excited to announce our Beta release for Outlook 2013. To get started download the latest version of the Less Meeting Outlook Add-in here. If you run into issues please contact us to let us know.Note that unfortunately touch screen computers are not supported yet.And of course Outlook 2007 & 2010 users will still get the same great add-in you always have.


New to Less Meeting?Click here to learn how the Less Meeting Outlook Add-in can help you reinvent the way you plan, run and follow up on your meetings.

Less Meeting Update #2 – International Date Support, Meeting Search & Teams

Posted by | Features Update | No Comments

Continuing with the updates from our latest release we have three more new features to show off.

1. International Date Support

We’re very excited to start displaying meeting dates & times in your localized format. Want your time shown in “dd/mm/yyyy” instead of “mm/dd/yyyy” format? No problem!Even better, these settings are automatically detected from your browser so no additional action is needed on your end. You’ll start seeing your localized meeting date & time formats the next time you login to Less Meeting.

Bonus feature: Daily Digest emails will now be sent at 7am in your local time zone!

2. Enhanced Meeting Search

On the Meetings Page you can now search for any meeting related items. Most importantly search now includes all past meeting notes, decisions, and action items.You’ll also notice our new search engine is much faster.

Want some advanced search tricks? Try these:

  • “-” to exclude a term from search (e.g. “-status”)
  • “+” to require a term in your search (e.g. “+status”)
  • “*” use as a wildcard (e.g. “statu*”)

3. Improved Team Privacy

Privacy and security is top of mind for us. In addition to our long list of existing security measures, we’ve added additional features to control to what meeting info is accessible to Less Meeting Teams.

In particular you’ll notice that all Teams now require a “Filter Tag” and Team Members must all be on the same License Pack.


New to Less Meeting?Click here to learn how Less Meeting helps you & your teams, no matter where in the world you’re located, start reinventing the way you plan, run and follow up on your meetings.

 

Less Meeting Update #1 – Undo, New Linking Options & More Shortcuts

Posted by | Features Update | No Comments
We’re excited as this week we’ve pushed out another huge Less Meeting update.There’s a lot of great new features so we’re spreading our updates out over a few posts so that you don’t miss anything. Check out the details below and stay tuned to future updates coming this week…

1. Undo Accidental Note Deletions

Ever delete a meeting note in Less Meeting on accident?!? Mis-clicks like these are frustrating so we’ve added a new undo option.Simply type “Ctrl+Z” (or “Cmd+Z” for Mac users) and your most recent deleted note will be re-added. This also includes any sub-notes that were deleted!

 

2. Linking & Unlinking Meetings

Recurring meetings are incredibly popular in Less Meeting. By sharing related information – action items, parking lots, etc – across related meeting topics, it makes it much easier to avoid “groundhog day meeting syndrome” (having the same discussion week after week!).We’ve recently added two new features to make recurring meetings even better:

    1. Linking Recurring Meetings – Now you can link any meeting to any other meeting, giving you a central place to manage all your info on a particular project or topic.

 

  • Unlinking Meetings – Accidentally link the wrong meetings? Use this option to correct your mistake.

 

3. More Meeting Note Shortcuts

We’ve added another great shortcut to make meeting minutes even easier.

While your focus is inside the note box, press Up/Down and Left/Right to move the note box to a different section in your notes. Click here for a recap of our other note taking shortcuts.

4. New Feature Request Forum

Wonder where we get all our ideas for new features to add?

These ideas come from users like you. All of the above features, including a number of others, were suggested on our new feature request forum.

Visit the Less Meeting forum now to add your ideas!


New to Less Meeting?Click here to learn how Less Meeting helps you reinvent the way you plan, run and follow up on your meetings.