Thursday, April 10, 2008

Increase your Productivity: Get a Mastermind

One of the secrets to my personal and career success has been the establishment of a mastermind group. Don’t know what this is? Well it is a group of like minded people who act like a Board of Directors for your personal and work life.

In Chapter 10 of Napoleon Hill’s inspirational book ‘Think and Grow Rich’, he defines the mastermind as ‘coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose’. I like this definition and believe if you want to accelerate your personal development and productivity a mastermind group will be the best investment you can make.

I deeply admire and respect the members of my mastermind group, we have been meeting now for 18 months and I have learnt so much from each of them. When I interviewed them on what they thought was important in a mastermind group they used words like:

Trustworthy individuals
Giving and supportive
Raises the bar on your own performance
Gives you a 30 ft view of your own business
Gives you a different perspective
Allows you to see opportunities and potential you may not have seen on your own
Makes you get out of the ‘day to day’ operations
The key is the right combination of people
It is group cantered

These definitions are vital to any group that meets and I would add some additional thoughts.

Meet regularly – our group meets on the same Monday night each month for 2 hours at the same restaurant. We share dinner, good news, and career and personal highlights. This commitment is one of my most important and enjoyable appointments in my month. I look forward to seeing them each month and I make it a priority in my scheduling.

Choose a location – we meet in a central restaurant and the staff know us, they provide a private room, understand the format of our meeting and take our orders quickly, deliver drinks and food in a timely manner and allow us to finish on time by bringing the bill quickly too. Choose a quiet place that allows you to speak freely, laugh and enjoy each other’s company. Educate the event staff of your format and it will make your meeting time more productive also.

Keep it small – less than 6 people is a good number for a group like this. It allows each person to share their good news each month and also allows time for one member to be a spotlight for discussion.

Create guidelines – determine what your group will look like, act like, create an agenda and decide what is important to you. You might like to read Chapter 10 of ‘Think and Grow Rich’ for some ideas.

Decide the agenda – our group has the same format each month which makes it fun and easy to prepare. Every month we rotate the chair of the meeting, we each share our good news and highlights and then we focus our attention on one team member. That team members knows they are the month’s spotlight and they are free to share anything with us i.e. it could be a business or personal challenge, request for strategic guidance or request to brainstorm ideas. Each of the team members then listens intently to their needs and wants and looks for ways to help, promote, grow or encourage that member. It is a great formula and we each leave the meeting on a high positive note knowing we have shared with each other and also inspired each other.

Share successes – one of my favourite meetings recently was where 4 of the 5 members each had launched a new book! We all shared in the thrill and excitement of being an author (some for the first time), and everyone left feeling they could conquer the world! This is the perfect place to share the good news in your work and personal life.

Be fully present – when we meet, each person is totally engaged in the conversation, fully present and completely listening to the others. This is an essential criteria to ensure you all have the benefit of each other’s wisdom and experience.

Be 100% authentic – it is an honour to share 2 hours with this group each month as they are themselves, 100% of the time! This is a unique environment and for a mastermind to be successful one criteria needs to be that each individual is able to express themselves, their values and their beliefs in the group.

Choose wisely – when you are ready to set up a mastermind group you want to make sure you choose the right combination of people. Our group has entrepreneurs and corporate people, men and women, different ages and nationalities. This diverse group has different perspectives and experiences that benefit the whole group. Try and find a combination of people who can inspire and challenge others in the group to be their very best.

These simple but effective guidelines can help you create a powerful set of minds that will help accelerate your thinking, share your growth and rocket charge your personal success. Start looking for other members today!

Neen James is an International Productivity Expert: by looking at how they spend their time and energy – and where they focus their attention – Neen helps people to rocket-charge their productivity and performance. A dynamic speaker, author and corporate trainer, Neen demonstrates how boosting your productivity can help you achieve amazing things. With her unique voice (Aussie accent), sense of fun and uncommon common-sense, Neen delivers a powerful lesson in productivity. Find out more and subscribe to Neen’s free monthly ezine at

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

How to make your email more productive

As I travel around the country I am constantly fascinated by my client’s addiction to their email. Email was a tool originally designed to help boost our productivity in the workplace but unfortunately it has become a productivity killer. Whether you check it on your laptop or your blackberry, email now takes a huge portion of your daily correspondence time. To help boost your productivity and get control of your email try these simple strategies.

Avoid answering email first thing in the morning – the first thirty minutes of each day should be spent reviewing your strategy for the day and planning how you will achieve your goals. While you can scan your email first thing, please don’t respond immediately. Spend more time on strategy than email and you will achieve your bigger goals.

Use Color coding – most email programs allow you to designate colours to individuals. This ensures when you first review your email you can see who the emails are from easily and allows you to direct your attention to the most important people first.

Drag and drop – did you know you can drag an email from your inbox and drop it into your Contacts to create a new contact or drag it into your Tasks to create a new Task. This simple but effective strategy will also help you reduce your inbox clutter.

Unsubscribe – if you are receiving emails to online information you no longer review or read, take the time to unsubscribe. Yes this takes more time initially but will help you to reduce your inbox volume allowing you to read and review only those emails you want to receive.

Use Out of Office – if you are going to be out of the office for more than 6 hours, use this facility to educate those who email you. They will automatically receive an email advising them you are away. ­

Invest in Spam Filters – tighten your email security by investing in spam filters that will reduce the junk mail you receive.

Keep them short – keep your reply and responses short. If your reply is going to take substantial time, book a phone conversation or meeting with someone to answer appropriately.
Write in action language – use proactive, action language in your emails causing your readers to take action.

Use an email signature – set up a rule in your email system to always send your contact information at the footer of your email. This signature could contain your postal address, phone contact numbers and something about you and your business. This assists those you send your emails to and is free promotion for you each email you forward.

Be polite – email still requires a greeting and sign off. Take a few extra moments to greet your reader and sign off too.

Turn on spell checker – don’t allow poor grammar or spelling to be a misrepresentation of you and your skills. Set up your email to automatically spell check before any email is sent.

Turn off noises – remove any bells, whistles or chimes attached to your email. Don’t be distracted each time your email is received. Reduce distraction and eliminate chimes or sounds.

Use names in email – in the body text of an email advise each person why you sent them the email and the action they need to take. Teach people around you to read your emails looking specifically for their names and the actions you need them to take.

Delete – don’t be scared to delete emails. Once you have actioned it, file it or delete it. Keep your inbox clear.

Avoid BCC – try to avoid the use of blind carbon copy. If you have something to say to someone on email ensure that those who are copied need to be copied.

Avoid FYI – make a personal promise not to send any “FYI” or For Your Information emails. Only forward emails with specific instructions to people on what is required of them and why you are sending it through. Sending FYI emails is lazy.

Avoid jokes – don’t send joke emails, chain letters or cute PowerPoint presentations around the office. Don’t waste other’s time with these types of emails, our inboxes are so full already. Be considerate and avoid sending joke emails.

Stop pressing Send/Receive – get your finger off the button! Stop constantly pressing this button to check if you have any incoming emails. Avoid the temptation and spend time actioning the email you already have.

Watch your tone – be aware that the receiver doesn’t have the benefit of hearing your voice when they receive your email. Make sure it can’t be misunderstood.

Size does matter – be aware of the size of the attachments you are forwarding with your email. Be considerate to others and minimize file size when sending.

Spend 15 minutes – spend 15 minutes per day sorting your email. Take this time to file actioned emails, forward emails to others or delete emails. Daily discipline of your email inbox will allow you to remain focussed and less overwhelmed by email.

Maintain personal and work accounts – keep two email addresses. Only allow yourself to check work email during work time and set up a separate account to check your personal emails in your personal time.

Email is a powerful communication tool when used effectively it will help you boost your productivity. Promise yourself you will start looking at your emails differently today, apply these strategies and get back some of the time you are spending on email each day.

Neen James, MBA, is an International Productivity Expert: by looking at how they spend their time and energy – and where they focus their attention – Neen helps people to rocket-charge their productivity and performance. A dynamic speaker, author and corporate trainer, Neen demonstrates how boosting your productivity can help you achieve amazing things. With her unique voice, sense of fun and uncommon common-sense, Neen delivers a powerful lesson in productivity. Subscribe to Neen’s free monthly ezine at