Actively reducing stress

I have a confession… I’m stressed.  There, I said it.  I have been moving too fast, taking on too much and not taking my own advice for too long.

As a parent, wife, household manager, business owner, friend, daughter, sister, etc, etc, etc, I strive to find balance in my life, and yet it slips away so quickly that I can rarely maintain it, so I asked the Universe for some insight and it came to me last month… I simply need to slow down and not do as much that requires so much energy.

I need to say no more.  Gasp.

I so need to enjoy these nuggets more… and be more present for them and with them…. I mean, look at those faces!!

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I want to enjoy Zack, my youngest sons last year of preschool before he hits kindergarten next year… and I want to show up and be present for Ben in this his second year of school (he starts today!) as well as for his sporting events. And most importantly at least 2 times/week get a great family dinner on the table when we’re all sitting down together at the same time in the same place with no tears, feet on the table or complaining.  Read more, stretch more, and stop going to bed feeling angry and resentful of my life because I didn’t have a second for ME time.

Because guess who’s in charge of this stuff?  Oh ya, that would be me!  :)

In light of these recent discoveries and musings, I’m committing to making life simpler as we head into the busiest season of the year (lots of work functions, business events, school / sports / fall starting).

I’m planning to get more bang for my buck so to speak and put energy into things that give me larger returns… this includes taking my work week down to 4 days.  So unless it’s totally unavoidable, I will no longer be working Fridays. I’ll also be doing less blogging – still will be here but will be less frequent.  Smarter client work is also on this list, meaning that I am taking on less of the smaller type of projects and being much wiser as to where I’m putting my energy and how it relates to my long-range goals.

That feels good to share.

The final insight I have had in order to restore some balance in my life is that I need to ACTIVELY engage in relaxing.  I know, sounds weird, right?  I have been reading more and more about this and it totally makes sense, especially for someone like me that has a constant full plate and then complains because I never get a second to sit down.  I’m putting myself back in control and will be following some of this advice in this great article from Mind Body.

So, as we head into this very busy push to the end of the year – join me in making just one or two small changes that will bring you big results to move more towards the pace you desire internally.

 10 Natural Tips To Beat Chronic Stress

“If you really knew what was happening to you when you are stressed, you would freak out. It’s not pretty,” I said during the 2013 Third Metric women’s conference.
I wasn’t exaggerating. Chronic stress has become epidemic in our society, where faster seems better and we pack more obligations into our ever-expanding schedules.Research has confirmed the havoc stress can wreak, with one meta-analysis involving 300 studies finding that chronic stress could damage immunity. Another study found stressed-out women had significantly higher waist circumference compared to non-stressed women.Experts have connected stress with blood sugar and belly fat. Chronic stress raises insulin, driving relentless metabolic dysfunction that becomes weight gain, insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes.Insulin isn’t the only hormone that becomes out of balance with stress. Your adrenal glands release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that flood your system, raising your heart rate, increasing your blood pressure, making your blood more likely to clot, damaging your brain’s memory center, increasing belly fat storage, and generally doing damage to your body.Want to reduce stress? Start with your diet.The right diet can do wonders to reduce stress’s impact. When you eat whole, real foods, you restore balance to insulin, cortisol, and other hormones.

Eliminating mind-robbing molecules like caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars and eating regularly can help you avoid the short-term stress of starvation on your body. You maintain an even-keeled mindset throughout the day, even when things get hectic.

You’ll replace those foods with clean protein, healthy fats, leafy and cruciferous vegetables, berries and non-gluten grains. Food is information that controls your gene expression, hormones and metabolism. When you eat the right foods, you balance blood sugar, restore hormonal balance and reduce stress’s damaging impact.

Reconsidering Stress

Stress is a thought, a perception of a threat, even if it isn’t real. That’s it. No more, no less. If that’s true, then we have complete control over stress, because it’s not something that happens to us but something that happens in us.

Here’s where it become interesting. Stressors can be real or perceived. You might imagine your spouse is angry with you. Whether or not they are, you raise stress levels. Real or imagined, when you perceive something as stressful, it creates the same response in the body.

Fortunately, a wide variety of techniques and tools can help effectively manage stress. Among them, these 10 are most beneficial:

1. Address the underlying biological causes of stress.

Find the biological causes of problems with the mind including mercury toxicity, magnesium and vitamin B12 deficiencies, and gluten allergies. Changing your body can change your mind.

2. Begin actively relaxing.

Humans remain primed to always do something. Even when we’re not working, our mind is on work. To engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body, you must do something relaxing. You can’t just sit there watching television or drinking beer. Whether that means deep breathing or a simple leisurely walk, find active relaxation that works for you and do it.

3. Learn new skills.

Try learning new skills such as yoga, biofeedback, and progressive muscle relaxation or take a hot bath, make love, get a massage, watch a sunset, or walk in the woods or on the beach.

4. Make movement your drug.

Exercise is a powerful, well-studied way to burn off stress chemicals and heal the mind. Studies show exercise works better than or equal to pharmaceutical drugs for treating depression. Try interval training if you’re short on time but want a powerful, intense workout.

5. Supplement.

Take a multivitamin and nutrients to help balance the stress response, such as vitamin C; the B-complex vitamins, including B6 and B5 or pantothenic acid; zinc; and most important, magnesium, the relaxation mineral.

6. Reframe your point of view.

Challenge your beliefs, attitudes, and responses to common situations and reframe your point of view to reduce stress.

7. Find a community.

Consciously build your network of friends, family and community. They’re your most powerful allies in achieving long-term health.

8. Take care of your vagus nerve by using deep breaths.

Most of us hold our breath often or breathe swallow, anxious breaths. Deep, slow, full breaths have a profound affect on resetting the stress response, because the relaxation nerve (or vagus nerve) goes through your diaphragm and is activated with every deep breath. Take five deep breaths now. See how differently you feel?

9. Meditate.

No matter how much or little time you have to commit, find a practice that works for you.

10. Sleep.

Lack of sleep increases stress hormones. Get your eight hours no matter what. Take a nap if you missed sleep. Prioritize it, and if you feel like you’re not getting high-quality shut-eye, find strategies to improve it.

What one technique or strategy would you add to this list to manage stress levels? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Today would have been my mamas 68th birthday… I’ve been unplugged and enjoying some end of summer downtime with my boys in Minnesota at my folks place and up at the lake… each time I’m here, I gain a deeper level of acceptance that she’s gone and that life is different.  We all miss her terribly when we’re together and yet we constantly feel her presence wrapped around us protecting, guiding and being.  Dad had this quote below hanging on the fridge and I thought it was so fitting to share on her day of birth.

Back to California we head today as we jump back into life with 2nd grade starting for Ben this coming week, Zack starting his last week of preschool and our family heading into a very “full” September with lots of great stuff coming up Most importantly… my walk is ahead of me – we have officially reached our goal of $50,000 and logged many many miles in training walks… I feel ready to attack the 39!

To everyone that donated and is supporting me through this journey…. thank you!  You can read more here:  http://info.avonfoundation.org/goto/saracaputo

 

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SOOO many amazing tidbits here!

31 Awesome Resources to Help You Unplug, Relax, and Stress Less

Ever noticed how dinners with friends have turned into dinners with friends—and their phones? Or how, more often than not, the last thing you do before bed and the first thing you do when youwake up is swipe open a device? Whether it’s to scroll through Insta, tweet, or answer work e-mails, we’re using technology more than ever, and it’s changing our behavior.

Consider this: A whopping 90 percent of American adults own a cell phone, and 64 percent have smartphones. People report using them for anything from reading the news to online banking to nixing boredom—and even avoid interacting with people around them. (Hashtag huh?)

And while we firmly believe that the stuff that keeps us connected is rad—after all, emoji-heavy texts from friends can be day-makers and it’s certainly convenient to fire off an email from anywhere—it also comes with some drawbacks. First off, research suggests that it’s addictive. One study even suggests that Internet addiction causes changes in the brain that are similar to those caused by alcohol and drug addiction. As for tapping on that iPhone that’s out while you’re with your friends? Its presence alone may keep you from feeling as much empathy, according to research. Plus, considering we’re always available, it’s harder than ever to give ourselves a break from all the gadgets.

Fortunately none of this means that we have to resign ourselves to being tech-obsessed 24/7. These resources will help you power off, boost productivity, and reconnect with what matters: the world and the people around us.

Events, Retreats, and Workshops

Camp’s not only for kids anymore. Camp Grounded is designed for grown-ups who are looking to disconnect, unwind, and have some good, old-fashioned summer fun. Here, official rules ban digital technology, any talk about work, and even watches, so it’s easy to connect with other campers over your interests—not over texts. Relive your childhood with the huge variety of classic activities offered, from archery to slack-lining to arts and crafts. (You’ll just have to wait until Monday to ‘gram your masterpiece.) Weekend sessions are currently offered in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and retreats in California’s Redwood forest start in 2016. (Starting at $495 for three-night retreats)

If you’re the type to pencil in your workouts, why not pencil in some time for meditation? Now you can do just that, thanks to Unplug Meditation in Los Angeles. Simply stop by the sleek, calming space during your most chaotic days to relax, reenergize, and find a new (and happier) kind of focus. The 30- to 45-minute drop-in classes, led by top meditation leaders, basically do the work for you—all you need to do is show up, sit back, and relax. ($22 per class)

A New York Times bestselling author and ultra laid-back spiritual guru, Gabby Bernstein makes teachings about positive thinking and meditation super accessible. Sign up for her (free!) guided meditations on her site, or experience it all IRL at her workshops, events, and retreats offered throughout the year. One date to jot down: July 11, when she joins Deepak Chopra for the second annualGlobal Meditation for Compassion. This event unites more than 500,000 people online with one common intention: to take a stand for empathy and love and to reconnect with what truly matters. (Retreats start at $350)

The team behind Digital Detox has one goal: Help participants rediscover what can happen when they disconnect from technology and reconnect with the world around them. This company plans customized corporate programs, from one-hour “playshops” to multi-day retreats, while their signature “Unplug” events take place annually in San Francisco and Los Angeles. According to the founders, taking a sabbatical from your smartphone can help reduce anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue, and improve your personal wellness, relationships, happiness, and even your career. With those odds in your favor, what do you have to lose? Besides another an hour spent on Facebook, that is. (Tickets start at $12)

Go big or go home. That’s the official motto of Screen-Free Week. Instead of biding adieu to digital technology for an hour or even a day, this annual event suggests going completely screen-free for a full six days. That means no watching TV, no scrolling through Instagram… basically avoiding any device you’d use for entertainment (any tech you need for work or school get the green light, though). While the official event occurs in May each year, you can organize a screen-free week in your own community or find an upcoming event near you. (Free)

Anyone who’s ever worked a day in their life knows that offices can be stressful environments (to say the least). This innovative program, sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, examines the challenges of finding a mindful, healthy culture at work and provides attendees with strategies and skills to better cope with—and even thrive—in today’s workplace. The two-day event, happening in November, is led by top researchers, HR leaders, and other mindfulness experts, so participants get a well-researched, in-depth look at what a mindful culture at work truly means. (Starting at $279)

Podcasts and Programs

In February 2015, a public radio station in New York City launched six day’s worth of challenges with the goal of bringing back the “lost art” of spacing out. Inspired by staggering stats about our dependence on technology (like the fact that 67 percent of cell phone owners check their phones without even hearing a sound!), the show’s producers wanted to help listeners detach from their phones and spend more time thinking creatively—and even being bored, which can lead to surprisingly positive results, they say. Each mini podcast contains one simple daily challenge (for example, one photo-free day) that helps get you away from your phone. Challenge accepted! (Free; wnyc.org)

If taking the time to meditate for 30 minutes—or even 30 seconds—seems impossible, simply tune in to this podcast, hosted by Tara Brach, a teacher at the Insight Meditation Community in Washington, D.C., and you’ll soon see that it’s a lot more doable than it sounds. Brach guides listeners through 30-minute mediations and talks about Buddhism, happiness, overcoming fears, and other topics. Plus, her sense of humor helps you lighten up and sail through the more challenging aspects of meditation. (Free; iTunes)

You don’t have to leave the comfort of your home to tap into the power of health and wellness guru Deepak Chopra, M.D., one of the leading teachers of Eastern traditions. The Chopra Center offers plenty of meditation programs, CDs, and on-demand videos that are designed to inspire and improve your life. A good place to get started would be with the free upcoming 21-Day program,Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude, led by Chopra and Oprah herself. (Many programs are free; some CDs start at $49.99)

The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center offers free drop-in classes every Thursday in an on-campus theater, where instructors teach participants how to live in the present through active observation. Not in Los Angeles? You can tune in to all past podcasts for free online.

Productivity Apps

It might sound backward to download yet another app to help you cut back on your tech time, but that’s exactly what Moment will do for you. The app puts some helpful data at your fingertips—it tracks your usage and lets you set daily limits on technology. The gist: When you hit your limit, you stop using your iPhone or iPad. Easy. And parents will love the family version of the app, which allows you to schedule time (say, dinner hour) for your entire family to be tech-free. (Free; iOS)

Spending more time scrolling through Facebook than working on that looming project? Designed for Mac users, SelfControl gives you a little boost in the productivity department. While you won’t be totally unplugging, this app does let you ditch unnecessary distractions. With a “blacklist” of prohibited sites and a timer (which doesn’t run out, even if you restart your computer), this program makes it easy to avoid clickbait (or your ex-boyfriend’s sister’s new Facebook album) when you’ve got more important things on your plate. (Free; Mac OS)

Sometimes being antisocial is a good thing. Compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems, this app lets you add all disruptive social networking sites (it’s not personal, Pinterest!) to a block list and set up specific time blocks, from 15 minutes to eight hours, to help you power through crunch time. ($15; Windows and Mac OS)

Cluttered computer screens driving you crazy? This is the app for you. With a minimalistic, clean design, WriteRoom provides a full-screen writing experience that’s just what easily distracted writers are looking for. Download the Mac software and you won’t ever have to mess with Microsoft Word’s formatting palettes, page layouts, or margins again. It’s especially effective for when you’re trying to crush your final papers, create text-only reports for work, or pen your soon-to-be bestseller. ($9.99; Mac OS)

This blocking service claims to have saved users 3,907,970 minutes and counting—just imagine how much time it could save you. Work, study, or write distraction-free with this free app that works with any operating system to block sites that detract from your focus. Or splurge on the pro version, which offers extra attributes such as scheduled blocks and the ability to mark certain sites as an exception. It also allows breaks from your tunnel-vision focus throughout the day, which research shows actually help enhance productivity. (Free or $14.99 for pro version; Windows and Mac OS)

We’re all for two-in-ones, and this app doesn’t disappoint. Marrying to-do lists with Internet and app management, Concentrate makes it easy to focus on the task at hand, whether that’s reading, designing, or writing. In the app, you simply specify which sites and apps to block and which to allow, and set the timer. It also changes your chat statuses to away and gives you the option to set up spoken messages (or growling sounds!) meant to keep you focused. ($29;Mac OS)

Guilty of having 10, 15, even 20 tabs open at once? We’ve been there. We just really wanted to read that movie review, check out the news, watch that adorable puppy video, and… half the workday is gone. The good news? You can save all the stories you want to read and access them offline, without having to set aside time from your real work. Pocket’s a genius app that lets you cheat the digital detox system—without ever taking you online. You simply select what content you want to save for later (it works for articles, videos, and more), and save it to Pocket via your web browser, email, or more than 1,500 compatible mobile apps. Then, peruse at your leisure from your smartphone. (Free; iOS and Android)

Offtime allows users to take unplugging to the next level, thanks to app blocking, communications filters, and analytics that examine how often you’re really checking your phone. For a set amount of time, the app lets you block distractions like calls, texts, or app notifications (but pre-approved VIPs can still get through to you). You can create a list of customizable profiles, select a period of time to unplug, and Offtime takes care of the rest—including a comprehensive list of missed phone activity when you’re ready to reconnect. (Free; Android)

If you’ve ever been in a movie theater, you know how distracting a glaring, lit-up phone screen can be. Well, it’s equally as distracting if it keeps lighting up next to your computer! Thankfully smartphone users can give themselves a break from the incessant buzzing with one quick swipe. Switch on the Do Not Disturb setting on iPhones orPriority mode on Android devices to keep calls, notifications, and alerts under wraps. You’re also able to designate a recurring time for it to turn on, while still allowing calls from certain people. (Free)

Mindfulness Apps and Websites

Click over to Calm.com and you’ll feel instantly transported to a more peaceful place. This visually stunning website and accompanying app provide guided medtiations designed to help you meditate, sleep, relax, focus, and much more. Choose from 50 guided meditations, ranging from two to 20 minutes, as well as 16 calming music tracks and 10 super serene nature themes (we’re partial to Sunset Beach) to help you find your bliss. (Free; iOS and Android)

A self-described “gym membership for the mind,“ this site and app duo aims to keep your mind healthy and happy through 10-minute mindfulness exercises. When we tried it, we found it actually helped us focus better and even fall asleep faster. Start with their free intro program called Take 10, then make your way through multiple levels, selecting from meditations that focus specifically on health, relationships, sleep, and more. Plus, the app lets you connect with friends to help keep you motivated. (Monthly subscriptions start at $6.24; iOS and Android)

This app is going to give Pharrell a run for his money. It’ll turn your frown upside down on the daily, letting you notice (and share!) the stuff that makes you smile. Plus, it comes equipped with courses designed to improve all aspects of life. You’ll have on-the-go yoga, self-confidence meditations, writing exercises, and more at your fingertips. (Free; iOS and Android)

With this app, you have the flexibility to meditate anytime, anywhere. We’re not kidding—it chooses the meditation for you based on what you’re doing, whether you’re taking a break from your 9-to-5, feeling stressed, or just strolling around. You’ll also receive tips that’ll help deepen your understanding, and can even see stats to see how your practice is stacking up. ($4.99; iOS and $2.99; Android)

Whether you’re a nervous flyer, your boss is stressing you out, or you’re going through a tough breakup, this free app may be a lifesaver. Meditation coach Lynne Goldberg gently talks you through 10-minute sessions that will help you de-stress, relax, and calm down—no matter what situation you’re in. Even if you’ve never meditated before, the easy instructions and short time limit are appealing and approachable for any level. (Free; iOS)

This website and app is proof that technology can actually help you tune out. By helping you tap into your breath and inner thoughts, Stop, Breathe & Think makes it easy to slow down when things are getting crazy. Bonus: It’s smart. Answer a few quick questions and it will suggest meditations based on your current state of mind and mood. Both platforms also let you track your progress and record the time you’ve spent meditating. (Free; iOS and Android)

If only there was some sort of formula to achieve a happier, calmer, more mindful life… Well, this website offers pretty much just that! You’ll find a collection of “practices“ designed to help you live a more meaningful life. Whether you’re trying to build compassion, reconnect, or cultivate mindfulness, their easy-to-use tools (ranging from “casual” to “intensive” walking meditations, writing exercises, and more) can help you get there. (Free)

Books

Think of this as the “Dear Diary” approach to the digital detox. Perfect for writers and non-writers alike, the book contains a suggestion for an offline action every day of the year. It also gives you space to jot down your thoughts once you completed the daily task. One more reason to put down your tablet? Reviewers warn that the format of this book is much better in the paper version. ($12;amazon.com)

This “zen coloring book” serves as proof that art is an ideal way to reconnect with yourself and tune out digital distractions. Written by an art therapist and illustrated by an artist, it’s designed to help keep you away from your devices, slash stress, and boost creativity. With up to 100 coloring templates, organized into seven themes, put your pencil (or crayon!) to paper to color away any stressful day. Keep calm and color on. ($11; amazon.com)

There’s a reason everyone always talks about writer’s block: Would-be Hemingways (especially ones with 9-to-5s) tend to have a tough time carving out enough free time to make a dent in their upcoming novel. This book provides motivation to actually take time out of your busy schedule and simply write, with advice from authors and ways to work past your excuses, plus a week-by-week guide that’ll help you stick to your goal. Next stop: the bestseller list! ($12; amazon.com)

Journaling can help slash stress and dial down depression, science suggests. So why not do it every day? It doesn’t have to be a time-suck. This journal, from the bestselling author of The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin, is proof. Use the quotes that appear on every page as a prompt or simply jot down anything you’d like—just one sentence does the trick. The coolest part? You can do this over five years and then revisit each quote—and your reflection upon it—annually. ($17; barnesandnoble.com)

If writing just one sentence a day isn’t your jam, this journal may be your new BFF. It’s the pen-and-paper equivalent of a “mountain retreat—without electricity,” the authors say. With creative prompts, inspiring quotes, and plenty of space, this handy book allows you to release as much, or as little, onto the page as you’d like. ($15.95;barnesandnoble.com)

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Quote of the week.

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Meetings that don’t suck.

We’ve all been in them.  Most of us hate them.  However when executed correctly, meetings can be one of the most time-saving, well-used systems for moving things forward that we have in business.  Anyone who knows me likely knows how PRO 1-on-1 meeting I am… I deeply believe that this is an absolute must for all managers/supervisors and leaders with their people (individuals and teams).
5441154Tech Crunch recently had a great article that I thought was worth sharing on the topic of all meetings along with some valuable tools and tips…

For most of us, and certainly for most of your team, meetings are the least productive part of our day. Yet too many brilliant people are stuck in too many meetings. Meeting cultures begat more meetings, and the downward cycle continues, crippling productivity and crushing psyches.

As the former product manager for Google Calendar, I had plenty of exposure to how people handle meetings. As a partner at Google Ventures, I’ve also worked directly with more than 100 startups. I’ve even given a workshop on making meetings suck less. I’ve seen the good and the bad, and have come away with some tips for how to make life better. Here’s what I recommend:

Kill the status meeting: The most vile creature on any calendar is the weekly status or “check-in” meeting. You know: “Let’s go around the table and have everyone give an update.” They’re a waste of time and harken to a bygone era where managers used them to make sure people were doing work.

The vast majority of updates are only relevant to one or two people in the room, and everyone else painfully waits for their turn. Replace them with real-time messaging apps, smaller team standup meetings or even email lists.

Hold one-on-one meetings sacred: It’s remarkable how many managers are too busy with meetings, yet consistently cancel or reschedule one-on-ones with their direct reports. One-on-ones are the most important meetings on your calendar when you appreciate one detail: They’re not for you, they’re for the employee.

As a manager, you’re there to make decisions, clear roadblocks and help them feel happy and valued. Sticking with a schedule and being present shows your employees that they’re important and respected.

Every meeting must have a single owner: This person is responsible for sharing the purpose and the agenda, identifying decision-makers, arranging follow-up and sending notes. No one should have to ask, “Whose meeting is this?” Don’t schedule a meeting unless an owner has been identified, or you’re willing to step up and be one.

Borrowing an hour of somebody’s time is the same as borrowing a neighbor’s ladder. Ask politely, keep it only as long as you need it, return it quickly and say ‘thank you’.

Share the purpose of the meeting and agenda ahead of time: What decisions need to be made and who are the attendees? Nobody should walk into the conference room without knowing why they’re there and exactly what needs to be accomplished. Encourage employees to vote with their feet: Give them permission to decline meetings that don’t have a purpose, an owner and an agenda.

Your calendar doesn’t make you important: Too many executives think a busy calendar makes them seem important, and that being double- or triple-booked is their chest full of medals.

You’re a manager, not a professional meeting attendee. It only makes you unavailable and out of touch with the needs of your team. If you’re not needed, decline the invitation or leave. And don’t take it personally if you’re not invited. Often, that’s a testament to the strength of the team you’ve built. If you have input, share it with the organizer ahead of time.

 Calendars shouldn’t postpone decisions: If a decision is urgent, gather the decision-makers right away. Create a culture of urgency where decisions are made quickly and aren’t allowed to fester. Another advantage to an un-cluttered calendar is that you’ll have more time to be available to others for these ad hoc decisions.

Keep meetings small: Fewer than five people in one meeting is ideal, and research has shown that effectiveness drops when more than seven people are in the room. Teams should send representatives rather than the entire group. If you can’t figure out how to hold the meeting with a smaller group, rethink your goals or divide and conquer.

Of course, large team or company all-hands and weekly celebrations are excluded (such asGoogle’s TGIF or Twitter’s Tea Time). For those, identify presenters in advance and make sure to keep plenty of time for open Q&A.

Consider the opportunity cost of every meeting: How much will this meeting cost your company? For example, a two-hour meeting with 16 attendees is 32 person-hours. That’s almost an entire person-week of time. Is this meeting more valuable than whatever one of your employees could accomplish in an entire week? Look for visible ways to remind everyone of meeting costs, with a timer or digital meter.

Treat other people’s calendars as a scarce resource: Be considerate of how much time you’re taking from your team. Borrowing an hour of somebody’s time is the same as borrowing a neighbor’s ladder. Ask politely, keep it only as long as you need it, return it quickly and say ‘thank you’.

Try never to schedule a meeting longer than 60 minutes, and aim for 30 minutes as a default. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish. End on time and leave promptly so the next group doesn’t have to wait for the room. And respecting their time goes both ways: If you’re an attendee, stay off your laptop or mobile device and be present.

Escalate, don’t undermine: At many companies, “escalation” is a naughty word. Why should that be? Managers exist to resolve disagreement. Disagreement leads to immobility. If people can’t agree, they should quickly and civilly escalate to someone who can make the decision. And healthy teams “disagree, but commit” if the decision doesn’t go their way.

If the meeting is over, end the meeting: How many meetings have attended where someone said, “Well, we still have 20 minutes, what should we talk about?” That’s absurd. If your commute home took 15 minutes less than normal, would you spend the remaining time sitting in your driveway? If you’ve accomplished the meeting goals early: Well done! End the meeting and give everyone their time back.

Declare calendar bankruptcy: Sometimes the best way to get out of meeting debt is to clear the slate and start over.

I worked with one startup that decided to do just that. On January 1, they deleted every scheduled meeting at the company. Meetings were only added back if they were essential and had an owner and the right attendees.

Everyone was astounded at the results. Weekly “check-in” meetings that used to take three hours were eliminated entirely. Some were restored, but with a smaller attendee list and for shorter durations. The company gained back thousands of hours of employee time. Time that can now be used for, you know, work.