Keeping Meetings Focused and on Time

Meetings enhance communication and coordination, both critical elements to the success of a business. However, meetings must be focused and time-conscious, or they can cause more problems than they solve, and waste productive time. ON THE PALMTOP One of the boons of the HP Palmtop Appointment Book program is the F3 Notes function. For example, as ideas come to me about our next weekly company-wide meeting, I simply go to the next repeating appointment set for Wednesday 9:30 am. I press (F3) (Notes) you don't need to open the appointment first and jot down topics as I think of them. Similarly, before my weekly operations meeting, I press (F3) on that appointment and spend a few minutes entering and refining an agenda. When the meeting starts, I read out my agenda items and ask what other points need to be discussed. I quickly add the other items to the list and number them by priority before beginning.

In addition to controlling the content, I also use the Palmtop to control the meetings time. First of all, I enter an appointment for the time the meeting is scheduled to end. That way the alarm ring gives us a five minute warning (or however many minutes I choose). On longer meetings that I want to finish on time, I might set two or three appointments warning of the meetings end, so that alarms go off ten, five, and even two minutes before the end.

I recently discovered a simple but quite useful freeware program called VISCLOCK.EXM =, by Eugene Dorr, to keep meetings on schedule, or at the least keep us all aware of the time. The program displays a large digital clock that stays on and beeps every 15 minutes.

VISClock Screen Showing Time: Graphic

 You activate the program with a hot key (see the next Wisdom article Action Is Based on Rest for a description of this same procedure). I set it up to be activated by (ALT)-(APPT), since APPT has a clock on it. If you look at the screen above, you'll notice at the top, the words Chime: quarter hourly, and Timeout: 60 minutes. This means that on the quarter hour the Palmtop will emit a small beep, and the screen will stay on (will not time out) for 60 minutes. You also have a choice of five different sounds. I selected a short rising sound for the quarter hour beep and a chime for the on-the-hour reminder.

In meetings I place my Palmtop so I can see the digital clock. The clock stays on and every 15 minutes beeps to keep me, and the rest of the staff, conscious of the time. I also use the program when I teach our weekly Palmtop classes, and at my desk when I'm working under a tight deadline.

Hal Goldstein Publisher, The HP Palmtop Paper