Monthly Archives: December 2022

On Writing a Meeting Agenda

I have attended too many meetings without a clear agenda, or no agenda at all – except for a vague subject line – then I can count. Writing a good meeting agenda can be the difference between a productive conversation bringing you closer to your goals, or a waste of time.

Sadly, a good agenda is no guarantee to a productive meeting. It all depends on the participants. You can write a clearly defined agenda, right down to what the outcome should be: decide on X or Y, and still people could show up unprepared. But now it is clear who is not doing their part, who is not paying attention.

By writing a good agenda, you have done your part to maximise the success of any meeting.

Write a good title

The subject line should be short and to the point. The tighter the group of participants, the shorter it can be. If you invite in people from other parts of the organization, or external people, it may have to convey some more information. In any case, the title needs to be self-explanatory to the group attending.

State the expected outcome

Write down what the outcome of the meetings should be. Is it a decision? Is it another meeting? In other words: what do you want to achieve? Since this is the most important part of a meeting, I would suggest keeping this at the top of the agenda.

Ask for input in advance

Be clear on the input needed to make decisions. A meeting is not the time to look up information that could have been prepared in advance. Make sure to tag the person(s) responsible for doing this, otherwise it will not happen. Again, this may not be a guarantee that they do their part, but it is on them, not you. If someone has not done their job, make them aware of it. Make them learn to respect you and the meeting culture you want to build.

Be succinct and to the point

You are not writing a novel, so keep the content brief and use bullet points if possible. Nobody wants to read more than necessary. You should attach any related reading material as separate documents. If you are to discuss an incident, the deviation report should be an attachment.

As with asking for input, tag people if they need to familiarize themselves with the attached documents beforehand.

Invite the right people

Invite the right people and make sure they stay onboard. I have been in meetings that have been forwarded to a bunch of people that have no clue on what is going on, and the person you really wanted – that you needed – have dropped out. Do not allow this to happen. Be strict. Cancel if necessary. Do not waste time if the right people are not present.

There you have it: my five tips to a better meeting. Now, make sure to take notes. Who attended, what did you discuss, who should follow up on what. This is valuable information, especially if you are to have a follow-up meeting.

Even if you are “just” a participant: take notes. It will make you a better human being.

Muscle memory is amazing

This is something every gamer will recognize. And although I am not a gamer, I still feel it deservers to be said: Muscle memory is amazing. Put in enough repetitions, and your body will remember them for life.

Even though I wrote that I am not a gamer – because I do not spend much time playing games – it was during gameplay (ironically enough) that this thought was born, and therefor this writing.

As part of my battle with (a possible) long term depression – which I just call life; I try to notice and appreciate the smaller things in life, so take this writing for what it is: observational. And as far as things to admire and appreciate goes, muscle memory is certainly on the list.

Muscle memory kicks in

It was probably an act of distraction (from something, obviously), that lead me to opening up Steam and noticing an update to Kerbal Space Program (KSP) being downloaded. And I thought: “Now that is a name I haven’t heard in a long time“. And true enough, last gameplay was March 2021.

So, I started the game. Entered the hangar, found a saved spacecraft which still had a valid design (updates sometimes add or remove modules, rendering a saved spacecraft useless), and brought it to the launchpad. Amazingly, I was still able to get this thing into orbit – on the second try, having forgotten to enable SAS (Stability Assist) at first launch. Whoops.

But on the seconds launch I knew which key to press to enable SAS. I knew which key to set full throttle and how to engage the various stages. And after a successful rendezvous with a space station (which I left there almost two years prior), I also knew how to enable RCS and do the finer manoeuvre to dock.

And it is not only in gameplay. I use muscle memory for passwords and PIN codes, when writing, using the VIM editor or even driving a car. The clutch/gearbox; foot/hand coordination. It is all there, ready to be used when the environment is correct. And I think that last part is key: The environment has to be set up correctly. Once it is, muscle memory takes over. It is simply amazing.

A quick side note: After getting a new keyboard, I found the number of typos going up. The keyboard is just a tad to sluggish, so sometimes I miss a key. And working with a keyboard (for me) is all muscle memory.