Organizing the Perfect Workshop

Leading a workshop is an intimidating but a very rewarding task. This article will teach give you twelve tips and tricks to create the perfect environment.

A workshop is one of the most efficient ways to learn new skills, polish or improve an existing skill, or bring back to memory a forgotten skill. Unlike a seminar or a lecture, where the emphasis is usually on pushing information to the audience, a workshop relies primarily on the audience actively practicing a skill. Research shows that learning new skills is facilitated by actual practice. Have you ever heard of somebody trying to learn to swim without getting into the water?

Most probably, a good deal of you have already been to a workshop (or at least a seminar, or a lecture). Have you ever wondered if the presenter (trainer, instructor) has ever read all the slides to the end? Have you ever secretly smiled when the presenter is surprised by the existence of a specific slide. “Wow! When did they add this?” Who’s “they”?

If you ever find yourself owning and organizing a workshop, this article will help you create the best possible environment so that your students can benefit from the experience. “The best possible environment” usually means smooth, distraction-free. As well as prompting the students (or listeners, or attendees) to actually work on the skills that you are presenting to them. The end goal is two fold. As a presenter you need to walk out the room with a good feeling that “most of the things went well”. And the students need to walk out the room with a set of new tools so that they continue practicing the new skill.

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Cooking is the New Meditation

Cooking can be a wonderful way to meditate after work. You detach from your work mind and spend a few mindful minutes following very specific instructions.

So far in my life, I have always considered cooking as the activity of making food more edible. I am a functional eater which, for me, means that I see eating as a function (to keep you alive), not as must as an art.

Meditation, however, is an art. You start with baby steps as you learn how to concentrate on one thing at a time. Then, you learn how to concentrate on a particular thing at a time. And finally, you learn how to concentrate on nothing.

I’ve tried different, conventional meditation practices (standing in lotus pose, lying, sitting on a couch). And, I’ve also tried some unconventional ones: walking meditation, guided meditation. Finally, after so many years of rejection, I tried cooking as a meditation. It is amazing with the side effect that you are also producing something tangible at the end. It feels almost like a guided meditation (somebody, in my case a cookbook, is telling me what to do). But also, as I said there is the added concentration from the fact that you are actually in charge of preparing a meal for the whole family.

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Staying on Top of Things

Staying on top of things can greatly improve the way your peers perceive you and the value you bring to the organization.

Have you heard that compliment for someone? “He is always on top of things!” It sounds really good, doesn’t it? Are you that person? Maybe, maybe not. Do you want to be?

Staying on top of things is a direct consequence of putting the first things first on your calendar each day. More information here. But there is more than that. You need to unlearn to operate in crisis mode and you need to learn to operate strategically. This is not easy, but, like everything else in life, it is a self-improvement process.

This article is about learning how to anticipate the important requests that may (or may not) come your way in the future. And how to prepare for them in advance.

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Mid-term Goals – The Power of a Roadmap

Long-term goals align with your desires and values. Short-term goals are the steps you take every day in order to achieve your long-term goals. In this case, the mid-term goals are the glue that holds them together.

Where do mid-term goals fit? You’ve defined a number of short-term goals, you started using the First Things First process to pick the most important tasks each day. And you have a vague idea of where you are going (the destination or the long-term goal). To track your progress, you’ve started doing monthly reflections. But how do you connect all these? What are you monitoring during your self-reflection sessions? How do you know you are on the right track?

Based on my observations over the years, most of us are good at setting the short-term goals. We have to, otherwise we will not accomplish anything in life. Also, most of us have an idea of what we are trying to achieve (strong family, promotion, financial independence, etc.) And yet, most of you probably feel a disconnect between the two. This is where the mid-term goals fit into the big picture.

This article is about mid-term goals that link your destination to your day-to-day activities. It is about setting the milestones on your way to your destination that will help you get there. As always, this is a personal exercise. There is no template to do this. You cannot just copy what somebody else is doing.

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Work-life Balance

Finding your work-life balance is the next logical step after defining your life roles and the goals associated with each of them.

So far, so good. You have several life roles that you have defined. Each role has a funnel with long-term, mid-term, short-term, and weekly goals. And for each role you have defined the mission statement and the personal vision statement. But how do you juggle with all these often-competing priorities? How do you achieve balance between them? How do you know at what point of the day on which role to stress? And in general, how do you divide your time?

This chapter is about balance. I believe that finding balance is the most important task and all your efforts so far have been leading to this. There are different descriptions for this. Some people call it “finding work-life balance” with the implication of quantitative division between work and life commitments. Other people call it “finding work-life harmony”, or qualitative division between work and life. In practice, all this means that you cannot afford to neglect any of your life roles in favor of the others. At least not for long.

However, you can still decide to neglect any of your life roles by dropping it from the list. The implications are immense and I urge you to really think about it, but this is what I did a few years ago (more about it later in this chapter).

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