Time Management – 5 Tips to Get More Time Back
When I talk to managers and executives, time management is one of the skills they talk about their teams needing the most.

Time Management – 5 Tips to Get More Time Back

Time is our most valuable resource. Once it’s gone we can never get it back and we all want to make the most of our time. When I talk to managers and executives, time management is one of the skills they say their teams need most. If you feel like you need help in this area, you’re not alone. I think almost everyone wishes they had a little better handle on where their time goes.

When I was in the Air Force I had one assignment where I was traveling at least 3 days a week, 3 weeks a month. It was an amazing job but it took a lot of time management skill.  I’m usually been pretty good at keeping track of where I need to be and when I need to be there. I’m not always good at figuring out how long something will take. These five tips will help you with both of those areas.

Time Management Tip #1 – Get a Calendar

Before you read any further, get a calendar. It can be electronic or paper, it doesn’t matter. I suggest using the one on your phone because it’s easy to make changes and we all pretty much have our phones with us all of the time. Put everything that’s important to you on this calendar. Focus on appointments when you have to be in a certain place at a certain time. Enter all the info that’s important. Use the repeating and recurring features and color codes too. Don’t go crazy with this at first. Start out by putting in appointments for tomorrow or this week. Don’t start trying to put your whole year in right now.

Time Management Tip #2 – Track Appointments

Track how long your appointments actually take and adjust them as necessary. I almost always underestimate the time it takes to complete something. Recording the time an appointment actually takes compared to what I planned helps me estimate time better. You don’t need to do this forever because you’ll start to develop a database in your mind. When you’re setting appointments for the first time keep track of their duration.

Time Management Tip #3 – Don’t Delete Appointments

Don’t delete appointments, especially ones with yourself. One rule that I use is that I’m not allowed to delete anything off the calendar once I’ve put it on there. I’m absolutely allowed to move things around, but I’m not allowed to just remove it. This still lets you take advantage of opportunities that pop up or handle time critical situations when they arise. There will be emergencies or unusual situations where you have to delete something, but it’s pretty rare that you can’t find a new day or time for something, especially if it’s important to you.

Time Management Tip #4 – Make White Space

Remember how I said put everything that’s important to you on your calendar? The emphasis is on the word important. Meetings, phone calls, time critical tasks are all good for the calendar. I even include my workouts and when I schedule appointments to meet up with friends so I don’t accidentally schedule something at the same time. Putting in all of your regular activities like “work” at your workplace will fill up your calendar and it will be hard to differentiate the most important events. White space also provides places that you can move appointments to when you have to reschedule something.

Time Management Tip #5 – Set Priorities

This is really the most important of the 5 tips, but I think it’s important to have a handle on the first 4 before addressing this. Know what’s important to you and what needs to be on the calendar. Understand which things are more important to you than others so that once you start moving things around on the calendar you have an idea of when to move them to. Also, understand what the priorities of others are and factor that into your decision-making process. Your boss may not agree with you that your workout is more important than the big client presentation and he probably expects you to show up to that.

There are your five tips to help you get a handle on your time and use it effectively. You won’t actually be getting any more time, but you’ll feel like you are. Your calendar is really just a tool in all of this. To really manage your time well it’s important to make commitments to yourself and your priorities. If you live up to those commitments, it will be easy to find the time to get them all done!

Most of us dread going to meetings. Today I’ve got 4 tips for you that will help you lead effective meetings that stand out above everyone else’s.

Effective Meetings – 4 Tips for Great Meetings

Most of us dread going to meetings because we feel like they’re going to be a waste of our time. Today I’ve got 4 tips for you that will help you lead effective meetings that stand out above everyone else’s.

When I was a young Lieutenant in the Air Force I was talking to one of the other Lieutenants. He said, “I try to keep all of my meetings to an hour or less. I feel like any meeting that runs over an hour isn’t productive”. Looking at my experiences at the time, I found that I agreed with that philosophy. This became one of the main guidelines I used for meetings throughout my career. It’s not always possible to keep a meeting to an hour or less. Here are 4 tips to have an effective meeting, no matter how long it is.

Effective Meetings Tip #1 – Have a Clear Purpose

The most important tip for effective meetings is to have a clear purpose. Make sure everyone coming to the meeting knows that purpose. Meetings sometimes drag on because attendees bring up topics that aren’t related to the purpose. People often see an opportunity to handle an issue while others are together in the room. As the meeting leader, it’s our job to keep the meeting on purpose and avoid extraneous conversations.

We need to make sure we’re calling a meeting for the right reasons. Meetings are for making decisions or bringing together work that individuals can’t complete on their own. All too often we end up doing work at the meeting that should have been prepared ahead of time. This can prevent us achieving the purpose of the meeting and often is a waste of time for the attendees. Sometimes it’s necessary to get a group together to complete the work that will support a decision. In this case, we must be clear that the team will present this work to support a decision in another meeting.

Effective Meetings Tip #2 – Have an Agenda

Creating an agenda for a meeting is more work up front, but it pays off during the meeting. Add each decision required to the agenda. Also, include any presentations or information that support those decisions. It’s important to set not just a time limit for the meeting overall, but also a time limit for each item on the agenda. There are times that should extend a topic because it is critical to making a decision. As the leader of the meeting, it’s our job to make sure that we stick to the agenda and keep things moving in line with the meeting purpose.

Effective Meetings Tip #3 – Manage the Guest List

To successfully achieve the purpose of our meeting, we need to make sure that we have invited all of the people who have a stake in the outcome of the meeting. The meeting organizer should invite the decision maker, presenters, and people impacted by the decision. It’s also important to keep people out of the meeting who don’t have a contribution to make. In large organizations, people will often show up to a meeting because they heard it was happening. These individuals sometimes cloud the information being presented by the meeting and often derail the agenda because they aren’t up to speed on the topic. The meeting organizer’s job must bring all the right people to the meeting and keep the wrong people out.

Effective Meetings Tip #4 – Don’t Speculate!

Speculating about facts or information can impact the decision-making process and often result in bad decisions that are costly or time-intensive to fix.  When leading a meeting we must avoid speculating about facts and discourage others from speculating. If information critical to making the decision has not presented, we need to go get it. We may be able to do this in real-time. If not, adjourn the meeting and reconvene later when the facts are available. Speculation often turns into circular arguments and people trying to prove each other wrong. Taking the time to get and verify the information we need will result in better decision-making.

These 4 tips have been mostly focused on someone who is a meeting organizer. If you find yourself in a meeting that is going off the rails, try to use some of these tips to help the leader get things back on track. Following these tips will help your next meeting be productive and efficient. Your teammates will thank you for being considerate of their time and making it a valuable experience.

introspection is the ability that we as humans have that allows us to think about ourselves as beings. It is how we question and learn more about our nature, our purpose and our place in the universe. This ability is one of the things that sets us apart from animals. It also allows us to question ourselves, desire something greater, set goals and take action to achieve them. Self-reflection allows us to look back at an experience and learn from it instead of repeating it.

Introspection

Over the last year or so we’ve asked you to do some introspection or we recommend it as a tool to help with another problem or challenge. Looking back on it, I don’t think we’ve ever really talked about what introspection is and what it is not.

To put it simply, introspection, or self-reflection is the ability that we as humans have that allows us to think about ourselves as beings. It is how we question and learn more about our nature, our purpose and our place in the universe. This ability is one of the things that sets us apart from animals. It also allows us to question ourselves, desire something greater, set goals and take action to achieve them. Self-reflection allows us to look back at an experience and learn from it instead of repeating it.

Introspection Tips

We all engage in self-reflection all of the time, but sometimes it’s hard to know if we should trust ourselves. Here are some tips to give you confidence in your own ability to reflect and learn.

The environment we place ourselves in is really critical to self-reflection. Everyone is different, but most of us are served pretty well by finding somewhere quiet away from the noise of life. A place where we can be alone with our thoughts. I find it very hard to be reflective if I’m surrounded by other people, although that isn’t true for everyone.

Another key to effective self-reflection is carving out time in our schedules to do it. As much as we all try to multi-task, most human beings really aren’t all that good at it. Focusing on our thoughts and insights serves us better than trying to capture them while we are also doing a bunch of other tasks. Taking even five minutes to disconnect from everything else can pay big dividends in learning about ourselves.

Let’s recognize that we’re talking about self-reflection. Our process needs to be our own and not what someone else expects from us. While we may face similar challenges to others, what works for them may not work for us. It’s great to take advice from others how we should go about doing it. To be successful though, we have to develop our own practice that uses elements that work for us.

Introspection – Going Forward

Finally, let’s all keep in mind that self-reflection isn’t all about getting to the answers. Sometimes it’s more important to just ask the questions and not try to answer them ourselves. It can be as simple as setting aside our time and place and asking what is on our mind. Instead of trying to answer the question right away, just let ourselves see what answers come to us. The ideas and insights that don’t come from trying to find the answers quickly are often the most valuable!

One thing that absolutely terrifies most people is getting up in front of a group and speaking. I’ve heard that many people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. If that’s the case for you, we have some tips today to help you out.

Public Speaking: Overcoming Our Fears

It’s almost Halloween and all this month we’re talking about things that scare us. One thing that absolutely terrifies most people is getting up in front of a group and speaking. I’ve heard that many people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. If that’s the case for you, we have some tips today to help you out.

There are a lot of reasons we get nervous about speaking in front of a group. First, It’s hard for us as human beings to single ourselves out and face a group alone. It can feel really lonely when you’re up on that stage without anyone else next to you. It often feels like we don’t belong on stage, or we don’t have enough expertise in what we’re speaking about. We think no one wants to hear what we have to say or that they’ll make fun of us. Many of us have had bad experiences and are afraid we might forget everything, say the wrong thing or just mess up really bad.

All of these feelings are perfectly natural. Even people who have a lot of experience with public speaking feel this way sometimes. If you are terrified of getting up on stage to talk, we can work with these feelings. We can use them to prepare ourselves to get our message across to our audience. Keep in mind that public speaking is about communicating and that your message is important to others.

Public Speaking Fear #1: I don’t belong on this stage

Let’s start with the idea that we don’t belong up on stage or telling other people what to do. When we feel this way, we need to ask ourselves, why am I giving this speech? Did someone ask me to do it and why did they ask me to do it? If your boss asked you to speak, it’s because they believe you have insight to share. They believe in you and you’re not on stage with no support. If you decided to give this speech, consider your original motivations and intentions about why you wanted to do it. Is there information you feel like you need to share? Do you have unique expertise that can help the group solve a problem? Keep that reason in mind through all of your preparation right up to the moment you start talking.

Public Speaking Fear #2: I’m Not an Expert

It’s easy to feel like we’re not enough of an expert to speak publicly, but we don’t have to be. When we’re getting ready to speak it’s helpful to remember that we are sharing not just what we know. We share our perspective, opinion and recommendation on a topic. It’s very similar to sharing what we think with our friends or coworkers on the subject. If we’re worried we will get asked a tough question, we can always do more research and preparation. In fact, we should be doing research, even if we have extensive knowledge on the topic. Understanding the views of others, confirming facts and how they support our position is great preparation.

Public Speaking Fear #3: I’ve Had Bad Experiences

Bad experiences can make us more reluctant to speak in public. We remember when we forgot what we were going to say, dropped our notes all over the floor and people laughed, or that time we completely got off track. These things happen to even the most polished speakers. but we can learn from these experiences to improve. Practicing our speech keeps us from getting off track or forgetting what we wanted to say. If we practice enough, we probably won’t need notes, so we won’t drop them. Use your phone to video your practice and you’ll get a good idea of how you look while speaking. It will probably be uncomfortable to watch. I hated watching myself when I first started making videos, but you’ll get more comfortable with it over time. You can also enlist coworkers or friends to watch you practice and get helpful feedback that will improve your speech.

Public Speaking: Next Steps

We really just scratched the surface today and you may be saying “I’m still not ready to speak in front of a group!” and that’s okay. These are very natural feelings, it’s important that we don’t ignore them or try to push through them, but that we understand and embrace them to help us improve. Remembering that we have an important message to share as well as the expertise to convey that message will help us feel like we belong on that stage. Doing research and preparing ourselves for tough questions from others will give us confidence in that message. There’s no substitute for practice to help us build good habits that will help our audience stay focused on our message. Try these three tips before you give your next speech in front of a group and let us know how it goes for you!

Doing our homework is indispensable to becoming great leaders. There’s no substitute for taking the time to learn as much as we can about the situation and the people involved before we make a decision.

Homework – 3 Assignments All Great Leaders Do!

All of our lives we were told how important it is to do our homework. Sometimes it was unpleasant, sometimes there was too much of it and almost always we wanted to be doing something else. What we didn’t realize at the time is that all of those teachers, parents and other people were trying to help us develop a valuable skill in life. Nothing shows you care more than helping people you care about become successful!

Doing our homework is indispensable to becoming great leaders. There’s no substitute for taking the time to learn as much as we can about the situation and the people involved before we make a decision. Often though, we face urgent situations where we don’t have the time to do all of the research we would like to. That’s why it pays to do our homework ahead of time. Today we’ll talk about 3 ways you can prepare ahead of time so that you don’t get caught without the knowledge you need.

Homework Assignment #1 – Get to Know People

First, get to know the people you work with and those who work for you. Also, get to know your boss and the other people you work for. Who are they are as people? What do they enjoy? What stresses them out? How do they communicate with others? What’s the best way to reach them if you have to communicate with them? Also learn what are they responsible for and how it contributes to the mission of the team. How does it fit in with what you do? What are the challenges they face in the workplace? Are there ways you can help them overcome those challenges?

Homework Assignment #2 – Build a Reading List

The second thing you can do is start a reading list. A lot of research has been performed on leadership, management and relationships in the workplace. Find a few topics you’re interested in and make a list of books on those subjects. Try to branch out away from books that are specific about your industry, business, or leadership methods. Take the opportunity to learn about some of the great leaders throughout history. The specific challenges these leaders faced may not be directly applicable today, but many of their leadership lessons are timeless. Also, make some time for books you enjoy. Reading a great novel may not give us solutions to the problems we face in the workplace, but we can relax our brains and foster some creative thought.

Homework Assignment #3 – Stay Current

Finally, we should keep up with the trends in our industries. Understanding ideas that others in our business are pursuing shows where our industry is headed.  This leads to innovative ideas that make our company or team more competitive. Reading trade publications, attending conferences and trade shows or even just networking with others can give us insight into what the future holds. It takes a long time to develop the experience and judgment that help us decipher trends, so the sooner we start paying attention to them, the more useful that information will be to us.

Homework isn’t just for school. To be the kind of truly great leaders we want to be, we need to do our homework every day. Study and preparation helps us understand the people around us. We also benefit from the timeless lessons that great leaders from the past have taught us and understand the direction the world is headed in. Doing these “homework assignments” regularly helps us make informed, educated decisions that provide great outcomes for our teams and our businesses!

Great leadership is a discipline that requires lifelong study and self-reflection. There are a lot of leadership concepts to explore and it's hard to decide what to study next. Today we’re going to help you build the outline of a Leadership Development Plan. This plan will be your roadmap that guides you through developing your skills and leadership style.

Leadership Development Plan – Why You Need One!

Great leadership is a discipline that requires lifelong study and self-reflection. There are a lot of leadership concepts to explore and it’s hard to decide what to study next. Today we’re going to help you build the outline of a Leadership Development Plan. This plan will be your roadmap that guides you through developing your skills and leadership style.

The Leadership Development Plan highlights the kind of leader you want to be and assesses how you’re doing on that path. It also documents concrete action steps you are going to take to get there and when. We’re going to draw on some of the work we’ve done in other posts, so if you’d like to check them out before going forward you can find them below.

Building Your Leadership Development Plan

First, break your goals down into near, mid and long-term time frames. I like to use the time frames of right now to 2 years from now as short-term, 2 to 5 years as mid-term and 5 to 10 years as long-term, but you can choose whatever time frames suit you best. Include your personal goals on this plan as well. Including goals you have about family, community or even great life experiences will help get your whole life organized.

Next, we have to determine the traits and skills we’ll need to have to make those goals a reality.  Some of the skills we need for long-term goals may also be beneficial in our near and mid-term goals as well so we should list them accordingly. Fill in the traits and skills you feel you need to achieve every goal in all 3 categories.

Self-Assessment and Action Steps

Now comes the really tough part, doing honest self assessment about the traits and skills we feel like we need to have to achieve our goals. Sometimes we are too hard or too soft on ourselves when it comes to these kinds of assessments. If you have a hard time objectively assessing the areas that you’re really great in and the areas you could use some work in, ask a friend or trusted colleague to give you their opinion.

Once you have a good idea of the traits and skills you need to work on, we need to write down concrete steps we can take to build them. Keep adding specific action steps for every area you feel like you need to work on. Don’t forget to include dates that you want to complete these steps by.

Now you should have a few pages worth of well-defined actions you can take that will build on each other to get you all the skills and experience you need to achieve your goals and become the kind of leader you want to be.

Using Your Roadmap

Treat you Leadership Development Plan as a roadmap, rather than a strict list to do in an exact order. If you want to learn one of the skills in your plan a little earlier than you planned, go ahead and do it. Just like you can change the order of destinations on a road trip, you can adjust your plan. Also, don’t be afraid to take a detour off your original roadmap if an interesting opportunity comes up. Add that new destination to your map and broaden your horizons!

Links:
http://evilgeniusleadership.com/authenticity-core-values/

http://evilgeniusleadership.com/core-values-4-steps-to-unlock-your-authenticity/

http://evilgeniusleadership.com/leadership-traits/

http://evilgeniusleadership.com/leadership-style-tips-for-developing-your-key-leadership-traits/

Leadership Skills – How to Assess and Build Them

http://evilgeniusleadership.com/developing-skills-5-ways-you-can-level-up/

Setting Effective Goals

We all want to be flexible and adaptable so sticking to a routine sounds obvious and boring. Establishing routines in the right way can actually give us more flexibility in our schedule and help us meet all of the priorities we want to achieve.

Establishing Routines to Maximize Your Flexibility

Previously, we showed how setting priorities can help us focus on the things that are most important to us. This week we’re going to talk about maintaining that focus. We can achieve the focus we desire by establishing routines.

We all want to be flexible and adaptable so sticking to a routine sounds obvious and boring. Establishing routines in the right way can actually give us more flexibility in our schedule and help us meet all of the priorities we want to achieve.

Tips for Establishing Routines

When it comes to establishing routines, we get the best results if we do an activity at the same time every day. Our body and mind get used to doing that task every day at that time. If we only do something once or twice a week, It helps to schedule that task for the same day and time. For example, if we have a meeting every Monday, it’s helpful to make it at the same time on Monday every week. This helps us get used to it, but  also helps the other meeting attendees get used to it. By dedicating the time on our calendar we prepare ourselves to focus on that task.

We want to get at least one block of time dedicated on the calendar for each priority. If we have a priority for the day and there isn’t any time dedicated to it, can we expect that we’ll really get it done? If it’s really important to us we probably will, but if we get distracted or someone else starts to place demands on our time, the things that aren’t scheduled are usually the ones that get dropped.

Establishing Routines Enhances Flexibility

We shouldn’t block off every hour of the day on our calendar. We want some empty space on the calendar for when we need to make changes. Often, others place demands on our time. Our boss might call a meeting that conflicts with one of our other important priorities. We need a place to move that activity to or it will likely get dropped.  Establishing routines helps us build good habits to re-focus ourselves on an important priority.

Even though we all want to be flexible, establishing routines helps us focus on our priorities. We get more freedom than if we just let each day happen without any kind of plan. We can become great leaders by balancing the structure of a routine and taking advantage of opportunities when they arise!

This month we’re talking about ways to stay focused on the things that are most important to us. Consciously setting priorities is one of the best ways we can keep our focus.

Setting Priorities You Can Stick To!

This month we’re talking about ways to stay focused on the things that are most important to us. Consciously setting priorities is one of the best ways we can keep our focus.

Steps for Setting Priorities

  1. Write down the five things that are most important for you to do today. It doesn’t matter what they are. They could be career related, personal, or social.
  2. Put those 5 things into priority order with #1 being most important. Choosing which is most important can be difficult, so take some time if you need to.
  3. To successfully set priorities we need to recognize how the priorities of others fit into our list. Think about the expectations that others have for you today and where those fall in your priority list. Maybe something for your spouse is at the top and something for your boss is in the middle. It’s okay wherever they end up, as long as they fall somewhere on your list.

Now you can make conscious decisions about what to do next based on how it will help achieve these priorities. Maybe you choose to get something low on the list done early because it’s easy to do, maybe you do everything first that you need to get the most important one done.

How Setting Priorities Helps Us

This exercise may sound a little obvious, but I can tell you from my own experience there have been days where I didn’t consciously think through my priorities. At the end of the day couldn’t figure out how I had worked so hard and gotten nothing important done. If you ever feel this way, doing this exercise can help turn the day around and help you achieve your most important priorities for that day. After you get used to doing this for just one day at a time, you can start to extend the time scale and set broader, long-term priorities. Soon you’ll have a list of priorities that can guide all of the actions and decisions you make as a leader!

There are so many distractions in life, both from the outside and from within ourselves. One of the key challenges we all face as leaders is how to stay focused on the things that are really important while still keeping our eyes and ears open for what’s going on around us. We all know how important it is to be able to focus. When we can’t focus, tasks take longer, quality suffers and we often make poor decisions. All this month at Evil Genius Leadership we’ll be talking ways we can work on improving focus on the priorities that are really important to us.

Improving Focus – Take Our August Challenge!

Do you sometimes have trouble focusing on the really important things? This month’s challenge will help with improving focus to get better results!

There are so many distractions in life, both from the outside and from within ourselves. One of the key challenges we all face as leaders is how to stay focused on the things that are really important while still keeping our eyes and ears open for what’s going on around us. We all know how important it is to be able to focus. When we can’t focus, tasks take longer, quality suffers and we often make poor decisions. All this month at Evil Genius Leadership we’ll be talking ways we can work on improving focus on the priorities that are really important to us.

Improving Focus – Take Our Challenge

This month’s challenge has 3 parts:

First, identify just one thing that you have trouble focusing on. It could be a task that you do regularly at work that takes longer than it should because you keep getting distracted. Or it could be something that you really want to get done in your personal life but find that work things keep getting in the way.

Next, investigate what it is that keeps you from focusing on getting that thing done. Are there co-workers that interrupt you when you’re trying to work on it. Does your email notification keep going off? Does the phone not stop ringing?

Finally, choose one action or step you’re going take to reduce whatever that cause is. If it’s your phone or email can you turn the ringer or notifications off while you’re doing this task? If not, can you adjust the time of day or place you do it to minimize the distractions and help you focus.

Keep track of how you do on focusing on your goal for the whole month. Tell us in the comments what you tried and how well it worked for you. Don’t be afraid to try a new tactic if the first action you chose isn’t working as well as you’d like!

Challenging the status-quo often runs into cultural norms and perspectives that have been in place in the organization for a very long time. Asking our team to change the way they do things, where they sit, or who they work with is often like asking people to change their identity. This kind of change is understandable very difficult for most people. As leaders, we need to recognize just how difficult this is and compassionately lead our team through the changes ahead. When we see an area that needs improvement, asking a few key questions before making any changes can help determine if change is necessary and how to get our team through it.

Status-Quo – How to Keep it from Holding You Back

“That’s the way we’ve always done it.” I’ve fought against those words for most of my career.  As leaders we often want to improve our teams and keep them from being held back by outdated practices. I know how it feels to come up against the resistance from others when we see better ways of accomplishing our mission. When we challenge the status-quo, it’s usually because we want to make things better for our team, not worse. If this is really our primary interest in making a change, then it’s helpful for us to understand what causes this resistance and makes the status-quo so powerful.

Challenging the status-quo often runs into cultural norms and perspectives that have been in place in the organization for a very long time. Asking our team to change the way they do things, where they sit, or who they work with is often like asking people to change their identity. This kind of change is understandable very difficult for most people. As leaders, we need to recognize just how difficult this is and compassionately  lead our team through the changes ahead. When we see an area that needs improvement, asking a few key questions before making any changes can help determine if change is necessary and how to get our team through it.

Questions for Challenging the Status-Quo

  • “What if?” helps us to think about outcomes that might be better than the current outcomes
  • “Why?” helps us to identify challenges we may face as we try to bring about change 
  • “Who? Where? When? How?” help us put together details that will make the change a reality

It’s possible to answer these questions and decide that no changes to the status-quo are necessary at this time. Also, we could decide that the solution will create so much dissatisfaction that an alternate solution might be better. Change for the sake of change has destroyed many teams even though the intentions behind it were initially very good.

The take-home lesson today is that even though change is difficult for many people, as leaders, we can’t be afraid to challenge long-held ideas or practices that no longer serve our mission. We must approach change in a thoughtful and empathetic way to get the improvement we are looking for.

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