Mindfulness: The Antidote to Unproductive Meetings

Many of us spend large parts of our workdays in meetings that seem to go nowhere. Maybe we are not paying attention when important concepts are being introduced, or our ideas don’t get the consideration they deserve because everyone is busy on their respective devices or lost in their thoughts. In either case, there is a waste of time and resources. Important decisions don’t get made, and opportunities are lost.

So, how do we change this? How can our organizations take full advantage of the collective wisdom of all the participants? Here are some suggestions for bringing more mindfulness and productivity to your meetings:

1. Agenda

Send an agenda ahead of time, identifying the different parts of the meeting so people know what to expect.

2. Pause

Begin each meeting with a pause for everyone to stow their phones and computers unless they will be used for the meeting.

3. Check In

Start with yourself; what mental state are you in right now? If your state of mind is agitated or frustrated, can you take a few moments to reset to curiosity, appreciation, and contribution? Remember that 55% of communication is through your body language, and 35% comes through in the tone of your voice.

4. Do a Group Check-In

Go around the room and have each person answer the questions, “How present am I right now?” and “Is there anything I want to share with the group to be fully present?”

5. Intention

If you are the leader in the meeting, clearly state your intention or intentions for the meeting. If the meeting is meant to meet the needs of other team members, ask them to share their intentions.

6. Be Clear

Briefly go over the agenda to delineate the different parts of the meeting. Be clear about what part you are in when you get there. See some possibilities below:

    • Identifying problems
    • Generating ideas
    • Evaluating ideas
    • Making decisions
    • Planning the next steps

7. Review

Make sure everyone is clear about the next steps and who is responsible for them. Some things to cover:

    • Decisions
    • Responsibilities
    • Deadlines
    • Potential problems
    • Unresolved items and a plan to address them
    • End with a brief summary and answer questions

By slowing down and bringing more mindfulness and intention to your meetings, you can leverage the resources of your group or organization. This will make the entire process more enjoyable and motivating for the people involved.  

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