In dinner conversations and corporate conference rooms around the world, mindfulness and meditation are becoming increasingly common discussion topics.
At the same time, employees are spending more and more of their time in mindless meetings, and by most estimates, 50% of that time is wasted.
What if we started applying some of those principles of mindfulness to make our meetings more effective?
Here are five steps to creating mindful meetings:
Whether you’re the official meeting leader or just an attendee, how you show up can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of the meeting. Take a moment at the beginning of the meeting to check in with yourself.
Ask yourself, "What mental state am I in?" Are you frustrated, anxious, frenetic? By becoming aware of your mental state, you then have the option to choose the state you want to be in during the meeting. If you participate in a meeting in a state of curiosity, appreciation, or contribution, it will have a very different impact than if you’re coming from a place of frustration, defensiveness, or trying to look good
At least 70% of communication is non-verbal, so people will pick up on the cues you’re giving off based on your inner state.
Most teams fall into the pattern of starting their meetings with a few minutes of idle chit chat, followed by jumping into the meeting content. Instead of jumping right in, try this instead: Take 5 minutes to check in. Go around the room and have each person answer this question:
On a scale of 1-10, how present are you right now?
Just asking this question will give people a chance to reflect on where their attention is, and will prompt them to bring their attention into the present moment.
To amplify the impact, invite people to take a few minutes to do whatever they need to do to get themselves to the level of presence that they would like to be at for this meeting.
Some teams are even starting meetings with a short meditation or by giving people a few minutes in silence to take some deep breaths and get present. Remember, most people spend their day rushing from one meeting to the next, so taking a few moments at the beginning to get present will allow people to give full focus to the topics at hand.
Once you’re done with the check-in, the meeting leader should let people know the intentions of the meeting. This is often more specific than simply stating the discussion topics, and also typically includes intentions that go beyond the content.
For example, one of the intentions of a meeting may be to give team members a chance to connect with one another. By stating this openly, it will give people permission to connect more fully. If the intention is to gather input so that the leader can make a decision, let the team know that. Too often, teams operate without being fully mindful of what they are actually doing there together—with each team member thinking something different about what the intention of the meeting is.
Most meetings have a number of parts to them, but typically those parts are not distinguished so the meeting feels like a big blur. People experience the meeting as one continuous conversation until it abruptly ends so they can rush off to their next meeting.
Imagine a mechanic who looks under the hood of a car and just sees one big blob of engine. He wouldn’t be very effective at making it run smoothly or fixing what’s broken. Different parts of the engine require different tools.
Like engines, meetings have multiple parts and it’s helpful for everyone to understand which part of the meeting they’re in. Once you’re done with the check-in and stating your intentions, most meetings consist of one or more of the following:
- Identifying problems
- Generating ideas
- Evaluating ideas
- Making decisions
- Planning next steps
Be clear about which part of the meeting you’re in, so you can use the right format and have everyone on the same page about what conversation you’re having.
Most meetings evaporate into history the minute that they end. In large part, that’s because people leave without clarity about what’s supposed to happen afterwards. Spending five minutes at the end of the meeting to intentionally create clear agreement about what’s going to happen in the future can make the difference between a useless meeting and a highly productive one.
Here are the questions you can ask to be mindful about how the meeting impacts the future?
- What have we decided here today?
- Who’s going to do what, by when?
- How will we resolve the issues that are still open?
- What’s likely to get in the way of us implementing what we agreed to today?
By bringing just a bit more mindfulness to your meetings, you can take what most people consider the most painful part of their day and turn it into a highly productive, even enjoyable experience.
Have other thoughts on how to bring mindfulness into meetings? Please add your thoughts in the comments below!
—Dave Kashen is co-founder & CEO of MeetingHero, a startup with a mission to rid the world of soul-crushing meetings. The MeetingHero web app makes it easier for teams to have productive, engaging meetings. Follow him on Twitter.