Preparing meetings consciously, has a major effect on the productivity of a meeting. Mindfulness can help a lot here. I suggest the following basic Mindful meeting principles:
- Being present in that moment with body, mind and soul
- Staying focussed on the topics that are being discussed
- Respect one another, meaning for instance:
- Listening cautiously
- No Interruption: Letting one person finish a sentence without interruption
- Restricted digital usage, meaning for instance:
- All smartphones should be on mute
- If someone HAS to to take a call, the person must leave the room
- No general screen time: No staring at the screen if not needed. Besides the one presenting and the one taking minutes, nobody needs to open their notebooks.
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Also I advise to formulate the “w” questions prior to the start or at least within the meeting:
- WHAT – what is expected? What shall be discussed? What needs to be decided? Make sure everyone has the same understanding here.
- WHY – why is this important? Why are the decisions needed? How does this fit into the vision, the team is following? Setting the stage is relevant.
- WHERE – the surrounding has a big effect on the comfort of people in a meeting. If for example you are stuck in a room with 40 degrees celcius on a hot summer day without Air conditioning, it is very unlikely that the meeting will turn out to be productive. Get the picture? The “where” has a big impact on the motivation of the participants. Sometimes it can also be good to have an offsite somewhere for innovation brainstormings, so the mind can be free from old patterns. The setting should match the meeting goal.
- WHEN – Timing is important. Generally and strategically it should be considered when a meeting makes sense – in a project or sprint but also at what time during the day. “Daily stand-ups”, a routine in agile working methodologies, where the team aligns on what happened yesterday and what happens today – do not make sense at the end of a day. They should best happen in the mornings, so that the learnings can be applied directly. Also Meetings directly after lunch, are tough ones, as all participants will probably be tired. If this is the situation, a few mindful body exercises in the beginning might be a good ice breaker to kick-off.
- WHO – Who must be part of the meeting or must not? Who is absolutely mandatory? Who can attend for information matters only ? Who needs to make a decision? These are key questions that need to be clear. No one should attend a meeting, when it is not absolutely neccessary. Sitting in a room, bored, not knowing why – is the opposite of being productive. Consider the WHO before inviting everyone just for the sake of it.
In the HelloFresh article “How to hold the most effective meetings”, the author Niki Agrawal adds one more, that should be considered when targeting productive meetings: the HOW.
“Why? Because humans have feelings. They aren’t robots, and pretending the how doesn’t matter in a meeting is a fatal ignorance of reality.” – Niki Agrawal
- HOW – For the “how” it is important to be mindful of the tone of voice and of how the content and agenda of the meeting is being communicated to the participants. A high level of respect and empathy is advisable here.
Last but not least it is relevant to be respectful of everyone’s time table and to keep the timing. For that a designated time keeper should be chosen in the beginning of the meeting.
Block your “Me time”
It is one thing is to be respectful and mindful of everyone else’s time table, but also be conscious of your own timings and tasks. Meaning, it might also make sense to block some time for yourself every day to make sure you not only sit in meetings all day and thus do not have enough time for your own work – especially if it requires concentration. Niki Agrawal calls this blocked time for herself a “meeting with yourself” and says it is “a great hack to get shit done.”
I call it “Me time” and I make sure of having and blocking that in business as well as in private matters. Sometimes you just need some time to think.
For that you need stillness and your own freely flowing thoughts. That is not always easy. As a matter of fact: “It is a skill to be still!”
So how about blocking your next “Me time” now and get going?! But be sure to apply the above also if your are just by yourself.
I hope this was valuable to you. I wish you many more productive meetings in the future – with others as well as with yourself! Please feel free to contact me and let me know how it goes! I look forward to hearing from you!