As a proponent of mindfulness, I probably shouldn’t admit to hating anything, but I abhor wasting time in meetings. I once left a great career because I couldn’t face another 2-hour Monday afternoon team meeting! Can you relate? You see I’m an action person. I like to get stuff done. Give me a good meeting – one which is succinct and productive and I’m all over it – otherwise count me out!

There’s several things you can do to make meetings more effective, but your state of mind has the biggest impact.

We’ve all attended meetings when your body has been there, but your mind was AWOL. Adding a few simple mindfulness practices helps people be far more effective.

They work by turning on your brain’s executive functions (the bits you need operating optimally to do your job) and calming down your stress response. When you’re rushing from one thing to another you’re not present, and when your mind is cluttered it simply doesn’t work as well.

The following practices reduce stress, improve focus and attention, and create an environment where people can engage with one another, while treating each other with kindness and respect.

10 simple mindfulness practices to make meetings more effective:

  1. Make it the norm to start and end meetings with a 1-minute pause. It helps to focus on the task at hand and let go of distractions, reduces stress and quietens busy minds. Simply ask people to close their eyes, focus on their breath and tell them when time is up. This may challenge people initially (so remember to ask permission and explain the rationale).
  2. Have a clear ‘why’ for your meeting and stick to it. Regularly reminding people of the ‘why’ and asking more ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions, keeps them solution rather than problem focused, and encourages fresh innovative thinking. I’m not saying problems don’t exist but focusing solely on problems rarely finds the best solutions.
  3. Reduce meeting time-frames from 1 hour to 30 mins, or from 30 to 15 mins and keep to time. People will fill up time when its available and are often more effective when time is limited.
  4. Remove distracting technology. I know you’re going to tell me you need to write things down, but the temptation is often too great, and soon you’ll be answering email and checking your social media.
  5. Avoid back to back meetings by building in at least 10-minutes in between. Take back control of your diary if you’ve outsourced (or explain your new rules to people who have access).
  6. When travelling to meetings build in adequate time so you won’t feel rushed.
  7. Do a quick check-in at the beginning of meetings. Allow everyone 15 – 30 seconds to say what’s top of mind. Acknowledging potential distractions and putting them aside helps people stay present and builds EQ.
  8. Welcome people to meetings and thank them as they leave. Request new people introduce themselves and share something personal (if they’re comfortable) to build trust. Greater trust encourages people to engage and be more open with one another.
  9. Close meetings by asking people to articulate what they’ve committed to and by when, to increase accountability (and buy-in). Agreed time frames work best when people know who is responsible for flagging it if deadlines are unlikely to be reached.
  10. If you’re in New Zealand (and it feels right) start and end meetings with a Waiata or Karakia (song or prayer) or even an inspiring quote. In my experience people behave better toward each other when we remember to do it.

And one final word, ask yourself, ‘is this meeting really necessary?’ If the answer is no – then please consider cancelling it. Time is precious. People will thank you for valuing theirs!

10 Mindful meeting tips will be available soon as a download. In the meantime you can download 10 Mindful workplace tips here.

Kerene Strochnetter is the Managing Director of Mindful at Work Ltd. She is on a mission to make the M-words cool in the workplace (mindfulness and meditation). She works with businesses across New Zealand and Australia delivering ‘My Off Switch’ programs to embed and merge mindfulness with workplace behaviour, build resilience, optimise attention, and regulate emotion.

It’s all about changing the way you work – being more engaged and on-game – and positively influencing workplace culture.