Reclaim Your Headspace & Your Life with Mindful Meetings

How do our days ‘just get away’ from us?  For most of us, it happens because we abdicate our responsibility to make clear choices about how we need to spend our time. We watch as our calendar becomes booked out, double-booked, triple-booked and then shrug our shoulders and accept it as ‘the way it is’, or ‘the way it has to be’.  Is there another way? We believe that being mindful about what meetings we schedule, or attend is the first step in taking back control of your schedule and getting some much needed headspace back into your day.

So before we go onto look at how we can run meetings or participate in meetings in a more mindful way, let’s first consider how we are scheduling are day. Firstly, reflect on the questions below and consider whether any of these apply to you and the situations you find yourself in:

  •  Do you accept every meeting request that comes your way without question?

  • How much of your time in the office is spent in meetings as a percentage of your day? Does this seem effective to you?

  • How do you reset yourself in between meetings if you have them one after the other?

  • Are there regular meetings in your diary that you feel aren’t effective?  If so, is there something you can do to influence that?

  • Do you believe that you should accept every meeting request that comes your way because of expectations around your performance? 

  • What are the stories you tell yourself about what it means to be ‘successful’ or conscientious, that may be contributing to your meeting overwhelm?

  • Do you feel exhausted just looking at your calendar for the week?

  • Do you prepare mentally and practically for each meeting you attend?

Having reflected on these quesitons above, what are your conclusions about your schedule and about the way your are spending your time? Is the way you are working, working for you?

Let’s take this exploration a step further now and use this wonderful Calendar Reflection exercise by Janice Marturano of the Mindful Leadership Institute. This exercise can be used at the start of every week to help create some space in your mind and in your schedule. Its a gerat technique to use to free up mental energy and physical time by ensuring we are scheduling with awareness, rather than on auto-pilot.  Try using this reflection exercise at the start of every week as part of your thinking, planning and reflecting time.  Ideally do this first thing in the morning, before you check your inbox.

  •  Print off your calendar for the week and lay it in front of you.

  • Before you start reading the calendar practice a short breathing exercise to get focused and calm.

  • Begin to slowly read your calendar as though you have never seen it before.

  • Start by taking an overall perspective of your calendar for the week.  Taking this full view into account, notice any thoughts, feelings, sensations, judgements that occur.

  • Then start reading through each entry at a time, again paying close attention to thoughts, feelings, sensations, mood.  Notice if your mind becomes entangled in problem solving or judging a meeting as you read through and bring your attention back to the calendar.

  • Write a list of what you noticed as you read through the calendar entries.

 This is a great way to learn something about yourself and how you spend your day.  Maybe you felt tired just looking at your busy schedule. Maybe you noticed negative emotions or thoughts as you looked at certain calendar entries.  What was your body telling you?  What was your mind telling you?  Here are some further questions to reflect on.

 By following this practice, you can become more intentional in your choices:

What is the best use of your time? 

Why are you attending so many meetings?

Are the right people gathering in the right type of meeting?

Where is the space in the day for yourself?

ACTION: Is there one item in your diary that you could take out to create some much-needed space in your week?______________________________________________________________________________

ACTION: Would it be beneficial to schedule in time for the things and people that are important to you? If so, can you commit to some regular time? ______________________________________________________________________________

ACTION: Are there any other actions you would like to commit to having done the reflection? _______________________________________________________________________________

 Running More Mindful Meetings

 Last but not least, below are some simple steps to follow to ensure that any meeting you run or that you attend is productive and value adding.

  1. Someone needs to lead the meeting – a meeting without a leader is like an orchestra without a conductor, it will get messy.

  2. Agenda’s aren’t optional – circulate in advance so everyone can prepare.

  3. Make someone timekeeper – then whoever is leading the meeting can concentrate on facilitating the conversation and the agenda.

  4. Set hard start and finish times and stick to them – we are all busy and sticking to defined start and finish time ensures that everyone’s time is respected.

  5. ABSOLUTELY NO ELECTRONIC GRAZING – EVER.

  6. Invite guests – does everyone need to be there the whole time?

  7. Always agree next steps, actions, owners and follow up times.

  8. Agree the next meeting date (if necessary).

  9. Be consistent with all of the above.