Mindful Meetings: Waste Less Time, Get More Done

By: Justin Keller

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Us professionals are attending a staggering number of meetings every day– 11 million of them, to be exact. If we’re generous and assume that half of these are 30 minutes long and the other half are an hour long, that’s a combined 8.25 million work hours per day that we’re spending in meetings. And if your office is even halfway similar to Initech (come on, you remember Initech), you won’t be surprised to learn that the British Psychological Society estimates that at least a third of all meetings are, well, pointless.

Before you go off, blaming bureaucracy and unclear goals for the wasted time that accounts for the 2 billion+ useless meetings we attend every year, consider this: most of that wasted time isn’t simply due to bloated corporate policy– it’s caused by variations of one very, very important thing: etiquette.

When you show up late to a meeting; when you think you’re being a corporate athlete by ‘multitasking’ (side note, there’s no such thing); when you think your job is to drive a meeting rather than listen- you’re not only being rude, you’re costing your company tons of time and money. Our friends at Business Insider estimate that mindless meeting behaviors like this are costing the U.S. economy $37 billion a year. Yikes.

So what can the Whil Blog, home of all things mindful and business-like, do to help you curb the growing time, energy and money suck that are meetings? Well, first things first- and this is a no-brainer: have fewer of them. Today’s workplace is rife with meeting alternatives that allow us to work collaboratively and asynchronously, like Slack, InvisionApp, and Jive, to name a few (none of whom have paid me to share them with you today). Once you’ve thinned out your calendar a little bit, take a more mindful approach to the few meetings you are going to have and make sure you’re getting every last drop out of them.

If we can make the country’s meetings run a measly 10% more mindfully, we’ll have increased productivity and saved our economy almost $4 billion dollars. Let me say that again slowly because it’s blowing my mind. Four. Billion. Dollars. I’ve never done it myself, but I can imagine that saving $4 billion dollars feels really good. Like really, really good.

Where can you start, you ask? Well…

Here are not one but ten steps for running a more mindful meeting.

We’ve got a really pretty PDF version of it that you can download for free right here. Print one out for every conference room and give yourself a high-five for doing your part to make meetings more valuable to your company.

  1. Be on time.

  2. Start the meeting with a one-minute meditation (or intention setting) to get everyone on the same page.

  3. No multitasking. No device usage is allowed unless it’s necessary for the meeting (the note taker is the exception to this rule).

  4. Share all information before the meeting via email and/or agenda. Meeting time is not for providing context or background. Information includes slides, handouts, etc.

  5. Topics that arise outside of the agenda go in the “parking lot” for the end of the meeting (or a new meeting).

  6. Notes for the meeting should be documented: decisions, action items, follow-up, and parking lot items.

  7. If you’re not getting anything out of the meeting, leave.

  8. Conclude the meeting by allowing each participant to talk freely for 1 minute to relay positive or constructive feedback or anything else of importance to them.

  9. Only one person talks at a time. The rest of the participants are mindfully listening.

  10. Hold each other accountable for all the above.

If that was useful to you, you might want to check out our Guide to Implementing Mindfulness In Your Company for more details on developing your own corporate mindfulness program, which you can also download for free. We wrote this guide in collaboration with 55 companies– most of them Fortune 1000’s– who are leading the charge in creating cultures of mindfulness and productivity.

Now go forth and meet– mindfully.

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