Because we can all benefit from more productive & meaningful meetings.

No question about it, meetings are coming to dominate business life. It’s estimated that US workers spend on average 11.8 hours a week preparing for and attending meetings. But when it comes to wasted meeting time, we’re pros. According to a survey of office workers, “wasteful meetings” are the top barrier to getting work done, and that is only likely increasing thanks to the influx of digital devices.

Meetings are critical conduits for ideation, communication, planning and collaboration, yet most employees admit to being distracted during meetings. The constant competition with laptops and mobile devices for the attention of our peers can ultimately affect productivity, company culture and the bottom line. Which is why we need more mindful meetings.

Applying Mindfulness to Meetings

The practice of mindfulness is nothing new. We’re hearing more and more about the benefits of mindfulness to help counter emotional and creative burnout, and employers are even recognizing the advantages of implementing mindfulness in the workplace knowing that idea generation is essential to staying innovative and competitive. Many are adding programs like yoga and implementing distraction-free zones to encourage people to focus on the task at hand and net a more productive outcome.

Mindful practices can be applied to meetings, where many of us spend our valuable time. In a mindful meeting, goals and intentions are clearly set, open-mindedness is encouraged and participants engage in distraction-free notetaking. The result is more participation, better insights being shared, shorter durations and an overall reduction in frequency of meetings being held.

Making Mindful Meetings a Habit

Changing your meeting culture doesn’t happen overnight, it takes commitment. Creating a new habit requires time to get the muscle memory set, small steps that don’t become overwhelming, and the patience to experience all of the bumps and setbacks on the journey. Habits can be tough to realize, but even gradual improvements make a difference. Here are four ways to start making mindful meetings a habit and get more out of your team and your time:

  1. Manage Expectations

A tough but important skill is learning how to set and manage expectations. It’s important to set a goal for implementation but one should also be realistic about expectations. Make a realistic goal that others can get on board with, such as converting one meeting a week into a mindful meeting or incorporate just two tenets of mindfulness in each meeting with the goal of six months to a year for a full transition.

2. Start Small

While those home makeover shows would make you think that knocking everything down to the studs is the best way to begin a project, most of us would likely start with a new coat of paint. Reality is, small steps are the best way to start and implement a habit, especially when it comes to mindful meetings. Try starting each meeting with a short session of deep breathing and check-ins around the room to get everyone primed for participation. Then build up to adding more mindful practices such as assigning each participant a task for each meeting. By easing everyone into the practice of mindful meetings, there’s a greater chance for success and longevity.

3. Remove Distractions & Temptations

When starting the mindful meetings habit, the biggest temptations can be your laptop, tablet or smartphone. While you may have good intentions — to dash off a quick email response — those moments keep you from being an active participant and worse, can be distracting to others as well. The best way to avoid this is to come device-free.

4. Embrace Mistakes

Some of the greatest minds suffered the biggest failures and many will argue it was those mistakes that ultimately led to their success. The same holds true for starting a new habit: embrace the mistakes and move on. Things happen in life that can derail us from even the best intentions but we can always recover and start over. The best thing to do is acknowledge the misstep and not to let it curb all the progress you’ve made to date. If one mindful meeting goes awry, maybe it’s time to take a break to regroup and work on another approach. Who knows, those mistakes could lead to an unexpected breakthrough.

The most important part of forming a new habit is realizing that the process is fluid and doesn’t have an expiration date. Whether it takes you three weeks or three years to turn your meetings into mindful ones, it’s often the experience that provides the best insights. So make a commitment to change but embrace the hiccups along the way. And at the end of it, hopefully you’ll find your meetings will do what they’re supposed to do: bring great ideas forward.

Rick Peterson is the Senior Director of Global Alliance Marketing & Business Development for Bamboo and the unofficial director of ideation and mindfulness. For more tips on mindful meetings, check out

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