Center Your Meetings

Center yourselfI’ve been doing yoga for years, but only recently increased the frequency of attending classes. Going from 1 maybe 2 classes a week to a daily practice. The increase in pace is improving my strength and helping me sleep better. But it is also having an unexpected benefit – driving better focus at work.

No matter which instructor is leading my yoga session they all start in the same way. By centering the class. Quietly seated on our mats we close our eyes and listen. Silently making an intention for that day’s practice. As a self-confessed type A personality I admit I found this first 5 minutes of class a little frustrating. I wanted to jump in, get class started. After all, I had downward dogs to master! But then I started to let go. To use those quiet moments to transition from the rushed pace of the rest of my day, and to really focus on what I wanted to achieve in the next 75 minutes. Eventually, the to-do list that seemed to constantly bombard my mind still roared its persistent head but I was able to let it go. To redirect instead on a new mental script. One about the immediate task at hand.

After a couple of weeks I realized that the centering we were doing before yoga practice, was very similar to what we should be doing before each meeting.  Don’t worry – I didn’t start whipping out yoga mats and asking colleagues to close their eyes (although that might not be a bad idea for some!). Instead I reminded myself that if you are going to hold a meeting, it should have an objective. And that every person coming to that meeting is coming from a different place. Running late from a previous meeting, worried about their child who is home sick with the flu, going through a mental checklist for tonight’s dinner ingredients, desperate to get back to their desk to return an important phone call, and so on. The list of distractions never ends.

So how do you center your meeting for maximum value to yourself AND your participants? Here are three things I do to start every meeting – even those recurring meetings we take for granted.

Introduce all participants – make sure everyone in the room, or on the phone knows who is participating and their frame of reference (i.e formal role, key objective)

State my objective –  Just because you put the purpose of the meeting in the calendar invite does not mean that everyone is coming focused on it. Remember, participants are coming from all kinds of places.

Review the agenda – Even a 30 minute meeting should have an agenda. What are you going to go over when? What will be the appropriate place for individuals to voice concerns?  Who is presenting when?

You may be saying to yourself – duh! Doesn’t everybody know this? If they do, I can assure you they forget.

Thank goodness productivity is often hidden in the simplest of reminders to center ourselves.

May the “mat” be with you!