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Transform Your Meetings With One Minute of Mindfulness

In leadership, we often look for big, bold strategies to improve our team effectiveness, but in reality it’s usually the small day-to-day habits that make the biggest difference.

Taking a “mindful minute” before meetings is one of these team habits that we’ve been doing at Mindfulness.com for the last five years and is fundamental to our strong team culture.

Right before a meeting starts, after the initial small talk but before diving into the agenda, the person running the meeting will say something like “Let’s take a minute.” Some people turn off their cameras, most leave them on, and we all close our eyes for a minute of mindfulness.

During this time, the aim is not to strategize or rehearse what you’re going to say, or to think through everything you need to do after, but to simply observe yourself and let go of any tension you are bringing into the meeting with you from your day. It’s essentially a mini-meditation.

After about a minute (we don’t use a timer) everyone opens their eyes, often at slightly different times. We wait until everyone’s eyes are open and then move onto the first item on the meeting agenda.

Just this small simple act can have a dramatic effect. The meeting starts with a calmer tone because everyone has an opportunity to let go of their stresses and bring their attention to the present moment.

The primary goal of a mindful minute is to reset. Our workdays are inevitably busy and full of challenges that leave our minds feeling cluttered. This means when we join a meeting, we are often bringing all the stress and frustration of the day with us. It’s no wonder, then, why work meetings are so often tinged with friction and frustration.

By pausing for a mindful minute, we give ourselves space to clear our minds and shed the cognitive burden of previous tasks. This isn’t about closing your eyes and waiting for time to pass, but about consciously stepping away from the rush and noise of day-to-day tasks in order to be fully present.

Team efficiency: Meetings are one of the most expensive ways to spend your team’s time. Think about it. You’re bringing together a group of people whose individual time gets compounded together. A mindful minute creates the space needed to make sure that everyone is ready to switch gears and focus on the meeting.

Team well-being: We’ve all been there—stuck in a meeting that could have been an email and counting the minutes until it’s over, or dreading a meeting where you know you’re going to disagree with someone. For a lot of people, meetings are the hardest part of work. Taking a mindful minute can help everyone be more present to each other. This supports a culture of compassion and inclusion where people are more likely to really listen to one another, respond respectfully, and come up with creative solutions.

Actions speak louder than words: By committing to a mindful minute, you’re signalling to the rest of the team that as a leader, you value your team’s overall well-being. You’re also showing that how you get work done as a team is as important as what you get done.

Better decision making: We all know that humans are bad at context switching. The space and intention that a mindful minute brings means calmer and more focused minds. People will be more open to ideas and make more thoughtful decisions.

Fewer ego battles: One of the benefits of a mindful minute is the shared sense of calm that you feel with your team afterward. Most don’t leap from that mindset to trying to tear others down. While its effects wear off, a mindful minute can help your team shift into a space of more ease and openness which tends to foster kinder behavior.

Focus on your breath. This can be more difficult than it sounds. Since we’re often transitioning into meetings from a busy day, our thoughts tend to pull our attention to our to-do lists. Focusing on the breath can be a powerful way to bring our awareness into the present moment. As a rule of thumb, 10 deep breaths is usually about one minute. Relax your body. One way to do this is a quick body scan where you focus your attention on different parts of your body, actively relaxing them as you go. You might focus on feeling your shoulders, and then feeling them relax. Repeat with your neck, your arms, etc. More tips on this here. Set a positive intention. Toward the end of the minute, commit to a personal value or goal of bringing your best self to this meeting. It’s OK to just sit there. The point of the minute is to create space and ease.  Sometimes that just means really doing nothing but letting the time pass. The minute can serve as a much needed break. Don’t worry about looking silly. We all have a bit of a fear of people looking at us when our eyes are closed. It’s OK if you’re the last person to open their eyes at the end of the minute. Acknowledging this feeling of silliness is often enough to make it disappear. Run it as a trial. Make an announcement that you want to test having a mindful minute before group meetings for the next month and then evaluate how everyone feels at the end. If they liked it, keep it going. If they didn’t, ask why and explore other options. Get everyone on the same page. Even though it’s written on the tin (mindful minute) it’s helpful to spell out how and why it works. You can even  share this article with your team so they can look into it. Add it to meeting agendas. We have “mindful minute” as the first item on all our agendas for meetings that include three or more people. Acknowledge the initial awkwardness. There will probably be people on your team who find it strange to sit in silence with colleagues. Acknowledge the fact that it might feel silly for a while, but that’s OK. Use a timer for the first little while. Set a one-minute timer on your phone so that people aren’t worried about being stuck with their eyes closed forever. We made a free version here. Softly bring back any stragglers. If you’re not using a timer or someone just didn’t hear it, give them a little time to come back on their own and if not, gently bring them back with a “let’s get started” or “OK, diving in now.”

It’s easy to talk about mindful leadership but actually putting the initiatives and habits in place is easier said than done.

The mindful minute is a great, easy way to take a first step. So, why not implement it as a test for one month with your team? The upside is a more cohesive, present, and creative team. The downside is spending 60 seconds.

Broken Heart, Shared Heart, Healing Heart
Forgive Everyone Everything
 

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Thursday, 23 May 2024

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