Mindful Meetings: how to keep your mind healthy and alert during online meetings.

Responsibilities

Thoughts, Productivity

Recently, I co-founded a new startup named Stypt. Starting a business in times of a pandemic is quite a challenge. That said, my team and I have come up with a couple of very effective ways to keep our minds fresh through most of our meetings.

The pandemic has forced us all to sit in a lot of digital meetings in the form of calls, video conferences and voice messages. Though this enables people from all around the world to work together, regardless of location, many people experience quite a few pain points and annoyances as a result of working from home. I will go over how we resolved a few of these issues by actively thinking about our personal pain points.

Meetings should be concise, focused and not drag on.

One of the dangers of meetings, especially online, is that they have a tendency to drag on and take up a considerable amount of time. Possibly more than initially planned. A way to get around this is to plan the conversation in such a way that any goals you have set can be met. For example: if the goal of a meeting is to go over a project’s planning, jot down a few “milestones” that would count that session as effective. Are all the tasks correctly issued and assigned? Check. Do we have a time indication for each task? Check. Our minds are very simple in the sense that we work on an effort-reward cycle. Your brain releases dopamine, a “feel-good” neurotransmitter, when you accomplish tasks.

It’s possible to manipulate your dopamine levels by setting small goals and then accomplishing them.

(...) This is one reason people benefit from to-do lists: The satisfaction of ticking off a small task is linked with a flood of dopamine. Each time your brain gets a whiff of this rewarding neurotransmitter, it will want you to repeat the associated behaviour.

— Psychology Today

Add these things up and you will see how setting milestones will reward your brain for being productive. This also helps the feeling of an “unsuccessful meeting” — after having set a few goals, not managing to get one done in time isn’t so bad. You may well have completed 90% of the goals of a meeting, which is a win in my book.

Try not to interrupt people speaking unless it is of utmost importance.

This may sound obvious, but from my experience it is much harder to “read the room” to see if people understand you during online meetings. This is why it’s important to always let people finish their sentences, because you might not be able to detect what they’re actually trying to say upfront. Be it because you can’t read their body language or be it because a shabby internet connection. In the case of the latter it might actually be more beneficial to let people speak on. You might just get enough context to finish that one part of a sentence you may have missed.

Use the right tools.

Though this doesn’t necessarily apply to in-person meetings, using the right tool during remote meetings can be a make-or-break factor. My team and I use Around, which is a little app that floats your colleagues faces on your desktop, and has all the useful stuff like file-sharing, chat, screen sharing and even reaction gifs built in. It’s great. (Hey team Around, sponsor me *wink*) In all seriousness, tools like these help us stay focused by not getting in the way too much, but being there when needed. Kind of like sitting at an office with your team and being able to just call their name for a response. If you’re doing pair work (say, pair programming, performance reviews or design critique) this is an excellent option for more casual meetings; without time constraints, but the need for real-time collaboration.

You don’t have to sit at your desk. Take a walk while on-call.

Out of all these points, I consider this the most effective example of mindful meetings. For most meetings, you do not need to sit at your desk. If you’re going over intricate project details you may need to be at your computer, but believe me — in most cases it’s a lot more effective to go for a walk while you’re on a call.

In fact, take your entire team on a walk. To keep your mind and body healthy, you should walk for at least 20 minutes every day. And let’s be honest: if you can take a ‘toilet break’ and browse Instagram for twenty minutes, you can definitely take yourself up to get some fresh air.

Given the fact that you’re reading this article, you’re probably a bit distracted. If your schedule allows it, take a little walk right now. Thank me later.

If you enjoyed this piece of writing or got anything out of it, be sure to let me know.