There’s a debate about how long it takes to create a habit. An early study suggests just a minimum of 21 days, while more recent research says it could take up to a year, depending on the person and the audacity of the goal. Quitting smoking, exercising regularly and eating healthier are common aspirations that may seem overwhelming at first, but with a few small changes, can lead to a better lifestyle. When it comes to other areas, such as our professional lives, habits can be just as tough to realize though again, even gradual improvements make a difference. For example, many executives are looking to improve the quality and efficiency of their meetings. Often considered one of the banalities of modern office life, when well-structured, meetings can be both helpful and productive. Making meetings more mindful, that is, creating an environment where attendees are present and engaged, is a habit many employers are looking to implement. Read on for ways to start making mindful meetings a habit and get more out of your team and your time.
A tough but important skill for anyone in client service is learning how to set and manage expectations. Clients may be looking for that instant viral hit, but truthfully, most things take time and consistency before a big pay-off. The same holds true when making a habit out of mindful meetings. It’s important to set a goal for implementation but one should also be realistic about expectations. There are bound to be slip-ups and getting everyone on board won’t happen overnight. Instead, make a realistic goal 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.
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. In reality, 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.
One of the easiest ways to keep a habit and avoid falling off the wagon is to remove temptations along the way: avoiding the leftover birthday cake or leaving your credit card at home. 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 which typically means using pen and paper or a whiteboard for taking notes or brainstorm sessions. However, once the meeting is over it can be a challenge to continue the ideation process with a stack of notebook pages to decipher and flip through. Fortunately, the Bamboo smartpad is a tool that offers the ease of writing on pen and paper with the benefit of digital technology so you can capture, shape and share ideas without the temptations of a laptop or tablet.
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 don’t let it curb all of the progress you’ve made to date. If one mindful meeting goes awry, maybe it’s time for 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. After all, as Aristotle famously said, “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”
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