For years my work day consisted of a string of conference calls and in-person meetings with virtually no time in between. It was not unusual to mute my phone, run to the wash room, and hope no one asked me a question before I returned. 

If this sounds at all familiar and you find it difficult to take even the most necessary breaks, you are my target audience. I now have breaks between meetings. It took huge resolve and it can be done! Especially when you realize, you have more control than you think. You can convert the non-believers by setting the example. Slowly…you will have more space to work mindfully and take healthy breaks.

TIP 1: Shorter Meetings

Unless there are strict rules within your company (hard to imagine), stop scheduling 1-hour meetings! You can set meetings for 45 minutes to give yourself time for a break. You can also set a meeting for 20 minutes instead of 30, and if you follow the next few tips, your meetings will also be more productive.

TIP 2: Clear Purpose

Verify the purpose of the meeting and whether you truly need to be there. If you are leading the meeting, make sure you are communicating your goals clearly and that you are only inviting people who are necessary to completing the goals. This is a reasonable request. If it is not clear that you are needed, or that someone you have invited is absolutely necessary, ask whether you/they can contribute through email, or a quick conversation. Understanding the desired outcome of a meeting is a reasonable request for everyone involved.  

TIP 3: Prepare

Make sure you have completed any work necessary to effectively achieve your meeting goal and request that of others. While brainstorming meetings are sometimes important, most meetings could be handled much more efficiently with clear goals, preparation, a time-keeper, and facilitator. Make sure you are prepared to lead, or that the leader of the meeting has been identified.

TIP 4: Feel free to Decline

If Tips 3 and 4 are not confirmed, decline the meeting. Yes, it will feel awkward, if you are used to accepting most requests. However, declining politely, until you truly understand why you need to be there, is incredibly freeing and helpful to the person who has scheduled the meeting to take a bit more time on purpose and preparation.

All of this may sound impossible to some, yet these exact instructions were rolled out at a large national financial institution, and those who took action found they were part of a much more efficient work day – they had more time. It was hard, I’m not going to lie to you; and it is possible. Today, efficient meetings and mindful breaks are becoming part of my DNA and it feels much better. I only wish I had been given permission to start sooner. Oh wait, the permission came from me.

Take a BreakTogether soon.