Change the way you run meetings, increase productivity

On a good day, you wake up rested and raring to go. You make a mental list of things to do and, by the time you walk through the door of the office, you are clear about what needs to get accomplished and in what order. There's only one problem: the early morning meeting that usually runs overtime. Your mood deflates and your momentum screeches to a halt. Not only that, you may not regain momentum for some time after the meeting has ended - if you regain it at all.

The issue stems from the meeting culture that is now part of our everyday. Long meetings have the effect of exhausting cognitive reserves. Unfortunately, the brain requires regular replenishment to retain attention and to remain engaged.

Often meetings are crammed with a daunting agenda, the default is for people to look at their watches. Attention is on the time rather than on the discussion at hand. Eyes glaze over ( a friend of mine calls it wine eyes). People stop listening, begin to doodle, think of the weekend.

Here are some ways to make your meetings more effective and engaging:

Implement a block on early meetings, take the first hour of the day and throw it out the window. You might be amazed at how much you can accomplish when you free your mornings for planning.

Take breaks. Focusing for an hour to an hour and a half can be exhausting for our brains. Our brains can only focus for 20 minutes at a time. As our brains gets depleted, they start making errors, and we may grow irritable - not the best formula for planning and making decisions. Short breaks in meetings, even if they're only a couple minutes, offer some much needed rejuvenation.

Look for novelty. If you find yourself bored in a meeting, try - really try - to find something interesting going on in the room. You can train your brain to look for novelty in what's happening around you, something that both lengthens your attention span and gives you better control over it.

Go back to the basics. Engage in the meeting, whether it's asking questions, proposing ideas, or at the very least, taking notes. It's also a good idea to leave phones at desks in in handbags in order to avoid distraction. Bouncing back from a single distraction can take several minutes.

Make them shorter and more frequent. Incorporate daily or twice weekly 10 minute standing meetings into your workplace. Ideally, the 10-minute standing meeting has an agenda of no more than four items. This works nicely with our brains preference for chunking information. Also, the fact that people are standing rather than sitting helps lift the mood and increases blood circulation.