The other day I was waiting in a lobby for a meeting to begin. There were about 10 other people waiting for the same meeting. We were all strangers and we were all meeting with someone with whom we surely wanted to make a good impression. It was not quite an interview, but similar.
As we neared the five-minute-prior-to-the-meeting point, I was struck by how everyone I was sharing space with was engaged with their smartphones. They were trying to cram in the last little bit of e-mail, or texting, or Facebook or some type of game.
I'm certainly a proponent of getting things done (yes both literally and the great book by David Allen), but I believe that we could get even more done if we put our smartphones or other devices down prior to a meeting.
Put the Device Down, and Nobody Gets Hurt
Last minute device using could lead to injury! By cramming in more device time while we're walking to a meeting we could bump into the corner of a table or trip on a step.
Although I'm only partly serious here -- the risk of external physical injury is fairly slight -- the risk of internal harm is essentially guaranteed.
When we try to cram in activity on a device, it is very likely that the body is in at least a mild form of the stress response, also known as the fight or flight response. Although the stress response is helpful when we are in serious danger, it is not something we want to persist in our bodies.
The negative effects of the stress response include:
- Increased cortisol (eats away at muscle tissue)
- Decreased ability to think rationally
- Decreased creativity
- Decreased ability to have positive interactions with others
In essence, the stronger the stress response is and the longer it persists in our bodies, the more anxious, scatter-brained, and generally useless we become. Why would we want to begin an important meeting like that? Thus, a very simple yet powerful idea for being more effective at your next meeting is to unplug from your devices at least 10 minutes prior to the meeting.
Be Cool Instead
Instead of going into a meeting in an anxious, unclear state of mind, I suggest you go in cool, collected, and fully present. At the 10-minute-prior mark, unplug from your device and increase your presence and self-awareness.
Do a simple activity like sitting, standing, or walking and make an effort to refrain from intentionally thinking or absorbing into thought. Instead, be fully present with the activity you are engaged in.
If there is an emotion like anxiety present, note that in your mind and investigate what that emotion actually feels like in your body. Let go of trying to think about it, just stay with what you notice in your body.
By practicing mindfulness in this way whenever possible for at least 10 minutes before a meeting you are likely to notice some of the following benefits:
- You are more cool, calm and collected
- You are more creative
- You think more clearly
- You are more present with the people around you, so you might have a great interaction that energizes you before your meeting starts
- You are more present and emotionally intelligent during your meeting, which means you will connect better with the person or people in the meeting and make a better impression
- You are happier before and during the meeting
- After the meeting, you will be happier, sleep better, have better sex, and live longer, all because you spent a little less time with the stress response affecting your body
Thus, by taking just a few moments to refrain from cramming one more thing on your device before a meeting, you could have a much more productive meeting that adds so much more value than the things you would have done on your device.
What are some other ways you could get collected before a meeting once you're unplugged from your device?
Matt Tenney is a social entrepreneur, an international keynote speaker, and the author of Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom.