Our habits — both good and bad — carry over into many of our daily interactions. Focus and consistency in one area usually spill over into others, just like absentmindedness in one place can trickle into other spaces.Regardless of whether we notice it, bad habits drain a lot of our efficiency at work, especially during meetings. According to a survey by Atlassian.com, about 91 percent of respondents admit to daydreaming through meetings; 39 percent say they nap; and 73 percent claim they do other work.Meetings are a forum where ideas get broached, developed, and ultimately decided upon. If bad habits begin to color the way meetings occur, then the stigma of pointless meetings becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that, like a bad habit, is hard to repair.

Habits Should Help Instead of Hurt

Bad habits earned that moniker for a reason. They can be physical and mental suppressants that sometimes sneak up on you. For instance, while being an informed citizen and “news junkie” might not seem like a bad thing, if it’s causing you to consistently refresh your social media pages for updates while at work, then you’re constantly interrupting your workflow.The need to know and the fear of missing out is real for some, enabled by the insistence of some people to clutch tightly to their phones and always be near a screen. It’s bad hygiene, like an addiction that some have trained themselves into feeding. Meetings require optimal focus, but when it’s constantly pulled in another direction by a news feed, an alert, or something else, your agenda or objective suffers.Look at a service-oriented business like Starbucks. If you place an order but your clerk is too busy answering phone calls or posting to Instagram, then that latté or tall coffee you’ve been craving probably won’t come. As more of those orders fall down that bad habit hole, productivity will suffer, and customer frustration will build.The same is true with our mindsets during meetings. Instead of letting those bad routines overtake you, maintain enough poise and discipline to say, “Right now, this meeting is all that matters, and I’m going to pay attention.”

Put Your Meetings on the Right Path

Bringing good habits into your meetings is a first step to harnessing the desired outcome. Here are three ways to ensure that happens:
  1. Make decisions. Meetings happen for two main reasons: to make decisions and to take action on the basis of said decisions. With everyone engaged in the flow of a meeting, those resolutions get hammered out more efficiently and effectively.
Come to every meeting with a decisive mindset, and make sure choices get made. The ramifications of those decisions can also be analyzed so that all appropriate actions can be assigned and integrated into the workflow.
  1. Identify action items. Some decisions require only a single action like assigning spots in the parking lot. Others, like raising the budget approval threshold from $1,000 to $5,000, create dozens of other action items throughout the company.
Recognize these action items during or immediately after the meeting while they’re still fresh in everyone’s mind. Eva, Voicera’s AI-meeting assistant, lets users tell the platform which action items to address, then sends those items all to the meeting attendees afterward like a to-do list. This keeps the to-do’s all in the forefront of your mind and can help ensure they all get addressed in a timely manner.
  1. Follow through. Decisions stick when they’re fully implemented after a resolution is reached. Look at the list of action items from that meeting, and assign follow-up tasks to make sure decisions get integrated into the regular workflow.
For example, if you come home every day and put your keys wherever they lie, you’re more likely to lose them. But if you remind yourself to put them in one spot or set up an obvious resting place for them, they’ll always be there when you’re looking for them. Likewise, routine actions at routine junctures or times increase the odds that new action items turn into productive habits.Not all habits are bad, but when it comes to workflow and productivity during meetings, even the ones that seem trivial can be harmful. With all the progress we’ve made in optimizing our workflow, it’s time we started looking at how to change these habits to improve the process of companywide decision-making.