We've all been in a long meeting or at a day-long retreat in which you feel yourself fighting yawns or closing your eyes. Managing personal energy in these longer meetings can be difficult and managing the team energy when you are coordinating the meeting can be even more challenging! Understanding some of the basics around the flow of energy and how it relates to effectiveness can help you create an environment for engaged participants and outstanding outcomes.
First of all, you need to understand how fatigue relates to effectiveness. If you want to learn more about this topic, I suggest reading When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink. In a nutshell, he describes three types of people: early birds (larks), night owls, and third birds.. Each type goes through a specific energy flow throughout the day – including peaks, troughs, and recoveries. Most people are third birds. Their flow is that from about an hour after they wake up through the next several hours they are at the top of their thinking and problem-solving game. Then, midday, usually after lunch, they hit a trough followed by a spark of creativity. While the exact times of this pattern will vary with each person, the general flow will remain the same.
I find value in planning full-day meetings with energy flow in mind. I recommend scheduling an eight-hour day with six hours of content and scheduled breaks – lunch, checking email, chatting, walking around, etc. – for the remaining two.
Within the working time, don't do the same thing for more than an hour at a time and try not to go more than 20 minutes without giving people a way to contribute (make notes, talk, generate ideas, etc.). Also, breaks are essential.
Be thoughtful about small things like choosing options for lunches and snacks; give people options and try to avoid heavier things like pasta and cookies that will leave people lingering in their troughs longer than you want. Build in movement for this chunk of time when energy is down. I like to get people outside – it gives them energy and a sense of calm. My groups often do reflection time outside after lunch to discuss where we are so far with things and how people are feeling. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams gives some great tips on this subject.
In the afternoon, schedule five- to 10-minute breaks every hour to help create energy in the group and allow for that recovery of creativity to occur. The more energy there is in a group, the more you're going to produce – ideas, quality of decision-making, accountability, and commitment of participants. Knowing how to go with the flow and accounting for it all it circles back to thoughtful planning, timekeeping, and the basic structures of a transformative meeting.
I'd love to learn more about your meeting challenges and how you can create transformative meetings. Feel free to schedule a time to chat with me one-on-one.