Sarah Hutcherson: Could Your Meetings Benefit from Drawing Your Breath? – Palette
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Sarah Hutcherson: Could Your Meetings Benefit from Drawing Your Breath?

By Sarah Hutcherson

Think back to your last few meetings. If you could describe them in a couple of words, what would they be? Were you present? Were your rushing, multi-tasking, grounded, or ready for it to be over? How did you feel? Easeful, intentional, or overwhelmed?

How did your pre-meeting state of mind affect the meeting’s agenda and flow? Did you take a moment after the meeting to reflect on what was discovered and unearthed? 

Unfortunately, it seems that poorly run meetings that bleed into other parts of the day are the norm. According to a 2019 McKinsey survey, 61 percent of leaders said making decisions during meetings was ineffective. Not to mention, that people reported inefficient meetings (and the amount of them) as their number one productivity disruptor in Microsoft’s Work Trend Index

I believe how meetings are being scheduled and run could use some space to breathe. Specifically, before the meeting to intentionally breathe, draw your breath, and get grounded to align your meetings with your vision for your work and your impact. 

If you are already noticing your mind manufacturing some buts and worries about making space before a meeting to breathe, as well as feeling your breath move into your chest, how very human of you. You got this. 

As your brain comes up with excuses, probably eloquent and brilliant, but still excuses rooted in your humanness, be kind and notice.

“I don’t have time for that.” 

“I can barely squeeze in a meeting in the first place.” 

“I have to focus on my revenue goals.” 

Take a breath in and take a breath out. 

While there is some truth to these excuses, they are probably perpetuating some of the obstacles you are trying to reimagine through your meetings. I am speaking from experience. Because I was taught that doing more = more output, if I am not aware, I host meetings back to back without clarity about how they are setting the business up for success. You can’t reinvent and create a new world when your meetings are the same old, same old. 

When you do decide to bring awareness to your breath’s ebbs-and-flows before a meeting, not only your brain but your second brain, your peripheral nervous system, gives you information for what is working and isn’t working. 

Letting go of control and bringing awareness to your breath before your meeting
Breath awareness – when you bring your attention to your automatic process of taking air in and breathing it out without changing it – is great when you are feeling scattered and want to focus. More and more studies are suggesting that simply bringing attention and not changing your breath can improve attention and short-term memory, superpowers for more efficient meetings.

One 2018 study in Nature had a group of participants practice breath awareness meditation with a non-judgmental attitude and the other group practice progressive muscle relaxation while monitoring their ability to connect dots (attention exercise) for about 13 minutes 3 to 4 times per week for a month. The group practicing breath awareness significantly improved their scores on the dot-connecting task, while the progressive muscle relaxation group did not. This is exciting because it suggests breath awareness can improve neural efficiency, leading to less distractibility and more focus. 

Take Breath Awareness Further – Draw your Breath
Drawing the breath while bringing awareness to the breath seems to bolster this grounded focus. You are noticing your breath and letting this invisible force that promotes focus and relaxation spill onto the paper without an agenda. The act of doodling the breath takes the headiness out of a breath awareness exercise that can sometimes accompany it. Your awareness accompanies the flow of the pen and you slow down as you shift into the creative activity, allowing for your frontal lobe to take a break before it jumps into full swing in the meeting. 

There are different perspectives about why drawing promotes mindfulness. A 2017 study has found that drawing and writing seem to exercise and engage the brain more than typing on the keyboard because it involves motor control of the hands. Girjia Kaimal, an art therapist, suggests that making art – yes doodling your breath counts – helps your problem-solving skills and orient you to the present. 

Ultimately, choosing to draw your breath’s consistency, duration, and speed before your next meeting instead of sending more emails, checking off one more item from the to-do’s, and getting another phone call in, is a choice to lead and run a business from a body-based practice. Even, courageously strategic. 

Drawing & Breathing Exercise
Carve out five minutes before one meeting this week to witness your breath. Grab a sticky note or scrap piece of paper, and your favorite pencil or pen. Below are some questions to ask. 

  1. Set your timer for five minutes. 
  2. Take four breaths. Notice the inhale, the slight pause after the inhale, the exhale, and the small hold after the exhale. 
  3. Grab your drawing instrument. 
  4. As you take an inhale, put the drawing instrument to the sticky note and let the breath guide how the pen moves. Is the breath’s consistency constricted or expansive? Big or tiny? Fast or slow? Somewhere in between?
  5. Keep it going for four breaths. 
  6. Put the drawing instrument down and take it in as your bring awareness to the breath again for four cycles. What did you notice? 

Slowing down before a meeting is something that often gets lost in the urgency of creating and innovating. Let this post remind you to intentionally set time before your next meeting to gauge what your breath wants to communicate to you about your workday. Also, by breathing to pause, you move into your meeting with more alignment of what your intention is and surrender to collaborative possibility to propel your mission and vision. 




Interested in nourishing a breathing culture at your organization or in your business? 

Slo Breathworks is building breathing cultures at workplaces through lunch and long exhales as well as offers conscious breathing packages. 

This April and May, Slo Breathworks is conducting industry research to understand how breath becomes a pillar in workplace wellbeing to create an assessment for companies to take to grow a breathing culture. If you are in HR or DEIB, it would be great to get your perspective. Learn more

If you want to try your hand at visualizing and doodling your breath, sign up for Slo Breathworks’ two part workshop in May. 

Email Sarah Hutcherson, owner and educator, and connect with Slo Breathworks on social (as long as it feels breathgiving). 

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