How to be present in meetings: conquering the knowing-doing gap

how to be truly present in meetings

To anyone who finds themselves in endless meetings, not really paying attention – there is hope! But the solution is not as easy as you might think.


The knowing-doing gap strikes again

The knowing-doing gap is hard to overcome. If it weren’t, we would all be hitting the gym regularly and socking away money for retirement. Research shows poor performance on both exercise and saving.

In my last post, I wrote about wanting to practice more gratitude, and not actually executing on it. Another example of the knowing–doing gap.

The gap shows up at work when:

  • I believe multi-tasking isn’t effective, yet check emails during a meeting
  • I know it’s good to take a break for a real lunch, and find myself eating at my desk for the third time this week
  • I need recovery time after travel, yet have a full day of meetings plus an evening event after getting home at 10pm the night before


We fail when emotion and environment trump reason

Human behavior is driven by thoughts, emotions and environment. If you want to change, the first step is understanding the disconnect. The knowing-doing gap means that your head is on board, but your heart might not be.

When I’m multi-tasking in a meeting – my head knows it won’t help my productivity. But my emotions pull in the opposite direction. I’m overwhelmed by unanswered messages, and each response gives me a little boost of satisfaction.

And, when we bring the environment into the picture, I have my laptop right in front of me and it is just so easy to take a peek into that inbox.

Emotion and environment can trump reason and limit our ability to change.


You can conquer the knowing-doing gap

To bridge the gap, address the root cause. In my example, I could address the overwhelm that I’m feeling about my email. And, I could create a less tempting environment by not bringing my laptop in the first place.

The solution won’t be the same for everyone, because the underlying reasons are unique. The important thing is to reflect and understand your own triggers.


Let the experiments begin!

Once you know your limiting factor, you can test different practices.

Experiments I could run:

  • Scrutinize my calendar and decline anything non-critical on Monday morning, attend only meetings I’ve deemed very high-priority
  • Leave the laptop at my desk when attending meetings to curb temptation
  • Close email for a two hours in the morning to see what happens when I am less reachable

Experiment small, don’t expect to solve the gap in your first go. Try something for a few weeks and record what happens. Then try something else, or build on what is working.

In time, you will have a new habit that supports the behavior you want.


changing behavior patterns is possible