The late afternoon wall--we all know it far too well. Once we hit that wall, our creativity starts to diminish, and that can negatively impact the outcome of important meetings. Busy days can drain your productivity and impact your creativity, which in turn affects your ideas, contributions, and influence.

Creativity is seen by most as a left-brain vs right-brain function, because that's what made news years ago and created a wave of identification around one's dominant "brain hemisphere." This left-brain/right-brain division is increasingly considered to be incorrect by the scientific community. Watch a group of preschoolers play to understand that everyone is creative in their own way. Over time, however, we may develop blocks around our belief in our own creative powers. Add a stressful day to a limiting self-belief and you will be useless in a meeting that requires creativity/problem-solving.

To help avoid this, start taking three to five minutes at the beginning of appropriate meetings to fire up the creative juices and energy levels with an exercise or game. This can help shift focus away from work-related stressors and activate the part of the brain that boosts a  problem-solving, creative mindset. Here are three examples to get you started: 

The Positivity/Update Exercise 

Some days are simply better than others.  Unfortunately, having a particularly negative or stressful day (or week) will affect your impact in a meeting by preventing you from being a fully-present contributor. 

Take three-five minutes at the beginning of the meeting and check-in with the team. Explain that the purpose of this check-in is for the team to share anything they are currently battling which may affect their performance or ability to be fully present. For example, should someone be dealing with a challenging issue in their personal life (such as a sick relative, or a family conflict) their "normal" personality will seem off and they may not contribute to the meeting as expected. 

Alternatively, try the positivity exercise. Go around the table and ask each person to share the most positive aspect of their day. Similar to an ice breaker, this can help relieve stress or energize the group. This can help the team focus on the positive aspects of their work, and will help set the tone for a more productive meeting. This exercise is simple, but very effective! 

The 3-Minute Circle Exercise 

Created by the leaders at IDEO, this three-minute exercise was designed to spark creativity and open up your mind to boost productivity. The instructions are simple: download the worksheet here, and print out the copies you need. Ask everyone to bring a pen or pencil and set a timer to three minutes. The goal is to fill in as many circles as you can in three minutes. There are no rules! Draw inside the circle, or think outside the circle. Draw recognizable objects and patterns or unique expressions. This isn't a competition to see how many circles someone filled in versus others; it's simply an easy and effective way to get your creative juices flowing. 

The Mindful Artist 

This activity challenges the group to think differently. Place an object in the middle of the table, and provide everyone with pens and paper. Set your timer for three to five minutes. Instruct everyone to draw the object on the table, but here's the kicker: you are NOT allowed to look at your hand or paper the entire three to five minutes. This exercise encourages you to activate the creative part of your mind while temporarily removing the punishing reconciliation of what you see your hand creating on paper. 

Above all, keep in mind that productivity and creativity start at the source. These exercises can help, but it's important to investigate any chronic blocks in certain meetings. Hold quarterly check-ins to encourage the team to speak up about any pain points standing in the way of achieving the purpose of the meeting. How can the meeting be improved? Reexploring the mission of the meeting and giving team members a voice to call out any hurdles or concerns can boost productivity levels. 

These exercises can make a big difference in attitude and insight in a meeting where creativity and problem solving are key Try a few of these exercises to get your team in the groove of resetting their minds to make meetings more productive, then find a few more to keep it fresh. Your team will thank you.