murray nossel leading an online storytelling workshop

Creating a Dedicated Time and Space

At Narativ, before we begin the process of excavating, crafting and presenting our stories in a workshop, we create what we call “a dedicated time and space.” Creating a dedicated time and space is an act of intention. Besides endowing the workshop with a principle of safety alongside respect for individual voices, it allows participants to focus on listening to others and listening to ourselves. We apply the same principle to our meetings at Narativ. And, because we run online workshops, we’ve also adapted the notion of a dedicated time and space for virtual meetings.

The coronavirus epidemic has greatly impacted how many of us are working from home and engaging in more online meetings. Therefore we felt it would be important to share our guidelines for creating a dedicated time and space on a computer. How do we remain attentive and engaged when we meet online? How do we imbue the “space” of our computer with a sense of respectfulness and value? This post addresses those questions.

Obstacles to listening

What normally prevents us from listening fully and completely? Obstacles—what we call, “obstacles to listening.” The container created by the notion of a dedicated time and space gives those obstacles an exit, so that we can focus on the storytelling, or in this case, the topic of the meeting.

At Narativ, obstacles to listening fall into a number of different categories, which you can read about in Murray Nossel’s guide to our methodology, Powered by Storytelling. Here, we will touch on those obstacles that pertain to meeting online, which means for most folks looking at and listening to others on our personal / work computers. We want to address and release these obstacles before our meeting so that we can listen fully and completely.

Working from home: your computer is a space

It is a different experience to listen via video chat than to listen in person. Your computer is home to your emails, photos, music, etc. It requires extra focus to remain engaged when you are staring at a computer screen due to the number of distractions it may provide. Additionally, because we are all in separate physical locations, each individual may be experiencing different distractions than other members in the group.

How do we bring this all into focus? When we identify the unique obstacles presented by using Zoom, Skype, Discord or other platforms and then put them aside, we fashion the computer as a space with a boundary that holds our attention. We separate it out from the rest of our day and other work we might be doing.

With this principle in mind, a meeting becomes an opportunity to examine how you engage with communication through technology and how you can be more present. Your goal is to still reap fully the benefits of engaging with your colleagues, albeit remotely.

Below you will find a checklist of recommended actions and practices that can help you create a dedicated time and space on your computer. We ask that you read through these items prior to your next meeting and spend some time creating a space for yourself. Afterward, if you have improvements or questions, please comment below.

Dedicated Time & Space Checklist

  • Create dedicated time: make sure that you get to your computer with enough time to set up your space, sign on to the Zoom call, Google Hangout, or whatever system your company uses, and prepare any materials you need to engage in the workshop
  • Silence your electronic devices and put them away for the duration of the workshop
  • Minimize or close all windows and applications on your computer except for the meeting window
  • Turn off notifications and pop-ups on your computer such as calendar reminders, email and chat notifications, etc.
  • Make a commitment to not look at other windows or the Internet
  • Commit to sit through the boredom or agitation that occasionally arises
  • If your internet connection drops or if there is a feed delay, don’t stress, work out what you have to and join back in when you can
  • What will we see when we see you? Choose a place with something in the background that reflects who you are
  • Choose a private space. Close doors if possible and eliminate external noises that the group will be able to hear in your background
  • Try to find a light source on your face instead of sitting in a backlit area so the group can see you
  • Many of us are sharing space with our families or roommates, so let them know about the meeting and ask to not be interrupted during your dedicated time
  • Take care of food, drink, and any nourishment that you need; go to the bathroom beforehand
  • Finally, enjoy yourself. The time you spend with your colleagues is valuable. Appreciate that technology makes this possible