A Mindful Way to Organize Workshop

I felt out of the woods when the workshop was over yesterday. In retrospect, it was a unique, fruitful and mindful mental experience. At this stage of my PhD, I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to head the organization, which means I almost had the carte blanche to organize the workshop and lead the team. We had a group of 6 people from three institutes where I am the only person without getting a PhD degree yet. This is not a mental hint, but a fact that I felt nothing.

The mindfulness played a central role in organizing this workshop. Being entirely in charge of everything needs an enormous amount of mental efforts and being mindful has helped me reach a peaceful state to cope with this stuff.

A Mindmap for my workshop organisation

This critical points in mindfulness that have helped me in this organization involve trust, patience, positiveness, and openness.

TRUST

I trust everyone in the team, which means I believe what everyone has done has led to the best result. Therefore I don’t need to take care of any further detail, and I just use the result directly without any doubt.

PATIENCE

I never expect the full or immediate focus from anyone else on the tasks from the beginning, and since I trust everyone fully, I just need to patience to get the result. As I observe, everyone is conscientious and busy with all kinds of things, rushing other people will only backfire in this situation. During the organization, I just allocated a little more time for each task and then waited; this was also a patience practice for me: I let go of the unnecessary focuses,and I believe that things cannot happen in one go but take time to unfold naturally.

POSITIVENESS

humans are humans, during the collaboration, the difficult emotions are unavoidable when facing the arguments, perspectives, and personalities. As a team leader, I need to maintain a good vibe within the team, which is key to good and effective communication. We had a regular committee meeting every two weeks during the organization period, one or two days before the meeting, I sent out an email that summarized what had been done and what would be discussed in a friendly, open and encouraging tone. During the video meeting, I had to control the tempo of the conversation and avoid unnecessary arguments; whenever I felt something wrong was happening, I just butted in and tried to soothe the emotions. I was happy because it really worked and everyone had stayed positive at least until the workshop was finished.

OPENNESS

during the collaboration, arguments and conflicts are also avoidable, but most of them are perspective stuff; it seems to be easy for people to get stuck in perspectives. Since it also leads to a similar result, I usually make a compromise and keep things moving on. If that is not possible, I will explain carefully and patiently to make an agreement happen. Being open to different perspectives is really useful in reducing unnecessary resistance and obstruction.

Four dimensions I heeded in the organization

If I regard each point above as a dimension, no single aspect makes things work, instead, the balance of the dimensions is the key. I have many moments to make a decision, at each of which it is easy to get stuck in detail and perspectives. Then balance comes into play: I have to stop gripping these stuff, be decisive and be not so self-conscious since there are no really wrong things here.

Being mindful kept me calm during the whole process and helped manage my stress on a proper level all through the organization.

In the end, I am happy everything was going well, and the workshop was finished. I am so grateful to everyone for the help in the organization, and I am also thankful for being lucky to have such an experience.

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Chao (Cico) Zhang
PhD Candidate of Bioinformatics