Let’s face it, meetings can be boring sometimes, but you’re supposed to be paying attention, right? Here are some useful tips to help you stay sharp when the meeting seems to be droning on forever.
Leave Your Smartphone Behind
The first thing you’re apt to do when you start drifting and getting fidgety is to reach for your trusty smartphone. Maybe sneak on and check Facebook, do some surreptitious emailing, and the like. Barring that, if the volume’s turned off, you can have a go at Angry Birds, or Clash of Clans, or whatever your obsession of the moment is. Resist the temptation. Just leave the smartphone in your desk, or if you feel you must have it with you, keep it in your pocket.
Low Level Distractions
That’s not to say that having something else to do is a bad thing. Some people actually concentrate better when they’re multitasking because it invigorates and challenges the brain. One invaluable trick I learned early in my career was the power of the doodle. My former boss would always bring a notepad with him to meetings. Not a laptop, not a handheld, but an honest to goodness notepad. He’d use it to take handwritten notes in the meeting to keep himself sharp. By having to focus on writing down what was being said, he paid more attention.
He would also flip to a new page and draw caricatures of the people in the meeting room during the segments of the meeting that he’d had a direct hand in, and therefore had no specific reason to take notes. It is a habit I use to this very day. I never enter a meeting without a legal pad and a pen. My drawing skills aren’t what his were, but I’m getting better, and I never lose focus.
Sit With Your Back To The Window
The same thinking that applied to leaving your smartphone in your pocket also applies here. If you’re facing the window, you’ll be inclined to look out. Take in the skyline, maybe do a little cloud sculpting, and before you know it, your mind is wandering.
Don’t Read Ahead
When you get the agenda for the meeting, don’t read ahead. If you do, your mind will begin to wander ahead of the meeting and you’ll be mentally filling in the gaps and racing through the meeting, rather than focusing on the current segment.
Come Mentally Prepared
Probably the biggest thing you can do for yourself in terms of focus is to go into the meeting fully prepared for the prospect of it being dull in places. Forewarned is forearmed. If you know ahead of time, you can grab that extra cup of coffee or down a five hour energy drink and steel yourself for what lies ahead.
Keep An Open Mind
Don’t go into the meeting assuming it’s all going to be Snoozapalooza. There’s no better way to lose focus than to go into the thing with the thinking that it’ll be boring, because then it probably will be. Try to keep an open mind. Try to find something of interest in what’s being discussed. Some angle that seems innovative that can keep your mind busy.
Meetings can be dull, that’s true, and sometimes there’s no escaping that. You can, however, minimize the agony of the dull points with a bit of forethought and planning.