I wrote this post for Brazen Careerist in April 2013.
Ever been stuck in a seemingly unending meeting? At first it seems like the agenda is proceeding smoothly, but then somewhere halfway through your second bottle of water, you realize you haven’t been paying attention for 10 minutes or more. You panic for a moment, realize you didn’t actually miss anything and keep doodling.
More than 90 percent of people who took a Verizon poll admitted to daydreaming during meetings, and more than a third even dozed! If either of those behaviors sounds familiar to you, here are three tips to help you survive—and thrive—in boring office meetings:
1. Doodle productively
We’ve all witnessed a small masterpiece being doodled by someone on a conference call. And while that might be a shade more classy than writing your name over and over again, both still come off as immature. However, you can use your doodles for good!
Express your Gen Y tendencies throughout the meeting by drawing creatively, but keep it small and on-topic. For example, during the portion of the meeting about the upcoming expense report, doodle a spreadsheet with important names or symbols. Then, snap a photo and file for later. Discussing systems management? Illustrate your own computer network, including key company figures. Bonus points for accurate (and flattering) caricatures.
2. Refocus on the speaker
If you’re staring at your notes while you listen to someone drone on, work hard to reorient your focus on the person speaking. Note their hair, face and clothes and let yourself be distracted by the tiny details.
Focus on where they’ve come from, who they are. Remember that this is a real person. Whether or not what they’re saying is interesting to you, chances are they’ve worked hard on this presentation or speech or they believe strongly in what they are saying. At the very least, you’ll be practicing several characteristics of charismatic people.
3. Don’t take notes; take action notes
Finally, finish every meeting with a list of items for action. Too often, attendees end the meeting with a list of notes that looks like this:
- Edward will update the roster this week.
- Mark and Edna are on leave Monday and Tuesday for a business meeting.
What a snooze! This tone puts you in the position of a passive, disinterested reader. It’s human nature to be more interested in yourself and your own plans, so instead of boring notes about what other people are doing, give yourself a follow-up task list like the following:
- Next Monday: Email Edward to get the updated roster.
- Next Wednesday: Email Mark and Edna to follow up about their business meeting.
Not only will this give you a clear idea of what you need to do each day to follow up on the meeting, but you will also have pre-invested time in your to-do list.
If you still find yourself too bored to pay attention, you could be in the wrong industry. At the very least, evaluate your eating and sleeping schedule to make sure that your meeting naps aren’t the result of poor health habits.