7 Ways to Stay Focused on those never-ending Zoom Meetings!

October 12, 2020
Image: @sarah.eflint

One way of thinking about multi-tasking is by comparing our brain to a computer with too many tabs open. Whenever we feel like our laptop or phone are glitching, what’s the first thing we all do? We close all the tabs that we aren’t using. We swipe away on all the apps that are draining the life out of our device. Cross our fingers and hope that the speed of processing will improve. Well, our brains are not too dissimilar to technology in that way in that we simply aren’t good at multi-tasking and just end up being slow and listless at multiple tasks at once.  

So today’s blog is all about focusing on one task at a time, namely Zoom Meetings! Let’s dive in:

Before the meeting

1) Set up your space. Remember when mum used to tell you to clean your room, because a clear desk equates to a clear mind? Yeah, we are going to tell you the same thing – ensure that you are in a clear and organized physical environment. Have a clear desk in front of you, removing your empty coffee mug off the table, hiding those unpaid bills and clearing a stack of old meeting notes.

Same goes for your Virtual space, such as your computer screen, close all the unnecessary tabs, turn off the notifications on your computer, put your phone on airplane mode, and put it away. I would even recommend going as far as setting up Downtime in your Screentime Settings for all important virtual meetings.

2) Go through the agenda.Make sure you understand what the meeting is about, what the organizers hope to achieve and have a quick think about what you can contribute to the discussion, before everyone else’s ideas sweep you away. If you have an agenda of your own, look for spots where it would be most relevant to bring up and jot it down.

During the meeting

3) Take noteson PAPER. Taking notes gives you a task - if actively listening is too vague an idea for many, taking notes is something we all have been doing since school. It’s a tool that helps you filter the information for core concepts and outstanding ideas. Using the old school pen and paper means that you are not switching between your Zoom meeting and your word document, all the meanwhile being tempted to click on safari to check on that latest sale on the Iconic. Pen and paper also slows you down, meaning you are not just blindly typing everything you hear, but naturally culling the content of the meeting down to the most significant ideas. Your notes can be simple, just key words, or the flow of someone’s proposal. In the end, the point is to help you focus and be present, rather than to type up minutes for the meeting - I am sure that is someone else’s job, unless it’s yours?

The other plus to taking notes, is that if you want to raise a point - jot it down. That way you aren’t worried about holding on to your thoughts until your turn comes. Instead, you can continue taking in what others are saying, for there is no fear of forgetting what you have thought of.

4) Have a que to re-focus. Our minds wonder, and it’s absolutely natural. Sherry Turkle explains that once three people are actively participating in conversation we feel like we can slip away. But I would like to encourage you to lean in, to take a seat at the table, and become actively aware of what topics in the meetings give you a reason to zone out. One way of doing that is having a simple que that reminds you to focus, such as the color of someone’s shirt, the name of the account you are all discussing, or every time Paul, the PA, clears his throat. These little clues can be your reminders to bring your attention back to the present, and re-engage in the meeting.

5) Turn on your video. Get comfortable with being on video, if you are on audio and it’s not your turn to be actively involved, it’s easy to get up and do something different, but if you are on video, you have to look interested and engaged. Hello accountability!

Has anyone ever told you that smiling on its own releases endorphins, even if you are feeling absolutely rubbish? Well, I’d like to think that it’s kind of like smiling, simply nodding your head and actively ‘pretending’ to be involved can trigger you to feel more involved, to become more focused and be a part of the conversation. Someone might even call on you to contribute your opinion if you look engaged and enthusiastic.

6) Practice active listening. Of course, be an active listener: don’t interrupt, don’t pre-empt, don’t spend the whole time thinking of what you are going to say back (jot it down instead), and start off your response by clarifying and recapping what the other person said. This ensures that they will feel heard, and won’t feel the need to interrupt you and to repeat their own point of view, improving team-work and efficiency of the meeting.

After the meeting

7)   Ask questions. If things are feeling unclear to you after the meeting, and you are scratching your head as to why you just spent half an hour brainstorming on how to solve an issue that you didn’t even realize was an issue in the first place, write an e-mail asking the question and seeking clarification, either from the meetings organizer or someone else you feel comfortable asking for help. This ensures that you are better informed for the next meeting, that you get the most out of each meeting and that you have an opportunity to e-mail any pointers you might think of later. I know it might seem counter-intuitive to admit that you didn’t fully understand something, but it’s truly a positive way to stand out, it demonstrates that you paid attention, that you care and that you are engaging in the subject matter.

In the words of Seth Godin - “Multi-tasking isn’t productive, respectful or healthy,” so guys and gals, clean up those desks and take out a notebook for your next Zoom meeting. But of course, if none of these tips are doing the trick for you, just grab a Nook for your living room and enjoy a place where you can Hide & Speak and be distraction free!

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