Dear Lifehacker, I have to sit through meetings every day. Some of them last for hours. They are boring. They are unnecessary. They are mandatory. By the time I'm done I've lost my will to work. What can I do to keep myself from dying a slow death at a conference table? Sincerely, Mundane Meeting Monkey
Photo by Bill Ward.
Getting stuck in regular meetings where you're expected to listen for hours is like being back in high school in a class you hate — only it's often longer. I used to work a job plagued with many long meetings, but a few things helped me make the situation better. Perhaps they'll work for you, too.
Find Ways to Speak
Meetings are particularly boring because you have nothing to do but listen. If you can find a way to participate, that can make a big difference. One of the best ways to do this (if there's not a specific task available to you) is to ask questions. If the leader of the meeting asks you to hold questions until the end of the meeting, you can always just write them down as they come to you and save them for later. Of course, if you're actually able to give input during the meeting you should attempt to contribute as much as possible. While that may cause the meeting to last slightly longer, at least you will have something to do while you're required to sit through it.
Photo by Alabama Social Media Association.
Draw (or Doodle)
I used to draw during every meeting. Some people find this rude, but I find people talking at me inefficiently for hours on end to be rude so it's kind of a fair trade. But in all seriousness, drawing is a good thing to do during a meeting because it can actually help you focus. If you're concerned about offending the meeting leader, it might help to talk to them in advance and let them know that drawing helps you focus and you'll be listening the entire time, but for the most post you shouldn't really have that problem. So long as you don't start drawing massive genitals or your boss' slow and steady disembowelment, drawing can be a healthy and easy way to pay attention and avoid boredom in a meeting.
Photo by Niels Heidenreich.
Talk to Your Boss or Manager to Change the Way Meetings Work
Perhaps it's a long shot, but if much of your day is taken up by meetings, and your time could be used more efficiently, it would stand to reason that your boss/manager would like to hear how that happens. Nobody actually likes meetings, but sometimes they're a necessary evil. That said, there are often ways you can create a meeting structure that doesn't take up a ton of time and suck the energy out of everyone involved.
The Scrum meeting rules, which are popular among development teams, are often a good place to start. Meetings are always short (generally 15 minutes) and always start on time. If you're late, too bad. Most of the time, only the core members of the team speak and everything has to be dealt with in the timeframe. This forces people to speak quickly and get their points across concisely. It leaves more time to work. While the exact rules won't always fit every team, slight modifications can make them work for most organisations. Whether you use Scrum as a model or not, coming up with a plan to effectively reduce meeting times is generally something everyone can get behind. Try to work with your boss/manager to do that, and chances are you won't have to worry about being bored at all.
Photo by Andrew Abogado.
P.S. Readers, if you've got any tips on how you like to stave off boredom during dull meetings, share your ideas in the comments!
Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.