Meetings are an inevitable part of the job for many people, and sometimes you know you're going into a meeting that will drag on and on. How do you prepare yourself to be engaged and alert? Here are a few methods to survive those long-haul meetings.
First of all, bring a notebook, if even just so you doodle in it when you're not paying attention (but at least look like you're taking notes). And actually taking notes is a great idea to keep yourself engaged. If you're a more of a visual type of learner, you can draw diagrams to help you to get a better understanding of what's being said, as well as stay engaged and remember it better. Also, in said notebook, you can prepare some points and questions in advance -- things you would hope to talk about. Don't barge in, but wait and listen and watch to see if your points are covered, or to find the right moment to ask your questions. If you are actively seeking out that information, your mind is less likely to wander.
Even if you expect it to be a boring meeting, keep an open mind. Realise that you don't know everything. Welcome the opportunity to learn and improve on your weaknesses. A positive attitude will help you through most anything in life. It's a good start, anyway!
Being well rested and properly fed and of calm mind beforehand will help enormously as well. Get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Do a little exercise in the morning. Try some meditation if you have a lot of anxiety about it. Personally I sometimes do a little affirmation in my head before a big event or meeting if I'm nervous: "I'm willing to let go... I release all fear... all frustration... all (insert whatever you want here)... I let go... I'm at peace." Take a few deep breaths. (I know, it's cheesy new-agey stuff, but I find it really helps.)
As mentioned above, proper diet has a massive effect on your concentration level as well. When I've gone into meetings without eating properly, I couldn't concentrate on a single thing for more than a minute or so. What you eat directly affects your energy levels and although the positive effects of "brain food" are often exaggerated, the amount of glucose in your bloodstream can affect how well your brain works.
If you have any addictive bad habits (like relying on too much coffee, alcohol, smoking, etc.) that can put you in a state of withdrawal, it will really help you to rein those things in. Listen: I'm not judging! In my teens and early twenties I would drink coffee all day, and I would often smoke pot at night. I was convinced I "needed" those things. A little bit is fine here and there, but I was full-out addicted to coffee, and I would get crazy when I didn't get it! So sitting through anything long without my coffee fix was extremely painful, and even with it, I was jittery and had a hard time staying still. Eventually I got over it (I'm much more calm now! Although truth be told I do still drink a lot of tea. I'm half English -- probably can't be helped!)
I mentioned the weed too -- not because I ever used it during work hours, but because I did notice that the post-work or pre-sleep joint had a way of making me into a gremlin in the morning -- a kind of hangover effect. So if you know you're going to have a busy day in the morning, you should consider cutting back on your particular indulgence the night before. And drinking a lot of water can help too!
If all the above are in check and you are still having a hard time concentrating in those meetings, you might actually want to consider another line of work. Your life habits can make or break your ability to concentrate, but, personally, when I'm passionate about something, my energy and concentration are virtually endless. I know there are always going to be parts of your work that are less interesting than others, even if you really love what you do, and there will always be people who are less engaging to watch or listen to or communicate with, but if you are really passionate about what you're doing, you'll find a way to deal with the less appealing aspects.
If staying awake through those meetings is still a recurring problem for you, it might be time to do a little soul searching and find that thing that makes you care like crazy.
"What are some good tips and hacks for remaining engaged and focused during long meetings?" originally appeared on Quora. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
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