dozing off at meeting

FACT: 1 in 5 people are prone to dozing off in a meeting.

When I started writing this article, I questioned whether this should be about sleep or the art and science of focus and then it dawned on me… why not simply provide you with what I believe are the best tips, hacks, tactics, strategies or basic concepts to keep you engaged during those long meetings and ensure you keep your attention, reputation and of course your job.

We all know how important sleep is especially when it comes to our level of productivity but what happens if you got your sleep and still find yourself fighting off the urge to doodle the next great masterpiece, or somehow think you are cloaked in invisibility like Harry Potter and can check your email while no one sees you?

At some point in your life, there will come a time where you find yourself sitting in a meeting wondering why you were invited. Scratching your head – thinking that there are at least a hundred other things you could be doing at that time which would provide you more joy and “potential” productivity. I say potential because although we are quick to assume our presence is not needed or warranted in that meeting, the reality is that sometimes we don’t have the luxury to choose.

In a recent study, more than 89 percent of people polled admitted to daydreaming during meetings, and more than a third even fell asleep. 

In the event you are held captive and cannot escape the lack of agenda, direction, intentionality and/or overall purpose of the meeting, there are some things you can do to ensure your time is spent adding value versus subtracting minutes off your life.

(In no particular order)

  • Front and center. Make sure you sit in the front, closest to the speaker/presenter. By putting yourself face forward, you are allowing everyone else to see you. This tactic alone should ensure you pay close attention and stay awake. No one wants to be the punch-line in the office place. Think of it as your own personal VIP section.
  • Participate and ask questions. If you are told to hold on to your questions until afterwards, then just write them down as they come to you and save them for later. Just make sure your question(s) will move the conversation forward, not backwards.
  • Ask to take meeting notes. This will require you to stay focused and hold you accountable to someone else other than yourself. Just make sure you can indeed keep up with the speaker and take copious notes. You can always discuss with the presenter upfront any important data points you should make sure to listen for.
  • Focus on the one who is speaking/presenting. This may sound like a no brainer but our brains are processing billions of information at a moments time and taking a pause to re-focus your listening is sometimes needed to reset your presence. When you realize you have wandered off to your happy place, focus on something the speaker is wearing versus what they are saying as that may be an easier access point to regaining your focus. 
  • Create a masterpiece. Doodling can actually be productive. If you find yourself wandering, take a moment to jot down whatever is in your head. If it’s errands, to-do’s, an email you have to write – make and take note and get back to center. If it’s not in your head, you won’t have to worry. 
  • Sit up and don’t slouch. Seriously, slouching will obstruct the way in which you breathe and the lack of oxygen to your brain (and overall body) can inhibit your ability to focus. Who knows, maybe you will leave a few centimeters taller.
  • Biological Break. If necessary, get up to use the restroom. Sometimes the simple act of changing your environment can infuse some much needed energy. Just make sure to come back.
  • Fuel up. Skip the coffee or energy drink to ensure you don’t crash or get antsy in your seat if it’s a long meeting. Almonds (or a protein bar) are by far the easiest and most powerful little snacks to power you through the day and meeting. Make sure your stomach is full and look for a healthy amount of protein before the meeting. The best part about an almond is that they require almost no chewing so you won’t have to worry about making a lot of noise and annoying others.

Perception is everything. In the end, you can always ask (ahead of time) if your attendance is actually required as this may be the simplest solution to your upcoming meeting.