Are we there yet? A meeting survival guide

A couple years back, we brought you the term “faux page,” the art (you might say) of setting up a false page in order to exit a meeting early. Mind you, we weren't suggesting anyone try what we're sure is a completely mythical idea. But if such a thing ever crossed your mind during a meeting, perhaps it's worth looking at some meeting survival advice Mayo Clinic's own Amit Sood, M.D., offered in a recent article in U.S. News and World Report.

meetingbored760According to the authors, “Long meetings can sometimes feel less like work and more like workouts -- exhausting endurance tests during which you’re expected to contribute and learn.”

Dr. Sood, author of The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, tells U.S. News that after a while, that learning and contributing becomes difficult. “After about an hour and a half of focusing, our brain gets depleted and starts making errors and may get irritable,” Dr. Sood says. So, what’s a brain-depleted meeting attendee to do? Well, for starters, try these ideas:

  • Break things up. Short breaks can offer some "much needed rejuvenation," according to Dr. Sood. But he advises, don't use them to catch up on email. Instead, stand up, chat with your neighbor, or perhaps try one of these Mayo-approved office stretches.
  • Look for novelty. Dr. Sood advises reframing your perspective by shifting the focus to say, the color of the presenter’s eyes. (Some of us may do better by focusing on the color of the presenter's shoes.) “The moment it takes to reframe the topic or person can be just the push you need to find focus," he says. "When you’re in meetings, you have to find people interesting and enjoyable … Otherwise, it will be torture.” (Truer words may never have been spoken.)
  • Stay on point. “Think back to the meaning of the meeting, and ask, ‘Why am I doing this?'” advises Dr. Sood. “When you find your attention is wavering, bring the purpose of the end user in front of your eyes." Keeping that focus may lead you to consider being there “a privilege rather than a duty.”
  • Get back to basics. Leave that smartphone where it belongs and engage in the meeting, even if it is something as simple as taking notes.
  • Snack and hydrate. Needless to say, we are on top of this one. Of course, Dr. Sood advises that the snacks be healthy fruits and such. (We probably take a few liberties with "and such.")

We have our own special way of handling meetings here at In the Loop, none of which should be widely adopted. So if you happen upon one of our meetings, don’t be surprised to see us trying one of the following:

  • Play musical chairs with each new agenda item.
  • Play the song “This Girl is On Fire” each time a team member has a new idea.
  • Start the meeting with a brief period of watching paint dry to provide proper perspective.
  • Adopt exaggerated accents for each Mayo Clinic location you're discussing.
  • Use the Pictionary approach to illustrate new ideas.
  • Settle disputes by way of laser tag.
  • Assign a walk-up song for each presenter (like they do in baseball).
  • Click your heels and transport yourself to a sunny locale.

Share your own meeting survival tips with a comment below.