How to Stay Awake during a Boring Meeting

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Some people consider “boring meetings” to be redundant. Even interesting meetings sometimes become snooze inducing. So what can software professionals do to stay awake (legally, that is)?

Some people rely on coffee. However, according to PsychCentral, research shows that although infrequent coffee drinkers may get a boost from coffee, the lift that regular coffee drinkers feel is actually just their bodies returning to a normal state. In other words, that oh-so-good feeling is just the relief from withdrawal symptoms that developed overnight. Still, if it works…

In addition to conventional staying-awake tips such as participating and taking notes, WikiHow recommends fidgeting under the table to keep the blood flowing. Or peeling an orange. Or bringing something to work on during the meeting (a tip few meeting holders will appreciate).

Contributors to suggest avoiding meetings between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., since this is when many people experience a slump in energy. Eat light if you have to meet during these hours. Actually, it’s a good idea to avoid a heavy meal before a meeting—no matter what time it is.

Tips from Excelle include cranking up the air conditioning to avoid a warm, stuffy environment; splashing water on your face (presumably before the meeting); or drinking an ice-cold glass of water.  

The Daily Muse suggests you do something to make yourself uncomfortable—such as standing up in the back of the room or sitting on an exercise ball—to keep your body active and help your mind stay alert.

Bite Size Ideas recommends having an attention buddy so you can keep each other awake.

And let us not forget doodling. Margaret Heffernan, writing in CBS Money Watch, describes research in which doodling subjects retained 29 percent more information than those who sat through a meeting unoccupied. Heffernan comments that this research “confirms what I want to believe about myself—that I'm not secretly trying to 'be' somewhere else when I'm stuck in a meeting, and that I'm being more, not less, attentive.”

Or try this: Create a five-by-five grid on a piece of paper. In each cell, write a jargon word or phrase, such as synergy, value-added, results-driven, empowerment, leverage, touch base, etc., being sure to include ones that represent the overused jargon in your workplace. Then (yes, you got it!), as one of the words or phrases is used during the meeting, cross it off. When you have five cells crossed off vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, stand up and shout “#‘@$*%^.” This last step is, of course, optional.

You won’t be surprised to learn that this “game” is posted on numerous websites, such as this one and this one and this one

By the way, these tips may also be helpful if you’re trapped in a presentation or conference call. Not that they’re ever boring...

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Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a writer and speaker who draws from her background in both psychology and IT. Naomi's recent books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions and Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. Naomi is a regular columnist for