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20 Mar

Get away from yourself while having phone meetings


Datum: 2017-03-20 14:46

Phone meet­ings and oth­er remote meet­ings with­out a cam­era are cer­tain­ly not like oth­er meet­ings. There are a few of us who get togeth­er remote­ly and dis­cuss some­thing, but we can­not see each oth­er. One would think that it is prac­ti­cal and lib­er­at­ing some­how — we do not have to trav­el halfway across the coun­try and since it is obvi­ous to our col­leagues that we are in a phone meet­ing, no one will both­er us with those do you have a second?”-questions as we have to direct our full atten­tion on the ongo­ing meeting.

A good time for oth­er things too?
Or do we? No one can see that we are sit­ting in front of the com­put­er, so while one of the oth­er par­tic­i­pants tell the rest about the lat­est devel­op­ments in their area, we can mul­ti­task and answer a few emails simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. And next to us on the desk there is a pile of mate­ri­als we put there tem­porar­i­ly” since we were unable to deal with them the moment we were giv­en them by some­one. Our gaze wan­ders to the pile, and we begin flip­ping through it to see if there is some­thing there we need to deal with before the day is … What do you think, David?”, some­one from the meet­ing sud­den­ly says. Think? About what?

It occurs to us that we have not been fol­low­ing the dis­tant con­ver­sa­tion at all for the last cou­ple of min­utes, since we have actu­al­ly been busy doing oth­er things. Since we have no idea what we would be agree­ing to, we can’t just say Sure, that’s fine”, so we ask the per­son who had been talk­ing to repeat them­selves, and sud­den­ly the meet­ing will now take longer than it should have (or be a bit more stress­ful because the same infor­ma­tion still has to be processed but now in less time).

Remove your­self from cer­tain parts of yourself
When we are par­tic­i­pat­ing in a remote meet­ing, it is one thing to close the door to get away from oth­ers. But if you are just as good at dis­tract­ing your­self (like I am), you also need to get away from your­self so you can be ful­ly present in the meet­ing, so that it becomes effi­cient, you dis­cuss what you intend­ed to, and you even­tu­al­ly have more time for com­plet­ing oth­er tasks that need your focus and atten­tion today.

Do this
Here are some things you can do to decrease the risk of dis­tract­ing your­self dur­ing a phone meeting:

  • If you do not need your com­put­er dur­ing the meet­ing, put it away, shut it down or turn your back to it.

  • Even if the phone meet­ing is con­duct­ed via your smart­phone, you do not need to keep all its most tempt­ing apps in your field of view. Place it face down on the desk about an arm’s length from your seat, put it in your pock­et or place it on a seat next to you by the table you are sit­ting at.

  • If you have mate­ri­als on your com­put­er that you will need dur­ing the meet­ing, min­i­mize or close all oth­er pro­grams and win­dows, except for those rel­e­vant to the meet­ing. Set your noti­fi­ca­tions to do not dis­turb” (if there is such a set­ting on your phone), and turn off the noti­fi­ca­tions for emails (unless those were turned off long ago).

  • Sit down far away from any piles that might attract your atten­tion. If you have a lounge suite of some kind in your office (where there are no piles), this might be a good place to have a seat dur­ing the meet­ing. Per­haps you have small­er qui­et rooms” in your com­pa­ny into which you can retreat?

But remem­ber to keep a pen and paper close by in case you need to cap­ture and make note of sud­den ideas you get, even if they do not con­cern the meet­ing. If you ask me, pen and paper are the per­fect tools in this sit­u­a­tion. They are easy and quick to use, we can make notes freely with­out hav­ing to type any short-com­man­dos, they do not dis­tract us with noti­fi­ca­tions or help func­tions that pop up unso­licit­ed, and they are not locat­ed next to a whole bunch of oth­er apps that will com­pete for our attention.

If you want to, you can scan the notes with your mobile phone when the meet­ing is over, process poten­tial to-do-tasks from the notes and save the essence of what you wrote down in a dig­i­tal format.

Increase your focus, decrease the time you spend
If you remove the ele­ments you tend to dis­tract your­self with when you are in a phone meet­ing or oth­er remote meet­ings with­out video, you and your meet­ings with have more focus, and the impor­tant sub­ject of the meet­ing will get all the atten­tion it deserves. The meet­ings them­selves will be short­er, and you and the oth­er par­tic­i­pants will have more time and space for exe­cut­ing what you dis­cussed dur­ing the meet­ing. You also no longer have to have the uncom­fort­able expe­ri­ence of being caught dis­tract­ed and not listening.

What’s your best trick?
How do you ensure that your remote meet­ings are effi­cient and focused? The remote meet­ing is a real chal­lenge to a lot of peo­ple, so if you have any ideas, please feel free to share them. 

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