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How to force yourself to focus during virtual meetings

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Yessi Bello Perez
Story by
Yessi Bello Perez

Senior Writer, Growth QuartersYessi leads the writing efforts at TNW’s Growth Quarters. Yessi leads the writing efforts at TNW’s Growth Quarters.

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If you’re struggling to stay focused during an online meeting whilst working from home, believe me when I tell you that you’re not alone.

I mean, people are even skipping Zoom meetings by looping videos of themselves paying attention.

I for one applaud this creativity, but if you have work to do and actually want to be an adult about it, here are some handy tips to help you stay focused during a virtual meeting.

Make it a video call (and keep it that way)

Always make it a video call.

If you’re working from home, a video call will force you to get dressed and deter you from getting distracted because you’ll be seen by everyone else attending the meeting. Peer pressure is a wonderfully effective tool.

[Read: 9 tips to perfect your ‘working from home’ morning routine]

On a separate note, video calls make it easier to keep track of what’s going on and who’s talking and actually engaging with what they’re saying.

Before the meeting starts, make sure you’re aware of the agenda and every participant knows who’s chairing the session.

Put your phone to one side

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but your smartphone or tablet have to go.

Leave them in another room, turn them off, put them on airplane mode, do whatever works for you but get rid of them.

If you don’t, you risk opening Instagram, checking your WhatsApp, going on Twitter, posting on Facebook … can you see where I’m going with this?

Cull open tabs

Before your meeting starts, make sure you close all unnecessary tabs — and yes, that includes your Inbox and WhatsApp Web.

If you don’t want to close your tabs, then open a completely different browser window while you’re in the meeting and make sure you stay put.

[Read: How to manage your inbox while working from home]

If you’re using more than one screen, switch off the one you don’t need to minimize potential distractions. No matter how good you think you are at multitasking, you simply can’t be productive in a meeting while reading James Blunt’s self-deprecating tweets.

Clear your desk

Tidy your workspace. The more clutter you have, the harder it will be for you to focus.

Get rid of all distractions: paper clips, pens, and every single bit of stationery that will lend itself to fidgeting.

If you can, consider joining the meeting from a different location that’s not your designated working space.

A change in scenery should help you feel a little refreshed and help you keep your attention levels up.

Use pen and paper

If you can, avoid typing on your computer whilst you are in the meeting. Taking notes on your computer means more windows open which can lead you down a distraction-filled rabbit hole. Also, there’s nothing more annoying than the sound of someone who forgot to mute their mic clacking away.

[Read: 7 tips for my fellow humans stuck working from home]

Instead, make sure you have pen and paper to hand to make any necessary notes. Or if you’re lucky to have a whiteboard, use that instead.

Use headphones

Now this might ruin your on-camera aesthetic, but if possible, use headphones, especially if they have noise-canceling functionality.

By doing so, you’ll create your own imaginary work zone and avoid getting distracted by external noise.

Eat beforehand and grab a drink

If you want to avoid your tummy rumbling during the meeting, make sure you grab a snack beforehand.

I’d also recommend you have a drink on hand, whether that be a coffee, water, or water.

Any tips we missed? If so tweet at us or let us know via email.

Published March 26, 2020 — 08:49 UTC