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The Temptation To Multitask

As I write today, I am sitting at a resort in Colorado Springs (The Broadmoor) for a global board meeting of the International Women’s Forum.  The view is spectacular.


Our two days of board meetings are 3 ½ hours long (from 12 – 3:30 p.m. each day). That’s a long time to be sitting at a table, listening to speakers and presentations. Plus, some of our global board members could not make the trip, so we have at least 6 people joining us via Zoom. Even though the organizers of the meeting published all the background information in advance (with a perfectly timed agenda), it is still tempting look at my phone during the meeting.

So, this is the commitment I made to myself before the first meeting started: do not give into the temptation. I was committed to being fully present during the board meeting without checking my devices. And, thankfully, on the pre-printed agenda were breaks where I could check my notifications.

It made me think – what other places and times do I have that same challenge of being present and attempting to multitask?  It is well-known that it is almost impossible to do two things WELL at the same time (think about those people who text while driving or walking).

Well, the obvious answer is during Zoom calls/meetings. If you are in business, or belong to an organization that uses Zoom, I’m guessing if the conversation topic or speaker is not exciting, you might turn off your camera so people can’t see you checking your email or your phone. So how does one make meetings – Zoom or in-person – super interesting and engaging?  I have a few ideas about this:

  • Have a written agenda for every meeting. Make sure it is clear to everyone who is invited what the intended outcome is vs. allowing a free for all of socializing or random topics. And send the meeting agenda in advance.
  • Schedule meetings for the least amount of time needed. Those of us who use Outlook know the default for a meeting is usually 60 minutes. Does the meeting really need to be an hour? How about allocating the most minimal amount of time that you think the meeting could be, maybe for 25 minutes, 40 minutes, or even 15 minutes. I’m guessing participants will sense the meeting will be very focused so they will be more engaged.
  • Think carefully of who needs to be at the meeting. There is so much FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) or guilt, that we often times invite way too many people to a meeting just to keep people informed. Try inviting 6 people or less to the meeting (I have found the perfect size group is 6) and send out notes to anyone else who needs to know what was decided.
  • On Zoom, I usually request that everyone have their camera on. Isn’t that the point of Zoom rather than a conference call?

Truth be told, my blogpost today was inspired by an email I received early this morning.  Just as I was thinking about how to stay present during my board meeting, a dear friend and speaker, Colette Carlson posted this article today on strategies for an impactful virtual meeting.

And, if you really want to score big with your coworkers, try ending a meeting early and give them the gift of a few extra minutes on their calendar.  I’ve found this is a sure way to score points.


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