What to do in boring meetings and courses

In this post, I would share on how I survive boring and meaningless corporate meetings and courses that I was sent to. When I was still in the corporate world, I would get very restless and agitated when I find myself attending a project or launch meeting that was totally unnecessary. Or sometimes when I am sent to a course where the instructor literally bored the daylights out of me.

Please note that I would NOT recommend those methods below for critical meetings or those who are still new and learning on the job, least they may end up upsetting their bosses or key persons in the meetings.

Meetings were something that I really dislike going. But on the things I do, I’ve worked in the company long enough to know what I needed to know and what are fluff that are just a waste of my time. If it is something that concerns my department, I would be all ears and paying attention.

In boring meetings, we cannot just whip out our mobile phones and use them as it would be downright rude. Hence I have came out with things to do during these meetings.

Tongue in cheek things I did during boring meetings and courses:

1. Planning, transferring and organizing my job tasks

When I was working, I organize my tasks via a physical work diary. It was just a simple planning system that worked for me. The diary I had was a dated diary based on the calendar year. What I do is I would write out tasks for each day in the diary and check it first thing in the morning, during workday and update it at the end of each day before I leave. I would strike off finished tasks.

How about tasks that could not be finished? It would be overwhelming to keep flipping through the book to go back to an entry months or weeks ago. What I would do is that I would actually look through these tasks on a periodical basis and transfer unfinished non urgent tasks to a forward date, usually on Saturday and Sunday entry dates. That would enable me to clear the week and month.

For example, let’s say today is Monday, 24 April. I would have entries dated prior to 24 April in my diary, some that I have completed, and some not. I would go through the past entries and transfer non urgent tasks to entry dated 29 April (Saturday) and 30 April (Sunday). Because I do not work on weekends hence there would not be urgent tasks scheduled on a weekend. After transferring these tasks, I would mark off the day as done- I would usually put the word “ok” on the top right corner of the page. By doing this, I know I do not need to go back to the the prior dates as all my tasks have been transferred.

I know this method is quite manual and time consuming but I’ve implemented this for few years and it worked for me. I’ve tried digital and online planning but got overwhelmed with notifications, reminders and overlooked tasks.

But how to find time to do the transfers?

Enter boring meetings. Sometimes it is not during the meetings but the wait….when people are waiting for everyone to arrive. The wasted time where we have a lot of work waiting for us in the office but we are stuck there not able to leave.

My work diary follows me to these meetings. The moment I realized the meeting is unproductive for me, I would open up and then started using it to transfer tasks. It is actually quite discreet because I would be looking at the presenter and speaker, while seemingly writing on my book. It does not look rude and I get my things done.

I would sit through the meeting without feeling I’ve completely wasted my time because I got my tasks organized.

2. Practice writing with my other hand

I am a left hander. But I also try to learn to write with my right hand. Usually, boring meetings give me the opportunity to practice writing with my right hand.

The tip is to write “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”…. as this sentence contains all the alphabets from A to Z in the English language. Sometimes I may also be writing something I hear the speaker say using my right hand.

These is one of the areas where the compounded effect can be seen. Through the years of attending these meetings, I am able to write with my right hand if really necessary because of the practice I was getting.

3. Doodling

This is a bit hard to pull off unless you are sitting in a corner where no one could see what you are writing or drawing. Or if the ones sitting next to you on both side are your colleagues and they have got your back. Else, it is not recommended.

But sometimes, I find it necessary to do so because unless the meeting is really relevant, I really cannot sit still. I am not good in art but I would draw patterns usually like flower petals just to keep myself sane.

The above are just some of the silly stuff I used to do to keep myself sane during meetings that are non relevant to my role. Of course, if the meeting is really relevant, I would be paying close attention, engage in a discussion and jotting down points the presenter said, aka hyperfocus mode.

I have left the corporate world to be a full time caregiver. It is quite different now. I no longer find myself getting agitated and restless during idle times as I have trained myself to try to maintain mindfulness to be aware of my feelings and sensations. That itself is usually enough to take the restlessness away. As now I need not worry about offending anyone, I can just whip out my phone to check on things or open my laptop to work on content, like this article.

Still, yeah, I thought of writing this article because I was one of those who find it completely hard to survive in boring meetings. If you are like me, hope you some of what I did above would give you an idea. Some of it also work when you have an appointment with someone and they are late.


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