On average the human brain can concentrate for 50 minutes on one task; however, this statistic isn’t true for everyone, some people can only hold focus for 20 minutes. It’s this limited attention span that can make long online lectures or meetings difficult, especially since you’re sitting at a computer screen without the energy of face-to-face interaction.
Since a person has between 20 to 50 minutes before they zone out, here are some tips for both the person conducting this online forum and for those struggling through it.
For the host:
- At the beginning of the call give people time to talk. It doesn’t have to be for more than five minutes, but a little pre-meeting chat (like before an in-person meeting) gives people a chance to settle in. It also starts the meeting on a high note, God knows we’re all desperate for a little social interaction.
- Explain the agenda: what issues will be discussed, questions that need to be answered, and the length of the meeting.
- Assign roles to keep people engaged. Have one person keep meeting minutes, another watch the time and a representative lead a portion of the discussion that relates to their department. Giving an employee a helpful task can increase their and the entire staff’s productivity.
For those in attendance:
- Pull your weight. I know it’s so easy to let your mind wander to what you’ll have for dinner tonight or catching up on a new Netflix shows, but you have to reel yourself back in. Is zoning out helping you as an employee? Is it helping the overall company, that relies on your contribution? Remind yourself that this meeting is important and your input is as well.
- Turn your notifications off. Since you’re already online, you’ve got your email, Facebook, text messages open. To open an email the second your computer alerts you is so instictual and will pull you away from this meeting. You can’t multitask a Zoom meeting. Pause your notifications and don’t check your other accounts until the call has come to an end. This helps you focus and is also a good idea for your regular workload- finish one thing before you move onto the next.
- Force yourself to be stay checked in. That means, if it’s a phone call you do not put yourself on mute, and if it’s a Zoom keep your camera on. Once you hit that button the temptation to start working on something else or scroll through social media is going to win. Next thing you know, your boss has repeated your name twice in an effort to get your attention, and now knows for certain that you aren’t engaged in this discussion. Making yourself visible or audible will hold you accountable.
And, for both hosts and attendees, take breaks. Every 20 or so minutes, take a five minutes break. Set a return time, get up and stretch, use the bathroom, grab a water bottle and then get back to business. These seconds to breath keep everyone feeling fresh and support overall focus.