19 Things To Do During That Boring Meeting

Last Updated Aug 19, 2011 10:35 AM EDT

Last week, I wrote a post called "22 Things To Do During That Boring Conference Call." As I mentioned then, writing such a post is against my better judgment, because when it comes to conference calls, the best defense is a good offense. Work to kill any calls that aren't adding value to your organization, and negotiate to get out of ones that don't require your presence. Presumably you were hired to do something, not sit there playing Angry Birds.
But the list was an ode to the real world, which may not be as rational as we'd like. That post led some readers to ask a related question: what should you do during a boring meeting? This one is harder, in that people can physically see you. Let's make the ground rules tougher still, and stipulate that hauling out your iPhone will be perceived poorly. So no email or web surfing allowed.

Again, if at all possible, don't go. Work to establish a culture of shorter meetings involving fewer people rather than more. If you're managing a team, trust them enough not to hold a meeting just because it's Friday to learn that, yep, everyone is still doing his or her job. But if not...

1. Write poetry (assuming you're allowed to take notes)

2. Hone your bucket list
3. Daydream about what you'd like your career to look like 5 years from now. What steps can you take to get there?

4. Pray or meditate

5. Make a list of things you're grateful for

6. Make a list of people you'd like to thank for specific things (then send the emails when you get back to your desk)

7. Ponder the premise for a novel. Write character sketches.

8. Look around the room and come up with one genuinely positive thought about each of the other meeting participants

9. Sketch an idea for a cartoon character

10. List your top priorities for next week, next month and next year

11. Brainstorm a sideline or hobby you'd like to take up. Or even a new business idea. If you wanted to increase your family's income by $20,000 this year, what could you do?

12. Recall one of the happiest moments in your life. How many details can you remember?

13. Think through things about your organization that annoy you. Are there any inefficiencies here to which you can propose solutions? Could you save someone some money? That could be the key to a promotion that gets you out of these meetings.

14. Recall the lyrics to a song that has been meaningful to you. Write them down if you can. Why did you like them?

15. In sales? Make a list of prospects and old clients to check in with. Actually, you should probably do this even if you're not in sales.

16. The old lotto fantasy: If you won $100 million, what would you do with it?

17. Take it down to earth: Say you got a $10,000 unanticipated tax refund. What would you do with that?

18. Write little booklets of advice for each of your children or grandchildren

19. Sketch the meeting room, or even your cup of coffee

Please help me think of more. What do you do during meetings you know you shouldn't be in, but are?

Related:
Photo courtesy flickr user, Voka - Kamer van Koophandel Limburg

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