Time management Mondays: Productive conference calls

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It’s hard to stay engaged on conference calls, even ones whose subject matter is relevant to my work and whose participants are way more interesting than your standard Dilbert strip fodder. If I do nothing other than sit at my desk, I find my concentration is doomed to fail.

The question is, what to do? Years ago, when I was working at Forbes.com, a co-worker and I met two lawyers at a party who waxed enthusiastic about our site’s slideshows, which, they claimed, offered just enough diversion to be interesting, but not enough to divert their attention entirely. (This is not the most flattering feedback I ever received as a journalist.) Personally, I’ve never found an online distraction that meets that definition or offers any sort of solace or satisfaction; either I’m not truly reading the article/blog/Tweet/Facebook update, or I’ve completely dropped off of the call.

Instead, I find doing something physical helps. I’m lucky enough to work from home most days, and I find I’m actually more focused on what’s being said when I’m doing something menial like emptying the dishwasher or folding laundry. For years I felt guilty about this, but I’ve now come to embrace it as something of a cognitive truth: I think better in motion, and I’m more attentive that way, too.

What’s your approach to conference calls?

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