I could probably fill a book with number of bits and pieces of daily ephemera I declare “one of the hardest things I do.” Somehow that doesn’t keep the list from growing. In that spirit, one of the hardest things I do currently is simply pay attention. Actually it’s not even that so much as it is just trying to look interested.
Once the charts start flipping, I’ve got a window of 20-30 good minutes where I’m attentive and focused. After that it’s a doodle-fest or I start making notes on whatever it is I would be working on back at my desk. Either way, whatever is on those slides is barely getting a head nod. I’m basically doing whatever it takes to keep my eyes from glazing over and accidentally falling out of my chair. Nodding off and landing on your ass is considered bad form at meetings. I’ve seen it happen and it’s not pretty – although it is completely, gut wrenchingly hysterical.
The challenge to look interested doesn’t discriminate between my own material and stuff that has no impact or influence on my day-to-day existence. After the 30 minute mark everything falls into the category of probably interesting, but irrelevant. It’s not irrelevant by nature, but simply because my brain has lost the capacity to receive new information while struggling mightily just to give the illusion that the lights are on upstairs.
If you see me in a meeting blinking rapidly, shifting in my seat every 30 seconds, or jabbing a #2 pencil into my thigh, try not to take it personally. It’s probably not your subject matter, it’s just that you let your meeting run way, way too long and I’m doing my level best to offer the illusion of interest or, if that proves impossible, to not fall asleep and start drooling all over myself.