It’s not just Zoom: How you hold your meetings matter

Zoom’s bad name has been getting worse, of late. The terms “Zoom fatigue” and “Zoom burnout” depict our current situation where, forced to work from home or grounded in our home countries, we have been using the video-conferencing tool as surrogate, and in that developed high levels of exhaustion. The stats show that women are more affected than men.

I get it that many of us have had to suddenly switch to Zoom or alternative forms of video-conferencing; it’s something we’ve had to spend more energy credits on, in learning the ropes and getting used to it.

As someone who conducts most of her business online for many years, I didn’t have that same abrupt switch to get accustomed to. And I actually enjoy video calls because they are efficient.

At the same time, what makes some of us more prone to Zoom fatigue? Acknowledging the structural issues aside, such as no designated work from home spaces or having to juggle many other tasks during this pandemic, it’s also how we hold our meetings and master our time that matters.

1. Do you have an agenda?

I remember sitting through the most mind-numbing meetings about a decade ago, when people would just prattle on and on without a question or aim.

“Oh God, can you just tell us your point already?”, I used to think to myself.

They’d also give excessive amounts of details, get anxious, and everyone else would get suckered into that rabbit hole of neurosis.

For any company’s culture, this is bad. A tense, anxious atmosphere is deflating and infectious.

For effective meetings, everyone who wishes to speak should come in with an agenda. It is as simple as the keywords or the topic, so we know what to focus on.

2. Have you prepped what you’re gonna say?

Again, with regards to droning on and on, remember that everyone has got limited concentration.

As we adjourn towards the middle of a meeting, our focus dips even more.

This does not help your case, especially if you’re not concise and cogent.

A very simple script to think along would be:

This is what I’d like help with: _ _ _ _ _

This is what’s going on: _ _ _ _ _

This is what I understand: _ _ _ _ _

This is what I don’t quite get yet: _ _ _ _ _

Remember, brevity is your friend here.

As a bonus, you get to sharpen your communication skills in the process. Something we could all benefit from.

3. Is there a time boundary?

I love the word ‘boundary’ because it sets the figurative container within which we operate. Whether it’s terms of saying ‘no’ or getting clear about the time we have, it makes life easier because we now know we should make the best use of our time and energy.

If you don’t have designated meeting durations, this might be a good time to institute it.

Otherwise, these meetings often overspill and everybody leaves mentally exhausted. It’s a lose-lose-lose for you, the other party, and the organisation/team.

And then, ask yourself, if it’s 2 hours, can it be done in 1? If it’s 40 minutes, can it be done in 20?

This way, with the time and energy reclaimed, you can focus effectively on your tasks, or on the people who need these precious resources.

Or use that time to reward yourself.

4. Is this about finding problems or seeking solutions?

We’ve all run into that person who goes into every situation and nitpicks. They’ve got nothing good to say; and it’s almost as though they’re actually actively looking for something bad to utter.

They are, in one word, exhausting.

It’s one thing to critique to do better, it’s another to simply be negative for the sake of criticising. The latter is rooted in a negative state-of-mind, trying to one-up, or simply trying to assert dominance in a toxic manner.

Toxic behaviours breed a toxic sluggish culture.

What more, toxic people.

Here’s the mindset frame we all could benefit from — it is, to go into a situation with a solution-seeking or creatively-expanding perspective.

This doesn’t mean being deludedly positive or not being able to see what can be improved.

This is about going in realistically, to assess the situation, within the wider context. And then to create solutions.

5. Are you exhausted looking at yourself?

The thing about video-conferencing is that seeing our face too much can be mentally exhausting.

Sometimes, it’s because we are too conscious of how we look— after all, we’ve never observed ourselves in that fashion during physical in-real-life meetings— and if we’re already not feeling mentally on top of things, this can provoke more anxiety.

A simple trick would be to turn off “hide self-view”.

And if you’re conscious of how your background looks, there’s a plethora of alternative Zoom backgrounds you could choose from.

6. Do you leap from meetings, back-to-back?

This is something many of my clients practised, way before Zoom came into their lives.

They’d also do it in their personal lives.

Whilst it can be tempting to think about doing the reflection, notes, or everything else much later, that will take a lot longer because these memory traces are no longer fresh in your head. It’ll take much more time and effort to retrieve them. And when you pile up making the notes for 7 meetings, it feels overwhelming.

And guess what, your brain will make you procrastinate.

That’s just the way we operate.

To get around that, something I practise is Ten Minute Windows.

The 10 minutes before and after an event is blocked out for me, myself and I.

It is a time when I stretch my legs, reset my brain (via 3 deep breaths), make notes, and gather my reflections.

When you get really good at it, this whittles down to five minutes. And the extra five? I get to sip on a beautiful cup of espresso.

This, to me, is spending time to buy exponentially more time, sanity and performance.

Which of these will you implement?

IF you’d like more help improving the efficiency of meetings of all types, please get in touch.