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3 Tips for Staying Present While Working Virtually

Even though my body may not need time to transport through physical space to get to different meetings, my mind does.

If your experience has been like mine you will be familiar with how the move to working virtually over the past 2 years has somehow meant more meetings in a given day. Meetings are scheduled for one hour, minute to minute. I don’t think I’m alone here in noticing, all of a sudden, there is no space in between the times I need to show my face to my computer to different people. This zoom era has given new meaning to the phrase, “Back to back meetings.”

Sure, there isn’t a need to build in time to move from one place to another on campus or across your building. So it feels like it should be OK to just go in and out of meetings, back to back, because you are in the same physical space. 

After months of doing this, I was feeling incredibly burned out. I was also having a hard time being present in each meeting. Everything was blurring together. It was forgetting what each meeting was about and what I committed to doing. Post-it notes and lists surrounded my house and my desk to try to help me stay on track. But I they also became just blurred colors all around me that I never truly noticed anymore. 

Even though my body may not need time to transport through physical space to get to different meetings, my mind does. I had to do something.

Here are three ways I create more space in my day to help me be more present and available for all of my meetings that I hope you will use to inspire you:

Create a schedule for when you can meet with visitors and build in space and time for yourself in between.

In June of this year I started using Calendly after hearing how helpful it was for a few others ombuds. (Thank you Amanda Dean & Mark Patterson!) I have spaces for 4 visitors a day, with at least 30 minutes in between. That gives me time to have team meetings and other meetings in other parts of the day and have time in between for letting my body move and my mind process. It also gives me time to get administrative work done.

Engage in a mindful activity between the ‘events’ in your day.

After each visitor & group meeting I try to do one thing that doesn’t involve having to think about anything else. This helps me be more aware and present in every moment of the day rather than moving through the day as if it were all happenstance. I either:

  1. Listen to a 3 minute meditation
  2. Play 1 song on my flute
  3. Take my dog on a walk around the block

If you do have back to back meetings (sometimes it can’t be helped), tell everyone at the beginning of the meeting that you have to step off 10 minutes before the end of the hour because you are back to back today and you need that spaceNow, I hear your critique, “People might see that as not being dedicated or not taking work seriously.” That is a very U.S. centric cultural message and I am here to push back on it. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that pressure, too. And I encourage you to join me in changing that culture. It is not good for our visitors, it is not good for us.

I’d love to hear from you! How do you create space between your meetings to process and transition? What are your techniques and tips?!