The Art of the All Day Zoom

I’m in another eight hour Zoom meeting today (well, obviously not without breaks. When else would I be writing this but at lunch?). This is not my first all-day Zoom session. It’s not my second, or even my third. Over the last long pandemic era, I’ve been in many meetings that have lasted 4 or more hours. They’re not fun, but I’ve gotten to the point that I know how to handle them, more or less. And seeing as how Zoom seems to be a part of our life probably for the next ever (though the platform itself may change at some point), I thought it might be useful to offer a few helpful tips for maintaining your sanity during long Zoom meetings.

(Note: if I’m ever in a long Zoom meeting with *you*, of course, I don’t need to use any of these tactics. Meetings with you are nothing but pure bliss from start to finish. I’m talking about Zoom meetings with anyone other than you. That goes without saying, right? Right.)

  1. Hydrate. This is part of a successful approach to pretty much anything. Yes, it’ll make you healthier, but it’ll also force you to take breaks from the Zoom meeting. All that hydration has to go somewhere, and you need to stand up and step away from the meeting now and then. You just can’t sit there for eight hours staring at a screen. Trust me. (And even when I don’t have to take a bathroom break, I will sometimes just turn off my camera and stand up. It really does help.)
  2. Eat! True, sometimes this means you have to turn off your camera for that as well (or risk being the butt of jokes about whether you brought enough for everyone), but food helps me focus again. One of the tragic side effects of the Zoom era is that the days of free food are over. In a typical all day meeting, there would be some juice and muffins to start the day, and then we’d have a lunch brought in, and there might even be some cookies in there somewhere in the afternoon to seal the deal. Now? It’s all up to you. I’m still on my limited diet, so I just look forward to my banana and my peanut butter sandwich. But I definitely look forward to them. If I weren’t on a diet, I would bring some other goodies to get me through the day. But I’d set specific times when I could eat them, because otherwise I’d eat them all within the first hour. Just saying.
  3. Exercise. Not going to lie, here: sometimes I turn off my camera and mic, and I jog in place in the middle of Zoom meetings. I mean, I need to exercise anyway, and that’s something I can easily do while I’m paying attention to what else is being said. It gets the heart rate up, and keeps me from succumbing to feeling overwhelmed by the hours of Zoom meetings that still lie ahead. True, sometimes this means you have to stop jogging, turn on your camera and mic, and risk explaining why you’re so flushed, but in those cases, just meet it head on. “I was exercising. Multitasking.” I mean, everyone else on the call has just been sitting there. You’re really flexing some “I’m a person who takes care of himself” muscles when you explain that.
  4. Keep a side chat going. It helps if you identify an ally in the meeting. Someone you can send snarky messages to in the middle of everything. BUT NOTE: DO NOT use Zoom to exchange these snarky missives. Zoom is like the Eye of Sauron. It keeps a log of all messages during the chat, even “private” ones, and then it sends those messages to the person who ran the meeting. So keep your side snark to Google Chat or Facebook. You’ll thank me later.
  5. If you’re really in trouble, and the meeting has turned into one of those terrible “You have to be here but it really doesn’t have anything relevant for you” affairs, then don’t forget you’ve got the internet at your fingertips. Sometimes you can check the news or your email or do some other business. But remember (WARNING!) if you wear glasses, those glasses will betray you. Cameras these days are pretty sharp. They’ll easily show the reflection of your monitor against your glasses, and it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that what you’re looking at is something other than a Zoom screen. So be careful with this. Just saying.

But really, with those simple steps, you can make it through even the longest Zoom meeting. Speaking from experience. Though if you’re lucky, you won’t have many of those to deal with.

Now if you don’t mind, my lunch break is running out . . .


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