As so many of us continue to work from home and connect with one another online, taking small steps to make sure we are present during video meetings can make a world of difference. Not only can staying focused and engaged improve our performance and productivity, it can even help strengthen our bonds with co-workers.

We asked our Thrive community to share their go-to tips for staying present and attentive in their virtual calls and conferences. Which one of these strategies will you add to your workday routine? 

Decline calls that are “low value”

“Zoom fatigue is real. The thing that helps me stay present is a simple thought: ‘Be in, or out.’ If I attend a call, I give it my full attention. When you are curious, focused, and all-in, you automatically notice more things and get more out of the call. It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I also do my utmost to avoid calls that have a history of being low-value. This allows me to better preserve and manage my attention, which is not unlimited.” 

—Joe Kwon, executive coach, Oakland, NJ

Go full screen

“When I am in a meeting and want to stay fully focused, I set up in a quiet room with a door that closes, turn my camera on, and most importantly, put my Zoom settings to full screen. If I have it minimized so that I can see other tabs, I will start to multitask, check emails, or take care of other work. Not having those visual distractions keeps me focused.”

—Laura Burgess, assistant dean, Worcester, MA 

Grab a pen and paper

“I find that jotting notes on a notepad or whiteboard is essential in my new ‘virtual’ world. I have found it so helpful to avoid typing on my keyboard doing a Zoom call. It’s such an easy way to get distracted, and awful if you forget to mute your mic — and all you hear is the click-clack of your fingers on the keyboard! Doing this also allows my eyes to disconnect from my screen, giving them a much-needed break.”

—Amy Schmidt, podcast host, author, and motivational speaker, Ridgefield, CT 

Ground yourself 

“My go-to practice for staying present on a Zoom call happens before the Zoom call. I take a minute to get present by feeling my feet on the ground, closing my eyes, and taking in a few deep breaths.”

—Milena Regos, human potential coach, Lake Tahoe, NV 

Use the two-questions rule

“I make a point of asking two questions during every Zoom call. If you make a point of staying curious, you will listen carefully and completely. Curiosity breeds questions, questions lead to discussions, and boring Zoom meetings turn into brainstorms and conversations!” 

—Armida Markarova, professional development coach and founder, Chicago, IL 

Provide context 

“Early on in our ‘covideo’ working journey, if I’d see someone look down or off to the left, I’d think they were distracted or multitasking. In all honesty, it would annoy me. Then, I realized they were simply plugging in a device, nudging the sleeping dog under the desk, or closing a door. To help all of us stay present on video calls, I now share my surroundings and encourage others to do the same. I alert my colleagues that I might be looking down and to the right as I take notes. If I look to the left, I’m viewing my second monitor. You may see my husband walk through the room. You may hear a leaf-blower outside. Simply setting the context of our surroundings is a small gesture that helps us stay focused — and realistic — as we work via video.”

—Donna Peters, executive coach and podcast host, Atlanta, GA

Put away your phone

“With so many back-to-back Zoom calls these days, it’s hard not to get distracted. I have found that closing my email is beneficial for focus. That way, I am not distracted by the ping of new messages. I also place my phone face down for the same reason.” 

—Hema Crockett, entrepreneur, San Diego, CA  

Take a minute to settle in

“I use a tool called ‘A Minute to Arrive’ that I learned in a workshop. I invite all the participants to take a deep breath and let go of the day’s activities, irritations, and stresses, and give themselves permission to be fully present in the video call. It gives everyone the opportunity to get their headspace in the right place and let go of the frustrations of the last meeting or previous activity.”

—Lori Milner, author, speaker, and coach, Johannesburg, South Africa

Do you have a go-to strategy that helps you stay focused and engaged in your video calls? Let us know in the comments below! 

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.