You’re sitting in yet another lecture. It could be in the workplace and you’re listening to the latest update on EPA standards or in the classroom and your biology prof is just not keeping your attention. You know you need to remember what’s being said, but you just can’t keep your eyes open a moment longer. What do you do?
The next time you find your eyelids getting heavy while a speaker drones on, check to see how you’re sitting. Barring any physical conditions that make it hard for you to do so, try sitting with your lower back as far to the back of the seat as possible, and plant both feet firmly on the floor. Sitting in this way forces your body to be at attention, which can also put you in the right frame of mind to pay attention.
Another effective tip for staying awake during a long lecture or presentation is to repeat what the speaker is saying … in your head. Sound strange? Try it! It’s easier than it sounds, and it’s hard to nod off when your brain is engaged with repeating the speaker’s words.
What else can you do to not only stay awake but increase retention of what you hear in a class or meeting? Try a variation on basic note-taking. Writing is a kinetic activity, which engages your brain in a different way. But instead of just jotting down a point with your black or blue ballpoint pen, add color to your notes to increase retention. Bring along a few crayons or highlighters, and circle a key word in green. Shade a word in bright orange or draw a wavy purple line under a key phrase. When you review your notes later, you’ll find you remember more.
If it’s a workplace meeting you’re attending, notes help you to take action later. To make the process more effective, add symbols. For example, put a star next to items that require follow up or add a date next to the item. Put an arrow next to an something that you intend to delegate to someone else. By being more strategic with your note taking, your notes not only become a more effective productivity tool, but you’re much more likely to stay alert in the meeting as you compile them. Interested in more note-taking suggestions? Try some of these note-taking tips from the Get-it-Done-Guy.
Instructors, this tip’s for you. Keeping learners engaged is a shared responsibility. Your students need to remain alert but you can help by employing a few simple tactics when you prepare your visuals. Make slides meaningful by using less text and more photos and, for increased readability and memorability, use a light background and dark text.
What never-fail methods do you use to stay alert in a class or meeting to help remember what you heard?
Image by notfrancois via Creative Commons