We’ve all gotten distracted during work meetings and probably missed something we should have heard. It’s normal! But.. It’s still a little embarrassing.

My brain craves stimulation. I know that if I’m not being engaged enough, my mind will start wandering and jumping from idea to idea, topic to topic. When working remotely, it’s waaaay too easy to just pop open another browser tab and satisfy the curiosity of that thought, validate that other idea or find out whether I really can make a small batch of cookies in a toaster oven (the answer is yes).

This is not at all to say that my client meetings bore me! Sometimes, teams get deep into more technical aspects or other projects that aren’t relevant to my role. It’s important to me to be present, and I’m glad I’ve found a way to help my wandering mind. I hope it can help yours, too!

The trick is to just write it down. Simple, right?

Our brains seek closure. It’s human nature. Did you know that the best way to get rid of an earworm (when part of a song gets stuck in your head and won’t leave) is to listen to the song all the way to the end?

Along the same note, write down that thought/topic/idea that’s pulling your focus away. Acknowledge the thought, “hey, that’s a great idea, I need to research this” and then, instead of opening up that browser tab, physically write it down.

Acknowledging it objectively, and then writing it down constitutes a complete action and, thus, closure. It gives your brain the satisfaction of validating the thought and not beating yourself up over it, plus completing a task.

Behold, the Parking Lot Notebook. This is one of the names I’ve given to the small notebook I keep at my desk specifically for this. I can only begin to tell you how much it’s helped me stay focused. Get yourself one of those pocket sized, spiral-bound notepads to dedicate to the wander-thoughts. A dedicated piece of paper will work, too. But I happen to like making little notebooks, so that’s what I use.

Even if you’re at an in-person meeting, these unrelated mind distractions can get in the way. Perhaps even more so since you can’t (politely) open up Google and search away, you get sucked deeper into the daydream. Bring your parking lot notebook and jot those thoughts down. Plus, taking extra notes make you look more engaged. Which you are! That’s the whole point of the parking lot notebook, after all.

I keep track of the date, too. While not totally necessary, I do think it’s neat to re-read and quantify just how much random stuff my brain drums up on any given day. If it’s worth revisiting, I will. If not? I don’t have to. It’s even more fun to see the things I choose NOT to pursue further.

You’re likely here because this has happened to you. So tell me.. What’s in your brain’s parking lot? Share in the comments!


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