For the past three years, many of us have been living on Zoom or a similar video conference platform. And no doubt, many times our attention and minds have wondered, and we find ourselves looking at emails, texts, social media feeds or playing games on our phones when we should be paying attention to and concentrating on what is going on in the video conference.
An interesting article in the New York Times on March 31, 2023, highlighted a counter-intuitive fact: it is appropriate to knit while attending a zoom meeting. (“Knitters Say Stitching Helps Them Follow the Thread in Meetings” by April Rubin.) Evidently, at a video conference meeting in Wales, a county councilor was accused of “bringing the body in disrepute” by knitting at a virtual public meeting. (Id.) In response, the councilor stated it actually helped her sharpen her attention to what was being said and thus focus to a greater extent to the proceedings than if her hands were idle. (Id.)
It turns out that the councilor had a valid point:
And there’s a reason: The fine-motor movement required for knitting, crocheting, doodling or using a fidget spinner activates the same parts of the brain used for focus, said John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. So, these activities really do help to sharpen awareness. But other activities that require too much concentration, like reading a social media feed or playing a game on a smartphone, can push a person out of productivity and into unfocused multitasking.
“Being involved with something will make a person with flagging attention be more attentive,” Dr. Ratey said. “You will turn on the prefrontal cortex if you’re doing something like knitting.”(Id.)
The article notes the obvious: that we are each different in how we approach and manage tasks; in our ability to focus, concentrate and get something accomplished to the best of our abilities. (Id.) Thus, it is important to accept the fact that some folks (especially those with ADHD) may need to be doing something with their hands while at a virtual meeting rather than sitting idle. (Id.)
So if a meeting (or a mediation) participant is doodling, twiddling a pencil or fidget spinner or even knitting or crocheting while attending, do not think that he/she is not paying attention: just the opposite. He/she is actually more focused on what is being said by virtue of doing that something “else” than if he/she sat idly listening. The article does note that if one is a beginner knitter or crocheter, this learning curve may actually detract one’s attention away from the meeting. But once proficient, such activity will help with focusing on the meeting. (Id. at 2.)
And as the quote above notes, doodling, knitting et cetera is much better than reading emails, texts, social media or playing games on our phones. Those tasks really will detract our attention and concentration away from the virtual meeting.
… Just something to think about.
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