How to make it look like you're paying attention

    We’ve all done it. Sometimes, when you’re supposed to be focused on more productive activities, the draw of that MacBook is too strong to resist. Nobody on their computer during a meeting or class is paying attention 100% of the time. So, even when you’re scrolling down through social media feeds in a student group meeting, you’ll need a tactic for at least acting like you’re paying attention. Even in a 100-person lecture, you don’t want to look bad in front of the professor, especially since they swear they can tell when you’re paying attention. Here are some ideas for masking your multi-tasking.

    Set yourself up for success.

    Worried about getting caught? Set up all the windows that you would be doing productive things on before your attention starts wandering: open your class notes, pull up a reading or relevant website, etc. This way, you can at least pretend you know what’s going on.

    Browse Reddit cleverly.

    For anyone who likes to waste their time best on “the front page of the internet,” there are several Reddit skins that mask the website to look like a more credible pursuit. Try using msworddit or msoutlookit. Both links should bring you to pages that look like Microsoft Word or Microsoft Outlook, but really allow you to browse the front page of reddit as always. 

    Put up the picture of poise.

    Sit up straight, but far enough back on your chair that your head isn’t obviously tilted down towards the screen. Looking engaged in your body language will help convince whoever is leading your meeting or discussion that your bored look is just your resting face.

    Speaking of faces…

    Eye contact and nodding go far, but if you really want to perfect the masquerade an easy way is to chuckle or smirk at any jokes made. No need to actually listen – just slightly tune in to those sitting around you, and smile when they do.

    Feel the discussion, BE the discussion.

    Or at least, in some way attempt to connect to the goings-on at least once. Answer a question, offer up a point or short idea. If you want maximized browsing time, I would say plan out your contribution for either the beginning – allowing you to browse the rest of the time – or the end, which allows you to browse at the beginning before coming back to earth.

    Own up to your distraction.

    If you get called out, just own it! Make a lame excuse (“It was already open on my tabs”) because whoever caught you won’t believe a good excuse anyway. Don’t be too flustered. It happens to the best of us.


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