Occasionally, I find myself nodding off at some meetings, particularly when they're scheduled around lunch. Yesterday, I nodded off at times during a staff videoconference meeting in the presence of most of my coworkers. After the meeting, my supervisor met with me behind closed doors and related that the nodding was disrespectful and needed to stop. I accepted responsibility and said it wouldn't happen again.

While I will do everything in my power going forward to avoid ever nodding at a meeting again, my question is how do I make amends with my colleagues who were at the meeting? I feel like I ruined any credibility I might have had. I asked my boss, but she did not reply to my email. I am otherwise highly praised for my work at the office and get along well with others.

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

Apology podcast.

Tell them you're sorry. Be sincere. Don't make excuses, just tell them you're sorry. Eat crow. They'll respect you for that.

Then, find out why you're nodding off. The apology means more if you fix it. Are you not sleeping well? Do you have a sleep disorder that you need to attend to? Are you gonking from a carb-rich breakfast? Maybe have some coffee or something to keep your lids open. I've read that an apple is supposed to be better than a cup of coffee in the morning to wake you up.

I'd even make an extra effort to "be there" in their next meeting. Over-prepare. Be ready to discuss every agenda item. I'm not suggesting you run over their meeting, but being fully engaged with the topic will also help keep you awake.

madamos's picture
Licensee Badge

Some tips I use to stay awake during boring meetings:
1) Take detailed notes - helps you stay focused and engaged
2) Volunteer to be the meeting facilitator - gives you something to do in the meeting and stay focused
2) Bring a hot drink into the meeting with you (coffee or tea) - this helps me stay awake
3) Excuse myself from the meeting if I feel too drowsy - leave the room, splash cold water on your face, whatever you do to give a quick boost of energy.

Of course you need to get to the real cause of you nodding off in the meeting and change your behavior to make sure you are more effective during meetings.


jhack's picture

Will and madamos have good suggestions (although I find cold drinks more effective, personally!).

Are you getting enough sleep in general? Are there other health issues?

[quote="Hawk21"] I asked my boss, but she did not reply to my email.[/quote]
This is an issue best dealt with in person.


gernot's picture

We have a meeting of the whole project team with around 100 people in a small sized room once a month. Oxygen vanishes fast.
With the tip from madamos i survived the last time.

1) Take detailed notes - helps you stay focused and engaged

You also mentioned that the meetings are around lunch time. It's a normal biological reaction the you are getting tired if you eat to much. So a salad will let you stay awake.

So my suggestion is:
sleep enough
eat less

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Hawk -

I apologize that this has taken me so long.

You can apologize if you want, and if so the way to do it is laid out in our cast on apologies. But I'm not sure you have to. Just change your behavior.

If you worked for me and it happened again - and I don't care whether it's after lunch or in a small room or ANYTHING - I would give you more feedback. I might include recommendations on eating and fitness...but don't confuse with what would be my growing sense of an inability to be a part of a team that needs high energy.

Again, my regrets.


stephenbooth_uk's picture

[Disclaimer: Please note that none of this is medical advice, I am not an MD. It's based on my own experience and that of colleagues. See your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes]

First question that comes to mind is are you sure it's just you that has this issue? I know that when I've had difficulties staying awake in a meetings others have had the same difficulties. Try listening to the podcasts on successful meetings and see if the meetings are you are in are anything like that, if not see if you can get them changed.

See a doctor and get checked out. Tiredness during the day (especially in the run up to lunchtime) can be a symptom of certain medical problems, including non-insulin dependant diabetes. Have yourself checked for allergies, many can cause disturbed or poor quality sleep. Being over or underweight can cause sleep problems.

If you can try having many small snacks during the day rather then big meals. Aim for slow release carbohydrates (fruit and vegetables) rather than quick release sugars and cereals. Quick release carbs give you a peak in blood sugar followed by a crash that makes you lethargic.

Try to get enough sleep. Avoid caffeine for 6 hours before going to bed, don't eat for at least 2 hours before going to bed (no major meals for 4 hours before bed) and don't exercise for a few hours before retiring, if you're going to visit the gym do it in the morning or early afternoon. If you sleep (as in sleep, not a euphemism) with another person, even someone in an adjacent room, do you of they snore or make other noises during the night? There are a number of conditions that have snoring as a symptom that can lead to disturbed sleep and if your partner is doing a credible impression of an earthquake next to you they don't have to wake you to reduce the quality and effectiveness of your sleep. Some people find a milky drink half an hour before bed helpful, others a cup of peppermint tea, see what works for you.

If you're finding that you're having to work late often then listen to the podcasts on time management and delegating. Working late can lead to disturbed sleep due to not giving you time to wind down before bed and stress caused by whatever is causing you to work late. Once in a while is fine, if it's becoming the norm then you need to look at your priorities and what actually needs to be done and what needs to be done by you vs what can be delegated.

Go caffeine free at weekends and during holidays, switch to water and fruit juice if you can or at least substitute decaff coffee and tea (try herbal teas) for the caffeinated versions. Reducing the total amount of caffeine you consume will mean that when you do have it you'll get more effect from it.

Get plenty to drink during the day, preferably water,. to stay hydrated. Most caffeinated drinks are diuretics (cause your kidneys to excrete water). A useful habit I've found to develop is that everytime I get a cup of coffee during the day I get a cup of water as well. I also tend to have a fruit juice with my lunch.

Take a caffeinated drink or energy drink (could be something like Red Bull or a sports drink) into the meeting with you and sip it periodically, especially when you feel yourself feeling tired.

Ask yourself, do I need to be at this meeting? A lot of us attend meetings that we don't need to be at, at which we cannot contribute and which are frankly a waste of our time and our organisation's money. If it's a regularly scheduled meeting and you don't feel that you've contributed or gotten something useful at the last three then why were you there? Or maybe if it's a 3 hour meeting and you're only needed for a 15 minute item then why can't you skip the other 2 hours 45 minutes? One organisation I worked for had a regular monthly meeting that ran for several hours (with hourly breaks) at which most of the attendees were only needed for certain parts. Fortunately they were able to organise the agenda such that items specific people were needed for were grouped together so people who were not needed for the whole meeting only came in for the segment they were needed for. They knew approximately when they would be needed for, which always followed a break, and would get a call as soon as the meeting broke up from the previous segment so would have 10 minutes to wrap up what they were doing and get to the meeting room.

If the meeting is over an hour see if you can get breaks to stretch your legs, get some fresh(er) air and recharge your drink.

If you drink alcohol then try to keep it to no more than 3 nights a week (ideally ones where you don't have work the next morning) and certainly don't have a drink to 'help get to sleep'. Alcohol may make you sleepy but it leads to poor quality sleep. Obviously, lay off alcohol during the day and don't drink at lunchtime if you have an afternoon meeting. If it is socially necessary for you to drink at lunchtime (e.g. you're entertaining clients and they're drinking alcohol) then try to have a big glass of water as soon as you're back at the office. I did pick up one very useful trick from a sales person at one company I worked for. If he was entertaining customers at lunchtime and they insisted on going to a pub then he would get the first round with them all standing at the bar and have a vodka and lemonade, then find a table. He would then also get the following rounds, this time he'd get just lemonade but in the same type of glass as he'd had the vodka and lemonade. As far as the customers were aware he was still drinking alcohol and he could handle his drink very well (a number of our customers were from cultures where alcohol is part of doing business and being able to handle your drink is a big plus). I only found out he was doing this because I accompanied him out with some customers one time and he explained it to me before we went out and we alternated rounds.