Read this month’s guide below, or listen to it on my podcast
A while back I found myself getting tetchy and irritated on a Zoom call. I became agitated as it felt like the person speaking was taking far too long to get to the point. In my mind I had so much to do, and this delay on the call was keeping me from doing it.
They were just a slow speaker (and actually had very good and important things to say) and the reality was that my impatience was totally unwarranted.
At the time, the real reason I was getting impatient was more because it was one more thing I had to do online. After the call when I sat down to contemplate any other incidences in which I might be displaying impatient behaviours, I discovered there were many!
A key reason we’re getting more impatient is because our engagement with a digitally-focused life has made us so. The pace of technology and the speed of our tools has warped our relationship with time.
Coupled with that, in this time of Covid, every day feels like Monday! So it’s no wonder that some of us are finding that our patience is shot to sh*t.
The time in our days now gets chopped up into a myriad of little slices, with the sense that there’s so much to do and not enough time to do it. Also, we’re always ‘on’ as we’re online and have things coming at us from all sides. The speed and deluge of information is ruining our ability to wait.
When our inner needs and our outer expectations aren’t met, there’s a disconnect. The delays create annoyance and frustration, anger and even rage, because our physiological survival mechanisms are triggered.
We’re losing track of time because of the fast pace of living. And it’s wreaking havoc with our wellbeing, focus abilities and communication skills.
In her Nautilus article Why The Brain Hates Slowpokes, Chelsea Wald writes:
“The fast pace of society has thrown our internal timer out of balance. It creates expectations that can’t be rewarded fast enough — or rewarded at all. When things move more slowly than we expect, our internal timer even plays tricks on us, stretching out the wait, summoning anger out of proportion to the delay.”
We have to find ways to re-develop our willingness to wait and to rebuild a better sense of time.
Improving our patience skills needs to support, empower and enfranchise us. This is especially important during this current Coronacoaster groundhog mashup.
As time is liminal and outcomes are uncertain and ever changing, the future can feel intangible, or sometimes even totally out of reach. But we still have work to do, so we still need to crack on.
So, how do we take better control of time, and rebuild our patience skills in the process?
Here’s a few thoughts and resources to help.
In this day and digital age, the work most of us now do requires us to be both Managers and Makers. What that means is we have to do both creative and reactive types of work. But do you work according to a Maker’s schedule or a Manager’s schedule? Or is it a hybrid of both?
This idea of maker and manager schedules was first proposed in a 2009 essay by Paul Graham of YCombinator. This concept is explored further in an excellent article by Shane Parrish of Farnham Street.
Basically, a manager’s time is broken up into lots of tiny slots, with accompanying distractions and interruptions. A maker’s schedule is usually made up of bigger blocks of time for focused, deep and uninterrupted work.
If you’re trying to do maker work using a manager’s schedule, you’re setting yourself up to fail.
As Shane Parrish writes:
“From Paul Graham’s distinction between makers and managers, we can learn that doing creative work or overseeing other people … requires consideration of the way we structure our time.”
Also relating to your schedule, what quantity of time are you spending working (and working online)? Too much doesn’t help our patience skills or our wellbeing. Studies have found that after 40-50 hours of work in a week, our productivity and focus takes a massive nose dive.
So step away, and do so regularly.
Maker vs Manager: How Your Schedule Can Make or Break You – Shane Parrish (Farnham Street)
Why Your Brain Hates Slowpokes – Chelsea Wald (Nautilus)
There’s a difference in the types of interruptions we face daily and how they help or hinder us. Taking a short break from your work (e.g. to drink water, stretch or pet the dog) actually supports focus and is good for your wellbeing.
But needing to change the type of work you do at a moment’s notice to deal with someone else’s need or inquiry, does not support your focus or creativity. In this case, the cost of interruption is higher than you think, as it takes a good deal of time to get over the attention residue of that interruption, to return to focusing fully on what you were doing before hand.
We’re paying attention to things all day long. We’re addicted to our devices and addicted to staying connected. Cal Newport calls it being connected to the hyperactive hive mind. That’s the endless stream of communication coming at you which you think you need to be on standby to listen to, or you will miss out.
This need to be connected to the hive mind is an entrenched organisational behaviour, which is detrimental to actually getting anything done. And it’s also a big contributor to why our patience is in tatters.
How to Escape the Hyperactive Hive Mind of Modern Work – William Park (BBC Worklife)
We don’t like being alone with our thoughts, it’s too uncomfortable. So we fill our time with stuff that distracts us.
However, we’ve got big global problems that need solving, and when we crowd out our thinking time with constant input, that doesn’t give us a lot of time to come up with good solutions.
So how do we create the space we need?
We need to stay open to novel ways of thinking and doing. We can choose to build more pauses – for daydreaming and boredom – into our days, into our schedules and into our workflow.
It’s also been found that having more freedom, privacy and autonomy in our working day, enables us to develop deeper thought practices. This is especially important for people with introvert tendencies (of which I am one).
Creativity and innovation have been found to be critical to developing leadership competency, but they can be stifled by rigid systems and processes. In companies with teams, consider how you can relax or adapt your systems and processes to better support creativity and innovation.
And if you’re working from home, that means making time whilst working to truly be alone! What I mean by that is including decent chunks of time in your work day to work asynchronously, disconnected from outside communication – that’s email, video calls, online chat, phones and interruptions. Anything that distracts you from getting shit done.
Remember, laser focus comes at a price, it requires time and boundaries.
Why Waiting Feels Terrible – Clay Skipper interview with Jason Farman (GQ)
How to Unlock Your Team’s Creativity – Rebecca Shambaugh (HBR)
Introverts, Creativity and Isolation – Susan Cain (Ted Talk)
It’s common to think that we need to feel like we want to take action, before we’ll actually get started on doing something. But it’s usually the taking action bit that builds the motivation to continue with a task.
Procrastination affects everyone and it’s usually an emotional response to stress. But our feelings (including feeling impatient) are made up by our brain to decipher what it thinks is happening in our world … and they can be unreliable.
The emotions we feel about doing something are often not the real reason why we shouldn’t do something. Yet our thoughts about a perceived situation are powerful enough to stop us in our tracks. Not ideal when you have a deadline.
So what types of productivity practices can help you to get your jobs done, especially when procrastination makes you lose time and patience?
Personally, I find I get more done when there’s a Promotion focus to an activity. What’s the reward for doing the task? It means I’m motivated by the thought of making gains and being in a better off situation because I do the work. This kind of focus requires me to be optimistic in my thinking, which I’m all for. But if I’m struggling with anxiety, this can undermine my motivation and prevent me from taking action.
So another way of getting things done is to be motivated by Prevention. This means we focus on doing the work to avoid getting punished or losing what we already have. It’s enhanced by anxiety, as we worry about what might go wrong if we don’t do the work. It actually works as a method, but it’s not ideal, because to me, it feels negative.
You can also facilitate taking action by employing “if-then planning”. This essentially means having a ‘go to’ plan for how you do your work. Deciding in advance what steps to take, where and when, so that you don’t deliberate when the time comes. Research has found that this type of planning can double or triple our rates of goal attainment and productivity. And knowing what the next steps are, can help us execute them in a calm, patient and orderly fashion.
Incidentally, Procrastination was also the theme of episode 7 of the Creating Cadence podcast. Listen here if you want to dive a bit deeper on the topic.
How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To – Heidi Grant (HBR)
Our sense of time is also calibrated by our circadian rhythms. Our circadian rhythms control and synchronise every single little cell in our body, so that our bodies function in time with the Earth’s rotation. (Fun fact: circadian rhythms are found in most terrestrial organisms).
Stress and cortisol levels have a direct impact on our circadian rhythms. And disrupted circadian rhythms can affect our sleep patterns, cause inflammation in the body, and lead to poor immune function. If we’re not doing the work to support our minds and bodies, then we can’t function at our best when we need to do the paid work.
So building strong self care foundations is essential to supporting our focus and wellbeing. These activities also help to create space and time, which in turns, helps our patience skills.
Work on getting 8 hours of decent sleep. Soften your lighting at least an hour before bed. Try to keep your sleep and wake times regular, so that your body gets used to waking up without relying on that alarm (the one that’s on that ‘crack cocaine’ we call a phone!).
Mindfulness, meditation and gratitude practices can also help with impatient minds … and in my book they are super powers! That’s because they help us to be more accepting of, and at peace with, the present moment we’re in, without trying to change what’s happening in it.
In particular, if you work on developing a conscious breathing practice, you will notice a massive difference in how you deal with situations. When I’m doing breath work regularly, I find it helps me to feel calmer, less stressed, more level-headed and more patient.
Fight Off Disease By Making This One Change To Your Nighttime Routine – Sarah Sloat (Inverse)
A Simple Breathwork Routine for a Calmer, More Centred Day – Emily Abbate (GQ)
As you rebuild your ability to pause and be more patient, remember to have patience with yourself too.
Reclaiming our ability to wait is a process and it takes practice.
Be kind to yourself, but keep showing up.
I’m introducing a Q&A element to my Creating Cadence podcast (which accompanies this guide).
If you have a question about things to do with productivity, wellbeing and your related challenges, please let me knkow and I’ll answer it on the podcast. And if you’ve found solutions to balancing work and personal responsibilities in this time of Covid, I’d love to hear from you too.
Write to: hello [at] growthsessions [dot] co
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