John Dewey, a 20th century philosopher, psychologist, said that the most useful virtue in the world is patience. It is certainly true today. We have plenty of opportunities to be impatient. Most people in business face a plethora of interruptions, delays, rush jobs, and crises. But impatience causes frustration and stress, increases the chances of error, and does nothing to further a project or contribute to goals.

Patience begins by changing the way you view something, according to Rick Warren, in his book, God’s Power to Change your Life. What he seems to be talking about is reframing the situation by looking at situations from the other person’s point of view. For instance, the person interrupting you may have a good reason for it, and the person keeping you waiting for something is probably justified in doing so. Perhaps you gave the person too little time to do too many things. The fault may be yours. And that crisis might have been the result of your failure to be proactive and anticipate the possibility of problems.

Following that line of thinking, you might conclude that an impatient person would not only be responsible for his or her own impatience, but also guilty of flawed management. And impatience frequently leads to anger, which impacts performance even more.

If you can reframe the situations to avoid getting upset and angry and not letting it affect your performance, you can further reframe it as an opportunity to prevent these non-productive incidents from recurring. Assume a problem-solving role. That gets you out of the reactive mode and into a more proactive mode.

For example, here is a possible solution. If employees are interrupting you on a regular basis, ask yourself why. If it is to ask questions, get information, or request help, would a brief stand-up meeting every morning provide an opportunity for everyone to get on board and eliminate the need for interruptions later? If a manager interrupts you frequently, could you suggest a similar strategy? Except that, in this case, you might reframe it as a benefit to the manager so that you can help him or her keep updated. You might also ask what items you could assist with that day. This might also reduce the rush jobs and delays, and crises that may have been recurring. Good communication impacts all of them.

Have you noticed that you are more impatient in the afternoons than in the mornings? You are more impatient when you are tired. Fred Turek, director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology at Northwestern University, reported that studies show that the greatest degree of fatigue occurs between 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM. This coincides with the greatest drop in productivity.

Attempting to be more patient during this time is difficult, but it might be a lot easier if you make sure you get a good night’s sleep, about 8 hours, every night. Sleep deprivation can make you feel more tired in the afternoon. You could also eat a light lunch and take a brisk 15-minute walk before returning to work. And drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated.

Daniel pink, in his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, mentions that Anders Ericsson, a psychologist who studies extraordinary performers, found that one factor that distinguishes the best from the rest is that they take complete breaks during the afternoon. Some high performers take brief naps, which I highly recommend if you have control over your own schedule. It is not the hours you put in that get the important things done – it is what you put into those hours. These best performers also focus for 45 to 90 minutes, and then take a restorative break.

If you are one of the many people who are always in a hurry, you probably have a distorted sense of time. The perceived duration of an event, such as waiting for someone to answer the telephone, or for a traffic light to turn green, or the elevator to arrive, can seem like an eternity to someone in a hurry.

A dictionary definition of patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering, without getting angry or upset.” A patient person is a productive person. And like most productive habits, it can be developed through practice. Every time you encounter an incident that releases the impatience within you, relax and take a deep breath. It is not the incident that makes you impatient. The incident is simply a catalyst that brings your impatience to the surface.

Ask yourself, “What can I do to prevent that incident from recurring? Find its source and initiate the change. You cannot be active and impatient at the same time.

This applies to situations over which you have no control as well, such as those telephones, waiting rooms, elevators, and meeting delays. Take notes, read, check text messages or work on other essential activities to fill idle time and keep your impatience at bay.

Your long-term goal should be to pace yourself, work smarter, not faster, learn to control the controllable, and go with the flow with the things you cannot control. Then you are beginning to address the root cause of impatience. And approaching the problem by addressing your impatience, rather than attempting to build patience, is the more effective way to go. This will be explained in the next blog. In the meantime, the above recommendations should get you started on the road to becoming a more patient person.


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