Swimming in impatience

Photo courtesy of plus45 (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of plus45 (Creative Commons)

I’m trying to launch the podcast. I click the icon and the computer sits there mocking me, almost like it enjoys making me wait. In my impatience, I click again. Still nothing. Come on computer – you KNOW I don’t have much time to listen to this – why do you do this to me?

Then all of a sudden, not one, not two, but THREE versions start talking at me – each a second or two behind the other – like a badly orchestrated version of Row Row Row Your Boat in rounds.

In my frustration, I’ve actually launched the app three times, which partly explains why it took so long to come up – because I had not given it time to process. Suddenly, I’m having to undo what I have done. And I’ve unnecessarily upset myself by freaking out over the delay in the first place.

How often do we do that to and with other people?

We ask a question, or send an email or message? We don’t get an answer in what WE feel is an appropriate timeframe and we ask again – this time more forcefully. Or we resend the email – sometimes with a less than polite insistence that we need an answer right away or…

We start making assumptions about the other person – they don’t want to talk to us, they are dragging their feet, they are purposely trying to make our lives difficult.

How crazy is that? The other person may have a justifiable reason for not responding right away – including the fact that “our emergency” is not “their emergency.” And was our issue really so critical anyway?

I have read more and more about how being so “connected” is making us less productive and more volatile, and I have to admit I don’t get much done when I’m responding to email or texts as soon as they come in. I’m also not very focused when I have multiple tabs and windows open on my computer and switch back and forth between them all, which is why I tend to try to launch things multiple times or forget that I haven’t responded to someone. And it makes me crabby. The frantic pace just increases my impatience and it’s a wonder I can get anything done at all.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, our average attention span dropped to 8 seconds in 2013, which is 1 second less than that of a goldfish. Imagine – a goldfish. No wonder I have such trouble!

They also say that the average number of times we check our email inboxes an hour is 30 – oops, busted! What about you?

So how do we practice more patience and less distractedness? How do we lengthen our attention span?

One thing I’ve been doing is turning off notifications. It’s near impossible to ignore the phone or computer when things are chirping, chiming and popping up to alert me. “Look at me!” they scream.

There are some things I need to know about right away, but most of it can wait until I am ready to check. So my email notifications are off, and I have set up different tones for texts or calls from those people I need to respond to right away, and that way I can hold off on checking the rest. I’ve turned off sound on most other notifications, and often I will turn my phone over so I don’t see what is popping up on the notification screen.

I’ve been experimenting with how I schedule my day, and building in focused time on projects or tasks with a defined end time for a break. That way I can let go of distractions for that specified time period, and know that I will catch up on messages or emails during that break.

Am I gaining more patience? Definitely, but I admit I still struggle. These little tricks are helping me accomplish more and feel less jittery all the time. I still have a long way to go though, because each day is a new challenge to stay focused.

How do you stay more focused than a goldfish?

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