Thomas the Tank Engine Was Right!
Graphic courtesy of Gerd Altmann
Picture it. Sicily, 2021.
Nah, just kidding. I only wish I was somewhere that exciting (or in an episode of Golden Girls, either would be awesome). Where I really am is perched in my favorite office chair, slurping my morning tea as I start my workday. I’m clicky-clacking away on my keyboard as I pour out my soul in my latest quest to produce quality content for a client. I’m on a roll. I’ve hit my stride, and nothing can stop me now.
Well, almost nothing.
Ring, ring. It’s my cell phone. I quickly glance at the screen, see who is calling, and make the judgment that I can call them back later. They don’t leave a message, so I continue in my assumption that it’s not a priority. Right now, I must focus on my work.
Ding-dong! It’s my cell phone again. This time, I have a text message. I glance at it quickly, seeing that it is from the same person who just called me. I read it quickly and again decide it can wait and go back to writing.
Beep boop! You guessed it. It’s my cell phone again. This time, it’s an email. If you guessed that it’s from the same person who just called and texted me, you would be correct. For the third and final time, I decide the person can wait. I know who it is. I am certain it is not an emergency after seeing their text. I need to focus on my work. I go back to writing.
Ring, ring! Ding, dong! Beep, boop! Call, text, email. Call, text, email. The cycle repeats ad nauseam.
Bleepity, bleep, bloop, blip! No, that’s not the sound of my phone. That’s me, censoring out my not-E-for-everyone response to the same person repeatedly interrupting my workday. By now, I’ve lost my writing groove and am struggling to recall what point I wanted to make in my copy.
I know what some of you are thinking. Why didn’t I just answer the phone? Well, if I did that every time my phone notified me of a call, text, or email, I’d get nothing else done all day long except answering it. And 99.99 percent of the time, it’s not urgent.
I know what some others of you also are thinking. Why don’t I just turn my phone off during the workday? That is never a good idea. The last time I completely silenced my phone, I missed an emergency phone call about a family member having a medical emergency. So yeah, I don’t do that anymore. I spend the day quickly glancing at messages during scheduled times and reply as needed. That works for most people who find it necessary to contact me during the workday who do not already have a scheduled appointment. For the repeat offenders who make me want to toss my phone out into the yard, it requires a little more grace.
The instant gratification nation
If you’re honest about it, you probably have experienced something similar. People are too impatient to wait for you to respond. They call. You don’t answer. So, they text. You don’t answer. So, they email. You still don’t answer. Instead of them taking the hint, they repeat the process until they get the result they desire. They get rewarded for their irritating behavior and you end up frustrated. You may even risk missing a crucial deadline because you couldn’t concentrate on your work.
I don’t blame the person. I blame technology. Apparently, I’m not alone in my finger-pointing. Numerous studies in recent years have concluded the same thing: technology makes us impatient. One such report suggests people grow frustrated after waiting 16 seconds for a website to load. In the grand scheme of things, 16 seconds is not a long time. Reading these studies gave me greater insight into why most businesses suffer from high bounce rates on their websites. People simply lose patience.
I get why technology makes people forget that patience is a virtue. That doesn’t mean I accept it. I’m a Gen-Xer. When I was a kid, we still had rotary dial phones with cords. Heck, it took more than a few seconds just to dial a number. You’d select the first digit, wind it around, then wait for the dial pad to come back. You’d repeat that again until you dialed all the digits to complete your call. (If you weren’t a patient person, dialing a rotary phone would certainly cure you of that). If a person you were calling didn’t answer that was the end of it. Back then, most families still didn’t have answering machines, so you couldn’t even leave a message. You assumed they weren’t home and tried again later. What you didn’t do was continue to call them, over and over, until someone answered. You found something better to do with your time.
Now, we have these handy little digital devices we shove in our back pockets that make it easy for people to literally stalk us. No matter where you are or what you are doing, they can reach you. Heck, it’s not even safe to take a bathroom break without the expectation that you’ll still answer calls and texts. Call me crazy, but there are just some experiences I don’t care to share with other people.
Technology has ruined our patience, and that is not a good thing, my friends. Not a good thing at all.
Reversing the instant gratification urge
Hurry up and wait. No, really. Forcing yourself to resist the urge for immediate satisfaction is the number one way to become more patient. I didn’t just make this up. Science says so. Practicing our patients makes us happier. No, really. The more we practice waiting, the better we’ll get at it, and the more enjoyment we’ll get out of life. Who knew?
Here are some other effective strategies for tolerating delay without freaking out and losing your mind:
Patience is a virtue
If you’ve read this far, CONGRATULATIONS! Take a moment to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. You have more patience than the average person (since this was more than a 16-second read). Thomas the Tank Engine was right, my friends. Patience is a virtue. Practice it, and it will serve you well in life.
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Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for 25 years.