Patience isn’t trending on Twitter today. Yet it’s frequently referenced, hard to practice when needed most and obnoxious when presumed (“Thank you for your patience” says the email telling me my order’s been delayed for two weeks; they clearly can’t see that I’m seething mad or hear my screams as I realize the delivery date is past the event I ordered for).
Unexpected fast deadlines can make patience irrelevant—you gotta do what you gotta do to finish on time. In more typical situations, being patient can be confused for fear of risk-taking. Avoidance can look like patience.
For that reason, I keep lists of projects and tasks and refer to them frequently to set my priorities for the day and week. When it comes to my business I’ve recognized a few situations involving patience (of the lack thereof) that repeatedly crop up:
- I’m inspired to do something right this moment—lists be damned. The little voice in the back of my head is telling me to hurry up and is playing a favorite fast-paced tune; I lose track of time as I plow ahead. This is where I practice patience with myself. Following strong instincts usually leads to good outcomes.
- There’s something I want to do but I’m holding back for the right moment. The little voice in my head is telling me to wait/get the best deal/make sure it’s my best move. This patient approach usually turns out well.
- There’s a project or task I know I need to do—it’s been on my list for days/weeks/months. The voice in my head is spewing guilt/reproach/excuses. Is this benign neglect or its ugly relation, avoidance of some key initiative?
When faced with #2 or #3 (above), I pose challenge questions to my back-of-the head voice:
- What do I gain by doing this today?
- What do I lose by waiting?
- What am I likely to learn if I wait?
- What are the conditions that suggest pulling the trigger?
- Will the result be different if I act today versus later?
- What are the actual reasons I haven’t done it yet?
If the answer to that last question is “too busy” I delve deeper (surprisingly, my inner voice keeps talking to me despite my incessant questions). The typical reason I haven’t accomplished something that’s been on my list for awhile is one of the following:
- The activity is not in my strength area
- Tackling it requires me to get out of my comfort zone
- I committed to doing it myself and am too stubborn to hand it over to a professional who could do it in one-sixtieth of the time
Ahhhhh, the avoidance zone. I’ve learned to short-circuit my arrival there through frequent list-monitoring and my challenge-question routine, squashing “pretend patience” that hinders progress. By keeping myself honest, I force myself to work on the projects that move my business forward.
And to those that mock the whole concept of patience through their demands (“We appreciate your patience,” as if they could will me to have it), I say “Wait ‘til I respond to your satisfaction survey! I definitely won’t avoid doing that…”