Is it just me or does it seem as if waits are everywhere? A recent visit to a doctor's office resulted in a two-hour wait, despite scheduling the appointment months in advance. Normally I am fine with the wait, but, for this one, I was seeing the window of time for my next meeting slipping away. It got me thinking about the whole process of waiting and what people can do to stay calm during these stressful experiences.
It is important to note the worst times to engage in certain activities and to avoid those times. What are the busiest times in the grocery store, the mall, the doctor's office or the post office? I have now learned to try to schedule the first appointment of the day at a doctor's office. The wait is significantly shorter and everyone is a lot friendlier.
If you can't avoid the busy times, call an office in advance to see if the person you are going to see is on time or running behind with appointments. Then be prepared to wait.
Think about how you want to use your time that day. The people who seem the least stressed in a waiting room or in line are the ones who are engaged in another activity — whatever it is.
Maybe it is a good time to close your eyes and rest. Think about the wait as a forced break. Or use the time to listen to music on your iPod, play a game, engage in a conversation with others around you, or just meditate or pray.
If you feel you have to accomplish something, work on your to-do list. Bring things to do — reading you've been wanting to catch up on, paperwork or bills you have to take care of, text messages or e-mails to send, letters to write, briefcases or pocketbooks to clean out, Sudoku or crossword puzzles. Depending on where you are waiting, you could take a walk around to get some exercise.
The key is to have a bag of projects in your car or with you so you can turn to them when you find yourself having to wait during this busy season. Some people say they can't get anything meaningful done in short windows of time, so it is important to have some projects that don't take long to complete and some that are more involved to fill various wait times. In addition, having some things that don't require lots of concentration might be important if you are waiting someplace noisy.
When you think of it, the amount of time we all spend waiting is significant. Maybe if we thought of it as our personal time rather than wasted time we could feel better about waiting. Make a list of the things you have been meaning to do for your own enjoyment (reading, drawing, listening to music, writing, playing games, etc.) and have them ready when you are forced to wait. You could feel more relaxed and less bothered by the waits in the first place.
Joyce E.A. Russell is the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management.