Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Five Tips for Waiting

"If you can fill the unforgiving minute/with sixty seconds' worth of distance run" 

I didn't encounter this Kipling poem until my first exposure to sports psychology at university, but it reminds me of my parents' insistence that we spend our time in "useful" ways. And I can't shut up that Kipling-in-my-head as I wait.

Yes, this is the same waiting I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I'm still waiting on the most nerve-wracking stuff, but not for much longer.

Meanwhile, the clock seems to be moving ever more slowly as it counts down. Some periods of time are just awkward--not long enough to complete something, too long to "do nothing" (read for pleasure or scan Twitter) without guilt. (Darn that Kipling.)

So here are some possible ways to handle those weirdo time periods:

1. Chunk the awkward time. If you have a flight, meeting, or appointment mid-afternoon, you still have the full morning to do stuff as if it were a normal day. (I can't be the only person who has to remind herself of this fact each time.) Or not do stuff, as you wish. Set a time (say 1 p.m.) to switch gears, and ignore the commitment till then.

2. Consult a list. Okay, this requires pre-planning, but lists are useful. Awkward time periods can be helpful for research or doing weird tasks. For example: looking into those potentially interesting vacation spots, discovering where to rent kayaks in town, checking whether your streaming service or local library carries a specific movie you want to watch later.

Power outages are prime times for me to use these lists--I don't know how long it will be out, so using time well is a challenge. I use a lot of email in my work, which requires electricity. (Even if the laptop battery is charged, the router needs power. I also have to remind myself of this, because all technology seems so magical.) So I have a list of things to do when the power goes out. Some of them are work things (filing, sorting other stacks of paper), some of them aren't (culling sweaters to give away, using non-electrical devices like brooms and rags to clean things). I keep the list on paper in my Filofax, because I'm analog like that and also so it's available when we don't have electricity.

3. Make a list. See #2. Maybe you have 13 minutes before a conference call and you've done everything else you can think of. You can still make a list--places you'd like to see, activities you'd like to do someday. It doesn't have to be a long list. It doesn't have to be a "useful" list of to-dos. It doesn't have to be a list with a purpose--but you might find one for it later. A list of your favorite board games from childhood might give you ideas for something to do with the kids over the weekend. Or, if you're a writer, what is your main character most afraid of--and can you make that happen? You can list all kinds of stuff. Although making a list of things you're grateful for is always useful, I tend to resist doing it--which is in itself a sure sign of its potential value.

4. Meditate. Or pray, or visualize something peaceful or cheerful or beautiful. Or do whatever makes your mind quiet and helps you remember and then become your best self. Because even if you're gearing up for something unpleasant, like an uncomfortable meeting or a confrontation, bringing your best self to it is going to make it go better.

5. Go for a walk. I spend a lot of time sitting, and my hip flexors feel it. So I'm more conscious of choosing to move. I pace up and down in airports, much as my father used to (and yes, it used to make me roll my eyes). (By the way, it's interesting to see how similar airports are. And aren't.) Even if you can't leave a reception area, you can stand up. Moving around just feels good.

Truthfully, most of these are just more organized ways of goofing off or distracting yourself. But that also helps time pass, and makes that Kipling-in-my-head shut up, just a little.