How to cope with unexpected delays.

Waiting at your desk for your computer to boot up or for a website to load is usually only nominally frustrating because you’re relatively in control – plus, you have things with which to occupy yourself. Similarly, waiting at either your home or office for someone to arrive affords you the opportunity to take care of other tasks, although you still might feel slightly imposed upon.

Experiencing a delay away from your own turf potentially has a different impact.

For example, here’s a synopsis of three delays most frequently occurring outside of your immediate environment and how they are commonly perceived:

  • Waiting to see a service professional – Delays incurred by waiting to see a doctor or a lawyer, as long as long as the length of the wait remains within acceptable limits, usually don’t throw people off stride.

  • Waiting for an appointment – Beyond a reasonable threshold, waiting for a service provider or anyone else begins to feel like an imposition, and each passing minute can seem like two or three times what it actually is. Some construe being late for an appointment as an overt or a covert lack of respect. A person might feel that whoever keeps him waiting is being careless with his time.

  • Unforeseen delays – These can easily be the most frustrating kinds of delays. For instance, you expected to simply dash in and out of the convenience store; however, you experience a seven-minute delay. Those seven minutes seem infinitely longer than other seven-minute segments in your life.

A series of unrelated delays can make each successive delay more untenable.

Some factors make people less prone to delays, and this impacts the way an occasional delay is experienced. For example, the more privileged you are, the less likely you probably experience delays, and, therefore, the less adept you probably are at dealing with them. The lower class mother of two can most likely weather a 30-minute wait in a doctor’s office better than an upper class woman could.

Delay-Lengthening Culprits

It is a time-proven phenomenon that a delay will seem longer when you feel it to be unjustified. Take the case of hotel clerk answering the phone before tending to you. Why would somebody calling long distance be more important than someone who is standing at the hotel registration desk?

Also, a wait under less than favorable circumstances such as humid weather, amidst disruptive noise, or in an inhospitable setting will always seem to last longer. If you are anxious or under stress, any delay can and will seem long.

Fortunately, there are remedies. Ways do exist to make delays seem shorter and more pleasurable. For instance, waiting with friends tends to make the wait go by faster. Plus, it can even be fun.

Waiting and One’s Mindset

Delays seem to be on the rise throughout society. Longer lines, more traffic, and more people are all contributing factors. However, we increasingly seem less equipped to deal with these things. Personal technologies have greatly affected people’s inability to wait. When you can change channels or websites with a single click, why would you want to spend an extra minute in a supermarket checkout line? Patience is indeed a rapidly-disappearing virtue.

Much of the fascination and over-use of cell phones undoubtedly stems from users’ inability to incur any down time, let alone delays or waiting time. Yet, by reflexively stuffing all spare moments with filler phone calls, the “race-through-the-day” mindset takes holds, becomes seemingly irreplaceable, and then further exacerbates one’s upset at having to wait for anything.

To make waiting time and delays perceptively less intrusive, use them to reflect, meditate, make notes, stretch, rest, read, or simply be thankful that you are alive, healthy, and otherwise blessed.

Jeff Davidson
The Work-Life Balance Expert® and the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues. He works with organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the work-life balance of their people.

He wrote Breathing Space, Simpler Living, and Dial it Down, Live it Up. Visit or call 919-932-1996 for more information on Jeff’s keynote speeches and seminars, including:

- Managing the Pace with Grace®,
- Achieving Work-Life Balance™,
- Managing Information and Communication Overload®