Wait for it …

Is patience a virtue, or a thorn in your side?


Patience has never been one of my strengths. I may have mellowed a bit with age, but I still cannot—and will not—wait for certain things. Some may say that a lack of patience is equivalent to a “can-do” attitude, while others say that lacking this trait makes a person too aggressive and pushy. Either way, lacking patience has both hurt and helped me in my daily life.

My inability to wait also sends me zooming in different directions when working on something. Countless studies show that multitasking is ineffective and inefficient, and I agree, so I try to focus as much as possible (I just closed my email to write this). But with so many things to consider from minute to minute, I find myself bouncing around, trying to get everything done—or at least moved on to the next level or person—as quickly as possible.

It seems as though the Consulting-Specifying Engineer audience is a bit impatient, too. While 70% of respondents to a recent reader study have worked in the industry 20 years or more, they’re still eagerly learning about and specifying multiple products and systems and working on myriad building types. And 63% bill more than 40 hours each week, meaning they’re really working even more than that. While this is a function of the economy picking up and more work available for engineers, it also signifies some anxiety in the workforce—anxiety to get the job done, to please the customer, to stay active while aging, and to continue to earn and save for retirement.

Two of the survey questions asked about professional and personal challenges, and “keeping up” was one of the biggest responses. This includes keeping up with technology, deadlines, regulations, the changing younger workforce, and the fast-paced decisions that must be made. There’s little time for patience in this case—consultants are being pulled in too many directions to rest on their laurels. 

Survey respondents also showed their impatience when obtaining information about technologies or systems. They want information instantly (who doesn’t today?), and they want detailed information in ways that usually include some sort of human interaction, such as seminars, webcasts, or face-to-face meetings. An online search will render basic information about a new product, but when it comes to the minutiae, respondents want a voice or a face with which to interact. Unfortunately, most consultants cannot afford in-person training, so webcasts or online education suffice in these cases.

While I’d like to encourage you to slow down and be more serene in your professional life, I don’t have time to help you gain this skill. I’ve already moved on to my next task. 

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