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I saw a statistic that the longest that people would wait to be seated at a restaurant was 20 minutes. I suppose it depends on how good the food is in how large your group is. Recently, at a Meridian, MS, chain restaurant, my husband and I were given an estimate of 1-1/2 hours to wait to be seated. We went somewhere else to eat but a large family was already into their second hour of waiting.
Most of us don’t like waiting. Waiting is the one time that we recognize that time is precious. It is a commodity with no price and no limit yet is more valuable than anything else in life. We cannot recover lost time – once we have spent a second, a minute, and hour – it is gone forever.
Waiting is an Opportunity
Today when we are faced with a 20-minute wait for seating at a restaurant, we whip out our cellphones. Some people read news stories of their favorite movie stars. Others check scores from last night’s basketball game. My husband checks stock prices and I run through email.
Unfortunately, I’ve watched families continue this pantomime after they are seated. Mom, Dad, and kids continue to look at Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok while they have dinner “together”. The opportunity to share a meal together goes beyond eating (in my opinion) and is a time to talk about your day, your dreams, your challenges. This time gives people a chance to build relationships and to create memories.
Waiting time can be an opportunity. I was called to jury duty the other day and the facility had a “no cell phones” policy. A sheriff stood at the entrance demanding people leave their phones in their cars. There is a lot of waiting while the judge and lawyers go through their processes of negotiating jury selection
Knowing I could not have a cell phone to check email or read the news, I brought a book to read. Of 91 potential jurors, I was the only person who recognized an opportunity in the waiting. Maybe the other potential jurors were making mental plans or daydreaming – also worthwhile uses of our time . But, unless you are prepared to take advantage of waiting, you could just waste your time.
Wisdom in Waiting
The book I was reading during the jury duty waiting is called “Off the Clock” by Laura Vanderkam. It is also about focus so that we use our limited time to the greatest purpose. We all know that glorious feeling when it feels like the clock stopped because we are enjoying time with our work, our colleagues, or our hobbies. These are precious times of engagement that we remember and recall as “good times”.
Waiting time, however, can give us wisdom. When we pause to put down our phones and focus on our plans for the day (versus what meetings are on the schedule), we “think”. Deep thinking helps us apply wisdom to a situation. These interludes of unoccupied time give us wisdom in creative problem-solving. By turning a problem over and over in our minds, we can see new angles and new approaches for solutions.
In the research for “Off the Clock,” Ms. Vanderkam found that people with the highest perception of time are the same people who intentionally scheduled periods of open time. Instead of running from meeting to meeting, high performers use this time for strategic thinking and responding as leaders. Innovation professionals can use waiting time to build creative wisdom.
Waiting, Wisdom, and What Else?
I believe our lifelong satisfaction comes from working hard at what we love and loving those in our relationship circles. We build wisdom, memories, and creativity through our engagements with people and by thinking and planning what’s next. King Solomon didn’t ask for wealth or possessions. Instead, he asked for wisdom and he waited for his prayer to be answered.
What can you do to increase wisdom through waiting? First, put your cell phone down and be fully present. Brendon Burchard advises busy people to pause at the door, take a deep breath, and focus on how they can be fully present as they pass through the door to what lays beyond. This increases our wisdom as leaders, our creativity as the innovation professionals, and our happiness in relationships.
Next, I recommend taking time to build your professional wisdom as a leader. I’m offering a new opportunity for project, product, and engineering managers to grow in their careers through disciplined focus, strategic goal-setting, and functional skill-building. Learn more here.
Finally, be prepared for the wait. Have a plan ready in case you must wait. Keep a real book in your bag to read when the opportunity arises. Ask your spouse about their day – and really listen. Laugh and tell jokes. Waiting is an opportunity for creative wisdom.
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