Leave Frustration Behind

Are frustrations eating away at your productivity? 

It happens to the best of us. We have a four-hour window to achieve something, and it doesn’t work out: you don’t have the right supplies, you get interrupted repeatedly, someone needs your attention… Some days you just have to throw the towel in the ring and give up due to circumstances out of your control. But there are other times that your frustration ends up being the productivity killer.

Recently, my day didn’t go as planned again—the third day in a row that my expected work output took a nosedive into oblivion. The first day, it felt like an unexpected vacation. On day 2, I sighed, rearranged my schedule to accommodate others, spent a little extra one-on-one birthday time with a grandchild, and managed to squeak in writing a blog. Today—day 3—I was too frustrated to write, too antsy to relax, and couldn’t even find the incentive to do or all the household things that I’d been putting off.

I felt justified in complaining, “I’m sick of letting things outside of myself dictate what my day will be like.” 

1041-Kipling“Delight in the little things,” Kipling said.

I’m quite sure Rudyard wasn’t a stay-at-home mom, but his advice—knowing where, what, and who to delight in—is a necessary ingredient to beat the frustrations these moms have when they try to complete a to-do list. That’s not where I am now, however. I’m at a stage of life where I have freedom from the constant clatter of little ones’ needs, yet I still find it easier—tempting—to go with the flow of whatever the day brings rather than push toward a goal that belongs only to me. Writing my next book is a good example of the kind of project that is easy to put on the back burner when:

  • life happens
  • people get sick
  • friends need a listening ear
  • grandkids want to play a game
  • the garden keeps producing and producing
  • dust has made your home their own and invited friendly dust mites to join the party.

Back to my earlier whining: Was it justified as I claimed?

When something or someone ate up my designated writing time on the first day, I delighted in the fact that my deadlines are self-imposed and promised myself, “Mañana.” On day 2, I was able to flex and put my energies into other areas that could use my attention. By day 3 I realized that there was not glimmer of delight inside my soul. The frustration that I had recounted and bottled up had eroded my attitude so much that I ended up giving away the whole day to negativity.

Obviously, de light had burned out (pun intended). I had tolerated the things that interrupted my day. These things that were important enough that I chose to let them supersede my planned activity, but I hadn’t delighted in any of them. If someone had asked me how the day went, I would have said, “Not as planned.” If I had experienced delight in the unexpected little things, I didn’t take that feeling home in my head and heart. Instead I recounted my growing to-do list with nothing checked off. I dwelt on that list, worried about it, and felt defensive for having it. On day 3, I uncorked that bottle of acidic, bitter attitude, and drank it down.

Confession: It wasn’t the things outside myself that influenced my day—I did it myself.

If I choose to alter my day’s plan of action based on a need that comes my way, then I’d better learn to enter into that interruption with all of myself, delight in the opportunity, and know that I chose to participate rather than ignore it.

This is the key point that hit me between the eyes—it was my choice to enter into an alternative activity.

Do I know the principles driving me to make the choice I  made? Could I, would I, choose anything differently next time?

If the answer is “yes,” I need to find a way to choose more wisely next time.

If the answer is “no,” then I need to learn to fully give myself to whatever it was that called me away. I need to recognize that my day went as planned by God, not by me. Only when I look for God sightings in my day, can I truly delight in the little things.

My new outlook for days 1 and 2 is to thank God at the end of the day for all the interruptions he brought my way—a friend’s tears, a conversation with someone who needed to be heard, some time to cuddle with a sick child, picking up the pieces of someone else’s project gone awry, whatever the “little thing(s)” may be. I need to look at my day with an attitude of fulfillment and delight because I met what was needed with God’s help.

If I can do that, when day 3 comes I’ll be ready to focus on the gift of purposeful time for a project because I will have delighted in the little things.

In what circumstances does frustration take hold of you?

First published in December 2018

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