I am impatient
A recent conversation with a co-worker brought to light part of my personality which I hadn’t really thought about much before.
Co-worker: “Do you make your bed every morning?”
Me: “No way!”
Co-worker: “I can’t leave the house without it made.”
Me: “But time is precious! I’m not going to waste ten whole minutes each day making my bed. Think what I could be doing instead!”
I’ve always known I was impatient. Friends have mentioned it. Family have told me so. I’ve felt it in myself – whether I’m waiting in a line or struggling with broken technology. Another incident brought it to mind shortly after:
I was training in a new section at work, and my co-worker was running me through the paperwork side of the job. It went like this: “They staple these 2 sheets together every time. It gets annoying, but we need to unstaple them to scan them in, and then staple them again. Here’s the staple unpicker tool.”
As soon as she left, I tried to little stapler unpicker, just to make sure I could use it. And then I chucked it onto the desk and ripped the papers apart (neatly!) and went on to complete the rest of the task. My reasoning? It was quicker – and it didn’t look too bad. More trial and error I discovered that if the staple was too close to the corners it made an unacceptable (in my estimation) sized rip (as opposed to the ‘acceptable’ rips I was making), so I alternated between unpicker and ripping depending on the position of the staple –and probably saved about 30 seconds all up.
My desire not to waste time is one of the reasons I almost always take a book if I’m going to the shops, running an errand, or going anyplace which may require me to spend more than a minute doing nothing.
Impatience. – Or was it?
But am I really?
I always struggled with this self-diagnosed character flaw, because you see, I know I have no problem with waiting if I realise it’s all I can do. In one sense, I’m relatively good with perseverance, I have no issue with picking away at a long project over an extended period of time, and I don’t mind spending hours and hours on something if that is what it requires.
This made me realise that I don’t necessarily value doing things at neck-breaking speed just for the sake of it, nor do I lack the ability to sit still or wait.
Instead of being hampered by the flaw of impatience, as I always thought, perhaps I simply value efficiency.
Why I value efficiency
I can’t stand something taking a long time if it doesn’t need to. I think that was one of the difficulties I had with maths at school. I would be too quick to jump at what I thought were ‘short cuts’ in working out a long equation, only to emerge with a hopelessly wrong answer because I was wrong, and should have just worked through it the traditional way.
My desire for short cuts (why spend 30 minutes if you can spend 10?) has gotten me into trouble without a doubt. Mostly burnt food (fried eggs and pancakes forever elude me), mis-coloured washing, or cutting myself shaving. But it has also saved a lot of time! I’ve gotten my shower routine down to the least possible minutes and I rarely turn my washing the right way around before I fold them because it’s quicker for me to do that once I’m getting dressed. I never iron, rarely paint my nails or curl my hair, and generally don’t cook anything that requires more than 10 minutes standing over a stove. Personal preferences… but the more I think about it, the more I realise they tell me a lot about my character.
All this is helpful. Why?
I’ve come to realise what I value, and what I don’t. I’ve also realised that other people have different values, and that’s okay. For me, making my bed is bottom of my to-do list, because I’m going to make it messy in 12 hours anyway. On the flipside, I enjoy making my own peanut butter rather than buying it, and don’t resent the extra time that takes. I would rather not blow dry my hair, but I can happily spend 15 minutes a day dreaming while holding a cup of tea. Other people might be the opposite, and that’s okay and that’s healthy.
Efficiency is a gift
I’ve also come to understand that efficiency is a gift, and I have to use it well. I have both the ability and the desire to save time in certain areas of my life, but that means I also have the responsibility of using that time well. What’s the point of saving 30 minutes in the morning if I shamelessly waste it in the afternoon? As a Christian I am called to be a steward of my time, and that means realising that ‘saving time’ is not actually an end in itself.
Efficiency is a flaw
Lastly, now I understand how much I value efficiency, I can set myself to learning how to value inefficiency. You see, people and relationships are messy. They are inefficient and a waste of time, if I am only weighing up minutes and gains. I struggle with this a lot. When someone takes 30 minutes to tell a story which they could have told in 5, or stands and daydreams at an inappropriate time (we’re running late, just get in the car for goodness sake and day dream then!) I start to get edgy. I become snappy or begin to make pointed suggestions (you know, if would be quicker if you told me about that while you put your shoes on). At times I even assume I know what they’re going to say, think I can say it more efficiently than them, and try and finish their sentences (with varying levels of success), or jump to the end of their story and summarise it for them (with even more varying levels of success).
My friends, this is not loving. This self-created urgency, this desire to streamline life, can (and definitely has) hurt the people in my life. When I value efficiency more than I value other humans, something is wrong. And it’s not the other person, it’s me. If I look at the gospels, I see a Jesus who lived life at the same pace as those around Him, yet never wasted time. He was driven, but never too flurried to listen and love those around him.
May I follow in His footsteps.