I, among all people, know that frustration is a great obstacle to achieving your goals. Not only does it slow you down, but it also takes away from the quality of your work and your relationships. As pervasive as it may sound, frustration is easily dislodged from your brain. I have discovered a few tricks in my life, some of which you can also use.
- Stay organized: Most of the frustration in my life comes from not being able to find things in my house. There is nothing worse than not being able to find your keys, cell phone or shoes. To avoid losing your possessions, try routines, where you do the same with the same object each time. For example, if you always let go of your sunglasses after taking them off, start putting them on the same counter or in the same drawer every time you get home, and you’ll soon be able to find them there no matter what. Another place to stay well organized is your computer. Make sure to archive all your emails in folders, all your documents in folders, and make sure you name everything logically. A good trick is to name your documents with a title and a date, because sometimes you need to find things that you wrote at a specific time. Also, clean your computer periodically as this leads to less clutter. Disorder is the enemy!
- Take it easy: There are many times when frustration is triggered by the frustrated mindset, which, if you think about it, makes perfect sense. When you do something wrong or can’t find something, you keep working in a more exasperated state, leading to ultimate exhaustion. To combat this natural, self-destructive fervor, try to calm down when frustrated. There are a myriad of ways you can do this, including taking a break, having a drink of water / tea / some other relaxing drink, or even meditating. Taking a break is by far the most effective technique, because it allows you to distract your mind for a while, which really helps reduce your level of frustration.
- Make things fun: Many of the activities that cause frustration are because they are the ones you don’t want to do. Many times, you are forced to do it or you have an obligation. So when you’re in the middle of these obnoxious acts, try making things a little fun, turning it into a game, or maybe singing songs. Anything you can do to make time go by faster helps and also calms you down.
- Decelerate: As you get more and more frustrated, you generally try to do the task you are failing at faster and faster, which only leads to a higher failure rate and thus more discontent. More than half the time, this increased speed goes unnoticed, but if you even think you’re starting to accelerate, slow down immediately.
- To feel comfortable: I know from personal experience that physical discomfort is a large part of general distress. If your environment is strange and does not adapt well to the task you are trying to do, feel free to change it. I remember one time, I was trying to rewire a cable behind my desk, and it kept crashing, over and over again. My back, shoulders, neck, and hands ached because I needed to squish everything to fit behind my desk. I realized that he was bothering me a lot, bordering on verbal profanity, and decided I needed to change things up a bit. So, I moved my desk and in less than a minute, everything was wired correctly and more importantly, I was no longer frustrated!
- Move on: If you are puzzled by a trivial task, forget it! If it’s not necessary and it makes you want to split something in half, don’t do it. I seem to get very frustrated by superfluous details, which makes the whole process of doing anything that much less enjoyable. So if there is one screw out of 100 that you can’t install, let it be. If you are still determined to put it on, you can use it again later, once you have regained your senses.
- Know yourself: Before undertaking a task, consider whether you are qualified to do it. Judge this not only by your skill in that specific area, but also by the frustration that goes with it. Once you have considered all the factors, do (or not) do the activity. For example, if you hate gardening, but really love gardens and can’t afford a gardener, it’s probably wiser to plant yourself, even if you’re frustrated. On the other hand, if you love gardens, you can afford a gardener, but aggravate yourself when gardening, it is definitely better to just hire the gardener.
These four tips are incredibly helpful, especially the last one. If you know how you will react to certain things, you will know what to avoid, outsource, and use the other three tips. Frustration is probably the biggest obstacle to success in business, academia, and life, so if you can avoid it, it will be for the better.