The waiting is hard. At first it was every day. Lately it’s been more like every week. Waiting for the next announcement, decision, guidance from the leaders of our nation, state, and public health department. What will the data show? What action will we be required to take? What will be offered as a recommendation versus an order? What decisions will I need to make to keep safe the people I have responsibility for while also providing taxpayers with a pre-paid service?

We all are reminding each other to breathe, I think because sometimes it feels like we’re holding our breath waiting for the next order to come down.

Ready, Set, …

It’s hell in the hallway. I can’t remember when I first heard this term. At first I didn’t get it. I used it with someone recently and they gave me a puzzled look. Now we’re living it every day. We’re not used to waiting without anticipation. We’re planners. We look forward to birthdays, graduations, weddings, even days off. I don’t know how to behave when I can’t even imagine when I or my team might take a day off. Weekends always go by quickly – half work, half home-work – but when there’s no plan for a 3-day weekend or tickets for a ballgame, it all just runs together, leaving me slightly unsettled.

Little about this pandemic is comfortable for me as a human. I like to work in a variety of locations. I’m getting bored of being in my house. I like to pop into people’s offices to ask a question or see how they’re doing. Now I have to IM, text, email or call to check in. I’m tired of typing and talking without being in a literal same room with someone. All meetings are virtual meetings now. My patience is cracking. I want to silence the people who don’t know how to mute their phones or laptops during a video conference. I can’t see everyone who’s in the room. When I leave my home, I don’t like covering my mouth, which covers my smile. And, as an adult, I know that someday this all will be a distant memory – at least for those of us whose loved ones and co-workers made it through safely.

Go Slow to Go Fast

We brought in a great facilitator about a year ago to help us with a strategic planning session with our Board. This facilitator noticed right away that our team, while sometimes mired in process, also was impatient to get to the next thing before completely executing well on what was in front of us. “Go slow to go fast,” he said. It stopped us in our tracks. It slowed us in our tracks, I should say. And it stuck – at least enough that when someone on the team calls us on it now – go slow to go fast – it hits me in my gut, forces me to take stock of everything going on in the moment, and acknowledge that we are speeding up just when we need to be slowing down.

This mantra has been topsy turvy during the pandemic. When we hurriedly closed the doors of our physical locations to the public, we moved fast. Yet ramping up remote working was painfully slow, sometimes taking 7-10 days to get to what seemed like a simple deliverable. Starts and stops with each new executive order made it hard to get a rhythm going with our strategies, teams, and tasks. Just when we’d get something moving along, something else would change and set us back or start us over. Everything seems to take longer in the remote work environment.

Planning for our return to in-person service has been a prime example of going slow to go fast. Librarians are a competitive bunch, believe it or not. But in this environment, we’ve all slowed down our decision-making, checking and double checking every policy, procedure and protocol with public health, Human Resources, and legal experts to validate our approach. Being familiar with Go Slow to Go Fast is making it easier for our team to plan for a safer return to service, rather than speedy return to service.

While this experiment has been debunked; it’s still painful to watch the kids wait

The Waiting Game

Some people have told me that finding distractions helps them cope. Getting a new kitten or a puppy gives them something else to think about. Others reach out to help by making masks, giving blood or volunteering. Others hunker down, determinedly waiting it out.

Me? I feel like one of the kids in the marshmallow experiment. I’m itching to be around other people. I want to see my colleagues in person. I’m working too many hours and trying to distract myself when I’m not working. I’m resigning myself to this next normal for now. I, too, want this to be over. Like it or not, I’ll just have to wait for it.

Recommended Reading

The Five Love Languages, Gary D. Chapman, 2005.

This might seem like an odd book to recommend for this topic, but it’s on my mind these days. If I understand my own love language and the love language of the people I’m spending so much time with these days at home and work, I think I can wait this out with more grace and less grumpiness.

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, Anne Bogel, 2017.

Along the same lines, this book delves into personality from the angle of various typing systems. It’s engrossing, engaging and challenging. It’s also useful for understanding people’s behaviors under stress, including my own.