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The hidden value of frustration
Can we channel our past frustrations into a future of free thinking?
Frustration is just one outcome of the challenges we face in the working world. It’s in the very nature of collaboration – our professional relationships can falter, crossed wires can lead to miscommunication, and a lack of clear direction can cause, you guessed it, untold frustration.
We’ve all experienced it at one time or another, and the chances are your next project will still generate an all too familiar furrowed brow at the keyboard. Frustration manifests itself in and beyond our professional and personal circles, and whilst it can create some pretty serious consequences, there’s hidden value we can take from it.
Instead of attempting to “overcome” frustration, try interrogating it head on. There’s real progress that can be made once we become mindful of our emotions and consider what we can practically change.
Lean into your frustration – examine your exasperation and acknowledge your annoyance. Can you identify the origin of your frustration? Is there an opportunity to learn, develop, and make peace with it?
It’s not you, it’s us
More often than not, a fractious working relationship can indicate a bad fit. We’ve all had them – a difficult client or a challenging partner that pushes your boundaries (and buttons) in all the wrong ways. There’s strength in choosing compatibility over profit – not every professional opportunity or partnership will be positive or productive.
What can you do if you’re facing frustration during a collaboration?
📆 Suggest a weekly stand-up. Facilitating a forum to open up the conversation can help to resolve practical issues. What’s gone well? What could do with some work?
🗣 Ask for feedback. The likelihood is that the feeling is mutual – can you grow from this common ground?
✏ Construct a watertight contract. Anticipate challenges before they arise. Is there a process in place to make negotiation (or exit) simpler?
Where accountability meets forgiveness
Perhaps you’re feeling frustrated because your collaborator has fallen short and not quite met expectations, or maybe your colleague hasn’t delivered the goods on time or to a high enough standard. In design, and across industries, we work in a digital production line, with each phase depending on a network of collaborators generating top notch work. With every deadline missed or piece of feedback delayed comes a ripple effect impacting a wider team. It’s natural to get that nagging feeling of frustration, but forgiving setbacks helps to quell irritation, instead creating an opportunity for accountability and a space to set new targets.
How can you approach accountability with a fresh perspective?
🤝 Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Being honest about your expectations and when they haven’t been met can create tension, but it’s a necessary part of communication, and the first stage of finding a resolution.
📈 Be clear with the trajectory of your project. At Driftime, we use Notion to track tasks and establish a clear timeline for each phase of every project. Find what works for you and share your methods with your team.
⏳ Keep yourself accountable. Take responsibility when things go wrong on your end. It’s easier to solve problems once they’re out in the open.
We can compare the notion of frustration to the narrow middle of an hourglass – as the sand passes through slowly and with relative difficulty, it eventually finds itself in an expansive space, with room to move and settle. When we reflect and work through frustration, we find ourselves at this very same gateway. It’s at this point we persevere, reflecting on how we can create more understanding in the good company of our collaborators, colleagues, and co-conspirators.