Setting Expectations to Increase Productivity

When Patience is Required:

Customers waiting in line

My customer number was 666. I’m not superstitious, and in fact, I didn’t even think about the number being a problem until my roommate walked into the waiting room to sit beside me.

“I already got a number,” I told Sydonie as she sat down. I showed her the ticket and pointed to the sign behind the counter that read Now serving: 661.

“Not the luckiest draw,” she said and rested her purse on her lap.

We got lost in talking about our day and before we knew it the sign behind the counter read Now serving: 667.

We hadn’t heard them call 666 so we got up and asked Brittany, the Time Warner Cable rep behind the counter, if we could be next or if we needed to grab another number. She called us forward and we stood at the counter to get the name changed on our account.

I recently moved out of the apartment but Sydonie was still staying there. We only had internet service through TWC, and when I’d moved into the apartment a few months prior I had the account switched from being under the last roommate’s name to being under mine. That time it had taken 10 minutes -- we both had to be present & show our ids to get it switched over, but the process was relatively painless.

My customer number should have been a sign that, this time, I wasn’t going to be so lucky.

“We need to fill out a name change form to switch the account over from my name to my roommate’s name,” I told Brittany as Sydonie and I handed her our IDs.

“Okay,” Brittany said. “What’s the telephone number on the account so I can look it up?”

She searched for our account and then turned to the rep next to her to ask how you switch an account from one name to another.

“You got to fill out an Account Assessment Form,” the other rep told her. “The form’s got to be signed by both of you and notarized.”

“Wait,” I said, “I just did this a few months ago and all we had to do was a name change form. We did it right here in this office. It hardly took any time at all and we definitely didn’t have to go get a notary.”

“I don’t know what you did last time,” the other rep told me, “but the only way to get an account transferred over is to fill out the Assessment Form.”

“Alright, I’m not saying I don’t believe you,” I said, trying to be diplomatic, “but I just think this is a pretty simple thing. We only have internet service through TWC and I did the exact same thing not even 6 months ago.”

“Well whoever did the name change for you last time shouldn’t have done it that way,” Brittany told me.

“But it worked out fine. We got the internet transferred to my name, I got access to the account online, the bills came to me. So is there any way we can just do it that way again?” It was 3:00pm on a Friday and I had things I needed to finish at work before I could start the weekend. Spending the afternoon running to get a notary then going by the apartment to get the serial number off the router to put on the form was not exactly what I had in mind.

“No ma’am, we can’t skip it,” she said with eyes that seemed frustrated at my hard headedness. “I can print you out a few copies of the assessment form, though, in case you mess up when you’re filling it out.”

Sydonie took the copies and said thank you. I followed her out of the store and when we got to the sidewalk out front I called TWC customer support to see how they suggested getting the name on the account changed. As expected, they told me to just go to the nearest office to fill out a name change form. I asked the woman on the phone if she would mind explaining that to the TWC rep at the store.

We walked back in, grabbed another number, and sat down to wait to be called. I thanked the TWC rep on the phone for waiting with us more times than I could count as I knew that I was probably messing up her timings for phone calls in the service center.

A few minutes later, Kendra called our number which was the other rep who Brittany had asked for help from the last time. I told Kendra that I was talking to a TWC rep on the phone and just wondered if she would talk with this rep about what we needed to do. Kendra just shook her head.

“No, what you two need is to fill out the Account Assessment Form,” she repeated. “The call center reps really don’t know anything about what we do here at the store just like I probably don’t know anything about what she does at the call center.”

I tried to make my case for a few minutes longer, but my head felt like it was beating against a brick wall. “Okay,” I said to Kendra. “We’ll just get the assessment form filled out.”

I told the rep on the phone thank you for being patient and Sydonie and I left to go get the form notarized & grab the serial number from the router. We got to BB&T by 3:45 and back to the apartment by 4:15. I got the serial number and ran back to the TWC office to get there by 5:00.

This time Narjwa was the rep who called my number. I told her that I just needed to get the name on the account changed and handed her the completed Account Assessment Form.

“Oh, you didn’t need to do all this,” she told me.

I stared at her for a few moments. I felt like I was being punked. “Try telling that to your colleagues,” I said finally.

“Yeah, since you just have internet all you need to do is come in here with the person who is taking over the account and fill out a name change form. Sorry you had to go through all that trouble.”

I sighed and raised my eyebrows. “Me too. Sometimes you pray for patience and you get a line at the bank.”

The Problem with Failed Expectations

I was out of the office by 5:30 and finally heading back to work. My patience was completely drained and I knew whatever I did the rest of the day was bound to be less productive than had my time at Time Warner gone exactly as expected. Instead of something taking around an hour, it had ended up taking 3.5 hours and involved much more work than I’d bargained for.

Before I start to sound too complain-y, I just want to say that I’m grateful that I had the resources I had in that situation. I’m grateful I had the car which quickly got me through all the (albeit unnecessary) hoops I had to jump through. I’m grateful to have had a cell phone so that I could call Sydonie for her SSN once I’d gotten back to the TWC office. I’m grateful to work in a place where it wasn’t a huge deal to have to be gone for that long.

Now, here’s the thing about patience: you set your level of patience in a situation by your expectations.

When you go to the DMV, you are already expecting for it to be a long wait with unfriendly people. You’ve geared yourself up for it such that even though you don’t enjoy the experience, you don’t feel entirely drained after going.

Having more patience isn’t about being able to grin and bear it any better. It’s about being able to better set and adjust your expectations of any given situation. If you are known to have little patience, it’s more likely that you have unrealistic expectations in the situations where you’re quick to anger.

The impossible part of it all is that there’s no way to set unchallenged expectations for every area of your life. Even the areas of your life you’re extremely familiar with will have expectations that get challenged.

  • You take the same route to work every day. It takes 20 minutes. One day there is an accident and you have to take an alternate route. That day it takes 40 minutes to get to work.

  • Your lunch hour lasts from 12-1, but your after lunch appointment shows up at 12:40.

  • It takes 2 hours to write a blog post but you get interrupted 6 times trying to type something up. It ends up taking your whole afternoon.

Life gets in the way of the plans we make and expectations will always be blown.

Blown expectations can trample on our patience levels, and when things outside of our control trample our patience, we can feel pretty angry which isn’t a great mood for optimal productivity.

Optimal productivity requires us to find our flow in the activity we’re engaged in which in turn requires that we don’t crowd our head with thoughts about how frustrated we are. Frustration comes from trampled patience which we lay beneath the feet of failed expectations.

Figure out what your expectations of any given situation are and ask yourself if you can be just a little more lenient with your expectations. If you can adjust your expectations, I guarantee that you’ll feel the difference when it comes to your patience.

And if your patience doesn’t get stretched thin, your productivity is bound to go up.

We lay our patience beneath the feet of our expectations only to find our patience challenged when those expectations aren't met.

How many times have we asked for patience when really we're in control of adjusting our expectations?