Getting out of waiting mode

Drawing of a clock on a pink background

What is waiting mode?

Waiting mode is when you feel unable to do anything but wait when you expect an event or appointment in the near future.

Example: If I have to leave for an appointment at 2pm and it’s 1pm, my waiting mode may activate. I’ll feel unable to focus on anything except for the fact I’ll have to leave for the appointment soon.

What causes waiting mode?

Waiting mode seems to be rooted in a combination of executive dysfunction and anxiety.

Specifically, the following factors contribute to waiting mode:

  • Anxiety about missing the appointment due to past experiences of becoming hyperfocused on another task and losing track of time
  • Anxiety about being interrupted by the upcoming event during hyperfocus
  • Anxiety about the upcoming event and trying to mentally prepare yourself for it
  • Difficulty shifting attention (i.e. shifting attention from the anticipated event to another task)

So how do we get out of waiting mode?

The solution would depend on why you are anxious.

Losing track of time anxiety

If you are anxious about losing track of time if you start focusing on a different task, then try setting multiple alarms leading up to the event.

Interruption anxiety

If you are anxious about being interrupted while you are in deep concentration, then break down the task you want to work on into smaller tasks. Choose a task small enough that you are likely to complete before running out of time. Set a goal to work on just the small subtask, but feel free to continue onto other tasks if your anxiety drops after getting “into the zone”.

Event anxiety

If you are anxious about an aspect of the upcoming event itself and feel the need to mentally prepare, ask yourself if there is anything you can do to prepare for the event. If you can, then do what is necessary to prepare yourself. If there is nothing you can do, try to acknowledge that worrying will not help in this case and it would be best to focus on something else.

In each case, addressing the anxiety should help make it easier to shift your attention from the upcoming event to another task.

What do you do to get out of waiting mode?

*See my previous post on waiting mode for more information.

**The causes and solutions for waiting mode are based on anecdotal evidence.

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