I, of all people, know that frustration is a big hurdle in accomplishing your goals. Not only does it slow you down, it also takes away from the quality of your work and relationships. However pervasive it may seem, frustration is easily sloughed off your brain. I have discovered a few tricks over my life, some of which you may be able to use as well.

  1. Stay Organized: Most of the frustration in my life comes from not being able to find things in my house. There is nothing worse that not being able to find your keys, cell phone or shoes. To prevent yourself from losing your possessions, try to make routines, where you do the same thing with the same object every time. For example, if you always loose your sunglasses after you take them off, start to put them on the same counter, or in the same drawer every time you come home, and soon, you will be able to find them there no matter what. Another place to keep well organized is your computer. Make sure to file all of your e-mails in folders, all of your documents in folders, and make sure to name everything logically. A nice 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 out your computer periodically, as this leads to less clutter. Clutter is the enemy!
  2. Calm Down: There are many times where frustration is caused by the mentality of the frustrated, which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense. When you do something wrong, or can’t find something, you keep working yourself into a more exasperated state, which leads to eventual burn out. To combat this natural, self-destructive fervor, try to calm yourself down when you become frustrated. There are a plethora of ways you can do this, including taking a break, getting a drink of water/tea/some other soothing drink or even meditation. Taking a break is by far the most effective technique, because it allows you to divert your mind for a while, which really helps bring your frustration level down.
  3. Make Things Fun: A lot of frustration-causing activities are so because they are ones you do not want to do. Many times, you are forced into them, or have an obligation. So, when you are in the midst of these detestable deeds, try to make things a bit fun, by making a game out of it, or maybe singing songs. Anything you can do to make the time go by faster helps, and also calms you down as well.
  4. Slow Down: As you get increasingly frustrated, you usually try to do the task you are failing at faster and faster, which just leads to a higher failure rate, and therefore more disgruntlement. More than half the time, this increased celerity goes unnoticed, but if you even think you are starting to accelerate, immediately slow down.
  5. Get Comfortable: I know, from personal experience, that physical discomfort is a large part of overall vexation. If your environment is an odd one that is not-well suited to the task you are trying to complete, do not hesitate to change it. I remember one time, I was trying to rewire a cord behind my desk, and I kept failing, over and over again. My back, shoulders, neck and hands were in pain, because I needed to squish everything to fit behind my desk. I realized that I was getting really annoyed-on the verge of verbal profanities-and I decided I needed to switch things around a bit. So, I moved my desk over, and in less than a minute, everything was wired correctly, and more importantly, I wasn’t frustrated anymore!
  6. Move On: If you are getting flummoxed by a trivial task, forget about it! If it is not necessary, and it is making you want to rip something in half, don’t do it. I seem to get very frustrated over superfluous details, which makes the entire process of doing anything a lot less enjoyable. So, if there is one screw out of 100 that you can’t install, just let it be. If you are still determined to put it in, you can come back to it later, after you have regained your senses.
  7. Know Yourself: Before you take on a task, consider if you are well suited to do it. Judge this not only by your skill in that specific area, but also by the frustration that goes along with it. Once you have considered all of the factors, do (or not) the activity. For example, if you hate gardening, but really love gardens and can’t afford a gardener, it is probably wiser just to plant yourself, even though you will get frustrated. On the flip side, if you love gardens, can afford a gardener, but get aggravated when gardening, it is definitely better to just hire the gardener.

These four tips are incredibly useful, especially the last one. If you know how you will react to certain things, you know what to avoid, outsource and use the other three tips on. Frustration is probably the biggest roadblock to success in business, academia and life, so if you can circumvent it, it will be for the better.