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Buffer time

I've been mulling over the needs for (those 80s kids among us channel your inner MC Hammer when you say this)…' BUFFER TIME.

We are subject to societal norms that see us racing from one thing to the next with no time to assimilate or process the previous activity or experience before we go barrelling headlong into the next one.

More so when we are subjected to reams of information, take the ten o' clock news, the speed with which we are bombarded with big news headline after big news headline, and somehow we have to process all emotions, feelings and concerns before we are onto the next equally hard-hitting headline. Chances are we cannot, our short-term working memory is replaced by the next newsworthy item, but we are left with traces of emotions and worries that have not been processed fully and reside in our conscious or subconscious.

Take the Big-five personality traits. If we look to the Extraversion/Introversion scale for example you will find that scoring lower on the scale and a lean toward introversion then you will feel this too, being more of an introvert I take time to mull over and process info, so vast inputs of knowledge imparted at pace can be challenging to process and leave me feeling harried and stressed. Having insight into this however has meant I could talk with my manager and find ways and means to build in buffer time for assimilating/quiet time for reflecting and time away from emails to think or simply to get things actioned.

It is not just how we process information, it's the ways in which we are now having to process information that gives us a whole new set of challenges. Where once we were simply dealing with back to back face to face meetings these have been replaced by back to back Zooms!

A recent article by the BBC talks of Zoom fatigue. Video chats are essential to maintaining team trust, cohesion and working effectively, however they have their dark side. We have to work harder to process non-verbal cues, so when someone from the team makes suggestions to improve a report – do we get taken aback and wonder if it came as a criticism, or are they sharing it in the spirit of development and support? We find it harder to process facial expressions, tone of voice and often we cannot see the whole of a person's body to gauge their body language signals. This 'dissonance' means we find ourselves conflicted when processing what has occurred, our minds may also default to our inbuilt negativity bias, and the chances are we may land on a negative assumption if we don't explore in the moment.

It is a little different when using Zoom socially, typically we know our friends and family a little better and do not need to be so 'on our A-game'. But still these challenges are there.

What can you do to be more mindful of the challenges that these new times are presenting us with?

We can take buffer time (not buffet time as some of us are). Can you structure your day in a way you might when in the office? Take regular breaks, take that allowed exercise slot perhaps at lunchtime and go for a walk or some gentle stretching? When you have a hefty morning of virtual meetings then turn off your emails and allow yourself some dedicated processing time. Or better still invite colleagues, or if you are the lead, to build buffer time into meeting planning, if many of you are turning up for the same meetings, give yourself 15 mins of breathing space to make notes or start on the actions. This may take time and practice, it is not an easy change to implement overnight but have a go and see how it feels at the end of a day where you have given yourself a gift of some buffering.

Notice if your working pattern is stretching to a longer day, just because some of us do not have to commute now it should not become free time for us to carry on hunched over laptops. If you used to leave the office at 5pm, try it today, walk out of your front door, around the block, or even up and down the stairs a few times and create your new commute home. That drive, cycle or walk home is the decompression time between work and home that could be missing.

You can use short meditation practices here too. I have attached two meditations you lucky people! One is a three-min breathing space for grounding, and one is alternative nostril breathing for energising. Have a play with both and see how you find them.

BBC article:

Body scan:

Alternate nostril breathing:

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