10 Productive Things To Do While You're Waiting

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Despite how busy we all claim to be, we all have downtime. I mean when was the last time you answered with anything other than “busy” when someone asked how are you? We’re so busy that we don’t even recognize downtime as downtime, but it’s there, I promise you.

It’s there while you wait in the lobby of your doctor’s office, in line at the grocery story (I have mad skills at picking the slow lane), or in the conference room while your colleagues straggle into a meeting. Downtime exists in the car as you wait for school pickup, in the bathroom while your kids finish splashing in the tub before getting washed, or as you impatiently wait for the water to boil so you can get spaghetti on the table for dinner.

Sometimes downtime is so short that just having those few extra seconds to close your eyes or take a deep breath is all it allows. And those seconds are glorious. Don’t ever let them pass you by.

But other times, those breaks when we are in between activities or passing a few minutes before it’s our turn actually add up to a significant chunk of time. Time that we so often waste.

How do we waste it? I’m sure you can take a lucky guess. It likely involves your phone and mindless scrolling as your eyes glaze over and you completely “check out”.

That’s right, social media.

Whether you get your fix from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, or lord knows what else I am behind on, social media is by far the biggest waster of all of our precious downtime.

But what a tough habit to break. Short of deleting those apps from your phone completely (has anyone actually tried that?), you need a compelling reason to do anything other than scroll.

Well, how about this? Think about your week last week. How many times were you waiting? I bet, on average, I wait somewhere around 15 minutes a day combined. Some days more, like on the days when I have a doctor’s appointment, some days less, like when activities and transitions happen back to back with no downtime in between.

But if 15 minutes is an average, and I spread that across even just the 5 work days, that’s 75 minutes each week of time that I spend waiting!!!

What could you do with an hour and 15 minutes extra each week?

I could think of several things. Sure, it’s not altogether in one lump, but it’s still time. Time that you could chip away at a project or a goal, time that you could spend learning something new or just doing something fun for you.

Not sure of how you you could spend those few minutes here and there throughout your week? Here are some ideas

If you have your phone…

1. Listen to a few minutes of a podcast or audiobook

Whether it’s to learn something new, laugh, be in suspense or just listen to a really interesting conversation, escape for those few minutes by tuning out the world and tuning into something you enjoy.

2. Read a digital book

I almost always have a downloaded book on my phone via my local library app. Those random moments here and there where I’m waiting are some of the few opportunities anymore for me to reach my reading goal each year. Plus, I feel so much better after reading than I do after scrolling social media.

3. Clean up your inbox

Delete emails, especially promotional ones, or better yet unsubscribe! Few people get to inbox zero in a day. Chip away at that goal of a beautifully cleaned out inbox 5 minutes at a time.

4. Back up and clean out photos

Speaking of getting organized, why not spend a few minutes deleting blurry photos or backing up images onto the cloud so you can free up space on your phone. This is one of my go-to activities!

5. Draft your grocery list or virtually shop for pick-up/delivery

There is no better way to feel like you’re really maximizing your time than to do you meal planning and/or online grocery shopping in small increments throughout the week so come Saturday morning (or whenever you do your shopping), it’s already done. Talk about feeling like you’ve got it together!

6. Plan your next date night or girls night out

Research fun activities, new restaurants or upcoming events to get you excited and motivated about scheduling a date night or a girls night. Don’t just dream about it, put it on the calendar and make it happen. It only takes a few minutes.

If you happen to be without your phone, or you’re like me and you don’t trust yourself to stay off social media, try one of these ideas the next time you’re waiting with a few minutes to spare:

7. Practice a quick meditation

Whether that’s with the headspace app or just closing your eyes as you count your breaths in and out to 10 over and over again, use those few minutes for some extra calm in your day.

8. Write a letter or a card

This requires you to have stationary on hand, but that’s usually pretty simple if you carry a purse or a tote. Prepare a birthday card, write a thank-you letter or just send a note to a friend just because. Doing something kind and unexpected for others always feels good.

9. Do a thought download

This is just another way of saying, write. Spend a couple of minutes writing down what you’re thinking, how your day is going, what you’re worried about. Getting it down on paper instantly feels like you’ve offloaded a heavy weight.

10. Read a real book

If digital books aren’t your thing, it wouldn’t hurt to carry a real book around so you can make your way through the latest novel a couple pages at a time. Or if it won’t fit in your purse, stash it in your car for those times you arrive to an appointment a little early (yeah, right!).

Let’s face it, you’re a working mom and life and schedules are pretty full for the time being. But don’t overlook the moments of waiting time sprinkled throughout your week. Added up, they can create some pretty massive shifts and progress in your life if you choose to use them productively.

Wouldn’t it be cool to say that you read 12 books this year? Or that you reached inbox zero? Or that you’ve had your longest meditation streak ever? All just by being more purposeful with how you use the time spent waiting as you transition from one activity, appointment and routine to the next.

And if you choose to use those few minutes just to close your eyes and breathe, well I fully support that too. Just do it with purpose and don’t feel guilty about. But whatever you do, put away the social media. You can do so much better than that!