On average we spend 1-2 hours each day in idle mode: waiting in lines, traffic jams, commuting to work, between meetings, etc. Have you realized that? I call this time “idle” time, since you can’t take on complex tasks and the time seems to be wasted. Actually, there are a number of things you can do during “idle” time to increase your productivity and effectiveness.

Ways to stay productive during idle time

Last week, on my way to the airport, I was aware of the time it was taking, so I asked myself which of my usual “idle time” practices would be the best way to use the time effectively. My choice was a little different from usual, in that instead of using one of my normal practices, I decided to make a list of them and share them. So here is the list of the things I practice myself, and some new ones I added to the list as I was brainstorming.

You may be tempted to use this time just for professional development, but I encourage you to think beyond that. There are other major areas of life we need to keep in shape as well. Failure in any area of life significantly affects all the other areas.

1. Read a book*

Business or leisure  – it depends on how you want to use it this particular time. Only 15 minutes a day makes 75 minutes per week, which is probably a book per month. And there are often several 15 minute periods of idle time a day. Reading gives you a remarkable advantage in the workplace and marketplace, since most of your colleagues and competitors do not read to gain the competitive edge or be more effective.

*Hey, don’t read while driving 🙂 Use audio books instead.

2. Review your life or business goals to stay focused

Days are full of activities and distractions, which can de-focus us from what is most important. If you have not yet written your personal goals down, I encourage you to list them and then plan steps to achieve them. Successful people plan for success in business and life. Ask yourself WHY you are doing what you are doing, think long-term and set priorities.

3. Visualize, plan your future vacation, hobby project, etc.

Use this idle time while waiting in line to visualize what you will be doing on vacation, how you will enjoy it. Think about specific things you want to do and plan for them. Once you visualize it, it not only gives you stronger motivation for the rest of the day, but also helps you to plan specific steps. Dreams are important.

4. Send a useful article to your partner or a client

Keep your network alive by being helpful to others. Make a list of potential “needs” for a group of your contacts and plan for regular updates to a specific person. Don’t be afraid to initiate. Give first and people will return the favor. (Only make sure your motives are right.) As my favorite speaker and author Zig Ziglar said many years ago:

“If you help enough people to get what they want in life, they will help you to get what you want.” – Zig Ziglar

5. Call your mom

When was the last time you called your mom, parents? If they are alive, make a call right now, as parents will not be there forever. Sometimes it is enough for them to hear your voice, and it’s a good way to use some of those idle time periods during the  day 🙂

(As you get older, this same idea works with your kids – adult kids, or teenagers. Call just to say “Hello” and see how they are doing.)

6. Plan fun time for this coming weekend to share with your kids, spouse or entire family

Research ideas, brainstorm what you can do together. Indoors or outdoors. I mean – real quality time. Your family are the most valuable people in your life, aren’t they? Then your calendar should reflect that.

7. Write a blog post, article, or chapter of your next book

Practice makes perfect, in writing as in anything else. With the word regular in front of the word practice, if you want great outcomes. Several 15 minute periods per day provide enough time to write down or refine your article, blog, etc. I am learning to do this myself, so I can say from personal experience that it works.

8. Read an interesting article related to your hobby

We all have things that interest us, things that inspire us and for which we don’t need outside motivation to get us involved. Usually it is lack of time, not motivation, that keeps us from pursuing these interests, so now you know that some of your idle times provide the perfect opportunity to go there without feeling guilty for taking time away from “important things”.

9. Learn a new language

Sometimes knowing a foreign language gives you’re a tremendous competitive edge. It also expands your worldview. It helps you to develop yourself by learning new things about another culture, another people, even if there is not a specific goal for it. Learning a language can also be fun 🙂 A few new words a day will make a huge difference in 6 months.

10. Make your own list of 10 things like this

Just from reading this blog post, I’m sure you’ve already come up with ideas of your own for a similar list,. Write them down, keep them in your smartphone or day timer and next time you are “idle”, get the list out and do something from the list. You’ll see the difference in how much more effective you become.

Share your ideas

What are your ideas? Please share them in comments. I would love to hear them, and I’m sure others would, too.


You might also enjoy:

Do You Have Time For Your Dreams?

How To Set Goals That Will Help You To Succeed


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