10 Productive Ways to Utilize Those Wasteful Wait Times

We’ve all been there…..

You show up at the doctor’s office on time, only to discover that they’re running behind and four others with appointments ahead of you are still waiting.

Or the airport where you wait for hours, only to hear the announcement that your delayed flight has been rescheduled – again.

Or the “quick visit” to the post office that drags on for an hour.

And if you are a parent… well, you probably have “scheduled” wait times built into your calendar – soccer practice, swim lessons, piano classes…

When you are busy and stressed, even a short wait feels like eternity. Every minute that you wait, is a minute wasted.

“Wait time” can be the most frustrating time – if you let it. With just a little bit of planning though, you can not only turn “wait time” into productive time, but may actually surprise yourself by looking forward to it!

Here are 10 simple tips to get you started.

1.      Use it to de-stress and relax

Play games, browse, respond to emails, facebook or twitter on your smartphone. Read magazines. Carry a book with you everywhere you go. Listen to music or podcasts. The key here is to make this an intentional break instead of doing all these things just because you’re bored.

2.      Plan and organize the rest of your day

Most of us are so busy that we are like rats running through a maze, often landing in dead ends. Use the wait time to create a TO-DO list and then prioritize/organize your day so you can be more efficient with what you have to do when you’re done waiting.

3.      Catch up on phone calls

Too busy on weekdays and too lazy on weekends for those “lets-stay-in-touch” phone calls? This may be a good time to catch up on those calls.

4.      Exercise the “other” side of your brain

If your job mostly requires logical thinking, use this time to give the creative side of your brain a workout. Doodle, write a poem, make up a bedtime story for your kids, click away with your camera phone or just browse Flickr. On the other hand, if you are in a creative profession, use this time to jog your logical side. Solve crossword puzzles/sudoku, balance your checkbook or plan the logistics of your next big gig.

5.      Get familiar with the features in your phone

Even the most non-savvy phones these days have reminders, alarm, calculator etc. And the smartphones have so many features and apps, you’d need a lifetime to figure it all out. Waiting at the bus station or the doctor’s office is a good time to explore all that your phone has to offer!

6.      Strike up a conversation with someone

Never underestimate what you can learn from total strangers. You may discover a gem of a restaurant. Or fix an annoying problem. Or learn deep life secrets that only mystic strangers can teach. And don’t underestimate the joy of helping total strangers either. Being that informer, problem-solver or the mystic teacher can add a definite upward spin to the rest of your day.

7.      Let your mind wander

Go ahead, indulge yourself in some daydreaming. Not the kind that involves your everyday life and it’s boring details – that’s just stressing out. Instead dream of the fabulous startup you’ll create or the fantastic vacation you’ll take… It can be quite relaxing, and who knows – it may even kindle a spark for a new adventure.

8.      Count your blessings

We get so carried away in the daily grind, that we hardly take the time to count our blessings. This can be a great time to think of all that is good in your life and send silent prayers for everyone that helped make it happen. And don’t underestimate your own role in the successful things in your life – acknowledge all that is good in you and reinforce your spirit.

9.      Meditate

You can meditate practically anywhere without the need for any props, special music, sitting in a special position or chanting. Meditation is just a means to calm your mind and let go of your stress – try it.

10.   Stretch/Exercise

I was once stuck in an airport with a long layover + a delayed flight and I started walking aimlessly in total frustration. And there, in a quiet corner of the airport, I saw a lady doing stretching exercises. She looked calm, serene and downright inspiring! So, depending on where you are this is definitely something to keep in mind.

Well, wait time — be it scheduled or unscheduled — is something that nobody likes. But if you start making good use of it you may just start to enjoy it, and who knows, maybe even look forward to it :)

What are some of your favorite things to do during long wait times?

This post was written by Sumitha from while she – yes, you guessed it – waited at her daughter’s swim lessons. If you are a parent with some “wait time” in your schedule, Sumitha can show you how to use those few minutes to become a much better parent!Click here to find out more.

42 Responses to 10 Productive Ways to Utilize Those Wasteful Wait Times

  1. I’ve got to go with the reading here. I rarely get a chance to read so I cherish any free moments I can find. Even if they’re spent waiting in the dentist’s office. A chance to read is time to be thankful for.


  2. I recently did this at Brussels Nord train station. I had a lovely 6 hour wait and while I admit to entering a dream like state for half of it, I did manage to read almost a whole book on a subject I was writing an article on.

    The best time for me though is on the bus. It’s usually where I do most of my German listening studies.

  3. Dan Erickson says:

    I used to be early to everything and have oodles of downtime with nothing to do.  Over the past five years I’ve learned to be closer to “just on time.”  We have much more to do while we’re waiting now, too, with smart phones in our pockets.  But another thing I do, is write.  I do the majority of my writing in my head.  I brainstorm, plot, and just ponder ideas.  It works.

  4. Sumitha says:

    Hi Dan, pondering and writing are a really  nice way to make use of your time while you wait. I do some of the pondering too and save tiny notes on my phone for the times when my creativity needs some jump starting! Thanks for bringing it up!

  5. Sumitha says:

    “Learning something” – that is a great addition to the list! Now why didn’t I think of it? 😉 Thanks for bringing it up, Jamie!

  6. Sumitha says:

    I’m so with you on this one, Trevor! I recently got an account with and I always have a book or two with me on my phone. Any time I get held up, I just start listening to a book. I’ve caught up on so many of the books on my “To Read” list that I never had the time for. And as a bonus side effect, traffic jams have become so much less stressful. I am sure the cost of an audible account  more than pays for itself in terms of how much I save in future stress related health care costs :)

  7. Cassie Nolan says:

    I love #7, letting your mind wander. It’s more difficult than it sounds, but really trying to just sit there and *only* think–no reading anything; no playing on my phone–leads to some of my best ideas.

  8. Edwin Snell says:

    My favorite wait activites..
    Learn a foreign language,
    write a love letter to your wife,
    plan a camping trip to somewhere interesting!

  9. Dan Black says:

    I try and maximize my wait time by reading blogs, eBooks, emails, and connecting with people via social media. At times I also take time to break/meditate. Great post! 

  10. I always use my awkward waiting downtimes to read books from my iPad and if that isn’t handy read the news from my phone! These are some great tips to get the most out of your free time, thanks for sharing!

  11. MK Slagel says:

    These are some great suggestions. I am a writer so often times when I am waiting I either take notes on people and events around me for later material or I pull out my phone and solve suduko puzzles giving myself challenges of times I must complete the puzzle before. I like it because I feel like it stimulates my brain. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, if I am not quite yet ready to get out of bed, I will play a quick game of Suduko or another game on the phone to get my mind going and start my day off right. 

  12. Sumitha says:

    Hi Cassie,  I never really thought about how hard it is to just sit and let your mind wander and not jump on trying to “get something done”!  Strange, isn’t it, that hard as it is to meditate and hold your thoughts, it is equally difficult to let your mind wander at will without giving in to the urge to start acting on those thoughts? 

  13. Sumitha says:

    Hi Edwin, Thanks for sharing your list! I’m really impressed with the “write a love letter to your wife” – your wife is one lucky lady :)

  14. Sumitha says:

    Thanks, Dan. You know I used to do that before and I still do that now… the difference is earlier I used to do it more as a means to “kill time” and now I do it to get things done. The difference has been that, earlier I used to wander aimlessly from one task to another without really finishing anything, but now, I am a lot more successful at getting something knocked off my todo list.

     I think the key is to consciously determine that this slot of time is as important as the slot at office/home and focus on doing whatever you are doing properly – ie, if looking through the mail, then just focus on that and not get distracted, and so at the end of the wait, the important mails are really taken care of.

    And, I don’t beat myself up if I can’t do that… I move on to another item on the list that is less demanding, but productive nevertheless… this way, I am less stressed about “wasting” my time….

  15. Sumitha says:

    “Catching up on news” – that’s a good addition to the list. Thanks for bringing it up!

  16. Sumitha says:

    “People watch” – that is a good addition to the list, MK Slagel! Thanks for bringing it up.  As you said, it is especially useful to the creative types since nothing can spark your imagination and feed your creative fire like the variety in the people around us bring to the table!

  17. Derek says:

    I don’t mind the regular waits like waiting for the train or waiting for the cashier to finish with the people ahead of me, but I hate it when people make me wait because they couldn’t be bothered to prepare on time. This makes me so mad that I find myself waiting all angry and I don’t think that’s a good way to spend my time productively. So aside from this list, I should start making my own list of what to do when I’m waiting for something or someone and try to spend my time more wisely.

  18. Dan Black says:

     Great point, It needs to be used to accoplish and get thing done and not only to just “kill time”.

    I think just as long as we are doing something productive and that is needed to be done is important. It allows us to best use our time.

    I’m looking forward to connecting more and reading your blog. 

  19. Rahul says:

    I used to carry around a psp to play it whenever I found myself doing nothing and waiting for something, but wasting my time playing video games is not much better than waiting for something doing nothing. So now I carry a book everywhere and never waste a minute. Regardless of what I’m waiting for I always have something to read and when I go home at night I feel as though I had accomplished so much on that day. It’s a good feeling and I suggest everyone to give it a try.

  20. Sumitha says:


  21. Sumitha says:

    Playing video games once in a while is not all bad, as long as you have that slot of time to spend on “entertainment” or “relaxing”. I personally don’t think that we must spend every waking hour being productive…. some time spent to recharge is good. Can’t argue with you about reading though… no matter what you read, it will enrich you in some way!

  22. Sumitha says:

    You know, that could be a great idea for a new post right here on PTB! I would love to write/read about how to manage your anger and frustration when circumstances outside your control mess up your schedule!

  23. anonymous says:

    Maybe I’m thinking too negatively, but for me waiting is waste of time no matter how you do it. You could technically do something else in that time, but that still doesn’t change the fact that you were supposed to do something else during that time and you’re merely trying to bridge that time with another activity. But I know I know, it’s better to use that time to improve yourself and whatnot. I just see it differently, that’s all.

  24. Sandra J says:

    I’ve picked two things that I’m going to do the next time I’m left waiting for something. I’ll first familiarize myself with my phone lol~ I know it may sound ridiculous to the techie people, but for people who are tech-challenged this is a normal thing. We never learn the features of our phones even until we change to something new. I know how to take phone calls, end them, and set the alarm, that’s about all I know about the functions of my phone. The second thing I’m going to do is meditate. I can use some peace of mind, I really can.

  25. Carla says:

    I think the most entertaining method of using the waiting time is talking to your friends on the phone. The smartest method to passing time is probably reading a book or exercising your brain as suggested here. I kind of don’t like meeting new people, so I guess I could also use the time to strike up a conversation with someone, so that I can improve my people skills. Yeah, I guess there are tons of things you can do to pass your time while waiting.

  26. Bageshri says:

    I don’t really get too caught up or stressed up about waiting for things. I guess it’s just my personality, but I just let my mind wander and I think about pleasant things that soothes my mind. Unless you’re a billionaire and everyone caters to you, waiting and the randomness of life is just the way things are. I just enjoy life as a whole and I try to enjoy every moment of it.

  27. Shane says:

    When I’m in the waiting mode, I imagine that I’m trapped in some kind of dungeon or that I’m locked up in a jail and I think about how I’ll survive the boredom. I start to imagine about beautiful girls, nice cars, fame, and just as I’m starting to enjoy the alternate universe I’ve created in my head, I get called up to take my turn. How you perceive things in life, it all depends on the type of mindset you have.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I just get things done when I have to wait for something because of someone else’s mistake. Sure it’s frustrating, but what are you going to do? Moan and wine about it and you’ll only pissed yourself even more. The best way to deal with it is to just set aside your frustration and try to use that time to get things done. I personally like to work on my blog during the waits, but at times I just try to have some fun playing games on my phone. Heck, I’ll keep this page bookmarked for next time :)

  29. Ashley says:

    Plan and organize the rest of your day, for just in case some other things get delayed 😛 Kidding aside though, I’ve no problem as long as I have my laptop with me. I browse the web, watch a movie, or work, and I can burn couple of hours with ease. But of course I’d much rather not have to wait for anything, I’m just saying with my laptop I’m good no matter what. By the way tip number 10 is an excellent advice if you’re caught waiting for a flight. You will feel so much better if you stretch at least once every hour and you’ll get to your destination in much better shape.

  30. Josh says:

    If you look at it this way, I supposed there are a lot of ways you can spend your time waiting. I’ve always thought of waiting as a big waste of time and I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind in regards to that, but I suppose it makes sense to try to use your time as wisely as you can. I should probably grab a kindle and start reading. My ignorance really sticks out when I have conversation with much smarter people than me.

  31. Sumitha says:

    It still amazes me how much technology fits into one small phone these days! And with the smart phones, its not just what’s on the phones themselves, but the different apps that you can get to using that phone! If you have some time on hands, then the possibilities for exploration are endless as long as you have a modern phone on your hands (even if it isn’t a smartphone)! 

  32. Sumitha says:

    Kindle has a free app for phones and tablets. If you don’t mind the smaller screen size of the phone, then you can save some money and read books right on your phone.

  33. Sumitha says:

    Ashley, you’re right! With a laptop I can waste, ahem, I mean use up a lot of time to do a lot of stuff 😉 Kidding aside, I do think that if you are stuck waiting with a laptop on you, you are in the best case situation… especially, if the place offers free wi-fi. 

  34. Sumitha says:

    Yep…  if life throws lemons at you, make some lemonade, right? 

  35. Sumitha says:

    LOL! Isn’t that the irony of life… just when you learn to live with one situation, it’s time to move on :)

  36. Sumitha says:

    Wow, Bageshri! You have such a wonderful “go with the flow” attitude that a lot of us strive for! Thanks for stopping by to comment!

  37. Sumitha says:

    Carla, I read a post once (not sure which blog) about a guy who stuck up a conversation with a guy in a coffee shop and found out later than he was one of the first engineers to build a real computer! You never know what kind of interesting people you meet when you strike up a conversation… try it (of course, listen to your gut first, and if your gut warns you that the person next to you seems shady, keep to yourself!)

  38. Sumitha says:

    Fair enough. I used to be that way. The problem is, now  I am a parent and have too many things to do, and just waiting and getting frustrated with the wait gets me nowhere… so I figured that I might as well try to use that time productively!

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