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 AFineParent.com 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.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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