Does it ever seem like you spend way too much time waiting? Waiting for your turn at the doctor. Waiting for the bus. Waiting to board the plane. Waiting for your oil change to be done.
Being forced to wait can make you feel trapped–you have no control over the situation and you have no idea how long it will really last. You have no idea how much damage will be done to your schedule. You may even feel stressed and irritable. It can be hard to willingly hand over control of your time.
To make matters worse, it often happens that you’ve rearranged your schedule, and possibly rushed, to get to where you need to be on time. And then you discover that you’re going nowhere fast. It’s a classic case of “Hurry up and wait.”
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A Look From the Other Side of the Wait
Walking into the doctor’s office, I knew I was in for a lengthy wait. There were only 3 of about 25 seats available in the waiting room. Never a good sign. Two people were ahead of me to sign in. Most of the other waiting patients looked sour. The receptionist appeared downtrodden, and slightly nervous. So I settled in with the rest of the waiting room loungers and did my best to remain patient.
After seeing the doctor, I was escorted to another room to schedule my follow-up visit. Another patient was finishing up and the doctor made the mistake of asking how he was doing. The patient used this opening to launch into a tirade, exclaiming what he considered to be the disrespectful over-scheduling of patients and the value of his time. In the conversation that followed, the doctor attempted to explain his lack of control in scheduling. He suggested steps the patient could take to help remedy the situation. As it turns out, the centralized scheduling office had put 37 patients on the doctor’s schedule for the day, a practice that, apparently, was becoming common for him. He seemed just as frustrated as the patient.
While I’m not advocating for over-scheduling of appointments, this experience caused me to consider the necessity of waiting in a new light. First, I chose to be thankful for access to good healthcare, even if it meant I had to sacrifice some time for it. Then I decided to find ways to use “waiting time” more productively, so that waiting time wouldn’t feel like wasting time.
Here’s a list of some of the ideas I’ve rounded up, divided by technology-enhanced (with smart phone or tablet) and no-tech ideas.
What to do while you’re waiting–No Tech
- Relax! Not every moment needs to be filled with activity! Allow yourself to take a break and let your batteries recharge.
- Read a book, magazine or newspaper.
- People watch–discreetly. You don’t want to be that creepy person staring at everyone else, but people can be highly entertaining creatures to observe.
- Make or update a to-do list. And yes, it’s okay to add something just so you can cross it off!
- Practice your social skills and strike up a conversation with someone else who’s waiting. If you’re shy or quiet by nature this will help you to expand your horizons by stretching your comfort zone. A pleasant conversation can help both of you pass the time.
- Crochet, knit, needlework, make string bracelets. Naturally, these waiting activities require you to plan ahead a bit to pack your materials.
- Plan a few meals and start a grocery list of ingredients you’ll need. If you need inspiration, think of meals you’ve enjoyed at restaurants or friends’ homes.
- Word search, sudoku or crossword puzzles–on paper. Pick up a pocket-sized puzzle book and stow it in your glove box, purse or briefcase to be ready.
- Draw or color. Creative expression isn’t just for kids! A small journal with unlined pages can serve as a sketch book. Small sized, adult coloring books are also readily available.
- Make your shopping list. Whether it’s groceries, household necessities, birthday gifts or pet supplies, there always seems to be something that needs to be picked up.
- Brainstorm–use this time to allow yourself to think up ideas of things you’d like to do, solutions to challenges you’re facing or business strategies.
- Clear the receipts out of your purse or wallet.
- Start a gratitude list. Who and what are you thankful for. And why?
- Start or add to a bucket list. What are the things you really want to do, what places would you love to visit? Are there new skills you’d like to learn? Maybe you can use your waiting time to start planning how to make your dreams reality.
- Write in your journal. Waiting time is a great time to take a few minutes and catch up with yourself!
What to do while you’re waiting–with technology
If you have your smartphone or tablet with you there’s a multitude of things you can do to be as productive, or unproductive, as you’d like!
- Read an ebook with the Amazon Kindle or the free Kindle App. Download a couple of free books or magazines so you’re always ready for waiting time. Or, if you have a library card, check out Overdrive, (and it’s app, Libby) which lets you borrow ebooks, and audio books from your local library. It’s free and you can enjoy your books on any device.
- Check out or sign up with a news feed. Some free ones include Feedly, Inoreader, Feeder and NewsBlur.
- Give your brain a break and succumb to the guilty pleasure of mindless games.
- Plan for a night in and rent a movie from Redbox. Your selection will be reserved for you and pickup will be quick since you’ve already made your choice!
- Check your email. Whether personal or business, this will save you some time later in the day for other things.
- Shop online. Maybe you can get a jump start on shopping for a birthday, the holidays or just everyday stuff that you need. Just considering a purchase? Use this time to research the best model, compare prices at different retailers, read reviews, etc.
- Look up new apps. According to statistica.com, there are 3.8 million apps available for Android and 2 million for Apple devices. Surely you can find something you’d like to try, whether to be more productive, learn something, save money, or just for fun.
- Organize your photos. Use waiting time to delete all the blurry, unfocused, drab, unflattering, duplicate or otherwise unwanted photos on your phone. Then, if you’re still waiting, either upload them to your cloud or organize them into folders.
- Clean up the files on your phone or tablet. You’ll free up space by deleting old messages, photos, contacts, voicemails, apps you don’t use, downloads, etc.
- Scroll around Pinterest. There’s something for everyone there!
- Plan a vacation, or a day trip with Google Trips.
- Pay bills online while you’re waiting and free up some time later in your day.
- Call a friend or relative just to catch up (please, only if you’re alone or in a place where your conversation won’t annoy others).
- Read about why adventures are important.
- If you can use headphones while you’re waiting, your options get kicked up a notch. You can listen to a podcast on iTunes or GooglePlay. Or you could listen to an audio book on Overdrive. Need to chill out a bit? Try a meditation app like Headspace, Breethe, or Calm. Interested in learning another language? Duolingo offers a fun, easy-to-use interface for 30 different languages (in some lessons you’ll speak into your phone, so you’d probably want to save those for when you’re alone).
Whether accomplishing work, personal development, or just enjoying a few quiet minutes to yourself, you CAN make the most of the time you spend waiting.
Do you have any other creative ideas of ways to spend time while you’re waiting? Share your ideas in the comments area.