Wednesday, September 30, 2015

4 Tips to Make Sure You Don't Waste Already Wasted Time

On Monday, I talked a little bit about wasting time and procrastinating, along with my favorite ways to do so. Today, I'll talk about my favorite time to not waste: wait time. The picture on the left is the line that was in front of me at Chipotle yesterday for lunch. As you can see, there are at least twenty-five people that like their burritos or burrito bowls as much as I do and who arrived before I did. This meant a solid fifteen minutes of waiting in line before I could haul my fifteen pound burrito back to the office. So I took advantage of the situation and made it productive time. I managed to catch up on email, engage with some people on Twitter, take a photo and make notes about today's post all before I had to make the vital decision between chicken and carnitas.

Take Your Phone With You

I just needed to run in and get a burrito, so I could have left my phone in the car and run in, only to find I had a wait that would have been wasted. If you take your phone with you at all times (assuming you have a smart phone), you have a connection to the internet that can help you get something done. Equally important, though, you need to have the right apps on your phone to accomplish something. Aside from apps for all of my social networks and email, I also have Evernote, Chrome that synchs with my desktop, my blogging app, Buffer, Amazon Kindle app loaded up with books, and more. So while there are activities that I can do from a laptop or desktop faster (mostly due to mouse precision and faster typing on a full keyboard), my phone does enable me to do almost everything online that I could on a PC. If I had been smart enough to bring some headphones as well, I could have finished the second half of that webinar video that I've had bookmarked for a few days.

Keep a Backlog

I have a backlog of items to get done that I often don't have time to complete (replace "don't have time" with "choose other activities instead" to make that sentence more accurate). I have blog posts tagged to read, articles to evaluate for sharing, topics to brainstorm, images to search, writing to do, outlining of larger projects, books to read, and the email backlog always looms in the background. You may have a similar list or completely different ones, but knowing the items on the list and how to access them quickly will help you churn through them. For me, I have flagged emails, Evernote items, and tweets marked as Favorites as a starting list (not to mention my actual backlog in

Know Your Go To Item

If you have kept a backlog for some time, you have an idea already of which one needs more attention. And which one you like doing the most. And which one you are most likely to procrastinate. Select one area, one "go to" item that you can always jump into if you have a spare minute. For me, it's usually going through Twitter, either finding new people to follow, reading links that I added to my Favorites, buffering some additional content tweets, or replying to mentions or DMs. If that fails to pique my interest, I always have email to go through and clear out. Having and knowing your go to item eliminates the indecision you might face when you find yourself waiting on something. Start with your go to, and you might end up drifting to another task if your wait time is long enough.

Don't Be a Jerk

These tips should help you maximize time that would otherwise be wasted, whether standing in line at Chipotle, waiting on the dogs to do their business, or sitting in the waiting room of the doctor's office. Please, however, don't become that jerk on your phone tweeting away in a meeting, at dinner, or whenever actual face-to-face communication could and should be occurring. I'll admit, I often get sucked into the allure of the beautiful little wireless pocket computer, but I try to have some level of phone etiquette and I recommend you try that, too.

Waiting can frustrate even the most patient person. I have found, though, that much of that frustration stems from a feeling that the time could be put to better use. If you manage to put a little effort into utilizing that time to clear some items off your backlog, you might find that not only are you being more productive, but you get a little less frustrated with lines and wait times. Car in front of you placed a special order on twenty-seven burgers at McDonald's? No problem. Read that next chapter of the book you've been working on. I hope this helps you think of wait time in a slightly different way. If you've got some more ideas, though, feel free to contact me and let me know. If you get these posts in email, you can just reply to me. If you don't, sign up today and you can get the blog posts fresh off the presses (if there were presses)!