One of my readers, Will, recently asked me about productive ways to use the time you’re normally wasting on waiting:
“How do you make the best use of the spaces in the day between other things? The few minutes here and there: waiting in line for coffee, before a meeting starts, waiting for the bus etc. I normally pull out Twitter on my phone, but most content there is rubbish and it feels like wasting time.”
Awesome question, and there’s no way I could put that better. So here we go.
First Things First: Delete The Rubbish
I don’t know about you, but if Facebook, Twitter, or a news app is on my phone, I’M TAPPING ON IT.
Controlling yourself is difficult. Some apps are easy to use but don’t add anything to your life.
Most information you consume with those apps is nonsense. That’s why I deleted every single app that has mostly rubbish content or distracts me.
You can always install them again later. But it’s important to delete those apps when you’re trying to get rid of the habit of using them so often.
Because that’s what you’re trying to do here: Replace a bad habit with a good one.
Now that you’ve got rid of the stuff that is a distraction, you can’t use it anymore. So what can you do instead? Here are 8 ideas.
1. Check Your Favorite Blogs
I don’t consume much information other than books, but when I do, I read specific writers. You can do that with Medium’s app by going to the writer’s page.
I also really like Feedly. I follow the personal blogs of people like Seth Godin, Ryan Holiday, Paul Jarvis. Feedly has a good search engine so you can easily find stuff that you like.
The point is that I don’t want to consume random stuff. I only want to read things that are relevant for me. That’s why I prefer this targeted way of consuming information.
You can also use Pocket to read stuff you previously saved.
2. Create A Journal Entry
I journal a lot and believe that everyone should journal. My favorite way to do that is with a pen and notebook. My second favorite way is Day One. It’s a simple app that does the trick very well.
When I have 5 minutes in between things, I write down two or three sentences.
Writing down your thoughts unloads your human RAM, so you free up brainpower. Plus, you’re doing something, instead of consuming.
3. Talk To A Stranger
It seems like all people in public are either playing with their phone, or they are listening to music.
Unplug yourself from the Matrix and talk to people. You know, right? Human beings, just like you and me.
One of my friends taught me to talk to strangers, he said: “you never know who that person is until you talk to them.”
The person who’s sitting next to you in Starbucks might be your future spouse, client, or best friend.
How do you talk to strangers? How about saying ‘Hi’?
4. Chill Out
This one is often used too much, or not at all. Sometimes it’s fine to kick back, open up YouTube and watch something nice for 5 minutes.
Or chill out in any way that relaxes you. If funny cat videos are your thing, go for it. If you love to search for new music on Spotify, do that.
It’s better to do your ‘chilling’ when you’re waiting for something. Otherwise, you might click from one video to the next and waste hours of your time. That’s the last thing you want if you want to be productive.
5. Read A Book
I read a lot. And I always bring a small paperback with me wherever I go. You can also use any e-reader or Kindle on your phone.
When I have at least 10 minutes, I whip out the book and start reading. I don’t like to read for 2/3 minutes. In those cases, I prefer to do the other stuff on this list.
6. Answer/Send Emails And Other Messages
I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone because they are an invasion of your time.
I’ve trained myself to only use my phone in between things. I find that this makes me more focused and more productive throughout the day.
Every time I’m waiting, standing in line, or if I’m on the toilet, I respond to people on twitter or in the comments. So next time you get a message from me, I might be on the toilet, just keep that in mind.
7. Learn A Foreign Language
I’m currently using Duolingo to learn Spanish. I often open up the app right before dinner and do one or two lessons. You can learn a lot of different languages with that app.
Duolingo forces my brain to work, and I’m learning something useful at the same time. I’m sure that social media apps can’t beat that.
In case you believe that learning a language with an app doesn’t work, research proves it does.
What do you prefer? Learn a language in those wasteful minutes, or consume rubbish?
8. Walk Around The Block
What do you do when you’re early for something? Sit down and wait? I prefer to take a walk outside.
I don’t care where I am, how cold it is, if the surroundings are beautiful or ugly, or whether I have 4 minutes or 9. I’m walking.
The point is this: Try do something useful with those minutes you usually waste. If you do it with purpose, everything is useful. Even if you decide to do nothing. But don’t be a reactionary robot that just responds to things.