I’m writing this blog post from my “remote office” in the Subaru dealership while my car is being serviced. The waiting room is nice, and the coffee machine makes a half decent latte. I could do without the music, but otherwise, it’s not an unpleasant spot. However, given that I’ll be here for 2-3 hours, I would prefer to get something useful done.

This weird waiting time is something we all deal with on a regular basis…sitting in the car pickup line, waiting in line at the bank, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room. We spend a lot of time waiting! But how can we make the most of it?

Using wait time effectively requires planning. Keep a list of quick and easy tasks you can accomplish during waiting time. The reminders tool in your phone is a great way to capture these. If you know in advance that you’ll be sitting around, take what is needed to accomplish quick tasks so you can knock a few things off of your to-do list! Here are a few of my favorites:

  • On hold with customer service: Water your plants or fill your stapler and tape dispenser. Test pens at your desk and pitch what no longer works.
  • Waiting in the pickup line at school: Take your calendar and schedule doctor and dental appointments for the next six months.
  • Sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for your appointment: Write thank you notes. I often find this wait time to be irritating, so doing something that expresses gratitude while waiting makes that experience more positive.
  • Waiting to board a plane: Delete old emails or bad photos from your phone. Or unsubscribe from 5-10 mailing lists.
  • Pumping gas: clean out any trash that has accumulated in your car.
  • Waiting on an oil change or short car service: Organize receipts in your wallet or purse. Recycle what you don’t need.
  • Waiting for a meeting to start: Respond to 5 quick emails that just need a yes or no response or that can quickly be taken care of and deleted.
  • Stuck in traffic: Don’t grab your phone (not safe and only contributes to more traffic back ups)! Use this time to think through a problem, to get creative about something you’re trying to solve, or to day dream about your next vacation. We rarely give ourselves time to percolate on our ideas…traffic jams can turn into a positive if we use this time creatively.

It’s worth noting that not every minute of our day has to be scheduled or productive. There’s nothing wrong with using wait time to read a good book, stare out the window at nature, or simply meditate. But if you have a nagging to do list of not-so-urgent to do’s that seem to never get done, use wait time to check a few things off that list and feel like a productivity rock star!