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7 Productive Things You Can Do During Your Idle Times

7 Productive Things You Can Do During Your Idle Times

The most productive people aren’t more effective because they have more time during the day, but because they make every minute count.

Throughout the day, all of us have idle (or “down”) times, where we’re simply sitting or standing still. This could be when you’re doing your laundry, stuck in traffic, or just resting at work.

While having rest time is important for recovery, these idle times can start to add up after awhile.

Instead of letting these times drift by, we’ve come up with 7 productive things you can do on-the-go to maximize your time.

1. Listen to audiobooks

Knowledge is power, but not everyone can carry around a book wherever they go. This is where audiobooks come in.
Using apps like Audible or Audiobooks.com, you can not only have someone read you the books for you, but you can get through a book in twice the time, since it allows you to increase the reading speed.

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    Personally, listening to audiobooks is the first thing I do whenever I ride the bus or the metro (where WiFi doesn’t work). An average audiobook will be around 3-5 hours long, and if you’re commuting every single day, reading two books a week is more than possible. Think about the knowledge you’ll have!

    2. Play brain activity games

    Another great way to spend your time is to play brain activity games. There are apps out there that I recommend like Lumosity, where you are able to train your memory retention, math skills, and pattern recognition in a fun and easy way. Apps like Lumosity have gamified the system, allowing you to stay engaged throughout the learning process, while improving your cognitive functions.

    Free-Lumosity-Brain-Training-App-Released-for-iPhone-iPod-touch-2

      3. Learn a language

      Learning how to speak a new language used to involve in-person meetings, but not anymore. With the rise of powerful communication tools like Skype or Google Hangouts, it’s possible to connect with professional, native speaking teachers around the world. Why not learn how to speak Spanish, while you’re sitting restlessly in traffic?

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      Many companies have taken full advantage of these powerful communication tools, and have made it incredibly easy for busy people like yourself to learn Spanish on your own time. You’re able to book an unlimited number of private lessons at any time of the day, and any day of the week, allowing you to spend as little as 30 minutes/week to reach fluency faster.

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        4. Write down your goals

        A study was done on Harvard’s graduate students, and they were asked if they have set clear, written goals for their futures.

        The result of the study was only 3 percent of the students had written goals and plans to accomplish them, 13 percent had goals in their minds but haven’t written them anywhere and 84 percent had no goals at all.

        After 10 years, the same group of students were interviewed again and the conclusion of the study was totally astonishing.
        The 13 percent of the class who had goals, but did not write them down, earned twice the amount of the 84 percent who had no goals. The 3 percent who had written goals were earning, on average, 10 times as much as the other 97 percent of the class combined.

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        Which one of these 3 categories do you currently belong to?

        If you’re not writing down your goals yet, you can start today during your idle times.

        5. Catch up with an old friend

        Loneliness has been shown to be even more dangerous than obesity. According to Psychology Today:

        • Doctors themselves confided that they provide better or more complete medical care to patients who have supportive families and are not socially isolated.
        • Living alone increases the risk of suicide for young and old alike.
        • Lonely individuals report higher levels of perceived stress even when exposed to the same stressors as non-lonely people, and even when they are relaxing.
        • The social interaction lonely people do have are not as positive as those of other people, hence the relationships they have do not buffer them from stress as relationships normally do.

        All of us have felt loneliness in one form or another, and calling an old friend we’ve lost in touch with may be the solution.
        You’ll feel more energized for the day, exchange some laughter, and increase your level of happiness.

        6. Finish up 2-minute tasks

        2-minute tasks was introduced by David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done. All of us have these tiny tasks that needs to get done, but are difficult to prioritize into our schedule, since we have more important things to finish.

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        It could be sending an email, reorganizing your schedule for the week, or booking a round trip ticket. Whatever the task is, as long as you can get it done within 2-minutes (or so), create a list of these tasks ahead of time.

        Then during your idle times, you can run through these as quickly as possible, and dedicate a time segment to complete them, instead of spreading them out throughout the day.

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          7. Reach out to a mentor

          Having the right mentor to guide you can significantly shortcut your path to success. A mentor is someone who has been where you’ve been, made all the mistakes, and can share how you can achieve your goals.

          Most people either don’t have a mentor at all or don’t have the type of connection they’re seeking from a mentor. In many cases, it’s because the mentors we want are busy people, but it’s also because we’re not reaching out enough.

          With a little bit of persistence and reaching out to more mentors in our industry, we can significantly increase our chances of finding the right mentor for our life, business, and career.

          Create a list of people you’d like to connect with, and during your next idle time, send them an introduction email or a follow-up from your previous one. If you can continue to keep up this routine, you’ll have yourself a mentor in no time.

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          Last Updated on April 17, 2019

          10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

          10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

          What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

          Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

          They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

          1. Communication Skills

          Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

          To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

          Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

          Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

          After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

          2. Flexibility

          Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

          Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

          Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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          Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

          3. Being a Team Player

          Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

          What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

          This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

          Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

          4. Positive Mental Attitude

          There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

          Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

          Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

          It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

          Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

          5. A Strong Work Ethic

          People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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          If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

          Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

          • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
          • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
          • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
          • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

          For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

          6. Public Speaking

          Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

          Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

          If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

          For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

          Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

          7. Integrity

          From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

          • Always doing what you say you will do
          • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

          …even when no one is around to check up on you.

          There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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          Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

          8. Managing Your Time

          Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

          A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

          Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

          Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

          These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

          9. Assertiveness

          In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

          • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
          • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
          • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
          • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

          Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

          How do you use this information for yourself?

          It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

          Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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          How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

          10. Creative Thinking

          LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

          Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

          How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

          Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

          These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

          You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

          What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

          Final Thoughts

          The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

          So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

          The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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          Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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