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7 Productive Things You Can Do While Waiting in Long Lines

7 Productive Things You Can Do While Waiting in Long Lines
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Between waiting in carpool lines to picking up your kids, riding the train to work, sitting in gridlocked traffic, and standing in line at the DMV, the average person spends a lot of time waiting for things to happen. What if you could put that time to use? We’ve got a few good ideas for you:

1. Give Mobile Learning a Try

Are you familiar with e-learning? It’s the segment of the learning industry that focuses on online and mobile learning. Whether it’s continuing education for a certification you have, a college degree, or merely a casual course on a topic that you’re interested in, chances are there’s some sort of online learning opportunity available. And thanks to new technology, many of these courses can be accessed on your mobile device – while you’re waiting in line!

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2. Read a Book

How many books do you have stacked up in your office or loaded onto your Kindle that you keep telling yourself you’ll get around to one day? Well, one day is today. Let’s say you spend 30 minutes “waiting” every day. That’s three and a half hours per week. If you’re an average reader, this means you could finish a 300-page book every two weeks. At that pace, you could read nearly 25 books a year. Pretty amazing, right?

3. Brainstorm Creative Ideas

Sometimes you just need some time to think. This is especially true for people who frequently lose focus and daydream while they’re working. If you can get these ideas out of your head while you’re waiting around, you’ll probably be able to focus more once you return to work. Next time you’re in a line, grab a pen and paper and start jotting down creative ideas that come to mind. You can then reference them at a later date.

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4. Practice Your People Skills

When you’re waiting in a physical line with other people, you have a wonderful opportunity to practice your people skills. Pick someone and start a conversation. The majority of people will be happy to have something to do. If small talk isn’t your thing, this is a good chance to break out of your comfort zone.

5. Make a Grocery List

How much easier is grocery shopping when you have a list? You’re able to stay focused and typically don’t end up spending as much. But the reason most people don’t make good shopping lists is that they don’t have time. Well, here’s your opportunity. In five or ten minutes, you can make a list and get on with your day.

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6. Return Emails and Phone Calls

If you’re a busy person with lots of responsibilities, emails, phone calls, and text messages can pile up in your inboxes. What better time is there to catch up on responding than when you’re waiting in line? By the time you get back to work, or wherever you’re going, you’ll feel a huge sense of relief.

7. Catch Up on the News

While the news is usually nothing but depressing stories, you need to at least be aware of what’s happening around you in order to have topics of conversation to discuss with friends and coworkers. Spend your time in line reading news stories and catching up on current events. News can easily be found online, on social media, or on apps like theSkimm.

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Stop Wasting Time!

As long as you live, lines will be a thing. You’re always going to have to wait for things to happen, so why not learn how to maximize this downtime? Thankfully, it’s really not that hard to make good use of your time. Have a plan and take care of business!

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock.com via shutterstock.com

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More by this author

Larry Alton

Business Consultant

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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