Don’t Let Waiting be a Waste

People around the world are waiting. We wait for meetings, we wait for appointments, we wait at airports, we wait for people who are late, we wait and we wait some more. 

 

Many people think “wait time” is wasted time. Well it’s only wasted if you allow it to be. There are a ton of productive things you can do when you’re waiting. That’s true no matter what you’re waiting for or how long you’re waiting. 

 

Most people waste waiting time because it’s “only” a few minutes. Well, a few minutes here and a few minutes there and pretty soon you’ve wasted more time than successful people can afford to waste. Let’s look at the numbers, these are accurate for those of us in the United States but they are representative for anyone. 

 

According to a Timex survey, Americans wait:

  • on average of 20 minutes a day for the bus or train
  • 32 minutes whenever they visit a doctor
  • 28 minutes in security lines whenever they travel
  • 21 minutes for a significant other to get ready to go out
  • 13 hours annually waiting on hold for a customer service
  • 38 hours each year waiting in traffic
  • those living in big cities wait in traffic more than 50 hours annually

People spend approximately 6 months of their lives waiting in line for things, it means like 3 days a year of lining up. The average person spends about 43 days on hold with automated customer service in a lifetime. Those who take the bus or train will wait about 27 days of their lives waiting around on the platform or at the bus stop.

 

And what about our Phones?

  • We spend 23 days a year on our phones
  • 90 minutes a day
  • 9 years of the average person’s life

By the way “Phone” means to call somebody but that is now the sixth most used feature on a smartphone.

 

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to waste hours and hours of every year waiting. So let’s see if we can make waiting time a little more useful. Here’s a few ideas on how we might do that. 

 

Do Nothing. Doing nothing is one of the things I’m best at. I’ll put my “doing nothing” skills up against anyone. Doing nothing is also one of my most productive activities. While doing nothing I’m thinking about all kinds of generally worthless stuff but mostly I’m in my own world, recharging my batteries so I’m more productive when my wait is over. It’s okay, better than okay actually, to do nothing from time to time. We need to shut down once in a while in order to have peak performance time during the day. If you never shut down it’s likely you also never have truly peak performance either. 

 

Call Someone. A whole bunch of the time we spend on our smartphones is unproductive time. You can change that by increasing the time you’re using your phone to call someone. Perhaps it’s someone you’ve been meaning to call for a long time. Maybe it’s a customer you’ve been putting off calling because your relationship is a bit strained. Maybe, just maybe it’s a call to someone you care about to tell them you’re thinking of them. (you might make their day and to me, that’s a very productive thing)

 

Read. The most successful people I know always have a good book with them for those unexpected waiting times. It might be a paper book or it might be on a Kindle but they have something to read to help them learn. If you’re a road warrior then this could make a world a difference for you. Check out audio books you can listen to in the car on on your phone when you find yourself “stuck” someplace you didn’t intend to be. 

 

Meet someone new. By definition if you’re in line there is someone either in front of you or behind you, likely both. That person may have an idea that could change your life, or better yet, you may have an idea that could change theirs. Get out of that success limiting comfort zone of yours and be that strange person who will talk to anyone. It’s uncommon to find people with enough confidence to talk to anyone anywhere but you will never have uncommon results by doing common things. 

 

Adjust your plan. You had a 10:00am doctors appointment and upon arriving a few minutes early you’re told the doctor is running a few minutes late. In “doctor speak” that likely means 30 minutes or even more. Use that precious time to adjust your plan for the day. Reprioritize what you’re going to accomplish with the rest of your day. Instead of stressing over what won’t get done decide what doesn’t NEED to be done and take a bit of stress out of your waiting time. The one problem that most people have with adjusting their plan during waiting time is that they didn’t have a plan to begin with. If you’re most people then do yourself a favor and make a plan before you leave home every day. Even if your day doesn’t go according to plan that planning time will be the most productive time of your day. 


“Waste not want not” is a very common saying. I prefer “wait not want not.” It’s far less common and far more productive.