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12 Jun

How to make waiting valuable

Datum: 2024-06-12 10:00
A woman is sitting in an airport terminal with her luggage, watching a plane take off outside the window.

We all find our­selves in sit­u­a­tions when we need to wait. Wait. It is like a stale­mate. For some, being made to wait can be an enjoy­able state of still­ness, but per­son­al­ly, it is some­thing I wish to avoid.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

A kind of waste

Those of you who are famil­iar with the phi­los­o­phy and bun­dle of prin­ci­ples usu­al­ly referred to as lean”, know that wait­ing is one of the sev­en wastes” we should strive to get rid of if we want to get as much done as pos­si­ble with the least amount of effort. While wait­ing, time flows by with­out any val­ue being added.

Of course, there is also val­ue in reflect­ing and con­tem­plat­ing, but would we not rather decide when to do that our­selves? Don’t invol­un­tary just-stop-and-breathe”-moments just frus­trate us?

We can work anywhere

It is, how­ev­er, becom­ing increas­ing­ly easy to get things done while wait­ing as well. If we are at the office when being made to wait, there is not real­ly a prob­lem. We prob­a­bly have our com­put­er at hand and there is always some­thing else we can do with it when we are wait­ing for something.

If we are out and about and get stuck in a queue, we most like­ly have our smart­phone loaded with a dozen apps with which we can do things we nor­mal­ly do on the computer.

Sport psy­chol­o­gy researcher Michael Bar-Eli at Ben-Guri­on Uni­ver­si­ty sug­gests that we in these every day blank spaces”, which moments of wait­ing can be com­pared to, pre­pare our­selves for future chal­lenges by visu­al­iz­ing how we address and accom­plish them with ease. If and when we do so, we per­form bet­ter — at least accord­ing to Bar-Eli.

Any­thing but waiting

There is always some­thing valu­able we can do while we wait, which is great if we want to use the time spent wait­ing to get things done so that we will not have to use our pre­cious spare time to move things along.

Try this

If you feel that you have got less time avail­able than you need and wish, you could gain some time back by active­ly using the time you would oth­er­wise spend waiting.

In order to not let your idle time go to waste doing noth­ing or being spent on a dis­trac­tion you do not real­ly have any use for, do this:

  1. Take a moment to pon­der at what points through­out your work or work­day that you are put on hold or have to wait for something.

  2. List some of the tasks you could work on there and then. Check so you have got every­thing you need to do them; such as the app need­ed, for exam­ple. (I am, for instance, writ­ing this text on my cell­phone dur­ing a short com­muter train ride, since I have recent­ly acquired the app Ulysses for writ­ing which syncs every­thing with my com­put­er and tablet with­out hav­ing to do any­thing at all.)

  3. Choose the task that would be most valu­able to have com­plet­ed. Is it the one that is eas­i­est to pro­cras­ti­nate? The one that tends to always hang over you? The one that you would be most relieved to have checked off the list? 

  4. Decide to work with the cho­sen task the next time you have to wait. If you clear­ly phrase to your­self what to do when the occa­sion aris­es, it will be eas­i­er for you to remem­ber to do it. You can, for exam­ple, write The next time I am wait­ing to board an air­plane, I will …”.

More time for what you want to do

If you use the wait­ing time which you do not have any con­trol over and spend it on some­thing that is of val­ue to you and your work, you will end up with more time to spend on what you enjoy doing since you are using extra” time, that would oth­er­wise be worth­less, to get things done.

Sure­ly that is one of the ben­e­fits of hav­ing good struc­ture, is it not?

What’s your way?

What do you tend to do when you are wait­ing? All ideas are wel­come. Share them in a com­ment below.

(Have you thought that some­times it can be valu­able to prac­tice just wait­ing, after all?

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