7 Ways To Better Use Your Idle Time That Will Make You More Productive

How To Make The Best Use Of Your Time More Consistently

Even though we all get the same amount of time each day, some people are consistently more productive and effective than others.

How does that happen?

It is not uncommon to hear people say they are “very busy” or they “don’t have time” to do something. The truth is how we deal with or view time is a mindset, plus it is a reflection of our attitude towards what we consider to be important to us.

There is a cost to not using our time better, which can include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed and under pressure frequently.
  • Not making progress on things important to us.
  • Not taking care of ourselves like we know we should.
  • Not doing the best we can because we are stressed or overworked.
  • Not being able to do the things we really want to and enjoy life more.
  • Losing trust with others as we may not meet deadlines or do things we agreed to.

productivity improvements with a computer

I once had a manager who always struggled to complete tasks on time and stay on top of things that had to be done, not just at work but in his personal life as well. The main reason for that was not being able to effectively manage his priorities and use his idle time better.

During a conversation with him, I asked him what he would be doing if he actually had more time. He shared a number of things which indicated that he needed a better system for managing his daily priorities. I then asked him what a typical day looked like for him, especially in the morning and afternoon. Once he explained what he usually did, I was able to suggest a couple of small things he could start doing straight away.

One of his bad habits was that as soon as he got back home, which usually would be between 5.00pm and 6.00pm, he would say hi to his kids and while they were doing their school work, he would slump in front of the television, because he was physically exhausted.

The challenge he faced was his lack of attention to his physical health made it even more difficult for him to feel motivated to do something physical in the afternoons. As he was a person more driven by reward, I asked him to identify what the potential rewards would be if he took better care of himself. Once he was able to relate it being a better parent to his kids, it gave him the incentive he needed to start making a change.

The change did not happen straight away. He did have his challenges staying motivated, but once he started seeing improvements to his health and overall energy levels, he continued with his new habits.

If we stop and review how we are spending our time, we will find lots of opportunities for improvement. Making better use of our idle time does not imply we have to make dramatic changes all at once, although that can work for some people. For most people, however, it is more beneficial to start small then gradually build on the successes we achieve.

Here are seven ways we can better use our idle time so that we can become more productive and accomplish the things we want to easier and faster.

  1. Listen to something educational. This can be via podcasts or audiobooks. Listening to audio programs can be an effective way to learn or practice something new, like learning a language. This can be done during our commute, while preparing meals or even during exercise.
  2. Review your goals. Keeping our goals front of mind is essential if we want to continue giving attention to them. During this review, we can look at the things we are currently doing that are either working or not working for us, then identify appropriate actions steps to continue moving forward.
  3. Create a To Do list. Instead of holding things we have to do in our minds, it is better to have a system to capture them. For some people, creating a To Do list is an effective way to stay on top of all things we want to get done, plus there is a sense of accomplishment once we start checking things we’ve done off our list.
  4. Catch up with someone over the phone. Idle time can be a good time to catch up with people we want to. These can be family members, friends, acquaintances, customers or potential customers. Having a list of people to contact is beneficial because we can batch calls together.
  5. Take a short nap. As most of us are sleep deprived, taking a quick nap, even if it is for 20 minutes, can re-energise us and restore our focus and concentration levels. While this may not always be practical or possible, especially if you work in an office environment, there are other creative ways we can give our brains a rest in order to get recharged again.
  6. Read something educational. This does not mean surfing the internet unless the time is specifically used for research and learning. This is about reading something with the intent to help us reach a goal faster and get ideas for a project we are working on.
  7. Meditate or practice visualisation. Giving ourselves time to go within and quieten our minds is extremely valuable because some of the best ideas we will receive is when we are still. We can use that time to visualise our goals and the future we want to create for ourselves.

There are always things we can do to make better use of our time. Those who are intentional about how they use their time will always outperform those who are not focused or disciplined with their time. Not having enough time should never be an excuse if we are clear on our priorities in life.

Action Step: Pick one thing from the list above and implement that into your schedule this week. As you get comfortable with it, add in other things.

Question: What is another thing we can do to better use our idle time?

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