We live in a world of “hurry up and wait.” It happens when we show up for the medical appointment on time, only to realize the doctor is running an hour behind. It happens when we arrive at the airport with plenty of time to navigate security, and find out the flight has been delayed.

Wait time” is a real force in our lives. Add it all together, and it amounts to a huge time sink which can turn a good day sour. On the other hand, wait time provides pockets on unexpected discretionary time. How we use it is determined by how we prepare for it.

I am actually writing this post at a national conference waiting for the next session to begin. I fully expect to wait for the shuttle that will take me from the hotel to the airport, and then more wait time before boarding the plane. Without a doubt, I will have an hour and a half on the plane. Add it all together, and I am looking at three to four hours of wasted time…or I am looking at three to four hours where I can accomplish something of value. What determines which of the outcomes will be true?

Reading Material at Hand 

When magazines arrive at my house, they go in a wooden letter tray beside my desk. I maintain a list of books I want to read and check them out from the library. They also go in that letter tray.

Before I leave my house, if there is any chance I will have wait time, I grab a book or several magazines. The spare minutes are plugged with reading I wanted to do anyway. People ask me, “How do you stay on top of all of the reading material?” Now you have my answer.

Build the List 

While reading material is great for filling the gaps, it is by no means the only option. As subjects for future blog posts come to mind, they are trapped on a list. When I have wait time, I can choose a topic from the list and compose a new blog post. What you are reading now is a good example. The BlackBerry task list holds URLs for websites I want to examine in further detail. In fact, everything I have to do, no matter how large of small, regardless of how urgent or how far in the future, is trapped on that list.

In a later post, I will talk about how I organize that list and search it. For now, the point is that when waiting time presents itself, I can quickly find those things I wanted to do anyway and could be doing right then. I turn potentially wasted time into productive time.

Do you do much the same thing? What would you like to add to the discussion?