I Found That Extra Time You Were Looking For

My doctor’s office has this sneaky little mind trick they like to play on visiting patients. After signing in at the front desk to let them know you have arrived, they wait until you take a seat in the waiting room and then call your name. A nurse greets you and escorts you back to what I have come to recognize as the REAL waiting room.

This momentary feeling of, “Wow! That was fast!”, is quickly replaced by, “Why am I sitting here with my shirt off and nothing to do for 10, 20, or more minutes?” There are two things I have learned to do in this situation now to take back some control of my life and time: first, don’t take my shirt off until the doctor actually appears. Second, always have something with me to do that allows me to productively use these minutes, no matter how few or many they may be. And BTW, the doctor’s office is not the only place these valuable minutes can be found.

Planning to Wait

When you look at all the small, seemingly insignificant delays in your day, you begin to notice how all the minutes add up. Waiting in line, stuck in traffic, waiting for an appointment, are just a few ways that time is lost. What if you could make these minutes’ matter by having an intentional plan for how you will use the extra time when it becomes available?

Here is what the most successful people do when confronted with spare minutes:

  1. They have an audiobook – this is most helpful in the car, but an audiobook can be useful anywhere. Buy an audiobook or get one free at your library and load it on your smartphone. I have found hours worth of free minutes in my car when just running errands like a grocery store run or Home Depot trip.

  2. They have podcasts – again, something easily found smartphone. There are thousands of podcasts that are free to access. Pick a subject that is of interest to you and search for it on your iPhone or get a podcast app for your Android phone to see what is available. If you are interested in leadership, you might enjoy the podcast I do with Chris from the John Maxwell Company. Many podcasts (like mine) are 20 minutes or less and can easily be enjoyed while waiting, driving, or walking.

  3. They have a book – either hardcopy or electronic (via a Kindle or other reading device) books are easy to carry with you when you are going to places that historically cause you to wait. I like my Kindle because it is incredibly easy to carry dozens of titles in one small device, and it easily fits in a pocket or purse.

  4. They have a contact list – many times these spare minutes can be used to return phone calls or to reach out to someone you have been intending to check on.

  5. They have a “thought list” – I have begun to keep a list on my phone of things I would like to think, pray, or meditate. Finding a few minutes here and there allows me some time to focus on one topic of my choosing.

I am amazed by the number of times people tell me they don’t have time to read a book or listen to a podcast or to return phone calls. I am learning that if we can get intentional, there are a lot of minutes out there that can easily be used for some of these activities. You either use them, or you lose them, the choice is yours. The minutes are going to pass, what you have to show when they are gone is up to you.

If you are interested in learning how to be more intentional about a daily reading habit, you might enjoy my article. “An Intentional Person’s Guide to Reading Every Day.”