In my previous blog post I mentioned some things I do to increase productivity. Of all of them the one that might be most easily picked up by others is making use of what might otherwise seem like wasted time.

Just because you’re stuck in line at the DMV or airport, waiting to pick someone up or be picked up, or in grid locked traffic doesn’t mean the time has to be wasted. Find something productive to do. We’ve all got dozens of menial tasks that don’t take long individually and are easy to put off because they seem so small. The problem is that those little things can quickly add up and collectively they can really become something that would take a huge chunk of time. If you’re someone who has lots to do and gets frustrated by wasted down time, don’t fear, there’s hope. The key is to take care of the little things whenever you get a free moment so they don’t accumulate in to an unmanageable task.

If you have a smartphone, don’t waste its power playing games. Unwaste your wasted time by answering emails, updating your calendar, or brainmapping what you need to do. And even if you don’t have a smartphone (what busy person doesn’t though?) or you temporarily lost it (as I tend to do about once a week) consider getting a moleskine or other similarly handy notebook (not the laptop kind…the old school notebook kind). I find my moleskine to be great for list keeping, writing out blogs when away from a computer, or outlining tasks. In fact, I actually find the blank page of a moleskine to be far less restrictive and void of the many distractions of a computer. They are great for jotting things down as they come to you.

You can also use the time to make and return phone calls. I’m actually pretty terrible at connecting via phone because I’m training people for most of the day and I try not to answer or make calls during face-to-face meetings or when I’m training someone. So whenever I find myself with a couple minutes to spare I’m on the phone catching up on my voicemails and missed calls.

Finally, here’s some advice on getting things done on flights. Don’t let the cramped seating, dry air and absence of wifi or power slow down your productivity train. I make the habit of answering emails on my iPhone right up until they close the cabin doors of the jet (and sometimes later if I feel like tolerating the glare of people who believe the airline perpetuated myth that leaving your phone on during flight is some kind of danger). Then during the 5-15 minutes at the beginning and end of the flight when all electronics are supposed to be turned off, I pull out my trusty moleskine or read the latest sport science research article I’ve printed in hard copy to take with me. If I know I’ll have at least a 15 minute window during the middle of the flight where ‘use of electronics is approved’ I’ll pull out my laptop. In fact, in the 3 years after I left my doctoral studies at LSU (prior to completing my dissertation) to take a job coaching at Army, the only time I could ever find to work on my doctoral dissertation between 50+ hours a week of Army responsibilities and another 30+ to run my company, was on the flights I would take 4-6 times per month. While these 10-20 minute blocks of time didn’t amount to much individually, the work accomplished quickly added up and I finished my dissertation shortly after resigning from my job at Army.

Which brings me to quote that was recently featured on Athletic Lab’s wipeboard:

If you can move a grain of sand a day; eventually you will move a mountain.

If you make the most of what might otherwise seem like wasted time you’ll easily find yourself more productive than ever.