What to Do While Waiting

I travel a lot. Every month on average I take at least 2 plane flights, with occasionally some train rides thrown in as well. And with long-distance travel comes waiting times: before departure, after departure, after check-in, during transfers. When I was younger I used to see this as “lost time”. At the worst I would spend money on overpriced food and beverage at the airport, sitting, eating and drinking just to kill the time. Maybe I would read up on stuff at the best.

And now I think that this point of view is silly. A negative approach. Instead, I feel much better by utilizing waiting times to better an aspect of my life. Using a disadvantage as an advantage. I even become to cherish the moments I will have to wait. Here are some ideas I do (or try to do) during these waiting hours:

Think > Why not take a deep breath and rethink your actions over the last month or so. For instance, what did you really do what you wanted to do, and what were you “forced” to do? How can you eliminate the latter group? Or how would you go ahead with your newest project? How can you outsource tasks and maximize your effectiveness in the things you are good at?

Generate Ideas > Personally I really like this, writing down ideas for business, both new and improvements for my current ones. Even if the ideas are stupid or bad, I still write them down. Maybe I can improve them later or combine them with other ideas. Force yourself to come up with ideas, because sometimes the inspiration is not there at first. But the ideas will come when your brain muscles are warmed up.

Work > While doing hardcore programming or web design would be a stretch in a waiting environment – although possible if you are good at focusing – stuff like writing or touch ups are great. Especially in case you do not have internet, you will have to write, and there is no distraction. I get a lot of work done this way. For example, I used to write many essays for my website in the airport. Lots of great essay writers were I born this way (at least, I hope so).  

Network > Seems like a stretch, but it should not be. Concentrate on the persons around you who are by themselves. Are they busy or just staring blankly into space? When they look bored, it would be good to engage them. Even if they are not a match business wise, it is always great to exchange some stories and get inspired.

Plan To Do > Another great thing for while you are waiting is writing down your “to do’s” for the next week or even month. Because you are forced to relax a bit and take it slow, this way you can check for yourself what it is really important and which tasks can wait. And a good to do list will give you a handy guidance for getting your work done over the coming period.

Organize  > Are you always looking for files on your computer but it takes a while to find them? Do you have a big list of files under “downloads”? Do you have many unfinished drafts of texts? I know I have. Waiting time is a great moment to finally get you to organize your administration, files and data. Reorganizing your back office is not much fun but it can save you much time down the line.

Explore and Exercise > Walk around the waiting area (i.e. airport, train station). Explore your vicinity. Why is the space organized in this particular manner? Think about it. Go up and down the stairs. This way you can stretch your legs before you will have to sit for a long time. And a good blood flow will make you feel better and increase your productivity as well.

Try not to play games or browse the internet too much. These things are nice, but both will kill your productivity. After you do these things your mind will be distracted and you will not want to be working. I am guilty of this sometimes, as my mind wonders and I get bored with the current task. But when I start playing a word game of reading some articles on the internet, I know I am procrastinating. You will want to rationalize this behavior as “relaxing”, to “free your mind” or even “research”, but in the end they are just excuses. In 99% of the cases it is plain old procrastination and you are just being a lazy bastard.

Personally I can work anywhere as long as I have a good chair. Good places in general are the waiting lounges, especially when they are a bit spacious, or the airport coffee shops. It is beneficial to invest in a cup of coffee in exchange for a good working environment. Coffee shops are also a great place to meet other people in a very natural, informal atmosphere.

In fact, I write this article while I wait for my departure in the lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport for a flight to Amsterdam. A woman in front of me is fondling her hair, staring into the distance. A couple next to me play/work on their tablets. An old man wants to sit next to me but the couple has put their bags on the chairs. They do not notice him. He pauses, hesitates to ask, but then moves to the other side of the lounge…… Now airport employees are running around. Frantically. Something is happening. A staff member picks up the mic and announces my flight is boarding. People get in line. My row number is up. I will go now..