Take Advantage of Downtime

Many years ago I was waiting somewhere for something. A lady came in after me. Once she found out that there was going to be a delay she settled down, pulled out some yarn, and started crocheting. While the rest of us shifted and grumbled, she contentedly tinkered on an afghan she was creating.

Curious and bored, I started a conversation with her. How could she just sit there crocheting? Wasn’t she upset that she was being forced to lose her valuable time because so-and-so was running behind?

She smiled at me patiently as she began to switch colors on her creation. She was pleased at the delay, she confessed calmly. It would allow her to get a bit more done on her afghan.

She proceeded to explain to me that downtime was a blessing to her. She spent so much of her day running errands and taking care of business that she rarely had the opportunity to work on her crocheting projects. While at first she resented the delays she eventually realized that she could take advantage of them so she started keeping her current project in a bag that she could carry with her. Whenever she had to wait somewhere she would reach into her bag, pull out her yarn, and start crocheting.

She completed a lot more projects as a result she informed me happily.

Her words stuck with me after we parted ways. At the time I worked multiple jobs, trying to keep food on the table for my children while also taking an online class in computer repair. Time was something I rarely had enough of. Could I do something similar?

I started taking my computer repair books to work with me. I would read them while waiting to clock in and during my break at work. I read them anytime I had a few minutes to spare while waiting for appointments and at night when I had trouble going to sleep.

I finished my computer course a lot sooner than anticipated as a result so I kept up the habit, reading more advanced texts on computer repair and eventually branched out to read books on business management, success, and other topics. I raised a lot of eyebrows when I would pull out my weighty tomes at work or in waiting rooms. Like the woman who inspired me, I patiently answered their questions and moved on.

I still do that now. I keep my Kindle in my purse, ready to take advantage of those snatches of time whenever I encounter them. Instead of vegging out in front of a movie or a television show, I pull out the device and start reading.

Not only does this help to eliminate stress by giving you something to look forward to while you are waiting, it allows you to accomplish something in those little pieces of time that would otherwise be wasted.

I use the time for learning. Currently I’m reading books on philosophy and religion, spiced with books on success and the occasional novel. I’m currently working on Bobby Knight’s book¬†The Power of Negative Thinking¬†after catching it on sale for 99 cents before I dive into the works of Emerson.

The next time you find yourself waiting try to devise a productive way to use those little snatches of time. Can you jot down some notes for a school project, touch up your manicure, clean out your wallet, work on a craft project, or read a book?

Make a quick phone call to an elderly relative. Update your task list. Send a text to your kid and tell them you love them. Make an appointment to get your car serviced. Plan out your budget or meals for the next week. Anything is better than just sitting there mindlessly checking your Facebook as the minutes tick away.

And at the end of the day, instead of plopping down on the couch to commune with your television or play a video game, think about the other things you could do instead that would improve your life. Even if you only take a few extra minutes of your time before returning to your regular routine, those minutes will add up to hours that you have gained instead of wasted.

What can you do with your downtime? Please share your stories in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Take Advantage of Downtime

  1. Linda Sand

    For many years I crocheted string bags while waiting for whatever. People would see them and ask to buy them. I sold them for just a little over what the materials cost me. That let me buy more without dipping into our tight budget. And it kept me from biting my fingernails while waiting. Now I’m old and my fingers won’t let me crochet anymore. I miss that.

  2. Carla

    I’m a shameless knitter…I once was accused by an uncouth gal of doing what
    “old ladies do”….well bring it on, Sista…I’ll fight for my right to knit ferociously!

    ..I once brought my basic hat knitting into a doctor’s waiting office. The room had a scattering of folks ….fretful folks who were worried what their prognosis might be. And then, a curious lady ventured to comment to me ever so softly, that she knew how to knit too….and did I know that I would have to stitch up the side of that hat? Well yup…I did know that…but was happy to chit chat about my chunky knit creation. I sensed that some of the waiting room started to relax as they heard the click click of my oversized metal needles.

    Constructing something you love in a public place seems to defy any spirit of fear that may be trying to rule the atmosphere……..and your faith in life itself just might transform that space into a …a beautiful space…a peaceful place.

  3. John Grebe

    I agree with you about making smart use of downtime. Personally, I’d consider that one of the main advantages of a smartphone. Or I should say smart use of your smartphone. I do a lot of my writing during downtime on my phone thanks to Dropbox and Google Documents apps which lets me pick up right where I left off. I’ve also read numerous ebooks on my phone entirely during downtime which feels a lot more productive than sitting around doing nothing or playing video games.

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