On average a person spends an estimated 45 to 62 minutes waiting everyday, which is about 4.2% of an average life time. (response from ChaCha)
Everybody waits. We wait in lines. We wait at red lights. We create rooms specifically designed for waiting (which we creatively call waiting rooms).
A few days ago, I found myself sitting alone at a table in a restaurant, waiting to meet someone for lunch. My lunch buddy was late and I ended up waiting for almost a half hour. Fortunately, we chose to meet at a Buffalo Wild Wings so I was surrounded by about 25 monitors plastered with every kind of sporting event imaginable. I filled the time watching tv.
When it comes to waiting, I think you and I have a couple of options.
The first option is harder: We just wait. We don’t do anything (at least outwardly). We wait…patiently or anxiously. We hit the pause button on life. We stop all action. Sometimes, that’s the best thing for us to do. Sometimes, we must be still within the silence, the not knowing, and the poignant anticipation that comes with waiting.
The second option sounds easier to me. We fill the time with something else. We intentionally use the time to accomplish another activity or task. We actually come prepared to the waiting moments with an intentional plan in place. It is this second option that I want to offer some ideas. Oftentimes, the thing separating those who choose the first option from those who choose the second option is preparation. We end up simply waiting because we didn’t bring anything with us to work on while we waiting.
Since I know there’s a strong possibility I may find myself waiting for brief periods of time throughout my day, I take advantage of those moments by having a plan. Here are some of the “waiting” activities I plan for:
Thinking is not the same thing as doing nothing. For me, I need thinking time to create, solve, imagine, reflect, evaluate, consider, and process all kinds of things. I’m always amazed how little people spend intentionally thinking about things. One can only react for so long until that strategy gets a person into trouble. Thinking gives you a chance to respond and act in better ways. If you have nothing else with you when you encounter a waiting moment, at the very least have a list of things you need to think through.
I’m going to lump a few different activities in this category. For instance, my iPad/iPhone allow me to carry work with me. I always have a book or two with me (thanks to the Kindle app). There are a number of writing projects I can add to. I can check email and I can make phone calls. The digital tools I carry with me (that’s the key) allow me to make use of the small moments of time that I want to productively capture.
In an effort to stay in better shape, I’m learning the benefits of stretching (thank you yoga!). When a waiting moment shows up, I can use that time to move rather than sit there motionless (also known as vegging). Even if I’m trapped in a waiting room, I can still stretch, especially in my neck and shoulders where most of my stress lives.
A lot of times, when I have to wait, there are others waiting as well. This provides an opportunity to meet some new people. To hear some new stories. This one is a little harder for me, but it has offered some great experiences and I’ve made new friends. Of course, you need to be sensitive here. You may encounter people like me who have planned on doing #2 during the waiting moments. Approach with caution :).
What if you had a plan in place to learn a new language during all of the waiting moments? When you find yourself with some extra moments, you pull out a stack of flash cards you’re working through. These moments add up over time. What would you want to learn if you had an extra 45 minutes each day to invest in personal growth?
With each waiting moment that we experience, we will need to decide which option is best. My encouragement to you is to have a plan in place when Option #2 seems appropriate. Prepare for your waiting moments, anticipating when they may occur, and you’ll be able to make the most of them.