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 recognized as the REAL waiting room.

This momentary feeling of, “Wow! That was fast!” is quickly replaced by, “What just happened here? I am now in a much smaller room with no magazines!” It can be 10, 15, even 20 minutes before the doctor appears. You would be surprised how often moments like these occur during a typical week.

Planning to Wait

When you look at all the small, seemingly insignificant delays in your day, you will 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 are some ways successful people put those extra minutes to work:

  1. They have an audiobook – this is most helpful in the car, but an audiobook can be useful in many other scenarios. Buy an audiobook or get one free at your library and load it on your smartphone. I have found hours of free minutes in my car when driving to work, running errands, or sitting in those inevitable traffic delays.
  2. They have podcasts – again, something easily found from your smartphone. There are thousands of podcasts that are free to access. Pick a subject of interest to you and use the podcast app to search it on your iPhone or Android phone. If you are interested in leadership, you might enjoy the podcast I do with Chris from the John Maxwell Company. Many podcasts (like ours) are 20 minutes or less that you can easily enjoy 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 go to places that historically cause you to wait. I like my Kindle because it is incredibly easy to have dozens of titles on one small device, and it easily fits in a pocket or purse. By the way, you can use the free Kindle app to read on your existing phone, iPad, or other devices. You don’t have to buy a new device to read.
  4. They have a contact list – many times, spare minutes can be filled by returning phone calls or reaching out to someone you have intended to connect with.
  5. They have a “thinking list” – I have begun to keep a list on my phone of things I would like to think, pray, or meditate about. 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, listen to a podcast, or return phone calls. I am learning that if we can get intentional, there are many minutes out there you can use for some of these activities. You either use them, or you lose them; the choice is yours. The minutes will pass; what you have to show when they are gone is up to you.

Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.