Today was a day of errands. I went to the Garage to install some tracking device for insurance needs, than went to get my hair cut (we're attending a large conference this week, I need to look sharp) and than attended a meeting with a trade delegation from abroad. I've never made it to the office, and had very little time to work.
Or have I?
The thing with such "dead times" is that they CAN be used to do some meaningful work. For instance, I wrote a blog post for my company's corporate blog, answered some emails and wrote this quick posts. It did require some pre-planning: I had to have my laptop with me, along with my smartphone and notebook. But that's about it.
and you know what? I was as productive or even more today. Why? since I had not "office" interruptions, no coffee meeting and very little interaction with my managers (which, as much as I love engaging, they do tend to consume much of time in the process). I actually had time to clean my inbox, write some long overdue emails and complete some documents I was suppose to finalize weeks ago. It wasn't creative or genuine work, but I got things done.
What I've observed over time is that there are 3 productive uses of such dead times when you are basically forced to sit idle (of course, you could just play with your phone or nap, none of which is productive):
1. Do some mundane work to utilize the time
2. Try to reach Zen mode and do some creative thinking, but make sure you record it. I find it hard to concentrate in waiting rooms and during bus rides, so prefer to use this time for less creative tasks. I do get to this Zen mode when doing choirs or during long flights. do whatever works for you (in another post I wrote how I get there by ironing:
3. Learn something new by reading ( I prefer paper, but digital is ok too) – and I don't mean the local news website, but something of substance, like professional literature or a novel.
In addition to getting something done or learning something new you will be able actually achieves some progress (either personally or professionally). This creates a buffer you will surely use in more strenuous time when you will be struggling to find the time to complete your never ending to-do list (or finish that book).
Try making the best of every day- your career doesn't rest when you run errands, and you shouldn't either.