10 Productive (and fun) ways to use idle time

10 Productive (and fun) ways to use idle time [PMP #172]

“Busy” has become the default response whenever someone asks how we’re doing (which is a terrible answer).

Right now, a lot of us have more idle time on our hands than we’re used to and don’t know what to do. Now, we can finally do all those things that have been put off to “one day”.

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On Saturday morning, I jokingly asked Hayley how we were going to fill our time over the weekend while on COVID lockdown. I joked at first as I thought we had nothing to do. But we ended up spending a good chunk of the weekend sorting messy cupboards, clearing the shed, walking and relaxing. We ended up having a great weekend and actually got a lot done.

It turns out, there’s more to do than you think and plenty of ways you can put your idle time to good use and have fun at the same time. Here are a few things I came up with. Please leave me a comment below with your ideas (as we’ve run out of stuff to clean this weekend).

1. Work out

Working out, whether it’s going for a run, going to the gym, swimming, cycling or rock climbing is a great way to stay healthy and boost our productivity. In fact, exercise has a multiplication effect on our productivity. Getting oxygen to your brain helps improve your focus and creative thinking. Whether you’re in lockdown or not, it should be an essential part of your routine.

2. Go for a walk

I’ve separated out walking from working out as I view walking as more of a mental stimulus rather than a physical one.

Since starting lockdown, I’ve started walking around the block to ‘get to work’ each day (even though I work at home). I literally walk a loop as a way of signifying the start of my workday.

At the start of lockdown I was walking at the end of the day. But by then, I felt sluggish and tired. Starting the day with a walk gives me a boost of energy and focus when it’s needed in the morning.

3. Bake something

New Zealand celebrity chef, Chelsea Winter, has come up with a great bread recipe called ‘Lockdown Loaf’ that people in New Zealand have been going crazy over. It’s made, with very few ingredients (one of them is beer) making it perfect if you don’t have a lot in your pantry.

Baking is a great way to spend some time. It’s fun and you get something to enjoy at the end.

4. Clean and organise stuff

Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction from cleaning and organising stuff. You can do a digital clean up of your computer, photos, and files or a physical clean up of your wardrobe, cupboards, pantry or garage. Whatever you decide, dedicate some idle time to getting stuff sorted.

I don’t know what it is, but minimising the clutter from our lives feels great.

5. Journal about what’s on your mind

Journaling doesn't have to be a big deal. If you don’t journal that often (like me) or not at all, then simply start by writing down what’s on your mind. In fact, this is basically all do to journal. Sometimes I’ll journal about a specific question but more often than not, I enjoy getting the thoughts out of my head.

6. Read (not necessarily non-fiction)

This feels obvious but we have to include it on the list, don't we?

Read a book. There are other things to do besides watching Netflix (i.e. Tiger King). And don’t feel like it has to be non-fiction to count as being productive. Read anything you enjoy. Nice and simple.

7. Learning new skills

Everyone has something they wish they knew how to do. Now’s the time to master a new skill.

Last year when we were traveling, we arrived at an Airbnb that had a Rubik’s cube. One night I decided to solve the cube by following a tutorial on YouTube. It felt awesome but I couldn’t help but feel like I’d cheated. So I took it upon myself to learn the algorithms and within 1 week I’d learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube without looking at any notes or videos. I still keep a cube on my desk so I can play with it throughout the day. As someone who normally offloads everything they need to remember to software tools, it’s nice too actually put my memory to use.

What do you wish you could do? Maybe you want to learn how to code, learn how to use tools like Zapier, learn an instrument or learn a pointless skill like solving a Rubik’s cube…

8. Write

Improving your writing helps you to become a better communicator. Any time you’re writing an email, talking to a customer or sharing an idea, if you can communicate more effectively with fewer words, that’s a great skill to have.

You could use your idle time to start a personal blog, journal (as I mentioned above), write a book or an academic paper.

As I write this blog post, I enjoy the process of finding the right words to use. I will often write a sentence, then read it back and discover that I can communicate the same idea with half the number of words. And I try and do this with writing emails to clients, product pages on my website and marketing messages.

So, if you’re bored, practice your writing. Practice, practice, practice.

9. Play video games

You heard me!

What I can’t stand about the self-improvement industry is the guilt and pressure that we’re made to feel if we’re not working on our goals or putting out time to good use 100% of the time.

So, this is me giving you permission to go and waste some time. Yes, the title of this post was about putting your time to good use. But I feel a good use of your time is doing whatever you want without feeling guilty for not “achieving” something at the end of it.

Video games allow us to escape from reality (similar to a book or movie). Getting out of your head for a few hours is a great release from the pressures of the world and means you can come back refreshed and recharged later.

10. Catch up with friends and family

What better use of time can you think of besides spending it with the people you care about? I mean, what is productivity about if it’s not to spend more time with the people you love?

Use some idle time to bond with a loved one or reconnect with an old relationship.

What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear your ideas. Please leave me a comment below.

And you don’t have to be on lockdown to do the things on this list. 6, 12 or 24 months from now, the things on this list will be equally valuable. Have fun with it!