Optimizing Dead Time

One of the ways I stay productive is to optimize dead time.  Dead time being time spent waiting for something or when doing a simple repetitive task that could lend itself to multitasking.

Dead time is time waiting in a waiting room, standing in line, waiting at a long red light, driving, being in traffic, workout time, grocery shopping, on a plane, waiting for a plane, and any time where you can have a spare couple minutes.

My favorite things to do when I am looking at dead time are reading, thinking, problem solving, listening, and creating.


There are books for everyone these days.  I like to keep a comic book like Dilbert or Calvin and Hobbes in the car for long lights.  My kindle is a wonderful device for readers.  I keep my kindle with me almost all the time.  I even put important documents I am supposed to read and read them while I am out and about.  No more being tied to the computer to read a 300-page document.

Reading is a great way to fill gap time.  By reading, you can be entertained and learn.  You can find new recipes to create, read personal development books, learn about an ancient culture, and put yourself into a fictional world of a character.

Thinking and Problem Solving

These are great opinions if you cannot have other toys like ipods and books with you.  I do this mostly when I am swimming and showering because I know I have a long time without being interrupted so I can work thru a problem or think about an issue.

This is very open ended; you can think about anything.  I tend to use thinking time like this to put together lists and plans of attack.   I also use this time to figure out how to accomplish a new goal or new ways to go about getting better results towards a goal.   I have even used this time to figure out complicated scheduling.  As a programmer, this is great time for me to think of a better way to attack a programming problem.


I love to listen to podcasts or music when I am on the road for a while, grocery shopping, walking, and pacing.

I use podcasts usually as a way to blend learning and entertainment.  Many people also enjoy audio books.

I have an ipod touch and a aux port in my car which allows me to listen while doing an activity then get in the car and plug in so I leave pick up right were I left off.

You can also listen to an mp3 player while hiking, biking, and other solitary activities.  However, when I do these, I often enjoy listening to the sounds around me rather than my mp3 player.  Sometimes though, esp on a long hike, I will put in only 1 ear bud so I can listen to the world around me and some music that compliments the hike I am doing.

Music is great because it can be listened to while doing other activities that require concentration.  I listen to music while I write, program, and pace.

Being Creative

Dead time can also be filled by being creative.  Creating a new recipe to make for dinner, creating a poem or story, thinking of a new business idea, a new way to make friends, a way to vary an exercise routine, and any way you can creative to help you move forward in your life.

In the last week, these are ways, I have optimized my time.  I listened to podcasts when I went grocery shopping, read while I waited for my turn at the chiropractor, looked thru uncookbooks while eating lunch and watching a show with a friend, learned a new crochet pattern while hanging out with friends, read and made a new friend when I donated blood on Friday, and even now I am listening to French music while writing to help strengthen my French skills.

When I used to drive home from my job, I had a long red light usually between a 3 to 5 minute wait.  I always made sure I kept a book on the passenger seat.  I usually picked Dilbert comic strips (it seemed oddly fitting since I was going back and forth from a programming job) because it was short, and I appreciate them more in short bursts.

A friend of mine loves to do community acting, and he practices his lines to and from work every day on his 60 minute each way commute.  He reads them aloud recording them and then plays them in the car to learn them.

There are all sorts of ways to use gap time to move yourself forward towards goals or just to be entertained while you wait.  Be creative and find a way to use time to your advantage.

Adrienne :)

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