Using These Little Breaks

New York always does the same thing to me: Almost by the hour, I discover new things, events and places that I want to try out here. I get so excited by the endless possibilities; I almost end up in a frenzy. The regular reader might object that I once said traveling can increase your productivity – well, not in the case of New York…

But where there is shadow, there is light. Time being a rare commodity in this city, it has brought an important but often overlooked idea back to the forefront of my mind: Utilizing the little breaks of your day. It sounds like your typical pop-psychology advice, but don’t disregard it because it seems too simple. All of us, every day, end up in situations where we are just forced to waste time because of external circumstances. You ride the subway to the Public Library. You wait for your friend who is running 15 minutes late. You have a doctor’s appointment, waiting for your turn. You stand in a really long line at Chipotle. The list is endless.

My point is: These things add up. My very, very conservative estimation is that all of us AT LEAST spend an hour a day in limbo. And I’m not even talking about you actively wasting time by watching TV two hours a night; I’m really just referring to the time you lose because some external factor forces you to stand still. All these situations in which you pull out your cell phone to play another round of Diamond Rush. THAT is what I am talking about.

But what if, for a thought experiment, you would use this 1 hour a day to your advantage? The exact same tool that makes it so easy to let these breaks go to waste, i.e. your cell phone, can make it as easy as ever to improve yourself. You could be using that Russian vocab app while you are standing in line. You could continue reading this textbook on your Kindle, while sitting in the waiting area of your doctor’s office. You could write a couple of sentences for a blog post, while your friend is running late. Heck, you could learn how to program on your daily commute.

This sounds a little bit too over-optimized for you? We don’t need to utilize every free minute of our day, you say?

You do, so stop dreaming. Most of us are forced to work in a job they hate (be honest) for most of their time awake, then do shopping, cook and eat, groom, take are of basic social relationships and so on. This doesn’t leave much time for anything else. If you don’t fight this pattern, you will live and die just like another worker bee.

However, imagine you DID use your hour per day of enforced waiting for something productive, made easier than ever with the arrival of modern cell phones. Had you started this 10 years ago, you would have accumulated thousands of hours in a certain area or subject by now. You could now be a writer, a programmer, speak a foreign language fluently, or have read all the major works of world literature. Whatever it is you desire, you could have mastered it or come very close to full mastery. This is for free too, without having to make extra time for it. Just by utilizing these little breaks that compound over days, weeks, months and years.

Mastery and a life by your own rules are within EVERYBODY’S reach, no matter what your life currently looks like. Just start investing into these little breaks. Today.