Have you ever arrived to a meeting that started 10 or 20 minutes late? Waited at a restaurant or coffee shop for someone who completely forgot you had a meeting? If you travel, have you had a flight delayed?
It's possible you've even experienced all of these in the same week. But you may not be prepared to take advantage of this "lost" time. Instead, it drains energy, and you end up frustrated and stressed out.
During each of the past past 11 years, I have stayed in hotels more than 225 nights and flown on more than 100 commercial flights. I've presented more than 80 seminars and attended countless client meetings every year. One thing I know: I'll get more time than I know what to do with.
Yes, you read that right. I'm not "time challenged." I use all the extra time I have. I'll get extra open blocks of time, 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there, an entire hour when a conference call gets rescheduled at the last minute.
During a typical week, I may get up to five hours of "extra time."
How much time do you get? With some planning, there ways you can use these last-minute changes to your advantage. Here are some habits that can help you find hidden time in time-wasters.
1. Shift your mindset. I used to get extremely frustrated when meetings were run inefficiently or people arrived late. But long ago, I realized I was "anticipating stress" too much in my life. That's when I decided to think differently. Instead of thinking they were wasting my time, I saw this as built-in opportunity to get ahead.
Your beliefs drive your thoughts, and your thoughts your actions. By accepting that people, as standard operating procedure, will be late and forget meetings, you can use that time to your advantage.
2. Bring something to work on to meetings in case they start late. If you're ready, and have the right tools, you can turn a late-starting meeting into an uber-productive work session. Think about what your business lives and grows on. You might have the latest in mobile technology, but is that what you need to get your work done?
I am a productivity and performance advisor. My clients count on me to share the latest, greatest and highest-priority information as soon as I see it. I read at least a book a week and subscribe to many business magazines. I do this so my clients don't have to.
To every meeting I attend, I bring one or two magazines and letter-sized envelopes. I also have a few sticky-notes handy. If I have a little extra time, I will read through the magazines looking for two types of articles:
- Ones that I am interested in.
- Ones my clients may be interested in. (Of course, often they're one in the same.)
While I'm reading, if I see an article that someone I know may enjoy, I remove it from the magazine, fold it into thirds, and write a short note on the sticky note. Since I have my mobile device with my contacts list and I always have a notebook with postage stamps tucked in the back, I can address and stamp the envelope right there.
3. Use your downtime to learn something new. Practice makes…comfortable. That's right, the more times you do something, the easier it can be to do again. So, while you're waiting, practice some skill that you're working to develop.
Are you learning a piece of software? Bring your computer and watch a YouTube tutorial. Are you learning a new language? Bring flash cards (paper or digital) and use that "found time" to go through bits and bytes of information. Have you added a new piece of technology to your toolkit? Print out and bring the first five to 10 pages of the instruction manual and a highlighter so you can scan those first few pages to see if there's something you can learn in the little bit of time you have.
A key to time management is to anticipate time wasters. Bypass feeling angry by staying productive, regardless of the circumstances. You may not always be able to avoid cancellations, delays and other people running late, but with a bit of preparation, you can get even more done when life doesn't go exactly as planned. I don't like unscheduled changes, but being prepared for them take off the negative edge. As a bonus, you'll keep your peace of mind.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.