The trouble with being unemployed is that I have to schedule meetings all the time with prospective employers or clients. Okay, this isn’t the real problem, I guess. The problem is that their availability rarely is such that my meetings are all neatly in a row. As much as I’d like everyone else’s schedule to magically align with my own, it doesn’t seem to work out that way. Most of the time, I have an hour or two in between meetings, sometimes longer. When I was working, time between meetings was there to get work done but, without a job, there’s no real work to be done. I’m just sitting around waiting for the next conversation. But I noticed something really interesting about this wasted time between meetings: I was getting a lot of shit done. It occurred to me that I may have discovered the real secret to productivity: being forced to kill time.
I like to think that I’m not alone in that I will almost always choose the most enjoyable of tasks at hand in any given moment. If I can watch Netflix now and take care of that annoying thing (that I’ve already been avoiding for months), 99% of the time I will watch Netflix now. This is the primary reason that I fail to check things off my to-do list for months (and months).
However, when I am forced to sit for hours on end in coffee shops, killing time between meetings, with no one to distract me from myself, I am transformed into a focused, productive machine. I start to tackle tasks that I’ve been putting off for months, tasks that aren’t always complex nor particularly meaningful, but that needed to get done nonetheless. It’s absolutely astonishing.
Here are just some of the things that I’ve finally (dear lord, finally) crossed off my to do list care of killing time: at least 15 blog posts that wouldn’t have been written otherwise (including this one!); applying for four jobs that I wouldn’t have found unless I had been bored and trolling corporate websites; spamming my LinkedIn network to drum up business and/or networking meetings; following up on why I’m not getting billed for my provincial health care; finding out how to get my all season tires back now that my old dealership that stored them is closed; scheduling car service and tire swap at a new dealership; filing my taxes; and changing my address with all the places you don’t think about when you move because they only mail you once a year.
You are probably wondering why I don’t just hang out in coffee shops even when I don’t have meetings scheduled. It is not the same. The perfect storm of productivity requires that a) I am unable to go home or even somewhere more entertaining because I don’t quite have enough time to get back before my next meeting b) I have no money to spend on frivolous shopping and c) no friends are available to come meet me. Only with this particularly trifecta will I find my productivity zone.
No, what I (and maybe you, too) need is a nice, forced block of time to kill . So the next time you are disgusted with your lack of progress on pesky little life tasks, here’s all you need to do:
- book some sort of event and/or meeting in a location at least 45 minutes from your home or office
- book another event and or/meeting 1-3 hours after the initial event/meeting
- do not tell anyone that you have free time between meetings
- do not pack a book
- do not look at your work email (if you are employed, that is) or take any other work with you
- preferably, go somewhere without free wi-fi
- sit facing a wall so that you will not be distracted by people watching (come on, you know you would be)