We often hear people say they’re busy or that they don’t have the time. We know we all have 24 hours. If you need more “time”, you compromise by sleeping less, which we also know that it’s at the expense of your health. Not good! But wait! How about those idle times?
How we manage or view our time is a matter of mindset and prioritization. In reality, we have more time than we think we have. If we truly record the time spend on each activity or task we have on a day, we’ll realize that we have a lot of unproductive hours. These are all those accumulated hours commuting to work, being stuck in traffic jams, waiting in lines, waiting for someone, or between meetings can be put to good use.
Here are 10 (+ 1 questionable) productive ways we can utilize our idle time effectively to accomplish tasks or goals we set for ourselves:
1. Read, listen or watch something educational.
Listening to podcasts or audiobooks are definitely most ideal when you’re driving. This can also be done while you’re cooking, doing the laundry or cleaning chores at home. If you’re commuting via public transports or waiting in lines, you can read books.
Related blog post: Enrich Your Learning with Scribd (Unlimited access to e-books, audiobooks and magazines)
2. Create lists.
I used to suffer from anxiety and sleepless nights because I was holding too many things to do and random thoughts in my mind. That’s why I love to create lists. To Do list is the most effective way for you to record the tasks you need to carry out and plan your day. Apart from that, you can also use your idle time to create shopping list, customers to call list, books to read list, movies to watch list, and so on. I even have a “What to do” list so I could pick an activity whenever I have days that I just don’t know what to do with it. Some of the productive ways to fill up our idle time shared in this blog post is part of my “What to do” list.
3. Catch up with family or friends over the phone.
Idle time can be effectively used to check up on loved ones or friends you haven’t seen for a while. Sometimes we get so busy and caught up with our work that we can forget our non-immediate family and friends. Squeezing in some short phone calls or hello texts during idle time may help bridge the relationship gap.
I’m not a big fan of speaking over the phone, particularly when I’m in public places but texting works too. While waiting at customer service centres or waiting for your meals to be served (if you’re eating alone), you can give your mom and dad a call or text some friends you haven’t been in touch for a while and plan for an outing. A friend of mine shared with me that her kids who are studying overseas would send her random pictures of their food or daily activities through WhatsApp. This is actually more personal and meaningful rather than having our parents looking through our social media news feed like everyone else just to know what we’re up to.
4. Check off those tiny tasks.
Small tasks that are important but not necessarily urgent can still be a pain in the *bleep* if left unchecked. Idle times are the best times to get these off your To Do list so you can prioritize your important tasks.
Respond to that email from your client, pay your utility bills, book that tickets for the movie you promised to take your kids to, or file those loose receipts. You can only check off these tiny tasks more effectively if you already have a To Do list prepared because it doesn’t require much thinking. Remember earlier when we talked about creating lists? Do that first!
5. Take a short nap.
When I used to commute to work via train, I had the luxury of a long 45-minute nap. Whether you work from home or from the office, taking a quick nap during your idle time can re-energize you especially when your work mostly require high level of concentration.
6. Practice mindfulness.
Doing nothing can be beneficial as well. If you’re constantly on the go, meetings after meetings, work after work, it’s best to just do nothing during your idle time. Practice mindfulness by being in the moment and silent your mind. You can also meditate and do some breathing exercises.
7. Short workout.
If you truly don’t have the time to spare for exercising, there’s no need to slave away at the gym for an hour. But you do need to exercise if you want to enjoy a long healthy life. Extra time after lunch breaks? Go to a nearby park and walk. Doing video conferencing? Get your dumb bells ready and do some weight lifting exercise. Why not right? Angle the camera to show only your face and don’t overdo it to the point of you panting away in front of the screen. That will be weird.
8. Write or review goals.
Most people set yearly, monthly or weekly goals. Yeah, I was one of those people. Sometimes I couldn’t be bothered with setting goals at all. But I realize that to achieve our goals, it’s important for us to pay close attention to them. Keep your goals written in a notebook you carry with you or you can also use apps like OneNote or Evernote. Whenever you have idle time at hand, take them out and review them. Perhaps you have already achieved some of them and you may want to set new goals. Doing this on a daily basis could very well save you a lot of time as you can eliminate distractions and focus on your objectives.
9. Journal your thoughts.
Most successful people keep a journal. Whenever you have the time to spare, write down your thoughts. It helps clear your mind and you can review it in the future. Apart from that, if you’re a writer or blogger, journaling is a good writing practice. 10-15 minutes of journaling everyday can also help to overcome writer’s block. I’ve been blogging inconsistently for the past 10 years because I run out of topics to write about. Then I realize that I do have topics in mind to write about but I’m just not confident in expressing those thoughts. Journaling helps. I can attest to that.
10. Learn a new language or improve your vocabulary.
Being born and raised in Malaysia, most of us are multi-lingual. I could speak and understand 3 languages and 2 dialects. I consider English my first language as it’s the language I’m most comfortable and fluent in. But not being a native speaker, I still have a lot to improve in terms of grammar and vocabulary. I’m sure there are always rooms for improvement when it comes to language no matter how fluent we are in it. Learning a new language, on the other hand, provides us with great opportunity to expand our knowledge of people of different culture. You can easily learn a new language using the app Duolingo.
And finally…a not so productive way but could be beneficial nevertheless.
11. Play games.
I don’t know about you but I love to play games; mind games, trivia, board games and of course video games! I have a deck of monopoly deal cards kept in the car so I could just grab them and play it with whoever that was with me while we’re waiting for a movie to start or for other friends to show up.
Other games you can play during your idle time can be anything you have installed on your phone that could help you relax and de-stress. While playing brain activity games is more productive, I’m not uptight when it comes to that. Whenever I’m not working or studying, I just want to let loose and engorge myself into my little fantasy world of gaming.
By spending your idle time effectively, you can increase your productivity and find yourself having more time as a result. Most importantly, you don’t need to compromise what you enjoy doing because your schedule is filled with work, chores or errands you need to complete. Look for those idle times you can “steal.”
How do you spend your idle time? Do share in the comment if it’s not mentioned in this post.
Growing up, we were taught to believe in certain thing or hold certain values by our parents, teachers or figures of authority. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing passing on teachings and values to the younger generation, some of us went to the extent of imposing it not just on children but also our peers.
When I learned about personality type from my mentor, he always reminded us not to pigeon-hole people or to suffer from a condition he calls B.L.M. which stands for Be Like Me. It gave me a whole new perspective to how I perceive people. With the knowledge of personality, I learned to respect people for who they are instead of judging them. However, there are many people who still have a set of expectations (obviously suffering from B.L.M.) on how others should behave. When they do not get the responses they expect, they get upset or disappointed or puzzled.
About 10 years ago, I was in an MLM business. I was still working but I was sold on the idea of creating passive income so I could quit my job. The problem, which wasn’t a problem at all, was that I didn’t hate my job. But that’s how most MLM business builders market their business plan. Typically it’s about working towards generating passive income so you can achieve financial or time freedom. Quit your job, fire your boss, that sort of thing.
I used the same approach the MLM leaders taught me and started “preaching” others the same way. Obviously, those who are not very happy with their current jobs were happy to get on board. I was even trying to sell my best friend the idea of financial freedom. I can’t recall the exact words she said but what she said struck me. She asked me if I’ve ever wondered some people are happy employees who don’t mind the 9-5 and actually enjoy what they do. Well, of course I stopped talking to her about the MLM business.
Only years later that I came to the realization that I was “imposed” this belief that happiness is when I don’t need to be in the office 9-5 and having a boss. But I was happy! I enjoyed waking up early, going to work, having a boss guiding or mentoring me, having lunch with my colleagues, etc. While I also enjoy my flexibility as an entrepreneur, I do miss those days when I was an employee.
Reasons Not to Impose Our Beliefs or Values on Others
We’ve all been guilty of imposing our beliefs or values on others. We want others to behave like us, do what we do and think like we do. At what expense? Broken trust and sour relationships?
Here are 4 reasons we should not impose our beliefs or values on others:
It’s a narcissistic thing to do
Just because you’re right doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Don’t be like narcissists who think their beliefs and values are the most ideal for everyone to follow. This is a good example of a person suffering from B.L.M. Would you want to interact with people who don’t listen to you and constantly try to take control or steal your autonomy?
It makes people feel that you don’t care about them
Back in high school, I went for a weekend getaway to Penang with two friends. One of them was familiar with the state so she took us around. She kept forcing me to eat this and that, saying it was really good and popular. Never mind that I actually didn’t like some of those food. It was her favourite and she thought it was good so I must like it too. By the end of the trip, I vowed to myself I would never go on holidays with her ever again.
It can be disrespectful or offensive
I grew up and live in a multi-cultural society. We were taught to be culturally aware. We don’t offer pork to our Muslim friends and beef to our Hindu friends. Apart from religious values, we also have lifestyle values that we should respect. Once the cashier at the checkout counter in a grocer said, “It’s just 20 cent for a plastic bag” to the shopper who probably did some last minute shopping. He chose to hold all his items because he didn’t have a bag with him. For an environmentalist, it’s not that 20 cent, it’s about the plastic bag. I bet he wouldn’t even want that plastic bag if it was free.
It might cost you the relationship
…or a business. While I understand a little bit of push can be helpful especially when we know it’s going to add values to people’s lives. However, if we want to persuade someone to do something, we first need to understand and make sure we’re on the same page.
I remember one time my customer insisted on a certain design that just didn’t make sense to me. I tried pushing her to agree with the design I proposed, thinking it would look better. After a few rounds or “argument”, she reluctantly agreed with my art direction. Somehow I just got the feeling that she just wanted to get it over with and be done with me. I never hear back anymore. I made a mistake by not trying to understand why she wanted things certain ways.
Respect Other People’s Model of the World
The next time you catch yourself trying to impose your beliefs or values onto others, try to reflect on these questions:
- Do you think it’s for their best interests or yours? What’s the objective you’re trying to achieve?
- Do you know what their desires and beliefs are?
- How pushing this further can impact your relationship with this person?
Who knows these questions might just help you become a better communicator that it could improve your persuasion skills without having people to feel that you’re imposing your values on them.
Since I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey in 2011, I’ve started and managed over 10 different businesses. It may sound impressive and glamourous but I can bet people who have experienced similar journey would think otherwise, particularly in the early phases of the journey. I call them the misconceptions that non-business owners have about running our own business. I had these very same thoughts as well when I was an employee. This is precisely what drove me to get out of the employment world and plunged myself into owning a business. If only I had known, I would have been more prepared.
Misconception 1: You are your own boss and you have all the control
While it’s true that I don’t have to report to a boss but I found myself answer to many “bosses.” Even if you’re going solo with partners, employees and vendors, your time is mostly taken up responding to the demands of your clients or customers. When you’re faced with problems to solve, you need to step up even though you may not necessarily know what to do. Business owners can call shots but only if you have build a very successful business that you’re able to have a full control.
Misconception 2: You can make a fortune with you own business
Many new business owners who are not aware of the costs involved in owning a business will have a rather great revelation here. I’ve heard employees complain about not getting paid enough, thinking that their bosses are making a fortune by how much they’re charging the customers. As an employee, they didn’t think much of the vast number of expenses that need to be covered. The net profit margins can be so thin and sometimes bordering on non-existent.
Misconception 3: You have all the time flexibility
I can understand why some would think that when they see my Facebook posts on me going for grocery shopping, watching movies or walking my dogs while everyone else is at work. What they don’t know is that I’m actually working around the clock. I work when they’re working, I work when they’re sleeping, I work when they go on holidays and heck, I even work when I’m sick. When you just get started, you don’t own the business. The business owns you.
Misconception 4: You can set any amount of salary
No, you don’t unless you don’t care about your business survival in the long run. I knew of a business owner whose priority is to pay himself first before everyone else. Needless to say, his business didn’t survive its infantry. As a business owner, you’re required to sacrifice your own take to ensure expenses are paid. When I started my own business, I didn’t receive a single penny for years. I was surviving mostly on my savings and side income I made from random projects.
Misconception 5: You can choose what you enjoy doing and outsource everything else
You will get to this point eventually but not at the beginning. For your business to sustain financially, you can’t afford to outsource everything to others. If you don’t have partners in the business or financial backup from investors, you’re most likely going to be managing your own finance, pricing, hiring and other business operations. I’ve washed the toilet and taken out trash, things I didn’t need to do when I was an employee. We had hired cleaners for those, so please do appreciate your cleaning crew in your office.
- Do you have trouble saying no to requests from family, friends and colleagues for fear of disappointing them?
- Do you feel obligated to purchase something from the salesperson just because they have spent their time servicing you or offer you product samples?
- Are you having difficulty to decide on whether to accept a job offer or a business proposal although it’s really something you’re not keen?
There are way more scenarios I can conjure up simply because I’ve been through many situations where I can’t say no. I’ve been nicknamed the “Yes Queen.” I said yes to almost anything that are asked of me to the point that it negatively impacted my health. I was so “overbooked” for jobs that I wasn’t getting paid for and requests that were just eating up my time that I got deeper and deeper into debts. How else can I pay my bills and credit cards when I was turning down paid jobs because I had no time to take them on? Yes, it was stupid, real stupid.
I’m a person who pride myself in being reliable and true to my words, so saying no to requests that I already said yes to was not an option even though I knew I couldn’t cope anymore. I became frustrated, which then led to resentment towards the people. I felt under-appreciated and used. Yet, it was my fault alone as I was the one who chose to be stuck in the cycle of saying yes.
Why Can’t We Say No and Why We Should
The reasons we can’t say no have a lot to do with our own beliefs and assumptions about people and situations. If we could take a step back and ponder on it rationally, we would soon realize that most of the time, saying no is best for everyone.
Reason #1: Fear of Conflict
“I don’t want to hurt the relationships.”
“I don’t want to disappoint.”
We’re not comfortable having to come up with excuses and justifying to others why we say no or we don’t want to hurt others’ feelings or disappoint them. We want to please and make others feel good. How about our own feelings?
I once said yes to help a friend with her project. I stayed up late at night and sacrificed my weekend to do so only to find out she was spending the weekend shopping and watching movies. While I initially worried about hurting her feelings, my feelings were then hurt.
Reason #2: Feeling Obligated
“The person has helped me in the past and I feel obliged to return the favour.”
“I don’t want to be seen as disobedient not helping my parents.”
I almost never ask anyone for help and most likely to reject help because I don’t want to be pressured by the obligations to return the favours. I hate feeling like I owe someone something. But that’s just me. It’s all in my head because family and friends who have helped me NEVER did expect anything in return.
If there was a prior agreement or stated qui pro quo between you and the person who have helped you, then by all means, honour it. If there was none, you shouldn’t feel the obligation to return the favour like I do.
Reason #3: Fear of being Judged
“I don’t want to be selfish.”
Some people are naturally assertive and blunt, they have no difficulty whatsoever in saying no if it doesn’t serve any purpose to them. However, most of us are afraid that we’ll be judged as being selfish and unhelpful if we say no.
My mentors and coaches have always use the oxygen mask analogy on me whenever I get into the mode of sacrificing my own needs for others. If you fly often, you probably can recite the safety warning before take-off. It says that you should put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you help others in the event of low cabin pressure. This is simply because that you’re not going to be able to help others if you’re unconscious. There you go! Help yourself first.
Reason #4: Fear of Missing Out
“The business opportunity might earn me a lot of money.”
“I’m going to miss out the fun.”
You really don’t have any control over opportunities, really. There’s no way you can tell whether a business idea or a proposal will generate a profitable return. If it’s something that interests you enough for you to commit, then say yes. Otherwise, don’t say yes just because you’re afraid that you might miss out on “striking a lottery” in the business. There are tons of other opportunities that can be lucrative.
As for social gatherings that you’re so afraid of missing out the fun, then you need to ask yourself what you would rather be doing. Do you prefer to hang out with your friends or rather be reading a book at home? Would you rather stay sober or be pissed drunk? Do you have other priorities to handle?
Reason #5: Desire to be Heroic or Unique
“No one else is willing to help.”
“I’m the only one who can do it.”
Oh, don’t we all want to be a hero to someone? We want to be the resourceful and responsible ones that everyone could rely on. But the truth is, we can’t please everyone. When everyone wants something from you, you’ll be so used up you’ll be left with nothing to give. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Why We Should Say No
- Time is precious: If we constantly say yes to every requests that come our way, we become the biggest thief of our own time. Time is a scarce resource and in fact, we can’t earn back the time we wasted. Therefore, we need to think twice before we give away our time to things and people that aren’t important. On top of that, when we’re too generous with our time, some opportunists out there will take advantage of it.
- Taking control of your life: Don’t let others steer you to wherever they want you to go. You’ll one day wake up only to realize that all your life, you’ve been letting others steer your wheels. It’s a matter of time before you become this bitter person who doesn’t find joy in the life you don’t control.
- Don’t let others take advantage of you: Sometimes it can feel like you’re a doormat being stepped on when you keep letting people tell you what to do. I did feel like one whenever I couldn’t say no to people who were so obviously taking me for granted. For the sake of your self-esteem and confidence, say no and walk away.
- You might do more harm when you help: Helping others out might look like a noble thing to do but at times, it can also harm them in the long run. They would never get the opportunity to learn and grow if you’re constantly there to hold their hands. You need to let them make their mistakes and learn their lessons or you’re crippling them by not letting them grow.
How to Say No
To be able to say no, you need to understand and accept that saying no is okay. You can use an indirect approach or direct approach. It doesn’t matter how you say it as long as you remain polite and be firm.
Keep it Sweet and Simple
Keep it short and don’t drag on with reasons after reasons. If you’re asked to do something, you can say “I’m sorry I won’t be able to help you as I have other priorities.” If you’re offered something or invited to go somewhere, just thank them and tell them a simple “I’m not keen on that but thanks for asking.”
Don’t Respond Too Quickly
If you’re not interested, there’s no reason to respond immediately anyway. Why let the requests or offers interrupt your day? Just go ahead and do what matters to you. The other person will get the message that you’re not too keen. Also, if you delay your responses, it will make you less accessible and thereby they will think that you’re busy anyway.
If it’s not your task, say no and delegate it to the right person. If you’re busy, say no and suggest them to get help from someone else. If you don’t think you’re the best person to fulfil their request, say no and provide alternatives.
Request for Payment or Compensation
If you’re asked to do something that’s in your line of work, you need to be compensated. I feel like a hypocrite saying this because there were many times that I offered pro bono work. However, it went on to the extent that it affected my business revenue. As mentioned earlier in the post, I turned down paying clients to work on things that I don’t get paid for. Please don’t be like me. Charge for it, request for a meal, state a quid pro quo or anything to ensure you’re compensated in one way or another.
Those are ways I learned in saying no. How about you? How do you say no? What’s the most difficult situation you’ve been put into? Please do share in the comment if you would like to share. I understand that it’s not easy to say no for some people. After many years, I’m still learning to stand my ground. Saying no is not a rejection towards that person, it’s about caring for yourself first. Unless it’s a life and death situation, you can always say no.
Ever since I got rid of almost all my 200+ physical books when I started my decluttering journey, I’ve been consuming knowledge and information from eBooks, podcasts and audiobooks. I love audios though because I can listen to them when I commute. But I’m tired of having to synch my eBooks and audiobooks from Mac to my phone. I also had to manually search for them in various different websites. I love convenience and I want it all in one apps, you know, like how I like one-stop shopping.
Early this year, I asked in Facebook if anyone uses any audiobook apps and if they can recommend me a good one. I’ve heard of Audible so it was no surprise majority of them recommended it. One comment thought caught my attention: “If you’re a fast listener, Scribd gives u unlimited access for a fixed fee every month”
Well, I am indeed a fast listener. Audible will not be enough for me unless I’m spending more dollars on it. Scribd, to me, has always been a platform where people share documents. I didn’t know they have eBooks and audiobooks. Since when? Okay, I know how outdated I was. So, I downloaded Scribd. I had a 30 days free trial which I love. I could take the opportunity to utilize it fully and cancel it before the trial ends so I don’t get charge. That was the plan…
After reading and listening in total of about 4-5 books in the span of a week and having over 20 books in my saved list, I fell in love with Scribd’s unlimited reading policy. Damnit Scribd! Take my money! I subscribed to a full year membership and I’m totally in awe to find out there are more benefits to it! Wait for it…
One month membership is US$8.99 (approx. RM37.90 depending on the currency rate.) I subscribed to a full year membership via Apple at RM 329.90 so it’s only RM 27.50 per month. What a steal!
Once subscribed, you get access to their library of:
- Snapshots – summarized version of books with only key insights from the books.
- Documents – uploaded by Scribd users.
- Music Sheets
You can access Scribd from the web, phone and tablet. The website and app are both well designed so it’s easy to navigate. Whatever you’re reading or listening will be automatically sync on all your devices. For example, if you were listening to an audiobook via your phone and stopped at Chapter 3, you’ll continue from where you stopped when you shifted to listening to it via your tablet. You can also download the ebooks and audiobooks so you can listen to them offline.
Check out the Member Exclusives!
As a Scribd’s subscriber, you also get free access to other services that you have to pay for otherwise. Here are the member exclusives services you can subscribe to:
- Blinkist: This is my favourite app apart from Scribd when it comes to huge consumption of information. You can read or listen to this as they contain key ideas from bestselling books. It’s a quick read or listen in just 15 minutes.
- Pocket: No time to read the interesting articles you just chance upon? Save or clip it via Pocket and read it later…offline.
- MUBI: You can stream curated movies from around the world.
- FarFaria: Great news for parents with young children. You get access to unlimited children’s books for kids ages 2 to 9.
Pros and Cons
This is not a comparison review of Scribd against their competitors. So if you ask me if you should choose Audible over Scribd, I don’t know because I’m not using Audible so it’s not fair for me to judge. What I did was to read comparison reviews between the two and decided Scribd suits me better. Please go ahead and do your own research if you’re still thinking about maybe using Audible or other platforms.
I’m here to highlight the pros and cons I found about Scribd that you may want to take into consideration before you subscribe to their service.
How to sign up on Scribd
If you’re keen to give it a try, you can use my link for a 2-month free trial. Yes! You have 2 months to decide if you want to be a member. I had only a month because I didn’t sign up via a referral link. Try it and let me know how you love it.
- Click here to begin.
- You can fill up the registration form or use social accounts such as Facebook or Google.
- Add your credit card details (not to worry. You won’t get charged and your information is confidential.)
- Start browsing, save your favourite titles or download them if you want. Happy reading and listening!
If you don’t enjoy it like I do, you can cancel your membership before the trial is over. Please remember to do so or you’ll get charged on your credit card. You can set a reminder 2 days before the trial ends if you wish to cancel.