May 23, 2012 at 8:53 AM ET
The smartphone has made killing time when you're standing in line easy, but instead of launching another bird into the sky you can turn those two-minute spurts of non-activity into productive moments. Doing so will help you rid the most annoying and tiny daily tasks in your downtime. Here are a few ideas for doing just that.
You'll find plenty of great productivity apps on smartphones, but actually using them isn't always the easiest option. After all, when you're waiting around for a plane or killing time at the DMV it's a lot easier to just boot up Facebook and screw around for a few minutes. Still, you can get a surprising amount of things done in just a couple minutes, starting with your email.
Process your inbox: Answer everything you can respond to in two minutes or less
Chances are you have a few emails you haven't responded to because they're just simple questions. It's those emails you avoid because they're just so easy, but they end up piling up as the day goes along. You can find these emails quicker by getting everything organized. The trusted trio is a great way to start, but if you want another option you can keep it even simpler by setting up specific labels in Gmail called Kill Time (and if you need help with labels we've got you covered). Throughout the day just throw in those easy to reply emails you leave sitting around and then bang them out when you're waiting around later.
However you choose to do it the purpose is the same: filter off a few emails a day into a folder where you can quickly pull them up on your phone and kill some time answering them.
Bake phone tasks into your to-do's
If your to-do list is anything like mine then it probably has a ton of simple, quick tasks scattered throughout it. These include things like making quick phone calls, sending emails, researching a simple topic or even ordering some new shoes. Instead of keeping these short tasks inline with more complicated to-dos, bake in a special phone list filled with everything you can do from your phone.
If that's not possible, take those couple of minutes to sit down and prune items from your to-do list. Eliminate tasks you can't get to, reorganizing others, or whatever it takes to make your list manageable.
Brainstorm freely with no purpose
This is a little more abstract, but taking advantage of those moments when you're bored is a great way time for creativity (and productivity). We've seen before that being bored is actually good for creativity and it's easy to do on the go.
You can do this anyway you like, with a text editor, drawing app or anything else. Personally, I use the iOS app Mindjet because I love mindmapping. The idea is that you just write down all the ridiculous ideas you have while you're bored with no thought for how bad they are and then return to them later to pick out the good ones.
Give your brain a workout
Another option is stuff a little brain training into those moments. We know brain games don't make you smart, but some games, logic puzzles and other exercises still benefit your brain. Crossword puzzles are thought to combat Alzheimers and they're readily available for nearly every smart phone. If crosswords aren't your thing, nearly every digital device on the planet has Tetris available on it and Tetris is known to expand your brain.
You can also take that time to learn something new. The variety of Wikipedia apps are a great way to kill some time while still learning something. Just fire it up, select a random article and you're on your way to learning something new instead of killing time.
The ideas here are pretty simple. Instead of killing time being bored, turn that time into something productive. Make it easy on yourself by separating all those tasks ahead of time so you can pop in, take care of a few things, and pop right back out. Have your own time killing tips? Share them in the comments.Contact Thorin Klosowski: Email the author
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