How to Be Productive Where You Least Expect It

Is your productivity limited by where you are?

Or are you able to be productive wherever you find yourself with downtime?

Ironically, it has never been easier to bring your work and tasks with you.

With smartphones, tablets, or even a good notebook, you can be productive almost anywhere.

Be Prepared

No matter where you are, you can be productive.

The catch is that you need to be prepared to take advantage of the spare time that you encounter in your day.

What surprises me is when people head into known downtime without being ready to get some things done.

“Sometimes you know you will have to wait,

Other times you may be caught off-guard.

Being productive is all about being prepared.”

People sit haplessly in the doctor’s office waiting room. Or at the car dealership. Or on their commute.

Instead, bring the books. Bring the technology. Or bring both.

Don’t underestimate the power of ten minutes, no matter where you are.

How to Be Productive Anywhere

If you have your todo list or materials with you, you can be productive anywhere.

You can reclaim the time that would have otherwise been lost to waiting.

Here are some tips to be productive no matter where you are:

  1. During the Commute – How long do you sit in traffic? Listen to audiobooks or podcasts. Make calls as long as you do it safely with a headset.
  2. On the Plane – Not many people prepare to work during air travel, but there are lots of things you can get done on a plane. Bring reading materials for take off and landing. Bring work to do on the flight. Or just be prepared to get some sleep if that is what you need. Otherwise, you will end up reading the inflight magazine.
  3. On the Business Trip – When you are on the road for work, don’t just pack your clothes. Pack your work, too. I get some of my best writing done while travelling. Instead, of watching TV or the in-room movie, get your work done.
  4. In the Waiting Room – The waiting room is one of the few things in life that is aptly named. You wait and wait. You even know going into it that you will be waiting. So, bring your tablet. Or your phone. Or your notebook. Many a doctor has walked in the exam room to see me fully camped out working. While he/she is surprised, I am like, “I have been here for 45 minutes!”
  5. At Home – Do you keep a todo list for home? Many people keep detailed lists for work, but not for home. And then you wonder why you haven’t gotten to fixing that door or cleaning up that extra room. Track your home todos, as well as your work ones.
  6. In Meetings – Wait, you are not telling me to work during meetings, are you? No, but I am talking about being prepared for meetings so that you don’t waste time. How often have you been to a meeting where half of the meeting is spent scrambling to get ready or to brief everyone about what they should already know?
  7. Anywhere – You todo list should be with you all the time. When you have a moment of downtime, look at your list to jog your memory of what you might be able to get done. It could be as simple as responding to a message or calling someone.

Productive Not Passive

Always bring your productivity with you.

Don’t let life’s downtime steal your time.

Instead, leverage those spare moments to get things done.

That way, you can have more time on your schedule.

Question: What are your best tips for being productive no matter where you are?

16 thoughts on “How to Be Productive Where You Least Expect It

  1. One of the places that I’ve found it’s possible to be incredibly productive is during the commute. IN LA you could learn a foreign language in traffic. In some ways I don’t mind traffic since many people listen to BlogcastFM in traffic. HEHE

  2. One app changed my world: Instapaper. It allows me to save articles I come across online for later reading on my iPad or iPhone. I used to force myself to stop and read articles during my workday for fear I’d never find them again. I think finding one productive downtime habit is key for everyone. Thanks for all the great suggestions.

    — Jeff

  3.  Audio books became my new best friend the last few years – makes commuting a helluva lot nicer. I also agree with @9580f07c7b32871ddbcfe03628dacc8d:disqus re: instapaper – downtime is a great time to read through the back log of articles you’ve saved for later.

  4. Great post Craig. I certainly need to get a little more proactive about this. I also have to learn to not worry about what people think if I whip out my iPad or start writing in a notebook in a waiting room or wherever. I know it sounds weird, but it is funny what goes through our heads!

  5. Craig,

    I get a lot of stuff done when travelling (for e.g by train).

    I prepare for the trip by downloading all the material ready (mostly there is no online access when travelling by train). When I’m travelling, I’m writing blog posts, educate myself (books, videos, podcasts …) or just planning my future activities.

    Travelling time is productive time for me.


  6. Time management is still a somewhat tough thing for me right now, but I keep on reminding myself to do my best. I’m using time recording software ( ) to manage my tasks. I use it for tracking both billable time and for task management. One of the biggest benefits has been tracking how much time I spend working on client stuff.

  7. This is a very good practice. One should not just waste out the time
    for useless thoughts, and instead should be productive. My some of the employees were not productive I started using labortimetracker to keep a check on them

  8. Great advice. Unfortunately, while I am reading this article, I should be getting work done. I keep telling myself this, end up wondering why I procrastinate and how I can become more productive spend hours wasting time learning how to be productive. I was supposed to reply to one email an hour ago!

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