I realize that’s probably not the best use of my time, but I haven’t put much thought or effort into being productive with the 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there that I have in life.
Truthfully, for me, the dead time has significantly decreased. I’m no longer stuck in the office or lounge waiting for the final patient of the day to be ready to leave the recovery room. I don’t commute to work. My phone tends to have more battery life at the end of the day than it ever has!
Dr. Peter Kim, on the other hand, knows what it is to live and die in L.A. traffic. He takes OB call. It’s important for him to make the most of those minutes where there’s not a whole lot going on.
This post was originally published on his site, Passive Income MD.
Maximize Your Dead Time For a New Approach To Life
I’ll be totally honest with you. I’ve struggled with poor time management skills most of my life. Planners never seemed to work because I was horrible at keeping them up-to-date. Those online project management programs that “automatically” track time, projects, and tasks? I’ve tried them all with no effect.
The result was that there just wasn’t extra time to pursue anything else and the concept of side hustles didn’t seem practical or even possible either.
I’m assuming others have felt that as well. We’re so busy occupied by our professional and family lives. For some of us, we feel compelled to change our situation, but time seems so limited. Again, that’s how I felt.
Net Time vs. Dead Time
Eventually, I caught drift of the notion that time is your most valuable resource.
What that meant was that instead of focusing on net income, I realized I should be focusing on net time—the free time I have after obligations and doing things I don’t enjoy.
That’s when things started changing for me. I started trimming unnecessary activities and low-value time killers by outsourcing help or eliminating those activities altogether.
It helped me to find the time to devote to different side hustles like investing in real estate.
That started to work well, but when I wanted to take time management to the next level, I found ways to make better use of the time I didn’t want to trim.
Examples of net time are things like exercising, commuting, walking my dogs, sitting in line for coffee, or even playing golf.
No Extra Time vs. Dead Time
If you’re my friend on Instagram, you’ve seen that I attended a Tony Robbins event in the recent past. Lots of awesome takeaways that I’ll be slowly sharing over time.
But one powerful concept that they mentioned was the concept of utilizing N.E.T. time (or No Extra Time).
The concept is that if you wanna optimize your time, you can use what might be considered wasted time and educate yourself in those moments. It doesn’t take any extra time out of your day to do these things but you’re able to squeeze so much more out of the same hour.
How do you do that? Well, you can read, listen, or interact. Perhaps you’re commuting in the subway, you can read a book or blogs. Maybe while you’re walking your dog, you can listen to a podcast or audiobook. Perhaps when commuting, you can hop on a call with someone you’re trying to learn from like a mentor or friend (or again listen to podcasts/audiobooks).
Some say you should simply sleep less to gain more time; however, I’m a big advocate of good sleep.
I think most people know how much time they need. My ideal is seven hours although I can get by pretty well on six. If I get a solid interrupted seven hours, I feel ready to take on the world.
For those of us who have gone through residency, we know we can function on a lot less. However, we all know how important sleep is for mental and physical health.
What I aim for is shifting my sleeping routine and waking up a bit early to get things done before anyone else is awake. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I find I’m not productive later on in the night. So the morning shift has been a game changer for me.
Maximizing Your Dead Time
So what are some practical steps to maximize your dead time?
- Figure out what those dead times are in your life, like exercise or commuting.
- Be intentional about how to fill those times and create a list of things you’d love to get through in those slots (i.e., is it a podcast, an audiobook, a book? Keep this list in your phone so you know you’ll never be without it.
- Carry headphones (My Airpods go with me everywhere).
- Next time you’re on your commute or in line at Starbucks, remember to make the most out of that time. Look at your list and take action.
The great thing is that this can be put to use immediately and add time to your day without adding on to the full plate you already have. After a while, it becomes second nature and ingrained in you.
In fact, I crave it to a degree.
We all have the same number of hours in a day, but how we maximize those hours, especially the dead time helps determine how quickly we achieve our goals.
[PoF: A few ways to make good use of brief downtime to earn a bit of 1099 income or educate yourself further:
- Complete quick surveys for healthcare professionals.
- Listen to 15-minute recaps of famous non-fiction books with Blinkist.
- Listen to the Physician on FIRE blog posts as read by “Brian” on Alexa devices. Add the PoF Alexa skill today!]
How do you maximize your dead time? Where do you have the most downtime in your day?
3 thoughts on “Maximize Your Dead Time For a New Approach To Life ”
Huh, interesting, I’ve been working on doing the opposite. In my profession, I need to constantly be multi-tasking, thinking ahead while also thinking deeply about subjects my readers will find interesting, in ways that aren’t obvious to most of them.
Outside of that job, I had numerous side hustles going, organized a poky pedal bike club, was teaching myself to code (I’m still doing that) and filled just about every niche. All this changed when my job changed significantly – took one more responsibility and a lot more money (my boss increased my pay because my skillset would be really hard to replace and devastating if she had to).
I realized I needed down time. I needed aimless time. I needed time that wasn’t incessantly filled. I needed a little space to F*$% around in. (Sorry, taken from my post “The importance of f%$&ing around,” linked in my name.)
Of course, this comes after going from slacker to high achiever, but now I’m starting to weave back in a concept A Purple Life introduced me to called #SlugLife. I’m still a high achiever, but have learned to dial it back a bit. Balance.
My thoughts exactly. We’re becoming a species of Human Doers vs Human Beings. Just learn to enjoy the dead time. Many people I know are so wound up on achievement that they literally cant sit still for 5 minutes. Some have tried early retirement and found that they cant cope because they’re always needing to be on the go and their employer gives them the purpose to gogogo. Some are now in therapy to deal with such issues….
I also agree. I used to be that person that always had to be doing something, listening to podcasts at 1.5 speed to cram as many information as possible. I don’t think that was getting me anywhere.
Cal Newport on his latest book, “Digital Minimalism” convinced me to take a step back. Now I like to take long walks without my phone. I found I come up with lots of good ideas during those walks.