I rarely have long periods of time with nothing to do – there’s not typically time to read a book, or watch a movie, or take a nap (granted, “take a nap” requires at least three hours in my world). What I do have, multiple times a day, is somewhere between three and ten minutes with nothing going on and nothing I can do about it. Whether I’m on the subway, waiting for food to come, or at my desk trying to look productive at work, these brief periods pop up all the time.
To be honest, I don’t want to be terribly productive during these periods. What I do want is to learn something, be entertained, or just have a way to goof off while I’m waiting. At the same time, I don’t want to be completely wasting my time (if I’m doing that, why aren’t I sleeping?) – the key is to find the balance between useful, interesting, and feeling like work.
I sense from the lines I stand in all the time and the iPhones I see out during these lines that I’m not alone in my quest, so I’ll share some of the things I can be found doing during that between time.
Here’s 20, for starters:
- Check out Today’s Big Thing – videos from all over the Web about everything from cute animals to cool sports videos.
- Glance at OurSignal – a visual way of seeing the most popular news from around the Web, making it possible to see what the Web buzz is in only a few seconds.
- Stumble – StumbleUpon is the best way to kill time, whether it’s three minutes or three decades. Browse randomly through the Web, click what you like and don’t, and get the Internet personalized and delivered for you.
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- Look at the Big Picture – the Big Picture, from the Boston Globe, tells the day’s biggest story in some of the most stunning photographs you’ll ever see.
- Read Today’s Featured Article at Wikipedia – you’ll learn something new and odd every day.
- Learn something weird – between Instructables and HowStuffWorks, you’ll learn how to make cool things, and how other people make things you couldn’t if you tried.
- Get new music – Pandora loads quickly on basically any device, and will probably find you a new artist favorite in the time it takes your friend to arrive.
- Browse tags at Delicious – a great way to find cool things to read. I like “howto,” “food,” and “inspiration.”
- Read something on your Instapaper “To Read” list.
- Browse a Twitter List – Listorious cultivates lists of Twitterers focused on certain topics, and they’re a great way to get the pulse of a particular field.
- Read RSS feeds – most RSS readers have mobile versions, and you can plow through your inbox.
- Do a mind dump – call Dial2Do, spill everything you have to do or are thinking about, and it’ll get sent right to your email – or Evernote, or anywhere else.
- Go to class – With iTunes U, you can learn about a new topic, on your iPod, a few minutes at a time.
- Swing by popurls – a compilation of the most popular stuff on the most popular sites on the Web, you’re guaranteed to find something people are talking about.
- Play Plants vs. Zombies – I apologize to you, and anyone who enjoys your company, for sharing this game. Play at your own risk.
- Watch something on Justin.tv – there are tons of live videos, some interesting and most not, on Justin.tv at any given time. Most interesting, some just plain high-larious.
- Find new blogs – Regator is a search engine, but only for blogs. It’s a great way to find interesting content, and great new blogs.
- Gain some (unnecessary) knowledge – a great site full of interesting tidbits, one fact at a time. Are they all true? Maybe not, but figuring it out’s a good way to kill some time too.
- Play a Sporcle game – fun games that require your brain to be fully-functional. My current challenge? Naming all the Simpsons characters.
- Browse the Tumblr Directory – Tumblr is a great place for little, niche-based blogs like Garfield Minus Garfield and Unhappy Hipsters. The Directory has those and much, much more.
I could keep going (apparently I’m a champion at killing time), but these should get you started. Now, the next time your lunch date calls and says “sorry, my hair wasn’t dry. I’ll be there in three and a half hours,” you won’t mind so much.
What’s your favorite way to kill time? Is it your iPhone? It is, isn’t it?