For me, running a business is a lot of action and a lot of...waiting. I submitted my bid and now I'm waiting to hear if I won the work. I left a voicemail and now I'm waiting to hear when the new client wants to meet. I revamped my services and now I'm waiting for customer feedback. I do a lot of waiting and yet, for a while, I forgot what it felt like. Waiting is boring. It makes me anxious. It's like physical hunger. It sends me looking for a snack, a distraction.
In my past corporate job, I was BUSY. Looking back, I see that I was busy with some important things and a whole bunch of less important (or not important at all) things. All the less important things found a way into my day because I was looking for filler. I got busy with stuff during those "in the meantime" moments when I was waiting on something or someone else.
If you're like me, you've gotten better at prioritizing your to-do lists. You tackle the most important things first, which makes sense. Even if you do this, however, you're still faced with downtime in between pitch and sale or product delivered and client feedback.
Mastering how to wait makes you use that time to propel forward without getting trapped in a loop that feels productive but isn't--and might even delay you from jumping on the next truly important thing at the right time. The trap you fall into is using downtime to get lower priority work done. You lose focus and drain your power.
From all of those great productivity books and articles, you already know that you should periodically review your low-priority list to figure out what can be delegated, contracted out, or eliminated completely. You should also use block scheduling to set aside time each week or month to get all the remaining necessary work done without letting it continuously nag at you.
So instead of using downtime to do lower-priority work, you reserve that time in the valley between important thing A and important thing B to recharge. You want to be ready to tackle that next hill more focused, energized, and powerful.
Here are nine "in the meantime" power-boosting strategies:
- Get up from your desk and move. Take a walk or stretch.
- Read your affirmations.
- List your resources and advantages.
- Write three things you're grateful for right this minute.
- Send someone else a heartfelt compliment.
- Share your expertise for free through one of your communities.
- Celebrate yourself and invest in wellness with a little pampering.
- Make a new connection.
- Offer to help a team member reach his or her deadline.
Using downtime to recharge helps keep you focused on your most important work. In addition to the nine steps above, it never hurts to get organized. I love this infographic from Emily Johnson on arranging your writing space for greater productivity.
One of the biggest problems tackling lower-priority tasks while you're waiting is that they start to seem more important than they are. Then, you miss the cues to jump back onto important tasks at the right time and delay a response to a potential new client, hold off on making product updates, or reschedule networking meetings. Instead, reserve your in-between time to boost your personal power so that you can come out on the other side feeling stronger and more resilient and ready to take on the next big important challenge.