We’ve all been there: a crackly version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons jangling away taking up precious chunks of our working day. How can we actually use this time productively when all we can think about is getting through, or not being able to get on with what you need to do? Here’s how:

1. Write it down

The moment you hear you’re put on hold, put speakerphone on and grab a pen and paper. In bullet points jot down what you need to cover when you finally get through to a human. Put the piece of paper by the phone along with any other documents you may need to hand.

Then move on to one of the following ideas. This makes sure you can temporarily put the phone call out of mind without being in danger of not being ready when you finally connect.

2. Organise your to-do list

To-do lists are fluid in their nature. Use the time that you’re on hold to go through your list crossing out things that are done and adding new ones. Then you can prioritise it and work out what will be done when. You may also use this exercise to decide to delegate some items – jot these on to another list to follow up later.

3. Refresh your calendar

Knowing what you’ve got coming up over the coming few days and weeks can help you balance work more effectively and prepare. You might notice a meeting looming tomorrow and take this opportunity to quickly read through the agenda so that you are prepared.

4. Reply to emails

We’ve all got inboxes which go a little crazy. You likely have a bunch of emails that need a quick reply or sending to the recycle bin, but you never get the time to action them. Use the time on hold to zap through easy to action emails. This also stops them interrupting your regular work. Don’t try to tackle more complex ones in a rush, but this time is perfect for the simple ones which would otherwise interrupt your work stream.

5. Tidy your desk

There’s never time… well there is now. Being on hold is a perfect time to get your desk in order, or perhaps that drawer which is akin to the cupboard under the sink. Open mail, get rid of pens which are no longer working, move the information from post-it notes to where it should actually be. This way, when you’re finally ready to crack on with work once more, it’s a case of clear desk, clear mind.

6. Check it out

Whether you’ve got an intranet, a newsletter waiting to be read, or really should check out what the company is putting on their blog, now is the time to have a look. Whilst you may put off reading such information because there are more productive uses for your time, the overall picture and understanding they build is invaluable. Yet it doesn’t really matter if you are interrupted when the call finally connects.


What are your top things you do when you’re put on hold?


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