Productive Tasks You Can Do On Your Phone When You Have 5 Minutes to Spare

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The other day I was sitting in the waiting area at our local elementary school while my oldest daughter was getting her evaluation for Kindergarten readiness done. It wasn’t supposed to be a long process so I didn’t bring my Kindle, but still, I had to wait for, like, 10 minutes. 10 minutes. I know that’s not a terribly long period of time, but I was (am) a bundle of nerves about this whole Kindergarten thing so it was basically torture. Plus, I hate not being productive! I was all caught up on the basics – email, texts, Facebook. What now?

So just what do you do when you have a few minutes to spare and nothing but your phone? Read on:

Listen to a Good Book

Even if all you have is your phone, you can still listen to your current audiobook. At any given moment, I am in the middle of 4-5 books on Audible (and 4-5 on Kindle
and 4-5 from the library or used bookstore – I may have a problem). Obviously, if you’re in a waiting room, you’ll need to have earbuds with you, but if you’re in the car, crank it up.

Listen to Your Favorite Podcast

Same concept as above. Some of my favorites include Pod Save America, Undisclosed (for Serial fans, this is mandatory), Side Hustle Nation, Up and Vanished, Smart Passive Income, and The 5 Am Miracle. And, of course, Serial, but are they ever going to do a third season?

Improve Your Workout Playlist

Whether you have a specific list of songs or you have a streaming service based around your “likes”, you can go into the app and add or like more songs. I have a running playlist I’ve created through Google Play and I’m constantly updating it. As a result, I love love love my workout music, which means I love love love my workouts. Seriously! Sometimes I have a specific song in mind that I want to add, but other times I’ll just go to a workout songs station that looks good and listen with the sole purpose of adding songs to my mix. Improving your workout playlist is great to do when you’re not working out because nothing kills a workout faster than crappy songs. Plus, knowing you have new music (but vetted) music waiting for you at your next workout makes you that much more motivated to get ‘er done.

Clip coupons

Many grocery and drug stores have apps that allow you to clip coupons and offers, such as CVS and Target. If I know I’m due for a Target run, I’ll go through Cartwheel and add deals.

Get Cashback

If you’re not already signed up for Ebates, you need it now. It’s totally legit and not a scam. You get cashback on purchases that you make from tons of stores you already shop at. In my first two months using it, I’ve earned $21.37 and counting. It’s not a ton of money, but free money is free money!

While Ebates is mainly for online shopping, you can get cashback on in-store purchases through the Ibotta app. Through the app, you select offers for cashback. After you shop, you take a picture of your receipt and wait for the cash. I’ve made $11.50 in the past month. Again, not a lot, but every little bit adds up.

Link Your Card

While you’re at it, link your grocery store card to your local public school – whether or not you have a child in attendance at that, this is a cost-free way to get money to kids for their education.

Grocery List

This one is self-explanatory – if you don’t already have a running grocery list going, create one.

Keep a Personal Hygiene Kit in the Car

Keep a small bag in the car of items you can use to feel a little more put together: nail file, nail clippers, hand cream, dental floss, gum, tweezers, even nail polish. You can even give yourself a mini-manicure or tweeze your brows while listening to your audiobook or podcast. Two birds, one stone.

Email or Text a Friend You Miss

Chances are, there is someone in your life you haven’t spoken to in awhile and you miss them, but you never get around to texting or calling because you’re so freakin’ busy. Now’s your chance – reach out! It doesn’t have to be long – just a short “thinking about you, how are you doing? How is ___?” is enough to get the ball rolling and show them you care.


If you do anything creative with your time, you’ve probably noticed that ideas hit you at random moments throughout the day when you least expect them. And if you have kids, have a chronic illness or have a busy career (or all of the above), you’ve probably noticed that your memory is just not what it used to be. I keep a running list on my phone of blog post ideas so that when inspiration strikes, I can just open up the list, type it out and move on with my day knowing full well I would completely forget about it otherwise. A five-minute waiting time is also the perfect moment to sit down and actively think about everything you need to generate ideas for, be it blog post ideas, Etsy products, Christmas gift ideas, or Halloween costumes.


Ok, you may not want to do this if you’re sitting in a waiting room surrounded by other busy moms, but if you’re waiting in your car for dance or soccer to end, this is perfect. If you want to use an app, my favorite is Calm, but there are several other good ones. Or you can do it old school sans app. Just sit comfortably, close your eyes, let your shoulders drop, relax your jaw and your face, and breathe slowly for 5 minutes (or 2 or 10 or whatever – any amount is beneficial). Done.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the intentional awareness of the present moment and all of your feelings, both physical and emotional, that accompany that moment. Studies show that being intentionally mindful on a daily basis is incredibly beneficial to our well-being. You can actually cultivate mindfulness in your life by engaging in short daily “mindfulness meditation” sessions. A mindfulness meditation session is different from “regular” meditation in that relaxation is not the goal (although it may still occur) and clearing your mind is not the process, but rather focusing on yourself and your present moment is. You can do this with your eyes open or closed: pay attention to your breath without trying to control it. Do a full body scan – how does each part of your body feel? What emotions are you feeling? What sounds to you hear? What smells? What do you see? Are you hot or cold? Notice all of these things without judgment. If your mind wanders to anything that’s not this present moment, gently bring it back. Repeat daily.

Practice Visualization

Countless successful people, from athletes to entrepreneurs, tout the benefits of visualization. Imagining your “win” – whatever that looks like for you – trains your brain to create a life that aligns with those pictures. Take 5 minutes: close your eyes, imagine your scenario with as much detail as possible and with the same emotions you would feel if the scenario came to fruition. For best results, repeat daily.

What about you? Do you have any great productivity tasks for filling time?


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