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My oldest son Owen has Angelman Syndrome. He doesn’t speak, has epilepsy, and is globally developmentally delayed. He’s also a happy, loving boy. At least most of the time.
But, his medical needs mean we spend a great deal of time in waiting room. The ER, outpatient surgeries, the pediatrican’s office, the office of specialists…plus all the typical appointments like the dentist and eye doctor for him and my other eight kids. The waiting room is very familiar to our family!
Wait. Wait. Wait.
But, when you’re trying to grow a blog and run a freelance business, unexpected doctor appointments can be stressful. There’s always so much to do.
And I’ve discovered having something to do helps me not worry as much. It keeps my mind off what is going on, which I appreciate.
So, here are seven blogging and business tasks you can take care of in the waiting rooms.
1. Tackle Email
One perk of the smartphone is the mail feature. From your phone, I you can take care of many email related tasks in the waiting room.
- Read new emails
- Unsubscribe from email lists you no longer want to receive
- Review the emails in your inbox to help set priorities
- Reply to any emails that don’t require attachments from your computer (turning the phone sideways and getting the bigger keyboard helps!)
- Go through each folder and see if anything can be deleted
The great thing about dealing with email on your phone is that you can stop at anytime. If it’s your turn to go back, you can simply stop what you’re doing and pick it up again later.
2. Post Research
I tend to do most of my initial research on my phone, so this is another great task for your waiting room productivity list.
When researching, try to find as many articles on the topic as you can. As you browse them look for:
- Reoccurring themes
- Questions that remain unanswered
- Any comments that added useful information
- A new angle that comes to mind
I’ll do an initial search, and open each article that I think will be useful in a new tab. Then as I read them, I either leave them open or close them out.
If I leave them open, it means there was something useful there for me to check out later. I’ll occasionally open my Notes app and write down what came to mind as I was reading. That way I don’t have to start from scratch again the next time I read that particular article.
It’s a system that works well for me! Play around with it and see what research you can do from your smartphone.
3. Social Media Marketing
Blogging means so much more than just writing a blog post. No matter how great of content you create, if no one reads it, your blog isn’g going to grow.
So spend some of your wait time working on social media marketing. Like a few posts on Facebook, Pin a couple of things you like, or retweet something profound.
Add comments on Instagram, check out links, and just work on that whole social media networking side of blogging.
If you have time to read articles, use Buffer to schedule them. It’s simple to do on your phone, and helps you share the content of others.
I keep a “Headline Idea” note going on my phone for each of my recurring clients and both of my blogs. I can add to it whenever inspiration strikes, and pull from it when I need an idea.
Often in a waiting room, I’ll people watch for a while. Then I’ll flip through a magazine or two. These often give me plenty of inspiration for posts I can write.
If you have time and feel up to it, consider adding an outline to your headline idea to make writing it even easier.
5. Create a Pinnable Image
The Canva app has been updated since I originally wrote this post, and it is now my favorite image creating app for my blog!
I love their app! You can access anything you have saved on their site, and use images from your camera roll.
You can add text, edit all elements of your photos, and place stickers. Then you can save them back to your phone.
Since I’ve had time in the waiting rooms, I’ve been going through my A-Z Guide to Working at Home with Kids posts and updating the images for Pinterest.
By using the Canva app, it’s easy to create several pins quickly.
Then I can use the WordPress app to upload the new images to my post.
6. Check Blog Stats & Deal with Spam Comments
Though the reviews are mixed, I find the WordPress app pretty useful for doing tasks that make sense on a smartphone.
- Check your stats
- Create a draft of a post (I typically just get my outline in and then flesh it out more on the PC.)
- Approve or spam comments
- Reply to comments
The comments are my favorite to attend to while in a waiting room. Connecting with others is also enjoyable, especially when I’m trying to keep my mind occupied.
I also check my stats and see how I’m doing. I know Google Analytics is the premier stat tracker, and I use that on my computer, but for quick and easy access on the fly, these stats give me an idea of how it’s going.
When you’re in planning mode, you can see which posts are your most popular and brainstorm related ideas.
7. Create a Content Calendar
My phone’s battery was running down during a recent doctor appointment, so I pulled out the paper and pencil instead. I was able to quickly throw together a content calendar through the end of the year for both my blogs.
I made a table for each blog. As headers, I used the dates I’ll need content published. I publish on Tuesdays for this blog, and Wednesdays on my homeschooling/large family life one. Then I skimmed through my headline list of ideas, thought about upcoming events (like Christmas and New Year’s) and thought about what would resonate with my audience.
I filled in the table with possible headlines for each date. Then, I circled the ones I decided to go with. It kept me busy for a while, and will be easy to transfer to the computer.
Having a plan is essential when blogging!
Bonus Task: Work on a Course
Another great activity you can do in a waiting room is to make progress on a course.
I’ve discovered that most major course platforms work well on a mobile device. And, you have some time to focus on it while you’re waiting.
In fact, the very first time I ever went through 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success, I did the majority of it from my phone in the hospital waiting room.
It kept my mind busy so I wasn’t fretting about things I couldn’t control, and it allowed me to pour all of my energy into something.
If you have a pad of paper and a pen, take notes while you go through. It’ll help spark your memory of any ideas you gained.
How to Keep Your Kids Engaged in a Waiting Room
Have other kids in the waiting room with you? Here are some ideas for keeping them engaged so you can work on your blog or business without worrying about them destroying the room or annoying other people.
Wearing my babies in slings really helps keep them happier. If they get fussy, I tend to ditch the chair and stand up. Pacing a bit helps!
Then when they calm back down I can sit down and work some more. (Or work standing up!)
Having a few baby friendly toys in my purse also helps. My babies have enjoyed these three toys:
Toddlers are bundles of energy! They can be hard to keep happy in a waiting room, especially if you’ve been there are awhile. Here are some strategies that have worked for me:
- Having a special coloring book and crayons just for the waiting room
- Giving them small challenges (touch your toes, pick up all the blocks, look in this magazine for dogs)
- Letting them sit on your lap and help you pick images for your graphics or colors for a project
- Watching an episode on an iPad (I tend to only pull this one out when I know it’ll be a really long wait.)
My three and four year olds are learning to sit more patiently, but they still need ways to engage their brain, and to learn appropriate ways to get the jiggles out.
I have my preschoolers:
- Work on a special only in the waiting room preschool workbook (bring along a pencil and small box of colored pencils. We prefer the Twistable style so there is no sharpening involved.)
- Flip through a magazine and look for all the letters in their name or in the alphabet (depending on their ability)
- Look for numbers in a magazine
- Count how many keys are on the key ring
- Do simple sitting based exercises like flexing and relaxing their feet, stretching their arms, rolling their shoulders
My school aged kids tend to wait a lot more patiently. But, here are some of the things that help keep them waiting:
- Counting challenges (how many ceiling tiles, how many different colors, how many people, how many shoes, etc.)
- Magazine challenges (which item would you most like in your bedroom, find a food you’d love to eat, count how many animals/cars/chairs you can find in the magazine)
- Read a book
- Color a picture
If your kids are engaged while you’re at the doctor, you can work in between giving them challenges and talking with them.
And if they really get antsy, put your work on hold and tell them a fun story or whip out a small game like Spot-It!
What Are Your Tips for Waiting Room Productivity?
Do you spend as much time in waiting rooms as I do?
Are there other tasks for your blog you knock out during this time? I’d love to hear what works for you in the comments section.
This post was originally published in March of 2016. In light of all our recent waiting room time, I decided it was the perfect time to dust it off and share it again!
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Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.