There’s nothing more frustrating than having to wait and new research reveals Australians spend an average of 427 hours waiting a year.
A November survey by wait loss company Noom found we twiddle our thumbs more than one hour and 10 minutes each day, or the equivalent of flying from Sydney to London almost 20 times.
The poll of 2000 adults identified 16 everyday activities where we spend most of our time waiting per month, with the top three being:
• Commuting or waiting for public transport, clocking up 252 minutes,
• Scrolling social media, which takes up 232 minutes, and
• 224 minutes waiting for food deliveries or takeaway.
And our less productive “waits” include being put on hold while on the phone, along with waiting in queues and at traffic lights.
Three-quarters of poll respondents want to use waiting time more wisely, but 20 per cent lack inspiration or the knowledge on how to do it.
Dr Andreas Michaelides, PhD, Noom’s chief of psychology, says it’s a great opportunity to build new habits and improve your health.
“Our study shows that Aussies want to make the most of their waiting time, but they may lack the tools to change behaviour and make lasting health changes,” he says.
“At Noom, we believe in a psychology-based, science-backed approach to weight loss, which means training your brain is a critical component of your health journey.”
Psychologist and communications trainer Clare Mann says that one reason why we dislike waiting is that being more productive buys us more time for ourselves later in the day.
“I think culturally we also have an issue with this,” she adds. “We feel we’ve got to be productive or else we are wasting time.”
Michaelides says that changing habits can be tricky because our brains “like” automatic processes.
“Picking up a new habit doesn’t have to be daunting or a huge change, however,” he says. “For example, you can listen to a meditation to help ground yourself for the day while brushing your teeth in the morning or riding public transport.”
Mann agrees, saying: “We have to work at a conscious and unconscious level to change. “Habits are ‘memory of the body’, so it has to become an unconscious action where you feel weird if you don’t do it.”
When it comes to accomplishing health goals, Michaelides says you can do a lot in a few minutes, from taking a quick walk to doing simple stretches. There’s also habit bundling. “That’s pairing a new habit or action with one you already do regularly, which can help make it easier to develop a new habit,” he explains.
When it comes to how long it takes to form a new habit, Mann says that on average, psychologists say 21 days, but it can take less or more time.
Comedian Andy Saunders consciously uses waiting time to work on healthy habits.
“Being a busy dad, I don’t always get the time to do sit-ups to avoid ‘dad bod’ so I’ve got to optimise the time I have to introduce healthy habits,” he says. “So when I’m walking around and I get annoyed waiting at traffic lights, I usually stretch out my legs or jog on the spot.”
Other ways the 51-year-old uses waiting time productively include carrying a bottle of water so he can rehydrate, stretching or practising yoga while waiting for his kids, and at airports, he walks constantly or works on jokes.
He sometimes includes his family. “We dare each other to do funny challenges,” he says. “If we’re waiting for my wife Deb to finish up in a shop, one of us will send a text saying ‘I dare you to go into the crowd and jump up and down 10 times’. It’s always something fun and most of the time, something physical.”
Healthy Tips For Waiting Time:
1. Use the cue of reaching for your phone as an opportunity to exercise.
2. Stretch or do a standing yoga pose before getting in your car.
3. Use time waiting for a load of laundry to finish to exercise.
4. Do a two-minute wall squat while brushing your teeth.
5. Prep a healthy meal while talking to someone on the phone.
Source: Dr Andreas Michaelides from Noom
Originally published as Develop healthy habits instead of wasting time