Too often, we all find ourselves with spare moments or unplanned
days off work and have no idea how best to use today’s most
valuable commodity — free time. But with a little advanced thought
and organization, you can use your down time to really advance your
career, house projects and personal goals.

Ten tips to use “down time” effectively

If you haven’t already, use the time to prioritize or set goals.
It might be a good time to interview life coaches. You can go
online to and click on “Find a Coach” to obtain
a list of coaches and numbers. Most will offer a free half-hour
“interview” session.

Draw a wheel of life to see which area you should focus on
during your free time. A wheel of life is simply a circle drawn on
a piece of paper. Around the circle write the following categories:
Personal Growth, Significant Other, Family & Friends, Career,
Money, Fun & Recreation, Health, Home & Garden. Give each
of these a number from one to 10 (one is near the center of the
circle, 10 is on the edge. Now connect the dots. Is your circle a
smooth wheel, or does it dip toward the middle on one or more
categories? Concentrate on the categories that need improvement.
Make an action list that would help bring that low number to an 8,
9 or 10.

Look at your calendar and see if there are errands or projects
you could tackle to get a jump on an upcoming holiday or event. Go
to a card shop and stock up on birthday cards (bring your calendar
or birthday lists and don’t over-buy — just get what you need for
the year). In January, if you find yourself with some free time, go
stock up on wrapping paper and Christmas cards at 50 percent off or
more — organization can save you money, but again, buy only what
you will need. Your calendar should spark several ideas for using
your down time effectively.

Like productivity expert Stephen Covey says, “Sharpen the Saw!”
There’s no better use of down time than improving your skills, so
whether it be practicing guitar, conjugating Spanish verbs or
browsing online for current information on your area of expertise,
you won’t be wasting your time; you will be strengthening your
skill set. Break out the Rosetta Stone.

Keep a file of articles and papers you want to read and take it
with you whenever you have any kind of appointments — medical or
otherwise. You’re using your down time to get a pedicure? Great,
but instead of reading the latest on Britney in People magazine,
take your reading file and absorb the information you’ve saved that
will really make a difference in achieving your goals — even if it
is just recipes that you’d like to try or a story about theatre in
The New Yorker.

Shop for healthy food and try a healthy recipe. If you’ve
clipped some interesting recipes and have them handy in a file, you
will be able to use a free day very effectively in the kitchen and
add some great dishes to your repertoire.

Organize a drawer, a closet, a room, the garage. Down time is
perfect for taking on an organizing project. Choose a drawer if you
only have half an hour, the garage if you’ve got one or two days
and the weather is cooperating.

Exercise! I can’t stress enough the link of exercise to
organization. If health and fitness come first, the rest of life
falls into place more easily. Do some strength training, be it
push-ups and crunches in front of the television or a Pilates
class. Get in some cardio. Look online for local fitness classes
and try a new one.

Have some fun! Update your Netflix queue. Check out programs on
television and set it up to record them. Browse a bookstore. See a
movie. Get in the car and go to a museum and spend a few hours
getting educated and inspired.