How do you use your idle-mind time?

When thinking about how you use your time, have you considered the several hours a day where your mind might be idle, when you are: 
  • Doing your morning hygiene
  • In the shower
  • Preparing and eating your meals
  • Cleaning or puttering
  • In the bathroom
  • On your commute
  • Walking outside
  • Waiting in line
  • Just chilling out

…in these moments, your body is operating on muscle memory, while your mind is free to think whatever it wants.

​If you pay attention to your thoughts during the above activities, you might notice that you think of:
  • random past events
  • snippets of conversations
  • temptations of habits you're trying to let go of
  • music snippets playing on autoloop
  • self-criticism
  • criticism of others
  • etc.

What if you could better use your mind during your idle times?

Not that 100% of your idle time needs to be used, but imagine using some of it, intentionally, for a positive benefit.

This is a practice that I've done on and off for years. Sometimes, I forget and lapse back into unconscious and negative use of my idle-mind time. So I write this article in part to remind myself: whenever I've kept up with this practice, it has made a real positive difference in my life and business. Give it a try…

1. Identify the next idle-mind-time you’ll have. See the above list for ideas.

2. Instead of letting random thoughts occupy you, take a few deep breaths.

3. Then, choose one of these 5 options, which spell APLUS. (Each day, you can switch to another one, to experience them all.)


There are so many things you can appreciate. This act creates an immediate uplift in your mood. The more you give it attention, the more that the good feelings from mindful appreciation will grow.

Here are some questions you can use:

1. Grateful — What’s something (or someone) you’re especially grateful for? Bring it (or that person) to mind. Appreciate the various aspects. What are 3 qualities you most appreciate? In what situation does that thing (or person) most shine? Take a breath and reflect.

2. Granted — What’s something (or someone) that is so common to you, that you rarely appreciate, that you take for granted, almost never giving thanks? Mindfully appreciate it now, the various aspects of it, as well as the whole, and what it means to you. How does it benefit your life, or the world?

3. Gift in Disguise — What’s something (or someone) that you wish you could avoid, but cannot? Something that you “have to” deal with? A part of your life that brings you negative feelings? Here’s a radical idea: maybe it is a gift in disguise. Bring it to mind now, and see if you can mindfully appreciate some aspect of it. What might be its hidden gift to you or to the world?


Send thoughts of goodness, healing, peace, love to a person or group that you wish to uplift. This is as much for you (maybe more so!) as it is for them.

There are a couple ways I do this. Try these, or use whatever method works best for you…

1. Golden Bubble — I imagine a golden beam of light that is powerful, yet gentle and nurturing, completely wise and loving, shooting from the heavens into my whole being, which creates a golden glow that envelops me like a bubble, a shield/dome of light surrounding me completely. Then I imagine a golden beam of light shooting from me to the person or group that I’m praying for, enveloping them in this loving, wise, healing, peaceful globe of golden light. I don’t know where I got this, but it feels good to me when I do this, and I believe it actually helps the people I’m doing this for, at least a bit, when I’ve been able to ask them. Who knows? It may help or heal in ways that science cannot yet measure. Regardless, it seems to have a healing effect on me.

2. “May they be well.” — This is simply bringing the person/group to mind, and holding them in my heart, and saying quietly and mindfully --
  • May they be well
  • May they be healed
  • May they be comforted
  • May they be joyful
  • May they be clear
  • May they be strong

Whether or not prayer actually “works” for the other person or group, at the least it has a positive influence on my thoughts about them, which then improves my relationship to them the next time we interact. There’s a positive, virtuous cycle that happens: I think better of them, I treat them better, they treat me better, it’s then easier for me to think better of them etc.

Try it and see how it works for you.

If you want to take Prayer to an advanced level, try it with someone / some group that you normally despise…! By doing this, you will notice that the negativity in your life gradually changes towards positivity, and better health.


Many productive people do this to better utilize their idle-mind time. They listen to a podcast or audiobook that offers useful knowledge and skills.

You can find many free podcasts on iTunes or Android. If you’re not sure how to listen, just do a google search for “how to listen to podcasts on [your device of choice]” (replace that with iPhone, Android, etc.)

Think about your professional development. What skills or areas of expertise could you learn more about, to help you be more effective and valuable at what you do? Search for podcasts on those topics.

What I prefer — the Youtube App on my iPhone (also available on Android). I search for videos that help me grow my skills, and I add them to “watch later”. Then, during some of my idle-mind times, I open the Youtube app and go to the “Library” then to the “Watch Later” section, and with those videos, I continue my learning. An advanced way of doing this is to subscribe to Youtube Red ($15/mo) which removes video ads from your youtube (saving time and annoyance!), and also allows you to download videos for offline play, and to “listen” to youtube videos even while your mobile screen is off.

I learned from Taylor Jacobson of Focusmate (one of my favorite productivity tools!) that the mobile app Pocket has a "listen to articles" feature, so if there are long articles you've been wanting to read (like this one!) you can use that app to listen to it on your commute, for example.


Think about an upcoming event or task that is important to you. 

Think positively about it. Visualize yourself in that event, or doing that task, in a way that you want to be. For example, see yourself as: graceful, joyful, strong, clear, etc.

This is a powerful exercise that has changed the way I work and live. What was previously tedious or difficult, can be transformed into something interesting, challenging (in a good way), and ultimately, uplifting.

To read more about this exercise, see my post on Visualizing the Process not just the Outcome.


Any problem, challenge, question, or issue can be moved forward, gotten a bit clearer, sometimes receiving brilliant breakthrough insights, if you use some of your idle-mind time on it.

It can be as simple as formulating a question about the challenge you have, and holding that question in your mind for a moment, and then letting it go, and see what thoughts come to you in the next few minutes/hours as you go about your day.

You might be surprised by some breakthrough insights!

For more info on this, see my video called Ask yourSelf questions (that matter) more frequently…

​Another way is to have an internal dialogue with your higher mind, the wisest part of yourself, your inner coach. Ask the question, take a pause, and then pretend that your inner coach is responding.

Here’s the key: Whatever thoughts arise is fine! It takes practice. With practice, you’ll eventually be able to have a real-time dialogue with your inner coach, and reliably discover answers that are genuinely helpful.

Finally, remember to keep breathing, taking gentle, deep breaths whenever you become conscious of your idle-mind time.To make it easier to remember, the system above spells the acronym APLUS:

To add the breath: APLUS Breathing :)

Try it out and let me know how it goes for you. May this enhance the joyful productivity in your life.

​This blog post is one of the 30 chapters from the book Joyful Productivity.