The drugstore in my neighborhood has a deliberate policy of wasting every customer’s time. If you arrive to pick up a prescription, you’ll wait a minimum of 20 minutes, guaranteed. It doesn’t matter if you’re just getting a refill. It doesn’t matter if your doctor’s office has called in your prescription. It doesn’t matter if you’ve called ahead to say, “Hey drugstore, I’m on the way—please have this ready for me.”
No matter what, you’ll show up and they’ll say something like, “When do you want to come back to pick this up? Is 30 minutes okay?”
The drugstore is small. There is nothing nearby, not even a Starbucks or grocery store or anywhere else where you could potentially run another errand. There are at best five or six aisles in the drugstore, so even if you want to explore every single one of them in search of the finest dental floss your money can buy, it will take you five minutes tops.
Most people accept the fate of having their time wasted. They take a seat and look through an issue of People from last month. Others play with their phones.
I find the practice of mandatory waiting just as annoying as everyone else, but I have no plans to open a competing drugstore based on actual customer service. So instead, I use this time to do something different.
I play a mental game and tell myself: “What can I accomplish while I’m annoyed at having to wait?”
Then I find a way to do something. If I have my laptop, which I often do, I’ll open it up and go back to work. I’ll reply to emails or work on a newsletter update. If I have only my paper notebook, which I always do, I’ll review my task lists or make notes. I don’t like making phone calls, but if I can do so without disturbing anyone else around me, that’s next on the list.
Even if your drugstore is staffed by wonderful people who don’t force you to wait, you probably encounter similar situations in life. In fact, you may find yourself with pockets of unexpected time to fill every single day.
If you can find a way to use this time well, even somewhat well, you can accomplish a lot.
The next time someone asks, “How do you get so much done?” remember these stolen moments at the drugstore. Consider the minutes and hours that other people attempt to take from your life without apology. Find a way to take them back!