What to Do When the Minute Hand Won’t Budge: Hacking Time

When you’ve got too much of it lapping at your knees

Ilana Lydia


Photo by Ivan Diaz on Unsplash

We’ve all been there. Waiting for a plane to arrive. Counting the minutes while a loved one does something dangerous or unpleasant. Sitting in an unbearable situation.

Time can be a jailor, a tormentor. What to do?

Sometimes a sense of movement is all it takes to restart the clock.


  1. Taking a brisk walk.
  2. Going on an errand.
  3. Breathing deliberately.
  4. Counting your breaths, the number of red cars passing, rude thoughts, anything.
  5. Going over the day in your head, either stuff you want to remember which has happened, or stuff you want to try to make happen.
  6. Do a jig. Okay, hear me out on this one. Moving your body any way at all will help pass the time. Why not do something that’s also a conversation starter? That might lead to more time passing.
  7. Run lines. “Four score and seven years ago . . .”; “You put the lime in the coconut . . .”; “Pepsi cola hits the spot, Twelve full ounces, that’s a lot . . . .” Even if you’re not an actor, you’ve memorized something somewhere along the line. Have at it!
  8. Asking questions of people around you. This requires that you don’t concentrate on your discomfort or unease, but think of another soul. Win-win.
  9. Chew. Gum. Food. Just about anything will do.
  10. I hear there’s smoking but wouldn’t know myself. There’s certainly pretending to smoke as a pastime. I’ve only seen this once out in the wild, but it was something to remember.
  11. Try to tease jokes out of your memory, with their exact phrasing. Bonus if it’s been forever since you’ve heard it, or if you’ve only heard it once.
  12. Write notes or make a journal entry.
  13. Doodle or sketch something.
  14. Pretend to be someone else. Dracula. Grover. Prince Hal. It can open new possibilities for ways you can interact with or observe others.
  15. Write a letter, either in your head or on paper. This can be useful when you need to get your thoughts together on the situation anyway.

What else? What do you do when you need to kill time?

I’d love to hear in the comments.

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Ilana Lydia

A theater person/writer/reader of curiosities. A believer in wonder.