How to Pass Time Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How to Pass Time

46 Conversations

A man and a woman sat on a bench in St James' Park, London

Whether it be at a bus stop waiting an aeon for the 73, or waiting at the doctor's surgery, thumbing through countless old magazines, waiting to be called, our lives often seem to grind to a halt and all of a sudden we're acutely aware of the passage of time. Time seems to draaaaag and the hands on the clock hardly appear to move at all. We often say that we have 'time on our hands'. Well, if time is in our hands, how do we go about wringing its bloody neck?

Below you will find suggestions from the H2G2 Community that will make time fly by...

People Watching

People watching is great; it is available in any public place, is a very entertaining 'sport' and is completely harmless. You will be amazed at the variety of people there are - even a small area can have a rich tapestry of old and young, rich and poor etc. Over-hearing their conversations can be quite entertaining as well, maybe the snot-nosed little kid is telling her important and bored-looking father about her plans to take over the world. And the outfits! Why not make a mental 'clueless' score pad, and rate the people on how clueless their outfits are.

I find a good way to pass the time is to look at people! I can't really explain it too well, but just look at a person, what they look like, what they're wearing, how they walk etc and just think that this person has a whole history and past life and thoughts etc and you just get so amazed about how many people there are that are all totally different. You sink into deep philosophical thought and time passes really quickly! Works for me anyway!

Pretend to Be a Pop Star

This Researcher nugget is odd; inspired yes, but odd nonetheless:

You know... put on the Britney album I pretend not to have, put hair in pigtails, even some lipgloss... just enough to feel glamorous, and dance around the room singing 'why, why, why-y-y-yyyy' and 'oh baby ba-a-a-byyy'. Come on, who among us hasn't done this even once?

Moving swiftly on...


If you have a few moments to spare (or the odd afternoon) try some peaceful meditation - it can be achieved without strange postures or chanting. It's just a way of being aware of the non-physical qualities we all have like love, self-respect and co-operation. Allow your real personality a few minutes to emerge, and draw strength from the stability that is part of the inner self. There are courses in meditation; some are even free. Many people prefer to remain an individual as groups seem to create a need for compromise and conversation.

Counting Holes

The following Researcher's anecdote is a way of killing two birds with one stone:

I had a school friend who had a medical condition that sent her to her doctor on a regular basis. She'd get so bored waiting that she used to count the holes in an acoustic tile on his ceiling. At one time she could tell you exactly how many holes there is in one of those tiles! And sometimes the exercise put her to sleep!


A guy, sat on a clock, reading a book.

Below is a list of short and snappy games that seem to have been created for the very purpose of making time fly:

  • Noughts and Crosses - When killing time, how about thinking of various stratagems of how one can win noughts and crosses?

  • Song and Book - How about making up book or song titles? For example, The Complete Diplomat by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, I Did It My Way by Geoffrey Archer, The Norwegian Guide to Overcoming Taciturnity, etc.

  • Chain Game - Think of a word or phrase, then another related to it, then one related to that one, and so on.

  • The BR Game - Name a railway station and the next person has to name one beginning with the last letter of the last station you named. After a few attempts at this you will astonished at how many station you soon find that begin with Y.

  • Crosswords - They have to be cryptic; once you have gotten into the compiler's way of thinking they are so addictive and hours can pass without you realising it. If the answers are too hard, fill in the blanks with words of your choice and see if you can compile your own crossword. It'll also give you immense kudos as those around you look on aghast as you rapidly fill in your Times crossword. Little do they know...


The really good thing about doodling is that you can start by drawing simple things and, as time goes on, you can make it more and more complex. Many people stick to the traditional cross-inside-a-house doodle which requires you to draw the aforementioned image without taking your pen off the paper, others progress to more sophisticated imagery.

Also, you'd be amazed at what your doodle says about you...

Mental Lists

Listing things mentally is the most effective time-waster... you're thinking of all the things you will do, one day, when you get around to it, and you're not worried about why you have time to kill - you can really let your mind go... Dream the impossible and formulate diabolical schemes to be done... tomorrow, of course.

I usually kill time by making lists of everything I would do if I only had the time. I start with categorising the activities into work-related, home-related and personal. Then I list the activities, functions, hobbies and ideas in a random order - this usually will take up the time that I have to kill.
In the event that I do still have some time left, I sort them in alphabetical order per category. Should I still need to kill more time, I proceed to prioritise them in order of preference, descending order of cost and ascending order of time necessary to plan and organise the activity...

Making lists à la Nick Hornby is an excellent way of passing the time: ten things you remember about 1991, fish beginning with letters of the alphabet, the ten worst pop songs you have ever heard, different types of catastrophes that can happen, etc, etc.

Mental Scenarios

Get out a pen and pad of paper, write a nifty heading on the top, eg 'Plans for a Horror Film', 'Things I Must Do Tomorrow' or 'Why I Hate Yoghurt'. Then either fill out one sheet of the paper relevant to your heading or proceed to stare off into space for half an hour pretending to think about the list when actually you have completely switched off.

Detailed Observation Exercises

While away waiting time by taking in everything about your surroundings - the buildings, the clothes people wear, the state of the roads. Then try to think about it, and why it got to be that way. It helps to while away the time, particularly when there is little else happening around - particularly useful in train stations, for some reason.


Knitting, crocheting, counted cross stitch and similar types of stitchery keep even the twitchiest hands busy. You can also donate any blankets, mittens and hats to charities which welcome these items. So you not only pass the time but help those in need, too.

Little Jobs

When it comes to killing time you cannot beat doinglittle jobs you keep putting off because they aren't really important, such as:

  • Organise your book/CD/DVD/video/cassette collection into intuitive order (an order that is natural to you rather than in alphabetic order or other divisions), this is useful as every time you get a new book/CD/DVD/video/cassette it could require you to change the entire order. Which is a good thing... right?

  • Looking for all those items you have lost over the years, irrespective of whether this is the house you lost them in.

  • Deciding which games to take off your PC to optimise space when you have 30GB spare.

  • Trying to organise that pile of mixed notes you never got round to sorting before your course finished.

  • Starting to clean a room that you are loath to clean, which is also good inspiration for finding tasks to kill time.

Sing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

This is the best song on long car rides because it takes up a lot of time. In fact, you can make it go on for as long as you wish to by starting with a larger number. For example you can sing one million bottles of beer on the wall instead of 99 bottles of beer on the wall if you have exceptionally large amounts of time to kill. If you do, however, run into the problem where you finish the game before the amount of time you have to kill is over, you need not worry because the song runs in a continuous loop so you will never finish before the amount of time you have to kill is over.

It is also guaranteed to send any travelling companions insane...

PDAs and Mobile Phones

Mobiles phones and PDAs are great for killing time. With a few good games (or even not so good - it doesn't really matter) they can keep you busy for hours or on the longest train or coach journey. But not a good idea if you're the driver.

Learn How to Do Contact Juggling

Contact Juggling is really a lot of fun and is a good time killer for several reasons:

  • It is a lot of fun and really sucks you in.

  • All you need is a ball about 2-3in, and training can even be done with an orange or something like that.

  • It takes a long time to master.

  • It is good for most ages and is not dangerous in any way.

Play Air Drums

That's what I do. Hell, I even do it when I'm not trying to make time pass... For non-drummers, try replaying songs precisely in your head as you remember hearing them. When waiting for a bus for more than an hour, I often start talking to myself and doing strange voices. A few days ago I got so carried away with doing Henry Rollins impressions that I gave myself a sore throat.

Final Remark

Don't ever, ever, think about what it is you are waiting for, as Murphy's Law applies in all cases. The more you think about it, the slower the time goes.

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