What useful skills can be learned in an hour or less?
February 5, 2011 10:31 AM   Subscribe

What are some useful skills one can learn in an hour or less?

While having some routine maintenance done on my car recently, I wasted an hour in the waiting room reading boring and outdated magazines. I resolved that next time, I'd use that time as an opportunity to pick up a useful new skill.

What helpful skills have you been able to learn in an hour or less?

I've seen similar questions, but many of the suggestions take far longer than an hour or aren't practical for a waiting room. Something like learning the NATO phonetic alphabet is more what I have in mind, but I picked that up long ago.
posted by tomwheeler to Education (23 answers total) 148 users marked this as a favorite
Changing a tire (car or bike). YouTube videos are how I learned.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:33 AM on February 5, 2011

Sewing on a button properly!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:37 AM on February 5, 2011

You can learn to tie a couple of knots in an hour.
posted by Gilbert at 10:38 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Doomsday Algorithm. Calculate the day of the week for any date in your head.

(Why would you need this with the ubiquity of computers, smartphones, etc.? Well, maybe you don't strictly need it, but with just a little practice you can do it quicker than most people can pull out their smartphones, open their calendar app, and switch to the month in question.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:44 AM on February 5, 2011 [24 favorites]

Single crochet, and you could whip up a dishcloth in that time.
posted by jgirl at 11:05 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are lots of basic construction skills that can be learned quickly.

Replace a switch.
Replace a receptacle plug.
Safe operation of a reciprocating saw.
Replacing a toilet.
Installing a dead bolt lock.

I could list tons more construction skills that do not require much time to learn. These skills do require having the proper tools however.
posted by Flood at 11:13 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Numerous first aid skills can be soaked up within an hour, as can some parts of CPR

With a useful mnemonic you could likely learn Morse code within an hour. With some bean bags and the right guide, an hour's practice can get you far toward knowing how to juggle.

State capitals, the letters of the Greek alphabet, American presidents or English monarchs or a favorite poem might be fun to memorize.
posted by wjm at 11:14 AM on February 5, 2011

You can memorize a short poem in less than an hour, and then you can recite it to yourself whenever you're stuck in a waiting room. If you are stuck often enough, you can build up a repertoire of them, or branch out into famous speeches.

You can learn a card trick. You could learn Morse code.

You could probably memorize the names of the US presidents or leaders/monarchs from any country that interests you.

You could also get a smartphone and take a bite out of a bigger project. Pimsleur language lessons are about 30 minutes each. If you have a commute, you can kick through an entire level (30 lessons) in a few months of otherwise unproductive time.
posted by wheat at 11:42 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Clean a squid
posted by Namlit at 11:47 AM on February 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Read the Constitution. Read anything, for that matter. Boring, I know. If you must learn a skill, keep a military field manual of some kind with you. Or a car repair manual. Or a cookbook. Print out Supreme Court opinions and keep them in your car. Read the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal cover to cover. Sketch. Journal.
posted by laskagirl at 2:00 PM on February 5, 2011

Pickup the maintenance manual for your vehicle. Learn about the repair being done first, so that you can communicate on a technical level with the service dept regarding what's being fixed and what's recommended, and just generally flipping through to get more acquainted with the parts. Maybe next time you can fix it yourself.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 2:03 PM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I forgot. Start studying a/another foreign language.
posted by laskagirl at 2:03 PM on February 5, 2011

Learn to pronounce a foreign alphabet. It has a big payoff for relatively little effort, especially compared with learning an actual language.
posted by Chicken Boolean at 2:11 PM on February 5, 2011

pilates! core principals of pilates (like, um, core strength) can be worked on while sitting in a chair.

or vocabulary? seems a good time to pull out a dictionary and get smrtr.
posted by ameliaaah at 2:33 PM on February 5, 2011

Learn to read a different alphabet (I'm now considering doing this with cyrillic). Lots of scribbling in a little notebook, doesn't take up much space and makes you look all serious.
posted by Lebannen at 2:33 PM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speed reading.
posted by mnemonic at 4:45 PM on February 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


In my experience basic life drawing takes 15ish hours of instruction (not at once!) for someone totally new to it or without a strong hand-eye coordination, but once you have that basis, you move much faster and can execute drawings within an hour.
posted by The Whelk at 4:50 PM on February 5, 2011

You could look through a page holding the basic principles of science
Any you could learn in the hour be incredibly useful – no need to try to memorise it.

I remember learning the Kings of England in a boring lesson in 35 mins: "Willie, willie, Harry, Ste" will find it. But he rules of science are much more useful.
posted by Razorinthewind at 5:31 PM on February 5, 2011

Basic HTML.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:01 AM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Memorize the alphabet backwards. (It's more fun and satisfying than it sounds.)
posted by Terheyden at 10:56 PM on February 6, 2011

Learn to hand sew. Knowing how to do quick repairs and alterations is a game saver.
posted by dejah420 at 1:09 PM on February 8, 2011

Memorize the first 30-50 decimals of pi. It may well be the nerdiest thing you'll ever do, and its usefulness is limited to upstaging dorks at parties. It takes about an hour to memorize, and you won't believe how it freaks people out when you recite the first 50 decimals of pi from memory.

This online "pi trainer" is the easiest way to do it - http://x42.com/cgi-bin/pitrainer.cgi - and believe it or not, it's kind of fun.
posted by JensR at 2:42 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

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