Recommendations for mindless, yet productive, activities.
July 30, 2011 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I need some mindless, yet productive, activities to do while listening to audiobooks.

I love listening to audiobooks and audio lectures, but often I find that my mind and fingers begin to wander shortly after I begin listening. I seem to need some sort of low level mental activity to keep me focused. For example, I enjoy listening while doing the dishes because I have a set procedure and I no longer have to think about doing them. However if I'm sitting on my couch and listening, I will often do something like get up and re-organize part of my bookshelf, then realize 5 minutes later that I can't remember what just happened in the audiobook.

Activities that I've found that are suitable: dishes, exercising, driving/walking, playing Blackberry's Brickbreaker, and Solitaire.

I'd very much appreciate suggestions for other activities that I could do either online or off which are at least a tiny bit productive. If I played something like WoW, low-level gold farming would be nearly perfect, but starting WoW would result in a huge net productivity decline, so that's out. Any and all suggestions are welcome. Thanks.
posted by Homo economicus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (31 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
mowing the lawn
snow shoveling
polishing the silver
cleaning jewelry
sweeping or vacuuming
posted by carmicha at 12:41 PM on July 30, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks carmicha. I should have mentioned that I'm in an apartment, so there is no yard work to do.
posted by Homo economicus at 12:43 PM on July 30, 2011

posted by supercres at 12:45 PM on July 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

I suggest making artwork, crafts, etc. Knitting and sewing are great for this kind of situation. I'm learning how to do printmaking right now and I am spending a lot of time bent over something and carving into it and I'm listening to stuff while I do it.
posted by pupstocks at 12:46 PM on July 30, 2011

Response by poster: AlliKat75, I'm a Canadian as well as an apartment dweller, but I am curious as to what I would do on that website if I were an American.
posted by Homo economicus at 12:47 PM on July 30, 2011

Sign petitions. It's an easy way for your average citizen to make a difference.
posted by AlliKat75 at 12:49 PM on July 30, 2011

Response by poster: In regards to the arts and crafts suggestions, I'm open to that sort of activity, but I would think that there is a lot of thought that goes into drawing, sculpting and the like. Something that might fit might be beading, where the work doesn't change, and is based on a pattern. Stuff that takes a long time to do or is repeatable is ideal.
posted by Homo economicus at 12:53 PM on July 30, 2011

I always seem to have a backlog of digital photos to organize and upload to Flickr. I also have a ton of old photos, negatives, and slides to scan and upload too. That, and bills to scan so I can shred and discard the originals. Do any of those apply to you?

As for a repetitive craft, beading is more expensive to start than knitting or crocheting. On the other hand, I find that I have to concentrate more when using a pattern for knitting or crocheting. Painting doesn't have to involve a lot of thought if you don't want it to, but then you have the chance of getting paint on your audio player.

Also, I like to listen to podcasts while cooking or baking. I set my playlist before I start so I minimize my touching the player, pop it in the pocket of my apron and go.
posted by youngergirl44 at 1:01 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the idea of sorting digital photos. I've got a huge number of pictures that have been on my camera for over a year, and going through them and deleting the bad ones is definitely what I'm looking for. Scanning old photos is great too, but unfortunately I don't have a scanner. I may look into getting one in the future however.
posted by Homo economicus at 1:07 PM on July 30, 2011

Mending, especially sewing on buttons.
Buy a box of diaper wipes and use them to do light dusting/spot cleaning.
Write silly postcards (even if just a doodle).
Pull out your sock drawer and make sure everything in it is in a pair.
Sort through your closet and put outfits together (hang them together, or use a bread tie to join the shirt/skirt hangers together--voila, instant outfit when you next reach into the closet).
Dust the lampshades/fan blades.
Organize bookmarks.
Shine your shoes.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:33 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes to knitting. It gets more mindful as you get better at the skill. With garter stitch alone you can crank out scarves for gifts or charity.
posted by bilabial at 1:39 PM on July 30, 2011

I listen to a lot of audiobooks while retouching photos, which is mostly mindless task for me, and I get paid for that.
posted by leigh1 at 2:06 PM on July 30, 2011

Laundry or dishes.
posted by Scientist at 2:18 PM on July 30, 2011

Personal grooming is another option, I do my nail care while listening and reading. A nice cuticle oil pen, nipping, scraping, shaping and filing does wonders. It is a mini manicure and has nice results.
posted by jadepearl at 2:29 PM on July 30, 2011

Assembling ikea furniture, light household maintenance work.
posted by migurski at 2:37 PM on July 30, 2011

I like doing logic puzzles --think sudoku or battleships-- while listening to audiobooks because they use a different part of my brain and are still a thinking activity.
posted by tacit_urn at 2:49 PM on July 30, 2011

posted by afx237vi at 3:35 PM on July 30, 2011

Knitting, once you've cast on, and so long as you don't have an excessively complicated pattern (hats knitted in the round are great, because you never have to stop and go back the other way, and using four needles looks impressive to other people, as does using stripy wool).

Needlepoint, once again so long as you're not doing something excessively complicated - probably very easy if you follow one of those patterns that's printed onto the canvas.

Or you could start playing Haven and Hearth and grow vast quantities of flax for me, except that a)the server is currently down, and b)like WoW, that also poses a risk of eating your life.
posted by Lebannen at 3:37 PM on July 30, 2011

Sewing by hand. I bought some cheap $5 pillowcases and am turning them into cafe curtains. I don't have a machine because I enjoy the slow, methodical, meditative nature of hand sewing.
posted by marsha56 at 3:42 PM on July 30, 2011

nthing cleaning (especially deep cleaning, like scrubbing every corner of your bathroom), organizing computer files (I like to pedantically organize my itunes, my photos, etc.). You could also do pedantic tasks on something like Amazon Mechanical Turk, for some extra cash.

A number of years ago I made an honest-to-god effort to try and become proficient at reading a book while listening to a different audio book at the same time. I found it, after a lot of practice, still pretty impossible....but it would be an awesome ability.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:05 PM on July 30, 2011

Origami. You can use pretty much any kind of paper, and there are lots of free patterns and tutorials online.
posted by MelanieL at 4:43 PM on July 30, 2011

I have a rowing machine and I find that listening to podcasts while I'm rowing makes me row longer. I'd suggest some sort of exercise even if it's just something smallish like working with hand weights or doing flexibility/stretch stuff. Also there's the old "take everything off the shelf and really clean the shelf" activity which is something I always need to do more of.
posted by jessamyn at 5:07 PM on July 30, 2011

Embroidery, once the dishes are all done.
posted by tomboko at 5:28 PM on July 30, 2011

I also edit photos while listening to podcasts or itunes u lectures. The one caveat is that, for me, editing them in lightroom or selecting which photos to keep or toss is fine, but I can't do stuff like tag them with keywords and still pay attention to the audio.
posted by snofoam at 5:41 PM on July 30, 2011

posted by rebent at 8:55 PM on July 30, 2011

Subversive Cross-Stitch - would make a nice gift for a certain kind of person.
posted by lakeroon at 9:09 PM on July 30, 2011

I have a (very) long running hand-sewn hexagon quilt project that sounds like it takes about as much brain power as you'd need it to. Here is a link to a blog doing a quilt-a-long. If you click through to the flickr group you can see the possibilities of finished projects. I like it because there are a couple different stages that you can work on all at once, so as soon as I get bored of one step (cutting hexagons out of paper), then I shift gears into basting the fabric onto the papers, then when I'm bored of that I'll stitch a few together. I like that it's just a little something to keep me distracted, but at the end of it I'll have something pretty special to show for it.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 10:49 PM on July 30, 2011

Don't think of "drawing" as drawing. Just sit down, listen to your audiobooks, and if you feel like doodling something, then let yourself. Same thing with sculpting, etc. Don't worry about thinking; feel free to give it a try.

Unravel tangled yarn for all your friends and acquaintances. Floss.
posted by aniola at 12:01 AM on July 31, 2011

Nthing knitting and crocheting as simple and repetitive once you get into the groove -- I have this halfway done crochet giraffe that makes me think of Never Let Me Go whenever I pick it back up because I was listening to it when I started.

Also, Guildwars.
posted by motsque at 6:11 AM on July 31, 2011

Given that Canada has a considerable amount of ice & snow, I would focus on many of the mundane tasks involved in attempting to affect the environment in a positive way.

An example ... when I spent time on beach-lined coasts in Central America, I would remove quite a bit of sand from the small lodges and homes that were nearby. Having my podcasts going in the background was a tremendous help!
posted by Kruger5 at 2:30 PM on July 31, 2011

Cleaning out the refrigerator
Making a bunch of meals to last through the week
posted by jrichards at 9:37 AM on August 1, 2011

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