Last edited 10 Mar 2021

Transition time

Transition time (sometimes called dead time) is the wasted time between activities or events during which nothing has been planned or can take place. An example would be the spare time between appointments, waiting for latecomers to arrive before a meeting can begin, waiting for the next steel member to be craned to the appropriate position before frame assembly can resume, or waiting for the next paper to be given at a conference.

Transition time may be too short to be used effectively, which can result in people hanging around, waiting for a critical event to happen before the main activities can be resumed. But it can often be useful for completing minor tasks which, if left unattended, can pile up.

Depending on the activity, it may be possible to make effective use of transition time, e.g writing emails on the train to work or listening to management podcasts while driving. Typically, if transition time slots last around 10 or 15 minutes, they can offer the opportunity to save time elsewhere by completing tasks such as writing letters and memos, proofreading pages, recording ideas, reading and sending emails and planning next week’s activity schedule.

Making constructive use of transition time can form part of an ongoing time management strategy. For instance, it may be possible to identify upcoming transition time in advance and plan on how it may be used effectively. Some time management textbooks advise keeping a transition-time folder to be used when dead time arises.

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