If it feels like you spend a lot of your life waiting in lines–it’s because you do. MIT professor Richard Larson estimates that Americans spend 37 billion hours per year waiting in lines, which is a lot of time spent doing *basically* nothing (scrolling through your Facebook feed doesn’t count). If you want to get some of that time back, here are some proven tricks that Larson discovered in his research for getting in the fastest line. You don’t have to be clairvoyant–it’s just a matter of follows these simple cues:
Follow the people with bigger carts. Seems counter-intuitive, right? According to Larson’s research, there is a standard amount of time–about 41 seconds–that it takes for each person to say hello, pay, gather their items and go. So waiting behind more people with fewer items actually takes longer than waiting for fewer people with many items. People with large cart loads only have to swipe their cards once (versus multiple swipes in the express line), so following them is a good strategy. The express line is a sham!
Go left. According to another expert in the area, Robert Samuel, since 90% population is right-handed, most people tend to go for the right lanes when checking out. Buck the trend, go left and you might have a shorter wait time.
Look for female cashiers. Samuel also found that women, on average, are faster cashiers. The checkout process with women attendees tends to go quicker, so look for lines with women at the register.
So, there you have it! The sneaky ways you can actually tell which line is going to be fastest at the grocery store–or any store, really. Here are more tips, plus don’t forget to post more life hack questions for us on Quora!