Wouldn’t it be nice if our schedules went according to plan every day?
Close your eyes and imagine — actually, don’t close your eyes. I want you to read this. Imagine a world where meetings didn’t start late, traffic ceased to exist, and you didn’t have to sit in a waiting room for thirty minutes. Each part of our day flawlessly flows into the next part without any delay.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t work this way.
You’ll find times throughout the day where you have to get work done when you simply can’t. Maybe you’re waiting for the subway and have to finish a task on your work computer. Whatever the case may be, life holds on to you for a few minutes and refuses to let go.
If you’re looking for the opportunity, however, these minutes of wasted time can actually be used to get work done. In fact, this time is valuable and can set up your productivity for the rest of the day.
Here are a few ways to get things done when you have a few minutes to spare.
1. Plan 10-Minute Tasks.
Grab your to-do list. What does it look like? Are there a few vague tasks you have to get done? Maybe you’ve written something such as “market research.”
Stop doing this. Sure, that vague task is useful when you’re sitting at your desk at work. But what happens when you’re at the doctor’s office or waiting for your lunch order?
Break your tasks into smaller steps that take about 10 minutes to complete.
Get more specific and list tasks on your to-do list, such as “Write screening questions for survey” or “Send surveys to X, Y and Z.”
A list full of 10-minute tasks makes it easy for you to get work done while you’re away from your task.
2. Send Emails.
Emails are life’s greatest necessary evil. When I clear my inbox, I feel like Frodo taking the One Ring to Mordor. It takes a long time, but it’s for the greater good.
You can waste an astonishing amount of time reading and sending emails. Don’t let this daunting task take up your entire workday. Instead, leave your emails for lulls in your day.
Waiting for the bus? Have a few more minutes on your lunch break? Waiting to pick up your kids? Take out your phone and go through your inbox.
This will make you productive in two ways. You’ll be getting something done while you have some time, and you’ll have more time at work to do something productive. It’s a win-win for you, and a big loss for your spam folder.
3. Check Meetings.
Don’t want to miss a meeting? Need to make sure your schedule is updated? This is a perfect task you can get done when you have a few minutes.
Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of a project at work to check your meeting schedule. Do this whenever you’re sitting down waiting for something.
It only takes a few minutes to go through your emails, pull out meeting times, and put them in your calendar. Now you’ll get notifications and you’ll never be late for something important.
4. Social Networking.
Let’s say you’re in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Maybe you’re waiting at the bus station. What’s your first instinct?
It’s to pull out your phone and browse Facebook.
There’s nothing that wastes time more than Facebook. Yes, it’s addicting. But you can get so much more done with that time. For example, you can make new connections that could benefit your career.
Use this time to reach out to people on LinkedIn or contact someone through their website. Instead of looking at baby pictures on Facebook, you can use this time to meet new people in your field of work. Use this time for professional social networking.
5. Utilize Your Commute.
When do you waste the most time? During your commute to work.
If you’re one of the 78 percent of Americans who drive to work alone, then you’re spending a lot of time being unproductive.
Don’t let your commute slow down your productivity. Even if you drive, you can still get things done:
- Need to learn more about your field of work? Listen to a podcast or audiobook to gain knowledge about your career.
- Have to make some phone calls? Get in touch with clients while you drive.
- Want to work out an idea you have? Record yourself and talk through the idea.
There’s a lot you can get done on your commute to work. Make sure you use this time wisely.
6. Declutter Your Desk.
Having trouble getting things done when you’re supposed to be working? Look at your workspace. Is there any sign of organization? Your cluttered work area could be hurting your productivity, because a structured environment makes you a more efficient worker.
Decluttering your desk only takes a few minutes. Get rid of papers you don’t need, and organize your items. Not only will you clean your workspace, but you’ll also make yourself more productive in the future. This task will help you get things done when you really need to focus on your work.
7. Take a Break.
What if you don’t have a task that’ll take a few minutes? Maybe you’ve already had a small lull in your day and finished checking your emails or decluttering your desk.
Sit back, relax and take a break.
Breaks are necessary throughout the day. Breaks re-energize employees and boost their stamina for the rest of the day.
If you have a few minutes, you might want to completely shut everything down and relax. I mean, really shut down. Put your phone away and stop thinking about work. Lay down, maybe put on some music. You’ll go back to your work refreshed and ready to get things done.
8. Be Creative.
Find creative ways to utilize the time you’re given throughout the day. Once you get into the habit of planning for lulls in your day, you’ll also eliminate wasted time and get things done.
So, what will you work on the next time you have a few minutes to spare?