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By Teri Grant

 This article will take ~8 minutes to read.

Are you truly making the most of your day, or are you wasting valuable time that’s keeping you from getting home by the time you should? Here’s how to make the most of your small windows of time throughout the day.

 

We waste time – and it adds up.

We all have them: those little windows of time each day in between meetings, tasks, or impromptu conversations. Over the weeks and months, we accumulate hours of time that so often goes to waste simply because we don’t have a good game plan for how to stay focused and productive in such a short span. It’s easier to flip over to Facebook or pull up Instagram than it is to quickly and effectively zoom in on one or two short, critical tasks.

The consequence is that we end up having to stay later, come in earlier, or even sneak an hour or two of work on the weekend to make up for it. Let’s look at the math, because even just 30 wasted minutes a day really adds up. That’s 2.5 hours a week, 10 hours a month, and as much as 120 hours a year! Yikes.

I say, no more! By being strategic with how we approach those small pockets of time, we can free up time for what really matters.

So what ways can we make good use of those short windows of time?

 

1. Re-order and re-write your to-do list

Have you checked a few things off your list today already? Great! Now is the perfect time to open a new Note, pull out a fresh sheet of paper, or turn the page in your moleskin notebook.  

Do you still have the same priorities at this point in the day that you did when you first wrote your list? New items added? Things need to be rearranged? Rather than be discouraged by a day gone slightly sideways, take advantage of the good feelings that can come along with setting up a list of things to tackle.

By using a few minutes to re-order your task list, you ensure that the next time you sit down at your desk, you’re not wasting time. You’re ready to dive right in.

Not sure how to write an effectively to-do list that quickly? Click here to get the phenomenally effective free Quadrant To-Do List emailed to you right now.

 

2. Decide how you want to spend the last 30 minutes of today

Don’t wait for the end of the day to creep up on you – take control of it right now. How do you want to finish off your day today? On email? Putting a few quality minutes in on a project? Checking in with a colleague? Be specific with your outcome, and how long you expect it to take. Now budget it in by adding it to your calendar.

By taking a few moments to get specific about the last thing you want to accomplish today, you can leave on a high note ready for a great day at work tomorrow.

 

3. Decide how you want to spend the first 30 minutes of the next work day

Just like No. 2, we are looking ahead to a key moment in the work week. Take a minute, and get very specific. What would the best possible start to your day look like? Imagine every detail of the first 30 minutes of your perfect day. Close your eyes for a moment and really see it unfolding.

Now open your eyes, and check your calendar for tomorrow morning. What is one thing you could do right now that gets you closer to that 10-out-of-10 start to your day tomorrow? Don’t hesitate – do it!

When you are intentional about the start of your day, rather than just letting it unfold beyond your control, you will find that the rest of the day is carried by the momentum of those powerful first few minutes.

 

4. Put time in on the hardest item on your to-do list

Sometimes the hard item on our list is hard simply because we haven’t started it yet. The longer we avoid it, the more ominous it can seem. This is a cruel trick on our future selves! Wouldn’t it be so much better to be kind?

By taking a 15-minute chunk out of that icky task, we avoid the pressure of needing to finish it all at once – and now we have a little gift to our future selves, all because we chose to make the most of that 15 minutes. As an added bonus,

 

5. Write a thank you note to a colleague

If you just aren’t into starting up a project in the next few minutes, open up an email or pull out your box of thank you cards, and send some positive vibes to a co-worker, a business partner, or someone in your life who deserves to hear how great they are.

Chances are, you’ll feel positive and energized yourself after taking the time to appreciate someone else. Win-win!

 

6. Do not open up Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media time-waster

Often, the easiest thing can be the biggest enemy to productivity. In this case, while it might feel easy to check in on your digital communities for just a minute – that one minute quickly turns into whatever free time you used to have.

Avoid the temptation by asking yourself why you actually want to log onto your social media. If you are able to honestly say that you’re 100% caught up on your work, and ready for a very well-earned brain break – go for it. 

But, if your honest answer to yourself is that it’s either just automatic, or that you just don’t feel motivated to tackle your next to-do item… re-read this list, and pick one to start on right away. You’ll be glad you did!

 

A quick review of how to make the most of your small windows of time

1.     Re-order and re-write your to-do list.

Ensure that the next time you sit down at your desk you’re not wasting time.

2.     Decide how you want to spend the last 30 minutes of today

Leave on a high note ready for a great day at work tomorrow.

3.     Decide how you want to spend the first 30 minutes of the next work day

Set yourself up for a great day.

4.     Put some time in on the hardest item on your to-do list

Share a gift with your future self.

5.     Write a thank-you note to a colleague

Gratitude is always worth the time it takes.

6.     Do not open up Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social-media time waster

Be honest with yourself – are you just not sure where to start, and this seems easier than trying to solve that problem?

 

Make it happen:  

Set a reminder for yourself each morning to take advantage of those small windows of time – it all adds up! Get into the habit of being intentional with your time, and it will pay off in the long term.

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