One of my greatest failures as a creative person is underestimating what can be accomplished in a short period of time. I tend to block out my days usually in big chunks, and write my books, teaching notes, or do client work inside those chunks. However, as we all know, there end up being loose ends – five minutes here, 10 minutes there, 20 minutes over there that are left over. The question is – what can we do with those short periods of time? Waste them or make them productive?
My tendency is to blow them off and check social media, grab a coffee, or chat with a co-worker. Certainly there are times when we need to take a break, but if we never learn to be productive during these unexpected short time slots, we won’t accomplish much. I’ve discovered that I can do far more in those short periods than I think, so when it comes to your productivity, here’s a few suggestions:
1) Take short blocks of time seriously. I’ve started experimenting just to see how much I can get done in 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Can I finish reading a book chapter while the plane rolls up to the gate? Can I schedule a meeting in the next few minutes before the conference call begins? Push it, and see how much you can actually accomplish. I’m sure you’ll be surprised.
2) Make a list of short actions that you need to finish, and have them available when a short amount of time becomes available. An update phone call, checking a calendar issue, responding to an email – even a short prayer time are all things than can be done in a short period if you’re ready.
3) Carry work with you. You rarely find me without a book. If I have a few minutes at the airport, I force myself to leave my phone in my pocket, and instead, read a few pages. I also carry magazines for even shorter opportunities. Waiting in line at stores or at the doctor’s office is similar. Never be caught just sitting there checking out the worn out, germ-ridden magazines on the doctor’s coffee table. Having podcasts ready to go on your phone can serve the same function.
Try it. You can add so much productivity to your schedule, simply by refusing to waste the multiple small periods of time that become available every day.