The ubiquity of smart phones means we never lack for a way to spend time. Stuck waiting for the elevator for 30 seconds? Next thing you know you’ve got your phone out of your pocket, and you’re deleting newsletters you can’t remember subscribing to.
Cleaning out the inbox feels productive, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not all that fun. Nor is it accomplishing much. At the end of your life, no one’s going to talk about your pristine inbox. Here are 17 better ways to spend bits of time to bring bits of joy into an ordinary day:
Pull it up, read what you’ve got on it, and start adding.
Yes, you’ll need to use your headphones, but jamming out to Katy Perry for three minutes and 30 seconds will probably leave you feeling more energized than deleting marketing emails for a similar quantity of time.
Want to read more? You don’t need free hours to make it happen. DailyLit.com sends bite sized chunks of classics to your inbox, but you can also just keep a regular book in your desk drawer and read it, one page at a time. Books of poetry are good for this. You’re in and out (unless it’s The Wasteland).
Tell them you’re thinking about them. Text a friend to ask her about her day. Call, if you think the person might be available.
Jotting down a sentence here and there on specific moments of awesomeness can help you remember that your life is, in fact, awesome.
Keep some note cards and stationery around and write a note to someone whose birthday is coming up, or a friend or colleague who did something intriguing. There’s no need to write more than three or four sentences, and you can definitely do that in five minutes. A random thank you note to someone who isn’t expecting one could actually make someone’s day.
Assume some other posture than the usual one of your rear in the chair, and breathe deeply.
Do some push-ups or sit-ups if you’re not self-conscious (or you’ve got a door). But even if the whole office is staring at you, you can suck in your stomach or absentmindedly do a bicep curl with a paper weight.
We’re pretty good about setting work priorities, but personal ones tend to get short shrift. In five minutes, you could decide that next week you’ll go to the library, watch a favorite movie with your kids, and make your famous banana bread recipe on the weekend. Don’t go overboard—you don’t want to stress yourself out—but planning in a few fun anchor events gives you something to look forward to.
Who would be fascinating to have in a room together? Do they know each other? If not, make a note to introduce them as soon as possible.
Take several shots of the same object to experiment with angles and lighting. You may cause your brain to think in whole new ways, but even if not, the fresh air will perk you up.
Not someone buried in work at his desk, trying to ignore the world, but someone wandering around the halls, grabbing coffee. Who knows, maybe you know this person by his email address, but have never actually met him in person! Nurturing social ties is incredibly productive—and key to human happiness.
If you’re like me, they go back a ways, and can trigger all kinds of happy memories. Indeed, this post took much longer than expected to write because I just scrolled back to some August shots of my kids playing at the beach.
Bring crayons from home, or take some from a restaurant’s kid meal stash, and create your own coloring book. It’s a quick way to zone out and decompress, even if you don’t put your masterpiece on the fridge. If you have a more elaborate array of office supplies, you can try making a collage with pictures from magazines and some rubber cement. If anyone asks, you can call it your vision board.
Fun fact: A recent survey from the BlueJeans Network (a video conferencing service) found that 6% of people admit to having fallen asleep while on a conference call. While that’s not recommended, a tiny cat nap could be just the jolt you need to get through the rest of the day.
Please add your favorite ways to use bits of time for bits of joy in the comments.