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5 ways to get more done by reclaiming your wasted pockets of time

Most people waste spare minutes on activities that give them no greater sense of accomplishment than if they had skipped them. Here’s how to change that.

5 ways to get more done by reclaiming your wasted pockets of time
[Photo: Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash]

I’ve just got a minute—might as well scroll through Instagram.

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No time to get anything real done—what’s in my e-mail inbox?

The default setting for most individual’s brains when they have 20 minutes or less is to waste it on activities that give them no greater sense of accomplishment at the end of the day than if they had skipped them.

As a time management coach, I’ve seen that most people can easily reclaim one to two hours of productivity in their workday by changing their default settings. That means getting more stuff done and less working late. Happier boss and happier you. Here are five ways to get more done by reclaiming small pockets of time.

Keep a quick task list

Consider making a “quick task list” for items that will take 10 minutes or less. These could include printing off a document, doing a follow-up call, scheduling an appointment, or other little things that need to get done but don’t take much time. When you have a small opening of time, challenge yourself to knock items off that list. Not only will this help you get more done in the time, but it can also help you beat procrastination on pesky little tasks.

Get real stuff done on your phone

You don’t have my permission to scroll mindlessly, but a small pocket of time can provide the perfect opportunity to get communication done that you really need to do. For example, catch up on text messages, return a voicemail, or reply to LinkedIn messages. By doing these activities during a small window of time, you’re reducing their intrusion into larger blocks of time better used for focused work.

Catch up with a coworker

If you only have a small bit of time between meetings, you may find it an ideal time for an informal catchup with a coworker who either is attending one of the same meetings or who has a desk nearby the meeting space. A 10-minute conversation when you’re already up and “in the neighborhood” can help you effectively use the time away from your desk.

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Make some small progress on a project

A common procrastination mind-set is, “I don’t want to start until I have enough time to finish this project.” Since the most frequent scenario is not having enough time to finish a project in one setting, you never get started. A way to reduce procrastination, after-hours work, and deadline stress is to do what you can to move the project forward in a small pocket of time. To best utilize this strategy, start out by breaking down a project into steps such as, “Read A, B, and C documents,” “Draft outline,” “Write intro,” etc. Then, when you have 20 minutes, get something done. Maybe you just get one article read, but you’ve still made progress.

Take a refreshing break

Sometimes the best thing to do in a small pocket of time is to not do anything work-related. Take five to 10 minutes to go on a quick walk, journal, pray, clear your mind, or stretch. There’s no need to deprive yourself of small doses of unplugged time that can lower stress and recharge your mind and body for the rest of the day.

It’s time to stop throwing away the extra minutes in your day because you see them as too little to matter. By intentionally investing small pockets of time in meaningful work, you can get more done and feel more satisfied.


Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the author of Divine Time Management and How to Invest Your Time Like Money, and she is a time management coach. Find out more at www.RealLifeE.com

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