It’s pretty easy to reach the end of the day and wonder where the time went. You know you were busy, but you’re not really sure what you accomplished. In today’s world that can happen often. The result is more stress and overwhelm as well as your important projects never moving forward because you can’t seem to find large blocks of time to get them done. To make the most of your given time in a day and allow more time for family, friends, and relaxation you’ll need to plan and be ready to take advantage of those brief moments when you can get a few things done.

What are Small Pockets of Time? – They’re the 5, 10, 15, or 30 minutes that occur at various times during the day:

  • Time before a meeting when starting a new project is not worthwhile
  • The morning time before everyone is awake and the chaos begins
  • Waiting for your kids in the school carpool line of after practice
  • Standing in line at the post office
  • Any time you have a few minutes and your typical choice is to check social media sites or email with no intended purpose or outcome

Unpack Your Day – Taking advantage of small pockets of time is not about adding more to your day, it’s about focusing on what is most important to you. Got too much on your plate? Learn to say “no” more often. As much as you might want to drive for the school field trip, help with a local fundraiser, or host the end of the year party, your current busy schedule might not allow for that. Other opportunities will come and you’ll be a better and more effective person if your schedule is balanced and you have a bit of breathing room to allow for the unexpected. According to Jessica N. Turner, author of The Fringe Hours, “The only way to achieve balance is to fight for it,” and she further explains, “Your schedule needs to have openings, time that is available.” Use these small pockets of time to pay a bill, make a call, or meditate. You’ll feel better regardless!

Break Down Your Tasks – Large projects often linger because you are always looking for large chunks of time to complete them. Sometimes life does not allow for that. If you can complete even one small piece of a project, it will keep the project moving and make you feel productive. Once your projects are broken down, tasks that can be done during small pockets of time include:

  • Make a phone call
  • Read an article about ______
  • Email ____ regarding help with project ___
  • Check websites to compare products or research information on a project
  • Or, plan for project X by using small pockets of time to make your list

Be Prepared – The more prepared you are to take advantage of small pockets of time the more likely you are to do something productive versus whittle away your time. Have a grab n’ go bag that is with you at all times. It can hold any of the following:

  • Bills to pay
  • Cards to send (thank you, b-day, blank, etc.)
  • Stamps, envelopes, pens, and/or notepad
  • Articles to read
  • Magazines you never have time for that stack up on your counter (Real Simple, Oprah, Time, or any other indulgent or educational publication)

Take Advantage of Early Morning Time – You want quiet, uninterrupted time? Get up early! The world is quiet in the early morning hours and you can use that time as you choose: exercise, think without interruption, work on a project that requires your complete focus, prepare a slow cooker meal for your family, etc. I’m sure you love your sleep and not everyone is a morning person (check out LifeHacker for tips on how to become one), but to again quote The Fringe Hours, “How you spend your 5-to-9 determines how you spend your 9-to-5.” If you want less overwhelm throughout the day, get more done before everyone else starts theirs. (And yes, I am a morning person. My day starts at 5:15 a.m.)

Multitask Smartly – I’ve written numerous articles about the importance of uni-tasking for maximum productivity. However, there are occasions where multitasking works. If one of the tasks does not require mental energy it will not compete for your attention and you can accomplish two things at once, e.g. cleaning off your desk while listening to a conference call, washing the dishes while catching up with a friend, talking with your kids while you prepare dinner.

Use Your Smartphone For Good – Small pockets of time are often wasted by checking unimportant email or scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or other social media sites. Instead use some of your existing apps to help you to be more productive on the go.

  • Evernote – can hold articles that you clip from the web or scans of magazine articles you’ve been meaning to read.
  • Notes/To-Do Apps – can store lists of 5, 10, or 15 minute tasks to complete so you don’t have to think when you have a small pocket of time
  • Amazon – Order that b-day present you’ve been meaning to buy or staples you need for the house. No more worrying about finding time to get to the mall.

Photo Credit: John Linwood