by Zell Liew

How best to use small pockets of idle time

Photo by Iván C. Fajardo on Unsplash

Let’s say you finish a task before the time is up. You have another 5 to 15 minutes more. What do you do with this time?

If you get distracted during work, you may also end up with this 5 to 15 minutes left. What do you do with it?

If you find yourself in a distracting situation, like having to take care of a baby who cries every now and then. You probably have 5 to 15 minutes pockets of time very often. How do you use this time?

I think you can use it in four possible ways:

  1. Use it do errands
  2. Use it to learn
  3. Start the next thing
  4. Use it to chill

Use it to do errands

The most obvious thing to do is knock something off your todo-list. Ideally, you want something that’s urgent or important. And it doesn’t take up a lot of time.

Here’s a possible list of things I cooked up with:

  1. Reply to emails
  2. Make a phone call
  3. Chat with someone
  4. Eat something
  5. Do grocery shopping online
  6. Do 1 push up

If you do this, make sure you keep a running list of small errands. Trying to search for an errand to do, deciding to do it, and doing it often takes more than 5 to 15 minutes.

Use it to learn

I used to hate learning in distracting environments. I can’t even finish a page in a book or watch a 2-minute video before someone interrupts me!

When I get interrupted, rage builds up inside ?.

I realized this rage builds up because I wanted things to be perfect. I want to be in my room. I want to have an undisturbed block of time. I want to make sure my back isn’t hurting, etc.

But we don’t need situations to be perfect to learn. We can tell ourselves this:

  1. If we read 1 sentence, that’s enough
  2. If we watch 5 seconds of video, that’s enough

If we get distracted, we’ll just resume from where we left off.

Start the next thing

If you have 5 to 15 minutes of undisturbed time left over, the best thing you can do is start the doing the next important thing.

Stop when your 5 to 15 minutes is up. Yes, even if you’re only halfway into the next thing.

When there’s unfinished business, we want to finish things up. And our brains work overtime without us knowing.

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day… you will never be stuck.
Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day.
That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start. — Ernest Hemingway

Use it to chill

It feels like taboo to waste time and do nothing. After all, we have too much to do, why are we wasting time here?

But it might just be the thing we need.

  1. We need boredom to be creative.
  2. We need to relax to perform.

And sometimes, 5 minutes of rest can get you enough clarity to do the most important work for the rest of the day.

Wrapping up

Remember, you’re free to use this 5 to 15 minutes any way you want. It’s not a stupid block of time where you can do nothing with it. It’s a gift. Do what you want with it.

One simple reframe can change how you spend your time. It can change how your day turns out. Compounded over time, it changes your life.

What will you do with the next 5 to 15 minutes?

Let me know in the comments below :)

Thanks for reading. Did this article help you out? If it did, I hope you consider sharing it. You might help someone else out. Thanks so much!

This article was originally posted at my blog.
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