Maximizing Empty Time

One of the biggest reasons people start a Time Diet is because they claim to not have enough hours in the day to finish everything they need to do. Of course, there is no magical way to add time to your day, but you can make better use of those scattered extra minutes that would otherwise be wasted. I’m taking about making use of little bits of empty time.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Emily, I don’t have a ton of empty time. If I did, I wouldn’t be so stressed!” I don’t mean to imply that you will all of a sudden find a 3-hour chunk of time in your afternoon that had been sitting there unused. I am talking about when you find yourself ready for work 5 minutes early, or you end up waiting for a bus a few minutes longer than expected, or you’re waiting for your boss to get off of a long phone call so your meeting can start. These little bits of empty time may not seem like much, but in the spirit of The Time Diet, let’s look at it like snacking.

Often times, when people write down everything they eat during the day as part of a diet plan, they are surprised to see how many calories they consume mindlessly between meals. These tiny snacks don’t seem like much – a few chips here, a cracker or two there – but they can quickly add up. The same is true for empty time. Those little extra minutes here and there may not seem like much, but if you add them all up, you may surprised how much time you actually have available to you.

The key is to be prepared for this empty time so you know immediately what to do with it. One of the reasons we waste little bits of empty time is because we don’t have a list of things we could do in a small bit of time like 5 minutes. So, here you go!
Things to Do in Under 5 Minutes

At Work:
1) Start a Vegetable Task: When we have a few extra minutes at work, we are sometimes hesitant to start a task because we think we won’t have time to finish it. Easier “Vegetable” tasks often take less time than you think. Keep a list of easy Vegetable tasks on your choose-to list and knock them out when you have a spare minute. Don’t worry about how long you think it will take. Just put your head down and “start grazing.”
2) Send a thank you note: When was the last time you thanked someone for a job well done? Next time you have a few extra minutes, jot a thank you note to someone you work with and let them know that you appreciate what they do. Gratitude doesn’t take a lot of time but it goes a long way in building positive relationships.
3) Relax: “Not working” is not the same as relaxing. If you are stressed and have a few extra minutes, don’t just putter around. Look away from your computer (even if that means having to walk outside,) close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.  Taking a quick break to just breathe is a “Dessert” we overlook too often.

At Home:
I found this list to be very helpful: 25 Things to Do in 5 Minutes or Less
This blog was written by a mom, but most of the things on this list are applicable to people without kids as well. My favorite one is “put in a load of laundry.” It seems so simple, and yet I never think of laundry as being something I can do in 5 minutes. Laundry is something I usually set aside a whole morning for, but why? I don’t have to do it all at once.

On the road:
Sometimes empty time occurs when we least expect it, like while we are waiting in line for something. To make use of this empty time, you need to be a little more creative.
1) Clean out your car: Arrive early to your destination? Clean out the clutter in your car or take it through the car wash.
2) Carry a notebook: I always carry a small blank notebook around with me so if I find myself with a few minutes to spare, I can sketch out a project or paper for grad school.
3) Run an errand: Did your outing take less time than expected? Run another quick errand on your way home so you don’t have to make a separate trip.
4) Keep a book in your car: It seems like no one has time to read just for fun anymore. Reward yourself with the Dessert of a good book when you’re held up unexpectedly. A book (or even an E-Reader) can be bulky to carry with you but throwing one in your car means you’ll have it more available to you than it would be sitting at home on your night-stand.

Making better use of empty time is not meant to keep you working constantly. Rather, it’s meant to make more efficient use of time you’ve already dedicated to work so you can have more time to enjoy your Desserts later. Enjoy your newly found time!

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