When we have ten spare minutes at work, we often flip to Facebook, investigate Instagram, or putter to the break room to see if the coffee’s finished brewing. Nothing is “wrong” with those activities. However, we might put our free time to better use, using them to energize our productivity levels or reach unrealized goals. (Example: learning a second language or listening to a podcast dedicated to leadership development.)
To help us seize the minute of free time, let’s commit to less waste. Less trolling of social media. Less checking of email. (News, too, if that’s your habitual thing.) Let’s also try filling our spare minutes with new activities, both at work and home. If we do, we might just see an overall improvement in our outlook on life, our relationships, and our health.
5 Ways to Better Fill 10 Spare Minutes at Work than Brewing Coffee
Hint: These 5 ways aren’t brewing coffee or refreshing your inbox for the umpteenth time.
- Hit the stairs or go for a walk. Most people won’t mind if you take a break to get a breath of fresh air. If they do, explain why you’re getting up and moving around: the activity revitalizes your brain so that you can do your best work. If you work in an environment where loafers and heels are appropriate, keep an extra set of comfortable shoes at your desk. And, just because you came to work in a power skirt or suit doesn’t mean you should forego staying active. (You may want to avoid awkward yoga poses, though.)
- Do administrative tasks that require the use of your body. Filing papers, cleaning your windows, organizing the printer area, rearranging chairs, and so on are all activities that get you moving and that your employer will support. While you’re doing those things, your mind will come up with answers to current concerns and projects.
- Find a quiet space to meditate or breathe. Since I look for quiet places, I find them in every workplace setting. Look for unused meeting rooms or offices, lobby corners, outdoor benches, or nearby libraries and churches. Avoid supply closets; a falling broom will engage catlike reflexes and suspicious stuff tends to be associated with supply closet activities. If you manage or lead a team, create quiet spaces for your teammates, especially if you have an open office setup.
- Journal for five minutes. The Five Minute Journal is one of my favorite tools for quickly capturing thoughts. I especially like its focus on gratitude. Its process — giving thanks in the morning and evening — orients our minds and hands, grants a larger perspective on the minutiae that fills our days, and restores our passion for the work at hand and the work to come.
- Read books or articles. What you feed your brain matters. So feed it good things! How to Think might be of interest if dealing with teams that seem constantly at odds. Other good books for 2018 include The Culture Code, Measure What Matters, The Myth of the Nice Girl, and When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.
5 Better Ways to Spend 10 Free Minutes at Home than Emptying the Dishwasher
Okay, the dishwasher may need to be emptied. But you probably have other 10-minute increments that could benefit from a different activity. That point goes double (perhaps triple) if you work from home or are trying to manage work/life balance.
- Stretch and move. If you need to move at work, you need to move at home, too. Stay active! Your body and mind will thank you now and later. For ideas on how to get moving, turn to Jonathan Mead. He has a great video on a natural ground movement routine that is a wonderful alternative to standard yoga fare.
- Meditate. Meditation helps us be present. It also lets us work through things, including frustrations with coworkers or family members. If you’re new to meditation, I recommend following Susan Piver’s 10-Minute Breath Awareness Meditation.
- Play. Pick up the guitar, touch the keys, or play whatever instrument you play. Work on a puzzle. Paint or draw. Build a LEGO truck with your kids. Play fetch with the dog or get your cat to tolerate a snuggle. These activities help restore our sense of self and sanity.
- Journal. I suggested using The Five Minute Journal earlier. I reiterate the recommendation here. Of course, other journals work, too. The point is to have a consistent journaling practice that helps you look back, contemplate the present, and move forward.
- Read. Wisdom and spiritual literature, such as the Bible, the Tao Te Ching, and Mark Nepo’s More Together Than Alone are particularly good here. These books give counsel on how to approach everything in life. Plus, you can read for as short or as long as you like.
When we have a few minutes of free time, whether at home or work, we could dawdle them away. But let’s put them to better use. Read. Journal. Play. Do things that make your mind, body, and soul grow so that every day is a new day, one vibrant with opportunity and possibility. (Tweet this.)
P.S. No devices in the bathroom. I know this should be a given. But if we’re being honest, we know it’s not.