I love this post by Bert over at Open Loops called, Got a Minute? Get something done!
He offers ideas for how to improve your productivity in small chucks of time like 15 minutes, 10 minutes, and 5 minutes.
One thing that separates a highly effective day from the average day is our ability to execute in all kinds of ways. Here is a paragraph from my book on high impact management that speaks to this opportunity:
Technique #4: Use tiny pockets of time to get big results
It is 8:53 A.M. and there is a meeting scheduled to begin at 9:00 A.M. Brett has prepared for the meeting and the needed materials are copied, organized, and ready to distribute. What should he do now? There isn´t enough time to start anything new, or is there? Glancing quickly at his to-do list, Brett got up and sought out one of his employees. He asked a few questions, clarified what needed to occur, and asked the employee to follow up with peers in another department. Returning to his desk, he grabbed his materials, and several other items to drop off in the mailroom on the way to the meeting. In the hall outside the meeting, Brett chatted with a peer and resolved an open issue on his to-do list. He quickly lets his employees know that they could immediately act on the information instead of waiting until the meeting was over. Brett was still among the first to arrive at the meeting and in seven minutes accomplished three tasks that helped his team members work more effectively.
High impact middle managers routinely use tiny pockets of time to accomplish tasks on their to-do lists. It´s all too easy to waste the few minutes before meetings or appointments. Most people figure there is not enough time to start anything big, so why bother? There are two reasons using these small amounts of time wisely will pay off. First, and most obviously, middle managers who use this time wisely will get more work done. If the average middle manager has five segments in his or her day, and the manager completes a couple of tasks before each segment begins, that´s ten additional tasks completed each day! Second, and just as important, doing things in these small bits of time energizes you and keeps you on pace. Conversely, wasting time scatters motivation and energy. Tasks that lend themselves to this practice include:
– Checking in with an employee
– Asking a peer for clarification
– Reading a quick article or memo
– Sharing information
– Requesting a report or information for analysis to be done later
– Returning a quick phone call
– Filling out paperwork that has been sitting in your in-box for too long
– Sending out a meeting appointment and creating the agenda
– MBWA (or I prefer CBWA, coaching by walking around)
Middle managers can use tiny pockets of time to facilitate a breakthrough. Taking ten minutes to ask new, open-ended questions can spur fresh thinking on how to solve an old problem. It takes just a few moments to create and deliver several new questions verbally or by e-mail. If the questions help move the problem or project forward, these ten minutes may prove to be the most valuable time you spend all day.
Now before you get worried that I am suggesting we all work ourselves to death, I am not. I think are also times during the when it is best to relax or take a walk around the block.