Time is a precious thing, and for those of us who move a mile a minute or find ourselves in back-to-back meetings, we take all of it we can get.
This includes that glorious, sometimes unintentional sliver of a pause between meetings when one’s finished sooner than expected, or your boss is taking extra long to get their presentation onto the big screen, or you can’t start until your co-worker arrives.
What can you do in that itty-bitty timeframe that’s productive enough to feel like you checked something off your to-do list? Here are some thoughts:
Have 2 Minutes?
1. Do a Lap
OK, this may not seem productive, but breaks are important. So, use this time to get away from your screen for a second and take a quick walk around the office, grab water or a snack, or go to the bathroom. You’ll be grateful you did when you’re in hour six of meetings.
2. Close Out Any Unnecessary Tabs
Does your browser look like a virus blew up on your screen? Get yourself organized by doing a quick cleanup of what’s running on your laptop. This will help you more easily find stuff later and focus as soon as you get out of that meeting—and save your battery.
Don’t have tabs open? How about deleting all those screenshots sitting on your desktop.
You’re surrounded by fellow colleagues and you’re both not doing anything. Take advantage of this break to talk to them about whatever it is you’ve been meaning to—work or non-work related. This is also a great tactic for people looking to make friends in a new workplace.
4. Get Your Notes in Order
Maybe you’re supposed to be contributing to this next meeting. Or, maybe there were documents sent out beforehand that would be helpful to look at. Make sure you have everything you need ready to go so you can hit the ground running (and avoid that awkward scramble for notes).
Have 5 Minutes?
5. Answer One Email
Can you find one urgent work email that can be answered in just a couple sentences?
6. Tackle One Personal Chore
Maybe you have plans after work and need to text your friend or have been meaning to schedule a doctor’s appointment—do that now.
7. Check Social Media
Social media is distracting and unproductive (for those who don’t use it for their jobs), so if you can limit yourself to checking it only during these five minutes, you’ll get the satisfaction of being up-to-date while still being able to easily turn back to the important work.
8. Send a Co-worker Something to Brighten Their Day
A compliment via email, a funny video, an interesting article they’d enjoy, a “happy birthday” or “congrats on your promotion”—give your colleagues some love and make them feel good (and you look good).
Have 10 Minutes?
9. Read One Article
Take that one article you saved for reading later and get to it while you can. That article making you want to read others? Bookmark them for your next pause.
(Pro tip: Download the free Pocket app and extension, it makes saving articles to read later super easy and is truly a game changer.)
10. Complete an “Easy Win”
We all have those tasks we can do with one hand behind our backs—the kinds of assignments that require little thought or attention but are still crucial to get done. Use this time to get started on that spreadsheet, doc, or email draft.
11. Clean Your Desk
Maybe you don’t have time to do any work in 10 minutes (or, simply no interest). So, consider doing a quick sweep of your desk space. Grab a Lysol wipe and clean up your keyboard, or throw out and put away any old dishes (and watch this video). It’ll make all the difference.
Seriously, this will make your mind feel so much clearer and ready to crush that next meeting.
Afraid to meditate at your desk? Muse writer Abby Wolfe did it for a week—and survived!
How do you keep busy and on-track between (many) meetings? Let us know on Twitter @TheMuse!
Photo of person waiting for meeting courtesy of Zero Creatives/Getty Images.
Previously an editor for The Muse, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. She’s written almost 500 articles for The Muse on anything from productivity tips to cover letters to bad bosses to cool career changers, many of which have been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., CNBC's Make It, USA Today College, Lifehacker, Mashable, and more. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer and reader, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.More from this Author