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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

21 Useful Activities You Can Start and Finish in the Next 5 Minutes

We’ve all been there: You just wrapped up a project and have a meeting in about five minutes. There are no urgent emails to answer, so you do what you do best, and that’s collecting data on your recent initiative to share with your team. Kidding, you end up on social media. After all, it’s not like you have time to start anything new. And you’d hate to start working on your next task only to have to pull away in mere minutes.

But, what if I told you that there are 21 activities you could start and finish within five minutes? You’d probably say, “I know, I saw that in the title and that’s literally why I’m here.” And I’d say, “Right-o, we’ll just cut to the chase, then.”

1. Download a Personal Assistant App

Raise your hand if you dream of the day when you can delegate all your dreaded chores to a personal assistant. Now casually act like you were stretching because your co-workers are probably wondering why your hand’s raised. Then download one of these eight free apps that can stand in until you’re successful enough to afford to hire a real, live person.

2. Clean Your Desk

No, I’m not just talking about organizing your desk—but actually clean it. When was the last time someone wiped down that grimy surface?

For many people, the answer is, “I dunno, I always assumed someone else did that.” And in some companies, that’s true. But if your desk remains exactly the same way you left it each day, odds are it could use a quick clean. As could your computer screen, your keyboard, and anything else you interact with. You’ll be simultaneously horrified and delighted by the results.

3. Create an Email Signature

Want to up your professional presence with every single email you send? Create an awesome email signature with one of these five quick and easy programs.

4. Pick Up Some New Excel Tips

Odds are high that you have to look at the occasional spreadsheet. Odds are even higher that looking at so many numbers gives you stress hives, because what is this? Pre-calculus all over again? Treat yourself to this two-minute video chock-full of tips that’ll only make your life easier.

5. Take a Personality Test

Think you know everything about yourself? So did I before I took these free personality tests. Turns out I don’t know myself as well as I thought did. May I suggest starting with number four? It’s only two questions, meaning you can complete it pretty, pretty fast.

6. Follow Key LinkedIn Influencers

Before you panic at the thought of identifying influencers in such little time, relax. We have a list of great people to follow right here. You’re welcome for making your LinkedIn feed one million times more valuable.

7. Decorate Your Desk

Treat yourself to a desk accessory that’ll make you smile when you get to your chair each day. Here are 27 options—you’re bound to fall in love with at least one. Oh, and just so you don’t give yourself decision fatigue, remember you only have five minutes, so no time to overthink this.

8. Make a Co-worker’s Day

Know that feeling you get inside when your colleague says something nice to you for no reason at all? Well, you have the power to give someone else that warm-and-fuzzy feeling, too. So pick someone who’s done something awesome recently and tell him or her. Or better yet, throw your compliment into an email and CC a few relevant people. Bonus points if you include a GIF.

9. Learn to Meditate

Have you ever been stressed at work? If you answered no, you’re a robot and I think it’s super neat you’re the kind of robot who can read! If yes, have you ever tried meditation? Even if you don’t think it’s for you, science disagrees because the benefits are amazing. This one-minute video will teach you a simple way to calm yourself down when your to-do list’s getting out of control.

10. Listen to a TED Talk

Need some inspiration? Perhaps a little motivation to power you through the 19th meeting of your day? Check out these three-minute TED Talks that are sure to do the trick.

11. Get a Snack

Hanger is real. Don’t be a victim.

12. Add Your Current Job to Your Resume

If you haven’t updated your resume since you landed this position—and let’s be real, you haven’t—take a few minutes now to do that. While you can’t perfect it in a few minutes, you’re giving yourself a good head start for when that day comes that you do start looking. (And that day always comes.)

13. File Your Expenses

Expenses rank high on the list of things that take little to no time to get done, yet seem downright unbearable to deal with. Not today! Do them now, and then you’re done for a few weeks.

14. Book That Doctor’s Appointment

Speaking of tasks you always put off, take a few minutes right now to make that doctor appointment. Yes, phones are the worst, but sometimes you have to give into them. Just make sure to have your calendar and insurance card handy so that you can make this interaction as pain-free as possible.

15. Make More Time in Your Schedule

If you like magic, you’re going to love this next trick because it’ll teach you how to make more time in your schedule this week. Step one: Look at your calendar and identify any plans you have that are making you cringe. Step two: Cancel (using these pre-written templates). Doesn’t that feel so much better?

16. Reach Out to a Potential Reference

I know, I know, you’re not currently looking for a new gig. But, as I said earlier, you will be one day. And it’s a lot less awkward to email your old boss to be your reference if you’ve kept in touch. So do Future You a favor and send a short email saying “Hi” now. If typing a few sentences sounds really challenging, here are a few templates you can use instead.

17. Create a Canned Email Response

Looking for a game-changing project? Cool, I have one right here. First, think about an email response you find yourself typing out every single day to a variety of different people. Now, create a canned response (on Gmail or in Outlook) that you can automatically insert instead. Fill in a few blanks, and voila, you never have to type that message again.

18. Turn Your Open Desk Into a Private Office

OK, you’re right, this is not only a bigger project than five minutes, but it’s probably not allowed. However, what you can do is check out one of these free ambient noise sites. They don’t make up for not having walls and a door, but they definitely make it feel more like you’re not working in the middle of a 100-person office.

19. Make Your Browser Work Harder for You

You spend a lot of time on the internet, because the internet’s the best. (Except the times when it’s the absolute worst.) So, make it more awesome by downloading a browser extension that’ll make you more productive.

20. Spark Your Creativity

OK, this activity involves a printer, and that only ranks slightly above a phone on a “Things we still use?” list. But hear me out, this exercise will boost your creativity and get your juices flowing in just three minutes. So, if you’re about to go into a brainstorming meeting, you can give your brain an easy head start.

21. Color

Maybe you have a coloring book within reach, maybe you only have some printer paper and highlighters—either way, you can spend a few minutes coloring. Science says this super basic activity not only has the power to calm you down, but also to make you feel like you have a bit of self-control back in your life.

And there you go—21 projects that you can complete in under five minutes. Suddenly, your day just become way more productive. Oh, and if you have 10 minutes? Well I fear for how much you’ll be able to accomplish.

Have an idea I should add to the list? Tweet me and let me know!

Photo of person working courtesy of Morsa Images/Getty Images.