We all lose productivity every day because "we only have five minutes before that meeting starts." And while five minutes here and there might not seem like much, they really add up over weeks and months. Think about it: If you regained just five minutes of productive time per workday, that would amount to 21 hours a year you'd get back. Hello long weekend—I think I'll just take Friday off!
Next time you have five minutes to spare, here are 27 things you can do, no matter what your priorities:
If You're Overwhelmed by Work
1. Make sure your to do list is up to date, and do a quick gut check to make sure that you've been spending your time on what's most important.
2. Knock out a few emails. If you don't already, try using a "quick answer" tag that you add to any email that will take you 60 seconds or less but isn't urgent. When you have five minutes, clear out as many of these as possible.
3. Check your upcoming meetings for the week, and send any emails necessary to confirm them.
4. Unsubscribe from any newsletters that aren't helping you achieve your goals using unroll.me.
5. Identify one thing that you can delegate, and to whom you can delegate it. Send this person an email, and get it off your plate.
6. Return a phone call.
If You're Seeking Balance
7. Drink a glass of water.
8. Squeeze in a quick guided meditation (my current favorite is an app from Buddhify) or some deep breathing.
9. Take a walk around the block.
11. Text or email three friends to say you miss them.
If You're Trying to Build a Network
12. Post an article that would be relevant to industry contacts on LinkedIn.
13. Stop by the desk of a co-worker you haven't talked to in a while for a quick catch-up.
14. Send a thank you note to someone whose work you appreciated in the last few weeks.
15. Look back at your calendar over the last few weeks, and make sure you've added any new business contacts on LinkedIn.
16. Digitize your pile of business cards from events using CardMunch.
If You Want to Declutter
17. Pick a stack of papers on your desk and throw out, recycle, or file anything you can.
18. Test all the pens in your bag or on your desk (or by your whiteboard!). If one has no ink, toss it out.
19. Delete apps you rarely use from your smartphone (or, better yet, delete the time wasters, too).
20. Clean out your work bag or junk drawer.
21. Organize and clean up files on your computer's desktop. If you're on a Mac, this impacts your computer's speed, so it's definitely worth a few minutes!
22. Look through your Downloads folder and file or delete any files you can.
If You Want to Advance Your Career
23. Catch up on industry news (save articles to Pocket when you find them to make this easier).
24. Update a few bullets on your resume.
25. Set up time with your manager for a check-in to get feedback.
26. Learn more about your company; read the latest news releases, or make sure you're familiar with key stats, new products, and who does what.
Photo of clock courtesy of Shutterstock.
Alex is the President & Founder of The Muse, where she focuses on the growth and operations of the fast-growing business and pursuing constant innovation. Her book The New Rules of Work, written with her co-founder Kathryn, came out in April 2017. Outside the office, Alex can be found on her road bike or deep in a book. She also loves productivity hacks more than candy.More from this Author