Read Time: 4 minutes
You’re going to love this.
Why? Because it’s easy, and it works. Two of my favorite things.
So what are “the little minutes” anyways? They’re the few minutes here and there that you forget you have, and you never account for. Because of that, these are the minutes you end up wasting. Not just you, it happens to all of us, but here’s the good news: you can stop wasting the little minutes!
I’m going to give you five steps to help you take full advantage of the little minutes.
Step 1: List Everything You Need [and want] to Do
To find the little minutes, you have to track all the minutes.
Start by making a list of everything you need to get done in your day. This should include everything you must get done, such as job-related tasks, and everything you want to get done, such as hobbies and side-hustle tasks.
It doesn’t have to be as specific as “brush your teeth.” You can simply put “get ready for work.” You’ll figure out if something takes more or less time than you thought it did.
Here’s what your list may look like:
This is an oversimplified version as an example. I would love for life to really be this easily categorized. Your list will be much longer, and that’s totally normal. You’ll probably have several things to do when you get home, and to make best use of this, you’ll want to list your work projects individually as well.
You can track this for as many days as you want, but a week usually gives you a good estimate of how much time you typically spend on daily tasks. Of course, you need to make sure you do this on a typical week, if there is such a thing for you.
Step 2: Guesstimate How Long Each Thing Will Take
Now that you have your list, how long does each task take?
This is simply an estimate, or a guesstimation, but it’s important to be honest.
Write how long you really think it will take, and if you think of different numbers, always go with the bigger one. It’s better to overestimate here than the opposite.
Here’s what your list may look like now:
These numbers are going to be wrong, and that’s fine. We’ll get the true numbers in the next step.
Step 3: Track Your Time: See if You Were Right
Now that you have estimated how long everything takes, it’s time to find out the truth.
Take this paper, spreadsheet or smartphone doc with you, and track your time.
When you get off the subway on the way to work, write down how long the trip took. When you finish a project, write down the time. And so on. After a week of tracking this, you can get a good estimate of the daily things.
Here’s what your list may look like once you’ve done this:
Remember, you’ll need to make a list each day for at least a few days, if not a week, to get an accurate view.
Step 4: See Where Your Little Minutes Are
Now you’ve guessed and tracked your time. You know approximately how long everything takes.
It’s time to find your little minutes. They’re everywhere, and that’s great, because they’re valuable.
First, you can find the easy minutes that you can expect every single day. Remember how you thought that hair appointment was going to take 30 minutes and you sat in the waiting room for another 30 minutes? That wasn’t the first time that had happened. You can expect things like that.
This process is not about strictly tracking each minute, and then doing a formula to figure out exactly where each extra minute is going. It’s simply a guide to show you that you do have extra time, and approximately where it’s at. Here are some examples of the little minutes you have in your day:
- Sitting in waiting rooms
- Riding public transportation
- Waiting to leave home after you’re ready
- Time before bed after all your daily tasks are finished
- Time in the morning you didn’t know you had (snooze button time, anyone?)
The little minutes are everywhere, and you didn’t even realize they existed.
How much more reading could you get done if you only read in the little minutes? Probably a lot.
The most important thing here is to not waste the little minutes! Here’s how to take advantage of them…
Step 5: Don’t Waste the Little Minutes
So now you know you have the little minutes — the extra time, but what do you do with it?
You have options! Here are some ideas for filling the little minutes:
- Carry a book – This is a common one, and for good reason. Always have a book with you, because you don’t always know when the little minutes will appear. Perhaps you thought you had a 2:00 meeting with your boss, but your 2:00 is his 2:15. Pull out that book.
- Keep podcasts on your phone – You may have an app for listening to podcasts, but do you keep a few downloaded on your phone? What if you’re in a place with terrible service? I suggest keeping a couple podcasts on your phone for that reason. I know I do.
- Find a productive app – My weapon on choice is Blinkist, a website and app full of the best book summaries I’ve ever read. I read a book summary here and there as a break when I’m working, and I use the Blinkist app to fill the little minutes throughout my day.
- Keep a “little to-do list” – I follow David Allen’s two-minute rule, which is “anything that can be done in less than two minutes, do it immediately,” but there are those five, ten and 15 minute tasks. Keep a list of them, as well as other projects that you can work on for a few minutes at a time. When the little minutes pop up, that to-do list pops out.
Those are just a few ideas. I’m sure you can think of more that fit your life.
It may sound daunting at first to track all of your time, and keep a list of ways to fill the little minutes, but you’ll get used to it. You only have to track your time for a week, or just a few days if you want.
You will develop a habit of doing your go-to thing(s) to fill the little minutes. It will become a
killer second instinct.
You’ll be amazed at the results you see from a few minutes here and there.