Since Chicago is a transportation hub, we have train and truck traffic in my neighborhood, and we get stuck by trains. Drivers get justifiably aggravated with train traffic. My Village of Evergreen Park listed the customer service number for a troublesome train line on their lighted marquee… right next to an intersection often blocked by those trains. Genius!
I confess, I enjoy getting stopped by a train, so long as it’s a brief stop. It is a reasonable excuse for being a few minutes late – texting “Train. Sorry. Be there soon”, folks will understand. And it’s a mini-break in the midst of a busy day. I grab a productive few minutes to check email, make a call, send a text, clean out my bag or car, or just play a game of Sudoku on my Iphone. As an added bonus, I find having something to do while I wait distracts me from getting aggravated, too.
We all benefit from improved time management and productivity. Productivity means getting things done, managing our tasks and time well, taking good care of our responsibilities and relationships. It means taking care of business effectively, so we can move on to something else. I prefer to work in large, uninterrupted blocks of time, but rarely get that luxury. Subsequently, I work hard to make the most of little bits of time, stuck by a train or between appointments, tasks, obligations and fun, especially in the summer!
Ideas for Finding Productivity in Little Pieces:
- Recognize that large tasks are comprised of related small tasks. For example, I have “Client Care” on my to-do list every Tuesday. “Client care” consists of emailing, texting or calling 5-10 clients, to arrange or confirm appointments, or just check in, and can occur in little pieces around other appointments and activities. Any 2 or 3 minute pause can be used for “Client Care”.
- Keep a detailed to-do list. “Run Errands” is not detailed enough. “1. Drop off donations; 2. Pick up order at doctor’s office; 3. Make banking deposit; and 4. Drop off dry cleaning” is detailed. And with today’s personal to-do list in hand, you can accomplish these tasks around other blocks of time on your schedule. An errand or two on the way to work, at lunch and on the way home. Details are key.
- Set your brain on a task or a question, and be open to the answer. At the top of my to-do list I write “Unique gift idea for wedding?” Or “Creative blog topic for next Tuesday?” I’m always amazed at the people or ideas that come to me when I do this, providing inspiration! Perhaps song lyrics, a client question, an on-line article, even a billboard. I could waste a lot of time and mental energy forcing ideas or I can just let them come to me in small pieces.
- Boost productivity and assign “time allotments” to your tasks. Looking at today’s tasks, I assign 5-10-15-30 and 60 minute labels to them. Then throughout my day, when I have a few minutes, I can reach for the 5 or 10 minute tasks (make appointment, confirm client, make grocery list) and complete them in those little bits of time.
- Create a habit of checking and re-checking your efforts during your day. Many times a day, I stop and ask myself if I am working on what I need to be working on. Or, am I aimlessly following links on Facebook? I am not suggesting that you can’t just relax for a few minutes – relaxing is necessary for productivity, too! But I am suggesting that we relax for a few minutes, and then return to the task at hand.
Next time you find yourself stuck by a train, in line at Starbuck’s, or waiting for your kids to get out of practice, seize the moment. Breathe deeply and gently stretch your neck from side to side. Then think through today’s tasks and spend a productive few minutes. These little bits of productive time really add up by the end of the day!
Dedicated to JS, thanks for editing with me!