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Zell Liew πŸ€—
Zell Liew πŸ€—

Posted on • Originally published at

Using small pockets of idle time

Let's say you finish a task before the time is up. You have another 5 to 15 minutes more. What do you do with this time?

If you get distracted during work, you may also end up with this 5 to 15 minutes left. What do you do with it?

If you find yourself in a distracting situation, like having to take care of a baby who cries every now and then. You probably have 5 to 15 minutes pockets of time very often. How do you use this time?

I think you can use it in four possible ways:

  1. Use it do errands
  2. Use it to learn
  3. Start the next thing
  4. Use it to chill

Use it to do errands

The most obvious thing to do is knock something off your todo-list. Ideally, you want something that's urgent or important. And it doesn't take up a lot of time.

Here's a possible list of things I cooked up with:

  1. Reply emails
  2. Make a phone call
  3. Chat with someone
  4. Eat something
  5. Do groceries shopping online
  6. Do 1 push up

If you do this, make sure you keep a running list of small errands. Trying to search for an errand to do, deciding to do it, and doing it often takes more than 5 to 15 minutes.

Use it to learn

I used to hate learning in distracting environments. I can't even finish a page in a book or watch a 2-minute video before someone interrupts me!

When I get interrupted, rage builds up inside 😑.

I realized this rage builds up because I wanted things to be perfect. I want to be in my room. I want to have an undisturbed block of time. I want to make sure my back isn't hurting, etc.

But we don't need situations to be perfect to learn. We can tell ourselves this:

  1. If we read 1 sentence, that's enough
  2. If we watch 5 seconds of video, that's enough

If we get distracted, we'll just resume from where we left off.

Start the next thing

If you have 5 to 15 minutes of undisturbed time left over, the best thing you can do is start the doing the next important thing.

Stop when your 5 to 15 minutes is up. Yes, even if you're only halfway into the next thing.

When there's unfinished business, we want to finish things up. And our brains work overtime without us knowing.

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day… you will never be stuck.

Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day.

That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.
β€” Ernest Hemingway

Use it to chill

It feels like taboo to waste time and do nothing. After all, we have too much to do, why are we wasting time here?

But it might just be the thing we need.

  1. We need boredom to be creative.
  2. We need to relax to perform.

And sometimes, 5 minutes of rest can get you enough clarity to do the most important work for the rest of the day.

Wrapping up

Remember, you're free to use this 5 to 15 minutes any way you want. It's not a stupid block of time where you can do nothing with it. It's a gift. Do what you want with it.

One simple reframe can change how you spend your time. It can change how your day turns out. Compounded over time, it changes your life.

What will you do with the next 5 to 15 minutes?

Let me know in the comments below :)

Thanks for reading. This article was originally posted on my blog. Sign up for my newsletter if you want more articles to help you become a better frontend developer.

Discussion (5)

klamping profile image
Kevin Lamping

Any ideas for what to do when rocking a baby (AKA maybe have a single free hand)? Reading on my kindle is possible, but can get a little boring and tough when rocking back and forth. Maybe I could listen to a podcast, but that requires time to setup wireless headphones (kid will pull on cord otherwise) that I don't always have.

zellwk profile image
Zell Liew πŸ€— Author

Sometimes I stare into space while carrying my baby. Haha.

Wireless earphones are great for podcasts. Get yourself a pair if you want podcasts

klamping profile image
Kevin Lamping

the issue is having them charged up all the time, and knowing where to find them when it's time to hold baby (and having the other two kids not interrupt me constantly)

Thread Thread
zellwk profile image
Zell Liew πŸ€— Author

I'm not at the stage you're at (no other kids) so I don't have the same problem yet. Not sure what a good solution is.

foodogsquared profile image
Gabriel Arazas

I used to learn when I have idle time but now I just chill. We have the same sentiments about it. Using it to relax can sometimes dictate the difference between focus and continuous frustration for the rest of the day.

There's also the fact that getting away from work sometimes is a helpful thing since it freshens your mind and might give you a new perspective unlike when continuously focusing on your work so much that you can't see anything else other than your own.