In my profession, the productive ideal is to schedule things in meaty blocks of a few hours — enough time to get engrossed in a particular piece of work and have the time to explore it fully.
However, there are days when reality intrudes and meetings and conference calls interrupt those perfect chunks of time. Obviously, I do all I can to fit them into my own schedule (towards the end of a day, say, or just after lunch, before I’ve started my afternoon tasks). Suffice to say that doesn’t always work, and I’ve been thinking recently about what I can do to handle my scheduling nemesis: the thirty minute gap between two meetings, which is often only around 15-20 minutes, if the first meeting runs late.
Back-to-back meetings are their own special challenge, but at least they are an efficient use of time, if not attention span/energy. What I find insidious about the otherwise courteous tactic of leaving a bit of breathing room between meetings is that it’s tough to make truly productive use of the time.
What can you do in fifteen minutes? Read and answer emails is an obvious one, and it’s what I tend to fall back on. Cleaning off my desk is another option, though fifteen minutes is rarely enough to make a dent. Ideally, I would find some way to move forward with the projects that will otherwise require a bit of time — sketching out the contours of a blog post rather than writing it in full, say, or sketching out a few potential solutions to a problem I’ve been working on rather than truly exploring them. But the temptations are obvious: check email, read an article, then procrastinate online until — oh, look, it’s time to dial in again.
How do you deal with fifteen-minute blocks of time?