Time management Mondays: Just fifteen minutes

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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?

2 thoughts on “Time management Mondays: Just fifteen minutes

  1. Fifteen minutes is ‘rarely enough time to clean off your desk’?
    I reckon you have a major problem waiting to happen there.
    Take half a day to really deep clean and organise your desk and you will find that 15 minutes is way too long ever after.
    As editor of a business magazine here in UK we had a clear desk policy. This simply meant that, at the close of every day and before we left, we would totally clear the tops of our desks in a large open plan office. This allowed our contract cleaners to work faster and thus cheaper and we arrived each morning to a fresh and clean workplace.
    Now I am retired / working from home and I still follow this policy. My wife insists!
    Go for it Leah and watch your productivity soar!
    Colin Margate Kent UK

    • There are times when my desk is spotless, but I am the sort of cleaner who can’t clean unless there’s a system, and in this case, the system hasn’t yet been invented (I’ve only been in the space for a year), and I can never seem to find that half day when work doesn’t seem more important. I know, I know — it’s important, and I’ll get to it… eventually!

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