I always find myself twiddling my thumbs when I have a 30min gap between meetings. It doesn't feel like I have enough time to sit down and actually do work. Those precious 30min add up and can waste a lot of valuable time during the day, so I set out to challenge myself to maximize those 30min gap to be productive. It took a lot of trial and error and advice from friends. So here's a list of things that work for me and some things that my friends have utilized to be more efficient in those 30min windows.
Track Your Progress
I have daily stand-ups with my manager where I list out Things I've Done Since Yesterday, Things I Plan on Doing Today, Questions I Have, & Blockers. Those 30min gaps are the perfect time to evaluate my progress and think about what I want to accomplish for the day. Even if you don't have stand-ups, I highly encourage everyone to do this because it has helped me stay organized and break down larger projects into smaller bites day by day.
Another way I track my progress is by summarizing everything I accomplished at the end of each week and the impact it has made on the team. Writing these daily stand-up documents, helps me recall everything I want to include in my weekly progress sheet. Spending these 30min gaps documenting the work I've done has allowed me to stay on schedule with projects and also reflect on all the progress I have made.
Revisit ToDo Lists & Send Emails
When I was talking to friends about what they tend to do with short moments, a common theme came up: checking short tasks off the to-do list, which are commonly emails that require responding to.
"The first thing I do every morning after I sit down is take out a pen and paper and record everything that I hope to accomplish that day. I make a to-do list for the day. This helps me stay on task and gives me a sense of accomplishment throughout the day. In between meetings, I am able to revisit my to-do list and check off some of the shorter tasks on my list. For instance, if I see on my to-do list that I have to reply to some emails, then I am easily able to do so in a short period of time." - May McDonald, Deloitte
To add onto May's point, when creating to do lists, it's helpful to write lists in a prioritized order (most important to least important) and to mark the size of each task. For instance, I mark each task as Small, Medium, or Large and small tasks can be done in 30min - 1 hr, Medium takes a couple hours to a full day, and large requires multiple days. By prioritizing and marking the scale of each task, I can go down my list and complete the first "S" task.
Take a Break
Taking a break is still a productive activity. When you're in back to back meetings or have been heads down all day, it is important to let yourself reset. For May, "walking around my office floor allows me time to stretch my body and wake up my legs. Sometimes I'm even able to get a new idea by just letting my brain relax and wander".
These 30min gaps are also the perfect time to recharge with a snack or some coffee. May makes another great point that "small talk in the kitchen area of my office can be productive and informative. I have made connections with other coworkers in my kitchen office and have learned more about different departments at my company by just talking to someone while waiting for my turn to fill up my cup of tea".
We live in a society of workaholics where taking a break and not being "productive" can cause anxiety for some, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to let your mind quiet down, even for just a few moments in the day. This will help you feel more energized and creative to finish the rest of your work. Aside from walking around or grabbing a mid-day pick me up, headspace, a guided meditation app, is great for those who need to take a few moments out of the day to relax. Each session lasts from 10-20min, so do it at your desk or book a room for yourself to unwind!
Try these methods out the next time you find yourself with 30min gaps throughout the day and let me know if it helps you be more productive with your workday! I would also love to hear any tips you all have, so leave them in the comments!