One of the lessons I learned at some point in a time-management class was the idea of taking care of the big things each day. In Franklin-Covey speak this is the “big rocks”; those things that are so large you cannot overlook them and stay employed (at least for long).
But what about those of us who work in jobs that have meetings throughout the day. What do we do with those little chunks of time, say, 15 or 30 minutes, where we don’t really have enough time to tackle one of the large projects, but if we waste those little slices of time available to us waiting for the next meeting, we finish the day having never gotten to any of the tasks that are only ours to do?
Well, I may have an answer for you.
Slice and Dice
Some of the tasks that we all face are things like email. We all ought to shoot for a “zero inbox” goal, but reality doesn’t always play nicely with our plans. Dealing with email is one of those tasks that, while small, can be tackled in small doses.
In 15 minutes time you can make a huge dent in a cluttered inbox. In all likelihood if your inbox runneth over, it does so because you left those emails in for a reason when you first looked at them. It could be that you didn’t have time to digest what each email said, or it could be because you felt the content was important when you first looked at it.
Slicing and dicing your email in 15 minute chunks lets you look at the ones that were genuinely not important, but didn’t get trashed immediately. You can make a big dent in that inbox with 15 minutes.
Or, you can use your 15 minutes to slice through those emails that were important a week ago, but on further reflection the requested action has been completed or the content is no longer pertinent.
Listen and Delete
Maybe your voicemail box is filling up because while you listen to the vm, you don’t delete them. Of course the problem with that is that over time they can fill the entire box, and people you genuinely want or need to hear from are unable to leave you a voicemail because of the ones you’ve never deleted.
Use that small chunk of time to listen again to your vms, and delete them. That frees us space, and the next time that client, colleague or friend needs to leave you a vm, they won’t be met with that pesky little voice saying the box is full.
File and Smile
Another small task for a small chunk of time is filling in expense reports. ERs are those necessary evils, the kind of thing very few people enjoy completing but if you don’t those things which are genuinely reimbursable become personal expenses. If you don’t turn it in, you cannot get paid.
Use a small chunk of time to tackle some of your expenses (If this is a struggle for you, I strongly suggest you read my post on using Expensify and pay attention to how that excellent service can save you a boat load of time).
Another way you can use a small chunk of time to “file and smile” is to capture receipts. This is sort of like the expense report, but if you are a sole proprietorship and you struggle with filing your expenses for your business, you know what a challenge it becomes when those receipts pile up. Use a small chunk of time to tackle some of them.
Yes, you could certainly play a video game or waste time reading something useless on the web. But if you discipline yourself to tackle those expenses, your business’s accounting situation won’t be so difficult come tax time.
Clean and Grin
Many offices are moving toward a more or less paperless workplace, but unfortunately we all still receive a bunch of paper in one form or another.
A small task for a small chunk of time is to look through that paper stack, whether actually letters received, notes taken, handouts or magazines, and toss the ones that aren’t really needed.
The rule of thumb is if you haven’t looked at it in 3 months time, toss it (the only caveat being if you have no other source for the information, but then, if you have an iPhone you can actually scan that document pretty quickly and clean up your paper while preserving the info. This post on ScannerPro and this one on Evernote can help with that).
Do you find yourself with small chunks of time during your work day? Are you using the time to tackle small tasks? Why not help others catch a vision for improving themselves by sharing a comment?