Scott H Young

15 Ways to Squeeze the Most From 15 Minutes


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If you’re starved for time, you probably don’t have a few spare hours to do whatever you want. But do you have fifteen minutes? You won’t be able to run a marathon, finish a novel or have a party, but fifteen minutes can go a long way if you know how to use it.

Finding Your Fifteen

I’ve recently been facing a major time crunch between full time classes, running this website, freelance writing, being the president of my local Toastmasters club, exercising regularly and still trying to have a social life. A few spare hours don’t usually materialize, but it is possible to find fifteen minute gaps between work that needs to be done.

What’s crucial is to look for them. Your next fifteen minute gap can be spent staring off into space or it can be squeezed for all it’s worth. Here are some suggestions:

Train Your Brain

Invest the time in sharpening your mind. Small investments here can accumulate to huge payoffs later. You could learn a new language, master a skill or become an expert in your field.

  1. Read - Even if you can only devote fifteen minutes a day to reading, you can read up to two dozen books a year. I know many incredibly busy people who still manage to read over fifty books annually. The trick is to carry a book with you, or keep one in a place you frequently return to, so you can read when gap time becomes available.
  2. Create - Draw a picture, download a free program to make your own images or music. Create things without a specific goal. This exercise can keep your creative muscles strong while taking your mind away from the pressures of life.
  3. Listen - Buy some audio books and listen to them when driving or walking between locations. This is a great way to use of time spent doing chores that don’t require mental effort but keep you from reading.

Decompress Stress

If you’re working constantly, take your fifteen minutes to relax. Even if you can’t devote a few hours to blank out, you can use your sliver of time to relax deeply and come back feeling energized.

  1. Breathe - Close your eyes and count your breathing. If you’re feeling particularly tired you may need to set an alarm to make sure you don’t fall asleep. Try to inhale and exhale at a rhythmic pace with as many seconds as is comfortable.
  2. Journal - If you’re at your computer, open up a word document and start writing about the challenges you are facing. This exercise will help you get everything organized and can bring a bit of sanity to your responsibilities.
  3. Walk - Go for a walk with no direction other than to arrive back in fifteen minutes. Moving around can help take your mind off pressing tasks. Plus the exercise can release endorphin, which improves your mood.

Cut Your To-Do

Fifteen minutes can also be used to knock off little items on your to-do list. These things might not be critical or urgent, but build up. A messy desk, a full inbox or call to be made might not take long to fix, but it can be a nuisance if it isn’t handled.

  1. Two-minute checks – Look at your to-do list and the space around you. Ask yourself if there is anything that needs to be done that could be done in less than two minutes. Do as many of these as you can in fifteen minutes to simplify your to-do list.
  2. Eliminate the Unimportant – If you are feeling overwhelmed, try investing your time to simplify your list. Determine what doesn’t need to be done at all, or can be done more easily. Cutting the things that don’t matter gives you more time for the things that do.
  3. Tie Up Unknowns – A good way to procrastinate is to not know where to start. Tie up these unknowns by making the appropriate calls, research or planning so every item on your to-do list can be started easily.

Boost Your Body

It can be hard to find four or five hours a week to exercise. This is even worse if you hate going to the gym. But inserting a bit of physical activity into your fifteen minute slots can make up for missed workouts.

  1. Walk - Get outside and move around. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking between locations instead of driving. Keep your pace fast if you can’t jog or run.
  2. Pump - Push-ups and sit-ups might not be possible everywhere, but if you’re at home or outside, they can’t hurt. Doing a bit of higher-intensity exercise for fifteen minutes doesn’t just keep you fit, it can give you a boost of energy and focus that caffeine can’t provide.
  3. Stretch - Staying flexible is an important part of staying fit and easy to neglect. Most stretches are easy to do in almost any location. Try touching your toes, or if you can do that, touch them with your palms.

Reconnect Relationships

Fifteen minutes may not be enough for quality time, but it can keep you in touch with friends.

  1. Rolodex Shuffle – Get out your address book and pick one person you haven’t talked to in awhile. Write them an e-mail or pick up the phone to check in on them. Weaker ties often fall apart if you don’t spend these small moments to nurture the connection.
  2. Listen - Find someone you haven’t talked to in awhile and ask them about themselves. Try to listen to their challenges, victories and life in general. A little investment can go a long way in showing you care.
  3. Meet Someone New – There are probably thousands of people in your immediate vicinity you haven’t met yet. Walk around and say hi. The worst that can happen is losing fifteen minutes.

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21 Responses to “15 Ways to Squeeze the Most From 15 Minutes”

  1. Iair says:

    For audio Books i have some recomendation:
    upload old posts from scott you find interesting to scribd.com, and then download them as mp3. It is not a person talking, but I can understand it very well. Just give it a try. Every Post it’s less than 5 minutes on audio…
    We might contribute by helping to upload each of his posts, and to share them.
    Iair.

  2. Cal says:

    Scott,

    Interesting post.

    A word of warning, however, from my observation of students, is that relaxation squeezed into small windows doesn’t help all that much. A strategy I’ve seen work is to establish your working hours for each day. Start early, do nothing but work and classes, like a job, until the end of the working hours, and then spend the rest of evening completely relaxing. Even some of the busiest students I’ve worked with (think: MIT double-majors) are surprised to find that their student work-day can end no later than 6 or 7 PM. Having the whole night off…now there’s relaxation!

    – Cal

  3. […] So when I came across Scott Young’s blog entry on ’15 ways to squeeze the most from 15 minutes’ I was intrigued. You can read it here. […]

  4. […] Granted, if you’re a subscriber to the cult of GTD you know that any to-do that takes less than two minutes shouldn’t be on your to-do list to begin with, but even so, this kind of to-do dash is a great way to cross items off your list and feel a nice sense of accomplishment in just a few minutes. Check out the post for more 15-minute suggestions. 15 Ways to Squeeze the Most From 15 Minutes [Scott H Young via Dumb Little Man] […]

  5. […] Scott Young wrote a fantastic post today on “15 Ways to Squeeze the Most From 15 Minutes”Here’s ONLY a quick extractBut inserting a bit of physical activity into your fifteen minute slots can make up for missed workouts. Walk – Get outside and move around. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking between locations instead of driving. … […]

  6. Read. I can’t stress that one more. I always carry a book or two in my briefcase (which I carry around everywhere). In the last month, I’ve run into two situations where I caught up with my reading in weird places.

    1. There was a huge car accident on a highway, and traffic was backed up for 2 hours (the highway was shut down). Definitely got a few chapters of my book done.

    2. Waiting for my license at the DMV the other day. Between the paperwork and waiting for a counter to go to, I managed to take out my book and go through a few chapters.

    I also think Reconnections are very important, and sending an email or two definitely takes less than 15 minutes.

  7. […] Scott H Young » 15 Ways to Squeeze the Most From 15 Minutes (tags: productivity personalgrowth) […]

  8. […] Scott H. Young gives us 15 ways to squeeze the most from 15 minutes. I particularly like the one about taking time to breathe. Very important to center periodically. […]

  9. […] Blogger Scott Young suggests 15 ways to take advantage of a spare 15 minutes, like:Two-minute checks – Look at your to-do list and the space around you. Ask yourself if there is anything that needs to be done that could be done in less than two minutes. Do as many of these as you can in 15 minutes to simplify your to-do list.Granted, if you’re a subscriber to the cult of GTD you know that any to-do that takes less than two minutes shouldn’t be on your to-do list to begin with, but even so, this kind of to-do dash is a great way to cross items off your list and feel a nice sense of accomplishment in just a few minutes. Check out the post for more 15-minute suggestions. 15 Ways to Squeeze the Most From 15 Minutes [Scott H Young via Dumb Little Man] […]

  10. Ayed alqarta says:

    Amazin list. you can listen to some light music, i used back in the university to carry my MP3 player and listen to podcasts/music while drinking a cup of black coffee … between lectures .. this will give me a boost to go on my day ;)

  11. […] But that’s not all there is to think about. Scot young has a blog about getting more out of your life and he explains how with his hectic schedule he maximized his time in 15 minute increments. Invest the time in sharpening your mind. Small investments here can accumulate to huge payoffs later. You could learn a new language, master a skill or become an expert in your field. […]

  12. […] sense of accomplishment in just a few minutes. Check out the post for more 15-minute suggestions. 15 Ways to Squeeze the Most From 15 Minutes [Scott H Young via Dumb Little […]

  13. […] moods so whenever you have a spare 15 you can just take a glance at your options and get going. 15 Ways to Squeeze the Most From 15 Minutes – […]

  14. […] סקוט יאנג, מומחה לפרודקטיביות פרסם בסוףהשבוע את המדריך שלו ל“כל מה שאפשר לעשות ברבע שעה”. […]

  15. zoom says:

    That’s how I do ALL my housework – with a timer set to 15 minuites. Once a day. It’s amazing how fast you work when you know you’ll only have to do it for 15 minutes, and equally amazing how much you can get accomplished.

  16. sarah says:

    great article. definitely agree with the reading. i always take a book with me to work and read on my lunch hour. i probably read at least two books a month sometimes more. usually feel a little better when i go back to work, than just sitting there thinking about what else i have to do when i go back.

  17. James Gibbins says:

    Another great article Scott! I especially like the reading, listening, walking and two-minute checks ideas.

    BTW, lair, that Scribd website is excellent!!

  18. […] I can. When I can’t, I tag the articles to read for later. An post he wrote in October titled “15 ways to squeeze the most from 15 minutes” gives a collection of suggestions (15 actually) that are productive and creative ways to use a small […]

  19. […] Use two-minute checks: Periodically, take 15 minutes to look at your task list and see if there’s anything you can finish in 2 minutes. If you can, knock them out within your period of 15 minutes, then move on. […]

  20. […] H. Young gives us 15 ways to squeeze the most from 15 minutes. I particularly like the one about taking time to breathe. Very […]

  21. Cyril says:

    This is the awesome and awesome learn. The blog is written in a manner that it is so easy to read and understand. I AM a lover of your blog. Appreciate your sharing these details.

Debate is fine, flaming is not. Pretend that this comment form is a discussion taking place in my house. That means I enjoy constructive criticism and polite suggestions. Personal attacks, insults and all-purpose nastiness will be removed especially if it is directed at other readers.

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