How to use your spare time productively

Do you ever feel like you're wasting your down time? Here's how to make it useful. 

Do you ever feel like you're wasting your down time?
Do you ever feel like you're wasting your down time?
30 Apr 2015

Do you ever feel like you're wasting your down time?

We fret about not having enough hours in the day to get everything done. But if we used every spare minute productively, we’d come pretty close.

Sometimes we’re given golden nuggets of free time in our busy lives – when we miraculously wake up 30 minutes before the alarm rings, when we’re waiting for a friend to show up, when we finish a task ahead of time. These are unexpected, valuable moments of freedom. Like gifts. You would think that we’d seize them with both hands – only our hands are too busy wrapped around our phones, trolling the Internet, downloading LINE stickers, Facebook-stalking, idling the minutes away.

We all need down time. But go-getters use their free time effectively, in ways that get them closer to leading a more fulfilled, purpose-driven life. Isn’t that worth trying?

Plan and structure
Plan and structure
30 Apr 2015

Plan and structure

Sometimes free time falls into our laps. Sometimes they have to be planned. Review your tasks the night before by time boxing (e.g. 9-10 AM for Task 1, 10-11:30 AM for Task 2, and so on). That way, it’s easier for you to tell if there’s any time to spare. If there is, schedule it in and write what specific thing you plan to accomplish within that time slot. Be intentional about the way you use every free minute. 

Jot down ideas
Jot down ideas
30 Apr 2015

Jot down ideas

Always carry a notebook. Keeping notes in your smart phone counts, too. When you’re queuing up or early for an appointment, brainstorm for a project. Make sure you define a clear outcome that you expect from the project as well as any constraints like deadlines and budgets – then let your ideas take off from there. You’ll be surprised by how much you can benefit from an impromptu 5 minute brainstorming session.

Attack the call and email list
Attack the call and email list
30 Apr 2015

Attack the call and email list

Keep a running list of phone calls to make and emails to write in your spare time. These shouldn’t be too time-sensitive (for example, you’d want to make an urgent phone call right away instead of waiting till your morning commute). A sample list could include reaching out to a friend you haven’t heard in a while, catching up with your mother-in-law, following up on a request, or making an appointment. 

Develop or improve a skill
Develop or improve a skill
30 Apr 2015

Develop or improve a skill

Have you always wanted to learn how to make jewelry or play the guitar, or improve your Photoshop skills? Are there past hobbies or passions you want to brush up on? Delve into any books, articles, documentaries, lectures and classes related to the subject. Only good can come out of educating yourself during your free time.   

Engage in a moment of introspection
Engage in a moment of introspection
30 Apr 2015

Engage in a moment of introspection

Introspection promotes personal growth and conscious-driven decisions. But you might be so caught up in the daily grind that you miss out on self-reflection and awareness. Take a break to examine your beliefs, feelings, and recent experiences without any distractions. Try not to be too critical of yourself. Confront any negative thoughts by adopting a fair, problem-solving mindset. What actions can you take to be who you want to be, to reach your goals? 

 

Schedule things that energise you
Schedule things that energise you
30 Apr 2015

Schedule things that energise you

Make a list of the people and activities that energize you (sorry, watching TV doesn’t qualify), then use your spare time to hang out with these people or do these things. Chances are, you’ll feel happier for it. We often prioritize important must-do projects but don’t give nearly as much precedence to the things that simply make us happy. Productivity is generally associated with our work life, but let’s not forget to be productive in our personal life as well.    

Accomplish things in batches
Accomplish things in batches
30 Apr 2015

Accomplish things in batches

Set aside a free weekend afternoon for a batch cooking session to prep and make a week’s meals in advance. Decide on the recipes and buy all the ingredients at once. Cook, store, label, and freeze in usable portions. Streamlining helps you avoid throwing last minute meals together or agonizing over where to eat. Bonus: It encourages healthy eating.

Likewise, put together an entire week’s outfits in one sitting. Mornings are chaotic enough. It saves time when you don’t have to grope around in your closet with bleary eyes upon waking. 

Schedule your errands efficiently to make the least amount of trips. Group the ones that are closer together location-wise and complete them in one go. 

Manage your finances
Manage your finances
30 Apr 2015

Manage your finances

Pay those bills and review your budget. It really doesn’t take much time, but it’s one of those things that’s easy to fall behind on. What’s worse is that it looms over your head the entire time you put it off. Why not just get it over with in 15 minutes? 

Don’t multitask
Don’t multitask
03 May 2015

Don’t multitask

So you think you can watch the news while studying? Think again. When your focus is divided, you become less efficient. Jumping from task to task wastes energy because you’re forced to switch your attention and thought patterns.

Understandably, we all try to multitask. It seems like a good idea when our workload is overflowing. But try focusing solely on one thing during each block of spare time instead. Your brain will retain more information and you will get better results.  

Exercise
Exercise
30 Apr 2015

Exercise

Got five minutes before a meeting? Squeeze in some quick stretches at your desk to sooth your stiff shoulders, neck and back. Here’s an easy one: Place both hands behind your head, then twist your torso around as far as it will go, like you’re trying to see the back of the room. Repeat on the other side.

If you work at home or in a private office, do some pushups and crunches. When you have more time to spare, head outside for a brisk walk or hit the gym. You will come back refreshed and ready to tackle your to-do list with renewed focus. 

Get organised
Get organised
30 Apr 2015

Get organised

See that pile of documents that’s about to topple over? Someone’s behind on their filing. Use your spare time to get organized. Trust us, when you’re in the middle of a big project, you don’t want to waste time rooting around in those disorderly stacks for some buried report. De-cluttering minimizes stress and increases efficiency. Clear out your inbox, drag those miscellaneous files crowding your desktop into their proper folders, and trash whatever you don’t need. 

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