How To Increase Your Productivity By Harnessing Dead Time
Although the title suggests this post will be a world-changing experiment, dear reader, I have to let you down — it won’t. Stop reading if you expect a new promising model as to how to become a super-productive human being.
However, keep reading if you want to read the narrative of your average workday. It’s a good way to determine how you could build on your dead time to get more out of your day.
Growing as a person and becoming better is what we constantly dream about, but when it comes to taking action, we always have an excuse.
If that’s your case, consider the following strategies in managing time wisely:
Your Average Workday
6:00 a.m. You’re sleeping and experiencing the best dream on your bed. The alarm clock just goes off and it’s time you get to work. Don’t hit the snooze button. Instead, try to get up just 10 minutes earlier than you would and make a commitment to use that time to meditate, journal or read every single workday. Yes, you could skip the weekend.
7:00 a.m. You’re on your commute and watching fellow passengers’ sleepy faces. It’s the best time to consume some inspiring literature. Pull out your Kindle and read something that grows you in mind and spirit. You soon will notice that travel time shrinks to its third.
8:00 a.m. You get to your table at the office. If you’re not in a very busy season or simply can’t begin to work right upon arrival―I see a lot of colleagues fall under this category, but not you of course―please don’t check Facebook, don’t check the news, and don’t socialize with colleagues. You have a lot of other options to consider: read a blog post on productivity, learn two new English phrases, search for potential workshops, etc.
Pro tip: It’s best to start with your most demanding and important task just to gain momentum.
9:00 a.m. You start writing an email to a client. The text is in your head since you’ve already drafted such emails a lot of times. This time, you’ve had a bad night sleep and words are coming slowly.
Wait a minute! Get a text expansion app that enables you to use “snippets” or chunks of words that will unfold into a complex text like email, phone number, link, or whatever you want.
Here is how it works. You save your emails, frequently used email addresses, and links to your text expansion app and label each with a snippet that hopefully, you can memorize. Next time, when you compose a report in MS Word, write an email or perform any text-oriented action in any of your apps. All you have to do is enter the associated snippet and the text will unfold itself. The nice thing is that it works in all your apps. Some good text expansion apps include PhraseExpress, TextExpander, and Breevy.
10:00 a.m. You wonder how much time it consumes to draft your report. Why not learn some keyboard shortcuts to increase your productivity? You can print a list of shortcuts and hang it next to your screen. Over time, you’ll feel comfortable with using the keyboard.
1:00 p.m. You’ve just arrived from lunch with a full stomach. Colleagues invite you for a cup of coffee and, you know, for some 10 minutes of chit-chatting. Why not go for a short walk instead? Walking can help to gather your thoughts, gain focus, and refresh your mind.
5:00 p.m. You’re on the train and you’re heading home. You feel worn out because you really have had a busy day. Pull out your Kindle and just pick up reading where you left off in the morning. By doing so, together with your morning reading, you can implement a full hour of reading into your day.
Pro tip: If you’re driving to your office, you could listen to an audiobook.
6:00 p.m. You’re about to do the laundry, take out the trash, and the list goes on. (If you have a spouse, you know what I mean.) Just put on your wireless headphones and listen to life-changing podcasts to charge your mental batteries. From here, you would never ever do household chores without putting on your headphones.
That’s amazing. There’s not a single minute wasted anymore! You can’t wait to wash the dishes, do the laundry, and ironing your shirts because you know that you’re strengthening your mental muscles.
See Also: How Music Affects Your Productivity
7:00 p.m. You’re blaming yourself because you’ve skipped your exercise this day. You planned to do it but your day unfolded in a way as it always would: With lots of to-dos and seemingly no margins to counterbalance.
Although you clearly missed your full-hour workout, you can take your dumbbells and exercise for 15 minutes while watching your favorite TV show or movie. This time, again, you don’t have to sacrifice your “me-time” while enjoying the benefit of a workout.
Pro tip: Make sure that you don’t exercise too late in the evening because it can delay sleep onset.
Let’s Do the Math
Let’s look back and sum up how much you’ve done over the day without investing a single minute:
- Meditation- 10 minutes
- Reading- 30 minutes
- Learning English- 10 minutes
- Harnessing technology (text expansion and keyboard shortcuts―well, it’s harder to measure, I leave it up to you)
- Walking- 10 minutes
- Reading- 30 minutes
- Listening to inspiring podcasts- 30 minutes
- Exercising- 15 minutes
Those things equate to a total of 135 minutes (more than two hours!) of meaningful activities without claiming a single minute from your agenda. Wow!
On top of that, these activities will strengthen your mental as well as your physical muscles. They’ll contribute to your productivity and overall well-being.
Identify Your Gaps
I hope you happened to notice that not a single minute was consumed by your new habits. We just harnessed your dead time to get the most out of your day. Now, it’s your turn to recognize your dead times and build the necessary habits to draw upon.
Experiment with your cues and rewards to find out what works for you to establish the desired habit.
I suggest that you fill in―as productivity experts would call it―an ideal day template to identify your gap. Then, fill those gaps with true content. This template is nothing more than a hard landscape of your day, showing your schedule in half-hour blocks. Take an hour to fill in your template to prevent mind leakage.
Begin the Journey
This post doesn’t claim that you not socialize with colleagues or not read the news. It doesn’t cover in details morning or evening routines, essentialism, goal setting or other productivity methods. It does nothing more than shed light to those little things that can make a change in how you perceive your world.
Finally, be willing to change and you’re likely to experience a paradigm shift in your everyday life.
Your one takeaway: Take a deep breath and figure out three things that you can draw upon to harness your dead time.