How to Use Small Time Pockets for a Big Productivity Boost

Alyssa Gregory

I’ve discussed my perfectionist-driven nature in the past (I’m not alone, right?), and one of the most visible ways it rears its ugly head is when it comes to planning long-term projects, especially those that are my own undertakings and not for a client.

All-or-Nothing Mentality

When I start a new project, my recurring wish is to have a huge block of time where I am completely free of distractions so I can buckle down, focus on the project and emerge a day or two later with a beautiful finished product. I know, I should keep dreaming because unless I live in a bubble, this will never happen.

The risk of having this outlook is that it becomes challenging to even start what I know will be a lot of work in a block of time that I know won’t be nearly enough. It’s stressful and often by the time I get my act together, figure out where I left off and collect what I need to do the work, I’m just about out of time.

Changing the Strategy

What I’ve started doing more recently is using small time pockets we have all during the day that are often underutilized. You know, the half hour in the morning after you do your initial email/voicemail/social media checks and before you dive into work; the 15 minutes after your reminder alarm goes off but before a meeting starts; the chunk of time over the weekend when you’re not officially working, but you jump on your computer while you wait for a friend to arrive.

Must-Dos for Making Time Pockets Productive

These organic time pockets are a perfect way to get something small accomplished that will help move you forward. And these chunks of time can really add up. But you need to have some things in place in order to use small pockets of time effectively.

Break Down Tasks

One of the most important things you can do is micro-task. That is, take every task on your list and break in down into tiny, measurable actions. For example, instead of “redesign portfolio,” you may have:

  • Make a list of client sites to include in portfolio
  • Decide what format your portfolio will be
  • Take screenshots/videos/etc. of selected sites
  • And so on…

Make sure you prioritize your micro-task list so it’s as easy as looking at the list and plucking off the first item to get started.

Prepare What You Need

When you create your task list, start to gather all of the materials, files, links and other information you anticipate needing as you work through the list. It’s also important to have a standard way to organize this information so it’s easy to find when you need it. The standard organization process is also great for collecting relevant information that you come across while working on other projects.

Document Along the Way

When necessary, take a minute or two at the end of your time pocket to jot down a note about where you left off and what you need to do next. This will help you pick up back up with less fumbling around.

Schedule in Advance

Some time pockets are regulars; they usually happen every day around the same time. Pick a few regular time pockets each week for your ongoing project and put it on the schedule. It will become a regular habit and you’ll get more accomplished than you anticipated by the end of each week.

Go Mobile

If you have a smartphone and can do some work on the go, why not bring it with you? I have taken advantage of many time pockets by being able to work while waiting for an appointment, riding in the car (as a passenger), and when I’m otherwise away from my computer.

Of course, time pockets are also great for taking breaks, so split them up between downtime and focused work time for balanced productivity.

Do you effectively use time pockets for work? What tips can you share?

Image credit: DartVader