When you’re used to moving from task to task or meeting to meeting, fifteen minutes of downtime can be a bit unsettling. You don’t want to waste half of that time thinking about what to do and wind up regretting it.
Luckily, there are so many ways to spend downtime at work. The key is to have a plan to make the most of it:
Decluttering can significantly benefit your mental state and productivity levels. Maybe there are papers piling up all over your workspace, or perhaps you struggle to find office supplies you need. Downtime is perfect for reorganizing the area that you work in.
But decluttering doesn’t end there. Your digital workspace is just as important as your physical one, so use your downtime to get rid of unneeded files and create new folders for organizing the ones that you do need.
2. Respond to emails.
How often do you open up your email to find an empty inbox? Don’t let them pile up; spend your spare 15 minutes deleting unnecessary ones and responding to others.
Which are worth answering immediately, and which should you put off? Apply the two-minute rule. If you need more time than that to answer any one message, shelve it until your dedicated time to answer emails.
3. Get some reading done.
Fifteen minutes is plenty of time to read through some news articles, informative editorials, or blog posts. If none of those tickle your fancy, haul out an inspirational book.
What if you aren’t sure what to read? Take those 15 minutes to prepare your reading list. Send out emails asking for suggestions. Order them according to your interests and the insights you expect to gain by reading them.
4. Play a game.
Games are not a waste of time when they have a purpose. If you’re feeling a little burned out or are struggling to get your brain in gear, play a game of Sudoku or a word search. Keep a booklet of puzzles in your back pocket for cab rides and airport lounges. The New York Times has some mini-crosswords that won’t take as long as their larger ones.
5. Listen to a short podcast.
Podcasts are another good way to stay informed during periods of downtime. There are dozens of business podcasts whose episodes are 30 minutes or less. Put on a pair of headphones, and take a walk.
What if you’ve got a little more time? Throw on a TED Talk. Learn something new by selecting one outside of your field. And if you do need to cut it short, podcasts can always be paused and resumed later.
If you get anxious during the workday, why not take 15 minutes to meditate? Even short periods of meditation can significantly boost your productivity and reduce your stress levels.
Consider using a meditation app like Headspace or Calm to guide your sessions. Otherwise, simply listen to your breath, and try not to judge your thoughts. You can meditate in an office, a conference room, or while walking.
Downtime is not the same as — or shouldn’t be, anyway — wasted time. Fifteen minutes may seem like a small amount of time, but when you use it wisely, it can make a big difference in your day.