Ask a Strategist: How to Use Small Chunks of Time?

At some point, almost everyone I’ve worked with has asked me a version of this: “How can I make the most of small bits of time scattered throughout my day?”

Think of that half an hour between meetings, or 10 minutes waiting for the bus, or 15 minutes while your pizza heats in the oven - where does that time even go?

It’s hard to be productive in small amounts of time! Why?

  1. Since only small tasks are an option, it’s easy to justify doing nothing instead.

  2. It’s tough to break down big tasks into smaller ones.

  3. Deciding what to work on takes up valuable time itself!

It can feel frustrating and hopeless when this turns into a pattern. Time after time, despite good intentions, those small empty blips in your day end up being frittered away, neither productive nor really restful either. Do not despair! I have some tips that will help :)

 1.     Recognize that even small tasks are worth doing. Over time, they add up to something much bigger. This is a lesson I learned in my own life through my knitting hobby: one stitch at a time feels like absolutely nothing – one stitch is so very very tiny. But if you keep going, even a few stitches at a time, eventually, you have a hat (or a scarf or a sweater)! Small is still valuable.

 2.     Practice dividing bigger tasks into small steps. A big, complex task like “clean the kitchen” can become a list of smaller tasks: empty the dishwasher (or even empty one rack of the dishwasher), spray and wipe the counter, put away that muffin pan. If you get stuck completing a step, it might be too big.

3.     PLAN AHEAD! One of the most challenging and frustrating parts of trying to productively use small windows of time is deciding what task to work on. Choosing a task eats up scarce time and often feels harder to do in a rush. Plan a list of bite-sized tasks that you can choose from when you have a small free moment. Decide ahead of time which tasks are most important to make it even easier to start!

That’s it! Plan ahead, subdivide large tasks, complete small steps when you can. This will help you make the most of tiny free slots in your day! By taking care of the stressful planning and decision-making ahead of time, in the moment all you have to do is DO!


 Have a question you’d like to ask the strategist (me!)? Comment below, tweet me, or send an email! I’d love to hear from you :)

Sarah V.Comment