We all know the 10-minute demon. It's those pesky 10 minutes between appointments when you don't have anything else to do. It's that 10-minute wait at the doctor's office or the bank. It's the 10 minutes you're on hold when "all customer sales representatives are busy."
Ten minutes is an annoying time span, too much time to waste, but not enough to jump headfirst into a new project. So what do you do with that time?
I actually have a section on my "to do" list of tasks that will take only a few minutes. These are some of the items that show up frequently.
1. Return Phone Calls.
When you think about it, ten minutes is a perfect length of time for most phone calls. It's short enough that you know you need to get to the point, but not so short that you have to forego a little friendly small talk. And if the call starts to turn long and rambling, you have the perfect out. "I'm so sorry, but I have to go now. They just called my service number."
2. Check and Return Email
Take a few minutes to check and respond to new email messages. If you do it now, when you have a few extra minutes, you won't have to worry about making the time to do it later.
Are you stuck on a story or an article? If so, use your time to brainstorm possible solutions.
I'm not talking about a full workout here, but you have more than enough time to do a few head rolls and shoulder rolls. You can also flex your wrists and give yourself a quick hand and arm massage. You can also spend the ten minutes taking a brisk walk. You'll be surprised at how reinvigorated you feel.
Of course, there's no law that says you have to be doing something every single minute. If you've had a busy day and you're stressed out, use your 10 minutes to take a few deep breaths and consciously relax all the muscle groups in your body.
6. Neaten Your Writing Space
I try to keep my writing space free of clutter, but by the end of each day, I've always amassed a stack of papers that need to be sorted and a handful of sticky notes that need to be added to my calendar. I've also usually misplaced the phone (I like to walk while I talk) and left at least one half empty can of Diet Coke on my desk. If you're like me, those 10 minutes can be the perfect opportunity to neaten things up and get control of your space again.
7. Organize Computer Files
I've got blogs marked as "favorites" on my web browser that haven't been updated since George W. Bush was in office and an email from a friend with the subject line, "new baby"--I think the kid is six now. Cleaning up computer clutter has become one of my top priorities, and I've been doing it about 10 minutes at a time.
8. Get a Drink of Water
Your brain and body need hydration to stay "in the game." Take your extra time to get yourself a nice cold bottle of water and drink it slowly.
9. Update Your "To Do" List
Cross off the things you've finished (yea!) and add any new tasks that have become vital (bummer).
10. Go Crazy with Social Media
One thing I've learned the hard way about social media is that if a site looks "stale" and unused, people will stop following you, liking you, connecting with you, etc. It only takes a few seconds to send a Tweet, update a Facebook page, or post your newest book cover on Pinterest, so use your 10 minutes to update your accounts and get people talking about you again.
What do you do when you find yourself with an extra 10 minutes?