When faced with a few spare minutes of downtime at work, it’s tempting to use this time to take a quick look at your Facebook account or text a friend about dinner plans. But those moments of waiting for a client call or a meeting to start can be precious opportunities to tackle small, but necessary tasks that often get lost in the shuffle of a busy work day. Next time you find yourself with five minutes to spare, check a few of these items off your list and watch your office productivity soar.
- Return an email or call you’ve been putting off. You’ll feel better getting it done, and the limited time available will motivate you to be timely and efficient with your message. It is also a truthful exit strategy for letting the person you’ve called know you will have to end the phone call quickly.
- Clean out your inbox. With hundreds of emails a day, it’s not long before your inbox is a cluttered mess. It only takes a few minutes to check your spam folder for anything important, delete messages you don’t need and empty the e-trash.
- Network through the news. Do a quick scan of business or industry news to see if any clients – or prospects – are mentioned. If you find one, send a quick congratulatory email or hand-written note on company stationery.
- Reach out. Reconnect with a client you haven’t heard from in a while. Send an email or write them a note. You might also send a message of gratitude to someone who has helped you recently.
- Organize a desk drawer. It will feel as if you have overcome a major hurdle by spending a few minutes sorting out the tangle of pens, pencils, sticky pads, and other items that have accumulated in your drawer.
- Eliminate distractions. If your homepage is set to your personal social media, change it to something more productive. A better option is to keep up with the daily news which is a professional skill that is necessary when networking and making conversation with clients.
- Restock your supplies. If you are down to your last pen or notepad, or your printer cartridge has been flashing warnings at you for days, it takes only a minute to make a dash to the supply closet. You will feel more efficient when you start your day with fresh ink and new supplies.
- Tidy up. How your office looks sends a message to your boss and colleagues about your ability to organize, so make sure you are sending the right message. Taking time to clear off the top of your desk and tame a mounting pile of papers can pay big dividends.
- Get a jump on professional development. Do a search of learning opportunities, such as saving online articles to read later, subscribing to a blog that offers motivation or growth-inspiring information, or finding relevant webinars to attend. You can spare a few minutes to invest in yourself.
- Take a break. A healthy snack will carry you through the next part of your day. Or, make two cups of herbal tea to strengthen a connection with a colleague. You will return to your desk refreshed and energized.
For more of my helpful tips for the workplace, check out my Huffington Post blog on: Five Career Stalling Mistakes You May Not Know You Are Making.