4 productive things you can accomplish in 15 minutes

Running to-do lists are distracting, not helpful

You can accomplish much more than you think during a 15-minute break if you use your time wisely, Lisa Rabasca Roepe writes for Fast Company. 

Roepe suggests four valuable pieces of advice for making the most of your time waiting in line at lunch or regrouping between meetings.

1. Divide your to-do list into tasks and projects

According to Kathy Lee, a productivity tech expert and owner of DoubleSpaces, a task is something that you can do in five to 10 minutes.

Once you've sorted the tasks from the projects, it helps to write down the tasks that you won't be able to complete until later, such as picking up groceries after work.

Storing your to-do list in your mind without writing it down "is actually one of the biggest distractions," says May Wang, a productivity expert, coach, and consultant. Writing down your tasks relieves that stress.

Once your list is complete, you can focus on actually doing some of those five- to 10-minute tasks, such as unsubscribing from unnecessary emails, searching for dinner recipes, or calling to book appointments.

2. Make your to-do lists actionable

Maura Thomas, productivity expert, author, and founder of Regain Your Time, says that vague language in a to-do list can make you less productive.

Thomas suggests writing your to-do list down using actionable words and specific details describing how you are going to complete each task.

Rather than writing "pay bill," for instance, you might consider writing "pay college tuition bill via online payment system."

Lisa Woodruff, productivity expert and owner of Organize 365, also suggests categorizing to-do lists into four sections: work, family, home, and "me." She encourages people to focus intensively on one section at a time.

3. Audit your use of social media

Scanning social media and emails during 15-minute breaks is fine, but Woodruff says it's only productive if you're looking at it for the purpose of moving forward.

Only answer emails, for instance, that will help a stuck client move forward or provide someone with direction. Save the longer emails or inspirational quotes for later.

4. Let your mind wander... on purpose

Studies show that a wandering mind can actually help sort through problems. "Being productive is a function of being focused and working from the state of peace of mind," says Wang.

Spending 15 minutes practicing mindfulness will give the brain time to regroup. Marie Levey-Pabst, founder of Create Balance, suggests writing down two things in your life that you're thankful for. "Taking time to remember what you are grateful for will boost your mood, outlook, and focus," she says (Roepe, Fast Company, 9/30).

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