HIDDEN POCKETS OF FREE TIME,
AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
by laura vanDerkam
No room in your day for exercise, networking, volunteering,
reading, meditating, or any of the other priorities that keep getting
bumped from your to-do list? A time-management expert demon-
strates how easy it can be to liberate minutes, if not hours, from
tight schedules. Yes, even yours.
6: 30 A.M.
Quit the snooze button. Get
up right away. Thirty minutes
of margin gives you enough time
to run on a treadmill (or outside!)
for 20 minutes. Do this four
times per week and you’ll meet
the CDC’s “vigorous exercise”
guidelines—and feel more energized than you will from that
extra half hour of snoozing.
7: 15 A.M.
blessings in the shower. Most
people let their minds wander in
there anyway. Why not nudge
yourself in a positive direction?
7: 45 A.M.
Put a reading app (Kindle, Insta-paper, Pocket) on your phone.
A recent study by Asurion revealed that Americans check their
phones, on average, 80 times a
day. use 10 of those reflexive
scrolling breaks to read an article
or a book. You can even tackle
War and Peace on your kindle
app this way: Tolstoy’s chapters
are really short, ideal for three-minute breaks.
Commute with a friend. It might
not be practical every day, but
sharing the ride with a friend—or
your partner—once a week will
turn what might be wasted time
into the social highlight of your day.
Establish the 20/45 rule. Most
30- or 60-minute meetings can
be trimmed to 20 or 45, with discipline. That wins you back precious time. Try not to fill this extra
time with more meetings.
10: 45 A.M.
Take smokeless breaks. Smoking
is terrible, but getting away from
your desk and outside every few
hours is smart. Copy smokers—
without lighting up—by going for
a quick, mood-boosting walk at
lunch and midafternoon.
Nix errands and limit your virtual
window-shopping. According to
the american Time use Survey,
the average American spends
more than 40 minutes per day
buying stuff. Plan ahead, and you
can easily chop this in half.
2: 15 P.M.
Use those walking breaks to
mentor. Ask a younger colleague
to join you for a 15-minute
chat. (Bonus: Outside the
office, they’re more likely to ask
5: 30 P.M.
Don’t fear commitment. If you
want to volunteer at a homeless
shelter or literacy program or
soup kitchen, do it. Sign up for
a regular gig, and why not make
it a Friday evening? You’ll have a
great excuse to push back on
that 5 p.m. meeting request.
Host a Sunday-night potluck.
Or an every-Monday happy hour,
or any recurring get-together with
friends that you don’t have to
plan from scratch. It’s the planning that people dread. Save that
time for the actual socializing.
Put a limit on housework. The
average American spends about
30 minutes per day on household chores (not counting food
prep and cleanup). Set a 15-
minute timer for tidying. If it
doesn’t happen during this time,
it wasn’t urgent.
9: 30 P.M.
Turn off the TV. Americans with
full-time jobs still manage to
watch more than two hours of Tv
per day, according to the a TuS.
Trim that to 90 minutes and
you’ve got 30 minutes to read,
practice an instrument, or
chat with friends or family without serious sacrifice.
10: 30 P.M.
Give yourself a bedtime. Going
to bed early is how grown-ups
sleep in. You’ll be less likely
to hammer that snooze button in
the morning so you can get the
new day off to a productive start.
illuSTraTion by BRATISLAV MILENKOVIC
Headlines are important, especially
these days, but too
much news consumption can be distracting (and dismaying).
Limit your all-day intake to two
sources: a trusted
a feed related to
your industry, says
Blake Snow, author
of Log Off: How to
Stay Connected After
Getting your news online can be like
drinking from a fire
hose: It’s an endless
blast that leaves you
feeling raw. Try subscribing to a daily
newspaper. Yes, a
print one. It contains a finite amount
of information, and
you can recycle it.
Plus, it’s delivered
right to your doorstep, often before
you’ve even had your
first sip of coffee.
Get rid of your TV and
implement a no-screen
rule for after-work
hours. Enforce it
further by turning
off your internet
when you get home.
“Trust that important
stuff will make it
to you,” says Snow.