TOP 10 Things You Can Do in 15 Minutes
By Sue Brenner, PCC, PMP

Never get around to straightening up your office? Never seem to have enough time for simple things such as preparing a meal or taking a break? To maximize your time, learn what you can do in small increments. What can you do with 15 minutes? Spend these small blocks of time intentionally on things that will make a difference.

1. Declutter Your Car

Are you early for a meeting and want to get something done? Declutter your car! Gather up all the recyclables, including plastic bottles, soda cans and paper, and put them in a bag. Put all trash in another bag. Use a damp cloth or disposable wipe to clean all surfaces. Group any remaining things that you need to remove from your car later, such as clothes and newly purchased items. When you leave your car, take all the trash and recycling with you. Remove the other items as soon as you get a chance. If you’re picking up clients for a meeting, they’ll appreciate the serene setting you’ve just created in your car.

2. Take a Break

Are you tired? Do you long to take an actual break? When you discover a pocket of time in your day, do it! Calm down. Re-center yourself. Get a cup of tea at the corner coffee shop. Sink your teeth into the first chapter of a new book. (Set a timer, so you don’t get swept away.) Browse the newspaper or a magazine. The point is to take a satisfying break that refuels you for the remainder of the day. One entrepreneur uses breaks as an opportunity to walk outside and say, “Thank you,” to keep her in a state of optimism and gratitude, even when work gets trying.

3. Do Nothing

How many times a week do you long for free time to do absolutely nothing? The key is to notice when this time actually arrives, and to fill it with… nothing. Rather than viewing every opening in your day as an opportunity to cram something in, practice doing nothing. Close your office door. Become aware of your breathing. Bring mindfulness to your current thoughts, the sounds around you, your environment. If you bring one moment of rich stillness to each day, you’ll notice more energy, greater clarity and decreased stress. You’ll be able to return to even the busiest of work days with ease and grace, addressing what comes your way consciously, without negative reactions.

4. Turn Your Mood Around

Suppose you need to get work done, but you’re in a funk. First, rate the level of your bad mood on a scale of 1 – 10 (1 being “minor,” 10 being “can hardly stand it”). Then ask, “What specifically led to this mood?” Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep, or you argued with your boss this morning. Pinpoint the facts of what happened. Then figure out if you’re making up anything about the incident that has very little to do with the facts. For example, “My boss doesn’t like me.” Then ask yourself, “What’s a more rational way of thinking about this?” Now rate your mood again. The number will probably be lower. Then get moving—work your way further out of the funk.

5. Make Plans

Do you like to do fun things at night after work, but don’t always get around to the required planning? When a 15-minute window opens, make a dinner reservation or look up the local movie schedule. Then call your friend, colleague or loved one to join you for your planned event. One of the keys to happiness is having something to look forward to. Now you do! Let the fresh enthusiasm for your plans also inspire you to dive into assignments when you return to work.

6. Sprint Clean Your Office

This is the opposite of doing nothing, but sometimes it has to be done! Scan your office. Pick the one area that needs the most attention first. Do you have folders stacked on your desk? Are there three coffee mugs from the past week? Your desk top may be your first target area for action. Remove what doesn’t belong there. Use a tissue to dust. Either file or put papers in your out-box for future organizing. The goal is to pick one area and clear it. Then experience a sense of calm and relief. Eliminating a mess you’ve been putting up with recharges your batteries.

7. Fix Something That’s Broken

You know all those things you think to yourself: “I have to change the light bulb,” “I need to get the latch on that window fixed,” “I have to let IT know about my computer glitches”? Use those 15 minutes to actually do something about them. If you’re handy, take that time to actually fix something simple yourself. For example, if the arm of your chair dangles, find the screw and bolt under the seat and tighten it up yourself. If you can’t (or don’t want to) fix something yourself, take the time to contact someone who can. Prompt your IT person to come assess your computer problems, or see if he or she can do it remotely. Call maintenance to repair your window. Take the first step, so you can stop thinking about it.

8. Walk Around the Block

Your tennis shoes smile at you from behind your office door. Go ahead. Slip them on and take a walk around the block. Or, jump on the treadmill. Clear your mind. Get your body moving. Taking a quick walk is easer than you think. You just have to “make” yourself go out there and do it. Once you discover when you tend to have open 15-minute time slots in your day, make that walk a regular routine. Your heart will thank you. Plus, as endorphins get released, you’ll experience greater joy. Be a role model for the rest of your office by taking excellent care of yourself, and let this newfound energy boost your productivity back on the job.

9. Prep for a Meal

Do you find yourself eating out every day? Do you want to eat healthier, but end up grabbing the quickest and most convenient food at meal times? When you have an extra 15 minutes at night or in the morning, use it to prepare a meal. Slice some sourdough bread and make your favorite sandwich for a bag lunch. Then enjoy more time at noon because you won’t have to run around and wait in line for your food. Or your meal prep might include tossing some meat, spices and vegetables into a slow-cooker or crock pot. Then you can return home from work to a nourishing, warm meal. You can sit down, relax and enjoy your food solo or with your family.

10. Prepare for the Day

Another thing you can prepare for is your day or your week. Do you rush around from one thing to the next, barely able to catch a breath? Use this easy prepare-your-day strategy to be more in charge of your time. Wake up 15 minutes early. During this “found time” visualize your day. Imagine traveling to work, your meetings, and accomplishing results with ease. Then add anything to your calendar you may have forgotten about, and include some reserve time for delays. Start by writing your three most important priorities first in your schedule, then add the things you’d like to get to but which aren’t as important. Time only offers 24 hours in a day to each of us, so use it wisely. Schedule it for what matters most. When you have another 15-minute opening in your day, use it to plan the whole week.

Whether you use these Top 10 Things You Can Do in 15 Minutes to relax or to get something done, you’ll discover how beneficial these small blocks of time can be. Begin by noticing when you have a free 15-minutes. Then choose your action or non-action! Experience the rewards of greater time management as you intentionally direct each moment of your day.

Author's Bio: 

Sue Brenner, Performance Coach and Author, wants you to get the most out of life and work. That’s why she wrote “The Naked Desk: Everything you need to strip away clutter, save time and get things done.”

Copyright © 2007, Sue Brenner. Editors, publishers & webmasters: You may reprint these articles free of charge if you follow our reprint guidelines at our web site, under the tab “articles.”