Pocket Times: How to Squeeze More Work in a Day

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pocket watch

Every day we inevitably have little moments of time that creep up on us, and are not set aside for anything useful. Think of the times when you were waiting for someone or standing in line somewhere. Or the time you were stuck in traffic that almost made you shoot yourself in the head (LA? Bangkok?). These little moments can be used more productively – where you can get one tiny thing done.

Your mobility, or how well you can adapt, is really important if you want to maximize your time. At any time you should be able to know what your priorities are and things you can do to push you forward. These little moments of time, or as we call them, pocket times, can be turned into productive time. We call this concept pocket times because the tool you use will come out of your pocket: your smart phone. This little gadget has revolutionized our lives in so many ways. Not only does it allow you to do things a normal computer could do, it has also replaced many other products that you don’t have to carry around anymore such as a digital camera, voice recorder, book, organizer and notepad. I like to use my iPhone but any smart phone will do.

By the way, this is not rocket science. Anyone with a smartphone can use pocket times to their advantage. In fact, I bet you already do. You might check your Facebook or Twitter account. Or you check email. These are all fine but I want to expand your horizon how much you can get done. As billionaire Ingvar Kamprad, founder of Ikea, once said:

You can do so much in 10 minutes’ time. Ten minutes, once gone, are gone for good.. Divide your life into 10-minute units and sacrifice as few of them as possible in meaningless activity.

To maximize its use you need access to the Internet. Wifi is not a reliable option yet in most cities and till then you are better off having a data plan (3G or 4G). Paying a monthly fee for internet access on your smart phone is well worth it, especially if you can get things done on the go. That’s what we’re going to explore right now.

Common moments for quick work

Let’s first explore some moments when you can use pocket times to your advantage:

  • When you are community on public transport or in the passenger seat.
  • Waiting in line.
  • Waiting for someone to arrive.
  • During mini breaks from any activity (exception: breaks during office hours).
  • On emergency cases when you are not behind a computer.
  • Long distance traveling (like by airplane).

I’m sure I’ve missed a couple, but these are the most common. It’s important that you can recognize that in those moments you often have a spare minute or two to do something useful. Now let’s see what we can do during those times.

Examples of things you can do

Email

  • Clear your inbox.
  • Send replies to emails that require an response of only a few lines.
  • Draft an email for later.

Planning

  • Check your calendar for any upcoming appointments later today or tomorrow.
  • Check your task manager if anything is due today.
  • Check for traffic on Google Maps or another source to see if you need to plan a different route on the way out.
  • Dump any thoughts or tasks you want to act on later in your task manager.

Social

  • Check your Facebook and/or Twitter.
  • Respond to text / sms messages or instant messenger messages (like Kik or Whatsapp).
  • Call a friend (especially someone you haven’t called in a while).

Work

  • Check your key performance indicators (revenue, sales, refunds, etc).
  • Check your web traffic stats.
  • Check your task manager for anything you do quickly now or on the way back (errands).

Reading

  • Catchup on your RSS subscriptions.
  • Read a magazine with Zinio or a PDF reader.
  • Read a chapter of a book with Kindle.
  • Read an article via Instapaper or Read It Later.

Audio

  • Fire up that podcast you wanted to listen to for a while.
  • Listen to an audio book.
  • Record a voice note of ideas you want to save.

But I don’t have a smart phone!

Then we highly recommend an iPhone. It’s really the best/simplest smart phone out there.

What do you do when you have no Internet?

Don’t worry, sometimes I don’t have access either. In cases when I don’t have any connectivity, I prefer to catch up with articles on Instapaper and to do some planning on my calendar. To make use of pocket times without any connectivity, you want to come in prepared by ensuring your device is always synced up. With an iPhone that’s really easy through iCloud. We can’t stress enough how syncing everything is conducive to your productivity (manually syncing is not worth it, e.g., Bonjour). This way when you run into such a situation you still have all the up-to-date information available to you.

Now, we are not saying to be robots and to maximize each “free” moment you have. But it doesn’t hurt to recoup some of that “lost” time. Do this every day a couple times and it starts to add up to a lot. It is inevitable that you will get little pockets of time. Will you use them wisely? Or will you let it go to waste?

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About

I grew up in The Netherlands, went to university in Los Angeles and now I'm living in different places every couple months. When I'm not writing about personal productivity or time management, I'm probably trying out a new restaurant in the city I'm in (I love food!). One of my specialties is time management for organizations, executives and employees. The reason I started this blog with Aaron is that I love sharing my knowledge with people and helping them become a better person. This blog is a footprint I want to leave behind and I hope you get a lot of value out of my articles. Feel free to get in touch with me anytime!

3 Comments

Posted by Timo Kiander  | November 21, 2011 at 10:52AM | Reply

Thahn,

It is absolutely crucial to identify these pockets and take the full advantage of them.

For example, when I’m travelling by train, I always have books with me, download training videos to my laptop or carry pen and paper ready to capture my ideas. This ensures, that I can spend my time the most productive way.

Cheers,
Timo

Posted by Timo Kiander  | November 21, 2011 at 10:52AM | Reply

Thahn,

It is absolutely crucial to identify these pockets and take the full advantage of them.

For example, when I’m travelling by train, I always have books with me, download training videos to my laptop or carry pen and paper ready to capture my ideas. This ensures, that I can spend my time the most productive way.

Cheers,
Timo

Posted by Thanh Pham  | November 22, 2011 at 3:41AM

Yes I agree. There are a lot of these moments throughout your day (not to mention throughout your week). Anyone can take advantage of these moments if you are prepared for it.

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