Here’s a quick concept that you can take and use right away, to make yourself more productive. It’s called Time Slicing.
Time Slicing is a technique for using smaller and smaller margins of time to get things done. The basic idea is to not waste the 2-5 minute slices of time that we usually experience multiple times every day, and to get something productive done during those times.
Why would we do this?
It helps us build momentum. It helps create a sense of urgency in whatever we do. And it reinforces to our subconscious that we have things to do (because, we do!).
What is a Time Slice?
In this case, time slice is a small, fractional, moment of time. We’re talking about a very tiny amount here – less than 5 minutes, probably more like 1-2 minutes.
How do I Time Slice?
Time Slicing is all about preparation. It is about having things to do during these margins of time.
What you can do depends on the tools you have available with you at the time – this is why smartphones and mobile Internet services can be one of the best things for your productivity… when used properly.
Here are some things that you can do during a 2-5 minute slice of time:
- Return a phone call.
- Reply to a message.
- Quickly check email.
- Quickly check Facebook.
- Quickly check your business IM.
- Check your business dashboard/stats.
- Access any of your homescreen apps – these should be your most important apps.
- Check your project management tool’s activity feed.
- Review your core values/operating principles.
- Read something on Instapaper/Pocket.
- Take a quick timeout.
- Extrovert. I learned this a couple of years ago from a mentor, and it essentially involves getting out of your head and paying more attention to the real world. Why? Because we spend so much time staring into screens that we’ve forgotten how to perceive the world around us.
- Thinking. This is and should be your default – think about what you’re currently working on and problem-solve it.
When can I Time Slice?
You can time slice any time and almost anywhere, but the 2 most common scenarios are:
- Waiting for people, be it in a social or business context (e.g., before a meeting starts).
- Waiting for transportation, usually a bus or a train.
Thoughts on Time Slicing
While to some people the idea of time slicing may appear to be unnecessarily busy, it actually serves a couple of different purposes.
First, it is a bit of a good kick/momentum builder for doing other things. It also produces the unintended side effect of making us better at estimating how long things will take – and shows you exactly how much you can accomplish in a small fraction of time.
I like to think of it as practicing towards mastery – if I can take a small slice of time and master what can be done during it, then I can scale up and apply that mastery to bigger and bigger chunks of time.
Time Slicing also makes you better at “switch tasking” (NOT multitasking). Why? Because it shows you how to move between discrete tasks rapidly, which is a trainable skill.
Note: This doesn’t go against what we recommend in terms of achieving focus, it is just an alternative way to use time when you have a spare 2-5 minutes.
And that’s all there is to it – the next time you have a spare couple of minutes, remember to time slice!
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