You have 10 minutes before your next meeting. It’s too long to do any deep work, but also too much time to waste. So you run to the restroom and get a coffee refill. Five more minutes. Now what?
You probably use the leftover time to scroll on social media, text friends, or play a game if you’re anything like me. But this time confetti — bits of time within your day — can add up fast.
Unpacking Time Confetti
Author Brigid Schulte came up with the idea of “time confetti.” It’s little bits of time within our day. Schulte used it to describe the scraps of free time she had for leisure but couldn’t experience, which added up to 27 hours a week. She felt she didn’t have any free time because she filled her time confetti with chores, email, childcare, and errands. Her solution was to divvy the household chores with her husband and create meaningful time for herself and her family.
Dr. Laurie Santos, whose research focuses on happiness, also talks about the time confetti concept. Santos said we can become more content by controlling our time. We have more time than we think, but it doesn’t come in organized chunks. We have to plan how to use these little bits of time, instead of letting them just fly away.
After hearing Santos talk about time confetti, I started thinking about it in my life. How often do I let pieces of time just waste away, all while feeling hurried in my leisure time or pressed for time while I work? I came to the same conclusion as these researchers. We need to harness our time. When we’re working, we need to work. And when we’re relaxing, we need to relax.
Laurie Santos says we can become more productive by planning for how to use these little bits of time in our day instead of just wasting them.
Using Time Confetti for Work Productivity
Let me make one thing abundantly clear. I don’t think any of us should use all of our time confetti for productivity. As I said above, I think we should work when we work and actively rest during the allotted time. But learning about time confetti made me realize that I have these little times during my workday that I could use more productively. I bet you do too. So, here are my ideas for using time confetti during the workday.
There are so many positive benefits of meditation. I embraced the practice during the summer and found that it calms my busy mind. Unfortunately, I don’t often make time to meditate, even though I always feel better when I do. And it only takes five or 10 minutes to do a Headspace meditation! How much might my workday change if I used those sprinkles of time to ground myself and was able to focus with a clear mind on my next task? I think it’s time to find out.
My mentor used to admonish me for not making time to think. He wasn’t wrong. I’m a doer by nature. I’m highly productive and do many tasks well. My guess is that I perform circles around most people on my least productive days. Unfortunately, this means switching from one task to another and often not thinking about problems, solutions, strategies, best practices, etc. What if I used these mini time slots to think about the task I just completed or the one I’m about to tackle? What kind of deeper-level solutions could I create?
I’m in a challenge, so I always meet my move and exercise goals, but that stand goal… it’s another story. If you do most of your work at a computer, you probably have this problem too. I somehow don’t even recognize when my watch vibrates to tell me it’s time to stand up. Or I feel the buzz, but I’m in the middle of a task and don’t want to lose focus. The result is sitting for hours on end. We all know this isn’t good for us. What about spending time confetti just to move around. Whether going outside for a walk (something I do several times a day) or just dancing around the office, it could be a good brain refresh with added benefits.
Do you do that thing where you tidy up your office to procrastinate on starting the next task? You aren’t sure what to do, so you clean instead? We all know that isn’t helpful, but when else should you clean up your desk? How about during time confetti? Use tiny pieces of time to organize your surroundings, dust off your desk, or water your office plants. I can see a ton of benefits here. Your office will be clean for greater.
Ok, cleaning and organizing aren’t the same things. Organizing is when you use your productivity system. You make sure everything is on your calendar or review it. You create your to-do list. Or you clean up your digital clutter. Organizing during confetti time would mean I wouldn’t fail to use my productivity system, which always makes me feel chaotic. It also would mean that I didn’t need to do it at the beginning (most productive time) or my day or the end when I’m ready to log off and shut my office door.
I’m getting pretty excited about this one! What if… just what if… we spent time confetti reading. I love reading blog posts and have a huge RSS feed of favorites. I tend to scroll through them in the evenings, which sort of feels like working. What if I read them during time confetti instead, which means I could share what I want with my team instead of going back to it? Or, even better, what if I kept the nonfiction book I’m currently reading on my desk and just picked it up and read for five minutes when I got a chance? That would be so much better than watching TikTok (Although I love TikTok too. Don’t get me wrong.).
If I love reading and TikTok, I loathe email. I know it’s a necessary communication tool, but it’s such an epic waste of time. I’ve written here before about managing email. But what if we didn’t even give email its own block of time? What if we read and responded to emails during confetti throughout the day? That way, we aren’t using some of our best time (usually first thing in the morning) on a mundane task.
Throw It Around
I hope my list of uses for my time confetti during my work hours helped you think about what to do with yours. Feel free to borrow any of them that might help you. The bottom line is that we shouldn’t waste these little pockets of time. Instead, we should spend that time doing any task that doesn’t deserve its own pocket of time.
Try out this whole productive time confetti thing. I’m going to! I’d love to hear from you about how it works.