There are 96 15 minute intervals in a day


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How busy are you, really?

A day starts with 96 15 minute-long sections – you have a limited number of these in your day – and you are not going to be 100% available during all of them. By most people’s count, you probably need to spend between 28 and 32 of these 15-minute periods asleep, or you’ll be incurring a sleep tax during the rest of the day. Add in 6 intervals for eating and 3 for personal care, you’re down to about 57 intervals daily. Many of us also commute for 6 to 8 intervals in a day. And you probably need 4-8 intervals of family time beyond that. That leaves about 45 15 minute intervals for effective action during your entire day.

You are also distracted. Right now, you might be thinking about three to seven things that have nothing to do with this post. You might simply be scanning the first few words of every sentence, and you might be working or listening to music when you’re reading. It’s okay – I’m probably distracted too.

I guess this explains why that day flew by.

What would you do if you had a limited time to make an impact in a single day?

You might do a few things differently, including identifying a few of your key priorities every day; shortening or aggressively declining meetings, and spending some time at the end of each day seeing if you got your Most Important Tasks completed. You might read about key planning techniques that other people use to be Amazingly Productive. And you might start a habit. Which is great until your day strikes and activates your lizard brain.

There are many things that happen in a day that are unexpected. From emails that prompt action to just-in-time meetings, some of them are genuinely important and others are not. Sometimes, you do need to drop everything and focus on something else.

Planning and executing in an interruption-driven culture is really challenging.

The best laid plans often disappear in the face of whatever is happening that day. And you can combat that distraction with ruthless triage, if you can focus. What is the most high-value thing I can work on right now? And what can I get done in the next 30 minutes or 1 hour?

And what if I can’t focus? Do whatever you have to do to get in a focused place. You might need to turn off your phone. You might need to close your computer. You might need to have nothing else in front of you but an empty whiteboard or an empty piece of paper. On the paper, you should write: your desired outcome, the goals that will reinforce that outcome, and the strategies you will use to get there.

You might not know how to get there yet – the first step might be to ask for help from someone on the team – and you might not feel great about your contribution that day. And you can move something forward in the next 15 or 30 minutes.

“Those with resilience build on the cornerstones of confidence — accountability (taking responsibility and showing remorse), collaboration (supporting others in reaching a common goal), and initiative (focusing on positive steps and improvements).” —Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Are you making the best use of your time right now?

The “best” use of your time is to combine the best action you can take with the best planning you can take. On the best day, that will be your most important tasks done at the right time with enough buffer to handle everything that the day can throw at you. On your less-than-best day, it might be just enough to move one of your most important tasks forward.

You don’t have to be perfect. The best use of your time is to make the time you spend more intentional. Multi task less. Single task more. And remember that done is better than perfect. And also remember that some things must be done perfectly.







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