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10 minutes is a lot

“You can get a lot done in two hours.”- Judy Blume

I agree with Judy Blume. Two hours is an enormous amount of time. You can accomplish a lot. In the right hands, with the right attitude, two hours is an enormous amount of time.

I’d like to offer a slightly different spin on Judy’s quote:

“You can get a lot done in ten minutes.” – Matthew Dicks

I’m not kidding. Ten minutes is also an enormous amount of time. “How do you get so much done?” is the question I am asked the most. There are hundreds of reasons why, which is why I’m writing a book on productivity, but one of the answers is that I never throw time away. I can get a lot done in the stray ten minute blocks of time that seem to fill my day.

The ten minutes before dinner is ready.
The ten minutes it takes for my son to find his shoes.
The ten minutes spent sitting in the drive thru line.
The ten minutes of waiting before it’s my turn in the shower.
The ten minutes of a meeting that do not pertain to me.

Little chunks of time that are often assumed to be useless. Precious time wasted and discarded rather than thoughtfully and strategically put to use.

In just ten minutes, I can:

  • Write 8-10 good sentences
  • Empty the dishwasher
  • Fold a load of laundry
  • Edit a blog post
  • Do three sets of push-ups and sit-ups
  • Eat a bowl of cereal
  • Hug and kiss my wife, tell her I love her, then kiss her again
  • Make a cat purr
  • Tickle my son
  • Stare up into a tree
  • Read 5-15 pages
  • Correct a spelling test
  • Take a shower
  • Reply to 1-3 email messages
  • Listen to an episode of “The Memory Palace” or “This Day is Esoteric Political History”
  • Write 1-2 possibly funny jokes
  • Do 3-5 planks
  • Listen to 2-3 songs of a reasonable length or “Free Bird”
  • Pay bills
  • Transfer the recycling to the outdoor bin
  • Write a letter to a friend, colleague, teacher of my children, or my children
  • Fill the bird feeder
  • Clean out the backseat of Elysha’s car of my children’s detritus
  • Make the bed

This isn’t a joke.

These are all things that I do when I find myself with a stray ten minutes, and all are enormously productive, even though some don’t quite seem so. But listening to music, making a cat purr, and staring into a tree all improve my mood. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that listening to music, spending time with a pet, and staring into a tree substantially reduce stress, yet so often people plod through life, failing to use the time they are given to care for their mental well-being,

Making my cats purr makes me so happy. Listening to Springsteen or Queen or The Beatles fills me with energy and joy. Lying down beneath a tree and looking up into its branches brings me so much peace.

Judy Blume is correct. You can accomplish great things in two hours.

But don’t discount the ten minute increments, either. You may not be able to accomplish anything especially great, but pile up enough productive ten minute bits of time in a day and you can get a hell of a lot done.