Most of us spend our days totally overwhelmed, responding to countless demands directed our way. The one thing that we all complain about is the lack of time available to do all of the tasks that need to be done, a list that seems to get longer every day.

As much as modern technology has made communication easier, we are all spending a lot of time emailing, marketing through social media, reading material sent to us, and other such things that fit into the general category of "doing business." We feel under the pump from the start of the day and it is a real battle to get everything on our to-do list achieved.

One simple thing that has helped me become much more productive has been learning to use five-minute increments of time really well. We all get these small windows of opportunity throughout the day, but we tend to dismiss them with, "It's only five minutes--what can I do?"

It might be time we spend waiting for someone to arrive, time before a scheduled phone call, time in between meetings, time spent sitting in the car, time between jobs, or any one of a number of short periods that separate our larger daily activities.

Generally when these gaps occur, we simply kill time for a few minutes, not really doing anything of any significance. Check Facebook or Twitter, play a game, look out the window, or scroll through our inbox. I think this is a wasted opportunity. There are actually a lot of things you can get done in a five-minute block. For example, you can:

  • Write someone a quick thank-you note or send a thank-you email
  • Pick up the phone and make a thank-you call to a customer
  • Pay a few bills
  • Make up an invoice
  • Do your online bookkeeping
  • Proofread a document
  • Order something you need online
  • Review your business goals and plans
  • Tidy up your desk/car/work station
  • Read a small section from a book to learn a new skill
  • Bullet point out an article that you might need to write
  • Book some travel
  • Do something healthy--stretch, drink water, plan a healthy dinner

In the morning when I am planning my day and writing my to-do list, I have a column for the things I can do during my five-minute windows of opportunity. This way I actively look for these short breaks because I have a list of small tasks that I can slot in straight away.

When you add these tasks up to do them all in one hit, they can take up quite a lot of time. But when done during the course of the day, a few here and a few there, you hardly notice.

I am amazed at how many of the smaller, easy-to-forget jobs I get done in a day simply by making better use of these small, five-minute increments. I feel much more satisfied because I am getting more done, I don't have as many irritating piles of "things to do," and my business is financially better offbecause most of the five-minute jobs that I do relate to following up with clients, thanking clients, and generating new work.

We all get the same amount of time, and how we use this time is important. As simple as this little idea might be, when it comes to productivity it is the little ideas that help us to get more done.