How Many Minutes Do You Treat Like Pennies?

Of all coins, pennies are the most controversial. Did you know that in the U.S. it costs more to make pennies than they are actually worth? It’s no wonder they litter streets and parking lots, find eternal slumber between seat cushions, and fill piggy banks all over America.

Pennies are a forgotten treasure. A handful may not seem like much, but add them up and they are worth more than you may realize.

Recently, I started thinking about units of time in the same way I regard pennies.

While a stand-alone sixty seconds doesn’t seem like much, over a week, a minute here and there each day really does add up.

“Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away.” ~ Charles Caleb Colton

What do you do with your “extra” minutes of time? If you’re like me, you probably don’t think you have any spare moments.

Lately I’ve been keeping track of when work meetings start late or end early. I’ve started thinking about the window of time spent between TSA check-in and boarding my flight. I’ve noticed the gap between when I arrive to meet a friend for coffee and when they show up. What am I discovering? There are “in between” minutes all over the place all week long that, rather than lose, I can choose to leverage.

Being intentional about minutes adds up to being intentional about the time entrusted to me daily.

So how can you and I become more purposeful about using the time that seems to be thrown away from day-to-day?

1. Expect “extra” minutes.

Unless you live or work with robots, rarely will things start or end exactly on time. Be on the lookout for 3 minutes here, 6 minutes there, and so on. Over time, you’ll find 8 minutes here and 17 minutes there. Eventually you’ll start to discover there are full 30- or even 45-minute blocks of time before or after scheduled events that you can use with intentionality.

2. Break down bigger goals into moments.

If you have a long book to read or a large project for work to complete, take time to figure out what can be worked on in bite-size chunks. When you stumble upon an unexpected handful of minutes, be mindful of the fact that you could take that time to chip away at a piece of your much larger goal.

3. Decide ahead of time what you need most. 

Learning to prioritize time is a necessary part of life. And figuring out how to best use the time you have available to you requires thoughtfulness, focus, and discipline. If you find yourself needing to feed your mind, be ready to read an article or a book during “in between” moments. If resting is top on your list, expect to get some shuteye when the opportunity presents itself. A five- or ten-minute catnap can be quite rejuvenating. Be prepared before you encounter unexpected time, so you can capitalize on the moment in the best way possible.

4. Be prepared by bringing what you need.

As a writer, I regularly carry a notebook or a book I’m reading. In fact, I leave notebooks and books around in the places where “extra” minutes show up most. My bedside, car, and office are all landing pads for me to be creative. It’s not unusual for me to capture and build upon a line of thought when I’m sitting in a parking lot or a café. The same is true for reading, listening to podcasts, or reviewing documents. By having the right resources on hand, I can make sure that when a moment presents itself, I can maximize the time for a predefined purpose.

Pennies don’t seem to be worth much. The same is true of minutes. But when added up over time, both can payoff in unexpected ways.

The key to being intentional about our time is to value the time before and after what’s scheduled so we don’t miss the chance to make sure each moment counts.

As Proverbs 6:4 says: “Don’t put it off; do it now! Don’t rest until you do.”

On average, how much time do you "toss away" in a given week? Which of these four steps will help you become more intentional about how you use "in between" time?

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