Mighty Micro Productivity

You have to wait five minutes for your wife or a friend to get ready to leave for dinner. What do you do?

You can check your latest tweets or read the news or zap through a few TV channels. Or you can just enter some minutes of flow mode and create cool stuff: Edit some photos, skribble some sketches, jot down an outline for your next essay, write a haiku.

Do you really need the whole day to get creative? Paul Graham’s observation of the difference between maker’s and manager’s schedules may be true, but instead of whining about it, you may as well give micro productivity a try. If it doesn’t work for your creative endeavors, you could still use that time to clean your desk…

Why should you care?
Here’s why: Your old buddy procrastination has no chance to hit, if all you got are five minutes. And who knows, maybe your wife or friend will need even some minutes longer, and you get an effortless 20 minutes of action, without even having to struggle.

The Idle Musings are short posts of 300 words maximum. They are published on The Friendly Anarchist every other Tuesday. Grab the RSS feed to get them right into your reader.


  1. How about this? Just be. Don’t worry about doing or creating or anything for that matter. Ironically, the non-doing just might be the most productive thing you do for yourself all day.

    1. Haha, Nate, you got me! Maybe it’s that I spend every day a lot of time non-doing stuff anyway, so I really want to benefit from the 5 or 20 minutes I get by surprise! ;)

  2. I really like the idea of micro productivity, Fabian. I’m amazed just how much can get done in little blocks of time, and adding up those little blocks of time over a week, month or even a year can lead to BIG things – I’m going to be writing my next book this year in tiny 20 minute steps :).

    Of course it’s good to just sit and drink tea (and eat cake) sometimes too.

  3. Thanks guys, it’s actually also the secret of most of my blog posts… ;)
    Michael, writing a whole book like this could actually work. Like Oscar said, if you just go like that for a few months, something big could turn out! But I like the tea and cake part, too, although it’s mostly replaced by ice cream due to the heat here… :)

    1. I’m a little envious of your heat and ice cream. It’s quite cold enough here to make ice cream outside (though the cold does make tea and cake extra enjoyable when coming in from a snowball fight and sitting in front of the fire).

      1. Well, I am definitely no snow person, but heat also has its disadvantages… NOW it’s nice, but when the nice sea winds just stop in a few months and rain season begins, it can get too much!

  4. Hey Fabrian. Hm… I’m not sure if five minutes will make a big difference. Some people think it adds up if you take action immediately, and some people say to stop thinking about it and just be. Maybe you wrote this post in five minutes? If you did, then pretty good job. It would be something very productive. Thanks for sharing this post. :)

    1. Hulbert, it’s a trick that has worked for me pretty well, but it probably won’t for everybody. The thing is, my subconsciousness and my “idle brain” just get a lot of work done. I read, I scan, I absorb information all the time, I dream, I think, I relax, and then, after a while, I notice that something is being created, a pattern is emerging. Then, in my case, just a few minutes in fact may help to get something done. If I’m under a hurry, much better, because it forces me to be concise.

      So yes, all the “Idle Musings” pretty much have this in common that they are writable (at least in an outline) AND readable in short time… but they got quite some thought behind them! Of course, cleaning things up and editing always will take some extra time, especially when writing in English like here… :)

  5. Like this idea. Those five or ten minutes are no pressure creative time for the person waiting. It is a little gift. When you don’t have the pressure to come up with something spectacular, you often can. Nice post.

    1. Thanks Erin, glad to hear that! It’s exactly the spirit behind it. Having no big expectations just eases starting and trying new things, and can be really powerful!

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