Time-filler Activities: Making Use of Every Minute Writing

Me in KoreaWhen I was teaching E.S.L. to a kindergarten class in Korea, I found myself in a situation more than once where I had ten minutes with nothing planned. Either my lesson had ended earlier than I expected, or lunch was delayed last minute. With nothing to do and no structure, my class of usually lovely 5 year olds suddenly became a horde of tiny, restless beasts. I quickly learned the benefit of what we called “transitional” or “time-filler activities.” These were games or lessons that would take 5 to 10 minutes– usually something like learning a song, playing 7-up or drawing. With a list of these in my arsenal, I no longer had to panic every time I looked at the clock.

Now onto the important part of this post, how to carry the idea of “time-filler activities” over to writing. In this day and age– especially with access to smart phones– there is a lot that we can do with our down time. And now that we’re in the very middle of our ROW80 challenge, I know we are all looking for ways to squeeze out every last drop of productivity.

So here’s the idea-

What I’ve started to do is make a list– at the beginning of the week or in the morning– of things that I need to do that can be done in 15 minutes or less. Throughout the day, if I happen to find myself with an extra spot of time that I hadn’t planned on, I check off something on this list. It’s amazing what you can do while you have your morning coffee, in-between appointments, on the commute to work (as long as you’re not driving). Though if you are driving, a voice recorder could come in handy!

What kinds of activities can you put on your time-filler list? Well, as an example I’ll share mine for the upcoming week.

Nicole’s Time-Filler List

1. Register for the Margaret Atwood book-signing lottery for AWP.

2. Read and Respond to comments.

3. Read an Article in my Google Reader.

4. Tweet.

5. Look up images of Skyrim Orcs (I’ll tell you guys more about this one soon.)

6. Research Russian Names.

And that’s where I’ll stop for now. I did this list kind of quickly, and I wish the activities were a bit more specific. A lot of time-filler activities can involve reading or social networking. Others, like the Russian names, have to do with research for my WIP. Depending on where you work those may require internet access or a smart phone. If you don’t have access to those, then carry a notebook with you and schedule some brain storming or list-making activities. Whatever you do, you’ll be amazed by how much you can get done when you’re prepared for your extra time!

I’m sure I haven’t even begun to cover everything that you can schedule for your brief bouts of down time! What other activities can you come up with for your time-filler lists?


8 thoughts on “Time-filler Activities: Making Use of Every Minute Writing

  1. Great photo. I like to use 15 minutes to proofread. Even if you only do one paragraph, or maybe you get a page done, 15 minutes is short enough that you can concentrate. These little bits of time help get me through this phase of writing.

  2. I’ve been trying to fill my spare 15 minutes with useful things too, recently. Before, I would turn on a game… and of course get sucked in for an hour instead!
    I think reading blog posts and comments is a good one. I’ve also started keeping my books on my desk, so I can read for a few minutes when I need a break, instead of turning to the internet. Twitter is a no-no for me, though. I can’t help following half a dozen links, and reading half a dozen articles, then finding I’ve lost a lot more than 15 minutes!

    • I think that the key to this is to do things like twitter/internet when you ONLY have 15 minutes. Like if there is something you absolutely have to start, or somewhere you have to be that will keep you from going over your allotted twitter time.

      And time just flies straight away when I’m gaming. 😀

  3. Awesome idea to make a list! I tend to find myself with time and then desperately try and remember all the things I needed to do, usually resulting in wasting all the free time!

    Thanks for the blog post, heading off to make my list now..

  4. odd bits of research (where i know where to go) – a quick FB,twitter,blog comment moment(depending on dayie Karma Friday or ROW80) – book of short stories – investigsting new site – joining same – endless listings!! – good post – lovely photo – keep smiling

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