We usually think of our time in terms of hours, days, weeks, months and years. A 10-minute chunk of time seems like a drop in the bucket. When faced with an extra 10 minutes, we usually think of how to kill that time while we’re waiting for the next thing.
But these little blocks of time add up. How many 10-minute increments are you wasting every day? How often do you let these scraps of time slip by, unnoticed and unused?
You can use these tiny increments of time to make a real difference in your life. If used properly, 10 minutes is enough to begin improving yourself. Yes, it’s possible to do something to make your life better, happier and more productive in 10 minutes or less.
Want to know how? It’ll take you less than 10 minutes to read on.
1. Increase focus and productivity with the 50/10 rule
One simple way to improve yourself is to increase your productivity and make the most of your time. How can you do that in 10 minutes? First, you need to be completely focused on your work for 50 minutes -- give your complete and undivided attention for that full amount of time. But here’s the key -- when the 50 minutes are over, give yourself a 10-minute break.
This is call the 50/10 rule, and it works wonders for increasing your productivity and focus. Fifty minutes is a manageable amount of time for uninterrupted work, and a 10-minute break is enough to recharge your engines and get you ready to focus once more.
So, how do you fill that 10-minute break? Do whatever you want -- but be ready to go again when time’s up. And if you really want to be productive, pick something else on this list and try doing that during your break -- just think of it as making that 10 minutes count twice!
2. Practice gratitude
Take 10 minutes to give yourself a mental boost by reminding yourself of all you have to be grateful for. Practicing gratitude is not only good for your soul; it’s been scientifically proven to help motivate you and improve your physical and psychological health.
Pondering all the positive things you have and all the wonderful people in your life will give you a positive mindset and open doors to more relationships. Start by taking a few minutes to write down three positive things and see how your mood lifts and your mind feels restored.
Doing this will increase your self-esteem and resilience, meaning you’ll grow mentally stronger and will be able to handle high stress better if you have an attitude of gratitude. People who focus on what they are thankful for have sustained feelings of happiness and fewer aggressive feelings. They show more sensitivity and empathy toward others.
3. Learn one new word
By the time we are in middle school, we are equipped with a sizable vocabulary and the rate at which we pick up new words begins to decline significantly. As adults, if we don't make deliberate efforts to increase our language skills, our vocabularies will essentially become stagnant.
But having a robust vocabulary isn’t just a nice way to look smart to other people; it helps you more clearly express yourself. A larger vocabulary gives you a greater understanding and appreciation of language, and allows you to be more precise when choosing your words and expressing yourself.
Language is central to your “communication toolbox” and key to your success. Increasing your language skills can help you become a more effective communicator. According to one study, learning new words stimulates the ventral striatum, or the reward system in the brain -- so it can be fun, too. Try expanding your vocabulary a little every day with one of these mobile apps.
4. Become a speed reader
We all know that reading is an important way to gain knowledge. And many of us spend a big chunk of our day reading -- whether it’s slogging through reports, scanning slideshows or skimming through emails. Though we have to wade through so much reading material every day, most people only read at an average of 200–250 words per minute. That’s roughly two minutes per page, so it takes us over three hours to read a 100-page book.
Now imagine being able to complete that book or wade through that report in one-third of the time or faster. All it takes is 10 minutes and a little practice and you’ll by zipping through pages in no time. (Want to know what your reading pace is? Click here for the Staples speed-reading test to see how you compare to the national average).
5. Take a catnap
Skip the mega cup of coffee or that high-carb snack and do something that will give you a true burst of energy without the sugar high. Find a quiet corner, close your eyes and take a 10-minute snooze. Just a short catnap will help you feel refreshed and more alert for at least several hours.
Longer naps can leave you groggy right after you wake up, but a 10-minute nap will perk you up without any negatives. If you’re worried that taking a nap might affect getting a good night’s sleep, try taking a snooze mid- to late morning or in early afternoon.
6. Work on learning a new language
What if you took 10 minutes every day and studied a new language -- how fluent could you become in six months? In a year? With some diligence and focus, 10 minutes a day can help you gain conversational skills in another language, thanks to microlearning, or consuming new information in short, focused bursts.
Duolingo and other language apps are designed to teach you a new language in as little as five minutes a day. So if learning a foreign language is on your bucket list, make a 10-minute commitment every day and you’ll put yourself on the right track to language proficiency.
7. Take a coffee break with a friend
Socializing is not only a pleasant way to spend time, it’s actually good for your brain. Lighthearted, friendly conversation has cognitive benefits.
Studies have found that talking and socializing can make it easier for us to solve problems. But remember to play nice with others -- conversations that are competitive or aggressive have no such benefits.
Researchers have found that engaging in just 10 minutes of conversation boosted people’s performance on common cognitive tasks. So taking a quick coffee break with a friend can give you a competitive edge when you go back to work.
8. Go outside
Going outside and stretching your legs for just 10 minutes is enough to improve brain function, concentration and focus. A walk can ease depression, improve bone health, reduce stress and promote a healthy heart.
Spending just 10 minutes a day outside may also be key to helping your body absorb the necessary amount of vitamin D it needs. It turns out that vitamin D can be hard for our bodies to absorb just from eating well. We actually get 80 to 90 percent of our vitamin D from the sun.
But spending too much time outside without sunscreen isn’t good either, and can lead to sun-damaged skin. A 10-minute break outside will help you get what you need from the sun without doing any harm.
9. Set yourself up to be successful tomorrow
Your last 10 minutes of the work day are crucial for setting yourself up for a productive tomorrow. Before you leave for the night, take a few minutes and go through your day’s to-do list -- did you finish everything or are there items that need to be moved to the next day?
Do a quick brain dump -- write down all the things that are clogging up your mind; all the nitty-gritty details you want to remember for things you’re working on. Use that brain dump organize and prioritize tomorrow’s to-do list.
Finish by signing out of email and taking a moment to organize and tidy up your desk and workspace. Ta-da! You’re done for the day, and you have a head start on tomorrow.
10. Write in your journal
Get yourself in the right frame of mind for sleep by spending the last 10 minutes before bed writing in your journal. Simply report to yourself what you did that day. If your handwriting is hard to read, try keeping a journal on your computer.
However you decide to journal, make sure you accurately and honestly share how your day went, your wins and losses. This will give your day a sense of closure and help you process all that went on.
As you look back on your day, what could you have done differently? Ten minutes of introspection will help you learn and grow from your experiences. Finish by writing what you hope to see happen tomorrow, making sure you stay optimistic and positive.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.