My work is a bit crazy right now, for reasons that I can't blog about. (Of course. I can never blog about the work stuff.) My to do list is long and my days are full. The days whiz past in a flurry of activity. (Although I did find the time to go to lunch with my husband today. Priorities.)
Somehow, though, I always find myself sitting back in my chair roughly 15 minutes before I'm due to walk out the door and head to day care, with all the urgent things crossed off my day's to do list. The temptation to get up and leave a bit early is strong. No one would notice or care.
I don't leave early, though. I stay for those last few minutes. And I get a lot done. One of the things I learned from my years as a contractor, charging time in 15 minute increments, is how much you can get done in 15 minutes. It is enough time to write an agenda for the next day's meeting, which will make that meeting more productive and perhaps keep it from running overtime. It is enough time to check in on a project plan, and see how we are tracking to our projected timeline. It is enough time to fill out the paperwork and send the emails needed to get the process of hiring a contractor underway. It is enough time to do some of those little "quality of life" database maintenance tasks that inevitably pile up.
For me, they key to making good use of those last 15 minutes is to have these little tasks written on a to do list, so that when I finish a task, look at the clock on my computer, and realize that another day is almost over, I don't have to think to hard about what to do. I just take something small from my list and do it. Getting these little tasks done before they become urgent means that I
can usually find some longer increments of time during the day in which
to tackle my larger tasks. I've learned that if I let the little things
slide, they inevitably pop up as emergencies when I can least afford the
time to handle them.
Even when I look up and realize I only have a few minutes left before the end of my usual day, I usually don't leave early. I write my next day's to do list, or clean up some of the mess that always covers my desk.
At my previous job, one of the young guys who sat near me teased me about how he could set his watch by me- I got up and left at the exact same time every day. He was exaggerating. But not by much.