Business Articles - On the Job

Salvaging Scrap Time

As business people, we realize our time is invaluable. But do you realize just how valuable those few moments of spare time throughout the day are? If you make $50,000/year, then 20 minutes of a day for each working day of the year would be worth $2,043/year. None of us wants to throw away $2,000 a year.

You can make use of these pieces of time, this "scrap time," if you choose to. All it really takes is forethought and planning. First, though, let me define what scrap time is. Scrap time is any time that would be normally wasted. It includes:

  • Waiting (for a client, for a co-worker, for a meeting to begin, on hold, in line, in doctor's offices)

  • Driving (in traffic, commuting, at stop lights, while car is warming up)

  • "No brainers", anytime you are doing something that takes no thought power (collating, opening envelopes, stamping or licking envelopes, walking, running)

Scrap time is usually 1-15 minutes long. You would normally not do anything constructive during this time except day dream or socialize. Now you can choose to utilize these scraps of time to be more productive.

It is important to remember that making use of this time is a choice. Sometimes you will choose to listen to the radio, day dream, take a nap, socialize, let your mind wander. That's OK. Just remember you have a choice now to do something else with these moments.

I do not want to encourage you to become a frenetic. I do not want you stepping on someone's toes because they're socializing for two minutes when you want to make a phone call. Time management depends upon your maintaining of relationships, and utilizing scrap time should not infringe upon those relationships. Also, I do not want to encourage you to do something dangerous. For example, I frequently see commuters on the freeway brushing their teeth, eating their breakfast, applying makeup, shaving, getting dressed, and reading. This is inappropriate use of this time, and downright dangerous.

Some ideas on how to make use of this time are:

  • Make a quick phone call

  • Plan your day, week, or month

  • Write your "to do" or "to call" list

  • Complete paperwork

  • Accomplish one of your tasks

  • Think about how to accomplish one of your important tasks

  • Listen to an informational tape

  • Read a magazine article carried for this occasion

  • Write a quick note

  • If alone, practice something you've wanted to say to someone

  • Straighten your work area

  • Do relaxation exercises

  • Practice isometrics or quick physical exercises

  • Do some filing

You probably noticed that many of these need forethought. If you are will be listening to informational tapes while commuting, you will have to purchase these and have them in your car. My husband listens to informational tapes while he jogs, so, of course, he had to buy a portable tape player as well. Some libraries carry tapes for loan, and you can swap with friends. If you are going to read those magazine articles, you have to have them in your briefcase pocketbook. I used to have trouble catching up on reading, but now I make use of my scrap time for this. I am rarely caught without something to read while waiting a few minutes. I have even been known to take articles to the movies for the time I wait for the film to begin.

Carry a few postcards so you can write quick notes to people you've met or who have referred you to someone. Even if you don't have the person's address on you, at least get the message written, the address it when you're back at your office.

There are some days when you may need a quick nap to be sharp for the rest of the day. Many people take a 10 minute meditations or naps and are refreshed.

One woman plans her day while she's relaxing in the shower. One man reviews the agenda for a meeting he's about to attend and decides what questions and contributions he will have.

You will be amazed at how much you will accomplish if you take advantage of getting the maximum benefit out of these short periods of time. They add up quickly though; if you effectively utilized just 10 more minutes a work day, that equals one work week a year. Although we can't create more time in our lives, we can learn to better utilize it. You can make use of those short pieces of time effectively with a little forethought. What will you do the next time you have scrap time?

by Rebecca L. Morgan, CSP, CMC
© 1985 Morgan Seminar Group

Rebecca L. Morgan, CSP, CMC, specializes in creating innovative solutions for people-productivity challenges. For information on her services, books, and tapes, or for permission to repost or reprint this article, contact her at 800/247-9662,

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