If the average person added up all the times in their life when they’ve had 10 minutes to spare, they’d end up with more than a year.
Just check out these stats about the average time we spend in various idle states.
- British people spend nearly six months of their life in a queue (*1)
- The average person spends 7 years lying awake at night (*2)
- The average American spends 38 hours a year stuck in traffic (which adds up to 0.3 years in a lifetime). (*3)
- The average person spends six months of their life stuck at a traffic light. (*4)
Add those facts up and in total we spend 10.4 years of our lives just waiting, 7 years of which is in bed, and the remainder divided between little moments of waiting throughout the day, like when we’re waiting in line.
Given that we also spend 25 years of our lives asleep, we really don’t have much time.
When my father died in 2014 I was suddenly struck by how incredibly valuable time is.
Up until that point I had never truly appreciate how precious the moments of our lives are.
Standing up in front of my whole family at my father’s funeral and talking about this life and how he had spent his time… it truly affected me.
My father’s funeral was a painful lesson. As I was talking about his life, I was hyperaware of my own life and my own frailty. I was aware that one day someone would be telling the story of my life while I was lying in a coffin.
Sad but true.
That was when I vowed to make the most of every moment of my time, to never waste a single minute.
If I had ten minutes to spare, I would make use of all 600 seconds.
Turns out ten minutes is a lot of time.
Not long after I’d vowed to make the most of every moment, I started to learn just how much we can do in as little as ten minutes.
Here are some of the many things that we can achieve in ten minutes
- The average person can read 2000 words
- Walk 804 metres
- Run 3379 metres
- The average person will think 714 thoughts
- And have 600 heartbeats
- The average person could speak 1540 words
- And type 400 words
And meanwhile, in those same ten minutes, a meteorite will travel 6, 600, 000 metres though space, which is the equivalent of travelling all the way around Earth one and a half times.
So yeah, ten minutes is quite a long time. And every time I had a spare ten minutes, I was determined to make the most of it.
Within the first month I discovered literally hundreds of different things to do when you have spare time.
Some things to do when you have a spare ten minutes:
- For starters, the absolute best things to do in ten minutes are these mindfulness exercises. They will boost your mental health in 10 minutes and you can do them anywhere. Try them. They’re game changers.
- Look for new clothing or products in flyers / online
- Read a random Wikipedia page
- Go for a quick walk
- Clean your home
- Organise the apps on your device
- Check Facebook and hit LIKE several hundred times
- Come up with new ideas for work
- Recount the favorite moments of your life (for a quick boost of happiness)
- Match your socks
- Schedule an appointment
- Do the dishes
- Throw your garbage out
- Make a grocery list
- Pay a bill
- Check your emails
- Finding someone to talk to
- Snuggle your pets
- Learn computer shortcuts
- Plan what to do for the rest of the day / week
- Learn why you procrastinate
- Read a blog article
- Power nap
- Learn a recipe
- Visualise the next thing you need to do (can be very helpful if you’re at work)
- Write your to-do list
- Recite affirmations
- Practice a random act of kindness
- Learn foreign words
- Send a text to someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time
- Tell someone something you think they would love to hear
- Practice mindfulness.
Above is just a selection of some thing to do when you have 10 minutes. There are literally hundreds of different ways to spend spare time.
All of those are terrible ideas.
Over the past couple of years I have learned that there is, at least in my view, a very good reason why we often have ten minutes to spare. And I’m not talking about poor time management skills.
The reason we are given those spare minutes is because we actually need them.
Why do we need those spare ten minute chunks of time every now and then? To refresh our minds.
Just like your car needs oiling every once in a while if it’s to keep running smoothly, your mind needs oiling too… just, not with Mobil. Your mind needs to be kept fresh with periods of non-activity and non-thinking.
As we go through a day our minds gradually fill up.
You wake up in the morning and you’re thinking of getting to work. Then you’re working for hours on end, and probably facing various sources of stress. Then you’ve probably got some family complication to deal with.
Stress and thoughts snowball. One single thought gets the ball rolling. Stress and negativity get worse. The whole thing gathers speed. Then BAM! Headache.
The only way to stop this problem is to halt the mad rush of doing stuff so that we can get rid of that backlog of thoughts and stress.
Problem is, we don’t get a lot of time to just chill and do absolutely nothing. We’re almost always busy. And that’s a problem. Because working too hard can seriously effect your health.
If you spend your whole life in GO mode and you never stop, you are going to wear yourself out like your favorite jeans. And wearing yourself out will only lead to mental and physical health complications.
Stress is actually the world’s number one killer. And one of the very best ways to stop stress is simply to give yourself enough downtime when you’re not doing anything.
So, put in a different light, those “spare ten minutes” suddenly seem damn important. They’re given to us as a way to clear our minds and to remove a build-up of thoughts and stress before that stress makes us ill.
So, what is the best thing to do when you have ten minutes?
Simple. Hit RESET.
Spend those ten minutes doing absolutely nothing because doing nothing is important. We need enough downtime to make sure we don’t make ourselves ill from too much uptime.
Only, we don’t just want to do nothing. We want to what I call power nothing.
Power nothing is when we actually force ourselves to both do nothing and (importantly) to think of nothing. It is downtime for both the body and the mind.
Power nothing is mental and physical nothing. It’s emptiness.
One of the best ways to do power nothing is to meditate.
Meditation is the act of focusing your mind on one thing (often the breath) while (usually) being still. This is power nothing for body and mind. It’s like hitting a soft reset. It gives you a chance to get back to your mind and body’s pure state, like when you hit the Reset To Default Mode option on your phone.
Meditation lets your mind and body switch off so they can heel, so they can purify. And the best part? You can meditate in ten minutes and you can do it wherever you are.
So if you happen to have ten minutes to spare because the bus is late, you can meditate on your breath while you wait. Same thing when you’re waiting in a queue. Same thing when your colleague shows up late. Same thing…
Basically, you can meditate wherever an whenever and you can do it in ten minutes.
So the next time you’re wondering what to do when you have ten minutes free, remind yourself:
There is a reason why you have ten minutes spare. Because you need those ten minutes. You need them to reset and to refresh your body and mind.
That’s why whenever I have a spare ten minutes these days, I meditate.
Got spare time right now?
And that is the best thing you can do in 10 minutes. And in my experience, ten minute meditation sessions are total game changers. They refresh you, restore you, and get you up and running again.
But now I would love to hear your ideas. What are your favorite things to do when you have a spare 10 minutes?
Leave a comment.