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We cannot capture time. I think we can snatch it for…a small amount of time. It’s human nature to focus on large blocks of time, and ignore the value of the minutes and seconds that pass by unnoticed. We put a value to the time spent on a large project. We store the fortnight of a great vacation in our memories. But we don’t remember the time spent stuck in a traffic jam or that spent on catching up on gossip at the water cooler. Can we use some of those “lost” minutes and seconds and put some value in them?

Don’t get me wrong; we all need our downtime for unplugging and dialing down our hyperactive brains. As digital workers, we spend an inordinate amount of time setting up productivity rituals (do read our free guide on productivity). Productivity for us, could be as much about saving time as it could be about using what we have more effectively. So, here’s an incomplete list to get you thinking about the productive things you can do online when you have a few minutes in your hands.

Learn Something New Every Day

Now I Know

The best way to start a new day is to learn something new. It’s also the easiest way to “blow” the minutes as there are umpteen websites for learning new things in bit-sized chunks 6 Ways To Learn Something New Online Everyday 6 Ways To Learn Something New Online Everyday The Internet is a double-edged sword - it can be used to procrastinate the day away, or it can be used to learn something new everyday. Here at MakeUseOf, we're particularly focused on the latter.... Read More . Subscribing to Wikipedia’s featured article for the day to using Wikipedia games for fun and exploration 5 Wikipedia Games You Can Try Your Hand On 5 Wikipedia Games You Can Try Your Hand On Wikipedia will continue to get knocked down for credibility and accuracy but it is the best open source project we know of. And one we still depend on for a quick reference. Wikipedia is the... Read More are two easy options. Alternatively, you can let services like Now I Know do the hard work with their daily newsletters.

Practice Speed Reading

Learn speed reading

All that reading could get a little easier with speed reading skills 5 Text Reader Apps That Really Help You Speed Read 5 Text Reader Apps That Really Help You Speed Read Read More . The ability to rocket through text while understanding it all is an essential skill because there’s just too much to consume. A free online app like Spreeder can take you through the equivalent of 15 A4 sized pages in 15 minutes (@300 words per minute). Removing the vocalization of the words we read comes with practice and the 15 minutes of it every day should help to build up your speed.

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Go Around the World on Google Street View

Google Street View

Your boss might disagree, but daydreaming could also be productive. Google Street View is the ideal virtual window for thinking of your next vacation and de-stressing your day . We have seen how you can expand your world view with geeky virtual tours 10 Curiously Geeky Virtual Tours You Can Take On Google Street View 10 Curiously Geeky Virtual Tours You Can Take On Google Street View Set your bowlines free and travel. Why not use Google Street View to combine the best of travel and geek-dom. Pack your bags then for these ten geeky virtual trips. Read More or try out amazing Street View mashups 5 Amazing Google Street View Mashups You Need To Try 5 Amazing Google Street View Mashups You Need To Try If you’ve ever used Google Maps (which I assume you have), you will know all about Street View. But did you also know there are many cool, funny and useful Street View mashups that let... Read More . There are many more places you can visit in 15 minutes or less with Google Street View. And now, we have Photo Spheres as well.

Watch a TED Talk

TEDTalks

Fill your time with ideas and inspiration on TED Talks. There are even TED Talks that are just under five minutes 8 TED Talks Videos Under 5 Minutes Long You Want to Watch 8 TED Talks Videos Under 5 Minutes Long You Want to Watch Have five minutes to kill? What better way to spend that time than to watch an fascinating or informative TED Talks video. There's a lot of great content available to watch on TED but sometimes... Read More . If you are not sure what to watch in the time you have at hand, use the handy Not sure what to watch? guide on the homepage to search out talks that can fill the minutes you have. Academic Earth is also another good one you can visit. I previously had written about other free video lecture sites 8 MORE Knowledge Websites With Free Online Video Lectures 8 MORE Knowledge Websites With Free Online Video Lectures The online video world is more than music videos and somebody’s cat chasing a laser pointer. It is also a treasure trove of knowledge nuggets and crowd wisdom. Our fixation on YouTube shouldn’t allow us... Read More .

Learn a New Language (Or a Foreign Word)

Learn a foreign language

Learning a single new word a day adds up over the course of a year. If you are learning a new language, it could mean 300+ words at the end of a year. Use a dedicated service like the excellent Duolingo (read our review Learn A Language And Translate For Practice With Duolingo (Now Open To All!) Learn A Language And Translate For Practice With Duolingo (Now Open To All!) The internet has given us some fantastic tools for language learning, and Duolingo is the latest site to give it a go. It's just come out of closed beta and is now available for everyone... Read More ) or just pick up a language while browsing How To Use Chrome To Learn A Foreign Language While Browsing The Web How To Use Chrome To Learn A Foreign Language While Browsing The Web One of the more natural ways to learn anything is to immerse oneself in that environment. In fact, if you stay in a foreign country for any length of time, you naturally pick up some... Read More .

Indulge Your Favorite Hobby

Hobbies

Mine is photography. What’s yours? Finding bite-sized chunks on photography is easy, but whatever yours might be, you are sure to find popular hashtags or tags and use it to find conversations and resources around it. Reddit is a favorite stomping ground for enthusiasts of all kinds.

Operate On Your Operating System

Learning on YouTube

Learn more about your operating system bit by bit. After all, doing something on your own is always better than calling out for help. MakeUseOf.com, is itself a fantastic resource for tutorials on Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can search YouTube for video tutorials and use the Advanced Search Filters to get videos by duration.

Build Your Book List

Listopia

Head to a book recommendation service like Goodreads and build your own reading list or explore the curated lists on Listopia.

Write Your Thoughts in a Journal

Writing a life log

Surely, we can engineer our Twitter habits to write our own life log 5 Quick & Simple Ways To Write Your Life Logs With These Minimalist Online Journals 5 Quick & Simple Ways To Write Your Life Logs With These Minimalist Online Journals Read More . The psychological benefits of journaling are well-documented. My favorite service for keeping an online diary is OhLife. The best part is that it doesn’t even have to take 15 minutes.

Re-build Your Memory

Memorize

Boost your brain power. Personally, I find it difficult to retain jokes. You never know when you might need a good one. For you, it could be a name or a new word you might have learnt if you followed the previous cue. Memory exercising services like Memorize Now create online flash cards and aid your retention process. Memorize Now is simple, but if you are looking to go beyond look at ones which use spaced repetition How To Be A Smarter Learner By Using The Method Of Spaced Repetitions How To Be A Smarter Learner By Using The Method Of Spaced Repetitions Spaced repetition is a method that can help you plateau out the downward curve of your forgetfulness and help you memorize large amounts of data. It is an accelerated learning technique. This article is about... Read More . There are mobile flash card apps as well. Justin covered six of the best flash card apps for Android 6 Flash Card Apps for Android, Compared: Which Is the Best? 6 Flash Card Apps for Android, Compared: Which Is the Best? Flashcards are an incredibly useful tool for studying, but they aren't always convenient to make and carry around; that's where your smartphone comes in. Read More .

Be a Martian

Help Map Mars

We have covered citizen science projects 9 Live Citizen Science Projects You Can Participate In To Learn More About Our Planet & Space 9 Live Citizen Science Projects You Can Participate In To Learn More About Our Planet & Space Science has gone social. Research scientists maybe crunching away at their super-computers but they aren’t neglecting the remarkable potential of the most powerful computer of all – the human brain. When you put a few... Read More and free to join crowdsourcing projects 7 Crowdsourced Projects That You Can Take Part In Right Now 7 Crowdsourced Projects That You Can Take Part In Right Now Crowdsourcing has grown into a movement and its improving our lives in ways we do not realize. From medicine to search for extraterrestrial life forms, the scope is vast and exciting. The seven crowdsourcing projects... Read More . You can pick any from there, or take a bit of the Martian buzz by participating in this one – Be a Martian is the opening you were probably looking for to “join” NASA and go on your own great Mars adventure. Help NASA engineers manage the large volume of data from the Red Planet by taking part in this online project. This is just an example, as there are many more online projects you could contribute your time to.

Return to Humanity on LinkedIn

LinkedIn Groups

15 minutes a day can make you a master networker. One of the ways is to move beyond your immediate professional network on LinkedIn and connect to people whose profiles interest you. See if someone in your network can introduce you to an interesting profile. LinkedIn Groups is a good jumping off point for meeting new people. So are other digital town squares like Quora and Google+ communities.

Build Up Your Online Rep

Reputation management

You don’t have to be the product for social media. Give it 15 minutes of your time and turn it around to build a strong online reputation by sharing insights on your industry, art, or niche expertise. Sites like Quora, Stack Exchange, Yahoo Answers, and Twitter are great platforms for sharing knowledge. Be authentic, honest, and meaningful for 15 minutes a day and your name could swim to the top. We should know – a few of my colleagues who are working at MakeUseOf now, started by commenting and participating on the public forum of Answers.

Exercise

7-min-workout

The 7-minute workout went viral. It might not buff you up, but some exercise is better than no exercise. Yaara’s 8 exercises to help you stay fit at your desk 8 Easy Exercises To Help You Stay Fit At Your Desk 8 Easy Exercises To Help You Stay Fit At Your Desk Staying fit at your desk is actually possible. Here are some exercises anyone can do. Some don't even require getting up, others take no longer than 10 minutes out of your daily routine. Read More show that office cubicles are also good enough for impromptu gym sessions.

Meditate

Meditation is not mystical. Watch the mind-altering TED Talk above. It doesn’t even take 15 minutes.

In the end, 15 minutes is just an arbitrary unit…it could be something as low as five minutes. Doing these fifteen activities, or any of your choice is a surefire way of adding value to the little bits of time that slips between the cracks. We tend to look at the “big picture”, but it is surprising how these minutes can compound over time and really add something substantial to our lives. One of the ways to get the 15-minute chunks of time off the ground is to have a prepared list in hand. That’s where your ideas and contributions come in. Let’s make the comments count!

Image Credit: Nando Machado (Shutterstock)| Dragon Images (Shutterstock) | arka38 (Shutterstock) | potzuyoko (Flickr)

  1. Ebot
    April 30, 2014 at 12:51 am

    I got 15 minutes till bed I am on the computer, but I would get off and get on a tablet. By the
    way I got 9 minutes left so bye!
    :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

  2. arshia bhardwaj
    December 16, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Tumblr website is the best blogging website.

  3. Danno Monto Santiago
    November 24, 2013 at 5:06 am

    I prefer to troll on IMDB. I am sick and laughter is the best medicine!

    • Saikat B
      November 24, 2013 at 5:20 am

      IMDB for laughter? Cracked.com is where you should head to at full speed :)

    • Caroline W
      November 26, 2013 at 3:32 am

      Been to Cracked.com - it's hilarious!!!

    • Ebot
      April 30, 2014 at 12:52 am

      agreement

  4. Saikat B
    November 24, 2013 at 4:43 am

    At least I got you to agree that some of them are "productive" :)

  5. dragonmouth
    November 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Why this obsession with being 100% "productive" 100% of the time??? Unstructured time allows us to recharge our mental batteries and prevents burnout. Daydreaming or free-associating may do more for overall productivity that any make-work task.

    • Saikat B
      November 23, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      True. I haven't suggested anywhere that we should be obsessed with productivity. From my own experience, it has been counter-productive. Switching off is so important. This list was merely an illustration of the fact that many wasted minutes can be put to good use. For e.g. finishing tasks we procrastinate over , in small increments of time.

    • dragonmouth
      November 24, 2013 at 12:48 am

      "I haven’t suggested anywhere that we should be obsessed with productivity"
      No, you haven't, not in so many words. However, articles such as this one, imply that we MUST be doing SOMETHING every minute of every hour of every day. Don't take it personally. You are not the only one that has written such an article. Whenever I read "X Number of Things to Do While You Have Y Amount of Time" a picture of a one-man band comes to mind.

      Actually, I do owe you an apology. Out of the 15 activities you mention only 2 or 3 deal with productivity. All others deal with "frivolous" use of time. :-)

    • Jimmy
      January 2, 2014 at 11:11 pm

      Surely, based on what you say, you should give credit
      for the mention of the Meditation site?

  6. MURALI
    November 23, 2013 at 7:36 am

    good compilation...

  7. Jay I
    November 22, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Lots of great ideas here, and I'm sure many people will have their own ideas already - based on education/qualification/interests/hobbies, etc. This is a well composed article and its a great starting point for someone who wants to do something beside what they already thought of themselves. Thanks for posting this.

    • Saikat B
      November 22, 2013 at 6:52 pm

      Personally, right now I am trying to pick up one photography tip in the few 15 minute blocks available to me throughout the day.

  8. David
    November 22, 2013 at 2:13 am

    Or...

    * read a blog/online article somewhere
    * read pages from a book/magazine, etc. (hard copy or digital)
    * work on Open Source project (coding & committing bits at a time)
    * participate in online discussion forums, helping others solve their problems, or learn new things there along the way

    • Saikat B
      November 22, 2013 at 6:50 pm

      There are a couple of websites with longform articles you can filter according to the reading time. I just can't remember their names right now.

  9. Nahum L
    November 22, 2013 at 12:36 am

    This is a great idea, will bokmark it to learn new language (later), oh! I haven't seen a Ted video lately. Thanks for reminder!

    PD I'm hooked with a code school http://www.codecademy.com pretty neat if you would like to learn code!

    • Saikat B
      November 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      Yes, we know it quite well around here :)

  10. Matthew H
    November 21, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    I've been trapped in London Euston station for an hour now, and I'm on a three hour train back home to Liverpool. I may or may not have to try some of these suggestions. Cheers Saikat! :)

    • Saikat B
      November 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      A 3 Hours train journey! Think of all you can achieve in 180 minutes Matt!

  11. Reygun
    November 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    o sleep xD

    • Justin P
      November 21, 2013 at 11:53 pm

      I personally have trouble sleeping online. :)

    • Mstizzle
      January 28, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      HI, I enjoyed reading this and I'm reblogging. Hope you don't mind.

      Xx

    • Tori
      February 22, 2014 at 9:39 pm

      You should have wrote an article that took 15 minutes to read XD

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