You have most probably heard of this quotation that goes something like, “If you want to know the value of one second, ask the athlete who came in second place; If you want to know the value of one minute, ask the worker who missed his train to work.” I have not the memory nor the space nor the time to quote it here fully, but I wish to acknowledge the fact that we do get that occasional amount of precious free time, ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes (depending upon your level of productivity and efficiency in whatever it is that mostly occupies your day). While we’re waiting for the bus, train or taxi, we get some free waiting time. Whether we’re singing or cursing as we’re trapped in heavy traffic, we get free time. When we queue to pay for those Aspirin (Panadol) tablets at the pharmacy, we get free time. Hey, even when we’re answering nature’s call in the bathroom, we get some free time (some people may prefer to spend it reading magazines or practising breath-holding exercises)! If the phrase “time is money” is literally true, we’d all be billionaires by age 72; that is, if we save the time-money in the first place and invest it in what-have-you’s and profit from compound interests or other Buffetological what-not’s. What is time optimisation? It is the best possible use of the time – whatever amount it is – that we have been accorded. In other words, time optimisation is the most effective use of time, no matter how short or long that duration is. You see, there are several ways, an infinite myriad of ways, we can spend the time that is given to us. The number of ways and what we can do itself are both determined by the length of free time accorded to us. This article concerns tiny little fragments of free time. I’m dealing with anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. It’s usually not productive to battle your procrastination problem by getting started on – or continuing with – that enterprise you’re intending to accomplish within a window of only a few seconds or minutes. What I mean to say is that you can do nothing much in only a few seconds or minutes of free time – you can do nothing physical much, that is. But what you can do is some constructive mind work. Some thinking. Some reflecting. Some mental sharpening. Since thoughts are the seeds of actions; actions the seeds of effectiveness, if we positively affect our thoughts, we are actually contributing to the effectiveness of our actions later, even if but a little bit. If you have a few seconds of free time, say, while you’re waiting for a very resource-intensive computer application to load (especially on a slow system), you can mentally determine what it is you want to do with that application beforehand; that is, if it involves your work-related stuff. If you have a window of a few minutes of free time, for instance, while you’re in the bathroom (under the shower or on the toilet seat), you can do some mental relaxation and focusing exercises to un-clutter your thoughts and clear your mind for that day. Believe it or not, the bathroom is one of the best places to relax yourself both physically and mentally (not spiritually), next to your bed! The key here is to find a way – always find a way – to productively and fruitfully spend the few seconds or minutes of spare time that we get – no matter how short it is. If you’re in the middle of a mental re-programming routine; perhaps using affirmations, self-talk, or best, Meta-Questions, you may find that a brief session of self-talk, affirmations or Effective Meta-Questioning during that period is very useful. Squeeze that in. Do you, like thousands, or perhaps, millions of people all over the world, often get not only good ideas – but brilliant ones – when in the shower? Do yourself a favour. Get a cassette and tape recorder, place it somewhere in your bathroom where water cannot touch it, and press ‘Record’ as you begin to shower. Make sure the microphone is sensitive enough to detect your voice while showering. When you get any brilliant ideas (about your business, schoolwork, a song, a story idea, whatever), just shout it out into the recorder. You’ll find that your most useful tool is your notebook, tape recorder, PDA or other idea-recording devices. Find those which are portable and convenient to carry around, even to the bathroom. You never know when a great idea strikes you or when you just need to think on paper (tape or tablet). In the queue? Have a conversation with your IRD (idea-recording device)! If you don’t know what to write, record or type, just write, record or type anything. In the lift? Fish out your IRD! This will be more productive than trying to guess who was responsible for the sudden change of smell in the lift. Waiting for the movie to start while in the theatre? Take out your IRD! Just make sure to stop when the movie begins. Here are some Effective Questions you can apply with regards to optimising time: Before you take on the day, you may want to ask, “What are the best ways for me to spend the small amounts of free time that I will have for this day?” “How can I best use the large amounts of free time that I will have today?” “What are the best, most productive, short activities that I can engage in during the free time that I will have today?” “How can I spend the little free time I will get today in order to help me move forward, no matter how little, towards achieving my targets for the day?” “How can I further exercise the faculties of my mind during the short periods of free time that I will get for the day?” “What are the best ways I can relax my mind and body during the short span of free time I’ll have today?” “How can I further optimise the time that I have today than yesterday?” Then, every night, before you retire, get your journal, or your IRD, and start asking and answering these questions: “How have I best used the free time that I’ve gotten today?” “How has optimising the free time that I’ve had today contribute to my advancement towards my daily goals?” This is assuming that you have targets, objectives or goals for the day in the first place. “How can I further optimise the time that I have tomorrow than today?” Think up some more questions of your own. That’s the beauty of this Effective Questioning technique. You have the power and the independence to create your own Meta-Questions, rather than be spoon-fed by a “guru” or motivational “expert” who might not practise what he’s preaching in the first place. Next time, if you catch yourself or your friends saying something along the lines of, “So much to do, so little time!”, stop, and ask (aloud or to yourself), “Oh really?” However, you may need to balance this new habit of time optimisation from time to time. If you find that you’re being increasingly stressed out by the piles upon piles of tasks, things and activities that you have for a day, stop and give yourself a breather or two. Even the act of pausing and giving yourself a break is in itself an act of optimising the time that you have. But, like on the other hand, don’t do this (relaxing) too much either!