The Trouble With Just A Minute

Everyone’s always asking for just a minute of our time. It seems like no big deal. After all, it’s just a minute of your time.

The truth is: When you give someone a minute of your time, it’s more than just a minute.

Metallic Clock

Image by Ivan Salas

But that doesn’t sound right, you say. You’re only giving a minute.

Not true. When you give a minute of your time, you’re destroying momentum that has to be made up.

Think back to a time you’ve taken a road trip.

You’re driving along when you or one of your kids have to use the bathroom. Knowing what will happen if you don’t stop to use the restroom, you decide to take the next exit and find a restroom. It should only take a minute to relieve yourself.

You find that perfect spot and use the bathroom. Now you’re back on the road. It only took a minute of your time. Or so it seemed.

As you head back onto the highway you look at the GPS. It now says you’ll be at your destination a half hour later than when you first pulled off.

What happened?

By taking that short break you lost all of your forward momentum. To get to your destination, you had to slow down, switch gears, and go in a slightly different direction.

All of this cost you valuable time.

The same thing happens when you take “just a minute” to do something unrelated to your current task. It may be:

  • Checking Facebook
  • Checking your email
  • Sending out a text message

None of those takes a long time to do but they kill your momentum.

You become distracted just long enough that your concentration is broken. As a recent study shows, it can take upwards of 25 minutes to recover.

Imagine how many times this happens in a day. You’re possibly losing hours a day.

This is wasted time!

This is why we must be careful when we decide to give “just a minute” to a task outside of our current objective. We’ll run into the roadblock of lost time and productivity.

Instead of giving our attention to the “just a minute” request, we need to learn to say “Sorry, I can’t do that right now. Let me finish my current task and I’ll schedule a time to fulfill your request.”

As you learn to do this, you’ll begin to recover lost and valuable time. Freeing yourself up to give your full concentration to the tasks at hand.

Question: What could you do with an extra 25 minutes a day? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Interesting study numbers. I didn’t look at the whole thing but man, that’s a lot of time to get back in gear. I really try to block things out liking only checking email every few hours or keeping my phone on silent. Sometimes it works, most the time not. Guess I need to get more intentional about that 😀

    • I know, it shocked me when I heard the numbers given and the time wasted. 

  • This is so true. I am really trying to work on being focused for periods of time, even if it is not as long as I want. If I turn off the distractions, I find myself getting more done. Great reminder!

    • Glad to hear that you’ve experienced some success with blocking out time and you’re seeing results. It’s tough to do, that’s for sure. 

  • Minutes do add up.

    • That they do. Just like every other small action or step we take.

  • Reminds me of the sales people that call. They ask for a minute, but it ends up being 15-30! haha

    • So true Brandon. Those can go on forever.

  • Write more, relax more, and spend more time with my family…. Saying “no” is such a difficult but important discipline.  Thanks for the reminder.

    • All great things Jon. Start saying no to a few things and get that time back!

  • Jeff

    With 25 minutes more, I could write a blog entry, finish an assignment, or tidy something up.

    • That’s a lot of extra work you could complete!

  • Joseph,

    Thanks!  I read this at just the right time!  You must forcefully disconnect to be productive.  

    I really needed to hear this today!

    • Thanks Thomas. It’s encouraging to hear when something I’ve written has been exactly what they needed to hear. How can you disconnect the unproductive interruptions today?

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