• Nancy

Micro-moments: how bringing intention to yours can give you more time than you ever imagined

What is a micro-moment?

I used to waste so much time. It is my biggest “pre-baby” regret and it’s a big one. I wasn’t conscious about how I spent my "pre-baby" time because, to be honest, I had so much of it! It's true that you don't realize what you have until it's gone. Two big life events, having a baby and my father’s death, all in the same year, brought the value of time to the forefront of my brain. Both how little we have of it, and how important it is that we spend the time that we do have, wisely.

Looking for answers or actions

The term "micro-moment" was coined by Google in the marketing world to mean when someone turns to their phone for an answer or an action..."I want-to-know moments, I want-to-go moments, I want-to-do moments, and I want-to-buy moments".  According to Laura Vanderkam, author of "I Know How She Does It", a worth while read on time management for women, we all have "micro-moments" that don't necessarily need to include the use of our phones. For example, no time to read a book? What if you read for five minutes a day? That's 35 minutes a week. Everyone has five spare minutes right? Those five minutes are micro-moments and what you do with them is up to you.

Time logs

Laura Vanderkam recommends tracking your time on a log for a week or so, in thirty minutes intervals (you can choose a time interval that works best for you; 15 minutes for example, or an hour). You can access her time log template on her web site. I tried keeping a time log, but I could only keep up with it for three days. I did see benefits immediately though; I was more conscious about what I was doing and how long I was doing it for. I noticed that I rarely did anything for as long as thirty minutes and that I was constantly shifting gears. That's when I came to the realization that in order to maximize the use of my time, I have to do two things: one focus on the task at hand (I've been using a timer to help) and two, use bits and pieces of time, my "micro-moments", with focused intention. I was spending too many bits and pieces of time mindlessly on my phone scrolling the web or social media, when I could have been doing a host of other things.

Spending our mico-moments on our phones

Before keeping my time log, marketers knew what I didn't; that my phone was my default when I had a spare five minutes here and there. According to a 2017 study reported by the New York Times and conducted by a tech protection and support company Asurion, Americans check their phone on average once every 12 minutes, which is 80 times a day. And of the 2,000 people surveyed, one in 10 check their phones on average once every four minutes. Other recent studies claim that the average person checks their phone over 100 times a day.

So if I don't turn to my phone during a micro-moment, am I left to just stare into space? Maybe; that is one option and it's not necessarily a bad one. There's a host of boredom research out there that shows that being bored does us a lot of good, from boosting creativity, to pushing us towards finding meaning in life and seeing the big picture. Having grown up in a very rural, remote town, I am no stranger to boredom. And like most research in this area, I am somewhat skeptical of the results. However, I believe in the basic premise, which is that we can't be stimulated and distracted all the time and expect to be creative and inspired. Common sense tells me that only when are brains are quiet, can we have time to reflect more deeply on our lives or have creative thoughts.

Scroll-free, micro-moments

If I'm consciously trying to spend my time more wisely and not turning to my phone to mindlessly scroll when I have a spare few minutes, what can I do to bring intention to my micro-moments? When I'm in the house and with the kids, I have no trouble at all finding something to fill those few minutes: pick-up pretty much anything; get the daycare bags packed for the next day; pick out my clothes and the kids clothes for the next day; play with the kids or read a quick book, etc. etc. etc. As long as the phone is away, I will find something to do in the house, especially when the kids are around. The same bodes true for micro-moments at work, I seem to have no trouble filling the time there.

The micro-moments are harder to fill when I'm away from home. And to be honest, I believe that often the best use of my time is on my phone: in-line at the grocery store, texting a friend and making plans or sending an email. What I'm trying to avoid is mindless, unconscious phone time; for example, checking in to Facebook twenty times a day for no reason. If I am picking up my phone during my free time, it should be done with intention to accomplish something, the vast majority of the time. Not just for mindless entertainment.

The best strategy I've been using to decrease mindless phone time has been restricting my social media use. I have been trying to check my social media at the beginning and end of the day, and maybe once in between, but no more. I'm hoping to decrease that even further, to once a day. Some other tactics I've been using in an attempt to decrease the mindless phone time include: keeping a book or magazine in my bag on the way to work for the bus; adding to my 100 things I want to do with my life list; looking at my calendar to plan for the upcoming week/month; jotting ideas down for my blog in a note book that I keep handy; and my favourite, letting my mind just wander and doing absolutely nothing at all.

Recognizing that I have ten or more micro-moments a day and bringing intention to them, has made me more productive. I don't waste five minutes here and there half as much as I used to. When I do just let my mind wander, it is with intention and for the purpose of taking a break. I take great comfort in the fact that it turns out that doing nothing at all is actually, according to research, doing a lot - recharging my mind and freeing up space to check in with myself to make sure I'm on the right track. After all, what could be more important than checking in on the big picture, on the entire direction of our lives? In my opinion, if this is what boredom does for us, then doing nothing at all is time well spent.