Mind the Gap: 5 Ways to use Gap Time to Pursue your Talents

by Lisa Rothstein on 09/14/2010

mind-the-gap-labelled-for-reuseWhen we ask multi-talented people why they don’t enjoy their talents more, the answer we often get is “who has time?!”  And it’s true, life does get in the way. Responsibilities, day jobs, kids and all our various distractions and Focus Thieves (email! Facebook!) tend to take up all the real estate in our day, leaving no time or energy for using, honoring or enjoying our talents.

Part of the problem is the belief that we need a lot of time. A whole uninterrupted day per week, for example, which for most of us is about as likely as a unicorn sighting in your backyard. But this is actually just an excuse. You don’t actually need that much time. A recent post talked about how to pursue your talents in a meaningful way in an hour a day.

“But I don’t have an hour a day!” you cry. I’m here to say you actually probably have a lot more than that. Just maybe not all in one chunk. If you look, you probably have a lot of “Gap Time” — periods of five, or even 10 to 20 minutes in between activities where nothing special is happening. This is where you can mine gold.

When you plan to use your Gap time, instead of just feeling frustrated or bored, you can bring along your screenplay and write a scene or a character study. (Pilar Alessandra has a series of Ten Minute exercises for screenwriters that are perfect for Gap Time.)  Have a 5- 10 minutes gap to fill?  Get out your planner and vision your day tomorrow. Plan your project. Sketch the stranger at the next table.  Load the Pianist app onto your ipod or iphone and compose a tune.

Here are five ways to use Gap Time.

  1. Carry a journal with you at all times just for jotting down your ideas. I like Moleskine unlined notebooks and sketchbooks; they make me feel like Ernest Hemingway or Monet. They are also substantial enough to take the abuse of getting knocked around in my bag. You can use a gadget if your prefer…I find nothing substitutes for pen or pencil and paper.
  2. If you commute by train or by car, instead of reading the paper or listening to inane drive-time radio (how much does this “information” really add to your life?) read a book or listen to an audio related to one of your talents. At least read or listen to something uplifiting and inspiring, rather than the junk that just happens to be available.
  3. Arrive Early. Here’s a new concept (at least for me). I call it “Making your own Gap Time”. I’m known for swooping in at the last minute (or ten minutes late) hopped up on coffee and adrenaline, and spending the first part of every appointment describing the Indiana Jones-style mishaps that I encountered on my trip. But if you plan to use Gap Time, you can plan to arrive ten minutes or even 30 minutes early for appointments, meetings, lunches, classes and rehearsals. If you work in an office, getting in early will give you a chance to get settled, and you’ll look great to the boss. She doesn’t have to know that you spent your first half hour at your desk crafting a brilliant denouement for your mystery novel. (After all, you weren’t on company time yet.)
  4. Embrace the Wait. Do you know you have some Official Thing to do that involves a lot of waiting? Don’t sweat it — welcome it! I’ll never forget the time I had to renew a license at the Department of Motor Vehicles in downtown Manhattan, famous all over New York as a Dickensian morass of endless waiting in multiple lines for the privilege of dealing with a succession of humorless and often unreasonable city employees. As I left my office, my colleagues bit me farewell as if I were going on a long and arduous trip. There was no question of my returning to work that day. And when I arrived at the DMV, sure enough, the lines of miserable would-be drivers snaked for miles all over the lobby. But I had a plan. I had brought a delicious lunch, the New York Times crossword,  and my notebook. While my neighbors fumed and complained, I was happily munching and scribbling away all my ideas for my latest script, with a children’s book thrown in for good measure. When I finally made to to the front of the line, my clerk appeared mildly surprised to see a smiling face. Or maybe she thought I was crazy (This was New York City, after all).
  5. Make your breaks creative. A change is as good as a rest, as they say in the UK. (It’s a running theme today, what, what.) Instead of going to one of your default activities when you take a break, which might not be the healthiest choice, why not use that Gap Time to enjoy one of your talents? Or if you are already doing something healthy for a break, like taking a walk, why not add a creative element to it? Pretend to be one of your characters on your stroll. Or sing the song you’re writing. Take your camera or your sketchpad with you.

CAUTION for DaVincis: Do NOT use “Gap Time” as an excuse for multi-tasking when you need to focus. While you’re waiting for a page to load on your computer is not Gap Time to go away and check your email. (You know who you are!!) This will just destroy your concentration and make you crazy. Gap Time is time that would otherwise be wasted, that you use for for discrete, short activities you’ve chosen in advance.

Actvity: Pay attention during your day today, and look back over the last week.

  • Where do you habitually have Gap Time? Waiting for the kids to get out of school? On the commute to work? Between classes?
  • Now look at your top talents and projects. What are some 10 or 20 minute activities you could carve out on each of them? These could be baby steps towards a goal, or simply fun moments where you just enjoy yourself. List these.
  • Prepare to use your Gap Time by having your list handy, as well as any material you’d need (audios loaded onto your ipod, your notebook in your briefcase, etc.)

Using your Gap Time will improve your quality of life dramatically. At the very least, you’ll enjoy your talents a lot more, and enjoy more moments in your day instead of just sitting there. And you might just find that you actually accomplish a whole lot, as your little bits of Gap Time add up.

What are some instances in your life where you could use Gap Time? Please share below. If you are a blogger, a link to your latest post will appear in your comment!

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Are you struggling with too many talents, skills, ideas? You may have The DaVinci Dilemma™! Find tools, fun quizzes, coaching, inspiration and solutions for multi-talented people at http://www.davincidilemma.com/ .

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