39 minutes

I keyed in the text message: “Meet you at 8:39.” In this case, the finger’s faster than the eye, and once committed, there’s no way to undo the “send.” I’m forced to text a correction. “8:30,” I type, and hit “send” with a bit more care this time.

I have a thing, apparently, for hitting the “9” instead of the “0” on my phone. I’m very consistent about this. My 8:30 becomes 8:39; my 304 area code morphs into 394; my $20 gains in value to $29.

So I started thinking: I’m obviously trying to give myself extra minutes every half hour. What if I actually had those nine extra minutes? Thirty-nine minutes instead of 30? What could I do with that scant amount of time, those extra 60-second blips? I came up with a few good ideas: nine, to be exact. I’m certain there are many more:

  • Gratitude. I could spend one of those minutes contemplating gratitude. What am I grateful for? What, over the past 24 hours, positively impacted my life, my attitude, my world? A minute’s not too much time to spend in gratitude; truth be told, it’s probably not nearly long enough.
  • Greetings. Surely I could spare 60 seconds to speak to a fellow rider on the elevator or a coworker sitting two cubicles away. Who knows? I might discover I have something in common with them – or make a new friend, share a laugh, help someone’s day start out or progress a bit more brightly. I may find myself one day working alongside them on a project, or enter a training room with them.  Shared experiences and common ground make transitions and new situations so much easier.

I have seven minutes left.

  • Affection. I may be in a hurry to make it to work, but spending a minute rubbing my dogs’ heads and scratching their ears leaves them with wagging tails and me in a better mood. We recently had to put down my oldest dog, Dennis the Menace, who had gotten to the point he probably didn’t really notice head pats anyway. But as the giver of pats, I know those moments mean something to me. Sixty seconds are nothing compared to the years of affection given in return.
  • Affirmation. Giving to others? Easy. Giving back to myself? Not so much. Maybe spending a minute looking in the mirror and thinking about how nice my hair looks, or how happy I feel, or how proud I am, or how competent I am being is in order. You can’t truly build up others if you’re constantly tearing yourself down.
  • Service. It shouldn’t take much more than 60 seconds to help a coworker tote her supplies to her desk, or to sort the mail for a busy administrative assistant who’s covering the office phones. When I take the time to help out by doing something that’s not in my job description, it reminds me that we’re all in this together and no single job is any more important than any other. That’s a fine life lesson to keep in mind.

Five down. That leaves four more minutes.

  • Quality Time. I believe I could easily spend a minute here and there helping someone resolve an issue or find an answer. What I think that means is offering my undivided attention and not multi-tasking, which never works out well for anyone. (I give a half-assed answer and they leave with the feeling they aren’t worth my time.) As nothing could be further from the truth, why shouldn’t I act the way I truly believe?
  • Compliment. Honestly, sometimes it can be so hard to give voice to a true compliment and send it forth into the world. I acknowledge that, when I’m feeling marginal about myself, it’s tough to compliment others even when it’s truly deserved. Sometimes it makes me feel worse about myself, and I’m no fan of that. But I have noticed that the more I freely and honestly compliment others, the happier I am about myself and the less weight my “failings” actually carry. So I think spending a minute on sincere, deserved compliments whenever I have the opportunity is worth the effort.
  • Breathe. Sure, it’s involuntary, but that doesn’t mean it’s relaxing. So spending a good 60 seconds being very conscious about breathing in and breathing out – centering myself, in other words – goes a long way toward facing the day from a calm, peaceful center. Alloting a minute every half hour is a priceless gift.
  • Humor. Oh, if I actually had those 9 minutes, I would pack a full 60 seconds worth of laughter into them. With laughter, cares shrink down, endorphins plump up, and life gets a boost. They say laughter is the best medicine, and I buy that. No day is so terrible that a good, hearty laughing fit won’t make the dark clouds lift and maybe even dissipate. Looking for the absurd – for the humor – in everyday life is worth pursuing 24/7. But if one minute every half hour is all I have, then I’ll grab those seconds and celebrate the funny side of life whenever and however I can.

How much richer my days would become just by adding those nine minutes! So much richer that I believe it’s important to simply  eke out nine minutes every half hour, even if it means freeing up those nine existing minutes by short-changing other less important things.

So, if you had nine extra minutes for every half hour, how would you spend them? And if you come up with nine good options, would you consider carving time from the existing 30 minutes you already are given?

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