Wouldn’t it be great if life was nice, neat, and tidy? Wouldn’t it be convenient if our calendars looked like the days we actually experience? But it doesn’t. I go to great lengths to ensure that I am well-planned, well-organized, and prepared for all contingencies, and still the days twist and turn and morph until they bear no resemblance to my original vision.

Most of the time, these changes lean in the direction of crazier rather than calmer. Full days become jammed days. Margin becomes marginless. Relaxed becomes breathless. Because of this, it becomes essential to thrive in the tiny in-between moments that arise each day. These “tiny times” are where we either find peace or increase exhaustion.

Sometimes the tiny time is a five-minute gap between a meeting or appointment. It may be when you are standing in a line, going to the restroom, or waiting in traffic. On other occasions, unexpected spaces of thirty minutes or an hour appear. Tiny times are the small spaces that show up in each day in which we either catch our breath or become more anxious.

Herein lies the problem. We are caught by surprise when little spaces open up and revert to the path of least resistance, our phones. In lines, everyone pulls out their phone. Social media fills the gaps. Text streams begin. Agitating news fills the gaps. Talk radio, stimulating podcasts, online games fill the gaps. In already full days, we fill the gaps, leaving us breathless with the sense that our day never slows. We are like the hot rod who pumps the pedal while impatiently waiting at the stoplight.

The tiny times are a gift to savor. In order to take advantage of those small gaps, I pre-plan what I am going to do when space opens up. Even on days when I think I will never come up for air, I keep something ready in case I get a break. Additionally, I build habits that take advantage of the small spaces to counteract the default response of the cell phone.

If you are feeling overloaded and rushed constantly, consider how you might better use the tiny times within your days:

  • Drive in silence or with relaxing music.
  • Keep a small journal with you to write down thoughts while you are waiting. Sketch something.
  • In the gaps, take a few long, deep breaths. Learn to relax doing nothing when those tiny times come.
  • Use an unexpected break to step outside and breathe, even on a cold day.
  • Use more significant gaps to pull out a book or treat yourself to some coffee.

Part of the strategy involves finding times other than the tiny times to get our social media fix or to start a text stream or play a game. All of these activities are fun and good as long as they are not using up our only free space, exacerbating the sense of angst and overload from which so many of us suffer. If we want to feel differently, we need to live spaciously. And that happens by learning to enjoy the small respites that each day affords.

It only takes a few small spaces, well-used, to change the flavor of a day.