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Do You Have a Minute?


Every day, we get into our offices, and without fail we hear, “Do you have a minute?”  Now, I am a fan of spontaneity, but these minutes we give each day can sometimes add up to hours.

Aliases of “Do you have a minute?” include, “quick question,” “real quick,” and “I was thinking.”

We have all heard Simon Sinek’s Millennials in the Workplace.  He touches on the four things that have shaped millennials: parenting, technology, impatience, and the environment.  Patience being the important one here.  Today, people cannot commit to listening to an entire song on the radio or watching a movie without texting occasionally.

Let’s also keep in mind we have always heard the following:

  • The greatest thing you can give someone is your time
  • Time is of the essence
  • Time sensitive
  • Open door policy

“Do you have a minute?” Is for the person asking, not the person being asked, and the door swings both ways.  Employees and leaders both ask the question on a regular basis.  On a philosophical note, a text may be the question without actually asking the question – and most of us feel the need to answer the text immediately, aka, not on our own time.

In brainstorming this issue, I’ve been thinking about the different reasons that the “do you have a minute” question presents itself in the workplace.  I’ve come up with a few, in what I like to call the What a Minute Means Matrix.

The reality is that “do you have a minute” can be the beginning of a productive conversation, but it’s all in the reasoning and the timing.


“Do you have a minute” works when someone isn’t deep into a project. When someone is able to multitask and talk: over lunch, organizing, or in between meetings where they don’t look like they are truly concentrating.

It also is a great way to get a sense of the feelings of your coworkers.  “Do you have a minute?” can express feelings of excitement, confusion, or anxiety…all of which can be dealt with right then and there.  “Do you have a minute?” from an HR perspective can be a good thing, like when onboarding a new employee, so you can help immediately and keep them engaged.


I listened to a TED talk by Jason Fried called Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work and really enjoyed his analogy.  He likened time to a gift and said that when we allow our employees four hours of uninterrupted time we are giving them the greatest gift of all.  He said that interrupting someone who is deep in thought is like interrupting REM sleep…when someone wakes up, they don’t just go right back into the stage of sleep they were in, but rather starts the whole cycle again.

When the door is closed, someone is staring at their computer screen, or writing in a notebook – I am fairly certain a “Do you have a minute?” will probably derail them.

So next time you ask, “Do you have a minute?” Think what that minute is really about – and if you truly do need something, make it a New York minute.

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