Whether you admit it freely or not, there likely have been times you’ve been bored out of your mind at work. What do you find yourself doing with the downtime?
Do you make the most of the slow time at work? Or do you find yourself scrolling through your phone, playing games, or surfing the web mindlessly?
Being productive with your downtime has more advantages than just accomplishing more in a day. You’ll show your boss you care about your job, you’ll be better prepared and well organized for when times get busier, and you’ll be an overall better worker.
When people see you always working, you’ll gain job security and better recommendations than the guy sitting next to you who is always watching YouTube videos when he’s bored.
So, if you’re not busy at work, here are 12 things to do instead.
1) Work Ahead
If you’re experiencing a slow season at work, you probably know how hectic your busy season is as well.
Get ahead of the curve by working ahead. Can you get a jump start on a presentation? Get ahead on organizing for an event? Start the research for the beginning of an upcoming project? Your future self will thank you for getting ahead now when you’re not busy.
2) Organize Your Calendar
No matter how organized any of us are, it can be difficult to make sure our calendar is organized and up-to-date.
Add upcoming deadlines and meetings to your calendar. If you keep a planner, update that too, even if it’s just your personal calendar. If your personal life is in order, you will be more organized and a better performer at work.
3) Ask to Help in Another Department
People tend to be afraid to admit that they have downtime at work. We all have busy and slow seasons at our job, so it’s okay to confess when you are slow! In fact, from my experiences, you’re likely to be rewarded for being proactive with your downtime instead of wasting it.
When I am slow at work, I volunteer to help in other departments. It might just be helping them get up-to-date on filing or other tedious work, but it not only helps them immensely, but it shows that I am a team-player. If you do this, it will make you a more valuable employee and you’ll learn a little something about another area of your company.
4) Organize Your Desk or Office
Are you really as organized as you could be? Sometimes, we need to freshen up and reorganize our office space in order to work more effectively.
So take the time to sort through the stacks of paperwork on your desk. Clean out your cupboards and drawers. Even take the time to redecorate your space. The more organized and comfortable your office space is for you, the better you will work, so it is definitely worth the time and effort.
5) Clean Up Your Emails
Everyone has different email systems. Personally, I know I am very particular about maintaining a zero-inbox, meaning I like to have no emails in my actual inbox. As soon as I get any email, I follow up, file it accordingly, or delete it.
But during a busy season at work, we all know it can be impossible to tame the influx of emails, and our inboxes can often become out of control.
Depending on how messy your inbox is, this could take a significant amount of time to sort through, but it will be worth it. You’ll be better able to find emails you need to follow up on and you’ll remove anything that is no longer of importance. Some people like a messy inbox, but cleaning it out really does help you in the future.
6) Organize Your Computer Files
Similar to emails, organizing your computer files can save you a lot of time in the future. You’ll know exactly where and what each file is and no longer have to waste time sorting through pages and pages of files.
Rename tasks as necessary, and keep the names of similar files consistent. Creating sub-folders, or folders within folders, is a great way to save time.
7) Work on Those Projects You’ve Put Off
We all have a few low priority projects that continually get pushed to the back burner. Well, maybe now is the time to actually do them!
Admittedly, we often push off projects because we don’t really look forward to doing them. But use the motivation of getting it done and out of the way as a reason to commit to completing the project.
8) Take Time for Personal Development
Most employers are more than okay with employees taking time for personal development when work is slow.
Or maybe it’s time to begin studying for a certification that would be beneficial to your job. If you’re unsure if your employer would approve of you spending time on personal development during working hours, just ask.
9) Prepare for Your Annual Review
Annual reviews tend to sneak up on people, and they never seem to be at a convenient time. Don’t be caught off guard by your review this year! Take the time now to begin preparing.
Look over last year’s review and see where you should focus your time. Is there anywhere you should work on improving? Develop a plan to increase your knowledge or skill in that area before your upcoming review.
10) Ask for More Work
While asking for more work when you’re slow at work might seem obvious, I’m always surprised by how few people actually take initiative to ask.
Maybe it’s because people don’t actually want to do more work, or they fear that they will be assigned additional work that eventually will become part of their regular job duties. Or maybe people are afraid to admit to their boss when they are in a slow period at work.
Either way, asking for more work shows you care about your job and you value your employer. It also casts you as a leader who will take initiative to do even more. So never be afraid to ask!
11) Create a Year-Round Calendar of Responsibility
Most jobs have different responsibilities throughout the year. Maybe summers are slow, but you get crazy busy during the holidays. Make a list of tasks that need to be completed each specific month.
This is an incredibly useful tool. You’ll be able to visibly see what all needs to be accomplished and when. You’ll also be able to better identify when you have downtime and when you might have to work overtime.
Creating a list like this also helps your boss immensely. If you ever end up transitioning to a new position or leaving the company, you can give this list to your boss which will help them better understand your position, allowing you to leave on even better terms!
12) Network With Colleagues
While it might be wasteful to spend hours gossiping at the water cooler, there is bountiful value in taking the time to actively networking with your coworkers.
Next to your family, you probably spend more time with your coworkers than you do anyone else. They can be a valuable asset to build your network within the company, so make sure you are actively trying to get to know your coworkers.
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Are you ever slow at work? Are you productive with your time? What do you do to fill your time?