Not every moment of work is full of productivity. Regardless of the industry, there are always upswings and down-cycles during office time. There’s more to do, however, than scroll through Facebook or Snapchat a friend when you get bored at work.
When your work is hitting a down-cycle — and all your other duties have been done — consider these things to do when bored at work to keep you busy. Some of them may even help your career.
Stay Sane by Finding Things to Do When Bored at Work
The truth is, slow time is great for office morale, especially if you and your team use it wisely. Here are 17 productive things to do when bored at work, which will help you engage with peers and create a better work place.
1. Organize the Aftermath
Busy time usually means papers flying everywhere with the whole team trying to keep up with the work in front of them. Keeping things in proper place and order is likely impossible when you’re extremely busy.
Slow times, though, are perfect opportunities to reorganize after the rush. Declutter your workspace and organize the files on your desktop — both actual and virtual. An uncluttered space means an uncluttered head.
2. Prepare for the Next Onslaught
You may be experiencing downtime, but it won’t last. Take the quiet time ahead to prepare for your next peak of activity. Preparations can include making sure the copier is stocked with ink and paper and that your software has been updated across all devices. It can also mean planning for the upcoming days and projects. If there’s something up ahead that you can get started on now, jump right in.
3. Improve Something
There’s always a process you wish would be improved. Now’s the time to stop grumbling and do something about it! Sit down and explore the process or procedure and find a few ways to improve upon it. Create a plan and take it to your boss. Maybe you can be the one to put it into action.
4. Spend Time Networking
It’s easy to spend time on social media hanging out with your friends. It’s a little more challenging to start making connections outside of your social media sites. Instead of posting another pic on Instagram, treat your Linkedin profile like Twitter and really engage with your connections.
Or, try attending a few events or joining local groups. The groups don’t have to be professional in nature for you to benefit. Pursuing hobbies also helps boost your career in many ways, so take up what interests you and develop your skills.
It won’t take long before you start making new friends and new connections, which could lead to new opportunities.
5. Build Your Company Culture
Building relationships at work is a great way to improve culture and even reduce stress. Take your downtime as an opportunity to get to know your coworkers.
Go out to lunch with an officemate and spend some time discussing life outside of work. If you’re heading up a team, take them out to lunch or consider having small conferences to learn new skills over lunch. It will help during periods of collaboration as well.
6. Get to Know Your Boss
Don’t stop at your colleagues. Get to know your boss as well.
If both you and your higher ups are experiencing a slower-than-usual work period, offer to take your boss out to lunch or just include them in a morning coffee run. You don’t have to be best friends, but building relationships with your superiors helps you see them as people instead of rule-makers. It also helps them see you more clearly and fully and understand what your goals are and how they can help you achieve them.
7. Expand Your Knowledge Base
No one is ever finished learning. Look for ways to expand industry knowledge — read articles in your field or look for webinars that relate to what’s hot and how it relates to your job. Encourage a colleague to join in and see how you can take your new knowledge and apply it to your job.
8. Start a Work-Book Club
Book clubs sound like great ideas, but when it gets down to actually reading and then talking about a book, it’s hard to make time for it.
If you start a book club at work that involves books in your field, the dynamics change. It’s no longer leisure time, but time spent with co-workers becoming better in your industry. Stay up-to-date on current industry work and engage with co-workers by taking time to read books together.
9. Exercise Your Brain by Writing
You don’t have to be Hemingway to get started, but writing when you have spare time is a great way to accomplish many things.
Free-write to clear your mind and start the day with a fresh slate, or start a blog that engages those in your company and your field. Consider writing your company’s social media messages for upcoming days or weeks when you know things will get busier.
10. Build Your Brand
Take your down time and put it to good use building your personal brand. Add the course you took to improve industry skills to your resume or update your job titles and dates.
Integrate those changes into your LinkedIn resume and update your profile while you’re at it. Give it a total overhaul with a new headshot, updated sections and added links to your work.
If you’re still bored after that, consider building a personal website to show off your work and accomplishments. If/when the time comes to find a new job, you’ll be ready. In the meantime, you’ll have a professional brand to help grow your name and network.
11. Be an Understudy
It never hurts to know how to do the job of more than one person, and down-time is the perfect time to learn from colleagues.
Ask if anyone else is having a lull in their work and wants to do some cross-training or mentoring. You can offer to be their point of contact when they’re away as an added incentive.
When you help out when another is sick or overloaded, you help your co-worker and your company, but it also may be a help to you down the road by increasing your skillset in the event of a takeover or layoffs.
12. Build a How-To Guide for Your Job
Whether it’s for someone to step in when you move up the ladder or just the basics for how to fill your shoes while you are on vacation or recovering at home on a sick day, a how-to guide is a smart thing to have around.
It will mean you won’t get panicked phone calls when you’re trying to finally take a break, and it can make for a smoother transition when you are ready to hand over the reins.
One of the best ways to grow your knowledge, and your brand, is to share what you know and develop others. Whether you become a mentor, start a course, workshop or seminar, or just share your tips in an article for your team, teaching is a great use of your down-time.
If there are no new team members to take under your wing, consider asking for an intern or new employee. You can train them in your work, freeing up your time to work on bigger and more inspiring projects.
You may not have much to do, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. Volunteer to spearhead a new project or to help an overloaded coworker. They’ll appreciate your initiative and you’ll gain some experience in another department.
15. Take a Walk
Moving your body is crucial to keeping your mind active. If you know there will be a free few minutes, grab a buddy and walk around the building or around the block. Getting your blood flowing will ensure your mind is prepared when the day does start to pick up. Listening to music during the walk can be a pick-me-up as well.
If it’s not nice out, try one of these 10 ways to stay active at work or 25 deskercise ideas to get you moving at your desk. Or, take it down a notch with yoga and meditation.
16. Desk Yoga and Meditation
Quieting your mind is good for your soul, as the nearly 10 percent of Americans who practice yoga can attest. If you can incorporate some physicality into your breathing, it may ease physical tensions from sitting at a desk for hours at a time. Learn some desk yoga for your mind, body and to prepare for busier days.
17. Take Off
If there’s really nothing for you to do, and you just aren’t feeling it, take a day off. Give yourself the day to relax or get things done at home and come back to work feeling refreshed and ready to take on new challenges.
Be on the Boredom Offensive
Time — whether it’s at home or at your desk at work — is a gift. Treat it like the offering it is and use it wisely. You’ll never have that time back, so appreciate it when it’s available.
What are your most efficient uses of time when things get slow? Or is there anything fun and silly that helps those quiet times pass more quickly? Tell us in the comments, and keep up with other ways to stay sane at work by subscribing to the Punched Clocks newsletter. Let’s make workplace boredom fun — and, more importantly, useful.