Some positions come with decent pay, great benefits, and maybe even free snacks, but some may also come with downtime. Maybe too much of it. Maybe it’s the off season and there’s only so much work to be done or maybe you’re a receptionist whose responsibilities only take a few minutes as they come up leaving you with hours in between being needed. Whatever the reason, maximizing your downtime hours can help improve work ethic and personal skills/projects. Besides, anything is better than twiddling your thumbs while you wait for something to do.
I would like to say before I give tips, that work should always come first. If you’re needed while reading a good book, the book needs to be put away immediately so it doesn’t seem like you’re not wholeheartedly there for the job. Same goes for anything personal you may be working on. And of course, know your company’s policies about what’s acceptable to do during downtime and what’s not. “But Meagan from Inbetween Thoughts Blog told me to,” is not a valid excuse if you get into trouble for breaking your company’s policies.
Improve Your Skills
I’m a writer, so during my downtime, I write. I write blog posts (or at least organize/sketch out topics), poems, and fiction. Find a skill you’d like to practice and implement that practice during your downtime. Bonus points if it can benefit your company! If you’re an artist, bring in a small sketchpad. If you’re taking classes, bring that textbook you hate reading but really need to read.
Make sure the skill is something reasonable that won’t draw too much attention to you. Examples of what not to do:
- Working on something that’s loud. (Like playing the guitar.)
- Bringing too many supplies from home (If you’re an artist opt for the sketchpad and pencil suggested above instead of paints and brushes)
- Working on anything messy (Like paint)
Ideally, the skill you’re improving should be something that can easily be put away, so when it’s time to work, there’s no clean up involved and you can get to work immediately. Obviously, anything that disturbs your coworkers is a no go as well.
Some suggestions of skills to work on:
- Writing (Of course I had to put this first)
- Reading articles/books that pertains to your hobbies
- Sudoku Puzzles (Or any puzzle book for that matter)
- Practice making excel spreadsheets with made up scenarios, i.e., lists, pivot tables, formulas.
- Practice reading/writing in a different language
Get More Acquainted with Your Office Space
If you have some free time, organize your space a bit. Clean up the mess on your desk or reorganize that daunting file cabinet that no one seems to be able to find anything in. Take some time to know where everything is and to sort everything out so that it’s easier to get to for you and for others.
Obviously, don’t mess with other people’s things because they probably have everything where they want it. Generally, if you’re in charge of it, you can clean/organize as you see fit.
Reorganizing is a great way to pass some time, show initiative, and to familiarize yourself with the company better.
Work on Other Projects
During some of my free time, I’ll work on a book I’ve been asked to edit. Or I’ll brainstorm blog topics and promote our social media. The rules from the Improving Your Skills section apply here as well. As long as the project doesn’t get in the way, you should be in the clear.
Maybe someone’s asked you to look at their car for them after work. You could do some research about the problem online and start getting a quote on tools/materials needed. Maybe you’ve been meaning to build an expenses spreadsheet to better keep track of your finances. You could build a spreadsheet with Google Sheets so you have access to it at all times. Find something that you’ve been meaning to do and that can be quietly worked on during your downtime at work. You’ll find you’ll have a lot more free time after work hours.
Long periods of Downtime are no fun, but can prove to be helpful in improving yourself. Whether you’re learning a new skill, getting acquainted with the company, or tackling your personal to do list, your downtime at work will become your new best friend. Goodbye thumb twiddling!
How do you spend your downtime at work? Let me know in the comments below!
I’ll see you next Wednesday!