Chances are, you’re no stranger to busy workdays, back-to-back projects, and entire weeks that seem to go by in the blink of an eye.
Many of us thrive in this environment; when business is good, and the money is rolling in!
But sometimes, things change. Peak season ends, the economy shifts, or there’s some reshuffling of responsibilities within your organization.
And quite suddenly, you find yourself with next to nothing to do at work.
It may be disconcerting at first, but downtime at work is actually a good thing, in small doses.
It’s how you utilize it that makes all the difference.
So whether it’s just a slow day or you’re facing a few weeks with not much to do, here are some ideas for making the most of your downtime at work.
1. Seek Out a New Challenge
Downtime at work is the perfect opportunity to push the envelope on your skills. Since you don’t have anything pressing to do, you can focus on something new or challenging without getting overwhelmed.
For example, try asking your boss what you can take on; they might have a project they hadn’t thought to assign to you because it’s something you’ve never done before.
Or if you freelance, it’s a great time to start prospecting and pitching for new clients or one-off projects.
New challenges don't just save you from the boredom of downtime; they build up your skillset and potentially open up new opportunities down the road!
2. Find Someone to Help
If you work in a team, now is the time to reach out to your colleagues and offer your assistance. Keep in mind that just because your desk is slow doesn’t mean theirs is! Not only will this give you something to do, but you may also learn something new about a different aspect of the job.
You’ll also have your colleagues eternal gratitude for lending a hand when they might have been a bit overwhelmed. It’s a win-win situation! (And they may even return the favor by offering you their assistance at a time when you need it most!)
3. Learn a New Skill
Perhaps my favorite way to make the most of downtime at work is to learn a new skill. For example, you can ask your boss to cross-train on a different aspect of the business. (Pro tip: the more versatile you are, the harder you are to replace!)
If you freelance or work from home, it’s even more important to invest in your skills. After all, the better your skills, the more you can charge for your services! Use this downtime to take an online course that will either enhance your current service offerings or enable you to offer a new one.
Whether its industry-specific or a universal skill like leadership, networking, or software, learning new things makes you a more well-rounded professional and lends more ammunition to your resume.
Related Content: Free Online Courses to Launch Your Work-at-Home Career
4. Give Your Resume a Makeover
Speaking of resumes, you can use downtime at work to revamp yours if it's been a while. Even if you aren’t thinking about leaving your job, it’s always a good idea to have an up-to-date resume.
And if this downtime stretches into weeks or even months with nothing to do, it may be a good idea to start looking for new opportunities. You need a job that allows you to keep growing professionally. And too much downtime sometimes means the company isn’t making its budget, which could lead to layoffs.
Related Content: 5 Ways to Get Your Resume Noticed
5. Create an SOP
Every business can benefit from having Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs, but many organizations never get around to making them. Yet they are crucial because if you suddenly need to leave the role, either temporarily or permanently, your successor will have a point of reference for all the processes and procedures in your day-to-day.
Even if you are a freelancer or business owner, it is important to have SOPs if you plan to outsource certain tasks down the road.
Not sure how to write an SOP? Try using a free template to help you get started.
6. Clean Up Your Workspace
If you’re experiencing nothing more than a slow afternoon, then organizing your desk will be time well spent. Because let’s be honest, when was the last time you cleaned up your workspace?
During peak times, you probably didn’t have time even to read your emails, let organize your inbox and file things away properly. Go through your computer and delete old files, archive old emails, and clean up the 1,000+ icons that have accrued on your desktop over the past six months.
Then focus on cleaning up around your computer. Get a cord management system in place, add some drawer dividers in your desk, and get any clutter out of the way with baskets and shelving. Experiment with repositioning your monitors to make them more ergonomic.
Related Content: How to Get Your Office Organized
7. Take a Break
We live in a hustle culture that has come to glorify self-sacrifice and exhaustion. But there’s a fine line between ambition and workaholism. Continually pushing yourself will result in burnout which can negatively affect both your mental and physical health.
So if you have been on the go for a long time, then this downtime at work might be an opportunity to get some much-needed R&R. Take it! How you rejuvenate is up to you but things like exercise, meditation, and spending time with friends and family are almost always beneficial!
And after you’ve had a chance to recharge your batteries, you’ll be primed to crush it when work picks back up again.
Although the occasional stretch of downtime at work is often considered a negative thing, it can be extremely valuable to those who know how to use it effectively.
It’s good to take a pause every now and again, too. Sometimes, downtime is an opportunity just to step back and reevaluate where you are in your career efforts. From there you can more confidently choose to either continue on the path you’re on or pivot to a new one.
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Corrie Alexander is a content creator and logistics nerd from Toronto, Ontario. Her climb up the corporate ladder cultivated her interest in the topic of career development, a passion rivaled only by her love of exercise and strong coffee. As an alumna of both Horkey Handbook’s Freelance Writing and Virtual Assistant courses, Corrie loves helping other bloggers and small business owners grow! Visit her website, thefitcareerist.com.