Ah, the life of an office professional. On some days, it’s all you can do to keep breathing as a flurry of activity spins around you. But on others, things are so slow that every minute that ticks by is torture. While it’s tempting to give in to web surfing, Facebook checking and online shopping, there are far more productive ways to spend your time when your boss and colleagues are out of the office or your business has hit a slump. Here are a dozen ideas for getting started.
- Write down your goals for the “school year.”
Imagine that you are about to start a new school year. Think hard about what you want to achieve at work in the next several months, and specific steps you’ll need to take to make it happen. If your boss is around, set up a meeting to talk through what you’ve come up with so that you’re both on board.
- Pretend you’re a new employee.
Similarly, re-acquaint yourself with all of your organization’s policies and benefits, from how paid time off is currently managed (it may have changed based on recent regulations) to interesting volunteer opportunities available onsite.
- Take the elevator.
If you had to process some specialized financial paperwork for your boss, would you know how to do it? The dead week is a great time to better understand how company systems work and the people you should talk to in order to most efficiently get things done. Walk over to see these people instead of sending an email or instant message.
- Have lunch with a new contact.
Now that you actually have some down time, why not use it by spending a little more than an hour with a person you’d like to get to know better and who could possibly help you in your career? After all, informal, in-person networking is the most effective kind.
- Clean up your virtual world.
If you haven’t read an email from January yet, you’re not going to. Purge your email inbox and the hard drive of your computer so that you can start fresh. Make sure important files are backed up in the cloud and archived for safekeeping.
- Hack your way to greater productivity.
New apps are being developed all the time that help us get work done faster and better. Everyone has workflow preferences, but perusing the iTunes or Google Play stores will give you a good idea of what’s out there and what will be most useful to you.
- Do anticipated pre-work.
Is there a certain project coming up that you’re responsible for each year? Do you know that next month, you’ll have to put together a particular business plan? If you’ve been at your job a year or more, chances are you have an idea of the tasks that are coming down the pike. If there is anything you can complete in advance, do so!
- Take a MOOC.
Massive, open, online courses are a great source of new skills and expertise that can facilitate upward mobility in your career. Some elite universities offer free courses based on their onsite curricula, and independent sites like Udemy have free and low-cost options.
- Kindle your innovation.
If your organization has hit a rough patch, is there anything you can do about it? Identifying and solving a problem you’re qualified to address can only help, and you may just be setting the stage for your next promotion.
- Assess your expertise.
Is there any area that you know more about than most other people at your company? Think about how to position that knowledge for maximum visibility, and if it’s worth a visit to your PR department to investigate potential media or content-creation opportunities.
- Catch up on your reading.
That would be trade publications like Information Week, Ad Age or the ABA Banking Journal, not People. Stop by the mailroom or hop online. Focus your attention on trend pieces that will help you better understand where your industry is headed.
- Check out nearby mood boosters.
Slow periods are the perfect times to scout out local resources that will make your workdays more cheerful and fun. Head over to that new Cross Fit, massage bar or salad joint that just opened, or let your spider sense lead you to a new park.
What are some of the ways you stay productive when work is slow? Share a tip in the comments!