If you’ve ever found yourself between assignments at work, you’ll know how unbearable it feels to be bored at work. On the one hand, surely completing your tasks should be rewarded with free time. On the other, you can’t be seen slacking off and need to stay productive. Finding assignments for yourself can be a challenge, but with some creativity you can prove that you’re a productive employee and prepare for future assignments at the same time.
Enroll in introductory online courses for new skills
With internet access you have thousands of free online courses at your fingertips. Websites like Khan Academy, Codecademy and Udemy offer you access to a number of skills that make you a more valuable employee.
Online classes can let you pick up crucial modern skills such as coding, improving your familiarity with programs like Excel, learn how to use all the features in Adobe programs and otherwise educate yourself. Your boss will appreciate seeing you increase your skill capacity, and this can definitely qualify as a productive use of time.
Sort through all your documents on your desk and laptop
If you’ve just finished all the projects you have assigned to you, take some time to sort through all the documents that have built up on your desk and in your inbox. If you’re anything like the average office employee, you probably have a number of papers that have been stored in whatever folder was closest, piled in drawers or stacked on desks.
By going through these documents and making sure they’re properly filed and stored, you can find any projects that haven’t been wrapped up, make connections between projects or come up with new ideas to work with the information you have. Take this time to clean up your inbox, including double checking which emails you may have forgotten to respond to or potential assignments you can follow up on.
Anticipate what assignments will land on your desk and get better prepared for them
If you’ve wiped out your to-do list for today, start drafting a to-do list for tomorrow. By anticipating projects and assignments that will land on your desk tomorrow, you can do a better job when you need to take care of the work. Contact people ahead of time if you know you’ll need to speak to them – arrange any interviews you’re going to have, ask people to send you documents when they’re ready and set reminders to make sure you don’t forget anything.
Stand up and walk around the office
Most office workers are sedentary all day, which can lead to a sense of sluggishness and slow down your productivity. If you’re out of things to do, take a chance to go for a walk. It can help kickstart your imagination and work out some pent up energy when you’re pressed for stuff to do. And when you’re done with your walk, you can get back to work with a renewed vigor and increased productivity. Walking decreases tension and boosts your mood, making you less irritable and more satisfied.
Stretch your creative muscles and come up with new ideas
Free time gives you a chance to stress your creative muscles too. Use this free time to identify any common issues you have at work or ways to improve the day to day or large scale operations of your business. Do you receive regular customer complaints about a particular issue you haven’t been able to solve? Is there an outdated aspect of the business you think could be updated to increase efficiency or productivity as well as avoid injuries at work? You should make better use of this free time to come up with ideas to solve problems and draft proposals for your managers. You can show them that you’re engaged in the process, care about the success of the business and are capable of offering creative solutions when given time and resources.
Browse job listings and search for appealing opportunities
How often do you find yourself bored out of your skull at work? If it’s often, you may want to consider using your free time to browse new job opportunities. Even if you’re not dedicating yourself to leaving your current job, checking out what’s available can remind you of what the job market looks like, show you what expectations other managers have and perhaps make you appreciate your current job more. If you really can’t find ways to keep yourself busy, you may be in the wrong position. Don’t trap yourself in a dead end job out of a sense of obligation – if you think your skills can be better used elsewhere, move on!
Finding ways to occupy time at work can be a challenge – you want to pass the time and you’re objectively productive, but your boss doesn’t want to see you slacking off. By sorting through assignments, picking up new skills and evaluating your position and responsibilities, you can keep yourself busy and help your career in the long run.