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15 Productive Things to Do When You Have Extra Downtime

15 Productive Things to Do When You Have Extra Downtime
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Time away from the office gives us an opportunity to kick back and relax. However, if you’re like me, you might enjoy squeezing some productivity out of your days off, too.

Thankfully, there are several ways to incorporate productive things to do during downtime that can keep you in the flow of getting things done.

1. Start the new hobby you’ve always wanted to try

Who says downtime productivity has to be boring? Extra time off is perfect for starting a new hobby, especially if you’ve had one in mind for a while. This is a great time to Google, take notes, and bookmark some excellent resources that’ll help you get started.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even dive right in—you can usually start hobbies such as photography, arts and crafts, right away with what you have at home.

2. Organize your emails for a calm inbox

Admittedly, tackling your inbox is about as exciting as it sounds. However, once you take the time to go through and organize your emails, you’ll have a less stress-inducing inbox and can set yourself up for increased inbox productivity at work.

Start by grouping similar emails together, like receipts and order tracking, and take advantage of your email provider’s “promotions” and “social” folders, which will automatically sort all your Facebook updates and newsletters for you!

Another good tip that I personally swear by is adding a set of priority folders right at the top of your email’s folder bar. It’s easy, effective, and will allow you to streamline your tasks. Here’s how to do it:

  • Create a Priority 1 and Priority 2 folder at the top of your email bar
  • Sort emails appropriately as they come in. Priority 1 for the high-priority items, and Priority 2 for tasks lower on the totem pole.
  • During your workday, tackle all your Priority 1 emails first, then move on to your Priority 2 folder.

This system will not only make your inbox clean and calm but will give your productivity and prioritization skills a nice boost during work hours too.

3. Revamp your budget

Another way to be productive and reduce stress during downtime is revisiting and revamping your budget.

In the age of everything-as-a-service, many of us accrue new paid subscriptions every few months. Those small monthly payments of $15 here or $25 there can really add up—and you don’t want these charges catching you off-guard when money is tight.

A good starting point is to go through a month or two of bank statements and jot down all bills, subscriptions, and other recurring charges. Write them all down in a spreadsheet or planner and subtract the amount from what you make monthly.

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This is also a great time to get a good look at all the subscriptions you currently have and to decide which to keep and which to get rid of, if any.

4. Plan some fun activities

If you’ve been meaning to plan a fun date night or a family day-trip, your extra downtime is the perfect time to do so.

Take a look at your calendar for the next few months. What days would be perfect for some extra fun?

If you want to add some entertainment to your calendar but don’t know where to start, a good idea is to gather some new ideas and see what fits with your lifestyle, family, budget, and calendar.

Setting time aside for fun activities is also a fantastic way to ensure you’re carving out some stress-free time to enjoy your time off.

5. Set your appointments

While not as fun as planning a day trip, setting your appointments for the next few months (or even the year!) can make sure you have the time to actually get necessities like doctor and dentists appointments out of the way.

Better yet, if you’ve been putting off a routine cleaning or flu-shot, get them done quickly during your downtime and take the opportunity to schedule your next visits in-person.

6. Take a course

With sites like Coursera, Udemy, and Skillshare, learning something new has never been this easy. You can simply sign up to any of these sites, for free, and begin learning right away!

While most of these sites offer free trials, they also offer a hefty variety of free or discounted courses, which makes it easy and inexpensive.

If you prefer the traditional face-to-face route, you may want to check your local recreation center or community college for upcoming courses as well.

When it comes to productive things to do, taking a course is one of the most useful, as several courses offer resume-boosting certifications that can help you move up in your career. Or, you can always learn a new skill just for fun!

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7. Discover the educational side of YouTube

Surprisingly, YouTube isn’t just made of cat videos and millennial trends. In fact, the video sharing site can be an excellent resource for educational videos and even free courses. From TED Talks to learning to change the oil in your car, there are all sorts of things to discover on YouTube with a quick search.

I find YouTube to be a great office companion—I often choose a TED Talk or a recorded productivity round-table to listen to while breezing through my to-do list every day.

8. Documentaries: A productive thing to do while relaxing

If you’ve been looking for an excuse to curl up with a drink and some Netflix, here’s your chance!

Watching a documentary is both an entertaining and relaxing way to take in some new knowledge and learn some nifty facts.

Documentaries can range from animals to unsolved crimes to the study of happiness around the world; there’s always something new an interesting to learn with the added benefit of a relaxing night in front of the TV—without the guilt.

9. Get in some exercise while waiting in line

When we’re running errands or out and about, we’re often faced with small bursts of downtime waiting in lines. These periods, while often not long enough to get a lot done, do allow time for the quick exercises below:

  • Calf raises – stand on the balls of your feet while keeping your legs straight, then return to your normal standing position. Repeat while you’re in line—it’s that easy! The benefits of calf raises include strengthening your calves, improving your jumping ability, and of course, burning some calories.[1]
  • Standing on one leg – Don’t worry: you don’t have to look ridiculous in line to do this one, either. Slightly raise one of your feet off the ground so you are standing on one leg. Alternate every five seconds as needed. Standing on one leg can help build muscles throughout your leg and improve balance.

Adding just a little bit of exercise to your downtime each day can help to keep you active, and getting active is always productive!

10. Find a new favorite podcast

When thinking of new productive things to do, sitting back and listening to something might sound counter-intuitive. However, enjoying a good podcast is a great way to add some extra productivity to your time off. Podcasts can help you learn about your industry, hobbies, and get you more involved in your community.

In addition to being easy entertainment, podcasts can also help to inspire you and aid in self-improvement, which in turn raises productivity all around.

11. Learn a new career skill

While we touched on using courses to boost your knowledge and even your resume, there are a few other ways to add a new skill set to your career toolkit.

First, of course, you’ll need to find a good skill that will aid you in your career.

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Then, the real fun begins with these methods:

  • Volunteer – While you’ll be hard-pressed to land a job using a skill you’re just starting to learn, often you can find volunteer opportunities that will let you learn within their organization. Learning in this environment is beneficial as it allows you to make a change in your community, looks great on a resume, and can even provide unique networking opportunities (but more on that later).
  • Use a multimedia approach – Don’t be afraid to collect any and all resources pertaining to your new skill. In fact, reading books, articles, listening to podcasts, watching videos, and attending events centered around the skill are all great ways to develop the skill in a well-rounded manner. Of course, don’t forget to practice!
  • Use your resources – If a friend or family member has your new desired skill, reach out! Chances are, they’d love a helping hand with their own projects and don’t mind teaching a few tricks along the way. A bonus to this method: Family and friends might give you a deeper or more unique insight into the skill, unlike a book, event, or course normally would.

All of the methods above can be done during downtime. Whether you have five minutes to watch a video, an hour to read a book, or a few hours each week to volunteer, there’s an option for new skill development no matter your downtime restrictions.

12. Network

Networking isn’t just for entrepreneurs. It can help you get ahead in your career, build and strengthen skills, introduce you to new hobbies, and open yourself up to new opportunities.

The best part about networking is that it isn’t exclusive to conferences and meetings either. By introducing yourself to the people around you, be it at a coffee shop or playground while watching the kids, you never know who you’ll meet and what opportunities they can provide to you.

Even if a new connection doesn’t lead to a new opportunity or skill-building, it still allows you to build new friendships and flex your social muscles which are often lacking in today’s digital age.

13. Set some goals to improve motivation

Setting goals is one of the most motivational and productive things to do during downtime. This is the time to get real about what you want in life and set some goals to achieve it.

These goals don’t have to be career-centered either. They can be places you’d like to live, vacations you’d like to take, and hobbies you’d like to try.

While we mostly think of vacations, dream homes, and leisure activities, we’d like to pursue as “dreams,” putting these dreams onto paper with an action plan can turn them into highly-motivational goals.

Even better, the more motivated you are by your goals, the more likely you are to boost your productivity in order to achieve them.

14. Start a blog

If you have a knack for writing (or want to learn), then starting a blog is the perfect time to use those skills and get productive on your day off.

Why? Because it allows you to utilize and hone a creative and desired skill and can even add extra income to your wallet, all from your keyboard.

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The best part about blogging? You can write about anything your heart desires. Whether you want to blog about raising kids, fly-fishing, or the best restaurants in your city, it’s your blog, so anything goes!

Writing for your own blog is the perfect way to learn by practicing, and also provides an opportunity to build a community of readers and other writers as well.

Bonus: Many employers see blog writing (aka content marketing) as a highly valuable skill that can often help their companies or even their clients. It looks great on a resume and can even give you an edge over colleagues when it comes down to a competitive promotion process.

15. Build your brand

Who says branding is just for businesses? In today’s digital age, it seems as though everyone has a Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter account.

So what does this have to do with branding? Everything!

Chances are, you don’t want to be a lost face in a sea of digital profile pictures. This is why it’s crucial to develop your own personal brand.

Your personal brand is all about how others perceive you, whether in person at work or online. Now, you don’t have to start a website, blog, or business to have a “brand,” but some things to consider are shown below:

  • Determine what you want to be known for: Do you want to be known as an expert in your field? Or do you simply want to show the world your baking chops? Either way, what you put out to the world online can and will be seen by many users, including the people in your company and community, so make it something great!
  • Decide where you need to be: Though they seem to blend together on occasion, every social media platform serves a different purpose. Decide which purpose will help you build your personal brand and stick to it for best results.
    • If you’re showcasing career-centric blogs and trying to connect with other like-minded experts, communication-heavy LinkedIn and Twitter are for you.
    • If you’re showcasing your unmatched cat-training videos or cake decorating process, then the visual-heavy platforms Instagram and Facebook are where you should focus your energy.
  • Keep things consistent: Consistency across your social media platforms is key to establishing your personal brand. By demonstrating your personality through consistent and relevant posts, users will be able to quickly identify your posts from the crowd.

Your personal brand can help you move up in your career or even start a brand new one. It can help you build a business or earn a stellar reputation in your community—if it’s done right, that is.

Now that you have a wide range of productive things to do during downtime, it’s time to put some in action! The only question is, what will you start with first?

Featured photo credit: Keenan Constance via unsplash.com

Reference

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Kileen Robinson

Kileen helps people live their most productive lives possible, one article at a time.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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