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Published on September 20, 2018

15 Productive Things to Do When You Have Extra Downtime

15 Productive Things to Do When You Have Extra Downtime

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

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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 October 17, 2018

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get plenty of sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

How much sleep should you be getting?

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Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

Yes, there are.

Try these three things:

  • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
  • Don’t eat too late
  • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

3. Challenge your brain

When was the last time you challenged your brain?

I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

  • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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4. Take more breaks

When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

However, I was wrong.

Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

Let me explain.

Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

What’s the answer?

Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

5. Learn a new skill

I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

Let me give you an example of this:

Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

6. Start working out

If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

“But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

Not a problem.

A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

Interested in getting started?

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Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

  • Join a gym
  • Join a sports team
  • Buy a bike
  • Take up hiking
  • Dance to your favorite music

7. Eat healthier foods

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

This applies to your brain too.

The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

  • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
  • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
  • Nuts – improves memory
  • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
  • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

Final thoughts

I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

Reference

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