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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

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 October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

More Resources About Boosting Focus and Productivity

Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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