If you have a job with strict limitations on when and where you can work, downtime can be a challenge. It feels like a huge time-suck when you’re waiting on a project manager to deliver you materials, or your inbox is empty but the boss just won’t let you leave before 5:00 sharp. There are ways to make these free periods productive, though. By using these bouts of time wisely, you can accomplish a lot more during your work day than just what is listed in your job description (but like, finish those things, too).
Take a Walk
A lot of people may see this as taking a break, but getting away from your desk to clear your head is beneficial in so many ways. Not only has it been proven that sitting for long periods of time is bad for your physical health, but it can also be detrimental to your emotional and mental well-being. Taking walks and exercise, in general, has been proven to calm the mind, improve mood, and even boost creative thinking. If your boss criticizes you for taking an unauthorized break, just explain to them that you’re getting your creative juices flowing so you can be more productive when you return.
Learn a New Skill
If you can’t get away from your desk, take advantage of the world of knowledge at your fingertips. With all the cat gifs to watch and Buzzfeed quizzes to take, we often forget how lucky we are to have the internet. When you have a few minutes to spare, use that time wisely by taking advantage of it. You can learn a new language (or brush up on one that’s slipped away) on sites like Duolingo or QuizUp; watch a YouTube video or read blog posts on a new craft you’ve been wanting to take up; or, if you can get away with it, pull up a book on your Kindle and get in a chapter or two.
Work On Your Side Hustle
Work on brainstorming your next business move, send out emails, or write up a to-do list for later. Squeeze in whatever tasks you can and free up more of your after-work time for the larger undertakings. Take notes in a cloud based service so that you can pull them up later when it’s crunch time, and you’ll have a solid outline that allows you to dive right in.
If you and your coworkers find yourselves with nothing to do at the same times, get to know each other. Having strong work relationships is really important, and can even lead to great friendships outside of work. Get to know each other on a more personal level and not only will you gain a friend, but an invaluable workplace ally - just in case.
When you have spurts of downtime it can be tempting mindlessly crush some candies, but next time you find yourself reaching for your phone take a pause and ask yourself, “Is this really how I want to be spending my time?” When you really think about it, the answer is (almost) always no.
Stephanie was born in Texas but raised in Providence since the age of two. After graduating from Rhode Island College in 2008 she began working in human services as a vocational coach for special needs high school students. Wanting to pursue her love of writing as a career, Stephanie earned her Master's Degree in Creative Writing from Full Sail University in 2016. She currently works as a freelance writer, editor, blogger, and social media consultant. In addition to writing, she is an expert in Providence restaurants, impractical trivia, and finding a parking spot downtown. Her dream is to write a script that gets made into a movie or Netflix show.