During my first job as a teenager, I didn’t have a whole lot to do at work. Most days were slow and without demand, so I had learn pretty quickly that it was up to me to take things into my own hands and make the workday productive. And the truth is, that doesn’t only happen to high schoolers working after school. It happens in the professional world, too.
Some days at work can feel hectic and overwhelming, but other days are, well, just slow. You might not have much to do, but you can’t quite leave yet, so why not turn that extra time into something productive? It’s a good skill to have, and it’ll do wonders for keeping you away from boredom and watching the clock at work.
Here are five ways to turn your slow afternoon into a productive one.
Find a New Project
If all of your projects are complete for a little bit, turn to your boss and see if there is anything he or she needs help with. Chances are, there will always be something that you can do; you just have to find out what it is. Finding work or extra projects not only helps you advance your own skills, but it also enables you to help someone else out, and hopefully they will return the favor when you are in need. Be self-motivated, curious, and interested in what you do so that you can prevent yourself from sitting around all day with seemingly nothing left to do.
There is never a bad time to organize. If it’s nearing the end of the day and you have a little extra time on your hands, organize your workspace. Clean up your desk and get rid of the old papers and sticky note reminders that always get in the way. Depending on how much time you have, it may also be a good idea to set up a new system for filing papers or storing items if the old one isn’t quite working for you.
Speaking of getting organized, f you’re like me, you might have a lot of unread spam emails or irrelevant emails from a long time ago that you have already taken care of. Go through your inbox and delete the ones you no longer need. It will make looking at and searching through your emails a whole lot more bearable and you will have an easier time sifting through them to find something that you need. While you’re at it, take some time to answer the emails from a few days ago that you haven’t quite gotten around to yet. Catch up in your inbox because you’ll thank yourself for it in a few days when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the work and emails you now have.
When you have a slow afternoon and just a little bit longer until it’s time to clock out, it may be beneficial to try some professional development if you haven’t done so in a while. Brush up on some reading and learn how to become more effective at what you do. Learn something new and gain some knowledge before you leave from the day. Read top industry blogs and check out those articles that you have been eyeing for awhile. Knowledge is power, so you can never go wrong with professional development on your slower work days.
When it’s the end of the day and you have around fifteen minutes until it’s time to head home, plan for your next day at work. Figure out everything that you have to do within the next week or two and prioritize your tasks. Write down any deadlines you have that are approaching and make a to-do list for the next day. Planning today will save time tomorrow, and it will maybe even give you an extra fifteen minutes at the end of tomorrow’s workday to plan for the next.
If you’re sitting around and watching the clock, use your extra time to do something productive at work. Turning downtime into productivity can help you stay on task and prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed by the amount of work you may have in the upcoming weeks.