How To Stay Productive When There's Nothing To Do

As you know, productivity is a typically key factor used to measure an employee's success. But how can you remain highly productive when work isn't piling up on your desk? This article reviews the ten top ways to stay productive when work is slow.

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As you know, productivity is a typically key factor used to measure an employee's success. It's probably on your performance evaluation, and it may even be used to calculate your income. But how can you remain highly productive when work isn't piling up on your desk?

Career Development Ideas

When your project load lightens up, it's a great time to polish your skills and network with other peers in your industry. Try the following tips to stay productive career development activities.

1. Become active in business/network societies.

All kinds of business and networking societies are available online and in your geographic area. Inquire at the local Chamber of Commerce for specific business chapters, or search online for groups and organizations that might interest you. Networking can also take place at conferences and seminars, where people expect to meet new faces and discuss new ideas. Interacting with others can teach you new tips and tricks that may boost your knowledgebase, skill set and confidence.

Meeting face-to-face with others in your industry can also spark new opportunities. Better yet, you can network with people who are not in your industry. They may find your talents quite impressive which can offer new opportunities for your company.

Networking and business groups promote both you and your company. Because of this, you may find that your organization is willing to expense membership fees to certain societies.

2. Expand your horizons.

You know that new skill or software that you've been dying to learn? Now's the time to try it out! You can do this by participating in company training programs, taking a course online, listening to industry podcasts or reading those industry publications that have been sitting on your desk collecting dust. The internet has an abundance of information you can easily access. For example, you can read industry blogs, sign up for Google Alerts, or even sign up for an RSS feed on a topic that interests you.

3. Spread the wealth of your knowledge.

Are you an expert at a skill, tool, process or topic? There are so many people who can benefit from your knowledge. Some examples of "spreading the wealth" online are answering questions on LinkedIn, reviewing books on Amazon; adding content to Wikipedia or a wiki specific to your industry.

You can also write helpful articles and then distribute it to your contacts, company newsletter and networking groups. You will not just impress your audience with your knowledge but also with your creativity and enthusiasm.

If you work for a smaller company, you can start a mentoring program or even a "Share your knowledge" workshop. If you work for a larger corporation, you can present the idea to the HR department or volunteer to be a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for internal training programs. The training department will love you! Then, when you feel really confident, spread your wings even further by offering to present to local or regional chapters of professional organizations.

Team working around a table

4. Volunteer to assist with other projects.

Even if your project load is light, chances are that other teams in your organization are experiencing heavier loads. You can increase your productivity and acquire impromptu on-the-job training by assisting a co-worker. This way you can help your teammate get ahead with the workload and you gain a new skill. It's a win-win situation! Your manager may not know you have available time and will appreciate the initiative. This makes you a team player and can benefit you, especially during review time.

5. Volunteer to create company document templates.

You probably know that document templates streamline production when times are busy, and downtime can be a great opportunity to update those company templates or create new ones to make your future life easier. There are numerous benefits of taking this one on:
  • You build your skills and become the "template expert."
  • The templates will be easier to work with when you are at crunch time on your next project.
  • You manager and other team members will appreciate your efforts (first, because they do not have to do it and secondly, because the daunting task gets done).
  • It will bode well for your next performance review.

6. Update your resume and contact information.

Often times you become comfortable in the status quo and forget to update resume postings and contact information. It does not necessarily mean you are looking for a new position but if the time comes, the updating is already done and your resume is ready. Or simply keep your contact information current with the social networking groups and industry organizations to spark new opportunities.

7. Clean and reorganize your office.

If you are like most people, your desk becomes a mini war zone when you're heavily involved in a project. Downtime is the perfect time to go through all of those old files and either box them up or throw them away. It may be a daunting task at first but, ultimately, it will feel good to give your CDs, binders and loose files a new home. Don't forget to organize those old emails and computer files, too.

Cleaning up your office space or cubicle will help you get in the right state of mind to be more productive. If nothing else, you will now have room for new projects and new opportunities to make your desk messy again.

8. Organize a volunteer give back event in the name of the company.

There are many charities and nonprofit organizations that are constantly seeking volunteers. If you choose to use your time in this manner, pick one that means a lot to you (or survey your co-workers) and present the idea to your HR department or manager. If your company allows for event planning off site, organizations like Habitat for Humanity or local soup kitchens are great ways to participate in a community service project.

If your company does not allow offsite sponsored events, you can organize a canned food drive for the local soup kitchen or for Salvation Army. The American Red Cross can even come to you for a blood drive. Community service projects are great publicity for the company, and you help support the community.

Man at lake watching a sunset

Personal Development Ideas

9. Find inspiration.

Inspiration can come from anywhere! If cleaning your desk or helping the community does not provide inspiration for new work projects, go find it. This may mean going to a museum, a conference, brainstorming session with co-workers or even spending time with your family. Find something that uplifts you and makes you think creatively.

10. Enjoy yourself!

Soon you will be busy again and will be unable to have the extra "me" or family time. Take advantage of your downtime and spend it with family, read that book you've been putting off, start the home improvement project you have been procrastinating or even take a vacation! It will recharge your batteries and bring a new perspective on things. And your manager will appreciate you taking a vacation during downtime rather than taking it in the middle of a project. We all know a well-timed break helps you come back with energy and feeling rejuvenated.

That's It!

Adopting several of these ideas will certainly keep you productive when work is slow as well as make you a more relaxed, inspired, and knowledgeable team-player. In no time, you will find yourself saying "What down time?"

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