We all deserve moments of unproductivity—after a long, tiring day, over the weekend, or even between meetings. But I’d guess that those brief spurts tend to turn into hours of mindless social media stalking and “Which character are you most like?” quizzes. And that can really make your head spin.
I’m not going to tell you to drop your shenanigans completely, because that’s not realistic. But how about we make a small trade-off?
I’ll make a deal with you: Try swapping out your typical “bad” habits with these seven painless suggestions, and I bet you won’t feel the difference (but your mind will thank you!).
1. Swap Your Current News Feeds
...With Ones That Bring Important News and Updates Right to You
There’s nothing I love more than spending my commute scrolling through every possible social media outlet I’m on—twice. And sure, looking at pictures of my friends in Germany with large beer mugs is entertaining, but after a while it can get repetitive.
So, one master tip is to inundate your newsfeeds with more than just social updates. You can like your favorite news outlets or publications on Facebook so that popular articles show up without having to browse the web for them.
Or, you can follow prominent influencers in your industry (or your ideal industry) on Twitter or LinkedIn to get daily doses of great advice. Or, use Snapchat’s “Discover” feature for a quick burst of information via video.
How to Make the Swap: Read 10 LinkedIn Influencers That’ll Instantly Make Your News Feed Worth Looking At
2. Swap Watching YouTube Videos
...With Watching TED Talks
We can all spend hours watching “How to” cooking videos and TV bloopers in our spare time. I mean, how doesn’t an otter pushing a cart not make your afternoon?
But while you’re at it, why not swap some of those “fun” videos for something a bit more educational? Ugh, I know, I said educational—but hear me out. TED Talks can be the same length as your basic BuzzFeed video, and there are so many different topics they cover that you can’t possibly be bored by them. The best part? You can even just listen to them if you’re multitasking.
How to Make the Swap: Watch 5 Super-Short TED Talks for 5 Super Common Work Situations
3. Swap Listening to Music
...With Listening to Podcasts
Listening to music was my karmic relief. Whenever I had a bad day, throwing on some upbeat tunes made all the bad feelings go away. That is, until I tried podcasts.
Yup, I’d argue that tuning into a podcast is as much, if not more, soothing than music. Why, you ask? It’s like story time: You get to hear about people’s lives, get inside people’s heads, play trivial games, and learn a lot without doing anything but opening your ears. And didn’t you love it when your teacher or parent used to read to you as a kid?
How to Make the Swap: Check Out 15 Best Podcasts to Listen to on Your Commute When You Want to Forget Work for a Bit
4. Swap Procrastinating With the Internet
...With Procrastinating by Cleaning Your Desk/Inbox/Office
OK, you don’t want to complete that report due Friday just yet. Or, maybe you’re still trying to hash out ideas for next week’s meeting. I get it—sometimes, we just want to procrastinate.
But while you’re avoiding work, you might as well do something productive, say, wipe down your keyboard or clear out all that excess paper in your desk drawer. It’s not a crazy thing to ask, is it?
(Hint: It might just make you come up with great ideas.)
How to Make the Swap: Watch The Lazy Person’s Guide to Cleaning Your Desk
5. Swap Fantasy Online Shopping
...With Shopping for Things You Actually Need
So you’re addicted to browsing online for clothes you’ll never buy, or household decorations that would never fit in your box of an apartment. Since you’re already in the shopping mood, why not get some of your chores done?
Running low on toilet paper? Place a cleaning supplies order on Amazon or Soap so you won’t get stuck running to the store last minute. Ready to start making lunch so you can eat healthier and save money? Buy a cute lunchbox to motivate yourself. Been meaning to sign up for that workout class? Now’s your chance.
How to Make the Swap: Buy One of the 16 To-Do Lists That’ll Make You Excited to Check (Even More) Things Off
6. Swap Playing Video Games
...With Learning Games
I swear, apps today have officially made learning fun—which means you have the perfect trade-off for your beloved Candy Crush. Instead of playing something mind-numbingly unproductive, try Luminosity to increase your brainpower or Duolingo to grow your language skills. Or, take a personality or career test to see how you can better improve you!
How to Make the Swap: Take 14 Free Personality Tests That’ll Help You Figure Yourself Out
7. Swap Mindless Browsing
...With Active Reading
In a recent LinkedIn article, Gretchen Rubin states, “I remind myself that just because I’m busy doesn’t mean that I’m being productive. Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.”
Sometimes, we think just because we’re technically scanning the web we’re learning and growing. But there’s a difference between browsing and actively reading.
It’s as simple as this: Instead of passively looking at articles, comments, advice, make the time to really take it in. Set aside your phone, music, or any other distractions and give yourself five minutes of focused learning. Save links for later, jot down notes, add a comment, and share ideas with your friends—the more you interact with the text, the better it will stick.
How to Make the Swap: Read How to Stop Thinking About Reading Articles—and Actually Start Reading Them
Convinced? I thought so. Now get out there and start being productively unproductive.
Photo of person being unproductive courtesy of Blend Images - LWA/Dann Tardif/Getty Images.
As an Editor for The Muse, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.More from this Author