Maybe you just finished a massive project, or maybe demand is faltering. Even in the busiest positions, there are slow days, and for most employees, slow days warrant a priority shift from “getting things done” to “staving off boredom.”
Slow days may seem tedious to employees focused on getting through the workday or worrisome for workers concerned about the security of their position—either way, there are countless strategies you can use to make your slow work day more entertaining and more productive.
Option 1: Organize
Your first option is to maximize your productivity during your busy days. Take advantage of the relaxed pace that comes with a slow day and clear your workspace and your mind of clutter. Think of it as taking the time to pave a highway you can use when you need to travel fast.
Clear Your Desk
First things first. Make sure your desk is in order. Shut down your computer if you have to. Whether you’re working in an office or working from home, taking just 30 minutes to fully organize your workspace is usually enough to maximize your productivity. Get rid of anything lying around that you don’t use on a daily basis.
File old paperwork that needs to be saved, and if you’re the type who uses sticky note reminders plastered everywhere, find a new way to streamline your cues. A clean desk will help you work with a clearer mind when the work picks up again.
Set New Priorities
Take a moment to organize all your short-term and long-term tasks. Even on a slow day, you likely have a few projects or long-term commitments that are sitting on your back burner. Take a moment to analyze and sort all the tasks you’re currently facing.
Break your projects down into digestible tasks, then categorize those tasks in an “A-B-C” order, with A-level priorities that need to be done within a day, B-level priorities that need to be done within the week, and C-level priorities that can be done anytime. This will give you objective insight into your current workload.
Catch Up on Background Tasks
If you followed my recommended prioritization system, these will be your C-level tasks. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of micro-priority tasks that all of us face in our jobs. These are easy to procrastinate doing, especially in the face of much more important duties, but when you’re facing a slow day, you finally have a chance to catch up. Take an hour or two to clean up your background task queue and knock out those pesky low priorities.
Option 2: Create
When you’re done organizing, or if you’d prefer to do something a little more hands-on, you could always opt to create something new. Creating something gives you something more tangible and measurable, which you can show off to your supervisors or use as an immediate added value to the company. No matter what position you’re in, you have at least a handful of general options:
Create Content for Your Company
Even if you don’t consider yourself a strong writer, you can create valuable content for your company’s inbound marketing strategy. Write a blog post about what you do know—something in line with your expertise, or maybe a look at what your department has been doing.
Anything you write will be valuable for your company’s SEO and content marketing strategy, and if you can add your own expertise to it, you can add a fresh, unique perspective to what otherwise might be a fairly consistent blog. Make it fun by writing about your experiences in your own personal voice.
Create a New, Efficient Workflow
There’s at least one task or responsibility that bugs you due to inefficient procedures or nonsensical workflows that surround it. Slow days give you the time to fix those inane processes. Take a look at the problem at its core, and sketch out a plan to correct it.
For example, if you need to type up a full-page summary for a report that nobody reads, make a plan to condense it into a single bulleted list. Or, if there are back-and-forth communication steps with an outside party that need not be involved, make a proposal to eliminate that step of the process entirely.
Create Internal Documentation
One of the most valuable things you can create for your company is internal documentation. Write up a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) document that details some of the responsibilities you carry out on a daily basis. Or, you can create a new strategy document for your department, outlining the current state of your program and your short-term and long-term goals. Bring these to your next meeting or your next review—it will be proof that you’re adding value to your company.
Option 3: Learn
Slow days also give you the time you need to learn a new skill or develop one of your weaker talents. It may not give you an immediate tangible benefit the way that organizing or creating can, but it will put you in a much better position to get a raise or a promotion at your next review. Employers love to see employees trying to increase their value on their own.
Attend a Webinar
Search for free online webinars you can attend—there are literally thousands of them. Look for news related to your industry or your specific department, and engage with the presenters to learn even more new information. You can also visit TEDTalks to watch some presentations on efficiency or mental hacks that might be able to make you a better worker. Take notes and put what you learn into effect in the real world.
Develop a New Skill
Today, it’s easier than ever to learn and develop a new skill. There are limitless free online resources available solely to help people learn new things. For example, Stanford University and MIT are just two examples of major colleges that feature free online coursework for the general public. There are free online resources available to help you learn how to code, learn how to speak a new language, or do pretty much anything you want to do. Even if you can’t find a full online class, you can at least find an instructional YouTube video.
Visit Other Departments
If you’re truly bored and you want to get out of your office, you can still be productive by visiting other departments and learning about their processes. You might be able to help out with some peripheral tasks, or you might be able to adapt your workflow to better accommodate their needs. For example, if you work in marketing and you visit the accounting department, you might find a better way to communicate or you might find a data entry task you can help out with.
Learn to see your slow days as opportunities and use that extra time to your advantage. Organizing can better prepare you for your more hectic days, and creating new strategies can better position your company in the long-term. Plus, if your supervisors see you using your extra time to improve your capacity or abilities as a worker, they’re going to reward you. The more consistent you are with your efforts, the more skilled and valuable you’ll become.