By Abbey Slattery
You know the feeling: cobwebs in your email inbox, no tasks in the queue, phone lines seemingly dead. When you spend 40 hours a week in one place, time can really crawl by if there’s nothing to do.
Being bored at work—even if there are things to do—is far from uncommon. An OfficeTeam study found that participants reported being bored at work for around 10.5 hour per week, which totals a full week’s worth of time every month! Another study published by the Korn Ferry Institute found that one of the biggest motivators for switching jobs was boredom with a current position.
While switching jobs may not be feasible for everyone right away, there are a few things you can do in your down time that’ll make securing a new position much easier.
Bring some productivity to your unproductive lulls, and try out a few of these easy to-dos!
11 productive things to do when you’re bored at work
1. Make a career plan
With nothing going on at work, it’s the perfect time to daydream. Think about what you want to get out of your career, and make a one-year, five-year, and even ten-year plan. Are there any new projects you could propose that’ll help you meet some goals? Any flashy, sought-after professional skills to develop?
Think of this as your jumping-off point, and see where you can take things from there.
2. Fit in some light reading
If you’re in communications or social media management, use your free time to read up on SEO tricks and the latest Google search standards. If you’re in science or technology, check out a few published papers relevant to your field. If you work in business development, browse through Forbes and Bloomberg Business. Or if you’re just a woman who wants to read up on navigating your professional life, there might be some special resources out there for you *cough cough, InHerSight, cough cough*.
You never know when some random nugget of knowledge will help you stand out!
Read more: 17 Memoirs to Inspire Working Women
3. Learn a new language
Apps like Duolingo, Mindsnacks, and Babbel were designed to make learning a new language easy and convenient. When there’s nothing to do at work, just fit in a few lessons! You can opt to forgo the speech tests so you don’t make too much noise, and you’ll be adding a pretty marketable (and interesting) skill to your resume.
4. Watch a TED Talk
If you work somewhere where it’s okay to pop in headphones, plan a schedule of TED Talks to check out! Not only do they cover a ton of topics—from body language to the art of misdirection—but it’s a sort of sneaky way to learn new things. At the very least, you can find a new talking point for the next work function.
5. Help out your coworkers
When it comes to finding a new job, it’s all about the connections. In fact, who you know is one of the biggest influences on whether you or not you get a job. Nobody stays at one job forever, so it’s not a bad idea to network with your coworkers a little while putting in your time by asking them if there’s anything you can do to help. You never know, one of them could be the stepping stone to your next position!
6. Invent a more efficient process
Maybe there’s a process at work that everyone dreads. Put your mind to coming up with a way to make it less painful or more efficient. Your manager will love the initiative.
7. Solve a client problem
Maybe your company has a client that’s underperforming. Spend some time asking the client or the account manager to walk you through what’s happening. Use your time to identify the real problem (sometimes it can be hard to spot!) and build a plan for solving it.
8. Keep track of your finances
InHerSight’s research has found that women who feel knowledgeable about their finances are more likely to ask for a raise, ask for a promotion, and apply for higher levels within their organizations.
If you don’t have a monthly budget yet, why not create one? Take a look at exactly how much you’re bringing in and spending each month. Which areas could you cut back in? How much extra can you put into savings
If you’re up for it, you can even try getting into the stock market. Apps like Robinhood and Acorns break down investing for little to no cost, and it puts your money to work instead of letting it just sit in a low-yield savings account.
9. Learn a new skill
It’s not like you’ll have hours of free time at work, but even ten minutes a few times a week can go a long way in learning something new. Try enrolling in a few coding courses, play around with a few programs in the Adobe Creative Suite or brainstorm a few new recipes for your meal plan. The world is your oyster—well, until another task comes in, at least.
10. Invent a new product
Turn your boredom into creativity and spend your time working on inventing a new product for the business or improving upon one that already exists. Even if you’re not a product designer, simply identifying a problem and solving it with the idea for a product counts! Use your idea to wow your manager.
11. Learn more about yourself
Quizzes aren’t just for wasting time! If you are considering a career change, taking a few personality quizzes can help you figure out what you’re naturally inclined to and what sort of environment you work well in. Check out a few, see what fits your personality, and let us tell you who’s hiring!