This is a guest post from Monica of Fuller Life Makeover: Balanced Living for the Modern World.
Even the most productive person will occasionally find themselves with a lull in their workday, without much ‘work’ to do. What separates the average worker from an ultra-successful one is what they do when they find themselves facing a lazy day in the office.
The initial impulse might be to mentally check out and not do anything productive. But someone who is deeply invested in their career will resist this urge and instead capitalize on those newfound hours to advance professionally. Seizing even a couple of unscheduled hours in your workday will, over time, have a profound effect on your career.
One of the most common complaints from workers is that the massive number of interruptions, meetings, overflowing inboxes and even the dreaded open office layout get in the way of being able to do the deep, creative work. But it is just that type of work that keeps companies and individuals innovating and progressing forward. Here are some tips for getting the most out of any newly found free time in your workday.
You may look around and feel that you have absolutely nothing to do for the rest of the day, especially if you are efficient. But dig a little deeper and you may uncover missed opportunities which you can now take advantage of with the extra time on your hands.
Was there something your boss casually mentioned they would like you to work on besides your traditional job responsibilities? Have you been meaning to put together a training manual for your department? Finish that business plan? Finally get back to the recruiter about that potentially amazing new job?
If you truly can’t think of anything, one option is to use this time to do long-term career planning and strategizing for future projects.
Instead of scrolling through your Facebook feed for the umpteenth time, open a notebook or start a new document on your computer and write down what you have accomplished in the last quarter of being on the job. Then start to brainstorm some future directions for your work and for self-improvement.
Once you have identified some areas for professional development, plan how you will ready yourself to meet any challenges that may arise from future projects.
Is there a seminar you could take, or an online course? Can you arrange for a group of colleagues to get together on a regular basis and trade knowledge and skill sets if you have a varied workforce?
You can always fill in the specific details later. The important thing is to utilize the time to think of creative ways to make yourself a more well-rounded and valuable employee.
Take a colleague (or your boss) out to lunch
The old saying that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room still rings true. It’s very easy when things get hectic in the office to neglect some of those relationships that can potentially help you grow and advance in your chosen field. It’s a very good idea if you find yourself with extra time to ask that person whose talents you admire to have lunch or coffee.
Regardless of which stage of your career you’re currently in, building and maintaining these relationships is essential to thriving in the workplace. A slow day gives you the ability to cultivate them.
If no one is available to get together with you consider, calling or sending an email to someone who you have been meaning to connect with. This kind of networking often gets neglected in the hustle and bustle of everyday working, but even emailing a potential collaborator or client is better than wasting the day away counting the hours until 5PM.
Organize your workspace
It can be very easy to accumulate paperwork and odd bits of things, although the research is mixed on whether a messy desk versus a clean and organized one fosters more productivity and creative thoughts. The message it sends to colleagues (and higher-ups) is far clearer.
Go through old files and get rid of anything that you no longer need. Rearrange stacks of papers and folders.
Don’t forget to de-clutter your computer as well. It wastes time to try to find the one file you need in a desktop crowded with 200 folders. Consider cleaning up or implementing a new strategy for saving your important electronic files.
Take the day off altogether
Sometimes the very best approach to a lazy day at the office is to use the time to recharge your batteries away from your desk. Of course, this option may not be available to everyone, especially if you work in a less flexible environment, but you still have some options.
Take an extra-long lunch and use the time to unwind. Or go for a walk in the middle of the afternoon. Leave an hour or two early. Spending time in nature is an especially good choice since it is known to boost productivity so you can come back the next day feeling engaged and ready to tackle your projects.
Editor’s note: I love reading the Monica’s site – check it out for more productivity tips.
Lazy workdays, if utilized properly, can be a great way to revitalize the way you approach your work. You can even use them to generate ideas for your professional and personal development. After all, you are more likely to have a keen insight when your mind is not tied down to accomplishing the minutiae of your day to day work tasks.
Finally, be mindful if you find yourself with too many lazy days in your profession. That might be a sign that you’re not being challenged enough in your current work environment. Cheers to your next amazingly productive workday!
About the author: Monica Lannom is a PhD candidate in Biology. When she is not doing research or chasing after her dogs she writes about careers, productivity and balanced living. Follow her on Twitter @life_fuller.