50 Things To Do When You're Bored At Work That Are Actually Productive
Photo credit: © leszekglasner / Adobe Stock
Everyone feels bored at work sometimes. It’s natural and normal and there’s no need to beat yourself up for feeling less-than focused. Remember that boredom is not necessarily a bad thing; sometimes, the best thing you can do if you’re bored at the office is simply to go through a to-do list of other tasks that are productive and that need to be done.
Here are our suggestions for things you should do when you’re bored at work (that can also actually be useful and productive for your career):
1. Research your salary.
You’re working to get paid, so it’s always good to make sure you’re doing ok in the salary department by researching the latest market trends for your job.
2. Make sure you’re maxing out on your benefits.
Do you know if your employer offers discounts to local gyms or reimbursement for continuing education? What about transit credits and flexible healthcare spending account options? If you’re not sure, it’s time to review your benefits handbook and make sure nothing new has been added since you joined your company. Make sure you’re taking advantage of all that you’re entitled to as employer benefit offerings can change every year.
3. Evaluate your 401-k plan choices and past performance.
Are you invested in the right plan? Or have you lost your username and password and need to reset things so you can actually take a look at what you’ve earned, or even contributed over the past few years? It may seem boring and not necessarily what you're looking to do to replace your boredom, but it's pretty necessary.
4. Clean your desk.
When your day's getting really boring, start cleaning. Chances are you have some paperwork and files that might need some updating or simply a lot of things that could find a happy home in the recycling bin.
5. Digitize all those business cards you’ve been keeping around.
Do it the old-fashioned way by entering them into your phone or Microsoft Outlook or find an app that lets you take a photo and convert it into a contact entry. For reelz.
6. Make a list of everyone you wish you were in better touch with.
Put their names down and quarterly reminders in your calendar to send them a text, email or phone call. If you do this in advance you won’t forget, and this will automatically make you a better networker.
7. Research some upcoming industry events.
When’s the last time you asked your manager to go to a conference? Well, make a case for yourself by doing some research on what events are upcoming for your role and profession, and then set up a meeting to discuss it.
8. Update your social media profiles.
Use your boredom at work as an opportunity to refresh your social media accounts (no, this is not the same as scrolling aimlessly through your Instagram feed). It’s perfectly normal to neglect your LinkedIn profile until the moment you’re in the job market, but on a slow day at work, it’s easy to look over what you have written there and make sure it’s still up to date and reflecting all your great and most recent accomplishments.
9. Connect with or follow the people you actually know on social media.
It’s normal not to be digitally connected to everyone you’ve actually met (yes, even for millennials). This is your chance to send out a bunch of invitations to connect with people, or follow their Twitter account or blogs.
10. Clean up your email newsletters.
This has probably been on your to-do list for a long time. Most of us receive email newsletters we signed up for a long time ago but no longer read. Save yourself the extra scrolling and extra ‘deletes’ by unsubscribing to things that you no longer want to receive.
11. Check your spam folder and clean it out.
Sometimes legitimate mail goes into your spam folder but unless you check, you never know whether your long lost friend from college invited you to her baby shower. This is a good time to filter out junk from stuff that’s simply been misplaced.
12. Target a few mentors.
It’s a good idea to try to cultivate mentors before you hit a point in your career where you feel you desperately need one. After all, mentorship relationships don’t happen overnight. They take time to cultivate and nurture. If you’re feeling bored at work, short-listing a few people you want to develop mentor relationships with is a great way to spend your time.
13. Join an employee volunteer group.
If your company supports causes (and chances are they do, especially if they are a large employer), find out how you can get involved in the next fundraising event, or charity auction. Check out upcoming meetings and add ones that interest you to your calendar. This is a good way to give back and do it while building better relationships with your cowrkers.
14. Join an employee resource group.
Does your company have a women’s network? Or an employee resource group for new parents, people of color or LGBTQ employees? If so, consider joining, bonding with your coworkers and adding your voice. It may help you feel more connected to colleagues and allows you to have a voice in the overall cause of diversity and inclusion in your workplace.
15. Read the news about your industry or company.
Reading news on your Facebook feed is not usually the same thing as really catching up on the trends and technology that are impacting your job and industry. Sign up for some newsletters from industry publications or read some articles about what is happening to put your work in a richer, bigger context.
16. Leave a job review.
If you have some privacy at work, consider leaving a job review. Most people have both good and bad things to say about where they work and there’s no time when that topic is more fresh on your mind than when you’re actually at work. Putting down your thoughts on paper can also help you identify points of frustration that may lead you to take some constructive action.
17. Schedule a coffee with someone you respect at work.
You know that Vice President in the sales department you’ve always thought conducted herself well with clients and was a real star at the company? You don’t need to have much of an excuse to ask someone you work with to coffee -- so go out on a limb and tell them you’d like to learn more about their work and ask them to have a 15-30 minute coffee with you. This is the time to do it!
18. Volunteer to help out at an upcoming company event.
It can be the annual company party, the summer picnic, or a recruiting event. Raise your hand for something outside your day-to-day work. It’ll win your colleagues’ appreciation and give you a reputation for being a good corporate citizen.
19. Create a 5-year career plan.
Long term career planning often gets shunted to the side when there are more pressing daily and weekly issues to deal with. But it’s important to carve out time to plan for the longer term, and being bored at work is a good a time as any to tap into your creativity and put down some thoughts -- even if they are unresolved questions -- on paper.
20. Use the company gym.
If you have access to an on-site gym, take a complete break from work and get your sweat on. It’s good for you and we guarantee that you’ll return to your desk feeling refreshed and ready to get back into action.
21. Double check your enrollment options.
Are you maximizing your company match on your 401k plan? Is your health care FSA under-utilized. Make adjustments to these kinds of benefit enrollments when you feel bored at work because this is stuff that can really add up in terms of making a financial investment over the long haul.
22. Track your accomplishments.
Take advantage of this leisurely moment to write down some of the things you’ve accomplished at work - beyond your more mundane responsibilities - that you’re proud of. Keeping a list like this will come in handy when it’s time to ask for a raise, promotion or even just to help you fill out your own self-assessment at the end of the year.
23. Write a self-evaluation.
It’s something you have to do every year (or maybe even more often than that, depending on where you work), but you don’t need to wait until you’re prompted. This year, get a head start and write a self-assessment when things are slow at work. It’ll be a self-motivating and you’ll do a better job when you’re not rushed.
24. Write a manager (or 360 degree) evaluation.
25. Compile a Christmas or holiday card list for your business contacts.
Speaking of end-of-year administrative tasks, the Christmas season is always so harried. This year, make an impression on your colleagues and clients by being ready with a Christmas card message or email card or present instead of scrambling -- or worse, neglecting to send anything at all.
26. Sign up for a webinar.
There are so many opportunities online to learn -- even without leaving the comfort of your own desk. Chances are, there are webinars that your vendors are dying for you to take advantage of and meant for you to improve your skills in areas as diverse as content marketing to web design. Make sure you check out what’s available before just heading to your Facebook feed.
27. Take an e-learning course through your company (or a free online).
Many companies invest heavily in professional development and learning. If you’ve never visited the options available to you, a slow hour or two at work is the perfect time to investigate what’s on offer. Take a look at the courses available there, before heading online to a world where you’ll probably be overwhelmed with how many free options there are to learn.
28. Set yourself a 30-day challenge.
If your boredom at work is related to feeling unchallenged by your projects or manager, set yourself your own 30-day challenge. It can be something as minor as being a better networker in the office, or it can be a bigger challenge such as taking on a volunteer project that nobody wants to tackle.
29. Evaluate your snacking habits.
Snacking in the workplace is tricky. Are you someone who keeps Snickers bars and Skittles in your desk drawer? If so, be aware that what’s around you becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Take a moment to dump unhealthy foods around you and switch them up for nuts or healthy bars so that the next time you’re too busy for lunch or breakfast, you’re grabbing something more nutritious.
30. Get up and walk around the office.
Sometimes there’s nothing like a walk around the office to spur your ideas for what to do next. You’ll run into colleagues from different departments, get a better sense of what is happening more broadly at the company and may even inspire you to volunteer for something new. Plus, it’s always good to stretch your arms and legs.
31. Write thank you notes.
We’re not talking the old-fashioned kind with letter press and cursive font. Unless, you want to, of course. But most of us owe some thank-you’s. Either for a job well done to someone on our team who has gone above and beyond, or for a vendor who has supported you through a demanding deliverable. A short email can go a long way when it comes to expressing unexpected gratitude.
32. Offer to help someone with their project.
If you’ve got spare time on your hands, offer it up to your manager or a colleague. They will appreciate it and you will win some brownie points even if they don’t take you up on the offer.
33. Send a document of strategy suggestions and ideas to your manager.
Putting together an analysis or critique of a process at work at a higher level is not for the faint-of-heart, but this is something you may want to tackle if you truly have better ideas for how something may be done. It will also illustrate your leadership potential and your ability to take initiative if you are angling for a future promotion.
34. Put in a good word for a colleague.
Whether you do this with your colleague’s manager, or a member of HR, doing this good deed will win you major karma points. Also, it helps show that you’re an individual who is a team player and helps support your colleagues -- which is always a great reputation to have.
35. Clean your keyboard and computer monitor.
Did you realize that a lot of germs accumulate around your desk? That’s because many of us eat, drink and use our keyboards and laptops or computer areas over and over again without every really giving a good spring clean. So ask for some supplies from your office manager and get your scrub on.
36. Stock up on extra office supplies.
When you’ve got a slow moment, look around at the things you’re missing around the desk. Need extra notepads, papers or staples? Slow moments at work are a good time to stock up from the utility closet. The last thing you want to do when you have a tough deadline later is to be searching for a paper clip.
37. Back up your hard drive.
Tech mishaps do and can happen, especially if you work a lot on your local drive on a laptop and don’t always back up your work files on the company servers. Make sure your most important files are saved on a server and take a moment to back up all your documents if it’s been a while since you last did it.
38. File your passwords securely.
If you’re still using the same 2 passwords you’ve had since high school, it’s time to rethink your digital security. Hackers are increasingly sophisticated and if you use the same password for all of your accounts, it’s time to think about generating a few different ones for very sensitive online accounts (like your banking or credit card log-ins). You can take advantage of password storage sites to help you remember different passwords.
39. Clear your browsing history.
It can be good for privacy and peace-of-mind to occassionally wipe your internet browsing history, especially if you’re not especially proud of everything you’ve been doing on your work computer. Save sites you use regularly in your bookmarks but nobody should be able to easily download your internet traffic history for the more than the past few months.
40. Update your phone apps.
Did you know that half of Americans use between 6-10 apps on their phone per week? We’ll bet you that most of you will use one or two social media apps, an email app, something for texting and your photos at a minimum. However, what about all those other apps like the ones for hailing a car or booking a restaurant? If you’re not using them, consider removing them or updating them to their latest version.
41. Record a better voicemail.
If you’re like most people, you set your voicemail when you first started your job and haven’t looked back since. Heck, maybe even your title or department have changed since then. Take a listen to your voicemail and decide whether it needs an update. Even if it’s just a happier tone of voice, leaving a better voicemail is a good investment of a few spare minutes.
42. Create a wittier out-of-office message.
You use them whenever you are travelling for work, or simply out of the office on vacation. However, if you’re like most people, your out-of-the-office auto-reply tends to be more of an after-thought. Instead of throwing together your message at the last minute, put together a few options now and save them in your Draft folder for easy retrieval later.
43. Check your chair and monitor height for posture.
Do you know the optimal height or position for your computer monitor? The right answer is different for everyone and making this adjustment can be something you tend to forget about when you’re busy. Check out this guide to make sure you’re not giving yourself unnecessary back, arm or neck pain.
44. Try out an ergonomic chair or standing desk.
Being sedentary is considered a health risk and sitting at a desk for too many hours a day can lead to pain and health issues down the line. If you’ve always wanted to try a different kind of office chair (or even balance ball), try to find out whether your HR department can help you find some good options. There are many new options, such as standing desks, available in the market these days, too.
45. Digitize your documents.
Paperwork - even really important documents -- often gets put aside and lost. Find documents like your employment contract, proof of work authorization eligibility and any other pieces of paper you have filed away and scan them. Uploading them to a free Dropbox file will save you time when you’re short on it and frantically trying to find a scrap of paper.
46. Email 5 people whose careers you admire.
Sometimes you have to go for it in life. There’s no downside to reaching way beyond your circle of comfort and sending someone an email telling them you admire their career or work and asking them for advice or coffee. While the odds may be low that such fan mail will end up in a phone call, it can’t hurt to try and besides, it’s always good practice in life to reach out to new people. Think of it as flexing your bravery muscle.
47. Create a list of work-related books you want to read.
Reading is one of the most classic ways to improve yourself for a reason. There are always new and interesting books written by thought leaders and experts in your field. When you’re feeling bored at work, it’s a good reason to start making a list of the author and titles you want to check out. Win brownie points with your manager by buying a few and then giving your boss a copy of something s/he hasn’t read before that you enjoyed.
48. Watch a TED talk related to your field of work.
TED videos aren’t just for a rainy Sunday afternoon. There are videos there that can inspire you, help your career and involve thought-leaders in your industry and field. It only takes 15 minutes and can recharge your inspiration. Just put on your headphones so you don’t distract your neighbors!
49. Clean up your Twitter feed by making Lists of different people to follow.
If you use Twitter, you’re probably like most people and it’s an undifferentiated mass of handles you followed once but then forgot about why. Think about following some inspiring women, pruning your list if you don’t recognize the handle, and even segmenting different handles into lists -- you can even make one for work topics and career advice.
50. Go out to lunch. And take a colleague.
If you’ve never heard of the book “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi, his idea is that you should never waste an opportunity to build relationships. If you’ve got some extra time on your hands, inviting a colleague you want to get to know better out to lunch is a fine, and actually productive thing to do during the workday.
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