How are you spending downtime at work? Do you talk to your colleagues or pull out your phone to scroll through Instagram? Could you be making better use of your time by finding productive things to do that benefit your personal and professional growth?
Of course, doing work at work is the main priority. After all, that’s what you’re hired for.
But sometimes we find some free time on our hands and we shouldn’t waste it. Time is a resource we can never get back.
It’s time to upgrade your downtime. And to do that, here are nineteen productive things to do when you have a couple of minutes free.
There’s a reason this comes first. Meditating can be one of the most productive things to do at work.
10 minutes a day could change the way you react to the things happening around you. Today’s world can be overwhelming with the amount of information and digital chatter. It’s hard to find some peace for us to be in tune with our innermost thoughts and feelings.
Try taking some time out of your every day for a quick brain workout by challenging it to stay quiet. Yes! Meditation is like exercise for your brain. I know it sounds simple but it’s harder than you think.
The benefits that come with meditation are different for everyone. Some might feel an increase in the ability to focus and perform Deep Work. Others will find that they have better relationships with their friends and family. It can also help you feel more positive towards life and find a sense of calm and clarity.
Regular meditation has the potential to improve every aspect of your life. A simple way to get started is through guided meditation. Try Headspace, which offers a 2-week trial.
#2 Plan Your Day
Make plans for the next day. Planning helps you save precious time and willpower. There’s no need to think about what you have to get done. All you need to do is execute the plan you already made.
Having a plan will allow you to focus on what you want to achieve for the day. Fill up your days with the activities that matter most to you. Planning leaves no room for distractions. No more mindless web searching or scrolling through Facebook.
So grab a notebook or your phone. Planning how to spend your time is definitely one of the most productive things to do with free time.
Prioritize what’s important and plan it into your day. You have time to do it all, trust me.
We all know we should read more. Yet so few of us develop a reading habit that allows us to do it.
Whether it’s a fiction or non-fiction book, reading is a form of mental stimulation. It improves your vocabulary, memory, analytical skills and imagination. It also brings a fresh perspective and knowledge into your life.
Don’t forget that it’s also a great way to travel to places you’ve never been to. Take yourself to the magical universe of Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Step into the shoes of a great leader like Nelson Mandela. Find out how George Washington founded America.
You can learn from the experiences of the best minds in any field and bring your imagination to life. All from the comfort of your own chair.
#4 Do Some Stretching
Being tied to a desk all day can take a toll on your body. These days, many jobs involve a lot of sitting and screen-time. It’s becoming a norm to feel neck and back pain, tense shoulders and sore eyes.
Want to reduce the effects of sitting for long periods of time? Stretch at your desk from time to time. It will increase the blood supply and nutrients to your muscles. It can also improve your posture, reduce tiredness and boost productivity.
After a long car ride, your first instinct after getting out of the car is to stretch. It should be the same here. When you start to feel tense, get up and get that body moving. Try these stretches to ease the tension that comes with sitting too much.
Don’t worry about looking like a weirdo in front of your colleagues. Ask them to join in!
#5 Listen to Podcasts
Tired of staring at screens? When you have free time, listen to a podcast instead. They range from a few minutes to hours long. Choose the duration that suits the time you have on your hands.
Podcasts are a great productive thing to do while completing mundane and repetitive tasks. Like traveling between meetings, waiting for feedback on reports or lonely lunch breaks.
Most podcasts are free and who doesn’t like free things? Browse Google Podcast, Apple Podcast or Spotify to find your favorite stream.
If you need some help, here’s a list of the best podcasts to listen to at work.
#6 Take a Walk
At some point during the day, you start feeling a little low on energy. That’s the perfect time to head outside for a quick 5-10 minute walk. Walking increases oxygen flow throughout the body. And it allows the release of hormones that elevate energy levels.
A study has shown that walking also improves creativity. So if you find yourself stuck on a problem, walking could help you think of a solution quicker. Plus, it provides a change in scenery for those who spend time indoors behind screens all day.
Plus, you’ll be burning some calories as well.
#7 Clean Up Your Desk
Anyone can enjoy a clean workspace. Having files pile up and that unwashed coffee mug sit there for hours brings no added benefit to you.
Psychologists have suggested that a messy space represents a disorganized mental state. So tidying up your space really means tidying up your mind.
Here’s how to clean your space in 5 minutes or less:
- Toss the trash
- Give stuff back
- Gather similar items and assign them a container
- Tame your cables
- Wipe it down
#8 Organize Your Inbox
Another productive thing to do is upgrade your email productivity game.
Delete everything that isn’t relevant anymore. Take some time to unsubscribe from emails that no longer interest you. Receiving fewer emails equals less time wasted deleting them anyway.
There’s also nothing worse than getting distracted while getting something done. How can you focus if notifications keep popping up to say hello? Try turning all email notifications off and schedule a few times a day to check your mailbox. You’ll have fewer distractions throughout the day while doing important work.
#9 Watch a TED Talk
It cannot be unproductive to watch TED talks right? I mean, watching an entire season of Friends on Netflix is way worse.
This has got to be the acceptable ‘adult way’ to spend some downtime at work. Many smart and successful people share their valuable insights there. Spending time learning from them isn’t a bad thing.
Here are 11 Must-See TED Talks you can start with. Go the extra mile by taking notes while watching and reflect on them afterward. Knowing things without applying it in real life is useless.
#10 Spring Clean Your Phone
Yes, even your phone can be messy. Want a productive thing to do in 5 minutes or less? Spring clean your phone.
Start by deleting applications you haven’t used in a while. This is a great first step to remove unnecessary clutter from your phone. Next, organize your apps. Put them into folders so it’s easy to find when you need to use them (Health, Work, Social, etc).
If you have a few minutes to spare, back-up your photos to a photo storage service like Google Photos and delete them off your phone. Photos usually take up the most space.
#11 Clear Out Your Computer
This is the first thing most of us do when we’re bored at work. That’s a good thing. Once in a while, our computer needs a little clean up too.
Are you a digital hoarder? It’s probably hard for you to find the files you need. Is your home screen covered with folders, screenshots, and files? It’s time to clean up your work tool.
To reorganize your files, start by creating proper folders and deleting the unnecessary ones. Then, choose a naming convention for types of files, topics, projects, or any other way that makes it easy for you to search for them.
If you’re not finished in one swoop, schedule a weekly or monthly cleaning. Set a date on your calendar to repeat this process.
#12 Practice Gratitude
Being grateful allows you to focus on the things you have instead of the things you lack. Many little things go unappreciated most of the time. Like having food on the table, a cool breeze or a job with good colleagues and meaningful work.
Research shows that being grateful can lead to greater happiness and life satisfaction. It can also help improve sleep, lower stress levels and elevate your mood.
Cultivate a habit of gratefulness by starting a gratitude journal. Spend 5 minutes noting down what you’re thankful for each day or week. That way you can reflect on the good that’s happening in life when you’re going through a tough time.
#13 Learn a New Skill
It can get repetitive doing the same thing over and over again. Sometimes it feels like you’ve hit a dead-end and will be stuck doing the same thing forever. That’s the best time to rekindle your love for learning. Who says grown-ups can’t have childlike wonder?
Try picking up a skill that’s outside your usual day-to-day. Something that will really challenge you.
You will be using completely different parts of your brain. Who knows? You might even uncover a hidden talent while having fun at the same time. There are thousands of free courses on Skillshare, edX, and Coursera to choose from. Learn something today.
#14 Give Your Existing Skills an Upgrade
If you’re not up to trying something new, why not improve the skills you already have? Find out what the latest developments are in your field. It can be web development, project management, human resources, web design, etc.
There has to be something you can do to bring some newness and creativity to your daily tasks. Doing this can help ensure your skills stay relevant. You could also rediscover the passion you have for your field/interest.
After all, finding ways to boost the quality of your work will make your skills more valuable. That only makes you more of an asset to your company and shows your will for constant improvement.
#15 Build a Work Playlist
Does anyone still work without headphones on or earphones in? That’s one of the best ways to say ‘Do not disturb’ isn’t it?
A good work playlist can carry you through the most difficult of days. The right music can boost productivity, increase concentration levels and improve focus. Drowning out the small talk around the office or background noises in a cafe is just a bonus.
Here are 7 Science-Backed Playlists for Productivity to make working more fun.
#16 Help Your Colleagues Out
If you’re finished with your work, it wouldn’t hurt to offer some help to a colleague. Don’t do all their work for them, but helping out in any way you can help get things done faster.
Doing this builds a supportive environment that makes for a positive work atmosphere. Having that kind of team spirit also makes for a safer workplace. It’s a reminder that everyone is working toward the same goals and should be comfortable asking for help.
Also, don’t forget that what goes around comes around. Being helpful toward others makes them more likely to be the same toward you. Helpfulness can bring you and your colleagues closer. And that makes for better teamwork in the long run.
#17 Learn Touch Typing
Touch typing is typing without looking down at the keyboard. It utilizes muscle memory to remember where everything is. It’s one of the most productive things to do in your downtime as it will allow you to type quickly and error-free.
Back in the day, only those who intended to work in the admin industry learned this skill. Today, it’s a skill that can benefit anyone who works on a computer.
Regular practice will improve your typing speed. Touch typists can reach typing speeds above 70 words per minute. Depending on your speed, it can also cut the time taken for you to complete tasks. Find out your typing speed here.
The best thing about touch typing is that it eliminates the need to focus on two things at once. You’ll no longer have to bend over to look for keys. You can keep all your focus on the work you’re doing. Learn how to do it here.
#18 Learn a New Language
You can double your professional and personal network by knowing many languages. Apps like Duolingo and Rosetta Stone are making it easier and more fun to learn a new language. Invest a few minutes each day and soon, you’ll be a multilingual person.
A new language broadens your understanding of different cultures and allows you to relate to people better. You will find that it’s easier to communicate with your colleagues and clients.
Being multilingual also looks great on a resume. It can open more job opportunities or make you an asset in your current workplace.
#19 Take Up More Responsibility
If you always find yourself having nothing to do at work, you might not have enough of it. So be bold and go over to your manager to ask if there’s anything you can do. An office luncheon that needs planning. Or a new project that could use more minds for a brainstorming session.
Being proactive at work makes you look good and gives you the chance to learn more. Seize the opportunity to gain more experience in the workplace. It could be important for your future.
Productive Things To Do in Your Downtime
While it can be tempting to just count the minutes until you can leave work to go home, make it a habit to use your downtime for beneficial things. Downtime should be treasured.
Most of us use the phrase ‘I don’t have time’ too often. What it really means is ‘I’m not managing my time properly’. Those who aspire to be successful always use their time to improve themselves. Be it mentally, physically, or spiritually.
Make your own list of productive things to do during downtime at work or just add to this list. Hopefully, any downtime you have can now be spent doing things that matter. There won’t be any time to be bored and lazy anymore.
The 19 productive things to do to upgrade your downtime:
- Meditate: it’s like exercise for your brain
- Plan Your Day: saves your precious time and willpower
- Read: a form of mental stimulation with lots of benefits
- Dome Some Stretching: improve your posture, reduce tiredness and boost productivity
- Listen to Podcasts: a great productive thing to do while completing mundane and repetitive tasks
- Take a Walk: increases oxygen flow throughout the body and elevates energy levels
- Clean Up Your Desk: tidying your space is tidying up your mind
- Organize Your Inbox: turn off all notifications and schedule a few times a day to check your mailbox
- Watch a TED Talk: take notes while watching and reflect on them afterward
- Spring Clean Your Phone: delete applications you haven’t used in a while and organize the remainder into folders
- Clear Out Your Computer: start by creating proper folders and deleting the unnecessary ones
- Practice Gratitude: start a gratitude journal and spend 5 minutes noting down what you’re thankful for each day or week
- Learn a New Skill: pick up a skill that’s outside your usual day-to-day
- Give Your Existing Skills an Upgrade: improve the skills you already have by finding out the latest developments in your field
- Build a Work Playlist: the right music can boost productivity, increase concentration levels and improve focus
- Help Your Colleagues Out: offer some help to a colleague
- Learn Touch Typing: a skill that can benefit anyone who works on a computer
- Learn a New Language: a new language broadens your understanding of different cultures and allows you to relate to people better
- Take Up More Responsibility: seize the opportunity to gain more experience in the workplace