It’s common to find yourself with time on your hands and no pressing work to be done. Perhaps you finished your to-do list early or your top tasks are blocked by a teammate. We created a list of productive things to do with this extra time. You can use these life hacks to stay productive, even when you're bored.
- Learn a new skill
- Watch an educational video
- Take an online course
- Learn a new language
- Listen to an audiobook or a podcast
- Read an interesting article or newsletter
- Clean your workspace
- Look up productivity tips and habits
- Respond to emails and clean up your inbox
- Ask your teammates if they need help
For Your Mental Health
Doing nothing is productive. We often feel the pressure to constantly be doing something. But often the healthiest thing you can do with free time is just relax and focus on self-care. Taking breaks is key to staying productive long-term and critical for your mental health. If you’ve been gifted some downtime, take advantage of it.
2. Take a walk
We’re big advocates walking on this blog. We’ve previously written about how going for a morning walk improves your productivity. Taking a walk will clear your head, get you away from a computer screen, and improve your overall health.
Meditation is a powerful habit that has numerous benefits to your well-being and mood. Practicing mindfulness calms your mind, makes you more grateful, and leaves you in a better mood.
4. Read a novel
Pick up a good non-fiction book and let yourself get lost in the story. Reading improves your cognition and vocabulary, makes you more empathetic, reduces stress, and aids sleep. Reading a novel is a fun escape from the responsibilities of work.
Physical activity is amazing for your overall health and productivity. Exercise helps keep your weight under control, improves your heart health, boosts your mood, improves your ability to think and learn, and aids sleep. It’s the closest thing to a panacea that exists.
On Self Reflection
Self-reflection through journaling is a great way to stay productive if you have some free time. We’ve compiled a list of the best self reflection questions and the best self reflection quotes to motivate you to get started.
7. Reflect on Your Habits
Developing good habits is one of the most important things you can do to build a successful and fulfilling career. While building and sticking to work habits is key for personal growth, reflecting on your work habits is just as important. It’s vital to make sure you’re focusing on the right habits. So if you have a few minutes of downtime, it’s incredibly productive to take a step back and reflect on your habits.
8. Reflect on Your Time Management
Time is your most valuable resource. Understanding how you spend your time is the best way to remain productive and efficient. You should use a time tracker like Rize to automatically track your time and focus. If you have some free time, explore your Rize dashboard to see if you’re being as efficient as you can be. What is distracting you? Where are you wasting time? What can you start or stop doing? This will be a boon for your personal development.
9. Learn a new skill
With just an internet connection, you have so many amazing resources at our fingertips. If you find yourself extra time, learn a new skill. This doesn’t have to be related to work. There are amazing articles and YouTube tutorials on everything from woodworking to playing an instrument to DIY crafts and more.
10. Watch an educational video
If you don’t have time to learn a new skill, you can instead watch a video to learn about a new topic. Ted Talks or similar videos on YouTube are a great resource for this type of learning.
11. Take an online course
The internet is filled with high quality free courses on every topic under the sun. You can start an online course from Udemy or even Harvard University to pick up anytime you find yourself with extra time.
12. Learn a new language
Have you wanted to learn some Japanese before your trip to Tokyo? Or Portuguese before heading down to Rio de Janeiro? Now is the perfect time. Use a product like Duolingo and Toucan to help you along.
13. Listen to an audiobook or a podcast
Kick back and enjoy a good novel or podcast with your downtime. You’ll unplug and learn something new. Spotify or Audible are both good resources to check out.
14. Read an interesting article or newsletter
Bookmark interesting articles that you come across on social media or email throughout the week. If you find yourself with some free time, now is your chance to go to that list and read.
15. Clean your workspace
Take some time to declutter your desk. Decluttering your workspace can help clear the mind. You remember the saying, “a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind.”
16. Look up productivity tips and habits
This is the perfect time to look up the newest productivity tips and daily habits. Work is continually changing and new insights are constantly being created to match the changing work environments. You can be productive by researching ways to be more productive.
17. Respond to emails and clean up your inbox
Go through your inbox and respond to those emails you’ve been meaning too for the past few weeks. Take some time to unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t find relevant or spam.
18. Ask your teammates if they need help
Even if you have some downtime, your teammates might be underwater. Take a second to reach out to see if they need any help. They’ll appreciate it and will be more likely to help you out when you need it down the road.
19. Call your friends and family members
If you find yourself with free time, take advantage of it to catch up with family and friends. We’re are constantly busy and so easily fall out of touch with our loved ones. Call your best friend or your mom! They want to hear from you.
20. Batch cook
Create a meal plan and batch cook a few meals for the week. This will save you a lot of time over the week and it’s a healthier and cheaper way than ordering in food.
21. Clean your house
Already cleaned your desk? Move on to the rest of your house or apartment. You’ll be more productive in a clean and organized environment.
22. Go grocery shopping
The middle of a workday is the best time to step out and go grocery shopping. If you have some free time, slip away and buy your groceries for the week.
Things To Avoid
Social media is a notorious blackhole for productivity and time. Before you realize you’ve burned up your free time and don’t feel any more productive or happy. Close LinkedIn, Netflix, and even Amazon. There are better ways to spend time when you’re bored.
Force yourself to work on unimportant tasks
If you find yourself procrastinating and context switching a lot, it may be that you subconsciously know you’re not working on an important task. If you’re bored and have free time, don’t force yourself to work on unimportant tasks. It’s not a good use of your time and energy.
The pandemic changed work for all of us. We often found ourselves bored at home. As we continue in this new year and things start to open up, keep in mind everything we learned through this experience. I hope these tips will be helpful for you now and in the future.
Macgill Davis is the cofounder of Rize - a simple, intelligent time tracker that improves focus and helps build better work habits.
Photo by Magnet