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5 Ways to Use Downtime Productively


Let’s face it. Most of us are no strangers to the challenge of having too much to do and too little time. But what about when you’re not all that busy? On those rare but inevitable occasions in which you’re able to take a breather at work, here are five ways to use that precious downtime productively.

1. Catch up on the news
This is especially important in government careers, in which international, national, and local news can influence day-to-day activities. Being able to converse intelligently about current events sets you apart as an informed professional who takes initiative. It’s also a great ice breaker when conversing with colleagues or clients, offering a little more substance than the usual small talk about the weather.

2. Seek out professional development opportunities
The best employees recognize that they are never done learning, and actively seek out opportunities to do so. Take a course or learn a new skill, like coding or a second language, which will help you be more effective in your current position. Of course, for expensive and time consuming undertakings, be prepared to make the business case explaining how the opportunity will benefit your organization.

>> Read more: Professional Development in 15 Minutes a Day

3. Read about trends in your industry
Similar to Number 2, pursue professional betterment at a more informal, self-directed level by reading sector-specific blogs and newsletters, or listening to relevant podcasts and webinars. While no one likes junk mail, strategically signing up to receive one or two regular updates from a trusted source is a great way to consume information. Flag these emails to revisit when you have a few spare moments so incoming mail isn’t clogging your inbox. Whatever your approach, staying on top of industry trends as they emerge will help you position yourself as a valuable employee within your organization, and a great catch if you’re hunting for a new opportunity.

4. Mentor a colleague
Have a new hire or someone who’s recently joined your team from another department? Offer to show him or her the ropes. Not only is mentorship personally fulfilling, but by sharing information and building trust between colleagues, you’ll hone your own leadership skills while promoting your organization as an inviting and collaborative workplace. By developing talent, you’ll also help your organization thrive into the future.

5. Take on more responsibility
If you’re regularly trying to fill your downtime, it may be time to increase your workload. Think about tasks you’d like to do that will make your boss’ life easier. Schedule and meeting with him or her and propose them.

Brittany Renken is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Olivia Jefferson

Great post Brittany! I think it’s so easy to waste down time at work. I’ve always found reading the news to be a good way to be productive while still relaxing and enjoying a rare instance of downtime. I’ll have to try some of these other suggestions!

Christina Smith

Brittany, great article! i too also try to read the news in rare down-time situations, but I appreciate your other suggestions as well! Going to have to try some of those when I can!

Becky Latka

Good article! I have a “reading stack” of professional journal articles that fill that gap (since there’s no time to read them otherwise. Also a good time to connect with co-workers when work is light.