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How to Keep Busy During a Shutdown

House Democrats are making plans for a prolonged shutdown that will begin Saturday if the White House and lawmakers are unable to work out an agreement on President Trump’s demands for $5 billion in funding for his wall on the Mexican border.

What can government workers do if a shutdown does happen? While some might see a potential shutdown as an opportunity to take a mini-break from work to take advantage of shutdown happy hour specials (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), there are some things you can do to help keep yourself moving forward while you have extra time on your hands.

  1. Review your career goals: How long has it been since you thought about where you’d like to go in your career? If you already have your goals written out, perfect. Get them out and review. Have your goals changed? Are you meeting your targets? Do you need to rethink how to get where you’re going? Take an afternoon and have a strategy session so you can come back to the office knowing what you need to do to reach your goals.
  2. (Re)write out your short- and long-term goals for better alignment: I’m talking both personal and career goals. Think about where you want to be within the next year, five years, and 10 years (or any timeframe in between). Write down goals for your personal life on one side of the paper and your career goals on the other. Look them over and see where the align and diverge. Do you want to move to Hawaii in five years but are also planning on a promotion within your D.C.-office at the same time? Look at each goal realistically, and determine which can actually be accomplished in the timeframe you’ve assigned. Once you have those set, next choose those on which you want to focus in the near future and make an action plan for how to achieve these goals.
  3. Look over your finances: Depending on your situation, look through any retirement accounts you may have, your bank account, your credit cards, your loans, etc. and determine whether you’re happy with your current situation or whether you’d like to make some changes. You can think about changing your investment strategy, canceling memberships you no longer use, carving out more space in your budget for a favorite activity, or just verifying that you are still on track to meet your financial or retirement goals. If you need some help getting started, here are a few tips on financial planning.
  4. Make decisions about your health care: Last month, I wrote about the need to plan early for open enrollment. No matter when a shutdown comes, it’s always worth it to determine whether you’re happy with the coverage you have or if you think a different plan might better meet your needs.
  5. Revamp your resume: Even if you’re comfortable in your position and don’t plan on moving on anytime soon, it’s always a good idea to keep your resume updated. Whether that means adding new positions or skills or simply changing the format to make it more reader friendly, take a look at what you currently have and think about whether you’re presenting your best self on paper. You never know when the right opportunity will strike, and you want to be ready to get your resume in ASAP. Here are a few thoughts on how to government-ize your resume.
  6. Plot your next career move: If you’ve been dreaming about a new position, start figuring out what you need to do to get there. Are there contacts you have at your desired agency or team? Do you need to start regularly checking job sites? Is there a certain skill you need?
  7. Take some trainings: While you’re thinking about your next career move, consider whether there are certain skills you need to learn or those you’d like to brush up on. Then, look for cheap or free online or local classes you can start taking to gain that skill.
  8. Read: Sure you can catch up on the latest New York Times bestseller, but a shutdown is also a chance to read those books you’ve been putting off that are aimed at career planning, goal optimization, leadership, you name it. Not sure where to start? Check out my lists here and here.

Did you survive the last shutdown? How did you spend your time? Share with us in the comments!

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Megan Manfredi

Love these practical uses of time during a shut down! Although the original instinct is to head to the nearest bar for happy hour, these are some great uses of the extra time without work. Saving this list for the next long weekend even!

Isaac Constans

This post is evergreen. Great ideas for a shutdown. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer or we might need even more tips.