Unexpected Downtime? Here’s How To Spend It Productively

Last week, a big project I had planned got bumped out a few months, leaving me with a giant hole in my schedule with no work to fill it.

A mini vacation, you might think, but I’ve inherited my mother’s drive to fill all downtime with something productive. So after an impromptu mountain biking trip (it’s exercise!), I set about filling that empty time with learning.

Have you been caught with time on your hands and no plans? If you still want to use that time wisely, here are some ideas to help you learn, grow, explore, and push forward.

Pick up a new job skill

Unexpected downtime is a great opportunity to work on those job skills you’ve been meaning to learn. Whether you’re hoping to move up within the organization or change career paths altogether, take this time to examine your career and figure out next steps. What skills and knowledge will you need in order to make the leap?

GovLoop’s resources section is a great place to start. With guides on topics ranging from cybersecurity to social media, you’ll find plenty of good reading material. If you’re looking for more interactive education, check out GovLoop’s Academy. There you’ll find training videos and courses designed for public sector professionals.

Udemy and Lynda.com are both fantastic resources for learning job-related skills. Udemy has courses on everything from parenting and learning musical instruments to real estate basics and mastering office software. Lynda.com is focused more on technology and business skills, and is a well-respected place to start if you want to learn a new software program.

Listen to a podcast

Earlier this year, I wrote about 10 podcasts that are perfect for government employees. Podcasts and audiobooks are a great way to double up on your activities. Go for a walk or a run and learn about cutting edge issues with DorobekINSIDER. Work on a hobby while expanding your brain with the TED Radio Hour. Prepare your garden for fall while learning all the Stuff You Missed In History Class.

Learn something completely different

While learning new career skills is a fantastic use of your time, so is stretching your brain around a completely unrelated topic. Browsing the Khan Academy’s list of courses gives me the same thrill I got every quarter in college when it came time to sign up for the next classes – you’ll find everything from Art History to Economics, all just waiting to be learned! (Was that just me?)

Feeling creative? Check out Craftsy, a site that has online classes on craft-related topics like woodworking, photography, and sewing. Or, head on over to Duolingo and start learning the basics of a new language.

Work on your passion project

If all this talk of career-related learning pushes you dangerously close to burnout, why not take your unexpected downtime as a gift to use toward your passion project? Design that board game, start that food blog, prototype your dream handbag line, build a treehouse for the kids, or go mountain biking. After all, what’s the point of having a career if you don’t get to live a little, too?

What’s your favorite way to productively spend downtime? Leave your ideas in the comments!

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