Long ago in a gentler time (also called the 1980s and 1990s), there was a little kingdom. This kingdom employed all the Cyclops, women and men in the area that wanted to work for as long as they wished. The work was hard but fair. On rare occasions, there was a lull in the workload which was called downtime. The workers enjoyed a slower pace as a chance to recharge their energies.
But then dark clouds settled over the little kingdom. Many a loyal employee was forced to leave the castle and seek employment of their services elsewhere. Those who remained had to pick up the slack of their ousted colleagues. If they did get downtime, they eyed it with suspicion and nervousness. If they were not productive, they would likely be thrown out of the little kingdom. What to do? What to do?
Maybe you are one of those people without time to spare as part of the New Economy. Or, you are experiencing that rare lull. In either case, this article is for you. Below are 10 ways to be productive and personally/professionally grow during that time.
1) Seek A Different Point of View.
There are always different ways one can look at the same event. One can look at spare work time as something to fear and avoid. Or it can be viewed with gratitude for receiving a special gift. And what will you do with this time? Improve yourself. Help your company. And get ready for the next set of office wars. Or just go at a slower pace. The choices are up to you.
2) Clean Up
Cleaning up the physical papers, e-mails, and other objects associated with the past year or so is emotionally satisfying. It also frees up the needed space in your office and computer for future work.
Do a personal “After Action Review”. Think about what worked in the past and what didn’t. Reflect without judgment. From these moments, insights will come on possible future work, self-improvement, and fun “mini-projects”.
4) Plan and Implement
Based on the reflections, plan and perform some “mini-projects.” These could be working on the following: 1) Something you always wanted to do but didn’t have the time. 2) Something that would be a stretch for you but you wanted to try anyway. 3) Working together with someone different and 4) Working on a personal weakness that with some effort you could turn into a strength.
5) Listen Then Talk
Learn by walking around. Ask people what they are working on. Listen to what is said and not said. Ask questions. See if there are linkages with what you are working on. Note the gaps and future projects. Also, make an effort to learn what is going on company-wide to see if there are larger efforts your skills and organization can be tied to.
If you feel there is no one in your company to “information interview”, try meeting someone from another company with the same or different responsibilities.
Try twenty or more minutes a day to learn something. It can be online, computer media, audio, 1 on 1, or something else. This provides a proactive way to achieve the needed skills in a constantly changing world.
Get yourself out the rut by trying things differently and exploring new areas. If an IT person who is in IT, explore Finance. If in Finance, explore Physics. Looking at other areas gives us new concepts that we can use in our field. Studying the lives of famous and not-so-famous people also can give us ideas on how to solve problems.
8) Join a Project
If you have available time, then it is likely that others do as well. Casually inquire if there are projects that you can join. By doing this, you’ll make new connections, keep your skills in play, and maybe make baby steps towards a desired responsibility/skill.
9)Take Time Off and Travel
Sometimes we need to get away to regain our energies and to see things with the openness that we had on the first day of our work. By being away, we recharge energies, make new friends/connections, and maybe get inspiration on something to try when we get back.
10)Tying It All Together and Moving On
At some point, all spare cycles end and it is back to the “normal” level. If you can, it may help to do the following: 1)Give thanks for having this time, 2) Reflect on how you have grown, the lessons/skills that you learned, the new people that you met, the new projects you worked, and how clean your office/computer is. And 3) engulf yourself in the “Office Wars” once again.
I wish you the best of luck during your busy and not so busy times!