What to do with Downtime

When I had downtime as a student, meaning I did not need to study, go to work, or do homework, I would play video games or goof around with friends.  Most companies will not be big proponents of playing video games with you down time in Corporate America, but some may think of it as a stress reliever.  Over the course of a typical week in Corporate America, you may have between 0 - 15 hours of downtime.  This will, obviously, fluctuate based on your workload and the projects you are on.  Once you have gotten all your work done, there are a number of ways you can take advantage of this downtime:

  • Networking.  Use this extra time to meet with colleagues and learn about them and their business area.  Set up 30-minute conversations to meet with old friends from work or make new connections
  • Side Work Projects.  Is there an area of the company that is of major interest to you?  Ask questions about areas of opportunity and then work towards this objective.  This will show that you are interested in expanding your experience at work and are strong at managing your time
  • Strategic Thinking.  Have a big problem in your area that requires more attention?  Take some of your free time to apply the strategic thinking skills you learned in school.  It doesn’t even need to be a new problem, it could simply be an existing problem that you now have time to address.  Create a roadmap or project plan for the problem and how you propose it be addressed.  Once it is ready, set up time to share with your manager
  • Ask for More Work.  This does not address the issue of future downtime, but it will make sure in the short term you have more work to fill your time
  • Exercise.  If you have a free hour in the day, go for a walk or get a quick lift in.  Not only is this a great stress reliever, but it will make you more focused for the work you have to get done the rest of the day
  • Check Social Media.  This, of course, is not the strongest use of time, but it is an option.  Be cognizant with your appearance while checking social media.  Don’t be on it for too long, otherwise you may portray yourself the wrong way
  • Work on a Side Hustle.  This is controversial.  The company you work for will, most likely, not approve of you working on “their time” on a side hustle project that has no impact on their bottom line.  As an individual, however, you are simply using this additional time to work on a project that is of interest.  While you do have downtime, keep in mind this plan can backfire if you are sneaking behind your company’s back to work on a side hustle
  • Go Home.  This is also controversial.  If you are done with your work for the day, why should you stay there and wait for the socially acceptable time to go home?  Companies will likely be unhappy if their employees all started using this strategy, heading home at 1 PM every day.  But, if you’re able to get your work done and are comfortable with your performance, as is your manager, there is nothing wrong with this strategy

These are just a few ways to take advantage of the inevitable downtime that comes in a work day.  Some of these are completely acceptable from the company’s perspective, others are a bit dicey and could get you in hot water with your manager.  You will come across downtime at work, so be sure to take advantage and not let this extra time go to waste!  

Thought Starters:

  • How do you spend your downtime at work?
  • Take a look at your calendar for the week - how much downtime do you actually have?