Bored at work? Don’t fall into the trap of looking at the clock wishing you were somewhere else. Boredom can be a gift if you use it strategically.
It’s okay to let your mind wander or not be into your work sometimes. You don’t need to hustle 24/7 or be productive every minute of every day. However, being bored on a regular basis can lead to disengagement and apathy, and it can be a sign that something needs to shift. Finding productive things to do when boredom creeps in can help re-energize you and benefit your career.
From helping your team to investing in your career growth and getting organized, here are seven productive things to do the next time you find yourself mindlessly staring at your screen.
Help your team
When you feel disinterested in your workday, engaging in office gossip becomes a temptation.
“Avoid complaining or bad-mouthing others at work, which could turn other team members against you or lower team morale. If you’re bored at work, it’s best to find ways to be productive or keep your feelings to yourself,” says Biron Clark, former executive recruiter and founder of Career Sidekick.
Channeling those feelings constructively by helping others will get you out of your own head and boost your own morale.
1. Ask coworkers if they need any help
“Offering to help other team members is a great first step when you notice yourself with some downtime at work,” says Clark. “You’ll build rapport with your coworkers, you’ll learn what other people in the group do each day, and you’ll help your whole team perform better.”
Invest in your career
Perhaps you’re not being challenged enough. Maybe your role doesn’t quite excite you. If there is a deeper reason behind your boredom, it’s a great opportunity to use the moment to invest in your career.
Ask your boss for more responsibilities
First, you could ask your boss for more responsibilities. “If you’re consistently bored at work, consider asking for more responsibilities and then leveraging that into asking for a promotion or raise in the future,” recommends Clark. According to him, the first step is to contribute more–and not just for a week. Show your commitment by taking on stretch projects for at least three months, even six, and then touch base with your boss to talk about career advancement opportunities.
“Here’s how to position your request for a raise: Point to how much additional work you’re producing now versus when you were first hired and when your salary was first determined. Then, ask for a salary adjustment to reflect this additional productivity,” he adds.
2. Consider your next steps
Being bored at work might also be the perfect time for a career check-in with yourself. How are you feeling about your current role? What are your short and long-term goals? Do you feel like you’re progressing towards those goals?
“If you’re bored at work and not learning valuable skills that are helping advance your career, it may be time to consider a job change,” says Clark. “The best time to look for a new job is when you’re already employed. You’ll be less anxious and will have more leverage and confidence when talking to prospective employers.”
Pausing, taking inventory of your career trajectory and reflecting on your current situation and whether it is meeting your needs is a good idea if you find yourself feeling bored quite often.
Additionally, moments of boredom are the perfect opportunity to get organized and tend to the type of admin tasks you always leave for later. Not only is it productive to do so, but it will also make you feel lighter and motivated after you’re done. Certified Professional Organizer and productivity consultant Megan Spears recommends the few following organizing activities. Pick and choose between them or do them all.
3. Clean up your inbox
First things first, face the depths of your inbox. “I have yet to meet a professional who doesn’t need to work on their inbox. Unsubscribe, clean up folders, and, for the love of all things, delete unwanted messages,” says Spears.
4. Clean up your desktop
You might also want to clean up your desktop. “I don’t know where the habit of saving to the desktop happened, but take a minute to tidy up things saved to your desktop. File, delete and organize your apps so that you’re ready to tackle the next important tasks,” she recommends.
5. Reorganize and tidy up
She also says that if you have downtime, reorganizing file folders, browser favorites, phone apps or contact lists comes with big rewards: “Sometimes it’s just deleting what you don’t want or use or perhaps updating specific details.”
Less digital clutter, more peace of mind and inspiration.