How to Stay Busy When You Have Down Time at Work

“Sometimes I just stare at my desk, but it looks like I am working,” is one of the most infamous quotes from the beloved comedy, Office Space. It makes us laugh because it rings true–at least a little for most of us. We all have downtime at work on occasion. Sometimes our busy hours are seasonal, or sometimes the hustle and bustle comes in waves. Here are some ideas to keep you busy during your down time and help you stand out as a productive employee even when business is slow.

First, no matter how little you feel you have to do right now, create a to-do list.

Sit down and create a list of potential projects. You’d be surprised how much you may be able to come up with to do on top of your normal workload. Get creative and think of ways to improve efficiencies on your team. Is there a process that’s always bugged you that could use some reformation? An extra side project like that is what will set you apart from someone who does the minimum and someone who goes above and beyond their job functions.

Next, start working ahead.

It’s almost never too early to begin the planning phase for a project. Use your down time to get ready for the busy season. Start researching or following leads early. Put placeholders on your coworkers’ calendar to get a project on their radar early. Gather together any documentation or standard operating policies that you will need on hand to begin a future project. Do as much as you can to plan for upcoming projects in advance, so you’re not overwhelmed when busy time does hit.

Ask your coworkers if you can help them.

Be a team player, and ask if you can help out a coworker who is swimming in work if you have some down time. You will really stand out by voluntarily taking on more work and helping out the team. Plus, this shows you are being proactive and that you respect the company’s time. Helping out a coworker also gives you a chance to learn another area of the business and get to know your coworkers better. It’s a win, win!