Seven Productive Things To Do When You’re Bored At Work

By Ali Luke

April 20, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Do you work in an office? Are you contractually obliged to be at your desk from 8-4 (or similar)? If so, it’s likely that at least some of the time, you’ll be feeling bored. Some days, there just isn’t quite enough to fill the hours (or you convince yourself into believing that!).

A quick Google search for “bored at work” will give you plenty of ideas for pointless, time-wasting activities that could amuse you for all of two minutes. But why not take boredom as a signal to start on some productive, positive action?

Here are seven great things to do at work if you’re feeling bored – all of which will help you advance towards your goals.

  1. Improve Your Skills
    Whatever job you work in, it’s likely that you can brush up your skills. Many offices have textbooks and manuals relating to the job that you can read.

If you can’t directly improve your work skills, how about learning the ins-and-outs of Microsoft Word, or Powerpoint, or your email program? Having a strong grasp of the computer software you use daily can help save you a surprising time and make you more productive.


  • Help Someone Else
    While you’re sitting twiddling your thumbs because you have nothing to do, chances are that someone else in the office is running around like a headless chicken, wondering how on earth they’re going to get everything done.


Spotted someone quietly panicking about their workload? Go over and ask if there’s anything you can help with – maybe photocopying some documents for them, organizing a mail-out, or even just running out to the store to get them a sandwich at lunch time.

Do it because you’re a nice person, not just because you’re hoping they’ll return the favor some day!


  • Ask Your Manager For More Work
    If you regularly have too little work, or if it’s all so unchallenging that you can whiz through it on a Monday morning despite your hangover, then talk to your line manager or boss.


Try not to give the impression that you’ve been sitting around doing nothing for weeks (oddly, bosses react badly to this), but mention that you’ve found the workload a little lighter than usual. If you know about any upcoming projects that you could get involved with, try suggesting this. It could be a great chance to make progress towards the next level in your career.


  • Ask To Cut Your Working Hours
    Depending on how much you like your job, and how much of your salary you need, another option is to ask to cut down the hours which you work.


For example, you might want to do a four-day week (and cut your pay to 80% of its current level). This could give you time to write a novel, start a new business, or simply readdress your work life balance.

If you do go down this route, ask if you can do it for a month on a trial basis. That way, if either you or your boss feels it isn’t working out, it’s easy to go back to the old arrangement.


  • Keep An “Odd Jobs” List
    There are always little jobs that need doing which, for one reason or another, we keep putting off. These might be dull, low-priority, fiddly tasks. Sometimes, they’ll only take 15 or 20 minutes each.


Keep a running list of all these small, non-urgent tasks, and when you end up with downtime at work, challenge yourself to tick off as many as possible. It’ll keep you from getting bored, and often getting these jobs off your mind can make you feel a lot less stressed or frustrated about work.


  • Tidy Your Desk
    One task that most of us put off is tidying our desk. When you don’t have much to do at work, take the time to clear all those stacks of paper and file them properly. Chuck away any junk that’s accumulated in your desk drawers. Replenish your stationary supplies, if necessary.


Working in a tidy environment where you can easily lay hands on everything you need will do wonders for your stress levels and state of mind. Keeping your desk clean and tidy also suggests that you’re an organized, efficient person – definitely a good message to send to your boss!


  • Socialize With Colleagues
    A quiet day at work is a good chance to socialize with colleagues. This can help you in your career (people are more likely to support and help those who they’re friendly with and who they feel warm towards). It can also help you to enjoy your job – wouldn’t you rather work in an office where the people around you are friends, rather than strangers?


Even if you feel you have little in common with your colleagues, you might find surprising points of connection. Take the time to go for lunch with someone, or just to ask the person sitting next to you how their day’s been. Please Note: Use some tact with this one. You don’t want to become the office gossip or someone that prevents others from getting their work done!

How do you use your down-time at work productively? Do any of the above tips work for you, or do you have some of your own to add?

Written on 4/20/2009 by Ali Hale.Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line ([email protected]) or check out her website at Aliventures. Photo Credit: Big C Harvey
Ali Luke

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