What to Do When You’re Bored At Work (Other Than Eating)

At some point, we've all been bored at work. Maybe the busy season is over or you're the unlucky soul alone in the office between Christmas and New Year's. No matter the reason, at some point you're going to find yourself with some extra time to fill. Here are a few ideas to keep you out of trouble—and out of the candy jar.

bored at work

Make a List of Your Accomplishments for Your Next Performance Review

Ideally, you would update this list year-round. A running tally of your greatest hits makes it much less painful to complete your annual self-evaluation. Start a Google doc you can update on the fly.

Keep A Journal

Not the type of diary your kid sister kept, but a professional journal, where you can track great ideas, reflect on what worked and what didn't, and record goals and track your progress. (Just don't vent about your boss in a journal you keep at the office.)

Make Sure You're Maximizing Your Benefits

Review your company's 401(k) plan and your participation level to ensure you're receiving the biggest match possible. Learn about any sort of wellness program attached to your health insurance. Under some plans, you can earn points toward gift cards and even premium savings simply by living a healthy lifestyle.

Brush Up On Your Field

This is a great time to read industry publications and blogs, follow influencers on LinkedIn, or start a Twitter list devoted to movers and shakers. Check out your company's professional development library for books on leadership.

Network From Your Desk

The best time to update your LinkedIn profile is when you're not looking for a job. Flesh out your descriptions of your current and past positions, and add work samples as appropriate. Check in with old colleagues and mentors. (This makes it easier to reach out when you need something, like a reference.) Write thank-you notes to people who've helped you in your career.

Learn Something New

Check with your supervisor to see if your company has access to any online training programs. Even if the company doesn't, your supervisor might still be supportive of your using free online resources to brush up on your skills, practice your Spanish or pick up a new skill, such as coding.

Get Organized for Next Busy Season

Use this time to reflect on hectic times of the past and develop systems to make next time less painful. Maybe you need better timelines or perhaps a checklist of things to remember. This is the time to implement best practices, not when you're in a rush and need to take shortcuts just to get it all done.

Start a Brown Bag Club or Informal Wellness Program

Ask if you can create a lunchtime group to talk about the latest professional development books, discuss industry news, or even tackle soft skills, like good communications or time management. Or you could start a walking group or meditation circle. If enough colleagues show interest, your company might even provide you with a small budget.

Find a Volunteer Role

Many companies encourage their employees to volunteer in the community. For instance, if your company has a partnership with a local school, you might be able to spend an hour or two each week tutoring a student or reading to a classroom.

Ask Your Boss for Expanded Responsibility

If you find yourself consistently bored or without anything to do, ask your boss if you can take on added duties. Explain that you’re interested in growing your career and feel like you're ready for additional assignments. Just be careful how you couch it—you don't want your supervisor to question whether your position is really needed.

These tips are all worthwhile for the occasional season of boredom, but if you find yourself at loose ends too frequently, or you no longer find your work fulfilling, it's probably time to look for a new challenge. Just don't do it at the office, no matter how bored you are!

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