Tumbleweeds blowing through your office? Certain times of the year it can seem like everyone is on holiday except you. But don't fret – this time can be the perfect opportunity to take care of the things you’ve been putting off.
Clean up your inbox
In our normal day-to-day work we generally address only the most urgent emails that need our attention and leave the rest. With most of the staff out of the office it’s likely you are receiving fewer requests to your inbox giving you the perfect opportunity to catch up on those emails that you’ve left unanswered. Organize your emails into folders leaving only those that need to be addressed in your inbox. Delete any newsletters or other spam mail you don’t want to read and unsubscribe to any email lists you no longer want to be on to help prevent your inbox from filling up with clutter in the future.
Organize your workspace
Surrounded by stacks of unfiled papers and empty soda cans? Use your spare time to de-clutter and clean your workspace. A tidy workspace helps minimise stress, increase productivity and improve your image. It’s also more hygienic. In addition to wiping up any dust or food spills make sure to clean your keyboard – research shows that keyboards have more bacteria than a toilet seat.
Evaluate your success
When we are busy with work we rarely stop to think about what we have accomplished. Downtime at the office gives you a great opportunity to reflect on your successes of the previous months or years. By focusing on what we have done right we not only feel a greater sense of job satisfaction we can also plan better for future projects. This list will also come in handy when it’s time for a promotion or when you are looking to update your resume.
Build your network
Why not use this time to take your boss or someone else you’d like to get to know better in the company out to lunch? They are likely to be grateful for the opportunity to get out of the office and enjoy the company as you are. It always helps to build relationships with your colleagues not just for your current position, but also for your career moving forward. These relationships take time to build so why not start today. For more tips on networking check out my blog post How to Build Your Network Without 'Networking'.
Learn something new
Office downtime is great for learning a new skill or exploring a topic related to your work. Udemy offers tens of thousands of online courses, many of which are free. If it’s a skill that’s directly related to your job your employer would most likely be happy to pick up the tab for courses with a fee – just talk with your manager or human resources.
Another great resource for learning about motivation, goal setting, women in business and a long list of other work-related topics are TED Talks. Only have a few minutes? Choose from one of hundreds of talks six minutes or under.
Tackle a new project
Slow periods at work are the perfect time to tackle big projects that you’ve been putting off because of more urgent, daily tasks. It’s not that these projects are unimportant it’s just we often don’t have time to really immerse ourselves in assignments that require a greater level of focus or substantial chunks of time to do them justice. Annual reports, white papers, establishing new processes are all ideas for projects to take a stab at when you find things are have slowed down over the holidays.
Write a blog post
If you’ve been working for a few years you almost certainly have acquired knowledge and experience you could share with others. Blogging is a good way to get your name out there and establish yourself as an authority in your field. If you have lots to say think about starting your own blog and write about the trends and other hot topics in your industry. Don’t have the time or desire to start your own? Then find a blog that accepts guest bloggers (such as this site) and submit your work there.
Martin Smith is director of the software consultancy Red Caesar. He has more than a decade of experience in software development as an Agile Coach, Project Manager, Product Owner and ScrumMaster.