What to do with “Free Time”

Ever feel frustrated not having enough to do at work? Then ask for some!

Whether you’ve completed all your assignments for the day or you simply have a slow day you might want to see what other work you could take on.  You could ask in person, send an email or make a quick phone call.

How to Ask

How you go about this is important. Think about the work style of your co-workers. What will be the simplest and the least intrusive way to ask him/her? You will most likely have to figure out who likes what type of communication by testing the waters a couple times. Some of my co-workers only communicate via email, others like it when I walk over to talk in person and others would rather not have me come to them at all. You will find out that sometimes you just have to wait for someone to come to you.

If that is your case to fill the rest of your day I would suggest utilizing the time you have to work on something for yourself.

Personal Time Fillers

This is a personal choice and will vary depending on what your job is, but here are some suggestions of projects I’ve done with my spare time…

Type up Notes

I have taken notes in my previous meetings and trainings so I something to refer back to. I turn these notes into an outline of responsibilities I have and how to complete them.

Make a One Sheet

A one sheet is the typed up steps on how to complete a project. If done properly someone should be able to look at the one sheet and complete the task without any assistance. This is helpful to have on days when you are absent and training someone else.

          Short Cuts and Cheat Sheets

I have created a few short cuts and cheat sheets that are posted at my desk for quick reference. For example, to review and correct time sheets I receive I need to recall what different budget codes mean. I have created a cheat sheet that lists what the general codes mean; W code is a Broadband code, C code is Outreach projects, and F codes all have to do with Revenue.

Create a Schedule

For regular projects and deadlines it might be helpful to have a schedule in a monthly, weekly or daily calendar. I personally like to have my big regular projects in a monthly calendar. Going back to my time sheets example, I have created a monthly schedule where I layout when I need to send my e-mail reminders to employees for due dates, when time sheets are due to me, pay days and deadlines when time sheets are due to payroll. For me it is helpful to see the big picture of my schedule, but you may have a reason to narrow your view.

These are just a few extra projects I like to try and fill my time with. It is important to stay busy and not use extra free time to goof around on the internet. I know it sounds obvious but you would be surprised how much your company can see of what you do on your computer.

At one of my old jobs before graduating we had a new director. She worked well with everyone and always got all her work done. The problem was that she got all her work done in the morning and just surfed the web after. Sounds innocent, but she was fired. The company could see her internet usage and viewed this as a sign of laziness because she did not take the initiative to see if there was more work she could take on.

Do you have any productive time fillers to keep yourself busy, but more importantly, productive and organized? 


4 thoughts on “What to do with “Free Time”

  1. Hi Katie,

    My opinion is that if you’re working in a company where you need to ask for work, then most likely you have a project manager that is not doing his/her job properly. Employees should never “beg” for work, sufficient work should be constantly assigned by them. Work shortages should be discovered during weekly meetings.

    • There is a lot of sense in what you say and I agree. I think then I should have specified… this might be more relevant to people just starting out. People who have that job where they’re an assistant or for the unofficial term… the slacky. These position may not equip you with work to fill a 9 hour day. In this case you might still be in the position where you need to prove yourself to gain the trust for more work.

      All advice needs to be adjusted personally to each person. I would agree that there’s times to ask and times to see what else you can do own your own. Your point is another great way to deal with the problem of having too much free time.

  2. So, I graduated with a Business degree and I am just working a regular desk job that I don’t really hate (as it pays the bills) at the same time, I feel like I can venture out to better opportunities or even a different career in Information Technology. I got some quick responses from e-mail from college professors and professionals, but there answers aren’t very specific and I even have a family member who is involved in this field (which led me to have interest), but I feel like his certification is “outdated” in terms of what I need to pursue first at this current stage.

    • Siobhan,

      If you really think this is something you would be interested I think you should go for it. You’re definitely doing the right thing by staying with the job you have now while you do your research on what the the career path to Information Technology would be like. And it was smart for you to reach out for some advice. Since it seems like you’re still looking for more information before you make any career moves, here’s what I would suggest…

      Instead of e-mailing for advice, set up an informational meeting. If you have a relative in the field, but you think he might be “outdated”, instead of going to him for advice ask if he can set up a meeting for you and his boss or someone in HR. He can be your inside person to connect you with whoever does the hiring and would ultimately know all the qualifications you would need to pursue this career path.

      On Monday I’m starting a post series on the book I’m reading, The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, PhD. This first few posts will be about work and the importance of picking out the right jobs that will help you advance. I think you will really find it helpful.

      I hope this advice helps and works out for you. Feel free to follow up with me here or email me at asktheyoungprofessional@gmail.com

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