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I have had my fair share of boring jobs.
In fact, in one of my former jobs, I think my biggest accomplishment was researching and subsequently applying to graduate school.
Having a lot of downtime at work can be really frustrating, especially if you feel like you have a lot more to offer than you’re being asked to give. If you’re frequently bored at work, it could be a sign that you need to make a change. But, in the meantime (or if you’re waiting for a promotion at your current company) you could harness your boredom to do something more productive than scrolling through social media—like an activity that can boost your professional standing and career.
In this article, we will look at 25 things you can do when you’re bored at work that will not only make your day more pleasant, but will also benefit you professionally.
Let’s get started.
25 Career-Boosting Things to Do When You’re Bored at Work
1. Learn a New Skill
No matter how much you already know, there will always be endless things to learn. And, the more skills you learn, the more well-rounded you will be, allowing you to relate to more people and deepen your existing knowledge. In fact, learning new things can help fight boredom by keeping your level of interest in various topics high, which can prevent you from getting bored in the first place.
You can even learn new skills that are relevant to your job, such as new ways to analyze data or how to communicate with co-workers from other countries. Learning a new skill can break the cycle of monotony in your life. There are a variety of platforms that can teach you any skill you'd like to learn. Here are four suggestions to get you started:
2. Ask How You Can Help
While you may have excess downtime, your colleagues may not. Asking your supervisor or those around you what you can help out with will not only earn you brownie points, it will also give you some more projects to focus on during the day.
This can help you learn about what other people do in the company and broaden your perspective of your field. Also, your team-player reputation will spread–which will benefit you as long as you’re genuine about helping people and you don’t accept more work than you can reasonably handle.
3. Create a Long-Term Plan
I dread the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question that is often asked in interviews because I don’t know. Things change so quickly and rarely go according to plan so I live on a bit more of a short-term basis.
However, I do know that long-term career planning is important so you have something you’re ultimately working toward. And, being bored at work is an ideal time to give this some thought.
Your long-term career plan can help you make better everyday professional decisions and help you determine what steps you should be taking today to set yourself up for a better tomorrow. You can also use this time to create SMART goals to help you stay focused and on track.
4. Create Strategy Ideas and Suggestions
It’s so easy for companies to fall back on doing things a certain way because that’s how they’ve always been done. But, our world evolves quickly, and even the processes that we do that aren’t digital could use a makeover every so often.
Are there any outdated procedures or forms that your company still uses? Or do you think you have a more efficient way of creating monthly reports or keeping track of clients’ requests or complaints? If so, develop an analysis of the current process and create a proposal using your new idea. This will show your boss that you care, you’re not just “going through the motions” at work, and you have leadership potential because you’re trying to improve the way everyone works by taking the initiative to make positive changes.
(Team building activities help teams work better. Here are some team building questions to help get you started.)
5. Write Some Fan Mail
It may seem like a longshot, but sometimes you just have to go for it in life. There’s no harm in going way outside of your comfort zone and writing an email to someone telling them how much you admire their work or career and asking them for advice.
And, while if this is a famous professional (like Bill Gates or Oprah), your odds of getting a response to your fan mail are low, but it really can’t hurt to put yourself out there. And ultimately, it’s good practice to reach out to people you admire, especially if you’re doing so with the intent to tell them that.
6. Research and Apply to a Degree Program
Whether you’re in a position where you could quit your job and return to on-campus school full time or you need to look for an online degree program that you could try to work into your current work schedule, earning another degree is never a bad idea.
There is a lot of research that goes into applying to graduate programs beyond finding a school that offers the type of program you’re looking for. There’s financial aid to research, degree requirements, and details of that nature that you need to take into account as well.
You can also use your downtime at work to think about and write your personal statement for your application because this will definitely take some time. You will also need to reach out to people to get your recommendation letters rolling and any transcripts from your past schools, which will take some time as well.
7. Work on Your Hobby
You know those lucky people who are able to turn their passion into a career? You may be able to do this too! Whether you’re developing an Etsy store or you’re trying your hand at blogging, there are some things you can do at your desk to develop your hobby.
And, if your hobby is definitely something that you could not do at work (like gardening), you can still use the time to research it and watch videos online about how you can improve whatever you’re working on.
8. Create a 30-Day Challenge
If you’re bored at work because you don’t feel challenged enough in your position, create your own challenges to keep yourself feeling motivated and feeling like you’re accomplishing something. This can be something like building a larger professional network or something bigger like taking on a project that everyone has been trying to avoid.
9. Join a Company Volunteer Group
Your company probably supports some local causes, and getting involved in any volunteer work they do is a great way to bond with co-workers that you may not directly work with, build your network by working with the charity or non-profit involved, and give back to your community. Find out how you can get involved in the next charity auction, fundraising event, or volunteer opportunity by looking for any upcoming meetings and attending any of them that fit into your schedule.
Or, volunteer within your company by committing to helping with the annual company party, recruiting event, or other scheduled affair. Helping out with something that’s outside of your job description but has to be done by someone can help win your co-workers’ appreciation and boost your reputation for being the good corporate citizen that you are.
10. Keep an Accomplishment Journal
Spend about ten minutes per day writing down the things that you think you’re doing well at work. Research has shown that doing so will increase your confidence in your job and help you gain a better understanding of your purpose.
This increased sense of professional engagement can help combat boredom as you do some self-reflection about your working style and areas for potential improvement, which can also increase your motivation to take on new projects at work. Keeping a journal like this will also come in handy when you feel like it’s time to ask for a raise, apply for a promotion, or even help create a self-assessment at the end of the year.
11. Create Challenging Goals
Create specific job-related goals that are challenging to help you generate a better sense of purpose. When your goals offer you a challenge, you will feel a stronger sense of motivation and commitment toward your job and you will naturally perform better.
Having milestones and a plan describing how you will reach them will help you lay out your daily tasks, so you’re not left procrastinating out of boredom. Reaching your goals will increase your satisfaction at work and motivate you to reach even further.
12. Clean Up
Cleaning up your work environment during your downtime will help you work efficiently when you’re busy. Research has shown that our brains prefer being in orderly environments, and having regular visual reminders of disorder can be taxing on our minds, reducing our ability to focus.
The research also found that when people work in a de-cluttered environment, their productivity increases. Alternatively, when your desk is cluttered to the point that you can’t find what you need, you may lose valuable time during the day that you should be using to focus.
13. Clean Up Digitally
To increase your productivity at work when you’re busy and reduce the chances of losing any important digital files, clean up your desktop and organize everything into folders. Upload important documents to the cloud and make a special folder for all of your professional papers– your resume, any documents that go in your CV, copies of your degrees, certifications, licenses, etc. This way if you want to apply to a job, you will have everything you need in one place to do so.
This will also help you know where your resume is at all times so you can update it on a regular basis. Finally, make a folder online of all of the business cards that you have lying around with your contacts’ information on them. This will reduce clutter in your desk and help you stay digitally organized.
14. Read a Professionally Inspiring Book
Reading will boost your career and your personal life, and there are a lot of books out there that can help you no matter where your professional life takes you. Here are some great suggestions for books that can help you both personally and professionally:
If you don’t want to read an entire book, check out Blinkist. This app provides executive summaries of business books for busy professionals. The Blinkist team reads non-fictions books that can help you improve both personally and professionally, then they take out the key points, and explain them to the reader/listener in an easy-to-understand, 15-minute book summary.
If you’re interested in the summary and want to learn more, you can go on to read the whole book. But, if you just wanted to know the main points, Blinkist is a great way to get that information in a succinct and convenient way.
15. Watch TED Talks
TED talks can be motivating, inspirational, educational, and entertaining. These bite-sized videos offer something for everyone, whether you want to improve an area of your life, learn about something, or get an inspirational boost, you can start with a TED talk (and subsequently watch many more back to back).
All TED talk speakers are among the top experts in their unique fields and have been chosen carefully because of their ability to deliver a charismatic lecture. This means that you’ll be more likely to remember the information that you learn on TED talks because it isn’t dry or boring, as the speaker is able to pull you in with an engaging lecture.
Whether you’re trying to learn a new skill in anticipation of a career change, or you’re just starting out in a new career, watching TED talks can help improve your confidence, interviewing techniques, and professional conduct, helping you continue to advance in your career. And who knows, you might come across a TED talk that pushes you in a whole new professional direction.
16. Find a Mentor
If you have some extra time at work, research some potential mentors in your area or think about people from your past whom you consider to be successful and could potentially be your mentor. Great professionals are born from those who have come before them, so you can benefit from spending time finding someone who could be your mentor.
Think about the people you look up to in your company or profession and send out some “feeler” emails to get things going. Or, try to book an informational interview with someone who has your dream job. Whatever you can do to learn from those who have already been where you are will help you advance in your career.
Or, you can be the mentor. See if your company offers a program for this, and if not, find a younger or less experienced co-worker and offer to help guide them during the early stages of their career.
17. Update Your LinkedIn Account
You can always update and optimize your LinkedIn profile by adding skills, updating your resume, and making new contacts. Update your profile picture if it’s outdated and your cover photo as well to reflect your current professional status.
Also, spend some time working on your headline. According to Forbes, this 120-character snippet should use the keywords that your target industry is most interested in. You could use your job title if it best relates to your ambitions for the future, or you could list some of your critical skills. Your headline is often the first, and sometimes the only thing people read on your profile–and it’s used to judge whether or not a reader wants to move on to read your summary.
Your summary should also be maintained, as this is your chance to show that you’re well-versed in your industry. Your summary should be a narrative–not a clip from your resume–and should show your personality and your skills in about 40 words.
Finally, add as many skills as you can to your skills list to get more views on your profile and request recommendations and testimonials from former employers, clients, and colleagues to add to your credibility and offer a more comprehensive look at who you are as a professional.
18. Build a Professional Website
According to Workfolio, a marketing application development company, only 7% of jobseekers have a website, yet 56% of hiring managers value this personal branding tool over any other documents offered by prospective employees. It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, having your own website that displays your work, skills, mission, and a bit about your personality is a great idea.
A well-designed website can work as a marketing tool for your personal brand, and provides you with the creative freedom to show your personality in a way that can’t be sensed through your resume. Everything from your personal bio to your website’s design paints the viewer a picture of you, and offers recruiters a better opportunity than they can get from a resume and cover letter to determine if they want to offer you an interview.
You will want to develop your branding strategy, which means thinking about your site’s purpose, your intended audience, and tone of voice. Take a look at some other people’s professional websites to get an idea of how they’re frequently laid out and look for ideas about how you may be able to create your own niche in your field.
Creating a website is easy and you don’t have to make it extremely intricate or extensive. And, once you’ve completed it, you will have a place people can easily go to see all of your best work, get your contact information and links to your social media pages, and learn more about what you do.
This video will help walk you through creating your own personal resume/portfolio website.
19. Make Sure You’re Getting All of Your Benefits
Your employer (especially if you work for a big company) may offer some benefits that you’re not aware of and are therefore not taking advantage of. For example, many employers offer discount memberships to gyms or tuition reimbursement in addition to flexible spending accounts for your medical needs and even legal services.
In particular, look for the benefits that your employer offers that are related to continuous education. While you’re in a job, you want to get all of the education/certificates/licenses that you can, especially if you’re doing so on the company’s dime. And, if you can find a class that is directly related to your job, your company may even pay for your tuition to enroll.
If you’re not sure about all of the benefits that are available to you, take the time to review your benefits handbook to see if anything new has been added since you started your job. Take advantage of any and everything you’re entitled to as an employee!
20. Create a New Role for Yourself
If things at work are a bit stagnant, do some creating and innovating. Is there something that you can do that will have a lasting effect on yourself and your company?
If you’re working in a dead-end position, create a new role and go ahead and hire yourself into it. Find a gap that needs to be filled somewhere–something that should be done or something that no one has thought about before that would benefit the company and take ownership of the task.
You might need to check with your supervisor first, but sometimes it’s ok to just start something if it’s constructive and let your superiors know later. If whatever you’re doing is good for the business, and the people in leadership positions are smart, they’ll be glad you took the initiative.
21. Empty Your Inbox
How soothing is an empty email inbox? Go through all of your emails (and unsubscribe from any that you can) until it’s empty. There may be some that you need to flag if they’re important or part of an ongoing project that you’ll need to come back to later, but get your inbox down to as few emails as possible.
Create folders for emails that you want to save for CYA purposes and make a temporary folder for tasks that need to be addressed later. Once your inbox is clean, try to keep it empty moving forward.
22. Create Training Documents for New Employees
What material do you wish you had when you were first starting out at your job? I have frequently created “how-to” guides in past jobs with step-by-step instructions and screenshots so I only had to be shown how to do something once, which has always come in handy.
If you’re bored at work, create some guides or documents like this to help train people who come on board in the future. Or, look for some areas in your department that could use a manual of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for repetitive tasks so new employees can be given this document to help save time on training.
This is a good way to show that you can take initiative and you have good leadership skills, which could potentially set you up for a promotion.
23. Create Systems
You may be bored right now, but I’m willing to bet that there are times that you wish you were bored because you have so much on your plate. If so, take your downtime to create systems to make your life easier when work is chaotic.
For example, do you respond to the same kind of email requests on a regular basis? Write a template to use so you can cut and paste and fill in any variable blanks (name, account number, etc.) moving forward. You can systematize or streamline any task that you have to do frequently at work, and these things are certainly worth spending a bit of time on now to save you time in the future.
24. Research Upcoming Conferences
A great way to increase your knowledge of your industry and grow your network is to attend a relevant conference. Plus, if you find a professional conference that could help you in your current position, your company will likely even foot the bill.
While you’re at a conference, you’ll learn about innovations in your field, whether that’s new equipment, new ideas, or new techniques you can use. You will get the chance to learn directly from trailblazers in your industry and become familiar with some of the most influential thought-leaders. You may even get to talk to these experienced professionals about how you could improve your own work.
Upon returning from a conference, you’ll be eager to put your new knowledge to work and teach your co-workers about what you’ve learned.
25. Grab Lunch with a Colleague
And if not a colleague, ask your boss out to lunch or someone you know who works at a different company who does something you may want to do in the future. Use this common break to network with other professionals so you can pave the way for better opportunities for your future.
Staying at your desk for lunch is a waste of a very powerful hour–and it can even make you feel tired and disconnected from other professionals. Studies have found that eating with co-workers can increase your sense of belongingness on your team and improve overall team performance.
Leaving your workspace during your lunch hour will also give you a boost of energy to help you get through the afternoon and combat decreased motivation that can result from feeling fatigued.
Final Thoughts on Career-Boosting Things to Do When You’re Bored at Work
As you can see, there are a lot of constructive things that you can do with your time while you’re bored at work. Engaging in these activities will help prevent you from feeling like you have no purpose or you’re wasting your time in your career.
You shouldn’t overlook feelings of boredom at work because letting your boredom continue could put your happiness and mental health on the line.
Make a change to gain enthusiasm again about your job and your life.
Are you a student? Check out these post on what things to do when bored in class.
Not at work but with friends? Here's what you and your friends can do when bored.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.