Career Guides

Maximizing Your Free Time at Work

By Scott Boyd







  • There are always times in every job where you have nothing to do. For some it's a bonus - a break from the routine - for others it's dull and boring.

    This article will look at how you can make best use of your free time at work (or skive and get away with it!).

    Is there anything you should be doing right now?

    Be honest - do you really have spare time just now or is there something you can be getting on with?

    We all have stuff that doesn't have to be done right away, so sometimes we put things aside and have a break, don't we? Or is it just me?

    Motivating yourself to start that task you have been putting off can be difficult, so here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:

    • Make a list of what you need to do.
    • Break each task down into sub tasks - you will find these much more manageable (and less daunting!).
    • Just start from the beginning and work your way down the list. Before you know it, your task will be complete!

    It is always difficult to get started on something new if you have no particular interest in the task at hand. But, you have to remember that regardless if it is your job to do or not, then it has to be done.

    So you do have free time after all?

    OK, you have done all that you need to, so what now?

    Well, it really depends on your own work ethics. Do you want to progress your career and skills or do you just want to pass the time until the end of your shift?

    No-one is judging you here - you need to do what you are comfortable with - it's your life after all!

    I don't believe in imposing ethics and morals onto individuals (organisations are a whole different story though, but that's for another article!).

    You have to do what you are comfortable with.

    But please don't mistake comfort for complacency!

    It is all too easy for you to sit back and do nothing while your own ambitions remain unachieved. I know - I did it for way too long! You can do two things with your time:
    • Work at achieving your ambitions.
    • Or not.

  • Work towards your goals.

    You may already be heading along your desired career path or you may be way off it. Either way, you can use you free time to help yourself along the way.

    If you are in a situation at work that you are happy with, ie, you like the company you are working for and are in a job you like, then you should do what you can to be the best you can be.

    This may involve asking people around you for more work to do, or going off and taking the initiative. Or you could take the time to improve your own skills and knowledge.

    Whatever you do, you will show those around you that you are dedicated to your job.

    If you are not in your ideal job, then you can use the time to do what it takes to get your ideal job:

    • Find out what the requirements are.
    • Match these to your own skills.
    • Identify areas that need addressed.
    • Work on them!

    If you find yourself in the position of not being in a job you like within a company you don't want to work for, then all you can do is look for a better job!

    I found myself in many temp jobs that left me with nothing to do and I used some of the time to look for other work. Generally temp employers are fine with you applying for other jobs if you having nothing else to do.

    But, if you work in a permanent position, you may want to be a bit more discrete!

    Some things you can do:
    • Surf the Internet! Find jobs, training courses, discussion forums, etc.
    • Work on your CV - update it.
    • Print / photocopy your CV.
    • Type up covering letters.
    • Email your CV to recruitment agencies.
    • Check out industry news.

    Basically, do what you can to keep up to date with your job search!

  • Ok then, you're not bothered about your career - you just want to pass the time.

    Fair enough! Here a few tips (some are easier to get away with than others, depending on you job!):

    • Surf the net if you can. Be aware that it is fairly easy for most companies to monitor your surfing habits and time spent online, so don't go overboard.
    • Discussion forums. Some forums allow you to customise the look of them - if you were so inclined you could make them look like your companies intranet.....(don't get excited, very few forums let you do this - ours doesn't!).
    • Read the news. Justify it as research.
    • Learn keyboard shortcuts (pressing Alt and Tab cycles you through open applications - great for quickly hiding something if your boss walks in).
    • Solitaire? Battleships?
    • Email your mates - unless your boss is right behind you, you won't have a problem. Again a lot of companies monitor emails, so be careful about what you send out and what your mates send you!
    • Maybe have a think about what you would rather be doing and how you could do that for a living!

    Spates of boredom come to us all - regardless of what you do for a living! Just make the most of it!