Firstly, if you’re looking up productive things to do when bored at work, I have to say – make sure you’re not going to get in trouble reading this article!
Checked that your boss isn’t looking over your shoulder?
Okay, good – let’s continue.
Even at the best of jobs, there can be significant downtime that results in you questioning your entire existence, staring at the water cooler, or just generally wanting to think of more productive things to do with your work time than sitting there, bored.
It could be that you work a customer service job and have periods of time without customers where you’re bored, or you could work a 9 to 5 job in an office which are known for their periods of downtime or boring meetings that take up too much time and say nothing.
In this guide, I’ve got suggestions for productive things to do at work when you’re bored that relate to your work life and your personal life, depending on what your work permits and what you have time for.
Best tools for Productivity
1. Organize Your Work Computer
I’m guilty of saving files with things like “final project finished finished really this time finished,” and if you’re the same, it’s likely you have a lot of files in the wrong places or saved with weird names.
Going through a clean on your computer can be incredibly helpful to your future productivity and make you feel more confident and happy at work because you’re less stressed every time you turn on your computer.
Don’t forget to go through things like bookmarks for your internet browser, file names, folders that files are in, and where you’ve saved files to if you have a shared workplace drive.
Don’t let your work computer become one large image of a bunch of files with weird names across your desktop.
Do something about it!
2. Spring Clean Your Workspace
Whether you have a cubicle, desk, or just a cubby, it can get cluttered over the years and may need a bit of spring cleaning no matter what month it is.
Take some time to physically clean your area, organize your stationary, get rid of old things that have been laying around for too long, and make sure that it’s sparkling.
Not only does this help make you happier at work, but it also shows to your coworkers and boss that you take pride in what you do.
This also goes for if you have shared workspaces or man a front desk or something that isn’t strictly “yours,” but could do with some tidying up.
3. Help with Any Physical Office Tasks Like Organizing or Filing
There is almost always things to be done in any office that people put off, like filing or cleaning out the fridge of last month’s lunches.
If you’re struggling with finding things to do to be productive, have a look around and see if there are any stationary areas you can organize, shared spaces you can help clean up, or physical tasks like refilling staples and filing that doesn’t really fall on any one person, but is a team effort.
This of course depends on the office environment and where you work, but is just a reminder to look to your physical space around you as well when finding productive tasks to do.
4. Ask Coworkers if you can Assist
People often forget to ask others if they need help.
If you’re worried about your coworkers or bosses realizing that you have nothing to do, then that is another issue, but if it’s just the nature of your work that sometimes are slower than others, reach out.
Shoot an e-mail out saying you’ve got some free time today because you just finished up a project and asking if anyone needs a hand with what they’re working on.
If you’re interning, tell the boss that you’ve finished your tasks and are ready to take on more when they have a chance.
Again, if it’s appropriate to do so, show people that you are available to help out and they may take you up on it.
5. Identify a problem with your work processes and solve it
Every workplace has issues, but sometimes the issues can’t get solved until somebody takes the proactive steps to solve it.
If you’re looking for productive things to do at work when bored and want to do some self-starting tasks, think about a problem in your workplace related to your processes.
Maybe everybody just e-mails around information that it would be better to put in a Google Document so everyone can edit it.
Maybe there is something that keeps getting messed up when it comes to the monthly budgets because of a wonky spreadsheet.
You don’t want to oversteps your bounds here, so this obviously depends on the type of job you have.
You’re not going to go up to the boss and tell them you’ve reworked the time off schedule for them.
But if there are things you do as a team that you can see ways to help solve, put together the solution and then present it to your colleagues and see what they think.
You can use my suggestion for the best productivity tools to get started on what might work for your office.
6. Take a work-related training
Plenty of jobs require continuous training and encourage you to take additional classes and find support in learning how to excel in what you do.
If you’re running out of things to do, it might be a great time to see if you can get clearance to do a training or course.
Some of these could be physical, like taking a Mental Health First Aid training course that’s offered in a local building, or it could be an online course like learning more about e-mail marketing in order to help your small business capture client’s e-mail addresses.
Be proactive in wanting to learn how to do your job better, and often people will remember your willingness to learn and grow as opposed to just thinking that you’re sitting around with nothing to do.
Many fields also have qualifications and certificates that you can work towards that will both benefit you as a future job applicant and benefit your company as they can say that their employees have XYZ credentials.
Check out the list of online trainings in this guide to online courses for more information.
7. Clean out your e-mail inbox
We’ve talked about clearing out your computer, but don’t forget your e-mail inbox.
This can apply to both your personal and professional e-mail.
Delete spam e-mails, shove things into folders to keep them organized, and generally make sure everything has been replied to.
I also make sure to remove myself from mailing lists that I have inevitably got on that are clogging up my inbox.
Okay, it may be one of the most productive things to do when you have nothing to do, but it will give you something to do.
8. Use a budgeting website like YNAB
Turning towards the personal things you can do when you’re bored at work, why not spend some time working on your budget with software like YNAB?
All you have to do is plug in how much money is coming in and what categories you’d like it to go to, and month after month it helps you to see how much you’re spending and whether you’re achieving your savings goals.
Nobody likes to spend time budgeting, so using the extra time you have at work to get your finances in order is never a bad idea.
You could also go through your personal bank accounts to double check that there aren’t any purchases you don’t recognize.
9. Make sure all of your messages, e-mails and calls have been answered
I am so guilty of leaving text messages unanswered and calls unreturned.
If you’re looking for things to do when you have free time at work, go through your calls, your e-mails, your text messages and messages on social media sites and make sure that you have gotten back to all friends and family who have gotten in touch with you.
10. Do online shopping for essentials
Looking for productive things to do on the internet when you’re bored?
Plenty of people do grocery shopping online these days, so you could do all of your food shopping from the comfort of your work chair if you wanted to.
Just pick a slot, put the items in the basket, and the items will turn up at your door at a time convenient to you!
This could also apply to other essentials that you know you need from Amazon or other online stores.
Whatever you can purchase without needing to go out to the store and instead just get it done while at work is a good idea.
11. Book appointments for yourself
From the dentist to the doctor to a new haircut, booking appointments for yourself can be such a drag.
However, many appointments are only able to be booked during working hours when the receptionists are in the office, so why not use that spare time at work to get those booked?
If you can’t make a call, there are usually online systems that can help or you can e-mail the office in question to see if you can make an appointment that way.
Also, bonus, you’re already at work so can easily ask your boss if you need to take any time off to make the appointment happen.
Just don’t forget to write it down!
12. Learn a new skill like coding
In addition to work-related training, if you’re really bored at work and are able to do personal things while waiting for customers to come in or something similar, why not learn a new skill like coding?
There are plenty of websites that will help teach you this computer language, and you could really increase your future job chances by becoming proficient in it.
If coding isn’t your thing, you could also learn how to use platforms like WordPress in terms of starting up your own blog in your free work time and figuring out content management systems so you can put that on your resume.
13. Practice a new language online
Want to be productive at work when you’re bored?
There are plenty of websites and apps that will let you learn a new language while sitting at your computer (or you can do it from your phone as one of the productive things to do on your phone).
For some, you’ll want to be able to listen to the words being spoken, but you can often do the reading and vocab parts without needing to listen to anything.
If you have a lot of downtime at your job, like I used to have when I worked in a university bookshop over the summer (the two don’t mix!), this is a great way to pass the time and feel like you’re not losing brain cells in the meantime.
14. Look up recipes for dinner or lunches
We’ve all got to eat, but sometimes rushing to and from work can make it difficult to stick to a plan.
Use the spare time you have at work to look up new recipes, make a list of ingredients, and meal plan for the week.
This only requires an internet connection and can be done quietly without disturbing anyone else.
If you don’t have internet, you could still meal plan for the week even if you don’t have the recipes in front of you.
Either bookmark the recipes for future use, or e-mail them to your personal e-mail so you have them when you get home.
15. Plan future travels
Looking for something productive to do when bored?
Nothing says “tropical island” quite like sitting in a cubicle waiting for it to be 5’o clock.
If you’ve got downtime at work, why not plan your next vacation including booking flights, booking hotels, and researching things to do.
This is one of the best boredom busters because you can dream of a life outside the office, and suddenly everything feels a lot brighter when you’re looking at tropical blue waters, even if online.
Use comparison sites like Skyscanner to search for flights, and take your time researching hotels and tour companies if you need to.
16. Clean out and organize your phone
Some people work at jobs where they have access to their phones, but not computers all day.
To you, I say – clean out that phone!
Erase old pictures, get rid of old notes, delete apps that are just taking up space.
Upgrade your phone’s operating system if it gives you the option, delete old contacts you don’t need and put in ones you do, and generally make sure your phone is operating well and not weighed down by excess bloat and 456 pictures of the neighborhood cats.
17. Make a list of future things to do
No matter where you are or what you have access to, you can also use your bored time at work to make a list of the things you need to or want to do.
Scribble it on a piece of paper with a pencil, write it down on your phone or send it to yourself in an e-mail, but generally use the time to make plans for the future and all of the things you need to do, even if you can’t do them yet.
Making the list of the first step to accomplishing them, so what are you waiting for?