When you think about a typical work week, how many hours would you estimate you and your teammates are fully productive? According to a report from RescueTime, a time management software provider, employees are only productive for an average of 12.5 hours each week. In a traditional 40-hour work week, the costs associated with lost productivity will add up quickly for any business.
During a slow day or week in particular, you might find yourself scrolling through social media, chatting with your friends or online shopping to pass the time. But just because you don't have any urgent to-dos doesn't mean you should stop contributing to the business. Below, I've outlined several ways to keep yourself busy -- while helping your business grow -- during slow work periods.
1. Focus on your professional development.
A LinkedIn study found that the top challenge holding employees back from learning is that they're too busy. So if your professional development has been put on hold during a busy period at work, a slow day or week is the perfect time to focus on developing your skills.
If your team doesn't have upcoming training sessions scheduled, take your professional development into your own hands. You might have a list of relevant articles started that you haven't gotten around to reading. Or maybe you signed up for a webinar focused on your industry but couldn't attend the live recording. Take the time on a slow day to read these articles, watch informative webinars and focus on other professional development initiatives, such as working on a certification in your area of focus.
2. Connect with colleagues.
When you don't have an endless to-do list, you can take the time to reach out to colleagues you've been meaning to connect with. For example, if your manager is also having a slower week, ask to extend your usual touch base and discuss your long-term career goals. This can help ensure you're continuously working on projects that will help you grow in your career.
Outside checking in with your manager, you can use this time to meet with colleagues from across the company. This can include getting coffee or lunch with a coworker you're friendly with. Or reaching out to someone on a different team if you're interested in potentially switching career paths.
3. Get organized.
During busy times, you might wish you had a process or tool in place to make your day-to-day job more organized, but don't have the time to implement it. When you run into a slow period, this is a better time than ever to focus on your organization skills.
One way to get organized is by implementing a project management process or tool, to help your whole team stay on track with larger projects. Or on a personal level, you can rethink how you organize your email inbox or weekly to-do list. Then, once you're busy again, you'll be glad you're that much more efficient.
4. Ask for more work.
Another option for a slow work day is to simply ask for more work. You can show your manager that you're proactive and eager to help the business grow by asking to take work off his or her plate. By completing this work, not only will you help your manager, but you'll also learn new skills you might not have otherwise had the opportunity to work on.
Beyond helping your manager, you can take on projects you're passionate outside your usual list of responsibilities. Or you can offer to help another team with a project and, at the same time, learn more about how a different team at your company works.
The steps listed here are just a few ways you can ensure you're productive even when you have a light workload. If you put your best effort into positively contributing to your business at all times, you'll help your company grow, and as a result, grow in your career.