Bored at Work? 15 Ways to Stay Productive

You’re done with today’s work, and still have time to kill before 5 o’clock. Awesome! But unless you work from home, you can’t just head out before everyone else does. So how do you occupy yourself in the meantime, without looking like a slacker or breaking company rules? Here’s how to stay productive.

De-Clutter Your Desk

Is your desk so messy that it takes you several minutes just to find a pen? While clutter can stimulate creativity, a neat desk is more helpful for productivity. Sort through your stuff carefully, and see which ones you can pile alongside each other.

De-Clutter Your Computer

Aside from your physical desktop, your digital desktop may require cleanup as well. If half your screen is taken up by icons, create new folders to organize them. You can arrange them however you like, as long as it takes you a few seconds, at most, to hunt for a single file next time.

Write Tomorrow’s To-Do List Today

Instead of taking on work as you go, why not plan ahead? Check if you have any unfinished business (or potential unfinished business) today, and list them down so you won’t forget tomorrow. You can do this with good old-fashioned pen and paper, or you can use the most effective To-Do apps available.

Read Online

It doesn’t have to be work-related (though it should at least be Safe For Work!). Type the question that’s always been bugging you into Google, and see where that takes you. Hey, you’re never too old to learn new things!

Improve Your Workflow

Frustrated by workflow inefficiencies, but don’t know how to solve them? Get help from task management software. Kanban, for example, allows you to structure your tasks into “Requested,” “In Progress” and “Done”. If that sounds like your workflow, more or less, give Kanban a try.

Create a Work Journal

Do you have thoughts about work you’d rather keep to yourself? Try writing them down. Not only is this therapeutic, but it can also clear up the cobwebs in your mind. Your journal can be anything: A Moleskine, a private blog or one of those cute-yet-cheap locked notebooks. Just make sure you keep your journal away from prying eyes!

Have a Mini-Class at Your Desk

Considering the numerous websites that offer free online classes, there’s no reason not to learn something new today. For starters, you have Coursera, MIT OpenCourseWare and edX where you can study virtually everything under the sun from the world’s best universities. If you’re looking to learn a specialized skill like programming, look no further than CodeAcademy.

Create Work-Related Social Media Posts

Think the shares on your company blog posts could use a boost? Use your professional social media profiles to promote them. Even if it’s not part of your job description, building goodwill for your company can only bring you good karma in return.

Exercise at Your Desk

Since you’ve been sitting all day, now’s a good time to get back into shape. You don’t need a skintight tracksuit to perform “deskercises” — just a few minutes (and a lot of physical space between you and your co-workers!) will do.

Read Offline

Let’s face it: The Internet is a distracting place. One article can have dozens of links, and it’s hard to resist the temptation to click them all. So why not bring your favorite book to work? If you have an e-book reader, that’s even better: You can pack it with as many books as it can hold.

Update Your Professional Profiles

If you haven’t touched your LinkedIn for months, you might want to update it. Read through it again and see if you can strengthen any part of it. For example, instead of writing a generic summary that lists what you do — rather than what you’ve achieved — use a template to rewrite your summary into one that sparkles.

Write About Anything

Open your word-processing software, and type anything into it. It can be as mundane as your thoughts for the day, or as outrageous as your master plan for world domination. (Just kidding!) It can even be that novel you’ve wanted to write for a long time. Whatever it is, it won’t hurt to get it out of your head and onto the page.

Bond with a Co-Worker

When you have a good relationship with co-workers, it creates a positive emotional culture at work which, in turn, contributes positively to overall company performance. So even if you’re not the friendly type, lending your ear to a troubled co-worker can work wonders. Just make sure you know where to draw the line between being helpful and being taken advantage of.

Play a Game

Not all fun games are online. The Japanese, for example, have a game called shiritori, where players say a word, beginning with the first syllable of the previous word’s last syllable. For example, if the previous player says “vinegar,” the next player should say something like “garnish” (since the last syllable and first syllable are both “gar”). The game ends when a player breaks a rule (e.g. no words that end with “n”). It’s harder and more exciting than it sounds, so try it!

Do Nothing

Can’t think of anything to do? That’s okay, really. Believe it or not, doing nothing can work wonders for your productivity. Willpower and energy are limited resources, after all, and you can only stretch them so thin for so long. You’ll accomplish more if you break up your workday into manageable chunks, as opposed to working non-stop until you crash and burn.

Staying Productive Benefits Everyone

When you’re willing to be creative, inquisitive and resourceful, you’ll never run out of things to do at work. And remember, you’re staying productive as much for yourself as you are for your employer.  Keep this list handy next time you’re bored at your desk!


Sarah Landrum

After graduating from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR, Sarah moved to Harrisburg to start her career as a Digital Media Specialist and a writer. She later founded Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping young professionals navigate the work world and find happiness and success in their careers.

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