9 (and a half!) things to do at work when there's no longer work to do (also good for a boring day at home!)

By Sarah Winfrey on 16 August 2007 (Updated 22 June 2009) 13 comments
Photo: polifemus

My job is crazy one week and snail-slow the next. During the slow times, it's easy to get sucked into the web, clicking from one page to the next, waiting for someone to have a fire that I need to put out (that's what I do--put out those proverbial fires). So I've found some things that are fun to do and that make me feel productive at the same time.

*Warning: Different corporate cultures are different. Some of these may be completely acceptable in one environment and totally unacceptable in another. So use some discretion when trying them out!

1. Take surveys. Sure, there are a lot of scams out there. But there are also some good ways to earn yourself a little extra cash now and then, or to earn points toward giftcards. Free Christmas presents anyone? The best I've found are American Consumer Opinion and e-Rewards. They've proven secure and dependable to me!

2. Set up your own Etsy store. Do you make something others like? Could you learn? Setting up a store on Etsy is easy, fun, and easy on the bank account. If your item sells, fabulous! If it doesn't, you're not out too much (20 cents per item).

3. Sell some stuff on eBay. Setting up an auction is no more than a couple clicks away. You can sell those old Rollerblades, or the briefcase you just replaced. If work gets really bad, auction a date with your hot coworker!

4. Check for freelance jobs. Can you read? How about type? If you can, then there are jobs for you. I have entered a PhD. students' sources into EndNote, edited a manuscript, and more, all without any specialized skills in those areas, just because I was available and willing. A bonus? Freelance pay is often better that you'll get at your job, particularly when people are desperate to get their project done. (at least in my experience!).

5. Plan your next trip. Kayak is only a click away, so why not? Besides, there are a million resources where you can see pictures of hotels, read reviews, access online travel guides, talk to people who live in other countries, and more! If you have to sit at the computer, why not plan your dream vacation. Even if you can't take it now, it'd be great to know exactly what you wanted to do when you could!

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6. Find a need and plan to meet it. Do you really wish there was a different sort of option for web-based email? Is there something you've always wanted to be able to do online but no one's built it yet? Do you wish your shirt had a hidden pocket where you could hide you stack o' 50s? Whatever it is, you could make that thing. Check out Startup Nation for a realistic sense of what it would take.

7. Work on your flexibility. Even when you're sitting in a chair, you can take positive steps toward good health, less stress, and greater happiness.

8. Network. Did you meet someone interesting last night or remember a former colleague you'd like to keep in touch with? Shoot them an email. If you don't know their address, see if you can't look it up from the last information you knew about them. Who knows? One of them might have a more interesting job just waiting for you.

9. Take it to the next level. Would your job be less boring if you knew how to code and so didn't have to hand that part of the project over to someone else? Are there any skills that would give you less downtime in the job you have or make your more marketable for a job you'd like more? Then take this time to pick up some serious skills.

9.5. Language learning is particularly hot right now! No matter what you do, you're almost always more marketable if you can speak another language. So check it out!

Be bored and frustrated at work no longer! Try out one of these ideas today, and let me know how it goes.

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Guest's picture

My cousin tried the job search thing while at work and it cost him his JOB! Never look for a job while on the JOB!

Guest's picture
Barbara

Lots of people look for other jobs while at work. If you get caught, then it's easy enough to come up with excuses (a friend of mine is searching, thought I'd help, etc). I looked while at my last job, and found enough freelance opps out there to strike out on my own entirely.

I like the idea of completing surveys that can actually pay cash, or inventing something while sitting at your desk. Why not make some extra money?

Andrea Karim's picture

That really depends on the workplace. I look for new jobs all the time at my job, and no one cares. People are pretty open about it - we all know when someone is going for an interview, too.

Guest's picture

So where are the best places to look for freelance jobs?

Guest's picture

This afternoon I was wishing someone would give me suggestions as to what I could do while bored at work. I can't do too much, since my computer's in plain view, but my boss also knows how sometimes the office gets slow, so she's open to blog-reading at least. Thanks. :-)

I'd heard of Etsy before, but now I'm looking into it as a place to sell my quilts and such, so thanks for that as well!

-MM

Sarah Winfrey's picture

...you have to know your own corporate culture before you do any of those things. I know people who work in places where keystrokes are logged and certain words are targeted (so if someone searches for "freelance" or "graphic design" too many times, they get flagged). But my own job is low-key--everyone knows that sometimes we're busy, sometimes we're not, and we can do what we like as long as we show up every day and get our work done.

For freelance jobs, it depends what you want to do. The job boards at Freelance Switch are nice.

Guest's picture
story

I had a job once where everyone, from the boss on down, was looking for jobs and discussing them whenever it was slow. You'd think that would mean it was a bad job, but it was actually the most pleasant place I've ever worked.

Guest's picture
Nikki

Hi there, I use a few minutes here and there to enter competitions. I have won quite a few things now although nothing major (I always hope for the best!). Once I have finished with the prize - if it is a book or DVD say - I sell it on Amazon and make a couple of pounds (I am in the UK). I have won quite a few beauty product type prizes which have meant I haven't had to buy stuff for a while!

Guest's picture
Taylor

I'd love to freelance, but never know where to find jobs. Any suggestions?

Andrea Karim's picture

Both under the Jobs section and the Gigs section. And don't limit yourself to your own city - in fact, I found this blogging job through a job posting on the New York craigslist.

I've also found many other freelance gigs on CL.

Guest's picture
Guest

This is lame I was bored doing any of it. While this did take some time it was useless time wasted.

Guest's picture
Guest

hi please help me i want to get my mom a 100 gift card to walmart or any store she likes for her birthday that is coming in 2 months i tired doing survey and earning points to win gift cards but that takes to long do you know any places where in a month i could take a lot of surveys and earn points and win stuff really really fast thanks for your time and help please email me back thank you

Guest's picture
Guest

http://gotgoodlist.com/productive-things-to-do-at-work-when-youre-bored/

Check out this list - it appears the writer likes your writing.