Maximizing Your Down Time

Right now, you may find that you have more down time than you normally would as the real estate market begins to slow down in response to the COVID-19 distancing measures. Treat it as an opportunity to get to those things you’ve had at the back of your mind for a while but just never had time for until now. That could be anything from taking on a major project to updating workplace procedures to learning a new skill that will benefit your professional career growth. The most important thing is to be doing something productive that will set you up for success when things return to normal.

If you’re currently experiencing some down time at work, or if you’re likely to have some in the near future, here are a few possibilities for how you can make the most of it:

Create a business case that solves a problem
Now is a good time to evaluate problems you haven’t had time to deal with before. Start by clarifying the problem and what it is costing your business. Then identify root causes, brainstorm solutions, and plan out your path forward. You can then share your business case with other decision makers and use it to advocate for necessary improvements.

Create or improve business processes
Well-thought-out systems and procedures can help any business run smoothly and efficiently. However, creating those processes is the kind of project that sounds great in theory, but is daunting to undertake. As a result, it’s often put permanently on the backburner. Start chipping away at it when you find yourself with down time. You may not get through everything, but any headway you make will still be a huge help when things pick up again.

Learn a new skill or build an existing one
A good skillset is the backbone of a successful career. With a wide and varied skillset to draw on, you’re better able to tackle projects, handle the unexpected, and take on new roles when you want a change. But what skills should you focus on developing? Consider the skills that set apart the leaders in your field and start there. Once you have a skill to focus on, look for helpful books and articles, webinars you can attend, or pre-recorded video classes you can watch to expand that skill. Best of all, look for opportunities to practice the new skill in your daily work.

Keep a running list of down time projects
Despite our best intentions, most of us always have some tasks that are simply left undone. Many of those are things that will be helpful for many people but take time to do right, for example organizing computer files or fixing outdated processes. Keep a running list of these important, but not necessarily urgent items. When you find yourself with a bit of down time, you can go to that list and pick out a task to work on.

Improve your written communication skills
Workplaces thrive on good communication but written communications in particular can be tricky since you don’t have the advantages of body language or tone to get your point across. With most people working from home, it’s more important than ever to correct any gaps you might have in your written communication skills. There are plenty of free resources to help you get started such as LinkedIn Learning‘s free month of video courses, Alison.com‘s free course on Business Communication or visit Class Central to find a list of free online University courses that are available to you.

Touch base with your professional contacts
Staying in touch with others in your field, outside of your immediate workgroup, is invaluable. You can help each other stay up to date on what’s happening in your field, offer assistance on problems, or just provide an opportunity to vent about workplace stressors with someone who understands them well. One of the best types of professional contact is a mentor, usually someone with more experience in your field who can help you grow professionally. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional advice regularly, but also find ways to reciprocate by helping your mentor as well or acting as a mentor to someone less experienced in your field.

Although it may be quiet now, life will get busy again and you’ll find yourself back to feeling like you never have enough time to get to everything. Keep that in mind to help you appreciate any down time now and use it to set yourself up for success in the future. That doesn’t just mean tackling projects that have been on your to-do list for months. Also give yourself space to slow down a bit so you come back re-energized.