We all have downtimes sometimes. These are small time slots that only last a couple of minutes. They happen when we need to wait for a train, stand in a queue in the supermarket or just sit on the couch waiting for the pizza delivery. Often, we tend to waste this valuable time. We scroll through Facebook or check the latest 9gag memes.
But it doesn’t need to be that way: We asked 14 productivity experts for their advice on productive things that you can do when you are bored.
#1 Learn to Play an Instrument
#2 Create a High Energy To-Do List and a Low Energy To-Do List
#3 Do Facial Exercises
#4 Take a Break and Assess
#5 Take a Mental Holiday
#6 Listen to Podcasts
#7 Knock Small Tasks Off Your To-Do List
#8 Go For a Run
#9 Talk To Yourself
#10 Clean, Get Outside and Get Errands Done
#11 Complete Small Tasks That Make Your Life Easier
#12 Learn New Things And Build Relationships
#13 Watch YouTube Tutorials
#14 Do Something That Is Entertaining For You
Gene Caballero, Co-Founder of GreenPal
“In a rare case that I get bored, I play the piano. Playing any instrument has been scientifically proven to engage practically every area of the brain at once especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices so it gets my mental capacity going again and helps me through my afternoon.
It’s like a mental full body workout and clears my mind. We have a little music room in another office so other employees can do the same.”
Liz Funk, Co-founder of And We Evolve
“This is something I do daily to help me use my time productively when I’m bored. I keep two to-do lists: a High Energy To-Do List and a Low Energy To-Do List.
When I’m bored, or I have that 3pm feeling, or I’m just not feeling it that day, I turn to my low-energy to-do list for tasks that don’t require a ton of brainpower or enthusiasm.
As the co-founder of an e-commerce company, for me, low-energy items are auditing our website and making sure that links are active and there are no typos anywhere; sending emails and getting to inbox zero; working on our social media (not the strategy, but the execution– so pinning on Pinterest, finding interesting things for our newsletter and Instagram); and cleaning off my desktop and deleting old files I don’t need any more.
I also use this time to do physical tasks around my office. If you’re bored, and you use that time to clean the coffee pot or tidy the storage room, your co-workers will love you. The beauty of the low-energy to-do list is that once you complete a task on the low-energy to-do list, you often get an energy boost from crossing something off your list.
Bonus points if it was a nagging task that you took care of. If you can accomplish something in a moment when you were having trouble engaging with something that usually excites you, that’s great optimization of your time. “
Jackie Silver, jackiesilverstyle.com
“I don’t get bored that easily, but when I do (at home), I do productive facial exercises. We work out our biceps, triceps, quads, abs and more, why ignore the 55 muscles of the face and neck, right?
It’s a very productive activity because it sculpts, tones and lifts my face and neck, making me look younger – the all-natural facelift. If I’m super bored, I will do the whole 18-exercise workout. If I’m just a little bored, I will do a few of the exercises just to be productive.
The program I follow is called Facial Magic. The thing about facial muscles is that they’re only attached to bone at one end, so they have to anchored with your hands while creating resistance for a contraction. Most programs simply use puckers, twists and repetitive motions that are completely useless and could actually create more wrinkles and lines. “
Dayne Shuda, Founder of Ghost Blog Writers
“If I ever find myself bored I like to take time to just sit and think about the regular tasks I’m doing each day. I try to think about my business goals and see if my daily tasks are getting me closer to those goals.
Usually, during this little exercise, I’ll find that over time, usually the last few months, that I’ve started doing a task that is unproductive and stopped others that were more productive. One of the big challenges today is being busy.
Feeling that urgent equals important. A good use of downtime or boredom is simply taking a breather and assessing what you’re doing with most of your time. “
Jim Dailakis, Comedian/Actor/Writer
“I’ll respond to emails that have been sitting there for a while. This is productive because you finally get what you’ve been procrastinating about out the way. I once responded to an email I kept ignoring and after I responded, it led to a gig!
As an actor/comedian/writer, I’ll write, memorize lines, come up with ideas or jokes. This is productive because aside from being satisfying creatively, it may lead to more work, make me and others laugh and I’ll be better prepared for whatever role I’m rehearsing for.
I’ll listen to music and if conditions allow it, I’ll gently exercise certain parts of my body with stretches and isometric holds. This is productive because it’s exercise and we all know exercise is productive because it leads to better health.
Quite often, I’ll calculate where I am financially and see what needs to be done if I’m looking to perhaps buy a car, a house, save up for a trip and see if I can balance my expenses so I have the opportunity to save more. This is productive because, with all the time to think, I could prevent myself from making a bad financial decision and instead, make a solid one.
Finally, I’ll contemplate where I am in life and what needs to be done in order to get further ahead, sometimes, being bored is a great time to clear your thoughts and just let go of everything. This is productive because these days, we are so obsessed with work, there’s never any time for ourselves and our well-being. Being bored forces us to take a mental holiday where you can use the time to just switch off and do absolutely nothing.”
Kayley Reed, Creative Consultant at kayleyreed.com
“I’m all about the podcasts. As a digital freelancer, I am always trying to learn more and be productive, even in my downtime. I’ve always loved reading but find it hard to slow my brain down for that, so podcasts have been my absolute go-to.
While I’m working, doing dishes, running errands, or just sitting around the house I’ll put on a strategy podcast to learn anything in a creative or marketing realm. There are endless podcasts, and I find myself learning so much.
I even started my own podcast as a result, so any further free downtime is now spent on my own show, where I’m building a loyal following, strengthening my personal brand, and increasing client connection. “
Eric Raum, Founder of LexaPure Nutrition
“While I wouldn’t classify this as something I do when ‘bored’, this is something I do to get the most out of the downtime I have throughout the day while also deflecting potential distractions… As I go through my day, small tasks will come up that are important, but not as important as the task I’m currently working on.
Instead of breaking my focus or flow, I will quickly jot them down in my to-do app (I use Habitica) to get these tasks out of my head and off of my mind. Then, when I do have a moment of downtime, I can quickly knock one or two of these small tasks off my list instead of letting that time pass by unused. “
Courtney Barbee, COO at The Bookkeeper
“I hate to have downtime; fortunately, there is always enough to do at work that I’m never bored there. When I’m bored at home, I like to go for a run or garden (often while listening to business podcasts). If I know I have a long drive coming up, I’ll schedule phone meetings or listen to podcasts. And if I have downtime between off-site meetings, I like to read business magazines on my phone. “
Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics
“Although we associate people who talk to themselves as unstable and creepy, this unusual habit can have tremendous physical and psychological benefits.
In addition to boosting your chances of success, talking to yourself has several calming effects. Verbal introspection and self-expression have been proven to increase memory, lower blood pressure, and even alleviate stress.
Plus, it’s common knowledge that stress can have a serious impact on your overall health. Stress hormones can produce all kinds of adverse consequences, including depression, trouble sleeping, and a compromised immune system, all of which can shorten your lifespan.”
Clara Hautau, Marketing Coordinator at FUELED
“When I have a lot of downtime at home and am unsure of what to do there are a few things I instantly do to feel more productive:
Clean – This may be my OCD self-speaking but cleaning a room, your house, or apartment is a great way to feel productive when you’re bored. To me, a clean space is everything. It’s a reset and you feel so much better once it’s done. When the rooms I’m lounging in are cluttered or messy it provokes a more stressful environment. Tidying and doing a thorough clean cleanses the mind and something someone will almost always appreciate.
Get Outside – If it’s nice out and you’re feeling cooped up, get outside! Go for a walk, or take a book to the local park. You’ll feel productive that you’re being active or learning something new through literature. Getting some sun never hurts and it’s free!
Get Errands Done – It’s easy for errands to be put on the backburner and say I’ll get to them later. When I’m bored I try to write out a list of everything I need accomplish and tackle it head-on. It feels so much better once it’s all done and it’s something that keeps me busy. “
Jesse Harrison, CEO at Employee Justice Legal Team
“Although I don’t have free time often, I do find myself bored occasionally and try to maintain productivity, however, I can.
The most effective way to counter boredom and be productive is to complete small or menial tasks that will make the rest of your life or job easier.
For example, I like to remove clutter from my office and clean up when I feel bored because it makes my energy more positive to have a neat space.
It also gives off a trustworthy air if any clients come in. There are a lot of studies that have shown that cleaning up your room helps you clean up mentally too. I also remove clutter from my email and computer.
I get hundreds of emails and although I take care of most, some I just ignore when they aren’t useful or if they’re spam. I go through and remove what I don’t need or what it is merely taking up space.
Similarly, on my computer, I delete old files or move them to the necessary locations. Organizing is simple – documents can flood my desktop and I may have saved files in different locations, so putting them all in their respective folders will make it easier for me to find them later on.
These tasks can take some time, but attacking them when I’m bored means I can still remain productive and set myself up for an easier time in the future.”
Melissa Le, Co-Founder and Office Manager at Waterfront Lab
“Here are a few things I like to do when I’m bored:
- Listen to audiobooks/podcast/TedTalks to passively add knowledge
- Engage with community & thought leaders on Twitter to foster relationships
- Connecting with content writers for my Personal Development Community Blog: StriveWithMe.com
- Brainstorm article topics/write for StriveWithMe.com
- Meditate – either with guided meditation and or silence
- Watch Youtube videos related to something I would like to learn.”
Joe Goldstein, Contractor Calls
“YouTube tutorials have gotten so good that it’s almost scary. You can legitimately learn to cook from Binging with Babish, learn to deconstruct cinema with Nerdwriter, or learn to produce music in Ableton Live with You Suck at Producing.
The best part is that many of these channels straddle the line between education and entertainment, so you can passively learn new skills without feeling obligated to learn.”
Eileen Roth, Speaker, Consultant & Author, Organizing For Dummies at Everything in its Place
“If you want to still be productive when you are bored, you want to do something that is more entertaining or at least interesting for you.
If you like systems and procedures, you could do something on Excel or any other spreadsheet. You might break down costs of a project or outline an article.
If you want something more interactive, make a mind map of a project you have coming up and use different color markers for each section of the mind map.
You could also write an article about something of interest to you.”
Downtimes are valuable and there are many ways of how to use them efficiently. Try an approach that suits you. You are stressed all the time. Use your downtimes to calm down and switch off. You are always curious and have a lot of energy. Use your downtimes to learn something new.
Now, I am curious. How do you use your downtimes? Let me know about your habits in the comments.
Max is a SaaS enthusiast and loves actionable content that provides direct value.