Turn Downtime into Production

August is a disgustingly sticky, hot, and humid month. I hate August.

Well I hated it. That’s when I cut lawns. My very first lawn I was responsible for?

Not my parents, are you crazy?! My dad does that. He takes pride in his lawn like it’s the only trophy he’s ever held (it’s not, by the way).

No, I cut my Grandma’s lawn. I would help her cut and edge and weed and trim. I like to think I was good at it, but I’ve learned since then that I was terrible. But we’d get a schedule in place and Grandma would let me cut the grass surrounding her red house with white trim.

One day when I was cutting along the back fence, the mower died. Upon some quick inspection the gas tank was bone dry. I walked up to the screen door and told Grandma with my face in the mesh, “The mower died. Can you go grab some gasoline?”

She got up from her chair and smiled, “Sure thing. I’ll be right back. You just sit on the porch there.”

I laid on the porch with my Bulls 5-time Champion shirt on and looked at my exposed socks clumped with green, shredded grass. I was a mess.

Almost as soon as I heard a car take off, I heard another car door and my dad came around the side of the house.

We discussed Grandma and her whereabouts, then he asked a question that has become a part of what I try to do every day at work.

“Well why don’t you get ahead on the weeding you’re going to do after mowing?”

He was plain and he was right.

Downtime on the job should be seen as an opportunity.

Any time that you realize you’re caught up, you should be looking to do a few things. Follow these tips and you might just find that you’re a lot more productive than you think…

Work on something that will push your career in the direction you want.

If you’re not in a dream position, the only way to get there is through work. That’s a cliché that will always be true. So when your day to day responsibilities have reached a point where you can afford to take just a moment to relax, don’t. Put that energy into something that’s going to position your career path just a little better.

Examples: You are in sales, but you want to be doing marketing, create a sales one pager or help improve the one you’re already sending. If you’re in recruiting but want to be in HR, try thinking of ways you can engage your employees

Improve a process that you see holes in.

Management is all about shoring up things that can be streamlined. Start with something that’s glaring, things you know need serious work. Then come up with realistic ideas about how you can help fix that issue. Make sure that you’re coming up with a pitch that’s negotiable, otherwise you could come across as demanding.

Examples: You’re noticing internal communication between two departments is a problem, see if you can’t view the real issue and offer a solution. The process for clients is too “clunky” and has cost a deal or two. Call a client you know and trust and ask what would have made the process easier for them.

Help someone on your team catch up.

You are on a team. You are on a team. You are on a team. You are on a team.

There is nothing more frustrating than looking around and seeing laziness. If you’re feeling like you’ve finally gotten caught up, instead of reading that blog just ask the person next to you if they need any help with anything. They’ll appreciate it and that’s all the motivation you should need.

If they’re all ok, ask your manager if there’s something you can do. They will very likely have something you can assist with.

You don’t need examples…

Make sure it’s actually downtime.

Here’s the thing, you might feel caught up and like you’re ready to take a break, but remember this: You’re at your job… Is it really time for you to work on the next task or project? Are you 100% caught up on where you need to be? It’s not going to benefit you to start working on something else while your responsibilities fall behind.

By taking the time to utilize your downtime efficiently, you’ll become a better employee at your current company, all while setting yourself up to develop skills for a position you want down the line.

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