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How To Maximize Your Downtime At Work

by Chloe Lee. |

Just like many of you, I grew up conditioned to think that busyness = productivity; and productivity in turn means being purposeful. So when I experienced some downtime at work, I panicked and thought that something was wrong with me. However, downtimes are not bad; in fact, they can be used as a good time to reset and strategize. The next time you’re experiencing a slow day at work, maximize it! You can use this time to:

Review your goals

If you haven't set any for yourself, then now is the time to do so. Setting short- and long-term goals are important to keep you focused, and to make decisions that are aligned to your objectives. It is easy to get carried away with tasks, but it is crucial to be working towards a bigger picture and to understand how you would like to grow. Don't just rush into the next task like a headless chicken, but use this time to pause, review your progress, reset your goals where necessary, or come up with practical action plans.

Here is a handy model when it comes to setting goals: SMART

Specific – you can use the 4W1H (What, Why, When, Who and How) to establish a specific goal

Measurable – it should be quantifiable, countable, not too abstract

Attainable – it should be realistic and within your means

Relevant – it should apply to your environment

Time-bound – it should include a deadline

For example, a SMART goal would be: “I would like to be promoted (specific) from an Associate to a Senior Associate (relevant, attainable and measurable) in two years (time-bound)”. A bad example of a goal would be: “I would like to grow as a person” because this is overly ambiguous.

Be it for your professional or personal life, setting goals allows you to grow strategically. You can be very busy and feel productive, but end up completing task after task that might not add value to you. On the other hand, if you have reached the milestones you have set for yourself, there is no need to feel anxious over suddenly having nothing much to do – you’re on the right track. Don’t worry!

Update your resume

Updating resumes is not an action reserved for job-seekers but is a good habit to adopt. You would never know when you need to present yourself (or your credentials) to potential clients, during networking events, or to attend an event as a speaker. It is always handy to have an updated list of your accomplishments and experiences. It is also useful to update it for your reference – to remind yourself of all that you have worked hard for (and to pat yourself on the back for it) and to also practice articulating the projects you have been on. So the next time a relative or a client asks about what you have been up to, you wouldn’t struggle to find the right words.

Also, while you’re at it, remember to update your online profiles too! Personal branding on professional sites such as LinkedIn can open up many unexpected doors. When you stay engaged virtually and establish your brand, others might want to collaborate with you or explore different opportunities to work with you or your company.

Read the news

When we are caught up with work, it is hard to keep track of all that is happening in the world. Staying up to date with current affairs allows you to propose ideas or solutions that are relevant to what people (or the world) truly needs. For example, understanding the latest tech-trends or digital solutions allows you to identify the new skills needed in your organisation. It is also important to always be aware so it keeps you grounded, as you continue to educate yourself and fight ignorance; and to contribute where you can. For example, if there were flash floods and volunteers or donations are needed, you would know how to provide necessary aid or facilitation.

With so much that is happening in the world economically, socially, or politically, it is necessary for us to be mindful and develop our own opinions towards the different circumstances that are happening, and to respond with compassion accordingly. While you’re at it, take time to read up on different topics to expand your horizons and gain knowledge from different areas. You’d never know if you’d come across something interesting that will inspire your next big idea!


Always wanted to grab a cheesecake, relax and read? Now is the time. You shouldn’t feel guilty for completing all your tasks early or for not having new tasks assigned to you. There is no shame in taking some time off for yourself – especially if you’ve been working hard for the longest time. For centuries, our society has over-glorified being busy or “productive”, which has led to many incidences of burnout or general unhappiness towards where we are in life. Whatever it is you enjoy, it can be journaling, listening to music, going for long drives or baking, do something to take care of yourself mentally and physically.

If you know that it would be a slow period for you at work, plan to finish up your annual leaves, go for a vacation, unwind and just enjoy yourself!

Caring for others

When we’re so busy ticking tasks off our lists, we forget that the friends and colleagues we work with are human. Caring for others doesn’t have to be tedious, it can be as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee, which can truly brighten their day. Aside from physical needs, take the time to also care for their emotional or mental needs (but not at the expense of your own). It doesn't have to be difficult, too - just sending them an encouraging text, email or GIF would truly work wonders. Remember that our relationship with our colleagues and clients is crucial, and building good rapport is key; and that the people you work with are flesh and blood and not robots. Going the extra mile for others would always reap you benefits in the long run.

Remember that being busy isn't necessarily a healthy indicator of productivity or being purposeful. It is how we recuperate and strategize during our downtimes that allows us to succeed. So don’t worry about wanting or having to take some time off, or don’t feel bad for enjoying your downtime at work – turn it into an opportunity for rest and growth; maximize it!

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