Not every day in your life is jam-packed with things to do. Some of your days are busy and some are relaxed. When you’re overloaded, you spend all your time on completing the targets you have.
But what do you do when you have breathing space? Are you using your time as well as you could?
In this article, we will talk about:
- The common ways people waste time on a calm day
- How to make the most of the less occupied days
- How people waste their free days
- How people waste the quiet days
- How to make your free time useful – 8 Tips
How people waste the quiet days
“Wait, all my days are busy. My life is very different,” you remark. If you are busy throughout the entire year, the reason lies among one of the 3 possibilities:
- You are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company
- You have poor prioritization skills
- You’re chasing too many goals
Even if you’re working in a role very high up the hierarchal ladder(top 0.5% of the world), you still have the choice to control how busy your typical day is.
For the rest of us, who form the majority, we have those days when work does not push us to the brim. Based on your organization, role, and line of business, the pattern of such days vary.
For some professions, a few days in a month are less demanding than the others. For example, if you’re working in banking or finance, you have a lot more work to finish during the last few days of the month.
Some careers have different workloads on different days of the week. For example, if you’re into customer support, your Mondays will keep you at the edge of your seat compared to a relaxed Friday.
Many businesses have a cyclical calendar year where a few months are less busy compared to the others. For example, if you’re selling office equipment and furniture, your sales and workload will dip during Christmas or any other holiday. If you’re into the travel business, the story is precisely the opposite.
Irrespective of your profession, you will have the not so busy days one way or the other. But what do you do during that time?
The most common way to kill time on idle days is by stretching every break like a rubber band. A 30 min lunch turns into an hour and a half. A 15 min coffee break extends itself to 45 minutes or even longer. Two breaks on a typical day turn into 4-5.
The available time becomes a reason for people to huddle up and discuss all the random topics in the world. Some speak for hours about the news from politics or sports, while some others gossip about the hush-hush relationship between two coworkers.
A calmer day can result in the consumption of all the bandwidth your internet provides. You find yourself watching a Youtube video of Russell Peters cracking jokes or reading an article about which two zodiac signs are most compatible in a relationship.
All in all, the days you’re less busy turn into an excuse to waste time one way or another. Next time you complain about not having any spare time on a particular day, remind yourself how you spent your time on a relaxed day earlier. Are you overwhelmed due to the work you do or the decisions you make?
How to make your free time useful – 8 Tips
When you have an easy-going day, you can choose to spend all your time on needless activities or those which make a difference to your life.
Here are a few useful engagements that add value over the long term.
1. Solve a problem
No matter what profession you’re into, you’ll have a problem or an obstacle you’re facing. When you have free time, you can think of possible methods to make things better for you.
- If you are a sales professional, craft new techniques to convert the type of sales you’re failing at
- If you are a programmer revisit your code of the module which loads slowly
- If you are a baker, come up with a new method to soften the hard texture of the cakes you prepare
If you have the interest, you’ll have enough and more problems to solve. Often, neglecting these known challenges bites you in the back on a future date.
2. Improve the skills you lack
Every line of work will require a mixture of skills. To stand out from the crowd, you need to put your best step forward by scaling each one up. But, you and I have our strong and weak areas. While playing by your strengths is a good strategy, it isn’t always easy to keep improving your best due to the law of diminishing returns.
A better approach to boost your average is to enhance your weaknesses instead. So, pick an area that you’re lagging in and find a way to notch it up even if it is only a little. You can read a book, talk to an experienced coworker, take up an online course, or experiment with any other approach.
And you know what the best part is? When you’re working on a weakness, you won’t need to put in tons of effort to scale yourself up.
3. Spend time with your family and loved ones
Instead of taking long breaks, you can wrap up early and head home. In today’s busy world, people fail to find enough time to spend with their families and loved ones. An easy day provides you an opportunity to bridge that gap.
Most organizations do not hold their employees by the collar for leaving early on days where the workload is lesser. If you wind up at your usual time on the less busy days, you have lost the opportunity to spend a few extra hours with your family.
4. Widen your network
You can talk to new people when you have nothing else to do. This serves two different purposes:
- It improves your relationships and rapport
- It broadens your knowledge
If you work in a large organization, you will often interact with coworkers on email, chat, or call. You won’t know every single person you talk to outside the scope of your work. You can set up a meeting to learn more about their roles and responsibilities. Most people will be happy to share their experience and knowledge.
Even if you do not have such an opportunity within your organization, you can reach out to like-minded people on LinkedIn. Find a few knowledgable people in your area, send them a request asking them to connect along with a personalized note. Not everyone will agree to talk to you, but a handful will.
Another ideal option to widen your network is by visiting coworking spaces or working in one of them if possible. You will meet various types of people with different interests and professions which will enhance your professional and personal experience.
You never know what the interaction with a new acquaintance might lead to. It can open doors to fresh knowledge, perspectives, and opportunities.
5. Take the first step towards a goal you were postponing
You and I have a lazy demon within us who urges us to procrastinate something or the other. If you’re like most people, you would have failed to make progress towards two primary targets you had:
- A hobby that you are still interested in, like learning the guitar
- A long term goal you want to achieve, like starting a business or traveling around the world
When you have time to spare, you can take one baby step towards such targets. Of course, you cannot learn the guitar or start a business on the same day. But, you can complete the most basic task possible, like finding a reasonably priced instrument or thinking of potential ideas to begin your venture.
When you look at a goal as a whole, like trying to become an ace guitarist or the owner of a million-dollar enterprise, you feel overwhelmed with the first step itself. Instead, break the bigger goal into the simplest task you can accomplish today. You will find the motivation to get started, and you also gain momentum.
After all, any progress, no matter how small, is better than no progress.
6. Make a plan
Based on the environment you’re in, you cannot always perform the first task required to achieve a goal. For example, you want to learn the piano, but you’re seated in an office. You cannot find an instrument nearby and start playing a few notes.
In such situations, you can make a simple plan to achieve your goal. You do not have to go into the nitty-gritty details like a scientist performing an experiment. Even a few bulleted points will help you get started. For example, to learn the piano, you can jot down:
- Find different options for piano in my budget on Amazon
- Talk to a person who plays the instrument well
- Find an online course to get started
- Look for time windows for self-learning every week
You do not have to limit yourself to hobbies alone. You can draft an outline to start a business, write a book, learn a new skillset, reduce mistakes, and whatnot. Your mind is the only barrier to what you can plan. The sky is the limit.
7. Clean your inbox
A lot of information is exchanged over emails today. It’s hard to imagine a business that can run in the current market without using emails at all.
From the requirements of a client to the donuts that a coworker has brought are communicated over emails. If you have a habit of keeping your inbox clean, that’s amazing. You’re a step ahead already. But, unfortunately, not everyone keeps their mailbox well organized. I am a culprit myself.
Whenever you have some spare time, sort out all your emails. Delete the unnecessary ones and segregate the useful information. You will thank yourself when you have to hunt for an email within your inbox in the future.
8. Read a book
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
The benefits of reading are way too many to mention<Insert link>. Unfortunately, the people who do not have the habit of reading consider the effort painful. How easy or difficult reading is depends on the book you pick.
Why not choose a book from a topic you’re passionate about? Today, you’ll find books on cars, computers, gardening, dating, aliens, or even farting. You thought I was kidding? Here is a book called The Zen of Farting.
The bottom line is, you will find a book interesting if you look in your field of interest instead of picking an international bestseller. Even if the book does not teach you a valuable lesson, it will open your mind to infinite perspectives.
When you have a busy day, you curse the tight deadlines and the endless pile of tasks. You calmly forget the poor choices you made on the previous days when you had ample free time.
When you look at the time on a per-day basis, the reason behind long hours appears to be your job, the circumstances, your boss, or another area outside your control. When you look at time available as a bigger picture for a whole month, you’ll spot the culprit. And almost always, the culprit is you.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.