By Megan Byrne
The Sydney Morning Herald
Megan Byrne looks at how to stay busy when there’s seemingly nothing to do.
Most people have a quiet day at work now and then. But with businesses looking to cut costs wherever possible, you don’t want to appear idle for too long or you may find it’s your job on the chopping block. Don’t risk getting caught on Facebook or playing online sudoku activities that could potentially land you in hot water instead, use your time to improve your workplace, personal workspace, industry knowledge and career prospects.
Indulge your inner control freak
Most of us have at least one office protocol, event or situation that we hate. Why not use your free time to come up with ways to fix it? If you think there is a better way to allocate work, organise databases, run meetings, access vital information or streamline procedures, then write it down and run it past your co-workers. If they agree that your ideas have merit, draw up a memo and give it to your boss. Anyone can find problems but if you can come up with solutions, your boss and co-workers are sure to be grateful.
Clear out the crap
If you’re organised, you’ll be more efficient. And being able to put your hands on the thing you want straight away makes you look confident and competent. Go through your inbox and other mail folders and address anything you’ve missed, delete anything you don’t need and place anything important in neat, logically labelled folders. Do the same for your hard drive if there’s something you don’t need, get rid of it. You shouldn’t have to scroll through hundreds of irrelevant files to find the one you want.
Next, stock up on stationery. There’s nothing worse than running out of Post-its or not being able to find a pen that works at a crucial moment. If the stationery cupboard is looking bare, let the necessary people know or offer to go out and get supplies yourself the fresh air will do you good. And if there are forms you use regularly, make sure you have an adequate supply within easy reach.
Keep in contact
Having an up-to-date contact list is vital regardless of what industry you work in it ensures you always know who to talk to and how to reach them. The old adage “it’s not what you know but who you know” has never been more accurate, so make sure you know the right people and they know you. If there is someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, make contact; if you think they could be important for business, organise a meeting.
Check out the competition
If you still have free time, spend it getting to know your competitors. Afew quick phone calls and internet searches should help you learn more about how they operate, who their clients are and what forms of communication they use. Do they have interesting links on their website? Do they offer their customers a better deal or market themselves more intelligently than your company? Are they using online media effectively?
Checking out your competitors may give you some ideas for your company or even encourage you to improve your own work practices. So turn yourself into the “go to” person for industry information – at best you’ll become invaluable to your boss and at the very least you’ll have some interesting and relevant conversation starters should you bump into them in the hall.
Become a visionary
If no work has landed on your desk by now, it’s either a very quiet day at work or there’s something very wrong … But don’t panic, use this time to imagine the future. What could your company be? What role would you like to play? Think big, then set goals working backwards, considering the steps you and your employer need to take to reach those goals.
Do you need to enrol in a short course to improve your skills? Are there new technologies or business opportunities that can help your company move forward to become (or cement their place as) the leader in the industry?
You may soon find you have a list of ideas or suggestions to give your boss – and a tick beside your name the next time there’s an opportunity for promotion.
Being proactive, organised and solutions-focused will not only please management and help secure your position, it will keep your mind busy, positive and open to new ideas – qualities that are just as beneficial to you as they are to your employer.