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What do you do to keep busy during downtime?

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Question: “Since starting my current position more than a year ago, I have implemented a lot of new projects, creating duties that I felt the position should include. Now that things have slowed down and everything is implemented, I find myself with lots of downtime. I feel like I’ve run out of ideas and I’m sick of updating mailing lists since it’s slowed down. Any ideas to keep me busy?” — Anonymous

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Shirley June 19, 2009 at 4:23 pm

ASAP has free membership and lots of Webinars


adam January 18, 2009 at 3:46 pm

2008 was a wonderful year for web design and technology in general. I hope to see some excellent designs this coming new year.
Check out Adamssite for some eye popping website templates
Happy New Year,


Dorothy December 9, 2008 at 1:04 pm

How do you find out about the free webinars without using credit cards.


Nancy December 8, 2008 at 5:00 pm

I would give anything to have even one hour of downtime!


Sharon December 6, 2008 at 11:08 am

I’d love help finding these free webinars.


Kathy December 5, 2008 at 5:29 pm

On the rare occasions I have downtime, it it usually a half day or a day but never more than that. That isn’t really enough time to start new “over and above” projects, but it is the perfect amount of time to run through supply cabinets, organize, and/or catch up on Business Journal or AdminProToday articles.


Kathy December 5, 2008 at 5:00 pm

On the rare occasions I have downtime, it it usually a half day or a day but never more than that. That isn’t really enough time to start new “over and above” projects, but it is the perfect amount of time to run through supply cabinets, organize, and/or catch up on Business Journal or AdminProToday articles.


BEBE December 5, 2008 at 2:19 pm

I agree with Sherri…I have been in my Admininstrative Asst position for 3 years and I rarely have downtime which I need so bad.


Nancy December 5, 2008 at 1:57 pm

Although I have little down time, I like to constantly stay busy. I have taken on-line courses through our company to enhance communication skills, writing skills, cultural competency classes, etc. I also had taken free webinars relating to my field and read on-line books focusing on developing positive relationships in the workplace, mastering business etiquette and protocol, working with difficult people to name a few. There are lots of free resources out there that can help you further develop or enhance your skills during your down time.


Anonymous November 25, 2008 at 3:33 pm

I think the first step is to talk to your supervisor and ask if there is anything you can “help” with right now while your load is a bit slower.

I think that unless you have a very good relationship with the boss/company I would avoid surfing the web and reading magazines.

Are there skills you could brush up on? I spend time when I have a few minutes working on software I am just learning to use or practicing projects related to goals set for me.


Jocelyn November 24, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Down Time, I would love that! I would talk to your supervisor because there might be tasks that you could aquire from her or even other employees whom are overwhelmed. Maybe you know of some of these tasks and could offer to aquire them in this meeting. I would be careful during this economic time though because if you have too much down time and your company is thinking of layoff’s, you could be on this list. But, I agree on reading journals or taking advantage of any company online courses.


Angel November 24, 2008 at 11:58 am

EOY downtime is always a perfect time to evalute where you are, where you want to be, and take advantage of some training to help you fill in the gaps or fill your time. And no employer can ever argue with you wanting to develop your knowledge or skills, especially when the office is quiet. Since you’ve accomplished all your goals this year, look at the “next step” for each: which could you take to the next level, and what skills would you need to be able to do that? What are your goals for next year, and what do you need to prepare you for 2009? There’s always — ALWAYS — more you can learn about the MS Office Suite… lots of neat tricks and short cuts that will help you save time. And employers with online learning systems usually have classes available that affect your personal life too, like investment basics, work-life balance, time management, etc.

I have to disagree with everyone who says “don’t take on more projects/responsibility because you’ll get stuck with them.” Yes, you have core responsibilities, but you can suppliment the mundane, everyday pieces of your day with projects that interest you more or help you develop new and different skills. It’s also your opportunity to test out the waters of different areas to see if you’d like to progress to a role in another area someday.

Don’t be afraid to be ambitious and show your business acumen and flexibility — they can only help your career in the longrun. Those who stick with what they’ve been given will wind up with exactly what they’ve asked for.


Sherri November 22, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Downtime? What’s downtime? I’ve been in my new Admin Asst position for almost a year now and have never had any downtime. Wish I had a little so I could organize and spend some time looking into new/better ideas, etc. I say enjoy this breathing time.


Rita November 21, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Like Amanda, I have a procedures manual that I am always updating. I also wrote out step-by-step ‘cheat sheets’ for every single duty I perform, written as if I were training someone who had never done the job. Starting with “open file X, scroll down to document y, left click twice to open”. The more detail, the better. Then, when I was delayed on my vacation by an automobile accident, my co-workers could go to my cheat sheet book, and follow the directions to handle all of my varied duties. With upgrades in software, changes in procedures, etc., those cheat sheets frequently need updating. A periodic review of the procedures manual and my cheat sheet book almost always turns up something to do.

Cleaning out file drawers, sending files to archives and doing the little bits and pieces of housework that the janitorial service misses also help keep me busy.


Ilja Kraag November 21, 2008 at 2:49 pm

See if your department may need a web site. If so, take classes, and start building a web site. That will keep you busy and looks good for the department.


Julie November 21, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Are you able to help your co-workers? Sometimes your work has slowed down but others are buried, ask them if there is something you could do to help them out. Trust me, they will greatly appreciated it!!


Lynne November 21, 2008 at 1:44 pm

I agree with Patty and Beck. I went to my supervisor and now I am completely overwhelmed. I have indicated that I have enough to do now, but she keeps loading me up. So be careful when you approach your supervisor and be specific as to what types of projects or tasks you are looking for. You know better than anyone what your schedule and work flow can accomodate.


Virginia November 21, 2008 at 1:26 pm

I would sharpen up my computer skills or even a learn an new computer application that I normally don’t work a lot in (et al. Excel, Access, PowerPoint) I will ask other staff who are busy on other projects if they would need any help.


Marie November 21, 2008 at 1:19 pm

It sounds like your employer hired a jewel. Try designing a webpage for your team where common documents can be shared, team calendar can be maintained, the possibilities are endless. Ask about taking a class or two during the down times. Be sure it is something that would enhance your career and your work. Perhaps your employer would pay for the class if it can be proven to be useful to your organization or team.


Mark November 21, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Ask your supervisor(s) if there are any tasks of theirs that you can take over. As a supervisor myself, it genuinely thrills me when someone comes to me to ask if there are any tasks, whether short-term or long-term, that they can do for me.

Cleaning up and re-organizing (when needed) storage areas is always good. If your employer has on-going educational offerings (books, online training, etc), try to fully utilize those opportunities by reading every book or watching every CD you can.


Beck November 21, 2008 at 1:14 pm

Be careful what you wish for. I went to my supervisor for more work and was so loaded up with extra projects it became difficult to get my original duties done. Although the newness and variety was great at first, you need to have a balance with your duties. Make sure when asking for more to do that you do indeed have the time (and energy) to get it all done in a timely manner. Pace yourself.


Diana November 21, 2008 at 1:09 pm

Thanks for the laugh. I can totally relate!


Diana November 21, 2008 at 1:07 pm

I do as much as I can to prepare for the upcoming months work, anything I can do ahead of time. I help others with their work, I catch up on reading articles, I study online, I create spreadsheets to keep track of things, I purge files and clean up my area, I have created a Style Guide for how our firm prepares documents and I keep that updated. Basically, I catch up on everything. If this isn’t enough, then I consider just taking time off (paid or unpaid) while I have the opportunity, so I can catch up on personal errands.


Patty November 21, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Oops – before I get comments, I forgot to close my brackets on my comment, after the title of Patricia Robb’s book. Sorry admins, that’s a definite faux pas for me.


Amanda November 21, 2008 at 1:05 pm

In the rare instance that I have downtime, I have an ongoing project to create a Standard Operating Procedure for my job. My intent is to have process maps and instructions for anything and everything that I do, in case I fall off the side of the earth and they have to pick up the pieces without me. I also agree with Linda: talk to your supervisor. I did this when I first started this position and now I never, ever lack for work.


Patty November 21, 2008 at 1:04 pm

All of the above are great ideas. I would be careful, though, about taking on new projects that might turn into permanent duties on your job. Just make sure that anything new is going to be short-term and not end up on your position description.

Another that I have gotten into, not mentioned above, is signing up on blog sites. They are very informative and helpful, if you get into the right ones. One that I particularly like is secretaryhelpline.blogspot.com. It’s Patricia Robb’s blog (she is the author of “Laughing All the Way to Work”.
Hope this helps.


Linda November 21, 2008 at 12:53 pm

I would suggest meeting with your supervisor and raising this question with him/her. Are there any projects that can be off-loaded to you? I did this with my supervisor and have taken on some of her duties that now, as her designate, have freed up her busy schedule and taken some of the load off her. Plus, I’m not reinventing the wheel -and I have her to ask if I have problems or questions. This has worked to both our benefit!


Hope November 21, 2008 at 12:50 pm

I read this. I also tidy up the office and/or copy/mail room. I read the Wall Street Journal, the Business First, any mag that our department subscribes to that I may not have time to read right away. Keeps you up to date on current trends in the business world as well as your industry.


Victoria November 21, 2008 at 12:49 pm

I will usually surf the Microsoft user groups. It’s amazing how many things I discover I didn’t know. Or I may take advantage of some of the online training my company offers. (Right now I’m learning InfoPath.)

If it’s in the last quarter of the year, I may surf the web looking for restaurant ideas and team building ideas for our end-of-the-year department meetings.


Debra November 21, 2008 at 12:31 pm

LOL!!!! Downtime….LOL…that’s good….


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