Like anyone else, I like to make the best use of my free time. Theoretically. But laziness gets the better of me more often than I’d like to admit. And I do have a small tendency to procrastinate. When I don’t have much on my plate (and, well, when I do), I tend to fall down the rabbit hole called YouTube Land, destroying my life one ‘related video’ at a time. It can be a wee bit hard to climb back out. And yes, at the end of those days, I do end up hating myself just a lil’ bit.
But you know what? I figure it’s best to nip that idleness in the bud and get things done instead. The best way to actually do so is to have a game plan. That is, the next time you’re bored you will [fill in the blank with productive activity] instead of [fill in the blank with your favorite mind-numbing pastime]. So if you’re like me and wish that you could make better use of your free time, here are some ideas for productive things to do when you’re bored or a little unbusy.
1. Get organized
Organize your desk – all of it. Dump out the contents of your handbag and throw out any receipts and other trash you don’t need. Write a to-do list for the week, prioritizing everything you need to get done for work or school (e.g. finalize edits to the report due on Friday), personal stuff (e.g. get eyebrows done this weekend), and social things (e.g. make coffee date with long-lost friend). Getting these things out of the way and just plain organizing your life will free up a lot of mental space, reduce stress, and motivate you to get things done. Speaking of which…
2. Cross little things off
You know those little things you’ve had on your list forever? Like responding to that email you marked as unread or getting your eyebrows done or spring cleaning your accessories? Yes, I’m talking to me. Go do ’em. They don’t take a lot of time or energy to get done, but they do take up mental space. Getting those pesky little things off your list means you can move on to bigger and better things.
3. Clear your inbox
If you’re sitting in front of your laptop anyway, tackle your overflowing inbox. Read and organize all unread emails into separate folders, and unsubscribe – yes, UNSUBSCRIBE, baby – from all newsletters you don’t love or think add real value to your life. Don’t you already feel a little freer?
4. Dream a little
Take some time to think about what you want from life. What do you want to accomplish this year? Jot down a bucket list with longer-term goals, and break them down into little chunks. For instance, if you want to travel to Scotland in October, draft a potential itinerary and start making a monthly budget accordingly. Or if you want to increase your strength and flexibility, sign up for a weekly yoga class or two. If you want to have some extra fun, make an inspiration board to keep you focused and motivated on what you want most. Sure, maybe browsing Pinterest for inspiration may seem like a waste of time, but not if you do it with purpose. I mean, here’s a little secret: when you have goals you’re excited about, and that you keep right in front of your face, you’re more likely to get sh*t done.
5. Sign up
Take a couple minutes to sign up for the Spanish/pottery/Pilates/face-painting class you’ve been thinking about trying for… how long now? The first step is seriously the hardest part of making things happen. Stop psyching yourself out and give yourself that extra push you need to make things happen in your life.
6. Get profesh
If you have some time to kill, and you want to give your career an injection of tender loving care, update and proofread your resume, and revamp your LinkedIn and (professional) social media profiles. Tie in any loose ends and then give yourself a pat on the back (or, you know, get yourself an iced soy caramel macchiato – much more of a substantial reward, IMO).
7. Prep meals
This is especially good during the weekend. If you have an afternoon with nothing to do, make big batches of a couple different dishes (slow cookers come in handy). Separate them into smaller batches for lunch or dinner during the week, and freeze a few portions for those nights when you can’t be bothered. Your future self will thank you.
8. Meditate or exercise
Okay, fine, this might be a little much to ask. In my downtime, spontaneously getting on an exercise mat may or may not be the last thing on my mind. But the times that I have made an exception have felt great. If it helps, go to a class at a local gym or studio that accepts walk-ins, and reward yourself with a yummy smoothie afterwards. That’ll give you the extra motivation you need.
There you have it! A list of 8 potential productive things to (actually) do when you’re bored. And now, you may go forth and watch YouTube videos with a clear conscience. A little bit of this, a little bit of that.
What productive things do you like to do when you’re unbusy/bored/tired? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.