What to do when you have nothing to do

By now, you probably know my opinion on being “crazy busy” at work. (It’s unsustainable and you should treat it as an emergency!)

But what if you have nothing to do? This too is a familiar experience for lots of folks.

Honestly, assuming the lack of work is temporary, get out of the office. Do something fun! Take a break. Enjoy the time off.

One of my favorite memories of living in San Francisco and working in Silicon Valley as a consultant is the day when I decided that I needed a break and I simply sat in a coffee shop for hours, reading a book. What a feeling of freedom!

Now, chances are that your boss isn’t a big fan of the “get out of the office and have fun” approach. In many company cultures, you are expected to sit there even if you have little to do. After all, you’re being paid for your time, not for your output—right?

So you might have to entertain yourself inside the office. What are some things you could do?

  • Invite a few coworkers to play a card game. It’s a great way to get to know people. When I worked as a consultant we did this all the time, regardless of whether we were busy. I recommend playing big two, because one round takes just a few minutes. 
  • Automate a recurring task. If there’s something you find yourself doing repeatedly, can you automate (part of) this task? Now would be a good time to work on automating.
  • Set up a task management system. You might not need it badly now (when you aren’t busy) but having a task management system in place will help you get things done with less stress when the busyness returns. A great place to start is my guide to setting up OmniFocus.

Finally, I’ll leave you with something to think about. Is it possible that you are that “boss” who won’t let you(rself) have fun or take a break when you have little work to do? If that is the case, you have some mindset work to do.


— Peter

P.S. Is having little to do a recurring experience for you? Not sure how to fix the situation? Let’s talk about it in a free 30-minute introductory coaching call.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.