15 Things To Do When You're Bored At Work

Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Here's an experiment for you: Count the number of times during the day you look at your phone or open a tab on the computer to do something unrelated to work.
No guilt trip intended! The point is simply to become more aware of how many times your mind strays from the given work task at hand, at any given moment during the day.
Advertisement
1 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
If you work in an office setting and find yourself steadily snacking to make it through the day, there may be small ways to make those mini-breaks meaningful.

Don't know the name of the person who always takes a 3 o'clock tea stop at the same time as you? Introduce yourself! You get a pass on corny, slightly awkward jokes when first meet someone, so comment on your mutual need for regular caffeination.

Maybe state the obvious: That you always see them by the kitchen area even though you haven't met elsewhere, so it's nice to officially meet them.
2 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Ideally, you researched the top execs at your job during the interview process, but it's always good to stay on top of what they're doing. You never know when they might make a surprise visit, ask you for something via your manager, or run into you in the hallway. (Nothing's worse than asking the CEO for their name and "what they do here.")

Poke around their official bio, and see what they're up to online.
3 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Email works kind of like that "avocados be like" meme. One minute, everything's fresh and under control; the next, the aged messages, 10,000 emails deep, are taunting you for not keeping up.

You might not get to Inbox Zero in one sitting, but you can make a dent. Doing so will require a bit of mercilessness. Go as faaaar back as you can and start swiping and archiving anything you know is a pass.

Take note of repeat senders — there are probably a few mailing lists you need to unsubscribe from. Do that little by little, and things will get more manageable over time.
4 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Some people really do function better in organized chaos, and that's okay — until it interferes with others. No one wants to be judged on their desk space by someone else, but people do find things to raise an eyebrow at in any office.

Toward the end of the week, when you're eating lunch, or first-thing when you arrive, take a few minutes to throw out old papers, tidy up, or wipe things down. The person next to you will thank you.
5 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
If you find yourself constantly emailing your manager, coworkers, or human resources for information that is readily available, you might want to open up the employee handbook or manual. They'll be less annoyed at you, you'll be more self-sufficient and won't have to wait for their time to free up to get an answer.

Plus, you could learn really useful information for the future. Some of that could be about things like leave or severance. Other info could cover the general path that people take to advance.
Advertisement
6 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
If the first step of making office friends is acknowledging them by the proverbial water cooler, the second step is getting to know them beyond, "So, look at that weather today!"

Invite a colleague to tea, coffee, or after-work drinks (if that feels cool with the culture of the office). You'll get a chance to learn more about what they're working on, how it dovetails with your own assignments, and get a bigger picture of your workplace. Plus, you'll start to build out friendships in the company that can last after this job, however long you stay.
7 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Do you know what the general career path at your job is? If you don't, do a little research into the steps that people in your dream role generally take to move from role to role, and job to job.

Then, see if there are any courses your company might pay for in full or subsidize to get you the skills you need to work toward those goals.
8 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Start with initiatives that are important to you — be it children, housing, health, the environment, animals. You'll be more invested in things that matter to you.

If you aren't quite sure to begin, ask friends in private or on social media about organizations they are involved with outside of work. You might be surprised to learn how other people spend their time off the clock.

As the holidays approach and the weather changes in many places, some local organizations might need more help than usual to meet seasonal demands. Or, if you're totally at a loss, seek out services that can pair you with a program. VolunteerMatch.org is one example of a company that provides that resource (in limited cities).
9 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
The advent of the "cloud" has made it harder to completely lose important files, but it still happens. Unless you automate your hardware to back up your information, it's on you to manually keep things up-to-date. Sometimes, being in Wi-Fi dead spots can also interfere with backups.

Check your software to see when the last updates took place, and consider switching over to an automatic update, at least once every month.
10 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Building a personal website is a big time suck at the outset that lessens after the initial push. Even after the main work is done, you'll still need to check and update it periodically so it doesn't become out of date.

Go through your website to check for broken links or post an update. Even one update per month is better than nothing for ages. You can share something interesting you've done, talk about a project you're working on, or post about an interesting topic you've read about recently.

Make sure the other denizens of the world wide web know you're still out there.
Advertisement
11 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Being aware of what's going on at your workplace (not just keeping your head down and plodding forward) is important when it comes to being an active, insightful member of your job. At the same time, knowing what's going on in your industry at large can help you move forward, and more importantly, upward.

Look through things like newspaper sections and industry magazines and journals to get a better understanding of the things that impact your job, coworkers, and bosses. You could also follow the blogs and/or social media accounts of the leaders in the industry to see what they're talking about, too.
12 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Even people who love their jobs don't love their jobs every single day. So, if you're in the middle of a particularly rough day, take a small break to do some future-casting.

Make a list of the projects you want to complete by the end of the month, by next month, or have knocked out of the park by next year. If it's just one task, think through the smaller tasks you need to do to complete the bigger goal. That way, even if some days are dedicated to work you're not crazy about, you can do at least one small thing that touches on the goal you have in mind.
13 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
This doesn't have to be work-related. If you've been mulling over taking a class that interests you for ages — anything from knitting to swimming — start by looking up locations. Or, if you have an upcoming trip, you might take 10 minutes to look up transportation and/or accommodations.

If you're feeling crabby, imagining yourself maxing and relaxing in just a few days or weeks. It could give you the bright spot you need to keep pushing forward at work.
14 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Instead of using your phone breaks to refresh Instagram for the nth time, consider checking out the latest news headlines of the day.

Setting news alerts or signing up for newsletters might be your preferred method. Once everything is gathered for you, you can go through each headline one by one, making it easier to stay on top of some of the day's news.
15 of 16
Illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
With courses in the humanities, on global health, climate change, law, business, and more, Harvard's edX platform (jointly founded by Harvard and MIT) give the public access to classes from both universities and others in their partner network.

Some are free and others are paid, so make sure to filter by your financial need and other parameters.
16 of 16
Advertisement