82 Productive Things to Do When You’re Bored | Career Contessa

OMG, I’m so bored. What can I do?

And often, feeling bored is okay, actually, despite that saying. Being bored does not make you boring. 

But then there are the days when you’re looking at the clock, and 2:42 PM is staring back at you. 2:42 PM, and you’ve already finished your to-do list and you’re staring at your chipped nail polish, considering whether to spend the next 12 minutes picking it off. 

You could spend the afternoon doing that. Or you could harness that boredom to do something actually productive —like an activity that will dramatically improve your professional standing and career.

When used correctly, boredom at work doesn’t have to be a negative thing at all. Forbes explains that up to 90 percent of all American adults deal with boredom. It’s a common phenomenon—and one that creates a natural ebb to the flow of your workday. This ebb of boredom creates an open space for you that can inspire creativity, motivate you to incite change , and allow you the time to create that change.

It’s time to use your boredom to do something challenging. Something maybe (dare we say it?) a little fun. You with us? Great. Here are 80+ options that will fill your time and improve your career

There are lots of ideas on this list. Want to jump ahead? These links will take you to the specific section you’re looking for.

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What to Do When You’re Bored: Clean Up Your Email 

Does your inbox need a little…help? Yes, ours too. From organizing your folders to updating your signature, use an afternoon where you’d normally feel bored to give your inbox a glow-up.

These activities offer the added benefit of making you more productive—no more wasted time searching for specific emails or deleting the ones you never read.

1. Go through your spam folder. 

Seriously, when was the last time you did that? 

2. Unsubscribe from 10 newsletters. 

You’ve gotten used to ignoring them, right? Well, now’s the time. 

3. Subscribe to a new industry-focused and/or women-focused newsletter.

You know when you clean out your closet to sell your clothes, and you get to treat yourself to a new item with the money you make? Do the same here. Pick a newsletter that you’ll actually open , either specific to your industry or women-focused. Psst, we actually have a pretty great newsletter.

4. Try a new email productivity method. 

Do you really need to be keeping a constant eye on your email box? Consider batching your emails —and spending a dedicated hour or so thoughtfully responding to each one.

5. Write to a professional contact to suggest a (virtual) coffee. 

Maybe it’s your old boss or one of your current colleagues who you’d like to get to know better. Regardless, shoot them an email and ask if they want to connect in the next few weeks. 

6. Update your email signature. 

No, really—when was the last time you looked at it? Is it even accurate? Could it be more pleasing? 

7. Check in with your network. 

Shoot a quick email to a few old colleagues you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Just ask them how everything’s going. The point is: small hellos keep your network from getting cold. And here are some free networking templates to get you started.

8. Make a “to read” folder in your inbox. 

You know those newsletters in your inbox that you want to read, but they’re too long to read right now? Set up this folder now to throw them all into. The next time you’re bored at work, you can open them up. 

9. Make a “to do someday” folder in your inbox. 

You know those tasks you have that are constantly on the back burner? Put those in their own folder as well, so you can refer back to them for inspiration down the line.

Think: email courses on content marketing or SEO.

10. Write an email to your boss letting her know you want to discuss some new responsibilities. 

Look, if you’re this bored, is there something new you could be learning or doing? Spend some time thinking today about what new projects you’d like to tackle at work to grow your career, then ask your boss for what you want

What to Do When You’re Bored: The Great Laptop Cleanup 

Not much feels better than when you know you’re organized. ( Is that just us? ) Take advantage of your boredom to do a deep clean (literally) of your computer—both inside and out.

Delete your screenshots. Clean out your trash bin. Organize your files. Update your software. By the end, you’ll feel better (and your computer will too). 

11. Clean. Up. Your. Desktop. 

You know, the place where screenshots go to die. Make it sparkle. 

12. Run all those updates. 

Yep, the ones you’ve been clicking “remind me tomorrow” on for two years. 

13. Organize your files. 

The way your folders are set up right now probably leaves something to be desired. Come up with a logical structure and clean it alllll up. 

14. Or consider moving your files to Dropbox. 

Or whatever cloud service you prefer (although we really, really like Dropbox). It will save your computer bandwidth, and it makes it easier to access your stuff from anywhere, including your phone when you’re stuck in traffic and realize that your boss needs that Excel file, like, right now. (…Speaking for a friend.) 

15. Delete anything personal from your work computer. 

Look, these things happen, but it’s just good manners. Delete any downloaded photos, notes, or emails. 

16. Update your passwords. 

Have we actually become desensitized to getting “data breach” emails? Change all of your passwords. 

17. Actually clean your laptop. 

Keyboard, screen, the whole shebang. We’ll wait. 

18. Then give it a hard reboot. 

If you somehow miraculously didn’t have to restart your computer when updating your programs, give it a restart now. We all deserve a little downtime. 

What to Do When You’re Bored: Give Your Space a Makeover

Now that your computer is sparkling from the inside out, do the same for the space around you. Studies show that if your environment is uncluttered, you’re more likely to feel inspired and motivated. Who knows? Maybe this will keep you from feeling bored today—and give you the feeling of a fresh start for tomorrow.

19. Clean off your desk. 

Don’t just shuffle everything around. Take everything off of it, pull out the spray cleaner, and give the whole thing a nice wipe down. Looks nice, right? Which brings us to our next point: 

20. Commit to a new habit: cleaning up your desk every night before you leave. 

Seriously, it changes everything when you get to arrive to a perfectly organized desk each morning.

21. Organize your desk drawers. 

Yes, all of them. And throw all those rogue Post-It note wrappers and half-used utensil packs away. 

22. Now that you know what’s in there, make a list of what you need. 

How long have you been using that crappy pen because it’s the only one you have? How often have you been starving at your desk and made bad vending machine choices? Make a list of office supplies, snacks, whatever that you’d like to have. Then go shopping for them this weekend. 

23. And a list of what you want. 

A desk plant? (Fun fact: they make you more productive .) Maybe a vision board on your wall? A calendar, planner , or whiteboard? What are some ways you could make this space more useful? You’re less likely to feel bored at work if you have plenty of stuff to inspire.

What to Do When You’re Bored: Self-Improvement Tactics 

Why not spend some of your downtime on self-improvement?

24. Find some great books to inspire your career. 

25. Watch some career-inspiring TED talks. 

26. Better yet, subscribe to some career-inspiring YouTube channels. 

The best ones are updated every week, which means the next time you’re bored at the office, you can head straight there. First up: Career Contessa’s YouTube , duh.

27. Write some SMART goals for your career and life. 

We love SMART goals because they help you break down the big picture into smaller, more manageable parts—the ideal way to make the most of a slow period at work.

28. And then, write an intimidation list. 

Sometimes, facing your fears starts with actually acknowledging them. Hence why you should try your own intimidation list

29. Subscribe to a new podcast. 

When was the last time you tried a new one? Because we’ve got the perfect career advice podcast for you. These women-run podcasts are great too.

30. Download a professional networking app. 

Networking is hard, especially if you’re an introvert . The beauty of technology is that there are now tons of networking apps out there. We like Bumble Bizz

31. Or research a networking opportunity. 

It’s one of the best things you can do to meet new professional contacts, but it will also help you get better at delivering your personal pitch and speaking to strangers. All good things for self-improvement.

32. Try meditation or visualization techniques 

If you’ve never meditated before, you can use guided meditation from apps like Headspace or Calm

Visualizing and using visualization techniques are also really good ways to start manifesting your biggest hopes and dreams. Transform your biggest goals into reality.

What to Do When You’re Bored: Learn Something New

Want to master Google Workspace? There are classes for that. Feel like you need to strengthen your leadership skills? There are plenty of resources for that too.

In short, choose a skill to strengthen (or a completely new skill to build) and go for it! Plus, there’s the added benefit of adding it to your resume when you’re finished.

33. Do some research into conferences or professional development opportunities. 

If your office offers support for conferences or courses , now’s a good time to research what your next choice will be. If not, it’s still worth researching and maybe even pitching a great opportunity to your boss

34. Take an online class or course. 

These range from the expensive but exhaustive to the totally free (ahem, YouTube). Here’s a comprehensive guide to all of our own courses

You can also try learning something from the masters of their craft at MasterClass. You can learn everything from negotiation tactics to playing basketball. 

35. Research a new technique or approach you can use for your work. 

Make plans for how you can improve your public speaking skills. Or your productivity via the Rule of 3 . Or research new techniques in your industry (scrum meetings, the latest marketing trends, new platforms to use for project management, etc.).

36. Download one (or several) of our resources. 

They’re free. We think they’re brilliant. There’s probably a good one for you in our library

37. Email a colleague or mentor to ask what skills they think you should acquire. 

Your boss qualifies, too. Find someone who has an aspirational career and ask them what they think you should work on in your own career to climb the ladder. 

38. Make a list of all the hobbies you’d be curious to try. 

Yes, hobbies . Just hobbies. Sometimes, the best skills-based learning is the type that has nothing to do with your work. (You’d be surprised how often a work idea pops into your head while you’re, say, watercoloring.)

Here are some other ideas for hobbies to learn (and potentially master?) 

  • crochet or knitting
  • embroidery 
  • chess 
  • poker
  • roller skating or rollerblading
  • guitar, keyboard, or another instrument
  • calligraphy

39. Learn a new program / learn some new shortcuts in a program.

Fact: 99.7325% of the population hates working in Excel. Okay, maybe we can’t cite our sources on this, but you know what we mean. The point is: almost every career uses Excel at one point or another.

Why don’t you spend an hour learning how to use it better? Same goes for things like learning Photoshop keyboard shortcuts, watching tutorials on how to design in Keynote, etc. Maybe just start by watching one of our webinar replays

What to Do When You’re Bored: Be Silly 

Yep, we’re taking a little break here to encourage you to let loose, shake it off, and take cues from kids. 

Recall how you used to combat boredom as a kid . You may have picked up your favorite book to escape. You may have held an impromptu dance party in your living room (followed by a pillow fort using every one of your blankets, obviously!).

The best part is that you won’t catch any flack from your parents about dirtying every blanket in your house, but you might have to launder them yourself. 

Our next few ideas draw inspiration from leaning into fun activities that kids master every day—and how we can do them to shake free from boredom. 

40. Take a bubble bath. 

When was the last time you poured half of your shampoo bottle into the tub and let the bubbles go off? Try it. Queue up your favorite podcast or tv show and have a good soak. 

41. Learn a new hairstyle 

If you’ve ever entered the braids hole of Instagram, you know that there are some pretty incredible braids that you’re hait is dying to be twirled into! Try it out!

42. Watch your favorite childhood movie.

An important disclaimer: your favorite childhood movie…might not hold up, but that is sort of half the fun. Pop your favorite Disney movie or Nickelodeon show from growing up and reminisce on your childhood. 

43.  Get a coloring book. 

Adult coloring books are amazing. Get yourself a few and color away to relieve stress, anxiety, and boredom. 

44. Make something delicious. 

Call your mom and get her recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Or try a new recipe and bake cookies for your own kids. You might find a new favorite! 

45. Write to a pen pal. 

OMG, remember pen pals? It’s still so exciting to get a handwritten letter in the mail. Consider writing a paper note to your best friend (covered in stickers, if possible) and get a pen pal situation going. 

46. Go through old photo albums. 

Whether your memories are captured in digital form or in carefully crafted photo albums, take a stroll down memory lane. Have some laughs and snap some pics of pics to send to your childhood best friend. 

47. Have a movie night or a game night.

Create an event, even if you’re the sole attendee! If you have others around, it’s the perfect time to play some of your favorite childhood board games like Clue or (if you have many hours to spare) Monopoly.

What to Do When You’re Bored: Hone Your Leadership Skills

This doesn’t only look like taking leadership classes (though we think that’s a great idea too). Leadership can mean a lot of things: starting a company book club on women’s career books , offering to mentor a colleague, or simply learning about experiences that are different from your own.

Here are some of our favorite ways to strengthen your leadership muscle. 

48. Download an audiobook to listen to later on your commute home.

It can be hard to motivate to read leadership books after a long day at the office, but your commute is a great time to tackle them. We have a list of our favorite leadership books here , but you can also find all sorts of options on Audible.

49. Build a presentation for an idea you have to show in your next team meeting or one-on-one with your boss. 

Sometimes the best way to gain leadership skills is to create opportunities. Think of a new responsibility or project you want to tackle, then create a pitch to deliver. It’s a great way to practice your presentation skills , get over your fear of public speaking , and of course, the art of the sell. All leadership musts.

50. Start a recycling program at your office.

If you’re feeling like there aren’t a lot of opportunities to expand your leadership skills in your current role, consider taking a lateral approach. Starting a do-good program at your office is a great way to show you have management potential even if you’re not a manager—yet.

51. Or start a women’s group! 

Starting a women’s committee is a great way to make sure more women’s voices are heard in your office and the workforce in general.

52. If you don’t have one, find a mentor. 

Great leaders learn from great leaders. If you don’t have a mentor currently, spend some time finding one. Think about who you admire in your company or field and shoot them an email to get the ball rolling. Or try reaching out to someone you don’t know via an informational interview . Or head to our Hire a Mentor service to book a session with a woman who’s been there and successfully done that.

53. Take the time to be a mentor to another woman. 

Think about someone who’s younger in your office and send them an email about having coffee. Mentoring other women is both essential and a great way to build skills as a leader. 

55. Read some articles on leadership tactics. 

55. Read about how to build a more inclusive team, company, and workforce. 

What to Do When You’re Bored at Work: Finances

Dealing with finances can be a time-consuming process. If you’re facing some downtime, use it to methodically go through your finances. Spend some time really studying your spending habits, do some research on your credit score, or create a budget that you can truly stick to.

Knowledge is power! You’ll feel better just gaining an understanding of your current situation.

56. Research high yield savings options. 

There’s no better time to start saving than now. Figure out the best plan for saving and set it up—regularly putting away even a small amount is still very worth it. We have more information on opening a high-yield savings account here.

57. Research your salary. 

Make sure you know what you should be making, so you’re staying on top of your own professional and financial growth. Start by joining The Salary Project™ , then try these salary tools that help you research trends in your industry.

58. Start preparing your ask for a raise. 

If you’ve wanted to ask for a raise for a while (and you’ve confirmed a new target number via tip #57), now’s the time to start thinking about how and when you’ll ask. Think through your strategy—is your work anniversary coming up? Are you turning in a large project soon?—and start preparing your pitch via our GIMME raise template

59. Create a budget. 

60. Read up on actionable financial advice. 

If you find financial advice overwhelming, you’re not alone. Take charge of your financial future by learning the basics. Start here with a breakdown of commonly-used financial lingo.

61. Lay out a plan to save $1,000 this month. 

62. Take a good look at your company’s financial benefits. 

Lots of companies offer a 401(k) match , which is additional money if you’re contributing a certain amount. We’d recommend checking into this and taking advantage if you can. Companies also commonly offer credits for continuing education or incentives for participating in wellness challenges.

If your workplace does this, take your downtime to sign up. It’s a win-win.

63. Get into your own financial adulting. 

You know the budget you’ve been wanting to build or the savings account you’ve been meaning to open? Do it. Learn more about how to financially adult —and do it. It may sound boring, but hey, you’re bored, right?

What to Do When You’re Bored at Work: LinkedIn 

LinkedIn is powerful—there’s no doubt about it. If your LinkedIn profile leaves a little something to be desired, use your downtime to upgrade and update it. We’ve got lots of resources about taking advantage of LinkedIn. Update your profile and then start making those connections!

64. Edit your LinkedIn profile based on a recruiter’s advice. 

65. Swap out your LinkedIn headshot and cover image. 

When was the last time you did that? Years ago? If you have a new great photo of yourself on hand, go ahead and upload it.

66. Max out your skills list. 

It can increase your LinkedIn profile views by 300%. Read this skills list and start adding to your profile ASAP.

67. Request recommendations (and give some in return!)

You’re bored at work—could there ever be a better time? 

68. Connect with professionals you admire. 

Look for women and men working at companies you love or in the roles you aspire to, then request to connect. Make sure to send a personalized message explaining why you’re reaching out.

69. And then request some informational interviews. 

70. Make your LinkedIn summary more creative.

We’ve rounded up creative LinkedIn summaries from the women who do it best. Follow their example, why don’t ya?

What to Do When You’re Bored: Social Media Strategy 

Take your scrolling from doom to boom (too much?). We’ve all been victim to the Instagram and/or TikTok time suck.

Instead, be strategic about your social media usage. Unfollow any accounts that don’t inspire you. Think about archiving some photos that may seem less than professional. It can be fun to make your online presence sing a little more. Here’s how. 

71. Follow some positive Instagram accounts. 

You’re going to want to follow all of these women

72. Unfollow the accounts or people who don’t serve you.

Unflood your feed with shopping temptation, complainers, and other toxicity that you just don’t need. 

73. Get more strategic about your social accounts. 

Did you know you can use social media to find a job? Even if you’re not interested in going that route (because hey, being bored at work doesn’t mean you want to leave), now’s a great time to follow thought leaders on LinkedIn and Twitter, clean up your accounts, and so on. But the trick is to also get strategic about engaging, commenting, and liking as well. So get chatting. 

74. Share some of the career-inspiring articles you read today on your LinkedIn.

There’s no better way to show how much you care about the work you’re doing. 

75. Make some quick profile updates that will improve your career.

Maybe you don’t need those photos from all those college parties lurking deep in your feed. Here’s how to clean your social media accounts + refine your personal brand.

76. Reach out to someone you admire on social. 

We talk about informational interviews and LinkedIn a lot, but think about whether there’s someone you admire on Instagram or Twitter. Chances are they don’t get asked often to have a coffee or phone chat, so why not give it a go by sliding into their DMs?

What to Do When You’re Bored at Work: Productivity Tactics

At its worst, boredom can make you feel unproductive and unmotivated. If you’re feeling that way, try to turn it on its head. What tactics can you employ that might inspire productivity? A to-do list change? A time management adjustment? Taking some time to decompress? Here are some other ideas.

77. Upgrade your to-do lists. 

Not all to-do lists are created equal. Why not take advantage of this downtime to try a new to-do method?

78. Or just try this subtle to-do list tweak. 

It was a total productivity a-ha moment for us.

79. Plan to master at least one new time management technique. 

Here are 15 that you should have mastered by 30 (don’t worry—they’re still good to learn even if you’re 83 years old).

80. Stop saying you don’t have enough time.

If you just got all the way to point 80 here, you might have a little time. Consider thinking of your “time” in weeks instead of days . It makes a huge difference.

81. Start a journal

Keep a journal or planner in order to keep track of everything. Check out how to use a bullet journal to keep track of all of your progress in your career and your personal life. If you’re stressed, you might even start a worry journal to give your worries and anxieties a place to go.

82. Or maybe…you should just do nothing. 

Because sometimes, embracing your downtime is actually the best thing you can do to find new inspiration. And on that note—over and out.

Sometimes, our boredom is actually burnout in disguise . If you need to take the time to binge Netflix, true crime, or watch Gilmore Girls for the billionth time, do it. It’s not a guilty pleasure and it doesn’t make you “lazy.”

It’s just taking time to refresh and relax.