One of the perks of working in a public relations agency is that no two days are ever the same. Even if you come into the office on a Monday morning with a to-do list you’ve perfected all weekend, chances are that something will sideline your thoughtfully planned week. It happens enough times that after weeks of chaos and go-go-go attitudes, we all wish for a small break to take care of priorities that have fallen off our plate. But when things slow to a stop, it’s all too common for us to take a moment to breathe–and, as a result, we tend to accomplish very little while waiting for the next wave of activity to hit us.
This small break is actually the perfect opportunity for us to use our time wisely, so instead of lazily organizing your inbox or taking an extra 15 minutes at lunch (we’ve all been guilty of this), do these five things to stay productive–and set yourself up for success–when work starts to slow:
- Crack a book.
I don’t mean you should devour an entire trilogy, but it’s smart to take time you do have to better yourself. When I have a few minutes throughout the day, I enjoy reading professional development books and articles because I usually learn something valuable from them, and I’m then able to apply my new knowledge to my job (bonus: I also love sharing new insights with friends and coworkers, and they typically share something they’ve learned with me in return). A few books I’ve loved and that have shaped me professionally and personally are:
- Eat That Frog! for time management, procrastination, and goal-setting
- Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone for stepping out of your comfort zone, authenticity and self-reflection
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead for clarity and confidence in the workplace
- Evaluate your processes.
Is there something you’re doing that could be done more efficiently? Are there old templates that feel stuffy and outdated and in desperate need of a facelift? Does your inbox get cluttered easily? Now’s the time to find ways to use your existing tools better and in ways that work for you. If there are admin tasks and processes you’ve always intended on updating, take a few minutes out of your day to think about how you can make them better–and don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and learnings with those around you.
- Focus on relationships.
It’s easy to get lost in day-to-day actions and forget to spend a few moments building existing relationships and creating new ones. While you have a break, reach out to your clients and have a conversation. Not only could you learn something from them that affects your projects for them, but you also further cement your existing client-agency relationships and demonstrate the value you bring to the table.
- Learn something new.
The idea is fun in theory, but usually difficult in practice, especially when our days are long and full. But if you hit an afternoon slump with nothing to do, find something to learn (that will benefit your work, of course). Get certified in a social media marketing course, or take a deep dive into analytics, or look into public speaking workshops if that’s an area you need to improve.
- Stop holding back and use your talents.
Throwing out new ideas and taking on responsibilities is admittedly terrifying at times, but it’s important that you encourage yourself to think outside the box. A recent Greatist article about wasting your talents hit close to home and I realized the many ways that I’m holding myself back at work. Don’t be afraid to speak up, even if you don’t think what you have to say is of value. And don’t be afraid to do more than what’s asked of you. Use the free time you have to think of ways that you can contribute to your company, whether that’s establishing a quality assurance team if one’s needed or offering to mentor someone in need of guidance. It doesn’t have to be big and earth-shattering; even the smallest idea can have an impact, so get to work on making it a reality.