Should you Panic if you have “Open Time” While on The Job?

 In Company Culture/People At Work

Should you Panic if you have “Open Time” While on The Job?Most of us rush from one task and phone call to another all the time – especially while working.  There is always more work to do than people to do it, making each day feel like a horse race.

However, there are those random times when you suddenly discover you are in a lull.  No work, no one calling, everything that should be done, is completed.  This condition is not immediately obvious because it so seldom happens. It takes a while before you recognize “I have open time.”

It’s funny but this situation can cause people to have various reactions.  Those reactions can range from excitement of a goof-off day to panic that the boss will think you are lazy or worse – not needed.  You also aren’t that used to a different pace and an adjustment might be difficult.

Before you panic about what significance there is to a lull in your workload or go work on your tan, there are some alternatives to consider:

Use the time to work on lower priority items.  We all have an array of things we collect for doing at a later time.  Good ideas whose time almost never arrives.  Use a work time lull to pull out these great ideas and see where that takes you.

Help others.  Just because your workload lightened up doesn’t mean everyone’s did.  Look around for the most frazzled person in your group and see what you can do help them out.  They’ll love you for it.

Get strategic.  The biggest complaint most people have about their work schedule is that they have no time to think and work on strategy.  This is a great time to think about the direction you and your career, are headed.  Planning takes time and clear thinking which means now is a perfect time.

Enjoy a slower pace.  If you are overly hooked on moving at a fast pace, this would be a good time to give yourself a break and try operating at a slower, more relaxed pace.  It might be challenging, but it’s good to periodically shift paces, so you know you can.  This is also part of leading a balanced life.

Ask for an assignment.  Depending on how temporary or how long your work lull will last, you could consider asking for an assignment to do.  Your boss will appreciate your initiative and you will remain productive and contributing.

Assess the lull.  To ensure that you aren’t completely clueless, you do need to assess if you are missing something or if someone has somehow usurped some of your work.  Also, when you are new to your job you may not fully understand the flow of work.  If you are new, consult with a co-worker to see if what you are experiencing is truly a lull or you simply are unaware of tasks you should be performing.

Assess the business situation.  Even if you reviewed the lull in your workload and are confident you aren’t missing something, you do need to pay attention to the overall business.  Your lack of work could be a sign that your place of business is suffering a down turn.  Far too many people ignore these signs early in the game only to be surprised when they get laid off.  You don’t want to panic, but you don’t want to be in denial of conditions that could impact you.

We often confuse being busy with being productive.  You want to make sure you understand the difference so when a real lull in your work occurs, you know how to make the best use of it.


For more career tips and advice – FREE newsletter and eworkbook:  From Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – Your Career Change Agent from and


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