Increasing Productivity With a Light Workload

If you are anything like me, then you struggle with being diligent and disciplined at work. My job is not especially challenging and is often repetitive, which means I get bored easily. Sometimes (although not often), I’ll get absorbed in a particularly engrossing project or case but overall, my job duties are pretty basic and simple. As a result, I find myself getting distracted by what’s outside my window or reading the news or blogs or going over my budget.

What happens when I get distracted is that my productivity goes down. I have a very light workload most of the time and I find myself having to stretch one day projects into 2 and 3 days in order to justify going to work. While the quality of my work is never compromised (I have very high standards for what I will put my name on), I probably could be getting a lot more done. I have talked to both of my supervisors about me taking on more work, but that’s been met with a combination of dismissal and curiosity (I cannot possibly be the first person to ever ask for more work. Can I?).

Since my supervisors won’t give me more work, I’ve started creating some for myself. As I’ve created more work for myself, I’ve noticed that my productivity has gone up. I no longer spend an hour staring at the wall or writing lists of books I want to read. I’m doing actual work! Which makes me happy because now I feel like the time I spend commuting isn’t a total waste.

Here’s what I’ve done lately to increase my productivity:

Developed a training program. There is one particular area of my job that is not optional for case workers. It is mandated by law. Yet, amongst the different divisions in my agency, there seems to be a great deal of confusion as to what exactly is supposed to be done to meet this requirement. So I developed a training to be administered not only to leadership but to the different regions and new hires as well.

Revamped a database. When I started my job last year, I was introduced to the most cumbersome database ever created. It is impossible to use, and extracting data is harder than getting Donald Trump to admit he wears a wig. After a discussion with the only other person in my agency who uses the database, we decided it was time to simplify it. So I’ve been working on creating a new and improved, user-friendly, data sharing database.

Became proactive. My case reviews come in on a rolling basis. Sometimes, they’ll come in a month before they’re actually due to be reviewed. In the past, I would just sit on them and wait. But now what I do is take the time to go through a case as soon as it lands on my worklist. I keep detailed notes on the case history so that way, when the review is due, I only have to make a few additions to my notes before I write the report.

Organized my files. My father used to have a sign on his desk that said “A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind”. Well, if cleanliness is a sign of mental health, then it’s no wonder I need therapy. My desk is as clean as can be. But my file drawers are another story. Since I don’t plan on being at my job forever, I figured it was a good time to systematically organize my files so that when I do leave, the next person doesn’t have to go on an archaeological dig to find a case review.

I’m not going to say that I now spend 8 hours a day actually working. But it has gone up from about 2 to maybe 4.5 (which is actually a huge improvement). If I’m going to drag myself out of bed in the morning, I want to know that I’m going to be productive and engaged rather than spend my days cursing that I could have gotten more done at home.

Readers, if you‘ve ever been in a situation where you’ve had very little work and your request for more has been met with a negative response, what have you done to increase your productivity? Any suggestions for what I could be doing? 

This post was written by Jana.


Increasing Productivity With a Light Workload — 5 Comments

  1. Donald Trump wears a wig? The heck you say!

    There was a slack time about 10 years ago when my supervisor was holding me back, for whatever inscrutable reason. I spent the time networking within the company, and looking to help other people however which way I could. It paid dividends on down the line.

    • I think these are great tactics, especially in the corporate world. In government work, offering to help on projects is either warmly received or shunned. However, I believe in trying to build bridges because you never know when you’re going to have to work with someone on a project or committee.

  2. When I have very little work to do, I use the time to update my day planner and make sure bills are in order. Oh yea, and I spend hours commenting on blogs. *sheepishly backs into corner*

  3. For me, it’s more about passing the time than getting promoted or a raise. I work in a government job so raises and promotions are really tied to performance at all.

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