We’ve all wondered how to make time go faster at work when stuck in a useless meeting, while bored during downtime, or when procrastinating a daunting task. Some work days just fly by and others seem to drag on endlessly, as you count down the minutes until you can finally clock out.
Sure, it can be fun to have a slower day every once in a while, but staring at the ceiling gets old real fast and certainly doesn’t make the clock tick faster.
The reality is that time flies when you’re engaged in an activity, especially if it’s a fun or challenging one. That’s because “increased dopamine may cause our internal clock to slow down, creating a sense of speeding time”, according to this research paper, and you can boost your dopamine levels by doing activities you enjoy or by completing tasks.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some engaging and productive activities for a slow day, some popular tricks you can use to speed up time, and other unexpected ways how you can fast-forward your work day.
Whether you’re a developer waiting for code to compile or a PR specialist waiting on responses to your pitches, here are 11 ways how to make time go faster at work.
1. Get some work done
I’m sorry – I know this probably isn’t the tip you’re looking for, if you’re reading this article, but time goes by quickly when you’re zoned in on an activity. It all but disappears when you’re in a state of flow.
Whether it’s catching up on some tasks, planning for the future, or asking for new responsibilities, time will go by quicker if you give yourself a way to keep your mind busy. Beyond keeping boredom at bay, this has the added benefit of engaging in productive work that shows initiative and increases your value as an employee.
2. Go on a proper break
Sitting around and counting minutes may give you the impression that you’re technically on a break, since you’re not doing anything, but that’s not necessarily how your brain perceives it. You’re still “on call” and with that comes all the anxieties of “I should be working”.
People often engage in unproductive and unhealthy time-wasters such as social media scrolling, so that they can immediately jump back into work when they’re needed or when the boss walks by.
Instead, go on a walk, catch up with colleagues, grab a coffee – get away from the workspace to re-energize yourself. It’s one of the best ways how to make time pass faster at work, and give you the boost you need to finish the day on a productive note when you return.
Feeling particularly brave? Try power-napping at work.
3. Grow your skills
If you’re completely out of tasks, take the opportunity of free time to better yourself. Completing courses, reading up on industry topics, and expanding your skillset can enhance your personal expertise, which you can then leverage to advance your career or take it in an entirely different direction.
Immersing yourself in these activities will help time fly by, while also being put to good use. If you have complete free reign of your downtime, self-betterment doesn’t even have to be necessarily professional. You can explore new hobbies, skills, and interests through the endless online resources available to us all – videos, podcasts, and course platforms.
For example, with demand for managerial skills at an all time high, you can explore this list of free resources, which include courses, and learn how to be a leader.
4. Organize your inbox and to-do list
Another useful activity that may take your mind off a slow-ticking clock is tackling maintenance tasks that typically get put off or ignored due to a lack of time or will. Clean up your inbox, organize your files, fill out your calendar, write up your daily, weekly, monthly to-do lists…
These are typically very menial tasks, but sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed – a way to keep yourself productively busy during a slow day without overexerting yourself. Plus, despite their simplicity, these tasks do take up a lot of your time, and, before you know it, it’s time to go home!
5. Extend a helping hand to coworkers
Just because you’ve got some downtime, it doesn’t mean others do, too. Offering assistance to your coworkers not only helps the entire team but also makes the clock tick faster as you engage in collaborative efforts.
By the time you get together, take over a task, and understand it, lunchtime will have come around. Helping others can really make a difference in a coworker’s day, as well as your own, and it’s a much more engaging way to spend time compared to sitting idly by, hands in lap and counting seconds.
6. Hide the clocks
This is a more practical trick for how to make time go faster at work. When trying to kill time, your eyes inevitably and constantly flick to the nearest clock only to deliver a fresh dose of disappointment at how little time has gone by. It’s almost compulsive, and makes it seem like the seconds are ticking at snail’s pace.
The answer is obvious – try to ignore the time and avoid looking at clocks as much as possible. It’s easy with the physical ones, which you just have to hide or cover. But, even if you work in front of a screen, there are simple workarounds, such as hiding your menu bar in Windows, or working full-screen on your Mac. This will help you think less about the time and get lost into what you’re doing.
7. Let yourself be bored
It’s healthy to be bored. Neuroscientists say boredom can boost your creativity and improve productivity, as well as do wonders for your mental well-being. So, while your first reaction during downtime might be to reach for your phone to have a quick scroll of some social media, try to fight the urge and just… sit there for a while.
We’re overstimulated, our attention is constantly pulled in every which way, and a healthy session of being bored may serve as a type of meditation.
Will it help make your work day go faster?? Not at first, no. But once you start daydreaming, and let your mind wander, minutes will start flying by.
8. Explore productivity methods and find one that works for you
Often, we look to kill time to avoid a daunting task, leaving it for “tomorrow you” to deal with. While procrastination is a common vice, it’s not a healthy approach to time management, and typically leaves you more drained than just tackling the task head-on.
So, whether you’re looking to get on top of your tasks, or just searching for a rabbit hole to dive down into (and spend hours doing it), look no further than productivity methods.
The Pomodoro technique, Single-tasking, Eating the frog, Time blocking, and others – productivity methods can really help you get your head and work in order, or learn ways how to do it when the workload becomes overwhelming.
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9. Catch up on chores
If there’s one thing we learned from the pandemic lockdowns and the work-from-home era, it’s that squeezing in some chores and personal tasks during work hours is awesome. Not only does it serve as a productive break, but it also helps free up some of your personal time for after hours.
Admittedly, doing the laundry if you’re back working in the office can be tricky, but (un)fortunately chores are very diverse and things such as paying bills, catching up on correspondence, or even engaging in some gift shopping can be done from the comfort of your swively office chair.
10. Watch Netflix (not recommended)
Listen, you probably shouldn’t watch Netflix during work hours, as it can get you in major trouble with your boss. So, don’t do it.
With that out of the way – did you know that in 2021 Netflix was the 5th most popular unproductive app among DeskTime users? People are spending thousands of hours watching their favorite shows during work hours. Plus, a 2021 survey saw 73% of remote workers admit they watch TV while they work.
Now, again, I’m not suggesting that you should watch Netflix during work hours. All I’m saying is that those people that do, probably aren’t complaining about finding ways how to make time pass faster at work.
11. Browse job listings
Whether it’s because you got caught watching Netflix on company time, or because you can no longer take mindnumbing boredom, or because you’re completely burned out – consider looking for a more engaging and challenging job.
This can be a valuable activity, even if you’re satisfied where you are, as exploring the opportunities offered in your industry can inform you about salary ranges, benefits, and other factors that you can use to negotiate better remuneration for yourself. After all, if you’re being paid to be bored, then you might as well be paid well for it.
How to make time go faster at work? Use it
The day will pass one way or another. The question is – what will you have to show for it?
There are days when the answer will be “nothing”. And that’s fine. But know that if time at work is moving way too slowly, you can do something about it to speed it up. Simply pick something from our list and fast-forward your working day.
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