7 Ways to Turn Slow Time into ‘Go Time’
By Jamy J. Sullivan
Work ebbs and flows — it’s a natural part of any job. There may be times of the year when you’re drowning in work or when you simply have less to do. Or maybe you’re between jobs and looking for ways to stay productive while searching for a new role.
While downtime may lead to restlessness, it doesn’t have to be unproductive. Here are a few ways you can use this opportunity to help further your career.
1. Expand your knowledge. One of the best things to do when you have a lull in casework or regular assignments is to seek more training and increase your knowledge in your area of specialization — or start building a new one. Look for professional development opportunities like online courses and CLE workshops to continue your legal education.
2. Network online. You can also use your downtime to build and expand your professional network online. Platforms like LinkedIn are ideal for connecting with other legal professionals and contributing to discussion groups. Online networking offers several benefits. It allows you to exchange ideas and find mentors, and it can even help your firm with hiring or recruiting. Stay up to date on industry news and post on your channels regularly. You’ll show your expertise and establish yourself as a leader in your field.
3. Get organized. If you’re like many modern professionals, there’s a decent chance your inbox is overflowing, and your workspace could be tidier. Staying organized makes it easier to keep track of important messages and files, and it can do wonders for your mental health. Take advantage of downtime to clean out your inbox, declutter your files and make your desk more conducive to productivity. It’s easy to let things pile up when you’re busy, but if you have a break and can tackle organization projects, you’ll help decrease your stress and be able to find important items more easily when work ramps back up.
4. Set some goals. Downtime is the perfect opportunity to take stock of your career and figure out where you want to go. Evaluate your progress and set some new goals for yourself. Establishing and reaching milestones is critical to job satisfaction and creating a plan can help you stay energized and motivated. It’s easy to lose sight of your career trajectory when you have a heavy caseload or a stack of assignments, so now’s the time to take it off the back burner.
5. Give back. Pro bono work is personally rewarding, but it can be difficult to fit into your already busy schedule. When your workload is lighter, look for pro bono activities. Always be sure, though, that you abide by your firm’s guidelines for what constitutes pro bono work and how it should be handled — including the number of hours you can contribute.
6. Consider consulting. If your downtime is due to a loss of employment, this is the time to explore legal consulting. Consulting allows you to work for yourself, taking on the clients you want and controlling your hours. Leverage your professional network to find opportunities, or offer your services to a temporary staffing firm that can connect you with organizations seeking legal representation or counseling.
7. Take some time off. If you’re with a firm and work is slow, schedule some time away. This might seem like the opposite of being productive, but with the stressors in the world today, time off is more important than ever for your mental health. A break — even a short one — allows you to return to work sharper and more energized. And if you step away while things are slow, you’re less likely to be drowning in emails and assignments when you return.
Downtime is temporary, but there’s no need to lose your career focus. Keep these ideas in mind to make your time as productive as possible.