It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving in the U.S. and if you’re at work, it’s very likely your brain isn’t. Oh look, Sharon from accounting brought in doughnuts! I really should talk about the game/movie I saw this weekend with ALL my coworkers! Now is a great time to make my holiday wish list! Shiny!
On a philosophical level, your employer is paying you to do a job, so you probably should be doing something work related. If you don’t have it in you to focus on creating a viable work product right now, consider doing a little mindless work that supports your work functions:
- File. Put on headphones (if they are acceptable in your workplace), and start putting papers away where they belong. If all your papers are filed, review your files to make sure you’re not keeping any information that doesn’t need to be archived. Organize your papers so that they help you do your job.
- Review your bulletin board. How recent are all those items hanging on the walls of your cubicle or bulletin board? Can you easily see all of the most vital information? Is the calendar from two years ago? Is there anything that can come down or be replaced?
- Clean your phone and work surface. When was the last time you scrubbed either? The dust bunnies behind your monitor aren’t going to clean themselves.
- Enter information off business cards. If you’ve recently acquired business cards from important contacts, enter the data into your address book.
- Backup your computer. If it’s not done automatically, now is a great time to backup the information off your computer’s hard drive. Be sure to follow your employer’s system for doing this task.
- Unclutter your bookshelves. Do you have any out-dated manuals or irrelevant reading materials taking up space on your bookshelves? Now is a great time to recycle, shred, or remove these items from your office.
- Equipment check. Are you using all of your equipment in your office? Is it in its best possible shape? Could you benefit more by knowing how to better operate the equipment you do have? Make a request to have the item serviced or take the time to read the operator’s manual or get rid of anything you don’t use.
- Restock. Do you need more tape, more pens, more notepads, or any more office supplies? Go “shopping” in the supply closet if you do.
Mindless work often gets a bad reputation as “not working,” but the reality is that you need some down time to let your brain process all that mindful work you are usually doing. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that “alternating between mindful work (work that requires intense thought and focus) and mindless work (routine activities that require very little processing power) enhances your efficiency and creativity.” In the end, a little mindless work might actually help you do a better job at producing your mindful work — I call that a win-win.