what to do during the work day?
May 10, 2006 10:36 AM   Subscribe

i need things to do during the day, at work, on the computer or that look like work.

so my job work load fluctuates a lot, sometimes i am very busy for a couple weeks, then i have almost nothing to do for a couple weeks.
so i need suggestions of things to do during the day so i feel more productive. they can be online stuff (interesting/educational blogs or sites or places to participate) or perhaps something offline that will appear to be work like reading or whatever.
i have to be at my desk, in a cubicle for 8 hours a day and currently exhaust all of the blogs and fantasy baseball sites i know and like after a couple hours. i had started a blog of my own as i like to write but can't always think of good things to write about. i work on my own websites occasionally, reviewing root beer, or records or whatever but need something else.

it can be educational or just entertaining.
i know there are many threads about good blogs, but i could not find a real question like this. pardon me if it has been asked before.
posted by annoyance to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Ipod + books on tape + stare at a blank screen
posted by milinar at 10:42 AM on May 10, 2006

Gutenberg.org has thousands of free books in plain text. You can sit at your desk and read Jane Austen novels, and it will look like you're working. One time I pasted one into a MS Word document, so it would look like I was working and not surfing the web.

Every once in a while, you could highlight a word and make it bold, so that it looked like you were doing more than just reading.

If you can wear a headphone, you can listen to audio online. Sites like the BBC are great for that.
posted by grumblebee at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2006

I'm in the same boat you're in, there's a lot to read on uber site. Some of it's total shit, but part of the fun is finding the gems

not my site, not even registered, just a reader
posted by killyb at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2006

posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:45 AM on May 10, 2006

not to be a snarky ass, but have you considered letting your manager know you need more stuff to do? If you're bored, why not help your manager out and get on the "good list" by letting him know you have periods of down time?
posted by cosmicbandito at 10:52 AM on May 10, 2006

Mod note: removed the self-link, feel free to put it in your profile if you'd like people to check it out
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:54 AM on May 10, 2006

Response by poster: i have told my manager and team leader, they say just wait for work to come, they will let me know when there are things to do. that is the nature of the job.
my apologies for the self-link, just put it in as an example of an interest.

very good suggestions so far, thanks.
posted by annoyance at 10:58 AM on May 10, 2006

I don't know if it looks like work, but you could pick up a few cents as a Mechanical Turk. (Hey, that rhymed.)
posted by staggernation at 10:59 AM on May 10, 2006

Ironically, what I did when I found myself in the same position was to join metafilter after years of lurking so I could post stuff. Then I wrote a play. Don't know if creative writing is your cup of tea, but a) it looks like working and b) makes you feel productive.
posted by jrb223 at 11:09 AM on May 10, 2006

I learned to program. Then when I got a bunch of work that crushed me all at once, I just let the program do it. Now I'm working as a programmer, and have time to post to MetaFilter and work that's actually /interesting/.
posted by SpecialK at 11:19 AM on May 10, 2006

Beware downloading/streaming audio or video at work. Too much bandwidth could attract negative attention despite your manager and team leader's endorsement of downtime.

Is there anything in this life you'd like to learn? There probably isn't a subject you couldn't get a decent introduction to on-line these days. MIT and UC Berkeley and others have extensive free on-line courses (but note what I said about streaming video.) Even just browsing Wikipedia could teach a lot. Math, science, history, programming, you name it.

There are lots of free on-line books (you can search AskMe for previous recommendations.)

You could install a free emulator like Qemu and install Linux inside that and become a Linux guru in your spare time.

Your options are pretty wide open.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:38 AM on May 10, 2006

I like your suggestion SpecialK, I too run into this trouble and your idea is perfect.
posted by edgeways at 11:42 AM on May 10, 2006

Ironically, what I did when I found myself in the same position was to join metafilter after years of lurking so I could post stuff.

Heh, me too. I also read stuff on Gutenberg (I recommend "Our Mr. Wrenn" by Sinclair Lewis) and learned a bit of html. Hard to do when the monitor faces the cube hole, though.
posted by scratch at 12:45 PM on May 10, 2006

you could browse recipes and discover something new to cook for dinner. you could look at crafty things to do when you get home. you could read other peoples blogs to inspire your own. (i like to follow links to other peoples sites, they might lead you somewhere really interesting.) NPR is always good for catching up or hearing about something new. i would like to encourage you to something that feels productive; playing games online all day will eventually rot your brain.
posted by saragoodman3 at 12:58 PM on May 10, 2006

A good thing to do at work when you have absolutely nothing to do is gather data on something and see if you can learn something interesting about what goes on at your work. Find a question that sparks your curiosity, like "I wonder how many of our customers ever come back. Or how many times they come back. Or whether they come back more often based on..."

There's no mention of what your work is so I'm generalizing. But there must be some interesting question worth digging up an answer for.
posted by scarabic at 1:18 PM on May 10, 2006

Download Python, learn to program, see if you can automate your job to the point where you're spending all eight hours of work doing nothing. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 5:06 PM on May 10, 2006

Bring ropes and learn to tie knots. Study first aid or a disaster-preparedness manual. (If you are way into preparedness, and have disposable income, maybe you're one of the missing Alpha Rubicon members, heh heh.) Develop your musical ear with ear-training or audiation software (I recently bought this, but there are also free drill programs for all platforms). Second the vote for learning chess, cooking, creative writing, or programming. Especially enthusiastic second for Project Gutenberg, and I'll kick in a recommendation for Distributed Proofreading to go along with it. Read the Foxfire books (there are ~12 of them).
posted by eritain at 6:47 PM on May 10, 2006

posted by pompomtom at 7:07 PM on May 10, 2006

My god, all these good ideas. And I've been writing a novel, All work and no play makes gesamtkunstwerk a dull boy.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:52 PM on May 10, 2006

I have this problem and I've found a ton of solutions. I'm on a 6-month contract and I get most of my work done immediately in the morning, leaving the rest of the day to handle a spare case or two when they come in.

I do a LOT of internet surfing. If that's an issue and they monitor it...bittorrent some books. For instance I have a ton of the Dummies and Idiots guides. I'm teaching myself code, photoshop skills, finance, working out etc. Every day is an opportunity for me to learn something new, so when the day is done I can look back and say...hey I didn't waste the whole day browsing pointless sites.

I've worked on a Dungeons and Dragons intro module or two for my nephew, who has expressed interest in playing. I bring in a USB stick that's got mp3s on it, portable app Firefox (because browsing in IE sucks lol), and a ton of video and music podcasts. I have iTunes on this work computer, and I listen to music ALL day long with headphones. If you get a long enough cord or bluetooth set you can do other things at your desk while not having to be right next to the computer. It's not a bad deal at all, you just have to get a little creative!
posted by PetiePal at 9:12 AM on October 16, 2006

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