8 Ways to Use Your Free Time to Impress Your Boss
Whether it’s taking advantage of your commute time or keeping a full social calendar, there are a number of things you can do in your off-hours to give you a leg up at the office—and also have fun! We’ve rounded up a few tried-and-tested ways to organize your time so that you build the most successful life possible. Scroll through and prepare to be applauded at the office.
One of the cardinal rules of improv, besides always saying yes, is that you must make statements. You can’t say “I love you?” and have your audience believe you mean it. You have to speak with conviction and listen intently to your scene partner so that you can continue to have a fruitful dialogue.
In this way, participating in an improv group is an excellent way to improve your public speaking skills and your confidence, both of which contribute positively to your professional reputation. Improv classes are even becoming part of the curriculum at business schools across the country. For example, MIT’s Sloan School of Management built comedy into its curriculum to foster collaboration, dispel judgment, and improve listening skills in its MBA candidates. In business, you have to fail in order to succeed. We call this failing forward. It may cost you 10 bad ideas before you have a good one, but you can’t be afraid to brainstorm. Improv teaches you how to be fearless.
According to Forbes, posture is considered one of the most important leadership signifiers across all industries, second only to grooming (i.e., looking polished and pulled together): “Good posture—meaning planted feet, shoulders back and head straight—reflects confidence and authority.” In order to keep yourself from slumping (which is often perceived as a lack of respect, engagement, or energy), make ballet a part of your routine. Ballerinas have the best posture on the planet and are also trained to be highly aware of their body language—both of which are critical non-verbal indicators of your competence and likability at the workplace.
Training yourself to stand and sit erectly will not only improve how your boss thinks of you, but will also impact your work in a positive way. A study published by Ohio Sate University in 2003 found that good posture makes you happier and more productive. We recommend doing like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and signing up for a Ballet Bodies class ASAP.
We often think of commute time as dead time, but you can make your day far more productive if you view it as a set amount of time set aside for deep thought. If you brainstorm out loud about your next project proposal or use those precious morning minutes to learn something new, you’ll increase your chances of impressing your boss. We recommend putting on talk radio like NPR or listening to a brain-stimulating podcast like Radiolab.
Continuing your studies, be it by brushing up on a second language with Rosetta Stone or keeping up with the times in a tech workshop, will stimulate your brain and give you a leg up on your peers. We recommend looking at the class offerings at General Assembly or your local college. Khan Academy and Coursera are excellent online classroom experiences. However, as much as we love a great webinar, it’s also beneficial to step away from your laptop for a few hours a week and really engage in an offline classroom setting.
The more people you know and experience, the more you can bring to the table at work. Try to keep an open mind when it comes to social engagements. Think of small talk as the beginning of a potential work relationship or friendship. When out and about, be an active listener. Like improv, socializing is a great practice in communication and confidence that will translate positively to your work environment. According to Forbes, being aware of body language, knowing your audience, and having a great sense of humor are skills that you need in order to succeed. Being social helps develop and/or demonstrate these skills to your boss.
Traveling is one of the best forms of education available. Successful people consider perspectives other than their own. And what better way to get a different perspective and develop cross-cultural understanding than by seeing the world? Traveling is also one of the best and fastest ways to learn about yourself. When you’re out of your regular routine and on the road, you make hundreds more decisions than you do in your daily life. The experience helps hone your decision-making skills and teaches you about your decision-making process. When you can, take some time to travel alone (or with a partner) and learn about yourself. Your boss will likely notice your heightened awareness when you return to work.
It’s important to be informed about what’s going on in the world, so reading the newspaper, be it digitally or in hard copy, is wise. If you’re too focused on your own world and don’t recognize a global event when it’s discussed at work, you can come off as ignorant. Do your best to stay abreast of world affairs, and we promise you’ll sound intelligent in the workplace. The best way to impress your co-workers? Read TheSkimm first thing in the morning for a smart, witty, and bite-size recap of the news. Our five things is also a great source of daily happenings.
There is a strong argument that the best employees are those who take their off-hours for themselves and come back to work each morning refreshed and ready to focus on the task at hand. In fact, a recent study from Stanford University found that “productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and it drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more.” Forbes discusses the conclusions of this study: “People who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours.”
Hotwire.com co-founder and Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff tells Forbes about the importance of his off-hours: “My weekends are an important time to unplug from the day-to-day and get a chance to think more deeply about my company and my industry. Weekends are a great chance to reflect and be more introspective about bigger issues.” We appreciate Rascoff’s notion of unplugging. It’s great to constantly try to improve so that you may excel in the workplace. But sometimes taking time for yourself is just what you need to show up for work at 110% on Monday.