Make the Most of Your Downtime with the 3 P’s
It’s not uncommon to have occasional downtime at work. Sometimes it can be healthy, or even necessary, to use a break between tasks to decompress.
However, downtime doesn’t always need to mean unproductive time. It doesn’t have to be spent passively waiting for your next assignment to be given to you. Instead, you can take advantage of your downtime and use it productively.
If you want to maximize your downtime but don’t know where to start, I have found it helpful to focus on what I call the “three P’s”: product, process, and people.
Downtime can be spent exploring ways to improve the product. How you do this may depend on your role within the organization.
For example, as a manual software tester, I have used my downtime to improve the product by creating and executing additional test cases, performing exploratory testing, reviewing customer-facing documentation for inaccuracies, and reviewing defect metrics to identify functionality that is prone to errors and may warrant additional testing.
Time has a way of obsoleting some processes. What may have made sense in the past is sometimes not applicable in the present. Use your downtime to examine your current processes, practices, and procedures to seek out time-wasters that no longer add value.
Also look for ways to improve and optimize processes by adding new steps or updating existing ones. For example, if metrics are being collected but not being used in any meaningful way, or if the reason being given for a process is “because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” then these are red flags that your processes may need to be re-examined and updated.
What can you do to improve yourself as an employee or help the people you work with? Could any of your professional, technical, or communication skills use updating? Do you need fresh ideas and viewpoints about your profession? Downtime can be used for professional self-improvement in many ways.
You can let the length of your downtime guide you in deciding how to use it. For instance, a short break might be spent doing something informal, such as reading websites with the latest stories from software professionals, white papers, and downloads. If you have a longer stretch of time to fill, you can do something a bit more formal, such as attending web seminars or virtual conferences.
What about your coworkers? Do any of them appear to be struggling with something you are proficient in? Could they benefit from your knowledge or expertise? Helping others can be just as valuable and rewarding as improving yourself. Mentoring junior employees is a great use of downtime, as the success of each is dependent on the success of the other.
Whether it’s five minutes, five hours, or five days, you can always use downtime productively. It’s your time, so make the most of it. By focusing your efforts on the three P’s, you can use your downtime as an opportunity to help yourself and your team achieve success.