31 productive ways to make time go faster at work
Sometimes the workdays in the office can feel stagnant. As if the passage of time slows down.
You keep looking at the clock, begging for the end of your shift to come sooner. If only there was a way to make time fly at work on such days.
However, there are certain steps that you can take in order to speed up time at work.
Here we will take a look at the underlying conditions that mess with your perception of time at work and help you to overcome them.
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Why do you feel like time is moving slowly at work?
In order to get to the root cause of the problem, we need to break it down into smaller parts and analyze them.
Here are examples of factors and self-sabotaging behaviors that might be messing with your perception of time at work.
- Excessive focus on time – You keep checking the clock every few minutes or so.
- Anticipation of the end of the workday – You constantly think about the end of your workday
- Distractions – You are unable to focus and do deep work.
- Overwhelming boredom – You are so bored at work, it almost feels agonizing.
- Work disengagement – You don't find the work that you do meaningful.
- Negative emotional state – You are overwhelmed with unpleasant feelings.
Just one of these factors is usually enough to make us feel like time is going slowly.
But the reality is that we are often dealing with all of them at once.
If you’ve been working hard lately, perhaps occupational burnout is catching up with you. Consider asking for a day off from work so you could relax and rest properly.
How to make time go faster at work
Here we will take a look at certain practices, behaviors, habits, and ideas that you can use to create your very own "toolbox" that will help you not just to go through "slow days" at work but to eliminate them completely.
1. Stop obsessing about time
Stop sabotaging yourself by constantly checking the time. This won’t make it pass faster.
If you find yourself constantly checking the clock, then simply hide all possible clocks. For example:
- Remove your wristwatch
- Flip your phone (screen down)
- Remove the clock from the wall
- Hide the clock on your computer screen
Obsessing about time at work can be stressful. Do your best to properly unwind when you get back home from a slow-going day at work.
2. Mind the ultradian rhythm
As you know, time flies when you are focused on your work. But nobody can do "deep work" for 8 hours straight.
The human brain's capacity for optimal performance has limitations.
Ultradian rhythm is a term used to describe the human body’s biological cycles. In this case, it is important to understand how it relates to your work capacity and the perception of time.
After 90 minutes of performance, be it physical or mental, a person would usually need a period of rest.
This means that after an hour or so of deep work (when time seems to pass faster), your stress levels will naturally rise so you will need to take a break (and time will feel like it is passing slowly).
After 10 to 20 minutes of rest, you will be ready for another period of deep work.
What’s important here is to not fight these natural urges for small breaks.
Simply take them and then you can get back to doing more deep work, that's when you are the most productive and it seems like time is passing really fast.
3. Break down your workdays into time blocks
To make 8 hours go by faster at work, don't think of your workday as one prolonged period of hard work and mental strain.
Instead, break it down into smaller time blocks with small breaks in between.
Designate each time block for specific tasks and aspects of your work.
The best part about this concept is that you can match your time blocks according to your natural ultradian rhythm.
4. Facilitate deep work
Use the concepts of ultradian rhythm and time blocks to create periods of deep work.
You will feel like your workdays go by quickly with more periods of deep work.
It all comes down to your ability to achieve the so-called flow state. This is the best way to make time pass faster at work.
5. Create a productive daily routine around your time blocks
Think about how your time blocks for work fit into your day.
Do your best to align your time blocks for deep work with the time of the day when you feel the most energetic and present.
Remember that the two main conditions required for optimal productivity are energy and focus. Here is our complete guide on how to create a daily routine that is centered around productivity.
6. Eliminate as many distractions as you can
Distractions are the bane of productivity. A distraction is a small thief of time.
Yes, it takes only a moment to check your phone but it will take your brain minutes to recover and get back into a deep work state. So do your best to limit the distractions at work.
For example, if you are usually most productive in the morning, ask your colleagues to contact you in the afternoon if they need your help so you can have some time blocks of deep work without any distractions.
7. Tackle difficult tasks first
Use your distraction-free time blocks to handle your most demanding tasks for the day.
This way you will know that they are properly handled no matter what happens later on during the day.
The most difficult tasks usually require the most intense focus. This means that you will be in deep work mode and it will seem like time is moving fast.
8. Make your work environment more pleasant
It is important to be engaged in your work so as not to think about the passage of time.
But it is also important to feel good. So do your best to make your work environment one that you enjoy spending time in.
For example, you can make your office more cozy and homey if this is something that you would enjoy.
9. Give yourself small rewards
Use those small breaks between deep work time blocks to give yourself small rewards.
- Take a walk outside
- Get a cup of warm beverage
- Have a tasty snack
- Go have lunch
- Check your phone
- Talk to someone
- Look through a window
You have earned these small moments of rest so enjoy them to the fullest. They will lift your mood and make your workdays more enjoyable. This is just part of your natural work capacity cycle.
10. Make time management a priority
As part of your newfound understanding of how you should spend your time at work, do your best to be always mindful of how you manage your time.
After all, time is the most valuable resource that we have.
You can take notes and make adjustments according to your specific needs and goals.
How to make time go by faster at work by staying busy
If the concepts explained above seem a bit complicated and you’ll need more time to implement them into your work routine, then the next best thing that you could do is simply focus on your work to the best of your abilities.
A busy workday usually goes by very quickly. If you are able to get some work done, the hours will pass without you even noticing. Here are some tips on how to achieve that.
11. Focus on your work
To make the day go by faster at work, you can resort to the 10-minute rule.
Here is how it works – tell yourself that you will focus on your work for 10 minutes.
By the time the 10 minutes pass, you will be so immersed in your work that you won't notice how the time went by.
This way, you will keep your mind occupied, and you will be actually doing your job so you won’t have to think about the passage of time.
12. Tackle some pending tasks
Surely there are some tasks that have been waiting around for somebody to tackle them. This can be the day you tackle them for everyone.
This can be an excellent opportunity to clear some tasks that have been waiting for a while. This way, you won't have to deal with them later on when you might be busier than usual.
Pending tasks that pile up can be a major source of stress and frustration in the future.
13. Plan your future tasks and projects
You can use this opportunity to plan your work ahead. Planning tasks and projects is essential for long-term productivity.
This way, you will always know what comes next. It is also a great way to stay on top of things, making sure that the work gets done at an appropriate pace.
14. Keep a comprehensive to-do list
The best way to plan your work is to keep a well-structured to-do list. This way you always have a pool of tasks that are waiting for you.
You can structure the list according to the nature of the tasks, their priority, and their difficulty.
15. Ask a coworker if they need help with something
Killing time with more work is just very effective. You can be a good coworker by helping one of your colleagues with some of their tasks and duties.
This is a great way to keep the team productivity high and build a better connection with the people you work with.
They will be thankful and appreciative of the help. It's a wonderful way to keep morale high in the office.
16. Ask a coworker to teach you something new
Maybe there is something related to your work that you don’t know to do quite right yet.
Perhaps you can ask one of your colleagues for additional training and support?
17. Ask your boss to give you a task
Isn't it every boss's dream to have one of their workers tell them that they are done with all of their duties, so they need some more tasks to handle?
This can be a chance for you to score some extra points with your boss. Being highly productive at work and achieving good results is one of the best ways to get a raise or to be promoted.
18. Do some research
Why not research statistics and case studies that are somehow related to your work?
This way you can apply new principles and ideas to your work in order to achieve better results.
19. Gather your coworkers for a brainstorming session
Whenever the workday feels kind of boring, you can gather your team in the office and talk.
You might find that brainstorming sessions where all sorts of crazy ideas are thrown around are amazing, and they can recharge everyone at the office with energy and enthusiasm about work.
And not just that, but also amazing ideas are generated like this. Even if just one of those ideas is workable, it is still worth it.
20. Prepare an internal training
Is there something that you would like to teach your coworkers?
You can prepare a simple presentation with the key points and schedule a 30-minute meeting to tell your team all about your awesome ideas.
How to make time go faster at work when you have nothing to do
We need to acknowledge that sometimes we are not actually doing any work while at work.
However, there are plenty of things that you could do to pass the time and still be somewhat productive.
21. Declutter your web browser
If you have some time to spare, put some order back into your web browser.
Create some properly named folders and arrange your links in a way that will help you to be more efficient in your work.
22. Declutter your desktop and file folders
If your desktop is covered in random images and files, it’s best to neatly arrange them in folders.
Wouldn't it be great if you could actually see that lovely wallpaper you have on your screen?
23. Declutter and clean your desk
A messy desk is actually counterproductive. You know what they say, a messy workstation equals a messy mind.
Get rid of the things that you are not actually using and are there for purely decorative reasons.
Keep only the useful items and maybe just one or two sentimental items.
And remember to wipe your desk and work monitor frequently as dust can build up quickly!
24. Listen to a podcast
Whenever you are handling a mundane repetitive task at work that doesn’t require too much thinking, there is nothing better than listening to a podcast to pass the time.
Besides, you can listen to a podcast that is somehow related to the work that you do.
25. Listen to an audiobook
Listening to an audiobook is also a wonderful way to pass the time at work. You can be doing your work and listening to whatever you like to read – be it fiction or some popular self-help book.
26. Keep a reading list
Reading some useful resources related to your line of work (or not) is another option to pass the time.
Keep an emergency reading list folder with at least 5 articles that you find curious or useful.
27. Watch some videos
The good old Tube is here to help! It's always a pleasure to see what your favorite content creators have been up to lately.
But there is plenty of educational and professional content available as well. You know, if you're feeling at least a bit like doing something useful.
28. Look for inspiration
Be it professional or personal inspiration, this seems like a good moment to rekindle it.
Think about the people that you admire professionally. Find out what made them successful. Find out what their inspirations were.
29. Nurture your creativity
If you are in any creative line of work, why not take some time to further develop your creative mojo?
For example, examine somebody else's work and think about what makes it notable.
30. Sign up for an online course
If you have plenty of time to spare at work, why not sign up for some online courses to acquire some new professional skills?
There is plenty of free know-how content available online as well. All it takes is a bit of desire to learn.
31. Practice meditation and mindfulness
Of course, you can always retreat to your mind palace. Be it meditation, visualization, or mindfulness, these disciplines offer plenty of avenues that you can explore.
My advice on how to make time pass faster at work
Once you realize that slow days at work are a problem for you, you should take immediate action.
Use the concepts and practices explained above to create your very own system that will help you to “speed up” the time you spend at work.
Keep in mind that time passing slowly at work could be related to the fact that you are not satisfied with your job. If that is indeed the case, then here we take a look at how long you should stay at a job.