Managing Downtime: A Practical Guide to Dealing with Office Hour Boredom


I just stare at my desk, but it looks like I’m working…I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work. -Peter Gibbons, Office Space (1998)

Everyone has been there. If you understand the mission of this site, you may be there, trying to find a way out right now. Whether the job is boring or just not challenging, eight hours of your day, 40 hours of your week, 160 hours of your month, and 1920 hours of your year may be wasted because you’re ultimately unfulfilled at your work. These numbers may be exaggerations, as for some people, they may just go through periods of slow time or unproductivity due to the ebbs and flows of the nature of their work, while others just hit a rut. This is more so for those in the latter category as opposed to those for whom this is a constant reality, but even you are in the former, hopefully there is something here to make your days just a little brighter. This isn’t going to be a reiteration of the fish philosophy about just having a better attitude at work. Although that is the simplest way, and a prerequisite for approaching any unideal situation in life, this article assumes you know the importance of such. Instead, this whittles down to one piece of practical advice – connect what you like to do, to what you’re currently doing. This involves some creative thinking in that you need to find a connection to what you like doing within the context and confines of having office hours. For a student affairs professional, especially a residence life professional who has the opportunity to collaborate with any office on campus, all this takes is initiative.

For me, writing has become a great passion of mine. So I take the time to write about what I like and don’t like about what I do in the hopes that it resonates with others. So it’s not completely self-serving and taking away from honoring the position I have, some of that writing is research-based: reading articles from scholarly journals about student affairs practices and coming up with new ideas and theories that can be applied today. It’s being productive, even if it’s a bit outside of the purview of my job description, but one that can contribute to the department or field at large. The idea is productivity. For you, it could be dancing, cooking, singing, running or a myriad of other interests, but the point is – there’s something in life that excites you and gets you up. So focus on that, while you have to be there on the job. It could be starting an organization/office on campus, volunteering with a coach, or acting as a teaching assistant for a topic you really enjoy. You’re still interacting with students, which is the crux of any student affairs professional’s job, but it’s being done on your terms. Above all, it’s recognizing that there are ways to exercise control over what you do have control of, so don’t waste that power.