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Alone at Work? Use Quiet Days To Set Up for Personal Growth and Content Success

It’s the quietest time of the year.

As people use up their vacation days, few remain at work during the days after Christmas and before New Year’s Day.

If you’re one of the few working during that week, you might feel stuck. Emails go unanswered. No feedback arrives, so you can’t move that article or video to the next stage. New projects lie fallow, waiting for the necessary stakeholders to return.

Web surfing and doomscrolling only fill so much time. What’s a content marketer to do with these meeting-free days? Instead, plan your expected downtime – whether it’s now or some other time in the year – to improve your skills and get the stuff done you never seem to find time to do.

I asked the #CMWorld Slack community and Twitter followers to share what they would plan to do at work when few others are around.

Spend time on professional development

“Slow periods are great for education,” says Danielle Love, content marketing strategist. “It’s a great time to watch those Content Marketing World sessions I missed. I also have an email folder of webinars I signed up for but didn’t get the chance to watch live.”

TIP: Content Marketing World participants have until Dec. 31, 2021, to catch any of this year’s presentations.

Use slow times at work to catch up on those webinars you never watched or #CMWorld sessions you missed, as @daniellewriter does via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Share on X

Fellow content marketing strategist Ali Orlando Wert agrees. “I have a certification I’m hoping to wrap up during that ‘quiet’ time of year,” she says.

While that may keep Ali busy, she thinks slow times are helpful to think through an idea or strategy that you wouldn’t otherwise have time to work on. “I’ve got a backburner list,” she says.

Slow times are helpful for tackling the list of ideas you haven’t had time to get to, says @AliOrlandoWert via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Share on X

Hannah Szabo, who has worked in content marketing, says she spends that time studying topics outside of marketing. (She says she’s all about Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.) For example, she recently finished a 30-hour course on financial statements from LinkedIn Learning.

Connect with old and new

Content strategist Brian Piper uses the time to research conferences he might want to attend or where he might want to present. But he doesn’t stop there. He looks for new communities and online events and touches base with people in his network he hasn’t contacted for a while.

Content community builder Vanessa Cariba does something similar. “I make a point of saying hello to my networks or finding new alliances to meet with on Zoom. As a freelancer, connection is a bridge of opportunity,” she says.

@vanessa_cariba uses quiet time at work to say hello to people in her network or find new people to meet with over Zoom to build bridges to freelance opportunities via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Share on X

Analyze numbers and processes

Content marketers know the value of data and analytics, but time to work on them often disappears. Helpfully enough, technology never takes a vacation. You can access the data even when no one is working.

“Whether it’s writing code, experimenting with new tools, or working with data from clients or third parties, downtime is all about building the next generation of data and analytics for the next uptime,” says data scientist Christopher S. Penn.

Use downtime to work on data and analytics for the next uptime, as @cspenn does via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Share on X

Cathy McPhillips, a chief growth officer, takes the time to not only organize her files but also to reflect on and adjust her systems. For example, she takes time to figure out why she downloaded the same report 12 times rather than remembering where she put it.

“I think about goals for the following year and how I can set myself up for success,” Cathy says, noting she also intends to dive into the three-foot stack of books waiting for her to read.

Use quiet workdays to think about goals for next year and how to set yourself up for success, says @cmcphillips via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Share on X

SEO copywriter Adam P. Newton can relate. He says he uses his time to read his backlog of articles from Content Marketing Institute, Jay Acunzo, Andy Crestodina, Ann Handley, and more.

Focus on content creation

Content marketing strategist Maureen Jann finds the quietness of downtime ideal for uninterrupted concentration. “I always gravitate toward disruption. This is the time of year that I can head down in production mode without the lure of interaction,” she says.

And executive Katie Robbert spends the time writing – mostly ugly drafts that she compiles in a folder. “When I need to put a polished post together, I go back and see what ideas are the most formed,” she explains.

Write rough drafts during slow days, suggests @katierobbert. When you need a post, pick the most formed idea to polish via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Share on X

Get it done

As great as these suggestions are, some people struggle to get things done during those quiet days. Try these ideas to avoid starting the new year feeling that you wasted your precious downtime:

  • Set mini goals. Be realistic in identifying what you want to accomplish. You aren’t going to watch every webinar you missed in 2021. However, you can feasibly watch three 60-minute webinars. Pick one thing to complete each day.
  • Schedule time on your calendar. Block out no more than 90 minutes per task. Write the details of precisely what you will do in the appointment entry. Make sure to turn notifications on so you get a warning 10 minutes before the start time. (Schedule at least a 30-minute appointment in between these appointments so you can take a break.)
  • Plan for the next day. About 15 minutes before you finish each day, look at your remaining scheduled tasks. Do you still want to do the things you blocked time to work on? Is there something you would rather get done? Make sure you’ve set time blocks to work on things you want to accomplish. Otherwise, you’ll ignore those calendar notifications and end up doing nothing productive.

And while most people want to be productive during the downtime, make sure to take it easy, too. If you just go, go, go, you may not benefit from that “alone” time. Instead, ensure you come away feeling rested and ready when your coworkers return the hustle and bustle to your workdays.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute