You may find yourself with some extra time on your hands throughout the day. Perhaps you’re a fast worker, and play ‘run out the clock’ at the end of each work day? Or maybe you’re a student, with more time on your hands than you originally budgeted for. Either way, if you have some extra time, you should be putting it to work, rather than watching reality TV or playing Fallout 4 (though nobody would blame you for playing Fallout 4).
There are many ways to put yourself to work. You can exercise, which has been shown to improve cognitive function and productivity. You can catch up on some reading, and finally tackle that stack of classics that’s been collecting dust. Or you can get some sleep — that’s never really a bad idea.
But if you really want to add to your personal value and become more attractive on the job market, you can learn some new skills. And there are many of them that you can get under your belt in a relatively short period of time — even in less than a day.
We’ve listed seven of those skills below. Some will take more effort than others, but making the decision or commitment to learn any of them will leave you better off when you go to sleep tonight than you were when you woke up this morning. And if you have some extra time to spare, learning these skills can be as solid of an investment as there is.
1. Becoming a search master
Here’s a little secret that most of us are privy to, though we may not be aware of it: you can solve almost any problem with your smartphone or laptop. Seriously. All you have to do is Google (or Bing!) the issue. Odds are, a million other people have faced a similar dilemma, and there will be resources available to either walk you through it, or develop a strategy to tackle it.
The real skill here is in learning how to manipulate the search engine. Simple searches will get the job done nine times out of ten, but for very specific searches, learn to use advanced tips and tricks like quotation marks, site queries, etc. There’s a lot more to Google, Bing, and Yahoo! then meets the eye. Dig in and learn to use the depth of the algorithms to your advantage.
2. Financial literacy
Hate thinking about money? Scared to look at your bank account? Do terms like “401(k)”, or “stock options” get you frazzled? You may want to take gauge of your level of financial literacy, and if need be, give yourself a crash course. This is something that you could literally do in a day by spending some time going over personal finance basics, poking around financial websites, and reading some financial news. Financial literacy is a fairly big problem in the U.S., and making sure you know the basics can be invaluable.
3. Investing basics
Once you have some basic financial literacy, you really should learn the basics of investing. It’s not nearly as scary as you think, and the sooner you make the effort to learn, the better off you’re going to be in the future. You don’t need to go too in-depth either — just reading up on the basics of stocks, bonds, and basic investment strategies is enough to get you started. You can even talk to your employer about retirement plans, and head to your bank or credit union to see what investment products they have available. Within one day, you might be able to set yourself up for a glowing future.
4. Simple coding
You know you should learn to code. It’s becoming a fairly ubiquitous skill, particularly among the younger generations. It can give you an edge on your résumé, and help you work out simple computer issues — even help streamline your thinking patterns. And it’s not terribly difficult to do.
Use some spare time to work through some coding tutorials, like HTML or Python — whichever may be more useful to you. There are tons of options out there, from Codeacademy to Code School. You may literally walk into work this morning without a clue as to how your computer functions, and walk out with the ability to actually do a bit of coding.
It’s hard to understate how important a sense of confidence is, especially in the workplace. It’s something a lot of people struggle with, but can make or break someone’s career. A big part of becoming confident is appearing confident, and having charisma can make all the difference. If you find yourself with some spare time, work on your charisma. It can be as simple as walking over to the coffee pot, or engaging a coworker in conversation. Pay attention to your posture, and speak with authority.
Before you know it, you may have planted the seeds for a new, confident you by the time you head for the parking lot.
6. Spreadsheet functions
If you really want to impress everyone, learning some fairly basic Excel functions and commands can go a long way. Excel and other spreadsheet software is often intimidating to a lot of people, but once you get over the initial anxiety, mastering it isn’t nearly as hard as you’d think. Take an hour or two and watch or read through some tutorials, and practice throughout the day. You could go home being the office’s ‘Excel wizard’ before you know it.
7. Healthy eating habits
You may not think that eating is a skill in itself, but you’re mistaken. How, when, and what you eat can have a big impact on your day, your levels of productivity, and even your mood. If you can take some time to put together a meal and snacking plan, or even just give some thought to your own eating habits, you could make a big impact on your daily routine.
If you need evidence that dietary selection is a skill, just keep an eye on your coworkers — watch how their diets affect their output. Lots of sugar, soda, and junk food? Probably not a recipe for success. If you have some spare time, do some reading, and put a plan together for yourself. It can make a lasting difference.