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As a software developer on a relatively small team handling a big job, I have never found myself with no tasks on my plate; new work comes frequently, and completed tasks are quickly replaced with new ones. However, I will occasionally find myself with short periods of time (think fifteen minutes to an hour) where I don't have any work to do. There can be a handful of reasons for this (code is compiling, I'm waiting on other people to do things, etc). Part of me says I should enjoy the downtime, but if there are several instances of it in a week I start to feel like maybe I'm not working hard enough.

What is the best way to deal with these very short periods of not having work to do?

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I can relate to your situation. When I have downtime at work (software development), more than 20 minutes but less than a hour, I work on any side projects that I might have. I think it depends on your workplace as well. My workplace is relaxed and so I can work freely on personal projects when I have downtime.

You mention you are a software developer, I'd spend that extra time learning a new library that you might use in the future. 30 minutes a day learning a new library and by the end of the week you will have a firm grasp of it. If that does not interest you, I always check current journals and blogs on anything that is related to my field(security). There is always stuff to do.

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