By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Recently I was venting to my business partners over the fact that (this was late August) so many people were M.I.A. My emails weren’t getting answered, my calls weren’t getting returned, and I was getting really frustrated.

My partners pointed out, however, that late August is typically downtime for many industries, so this wasn’t unexpected. That got me thinking that for lots of us, this entire year has held more downtime than usual.

When business is slow, you can get annoyed—or you can take action. If you’re suffering from extra downtime right now, consider it a nice problem to have. Think about it: During the year, you’ve probably got all kinds of projects you’d like to start for your business—but when do you have the time? The moment is now.

Here are some ideas for making the most of your downtime:

  1. Learn something new. Try out a new social media tool. If you haven’t Twittered yet, give it a whirl. Or take a class in building blogs or Web sites.
  2. Find 10 new blogs relevant to your industry that you didn’t know about, and start reading them regularly.
  3. Contact some of your old connections whom you’ve fallen out of touch with. What are they doing? Is there opportunity there?
  4. Reassess your business plan. In today’s economy, you should be doing this as often as every quarter.
  5. Network. There’s no substitute for actually getting out and meeting people. Attend industry functions or just take someone to lunch once a week. Being with other entrepreneurs is energizing and generates new ideas.
  6. Train your staff. Employees most likely have downtime too. Use the time to cross-train them, have younger employees mentor older ones, or older employees mentor new ones.
  7. Get organized. You don’t need to wait till New Year’s to resolve to get it together. Whether it’s a thorough purging of your emails, tossing tons of paper from your office or even streamlining your technology or processes, organization frees up energy.