I play this game together with some friends and we'd like to go through the content (missions, etc) together. However, sometimes our playtime doesn't sync up, and short of creating alts we're looking for things we can do in STO individually that won't advance us through the game.
It has occurred to us that while we may gain skill points in the process of playing separately, technically we don't have to spend those skill points until we're all ready to do so together. That would, in effect, allow us to keep our career advancement in sync so that one of us isn't running around as an Admiral one-shotting everything while the rest are still Lieutenants. I believe that provides us with an opportunity that typically doesn't exist in other MMOs (at least those that don't allow you to turn off your XP gains).
So, what we're hoping for are some suggestions of STO activities we can participate in individually, which don't advance the storyline or consume one-shot content (like missions). For example, are those enemy ships floating around in sector space important to some overall mission arc, or are they just randomly generated encounters we can fight with without consequence?
There are missions to engage three of those enemy signal contacts in each sector, along with missions that send you to explore various deep-space sectors off the edge of the map. Neither of these things are part of the main narrative drive of the game's story. (In fact, I was talking to a friend about this earlier today: the exploration/enemy engagement missions are like "normal Starfleet business", while the narrative missions are the core of the game's story.)
After a little while of play, you'll learn to distinguish between "main story" missions and these other types. Chiefly: if they come from Sulu, they're non-narrative combat missions; if they come from... pig-faced guy, can't remember his name... then they're non-narrative exploration missions.
So my suggestion for you? Do the non-narrative combat and exploration stuff on your own, and team up for the meatier narrative missions.
Those enemy ships floating around in sector space are just random repeatables. Also the exploration missions give by Lt Grall are repeatable (I think it take 30 mins before you can repeat them).
I am however dubious about your 'no spending skill points' to stay the same level as your fellow players. You have to spend your skill points to achieve the next rank (I.E. Lt Commander) and get a ship upgrade. I am not sure what will happen if you qualify for the next rank and dont spend the skill points. You do continue to gain levels weather you spend the points or not. So you could end up a LT 12 or 13 or something and I am just not sure how the game will handle that if you dont apply the skill points and make LT Commander 1.