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Featured12.22.14

Six Simple Hacks To Make 2015 Productive

Cut through the clutter of projects and the clamor of email with these strategies for simplifying your work.

It’s not just end-of-year madness. Who isn’t caught up answering emails, organizing projects, attending meetings, networking, and pushing their company forward 50 weeks a year? (We hope you are remembering the importance of taking vacation.)

In such a constant state of busyness, it’s easy to forget that juggling multiple tasks and stressing about deadlines is the enemy of productivity. As we make our way into a new year, it may help to employ these simple tricks and apps to help keep the growth engine running well past the point many New Year’s resolutions are abandoned.

1. Hit the Pause Button and Focus

Email is likely the single biggest snag in anyone’s work web. But did you ever have to travel for business and discover the massive productivity boost you get from a couple of hours toil in Seat 12B? The airline flight provides the unique opportunity to focus without distraction on the task at hand. You can’t check email because your phone is on airplane mode. Sure it’s a bit more challenging to carry this out in an office filled with distractions, but apps like Inbox Pause for Gmail can act as your flight simulator to tune out incoming messages. They’ll still be there a couple of hours later. We promise.

2. Stop Being a Perfectionist

This one might sound simple, but it’s one of the most difficult to achieve –and one of productivity’s biggest stumbling blocks. The problem begins when we second guess our efforts in the attempt not to fail. This can happen with something as mundane as an email to one of major creative importance such as developing a new product. One way to get out of your own way is to take a lesson from Hayao Miyazaki, the Academy Award-winning director of Spirited Away, Totoro, and Princess Mononoke, among others. Miyazaki maintains that in order not to get dragged into self-doubt, he keeps pushing forward with new endeavors. “Unless I start working on the next film, the last one will be a drag on me for another two or three years,” he said in Turning Point 1997-2008, a book about his career.

3. Organize Your Files

Not talking about manila folders, hanging files and color-coded tabs. In the digital realm it’s easy to shoot stuff into the cloud –and forget about it–until you have to share it with someone else. Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox all offer cloud storage for text, images, and audio files, however it is up to you to keep them all arranged so they’re easy to locate when you need them. Take a minute (or an hour) to walk yourself through all the features of your cloud storage unit and manage your files accordingly.

4. Take a Walk

Sitting is the new smoking and our eight-hour+ days are responsible for a full complement of chronic diseases, even death. Sitting doesn’t help productivity either, despite what you might think about staying the course of a task until it’s completed. By stepping away from the desk and going for a walk, indoors or out, researchers at Stanford found that creative thinking gets a boost in as few as 5 to 16 minutes. That effect continued even after the study subjects went back to work.

5. Manage Your Expenses

Coffee and lunch meetings can add up. If you’ve got an employer who prefers you put the tab on them, don’t wait until the end of the quarter to wade through all those receipts and credit card statements. Apps such as Expensify allow you to take a photo of a receipt and pulls out the important details for your records. It’s also capable of tracking mileage from your GPS and the data is integrated across all your devices.

6. Take time off

The experts have weighed in and the results are unanimous: you need to take a vacation. Not only for your mental and physical well being, but also because time away helps you bring your best self to work. As we’ve reported before, vacations can reduce the risk of heart disease, but they also improve communication between team members as well as boost their creativity. Especially if you’ve got paid time off, there’s no reason not to take a breather.

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