Category Archives: Productivity

4 Unexpected benefits of mixing up your work routine

easter-blog-headerWhile the eight-hour working day is arguably one of the most common rituals throughout society, it’s not necessarily the most productive one. With the upcoming Easter holidays bringing a well-deserved break away from the office, now’s the perfect time to reflect on how wisely we’re using our time. If you’re fed up of your monotonous routine at work, then the definition below for the word ‘routine’ will sound all too familiar:

‘Sameness’

A set of customary and often mechanically performed procedures or activities’

‘A sequence of actions regularly followed.’

Our work routine accounts for at least 57% of where our overall time is spent (we were shocked too), so it goes without saying that the Easter break couldn’t have fallen at a more convenient time. For some of us working folk, having a cement routine in place can provide us with reassurance when tackling the unknowns of everyday life. However, we all know that following the same schedule week on week isn’t doing any of us any favors. As professionals, we like to stick to what’s familiar, and without realizing it we slip into relaxation mode which hinders us from reaching our maximum potential in the workplace.

Although falling out of repetitious habits can be tough, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, embarking on a fresh start can have a powerful psychological effect that can lead to a positive change in our behavior. This ‘fresh start’ effect suggests that creating shifts in our routine can lead to a sense of starting anew, which helps to reinforce positive habit changes.

What better time to try something new than at the beginning of Easter? Everything around you has blossomed and changed for the better, so now it’s your turn. See below for 4 unexpected benefits that you could gain by mixing up your routine.

1. Increased focus
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Most of us have trouble focusing at one time or another. Some of us stray when we’re bored, while others find reasons to avoid a difficult task. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t do with a little helping of self-control and gain a boost to their energy. During the typical 9-5 day, without even realizing it, we have difficulty exerting self-control and focusing on our tasks. And as the day goes on and our self-control wears out, we feel exhausted as our tasks seemingly become more strenuous to complete.

Instead of avoiding miscellaneous tasks because they’re demanding or require alot of brain consumption, try assigning an Urgency level to all of the items that you need to hunt down. With 4 eye-catching levels and colors to choose from, you’ll be able to draw instant meaning from the visuals on your workspace. Plus, with the List View on hand to help you scan across everything that’s deemed as urgent, you’ll be able to reorder and sort your main priorities to ensure that you’re not carrying too many eggs in your basket.

2. Advanced memory
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Carrying out a repetitive routine in the workplace can result in us feeling disengaged and forgetful of often crucial actions that we need to take. The Telegraph reported a study conducted by scientists proving that working in a claustrophobic workspace stifles our creativity and results in less ‘aha‘ or genius moments. So, with Spring in full bloom, what’s stopping you from taking your work outside? DropTask offers online and offline capabilities, so you’ll be able to enjoy the glorious sunshine while ticking off your tasks from any device, at any time. Incorporating elements of nature into your workday will not only give your brain a boost, but will increase your productivity and focus. Experiments show that color helps us to process and store images in our brain, so with 4 unique Project Themes to choose from in DropTask, a high-level overview of what’s what will be etched as a visual in your memory.

3. Refreshed outlook
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Sometimes we become so reliant on daily routines, that we fail to notice when they’re no longer of any benefit to us. Stepping out of our comfortable working routine is a key factor when looking for a new wave of innovation. Dr Elizabeth Lomabardo, author of ‘Better Than Perfect’, (a guide for professionals looking to find balance and freedom) teaches that people who seek out fresh experiences are more creative than those who are stuck in the same pattern of doing things. She says ‘breaking your own mold can only make you stronger and more confident to reach higher levels in your professional and personal life.’ So, are you feeling ready to try something new? Planning is key. Start by creating milestones for next season’s schedule in the built-in Calendar. You can even try setting a new challenge to complete each month, and later cement your plan by creating Repeating Tasks to accomplish every week. By doing this, you’ll be able to step into Spring with a fresh perspective, while developing the important habit of stepping out of your comfort zone once in a while and taking risks.

4. Flourished creativity
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If you’re struggling for ways to further explore your imagination and make the 9-5 busyness more creative and stimulating, begin by eliminating those hours that you spend daydreaming at your desk. According to ‘The National Bureau of Economic Research’ we spend a total of 1 hour a day thinking about non-related work activities, rather than being productive. Wouldn’t it be great if we turned that time into something that enhanced our creativity instead? As opposed to spending an hour or two staring at your screen, debating which project to tackle next, use your time wisely by organizing your thoughts in the form of a MindMap. The highly powerful two-way sync between iMindMap and DropTask will allow you to generate your free-flowing ideas quickly, and bring them to life as realistic goals. Brainstorm ideas for your up and coming project and watch the smooth transition as you transport your plans into DropTask. Why not set a Reminder for your daily brainstorming session, that way you’ll regularly set time aside from each day to let your mind take you to somewhere creative that you didn’t think existed.

How are you switching up your routine this Spring? Let us know in the comments below.

Step into Spring with DropTask

With March already in full swing, the evenings are getting lighter and the temperature’s beginning to rise, resulting in a state of calmness surrounding the workplace. But, when our tasks are buried under a thick layer of dust it can be challenging to feel as refreshed as the environment around us.

Whether you love it or hate it, it’s that time of year when we need to start thinking about some serious de-cluttering and reorganization. We comfortably devote a certain amount of time each week to clean our homes, ensuring that it’s looking its finest and things are easy to locate. But when we spend some of our most crucial hours in the workplace, why is it that we’re still sifting through a buried work desk without an efficient schedule in sight? In a report published last year by OfficeMax, it was found that office clutter undermines productivity and motivation. With less ability to work efficiently on our work due to unlimited distractions being placed in front of us, it’s becoming a rarity that we leave the office feeling accomplished with what we’ve achieved with our day.

Research undertaken at Princeton University shows that when your environment is cluttered, the chaos surrounding you restricts your ability to focus, limiting your brain’s ability to process information. So what better time than now to give your workspace a well needed spring clean than at the beginning of the season. With all of the capabilities to transport your projects into full bloom, follow our top tips on how DropTask can turn your workspace into a vibrant setting that’s bursting with effective working and productivity.

Rearrange where necessary

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Most people throw miscellaneous tasks and odd and ends into the same space, making a mental note to come back to them when they next have five minutes spare. After time, we end up losing these notes, deadlines get missed, and we become anxious about just the thought of rummaging through our misplaced items. To ensure your mental note doesn’t disappear into oblivion, make a visualization in the form of a Task Circle to stimulate your brain. As referenced by psychology professor Allan Paivio in ‘The Dual Coding Theory’ 1971, the formation of mental images aids our learning and processing of information. If you stumble upon a misplaced task, then the Duplicate and Move feature will allow you to tidy-up, resulting in an organized workspace where you can progress through everything you need to do with structure and order.

Even with the best-laid and organized workspaces, there may still be some overflow. If you’re looking for short term-storage and somewhere to limit work that’s in progress, the Kanban-style Workflow view will provide you with a clean space where you channel your focus on taking tasks right through to completion. Split your Categories into ‘To-do’, ‘Doing’ and ‘Done’ swimlanes, and watch your tasks move through designated stages. That way your to-do’s will never be pushed aside, as you will always be concentrating on getting the job done.

Polish appearances

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With hours spent hunched over our desks with no exposure to sunlight, our health as well as productivity can be significantly impacted. What better way to uplift your mood and to bring your tasks to life than by using visually attractive Cover Images to add a personal touch to your projects. The importance of visual imagery is crucial when striving to achieve high levels of organization and decision making. Research has shown that the human brain allows us to analyze an image in a very short snippet of time, along with its meaning and scenario. By making your tasks more personal to you, they’ll be more aesthetically pleasing, and we know that having something beautiful to look at can have a huge impact on your overall well-being.

Now that you’ve decorated and customized your tasks, it’s time to get them in order. The easier it is to store something, the more likely you are to put it in its place. It’s always a good idea to store similar tasks together, that way you’ll be able to locate tasks that share similar relationships without wasting any time. By Nesting Categories that share related attributes, you’ll create a structured hierarchy for your tasks, allowing you to spend less time searching as they’ll always have a defined place to call home.

Organize upcoming duties

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Organizing is a process of arranging and keeping things in order; a skill that can be utilized in all areas of life. But when trying to locate specific work is as straight forward as finding a needle in a haystack, tidying up our to-do’s is easier said than done. Studies show that the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching through messy papers, which adds stress and frustration to the workplace while reducing our concentration levels and stunting our creative thinking. When creating your project, define the structure in which you’re going to complete your to-do’s by using Dependencies. Visual arrows will be drawn on your Canvas, helping you to identify which direction to turn next. And by taking a practical approach towards assessing your next steps, you’ll be able to map out the structure of your work, paving the way to completion.

For some, dealing with clutter can cause negative stress, making us less able to complete tasks on schedule. If you’re looking to strengthen your organization skills and bring all of your tasks from across all projects together, then the DropTask built-in Calendar is the one for you. By assigning a Start and Due Date to each of your tasks, you’ll be able to toggle between when it’s set to begin and when its deadline is approaching. Instead of feeling overwhelmed when the end of season is forthcoming, you’ll remain confident with clear visibility into your upcoming schedule and the flexibility to make quick rearrangements if necessary.

Focus on what needs your attention

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President of ‘The Productivity Pro’, Laura Stack, claims ‘most people spend at least 30 minutes to an hour a day looking for things.’ And according to a Mckinsey report, employees spend 1.8 hours every day – totaling to 9.3 per week on average – gathering the information that they need. Surely there’s a more productive way to use our time? To save time searching through information to locate what you need, the Filter option in DropTask does it for you. Hone in by narrowing down your workload by filtering by Assignee, Effort, Importance, Tags or Attachments etc., and gain exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. By cutting back what’s in-front of you, tasks will be easy to locate for when you require them next.
With these four handy tips and your newly cleaned up and organized DropTask workspace, you’ll feel re-energized and rearing to get to work on your most productive season yet.

What are your top tips for spring cleaning your workload? Share them in the comments below!

Could remote working work for you?

remote-blog-headerLike it or lump it, remote working is having a moment right now. An outburst of cloud technologies and connectivity tools has made the ‘virtual team’ a reality, and we see workers from distant parts of the globe pulling together to meet common business goals. With more and more people opting to work from home or off-site, remote working is fast becoming a mainstay of the corporate domain.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of home workers in the UK has grown by 1.3 million since 1998, amounting to 13.9% of the nation’s workforce. While in the United States, Global Workplace Analytics reports that approximately 20–25% of workers operate remotely on some occasions, and 3.7 million people now work from home at least half the time.

The rise of remote working has become impossible to ignore. But, what makes it so popular?

Why work remotely?

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From an individual standpoint, the growing trend in remote working is undoubtedly positive, bringing greater flexibility in work hours, time saved on the daily commute and a better work-life balance. This is terrific news if you’re a parent juggling family responsibilities alongside a hefty workload. But what impact does it have on the average small to medium-sized enterprise? Quite a lot as it stands. Remote working can be a step in the right direction for many companies, offering a wealth of opportunities to cut costs while boosting the productivity of your team.

  • More talent – Remote working opens up a whole world of talent and you can hire the best and brightest people for the job, regardless of where they live.
  • Office savings – With fewer bods on-site, businesses can save on overheads such as rent, rates, lighting, heating, equipment and any other costs associated with running a physical workspace.
  • Enhanced productivity – Forget the idea that working from home equates to slacking off. In a recent survey by employee engagement firm TINYPulse, 91% of respondents said they were more productive when working remotely. When all that’s needed is a good internet connection, remote work makes it possible for people to choose when, where and how they work, so they’re motivated to hit maximum productivity.

Judging by these benefits, working remotely is working smartly and the traditional office may soon become a thing of the past. But it’s not all smooth sailing. For some organizations, the more flexibility that’s added, the more it can feel as if you’re losing control of your team. To get the most out of a remote workforce, you need a well-considered approach and the right tools for the job.

Here are 3 practical tips to make remote working work for you.

3 tips to make your remote team a success

1. Create connections

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Strong communication is vital for running a remote team, and in these digitally connected times there’s no reason why distance should pull people apart. Thanks to modern devices and apps, we no longer need to be sitting in the same room to touch base, share data or collaborate on projects. Whether your teammates choose to work from a home office, a local co-working space or a coffee house, make sure they have the communication tools they need to be productive.

With full mobility across multiple platforms – Windows, Mac OSX, iPhone and iPad – DropTask acts as a real-time communication channel for teams working online and easily overtakes email in the collaboration stakes. Project teams can target their interactions so that essential messages or files don’t get drowned in people’s inboxes, and individuals can quickly locate conversations without having to dig through an email chain that’s miles long. There’s no reason for freelancers and other ad-hoc workers to feel left out of team play either. They can stay in touch on the projects that concern them and keep close ties with the team from within one virtual workspace.

2. Fit in some Face-Time

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Encourage your distributed team to schedule frequent hangouts in their DropTask calendars – maybe weekly, fortnightly or monthly – so that everyone knows what the rest of the crew is working on and can offer each other support where needed. Regular video or phone conferences are great for connecting people and provide a valuable outlet for sharing issues or problems, ensuring no one in the team feels isolated or stuck. But remember that while technology is great, nothing beats face-time. It’s a fact that human beings work better together when they’re comfortable in each other’s company. Inviting your remote workers to ‘get personal’ via face-to-face meetings at the HQ or during fun, social activities will build camaraderie, and can make all the difference to team dynamics.

3. Keep tabs without losing trust

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One of the biggest fears among managers is that remote workers will ‘goof off’ if left to their own devices. This comes down to trust. Showing that you trust your virtual team is essential to making things work as it gives them the vote of confidence they need to be productive – but you still need to stay in the loop. Incessantly asking questions and checking up on people will only undermine trust, and so the best way to ensure people are doing what they’re supposed to is to keep a tight focus on results. Set concrete goals, deliverables and timelines, and if they aren’t met, follow up with your team members to find out why.

Using DropTask, you can track workflows and view progress across a remote team via an easy-to-read visual dashboard without having to constantly badger people for updates. There’s no need to stress about your team getting stuff done because you can easily keep tabs on what they’re up to, even when you’re on the go. DropTask’s phone, tablet and desktop apps all support offline capability, so changes are automatically synced whenever you’re out and about. By giving you ‘remote control’, DropTask is fully equipped to save your sanity as a manager and help you stay coordinated as a team, no matter where you all are.

Make DropTask your ‘virtual office’ and get the best out of your remote workforce. Available via the web and with native apps on Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone and iPad, it’s a multi-platform friendly tool for bringing your team together seamlessly. How do you make remote working work for you? Add your tips in the comments below.

How to fall back in love with your work with DropTask

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Research shows that 53% of US workers love their work, and happier workers are 12% more productive in the workplace. As a result, this leads to workers being healthier and more sociable within their job role. But, if only half of the population love their work then what’s happening to the other 47%? When it comes to how we feel about work, there are often three categories that workers fall under:

1. The ones that are totally devoted to what they do.
2. The ones who tolerate their job and are on a countdown until they’re reunited with the weekend.
3. The ones who are constantly searching for that one job that they can be passionate about.

If you’re reading this and you fall under number 2 or 3, it’s time to reevaluate. The workplace is where we spend most of our waking hours, so it’s crucial that we enjoy the time that we spend there.

Use DropTask to fall hopelessly back in love with your work and follow our simple steps to rekindle the spark that could make you a happier, healthier and more productive worker.

Revisit the first attraction
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‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’
Marc Anthony

Remember when you first started your current job? Just like in the initial stages of dating, you found each task and challenge placed in front of you exciting, and the thought of being granted responsibility made you weak at the knees. You’d even get up 2 hours earlier in the morning to prune and prepare for the day ahead. But now, three years down the line, rushing through the door is a frequent occurrence in your daily routine. When did things get so disorganized?

Take a step back to reflect on the positives in preparing for the day ahead, because the importance of daily and weekly planning plays a crucial part in how successful you are at work. Planning can reduce stress by a significant amount and gives you peace of mind that you have an action plan to work on. In DropTask, create Tasks for the priorities that need to be completed by the end of your day, and use the Assign feature to set that you’re accountable for their completion. Setting yourself up for the day ahead will not only increase your work ethic efficiency and drive you to hit specific goals, but it will also stand as a reminder of the bigger picture and why you fell head over heels with your job in the first place.

Enhance your relationships
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‘Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress; working together is success.’
Henry Ford

Maybe the word ‘love’ is not often heard uttered in the kitchen or the atrium of your workplace, but it has one of the biggest impacts on workplace performance. If you love the company and the colleagues that you’re spending your days with, you’ll naturally become more engaged and passionate about what you’re doing. To enhance your happiness at work, Collaborate with all members of your team and make an effort to bond with one another – after all, you do spend most of your day with these people.

Ensure you set aside time for lunch each day, break away from the desk, and make an effort to chat with your colleagues. Bonding with colleagues enriches the working day and as a result, keeps us energized and eager to produce more work. Use the Messaging feature to arrange a lunchtime date and use this time to offload, let your guard down and talk about anything but work. The latter half of your day is critical to your workplace performance and leaves a lasting impression on how you’ll approach your tasks for the following day. You’ll quickly realize that by taking an extra few minutes to reconnect with colleagues, you’ll be refreshed when returning to your desk and prepped to tackle your to-dos head on. You’ll then be able to leave the office in good spirits knowing that you’ve been a productive member of the team who has helped to move the project nearer to its completion.

Progress in an environment that you adore
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‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do.’
Steve Jobs

Your setting and workplace environment is a key factor in determining whether you’re going to be crazy in love with your work. Whether your preference is a quiet office or being in the center of a vibrant city, it’s important that your surroundings can nurture your growth and progression. If altering your work setting isn’t an option, take the opportunity to switch up your tasking environment. DropTask offers a visually engaging and refreshing approach to managing your day to day tasks and projects, and with notes, files and to-dos all in once place there’ll be no need to worry about falling back into old working habits because we’ll have you covered.

Having a visually appealing workspace with your tasks laid out in front of you will instantly uplift your mood, as you will be able to see who’s working on what, what’s in Progress and what has been Completed. With ‘Clean Desk Policies’ sweeping the nation, it’s said that employees who work at a clutter-free desk are more productive as it improves their efficiency when completing tasks. And as a result of boosting work-related performance, the ‘CDP’ also reduces work-related stress. Within DropTask, we’ve taken a similar approach with DropTask Workflow view that facilitates the flow of tasks as they progress effortlessly through stages within your project.  Tracking progress step-by-step is easy as each vertical swimlane can be divided into ‘to-do, doing and done’ sections, allowing you to keep a tight rein on your workload, so you can maintain focus on the to-dos that will contribute the most towards reaching your successful outcome.

Experiencing ups and downs with your job is completely normal, and in fact, is a continuous development point for maintaining a healthy relationship. Sometimes we just need a little perspective on how many hurdles we’ve overcome to get to where we are today. Dip into your Archived Projects to review your journey and the projects that you were first assigned to. Here, you’ll be able to reevaluate if there are any flaws in your path and feel optimistic about creating a positive and happy future ahead.

How do you get the most out of your working day? Let us know in the comments below.

The DropTask guide to popular productivity methods

We’re super fans of productivity here at DropTask, and we love exploring all the best possible ways to help you get more done, more efficiently. From GTD to tomato timers, there are multiple to-do methods out there. The challenge is figuring out which one/s work best for you.

In this post, we’ve rounded up 4 of the most popular, tried-and-tested productivity strategies, along with how to navigate them in DropTask. Take a look, try them out and find your best fit.

1. Getting Things Done (GTD)

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One of the most famous productivity techniques ever known is Getting Things Done (GTD), based on the best-selling book of the same name by productivity consultant David Allen. GTD promotes two key elements of task management – control and perspective. In a nutshell, it follows a process that turns your tasks into real, actionable items or things you can just get rid of.  Everything you keep has a clear reason for being in your life at any given moment – both now and well into the future.

With GTD, projects are different to tasks. A project represents a high-level outcome or result which involves multiple steps to achieve. A task represents the actions or steps needed to complete a project. In DropTask, you can break down your main Projects into separate Categories to reflect the type of tasks awaiting attention. Preferably, all your tasks should be organised by the place or context in which they can be done, or the set of tools available (e.g. @Office, @Calls, @Meetings, @Emails, @Home). You could also include a ‘Waiting For’ category for when an action has been delegated to someone else, or when you’re waiting for some external event before a project can be moved forward. A ‘Someday/Maybe’ category is also handy to store things to be done at some point, but not right now. In DropTask, you can use Tags to further clarify the context of your tasks and enable better Filtering, so you can work on targeted groups of actions at a time.

Once you’ve off-loaded what needs to get done from your head or inbox into DropTask, take an inventory to determine whether each item is actionable or not. If a task isn’t actionable, remove it from your project. If it is, consider whether you will:

  • Do it now (if takes less than 2 minutes)
  • Schedule it: Determine priorities and add Start/Due Dates so you can monitor the task in your Calendar.
  • Delegate it: Assign the task to to someone else.
  • Put it in the Someday/Maybe category (to be checked every month or so)

To keep things moving, engage in periodic reviews (at least once a week) to streamline and update your tasks, always focusing on the next logical actions. It takes a bit of setting up, but GTD is an ideal system for helping you pull everything together in an organized fashion so you can knock out tasks quickly.

2. Pomodoro/Sprints

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The Pomodoro technique is based on the idea of work sprints combined with short, frequent breaks to maximize focus while preventing burnout. Francesco Cirillo, the inventor of the method, originally used a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato to set time increments for working on tasks (pomodoro is Italian for tomato in case you didn’t know!). With Pomodoro, you do a concentrated burst of work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, and then repeat the process until you’ve completed 4 sprints. After each 4-sprint cycle (which represents one ‘Pomodoro’), you take a longer break (say half an hour) to stretch your legs, grab a snack and recharge. It really is that simple. If you want to try this in DropTask, we recommend breaking down larger tasks into a smaller number of digestible subtasks that can be performed within 25-minute blocks. Create a Checklist of tasks and work through it using the segmented Pomodoro process, making sure to protect your time from any and all interruptions.

3. Kanban

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Kanban is a highly visual method that facilitates the flow of tasks across one project board (a ‘Kanban’). It’s great for keeping the big picture in sight as you can clearly see what you have to do right now, what’s coming up and what you’ve just completed. A versatile technique, Kanban is enormously helpful for tracking projects as they cycle through defined stages, such as the Auditing process – ‘Planning’, ‘Assessment’, ‘Reporting’, ‘Follow-up’. DropTask’s new Workflow View enables full-blown Kanban-style productivity. All your tasks are clearly organized in vertical swimlanes that are easy to switch between, keeping you in full control as you progress from ‘Do’ and ‘Doing’ to ‘Done’. The clear sequential structure of DropTask’s Workflow Board helps you keep a tight rein on your ‘work in progress’, so you never take on more than you can chew at any one time. For more info on how to Kanban with Droptask, check out this earlier blog post.

4. The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Urgent/Important Matrix is another visual approach that makes prioritization simple. Famously referenced by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this technique divides your tasks into four quadrants along an XY axis, based on their level of Urgency and/or Importance.
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Examining your work in this way helps you plan and prioritize around your most important, high-value (but not necessarily urgent!) tasks – so they don’t get crowded out by pointless busywork or sudden distractions. Getting extra training or updating your LinkedIn profile might not be pressing requirements right now, but they’ll no doubt be of benefit to your career in the longer term. With the Eisenhower Matrix, you get a better grasp of which tasks need to be done right away, which ones can be put off or ignored, and which ones can be delegated to someone else. This concept can be easily executed in DropTask using the Urgency and Importance attributes. You can set the level of urgency for tasks using 4 values (low to very high) to best determine those that require immediate attention. Color-coded flags denoting importance from low (blue flag) to very high (red flag) will help you identify all your most critical tasks with a single glance.

How do you find these techniques? Do you have any favorite productivity systems we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below. If you’d like some help with implementing any of these methods in DropTask, email us at support@droptask.com and we’ll do all we can to assist. 

Fed up with your idle projects? Learn how to finish what you started

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Are you in the habit of starting projects, but not finishing them? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many of us are fast to get new projects into motion – a screenplay, a product, a new craft, a business idea or home improvements. We like ‘starting things’ because it makes us feel amped up, entrepreneurial and productive. But, completing them is another matter.

There are plenty of reasons why we lose that initial enthusiasm for our projects and hit the pause button mid-way, be they running out of cash, failure to plan effectively, stumbling on a roadblock, lack of commitment, or reaching a plateau. Rather than abandoning a project altogether, we leave it on the backburner week after week, month after month, anticipating that we’ll get around to wrapping it up at some point.

Every project sitting idle signifies wasted time, energy and resources, and sucks up far too much mental space. It could be a small task, an ongoing work project or something even bigger, like a lifelong passion. Whatever you have that’s undone, it won’t magically get finished without you taking action.

We’ve devised 4 simple hacks to help you see your projects through from beginning to end. Read on and get moving…

1. Be picky

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Before doing anything, take a look at all your unfinished projects and identify which ones are actually worth concluding. Which assignments have the tightest deadlines? Which ones are almost done? What about that never-ending work proposal that’s been going on forever? Remember that dream goal you got started on? Is it still something you care about and want to pursue? Decide which projects you want to finish first. Ranking your projects makes it clear what’s number 1 on your agenda and helps in fueling your motivation to go from one completed activity to the next.

Give your top priority project the go-ahead by forming a basic structure for it in DropTask. First, create a new Project to house all your to-dos. Inside that project, create color-coded Categories for grouping your micro responsibilities and tasks. For instance, you can organize your categories by project stages or themes, such as ‘Ideas’, ‘Research’, ‘Budgeting’, ‘Events’, ‘Marketing’ and so on.

2. Plan your actions in detail

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To get and stay organized, make sure you have a system for action planning. Having set up all your project categories in DropTask, create specific action steps in the form of Tasks to begin the process of making the project a reality. Without clear steps, you might find yourself stumbling around, not knowing which course to follow to achieve your desired results. Your tasks can be anything you need to do or any piece of work you need to produce to fulfil key aspects of your project – ‘Write cover copy’, ‘Commission artwork’, ‘Create webpage’ and so on. You can assign each task a Start and Due Date, and an owner (if you’re working with others). For each task, make sure you prepare, copy, link to or attach any notes or files you might need. If you have a series of tasks that depend on one another, set them up as Dependencies so you can clearly see how they link together in the correct sequence. The tighter your plan, the easier it will be to stick to it without getting sidetracked.

3. Eat a frog first thing

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“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain. This entertaining quote contains powerful productivity advice. For any project you’re working on, there are tasks that are more important than others. The frog is the biggest, ugliest and hardest task on your plate – it’s the one that puts the most pressure on you because of its significance. Consequently, it’s also the task that you’re most likely to avoid in favor of crossing off the easier 3rd, 4th or 5th items in your to-dos.

But here’s the tip. If you aim to wolf down your giant task ASAP each day, then the rest of your work will be a piece of cake in comparison. According to behavioral scientists, willpower tends to be higher earlier in the day. Prioritizing your toughest task first means you’ll be able to apply your best energy and effort to it before ‘decision fatigue’ kicks in. Specify your frogs by setting Importance, Urgency and Effort attributes for your tasks in DropTask, and switch to Project List View to pull up a list of your most urgent ‘do now’ jobs each day. Eating the frog won’t be pleasant, but steeling yourself to do it allows you to make long strides in achieving your major goal and will nip chronic procrastination in the bud. You might not enjoy the taste, but you’ll love the buzz of accomplishment that comes after.

4. Stay committed to the end

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Maintain momentum on your project by checking in daily, weekly or monthly. We all know what it feels like to start a project all hyped up and full of zest, only to have our enthusiasm fade away once we’re in the thick of things. It’s worth reminding yourself regularly that every little bit you do now counts toward your end vision. Use DropTask’s Workflow View to visually map the development of your project from start to finish, while keeping your eyes firmly on the main prize.  Mark your progress on each task using the Progress Percentage bar, and look over your current achievements in the Completed Tasks View. Monitoring your actions makes you accountable to your final goal and helps you stay on top. DropTask’s Daily Summary Email will notify you of which deadlines are coming up and what tasks are overdue, making tracking effortless on your part. If need be, reschedule or reset any dates against your target, and set Reminders to keep you chipping away at those tasks. Persevere and it won’t be too long before you’re celebrating project success.

What’s on your finish list? Do you have any of your own methods for putting projects to bed? Tell us all about them in the comments below.

Planning your new projects

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7 Steps to getting started with DropTask

A new year often brings exciting new initiatives. But when it comes to planning your upcoming projects, it can be hard to know exactly where to begin. Whether you’re launching a new website, devising a training course or hosting an event, you’ll no doubt need a clear project plan to help you stay on track to reach your goals. A good project plan will outline your key steps, deliverables and the team members involved in the project, keeping everything organized in one place.

Today, we want to show you how DropTask can become your go-to tool for managing just about any type of project – big or small, work or home. A beautifully fluid interface hides an incredibly powerful feature set for project management, and mobile app availability makes it easy for you to stay on top of your tasks while on the go.

Let’s start with the basics – creating your first project. Follow these 7 simple steps to design a foolproof project plan and move forward with confidence.

Step 1: Start a Project

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Create a fresh Project by clicking the ‘+ Create Project’ tab under the Menu. Give it a title. Your project can be literally anything! Teachers can create projects for each class or module they teach, product developers can create projects for each new launch they work on, bloggers can create projects to manage their publishing calendar and freelance contractors can create a project for each client.

With DropTask, you can share your project with family, friends or colleagues who will be working with you. Invite them by inputting their email addresses or via Google contacts.

Once you’ve done this, a blank Canvas will open up, all ready and waiting for you to start setting up your project.

Step 2: Define Project Categories

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Categories are an important part of your project, representing topics, goals, stages or job operations. They help to divide your project into more manageable sections. For example, useful categories for your Market Research project may include ‘Online Surveys’, ‘Focus Groups’, ‘Interviews’, ‘Field Experiments’, etc.

Add a category in DropTask by simply dragging the Category bubble from the top navigation bar and ‘dropping’ it onto your Canvas. Assign a color to your category to act as a ‘code’ for increased organization.

Step 3: Plan your Tasks

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Within each Category, map out your key tasks based on the deliverables you need to produce in order to meet the project’s goals. What are the specific action steps you’re expected to complete? If you run a business club, your ‘Quarterly Event’ category might include tasks such as include ‘Organize Catering’, ‘Send Out Invitations’, ‘Prepare Presentation’, etc. To add a Task, click on the Task bubble from the top navigation bar and drag it to the appropriate category. At any time, you can move or re-position your task on your Canvas or place it into different categories via drag and drop.
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Use the ‘Add Notes’ option in the Task Sidebar to include any comments or details you think are important to complete the task (e.g. client contact information, an outline of instructions), and upload task-related Files (documents, spreadsheets, photos) using the Paperclip icon to collate all your content neatly.
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For each task, determine who will be responsible for its completion. To Assign a task to someone – i.e. yourself, a team member, or multiple people – select your chosen member from the ‘Members’ panel on the left-hand side, and drag and drop them onto your task. Or use the dropdown menu available in the Task Sidebar. To collaborate, use the @ symbol in front of a person’s name when leaving a Comment for their attention. This will notify them directly in their dashboard and via email.
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Once your categories are filled with tasks, identify any Dependencies. Do certain tasks need to be completed before you can make a start on others? Use DropTask to define the order in which a series of tasks must be actioned. Drag and drop the ‘first’ task onto its dependent. An arrow will then appear representing the link between the two tasks. Being able to visualize task connections in this way is invaluable for keeping track of your project workflow.

Step 4: Set Start and Due Dates

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Next, estimate Start and Due Dates for each action step or deliverable in your project plan. Simply select a task to open up the Task Sidebar, then select ‘Start’ or ‘Due’ situated next to the Calendar icon. A date picker will pop up for you to choose your start or due date. Once dates are set, your tasks will be automatically recorded in your Calendar, helping you manage your time effectively to meet your deadlines. As well as one-off dates, you can set timescales on a recurring basis for Repeating Tasks. When selecting a due date for your task, you can opt to repeat it every day, week, month or year. Your repeating schedule will be visible under the ‘Due’ date in the Task Sidebar and the task will be repeated in your Calendar according to the frequency you have selected.

To add even more power to your time management, you can set Task Reminders from under the ‘Alarm’ icon in the Task Sidebar. You also have the option to include an additional note to prompt you on what you need to do when alerted. Staying on track has never been so easy!

Step 5: Prioritize Tasks

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Once you have all your tasks in front of you, prioritize them by setting Importance and Urgency attributes. In the hurly-burly of the workday, it’s easy to let your biggest tasks get crowded out by emails, meetings and other small, pressing errands. Identifying your most important tasks beforehand allows you to focus your attention on where you’ll have the greatest impact. In DropTask, you can assign various levels of Importance to your tasks, which are visually highlighted on your Canvas workspace by different colored flags. First, select a task to open up the Task Sidebar. Next to the ‘Flag’ icon, you have the option to choose from one of four priority settings – Blue (low importance), Gray (normal importance), Amber (high importance) or Red (very high importance).

To rank your tasks according to Urgency, find the ‘Urgency’ icon in the Task Sidebar and select a corresponding color – Blue (low urgency), Gray (medium urgency), Amber (high urgency) or Red (very high urgency). A colored lightning bolt will appear in the task circle, drawing your attention to the most time-sensitive tasks on your Canvas. Your most urgent tasks will also appear at the top of your task list in List View.

Step 6: Mark your Progress

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As you work your way through your project tasks, keep track of how things are progressing with DropTask’s Progress Percentage Bar.  Click on a task to open up the Task Sidebar. Near the top, you’ll find the progress bar. Simply move the progress slider along the bar to record the percentage of the task that’s been completed. This allows you to visually monitor your activity and offers a quick boost to your motivation, keeping you forging ahead. Once a task is complete, just tap the ‘Tick’ button at the end of the bar to automatically slide it to 100%.

DropTask stores all your completed tasks in the Completed Tasks view, where you can see all the tasks that have been removed from your active Canvas and Calendar after completion. There are two options for viewing your completed tasks: Project Completed Tasks (via the ‘Completed’ button on the top-right hand side of the screen within your project), and All Completed Tasks (by selecting ‘Completed’ from under the Menu.

Step 7: Finish up

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So, you made it! Your project’s all done and you can revel in your success. But wait! Instead of deleting your project and forgetting all about it, Archive it in DropTask. This clears up space so you can focus on your newest projects, while still keeping a full history of what you’ve done before that you can refer back to whenever needed. To archive a project that no longer requires auctioning, select the ‘Cog’ icon situated on the right-hand side of the top navigation bar. A pop-up window will open up, which includes an ‘Archived’ option. Click ‘Yes’ next to this to safely store your project. You’ll be able to view it again under the ‘Archived Projects’ section in the main Menu.

What are you waiting for? With these quick start tips, you have the basic structure you need to launch your next project. Already using DropTask for project management? Then let us know how you go about it in the comments below. 

For more info on how each feature works, head over to the DropTask Help Hub or contact us directly at support@droptask.com.

Do things differently in 2017

5 unusual productivity hacks that get results

Each January, masses of us set the same old New Year’s resolutions for what we want to achieve and how we want to work during the months ahead. And year after year, we rely on a standard set of productivity tips and tricks to drive us on our self-improvement journey. But research by leadership development author Kevin Kruse shows that the most productive people – whether entrepreneurs, students or Olympic athletes – tend to do things differently. Making the effort to approach your work in new ways puts you in a more experimental frame of mind, so you can discover and develop more positive habits to get the most out of your days.

Instead of following the crowd, why not consider quirky or unconventional ways to kick off a productive 2017? To help you out, we asked the DropTask team how they like to do things ‘out of the box’. Here’s a round-up of their weird and wonderful advice.

1. Count to 7 – Gareth, Head of Creative Media

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When compiling my to-dos, I try to think in ‘sevens’. There’s a very good reason that the most famous lists ever recorded consist of seven items – the 7 habits of highly effective people, the seven sins, the seven wonders of the world. It’s a good number for our brains to handle, as it’s well known that the human working memory can only hold about seven pieces of information at a time. Faced with more than that, we can become overwhelmed into inaction rather than taking action. So, for every project I’m working on, I’ll set down a maximum of seven tasks or milestones to make it appear manageable. That way I find it much easier to stay motivated towards my bigger goals, without stressing out.

2. Go mobile – Yogi, Head of Marketing

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Like most office workers, I spend most of my days sitting down at a desk. But long periods in my chair can cause my work rate to slow down and I become sleepy or achy. When this happens, I switch my work location by going to visit a colleague in another office or doing simple tasks on my phone or iPad while standing or moving about. At DropTask HQ we have standing desks, where you readjust your desk to a height that allows you to do your work standing up. This helps you avoid staying in one posture for too long and prevents your body and mind from getting sluggish. Worth a try if you ask me!

3. Hide your to-dos – Rowanne, Marketing Executive

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You might think it’s a good idea to leave your files and papers out on your desk, as a visible reminder of what you need to do. Or to keep your inbox and ‘work-in-progress’ documents open on your computer so you can access them quickly. But all this does is create a messy work environment – both physically and mentally – which can be an obstacle to getting stuff done. I like to take control of my workspace by tidying my desk every day and putting away my to-dos until I’m ready to work on them. And every week I take time to organize and clean out my digital stuff as well, including emails and apps. With my DropTask projects, I can stay focused on what’s relevant right now by simply Collapsing Categories, hiding any less critical errands and information. This gives me a stronger sense of control as I can avoid getting distracted while working on a high-priority task, but can quickly retrieve all my to-dos when the time is right.

4. Have a moan – Kevin, Lead Software Developer

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I’m not saying that it’s good to be a ‘Negative Nancy’. We all know that constant complaining and whining can be detrimental in the workplace. But if there’s genuinely something that’s preventing you or others from being productive, then it’s important to raise it as an issue. For example, if you’ve got a beef about a certain procedure that’s impacting on your decision making or performance, then you should complain about it – but in a constructive way. Stay away from personal judgments about who’s to blame and focus on finding solutions for positive change. This prevents resentment building up and opens the door to discussion on new, productive action for everyone to work better together.

5. Don’t manage your time – Ben, Developer

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There’s no denying that the modern work environment carries a high risk of burnout, what with working longer hours to combat overflowing in-trays, data being thrown at us non-stop and the immediacy of communication technologies. Often, we try to take control of these demands through time management methods that help us squeeze more into our day, cramming our calendars to the brim. The problem with this approach is that time is not renewable. However, energy is. You can’t add more hours to the day, but you can manage your energy to improve your concentration and focus to achieve important outcomes rather than mindlessly running through your tasks like a robot. My productivity plummets after a stretch of time and I get tired and foggy. For most of us, this happens after 90–120 minutes (known as our ultradian rhythms). Instead of trying to push through the slump, I break down my day into 90-minute ‘work sprints’. Following each 90-minute session, I take a break for 15–20 minutes to go for a short walk, listen to uplifting music or grab a snack. This helps to disengage my mind so I can completely refuel, before heading back refreshed for the next 90-minute work cycle.

What unusual or offbeat productivity strategies have you found effective? Share your experiences in the comments below.

How DropTask helped ‘Storyminers’ to complete one of their most complex projects of 2016

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Mike Wittenstein runs one of the world’s first experience design firms, ‘Storyminers’. He and his teams have helped over 700 companies in 25 countries. Here’s how DropTask for Business has helped him.
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In his own workplace, Mike was fed up with a disorganized amount of messy papers that landed on his desk when new client work started. Reminders, tasks for others, copy points, strategy notes, and other ideas seemed to be floating everywhere. The proper communication of key actions to others sometimes slipped. Then, he stumbled across DropTask, which helped him to organize and track the company’s entire workload in one productive workspace.

One morning I found myself at my desk with several piles of papers over an inch thick, with each stack and page mixed up within a disorderly pile which was getting me down. I needed to convert all of the information on the pages into my new Business/Marketing Plan for the New Year, but I just couldn’t get the information to flow into the new picture of the way that I wanted things to work. The problem I had was that the picture was in my head, and no-one else could visually understand the way I wanted the company to progress forward.

Then I came across DropTask. As soon as I created my first project, I felt more in control. I had all of the tools that I needed to work quickly and think nimbly. DropTask comfortably shaped itself around my working needs, and its visual nature of displaying tasks as circles showed me that it was different from other tools on the market. No matter when or where my ideas came to me, I could instantly input them into DropTask and watch them come to life as the new business model took shape. The ability to nest categories within one another made it easy to share the relationship each idea had with others on my team and let me quickly assess where my time needed to be spent.

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We also use DropTask to plan new accounts. Typically, the work begins in the Canvas view where all of our tasks are displayed as engaging circles which are easily accessible by using the drag-and-drop feature. Initially, we use this view to code everyone’s ideas in real-time. If members are having a 1:1 conversation, they simply use the ‘@’ icon, which notifies one another that they’ve been mentioned in a comment. As a team, we view the entirety of the year’s project, including its minor details, by zooming in and out of the Canvas, giving us the bigger picture of who’s working on what and what is yet to be completed.

‘It feels like we’re all on the same page, because we literally are!’

We have planned one of 2016’s most complex projects in DropTask for Business, including one of our key workshops, the ‘Reason for Being’. This workshop is part of the work that we do to help our clients to understand, in one sentence, whom they serve and what their value is to their clients. It sounds easy but it’s really hard work. Now, thanks to DropTask, it’s faster and easier. Using DropTask has helped us reduce the time that it takes to work on these workshops by 50%. It adds much needed simplicity to the planning process and allows us to quickly add information to our projects without losing any detail – something that we frequently experienced when we were limited to voice notes.
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Seeing in real-time where each key thought lands on the Canvas for our new 2016 business model helped us to pull all loose ends together and form a strategy which the entire team was able to understand. There’s something special that happens when you connect your thoughts in your head and share them on screen; It not only creates a lasting association which makes it easier to remember what order you need to act upon tasks, it also helps improve everyone’s understanding of the connections between tasks.
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With the help of DropTask for Business, we now share all of our ideas in one creative space, communicate with one another, edit task progress and assign ownerships, all before transporting our finished Project into iMindMap, in preparation for our next meeting with our clients. Now, team members and I can share the same context about work because DropTask for Business simplifies the whole process of planning, managing, and getting projects across the finish line.

To learn more, sign up for free at www.droptask.com/signup

Already a DropTask user? Share your story with us at contact@droptask.com for your chance to be featured in a future post!

How to stay productive over the festive season

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It’s coming up to that special time of year – the mince pies are out, cheesy Christmas tunes are blaring and everyone’s full of festive cheer. But with a relaxed vibe permeating the workplace, the winter season can end up being a productivity black hole. Minds drift to gift shopping, travel planning and holiday entertaining, and focusing on your work to-dos and deliverables is trickier than ever! It’s no surprise that lots of businesses opt to put decisions and new projects off until the new year.

How can you keep your productivity (as well as your festivity) on a high as the holiday season takes hold? We’ve put together a list of 4 ways to help you and your team dodge the end of year workflow ‘dip’ without dampening the Christmas spirit.

1. Get a head-start on year-end projects

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When it comes to end of year productivity, good planning is key. Start working on your upcoming projects earlier than you need to so you’re ahead of target when the Christmas chaos hits full swing. Do some brainstorming, prepare content, plan your milestones or set the wheels in motion to bring in new clients. In DropTask, create Templates for projects that will require similar actions, such as events, and you won’t have to start from scratch each time. While you’re getting organized, why not Archive any completed projects so that they don’t distract you from your new focus? With fewer to-dos on your plate later in the season, you’ll be able to eat, drink and be merry at office parties and social gatherings minus the guilt.

2. Don’t over-commit

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During December, the boundaries of work and leisure can start to blur quickly as people get into the holiday spirit, and colleagues won’t be as inclined to stay late and work overtime. Make sure you have realistic expectations of what you and your team can achieve in this period. Aim to prioritize any critical tasks during the first half of the month and don’t schedule any important meetings for the last two weeks if you can manage without them. You may have to say no to some obligations in order to meet your most important deadlines without overfilling your calendar (or losing your sanity!). Use DropTask’s Task Importance feature to keep sight of your main goals and wrap up the year in style.

3. Catch some winter rays

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When all the holiday pressure starts to get on top of you, take a break outside to get some daylight before the sun makes its customary 4pm disappearance. Lack of sunshine in wintertime can lead to lower energy levels and alertness, making you less productive. Seek out the sun to nourish your body and mind, or use a sun lamp at your desk to simulate the effects of natural light. This will give you a chance to refresh and recharge your batteries before jumping back into the fray.

4. Spread Christmas cheer

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Never underestimate the value of creating a fun and festive atmosphere in the workplace. Holiday decorations, Secret Santa, ugly Christmas sweaters and tasty treats might seem a bit childish, but they work wonders for morale, demonstrating that you care for your team members and want them to enjoy themselves. Try planning amusing games and contests for your workers to unwind and bond, such as a ‘decorate your space’ or most creative out-of-office holiday auto reply competition, or even a surprise visit from Father Christmas. Recognition through small gifts and rewards (gift cards, sports tickets, time off) can also go a long way in motivating people and making them feel valued. In a Workforce Mood Tracker survey conducted by Globoforce, 86% of workers say that being recognized motivates them to work harder in their jobs. So, no matter what, don’t forget to thank everyone for their year-round efforts in helping to make your business successful.

How do you and your team stay on the ball at work during the hectic holiday season? Share your festive productivity tips in the comments below.