Staying productive during the Holiday season

Ah, Christmas time is finally here. We can hear the sleigh bell rings and we’re excited to go for long walks in the glistening snow while the turkey roasts in the oven. Here’s hoping you have a lovely holiday season with your friends and family, filled with precious moments, delightful food and plenty of time to rest.

If you’re like us, however, you’re probably going to find it difficult to unplug for several days in a row. Watching Christmas movies in your PJs all day is certainly fun, but we personally can’t help it, we just have to check our inbox every now and then!

So we have a compromise for you – how about you get some things done, in a way that won’t even feel like work? Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your downtime. Prep yourself for a productive 2014!

Look back on your year – learn from your successes and mistakes

Take some time to think and reflect on your entire year. What are you most proud of? What did you fail to accomplish? What did you learn? Take out some pen and paper, and start writing: list your top 3 mistakes, quickly followed by your top 3 successes.

Lists are good

You can be as detailed or as succinct as you wish. Just ensure that you identify what mattered the most to you professionally in 2013. Once your list is done, go through each and every single point, and highlight the links between your mistakes and your successes.

Then, list what you have learned since. How you could have avoided those mistakes and turned your luck around? Did they contribute to your proudest accomplishments? How could you do better in 2014? Remember, you can learn as much from failure as you can from success. And if you make an effort to understand what went wrong and why, you’ll grow as a person and become a better version of yourself.

If you have plenty of free time on your hands, we suggest you watch these TED talks about learning from failure. You can never be too wise about turning defeats into small victories. After all, as CS Lewis once said, failures are “finger posts on the road to achievement” – they’re stepping stones on your path to greatness!

Tidy up your inbox

Ah, the mythical inbox zero. We all dream of achieving it, but our plans usually derail after one day, let alone an entire week!

Emails everywhere!

Well, how about you use the opportunity of a quieter week away from the office to sort through it all?

The problem is, most solutions on the web are meant to be one-size-fits-all, yet we’re all unique when it comes to email management. Your needs and habits are different from your colleagues, your friends, your kids… so instead, we’d like to share some tips to help you prioritize and achieve a more orderly inbox. If you can keep it up, it’ll increase the efficiency of your workflow and (possibly) spare you a few headaches this upcoming year!

Don’t be afraid to use labels (or folders)

Email doesn’t have to sit in your inbox forever; sort your newsletters, organize your customer communications and label whatever is important so that you can find it quickly if the need arises.

The archive button is your best friend

Does that company report from last quarter need to sit in your inbox right this moment? And that email you got from your supplier last June? Yeah, probably not.

If you hate to delete emails because you’re afraid you might need them one day, just archive them. They will still be searchable in most email clients, but will not clog up your inbox. Keep only what you still need to act upon, and archive everything else. Say goodbye to inbox infinity!

Use alternate email clients

Perhaps Outlook or Mail are simply not working for you. There are leaner, simpler solutions available to suit your needs. Or perhaps you need a mail client that is packed with features? There are endless options available nowadays – just do a quick search on the subject and we bet you’ll find something you’ll like.

Our personal favourites are the Thunderbird client for Windows, and the Airmail app for Mac. Give them a try!

Find some useful apps to cut through the noise

If you need more extreme solutions to sort through your emails, don’t fret – we have a few apps that might do the trick!

  • Mailbox: they say it’s “modern tech for an ancient medium”. Snooze emails and make your way to inbox zero with this powerful tool.

  • an email management tool that helps you keep track of your subscriptions and easily get rid of the junk.

  • Taper: keep only five messages in your inbox at all times. Achieve “email zen”!

  • Triage: it’s “first aid for your inbox”! Flick through your mail to keep, delete and archive effortlessly.

Improve your business knowledge and share your learnings with your team

Instead of fighting the crowds during Boxing Day, why not take the day off, stay home and read a bunch of interesting articles? You could also swing by the local library or bookstore and buy a book or two to keep you company while you spend your days relaxing by the fire.

Even Santa does it!

If you’re like us, you’ve probably bookmarked a bunch of articles (or saved them to Crowdbase, ha!) that you didn’t take the time to read or fully appreciate over the past year. Now that you’re not running from one meeting to another or struggling to keep up with client emails and conference calls, it’s time to revisit these stories and write-ups. Read them carefully, highlight what matters and share these nuggets of wisdom with your team! Why not use that opportunity to make everyone smarter in 2014! :)

Most business news websites have already published their best-of lists for the year – that’s always a good place to start. Otherwise, you can always browse through some of our favourite websites: Forbes, Business Insider, Mashable, Medium and Harvard Business Review.

We’ve also stumbled upon a couple of best business books of the year lists. Have a quick look!

Enjoy the most wonderful time of the year

We hope these suggestions will help you get ready for the new year. There is so much more you can do to prepare for an amazing 2014. Make lists of tasks that you wish to accomplish in the upcoming year and start tackling them now! Target who you want to contact when you come back to the office and draft out a few talking points. Set some goals and try to imagine how best to achieve them. It’s never too early to start planning for the new year!

But most importantly, treasure the holiday season and spend some precious time with the people who are dearest to your heart. It only comes once a year after all – so make it count!

Happy Holidays!The whole Crowdbase team wishes you very happy holidays and a delightful New Year!

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