TIME apps

Android Users, Rejoice: Microsoft Office Is Finally Here

Office for Android
Microsoft Office for Android

Word, Excel and PowerPoint are all free to download

Microsoft removed the “preview” label from its Office apps for Android smartphones on Wednesday, declaring the latest release of its productivity suite officially ready for prime time.

The announcement comes five weeks after Microsoft released the apps in preview mode to Android users, in a sort of public beta test that spanned 83 countries and 1,900 different Android phone models.

“We heard from thousands of these users,” Microsoft corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer wrote in a public statement, “and over the last few weeks we were able to incorporate a lot of their feedback into the apps we’re launching today.”

The current release won’t work across every last Android device, particularly older models with tight memory constraints. But the vast majority of Android users can now download mobile versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for free from the Google Play store.

TIME Careers & Workplace

The Remarkable Power of Doing Absolutely Nothing

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Sometimes you can accomplish more by doing less — far less

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When was the last time you took a moment to breathe? Can you recall the last time you felt well rested? Or had a day to do absolutely nothing?

Sadly, most people can’t.

Now, more than ever, people fill their schedules to the brim with tasks that feel so necessary in the moment but which, in reality, are so trivial. They make to-do lists that run miles long, packing them with reminders to get an important assignment done at work, call the hair salon for an appointment, buy some groceries on the way home, and so on.

You tell yourself that you constantly take on a plethora of activities in order to improve your life. It makes sense to take on a second job, to join another club at school, and to help out every family member on Saturday even if you haven’t had the time in your schedule to sleep eight full hours in months.

It’s much easier to do almost anything incessantly than to spend time doing nothing.

What people don’t realize is this: Doing nothing gives you the chance to grow. Being alone without obligation–without the nagging feeling that you’re doing less than you should–allows you to look inward. Without an activity to distract your mind, you must think about yourself.

The famous financier J.P. Morgan used to insist on taking two months off every year. “I can get done in 10 months what I could never do in 12,” he used to say.

It seems that the secret to success in business and in life is actually in finding the ability to be comfortable just being.

Many companies today–including Apple, Google, Nike, and AOL Time Warner–offer employees a variety of programs to help them find a healthy headspace, from meditation to yoga to stress reduction.

When you have the time to think about yourself, you will inevitably return to your obligations refreshed and work calmly and exponentially more productively.

Questioning your daily activities forces you to reevaluate where you are in life, and most important, why you do everything you do. If you have the time to remind yourself why you are passionate about your work, you will–without question–be able to improve your performance.

Take a step back from being overwhelmed, take a deep breath, and take the time to reach your full potential.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

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How to Track Down Anyone’s Email Address Using Your Gmail

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Use the guess-and-verify technique

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Most of us associate networking with industry events, shaking hands with a friend of a friend of a former co-worker, and grabbing coffee with someone you’d like to get to know better. But it’s 2015, and building a relationship can happen just as easily through email. And, yes, I’m talking about the slightly nerve-racking, but potentially very rewarding, act of sending cold emails to professionals you don’t personally know.

Taking the initiative to message influential people in your industry can reap huge benefits. You can ask for advice based on their career path, secure partnerships for your company or side project, or eventually even get a foot in the door with someone who works at your dream company.

No matter what your request is, however, there’s no way to make it unless you have this person’s email. That’s why I’ve used—and will share with you—the guess-and-verify strategy that has helped me find and connect with successful entrepreneurs like Mashable’s CEO, Spoon University’s founders, and Arianna Huffington.

I will say upfront, though, that this strategy usually doesn’t work if you’re trying to contact someone who’s Beyoncé-level famous, or if his or her email is arranged in an uncommon format (more on this later). (Also, the app required for this technique is currently made only for Gmail.)

With that said, I’ve used this strategy for two years now, and it has worked more than 90% of the time. Follow these simple steps and you, too, can contact the inspiring professionals you’ve been dying to connect with.

Your first task is to download Rapportive, an extension that shows you everything you need to know about your contacts. Once it’s downloaded, you can start guessing possible formats for the contact’s email address.

To do this, you only have to know the contact’s full name and company domain. With this information, you can arrange (and re-arrange) these elements until you find a real email address.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re trying to connect with Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram.

Here are some potential arrangements for his email. (Pro tip: The larger the company, the higher the chances that the email will use both the first and last name.)

  • kevin@instagram.com
  • kevins@instagram.com
  • ksystrom@instagram.com
  • kevinsystrom@instagram.com
  • kevin.systrom@instagram.com
  • k.systrom@instagram.com

With these guesses in mind, you can start the verification process. Open up a new message in Gmail, and insert a potential email address in the recipient slot. If your contact’s LinkedIn profile shows up to the right—congratulations! The email you guessed is active, and you can move on to messaging him or her.

Kat Moon—The Muse

And how can you tell if you’ve inserted an incorrect email? Let’s suppose that I guessed ksystrom@instagram.com and pasted that in. As you can see in the below image, nothing appeared in Rapportive—meaning I can eliminate that address from my list.

Kat Moon—The Muse

Now, not every company’s domain is as straightforward as @instagram.com. If you can’t verify a contact’s email after trying different first and last name arrangements, it’s possible that you don’t have the correct company domain.

When this happens, I go to CrunchBase—the world’s most comprehensive dataset of company activity, covering every organization from Microsoft and Amazon to the newest startups. CrunchBase gives you the most updated domain of whichever company your contact works at. For instance, I had to contact the founder of London-based startup Deliveroo. All of my email guesses ended with @deliveroo.com, but CrunchBase showed me the company domain is actually @deliveroo.co.uk. Sure enough, I verified the correct contact information moments later.

Guess and verify with Rapportive—it’s really as simple as that! Once you have an inspiring professional’s email, be bold and reach out. But before shooting off your message, check out my piece on effective elements that will increase the chances of your cold email getting a reply. No, you probably won’t receive a response for every single email you send. But you know what they say—you’ll never know until you try.

This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article above was originally published on The Muse.

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10 Business Leaders on Creating a Productive Lifestyle

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Set one priority for the day

Productivity tips come in all shapes and sizes.

Just look at Warren Buffett, a man considered one of the best investors in the history of human civilization. But what might be more impressive than his track record is his schedule. It is the exact opposite of what you’d expect out of the CEO of a $350 billion company. It has been reported that he generally reads for 80 percent of his day and spends the rest having one-on-one conversations with long-time friends who happen to be CEOs of the companies that Berkshire owns, according to the book The Outsiders. This has been his schedule for decades.

Warren avoids investor events, industry conferences and other activities that take up the time of most CEOs, according to the book. Instead he’s created a lifestyle where he can focus on what he does best and loves to do, control his schedule and work with people he respects and admires.

But this regimen doesn’t work for everyone. So I interviewed 10 leaders and asked them how they stay productive.


1. Create a checklist for decision-making matters

It’s very easy to accidentally overcommit. Our brain wiring causes us to have trouble remembering all of our commitments or perceiving how long tasks take. To overcome this, I set up strict checklists for taking on any new projects:

  • Do I have the time, money and resources to get it to completion?
  • Is there an easier or faster way to make it happen?
  • Will it delay anything I’ve currently green lighted?
  • Does it lead to my Vivid Vision? A vivid vision is a strategic, detailed picture of the company in the future.

If all the answers check out, then I go forward. Simple checklists are a proven tool for consistently applying what we already know

Cameron Herold, author of Double Double, CEO coach and renowned speaker

2. Only have one priority

First thing every morning, I ask myself, ‘What is the one thing I need to do today to help my company’s vision that would make everything else easier or unnecessary?’

When you compound this process over days, months and years, the impact is truly astounding. It is the 80/20 rule on steroids.

Simplifying many priorities to one priority gives you a deeper understanding of what’s really important and increases the odds of completing that one thing. Studies have shown that focus on a singular vision is one of the key themes of successful companies.

Ryan Simonetti, co-founder of Convene

3. Time block your entire day

Similar to Bill Gates, I focus more on my calendar for managing my priorities than my to-do list.

I time block my entire day hour by-hour on my calendar. Most people make the mistake of only time blocking their meetings and phone calls. I also time block my planning, time off, key daily priorities, emails that need longer replies and social media (so it doesn’t creep in other times).

Time blocking works best if you don’t allow the constant barrage of daily interruptions to ruin it. Studies show that the drop in one’s productivity is especially drastic if you’re doing complex tasks. So I let my team members know not to interrupt me by closing my office door, and I have my assistant answer unscheduled phone calls.

Sevetri Wilson, CEO of Solid Ground Innovations

4. Constantly reevaluate what your focus is

I’ve developed a unique approach, one that was inspired by researcher A.J. Burton’s Reflection Model, to constantly staying aware of what’s most important, prioritizing it and saying no to everything else.

Every day when I’m presented with new opportunities or challenging situations that require critical thinking and could have a big impact on how I spend my time and money, I ask myself the following questions:

  • What? What exactly is the opportunity or challenge?
  • So What? What is its potential impact (positive and negative)?
  • Now What? What should I do about it now?

This approach is powerful, because it keeps me focused on what I should do now and helps me plan for the future. Research shows that better, more holistic decisions are made by systematically evaluating the situation one aspect at a time. Also, by having a simple three-step decision-making framework that allows me to immediately simplify my thought process on the spot, I avoid decision fatigue. I make a decision once and then I’m done with it.

Rohit Anabheri, founder of Circa Ventures

5. Say no by default

In 2013, I wrote two bestselling books, made the Inc. 500 list and sold one of my companies for seven figures, all within a 40-hour work week. These were my only big goals, and I blocked out most of my time everyday to make sure I moved toward them.

A key to my approach is being good at saying no to tasks unrelated to my goals, even when they are extremely tempting or easy to do. This took me years of practice. The fastest way to get good at saying no when being pressured to commit is to say something like, ‘If you need an answer from me right now, I’m sorry, but I would have to say no. If you can wait until I have my goal setting time later this week, I may be able to say yes but no promises.’

I then review these decisions bi-weekly in the context of my existing goals and commitments.

Benji Rabhan, founder of AppointmentCore

6. Focus on the clouds and dirt

My company now has more than 350 employees. One of the reasons we’ve grown so large is that I work on the business rather than in it.

Just as Gary Vaynerchuk recommends, I spend as much time as I can in the ‘clouds and dirt’:

Set a clear vision and goals (the clouds). I focus on creating clear, measurable and inspiring goals, so my team is empowered to create their own processes and systems — and I can hold them accountable.

Experience the result for yourself (the dirt). As a business owner, my focus is the result, so I make sure to experience the result first-hand, where it touches customers and employees. For example, once a month, I go on a moving job with the staff and then give feedback to our managers on how to improve the system overall.

Aaron Steed, CEO of Meathead Movers

7. Get in touch with nature

I start just about every day with a 15-minute walk through Central Park in New York City. It is peaceful, beautiful in all seasons and helps to bring focus to the day. My intention on the walks is simply to enjoy nature. I call these walks my ‘pocket vacations.’

In a fascinating study performed in Scotland, researchers read the brainwaves of subjects as they walked through different environments such as busy urban streets or parks. In the urban environment, the subjects were more alert and frustrated. In the parklands, their brainwave readings became more meditative. Nature engages and relaxes the brain, which makes it a great environment for reflection, and it makes it easier to concentrate later in the day.

Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Network and Syfy

8. Establish a minimum hurdle rate

In a study of the most successful CEOs of the last 50 years, each CEO (including Warren Buffett) knew the minimum return on investment, or hurdle rate, they were willing to accept and never accepted any opportunity that they predicted would not hit their minimum.

When I acquire an asset with my business, I do the same thing. I look for something that I can invest in once and then have it create value perpetually. It’s been an incredible wealth-building strategy, and I think it applies to my time as well.

I recently noticed that my personal life was suffering because I was chasing too many business opportunities, so I increased my hurdle rate in the business, so I’d have more time in my personal life.

Jason Duff, founder and CEO of COMSTOR Outdoor

9. Start your day over

When I struggle with focus in the middle of the day, it’s usually because I’m feeling overwhelmed. To counter this feeling, I mentally start the day over again.

I get out a blank piece of paper, make a list of my commitments and circle the three things that have the biggest impact on driving the business forward. I leave the rest behind, so I don’t feel guilty about not getting stuff done. A psychology study shows that we improve our work performance when we write down tasks, because it frees us from being mentally preoccupied.

Before I jump in, I remove any distractions, especially my number-one distraction: email.

Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, You Move Me and Wow 1 Day Painting

10. No more yes: It’s either ‘Hell yeah!’ or no

When deciding whether I should commit to anything, I use my philosophy of ‘HELL YEAH! Or no.’. Facing any potential commitment, if I feel anything less than, ‘Wow, that would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ then my answer is no.

For example, when hiring people, I had a lot of candidates for a long-term project but none blew me away. So I rejected everyone, started a new search and then I came across the ideal candidate. For conferences, instead of obligatorily going to three music conferences that I had said yes to, I realized that I didn’t feel ‘HELL YEAH!’ so ended up with 12 free days on my calendar, which I used to get a new business launched.

I recommend Steve Pavlina’s approach of rating your satisfaction in each area of your life from 1 to 10 and then replacing any areas below 9 with 1s.

Derek Sivers, founder and former president of CD Baby and author of Anything You Want.

Special thanks to Ian Chew, Luke Murray, Sheena Lindahl, and Marc Busko who volunteered their time to edit this article and do research.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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7 Creative and Fun Ways to Manage Your Time

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Let your phone text and take notes for you

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I am swamped. Requests from colleagues, friends and family leave me with no time to do any actual work. I can’t ignore any of the aforementioned things and it’s impossible to cram them all into an eight-hour day.

But time management isn’t about taking shortcuts in your thinking time, it’s about finding shortcuts for the mundane, administrative and repetitive, in order to make way for the creative, strategic and dare I say… fun? As a busy carpooling mom of three boys (two of them teens!), a CEO of a company that grows 500 percent year over year and a happily married lady with lots of extended family, here’s how I make the most of every hour of every day.

Email Templates and Autoresponders

The Issue: Email is a huge time suck. Everyone knows it. Yet when I find myself bogged down, my first (weird) impulse is to check my email. This only serves to make me even crazier and stressed out because for every minute my inbox is ignored, the magical email bunnies produce about 50 new emails.

The Shortcut: Autoresponders. I have an amazing marketing assistant who helps me wade through requests and schedule important meetings. I archive every client communication so I don’t get distracted when looking for something I know I saw just yesterday (Gmail makes this a snap), and I use autoresponders for things like guest post requests, meetings, phone calls and new client queries. A great article about how to word these emails popped up a few weeks ago and I couldn’t agree with its premise more.

Texting and Typing Shortcuts

The Issue: I like a good manicure and spend a lot of time on the road. I can’t look down every three seconds or enter passwords without flubbing.

The Shortcut: I use autocorrect to make my texting life less frenetic. For example, I can text “RBM” and my phone knows to spell out “Red Branch Media.” I use the same trick to make emails and phrases I type frequently appear. This not only saves me time, it makes even the hastiest text message look professional.

Website Hacks

The Issue: I have usernames on every single website that exists in the English language. Okay, maybe not. But it feels like I do. Add in client login information, software, and the hundreds of media bundles and new apps I buy regularly, and you have a password bottleneck.

The Shortcut: In addition to the company password list, I use LastPass to ensure that I am not endlessly frustrated. I have my kids use 1Password when they access my computer for homework and Minecraft.


The Issue: My kids go to three different schools in two different towns, 25 miles away. Since none of them can drive unaccompanied, I find myself in the car a lot. Once I’ve finished my rendition of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” I settle in and use two tools to make the most of my time in the car.

The Shortcut: Dragon Dictation is like Siri on steroids! I use it to speak out outlines of articles (like this one) that pop into my head. It’s also super useful for strategy documents, as those are the hardest for me to get from the idea stage to publication-ready. Another useful tool is my conference line Speek. It allows me to record and keep notes. My assistant can get all information down on paper if I’m in the proposal phase with a new client or when I simply need to remember what I was talking about as I sped down the highway. Plus, we can save the audio files to the client folder for later.

Group Messaging

The Issue: We have a group of friends in our neighborhood with roughly 28 children between us. There is no logical way to keep track of the barbecues, birthday parties, play dates and fire-pit nights without someone feeling left out.

The Shortcut: Aside from a rolling text string among three of us for social updates, we use NextDoor to keep in touch in our neighborhood. This makes it easy to exchange invites and useful time saving information, like who found the best concrete guy or when trees will be picked up from the last summer storm. This also serves as a de facto neighborhood watch and has led to lots of new friendships on the block.

Archival System

The Issue: Clients come and go, partnerships ebb and flow. Some people and companies with whom I was hot and heavy (professionally) just months ago are now just folders I breeze through.

The Shortcut: Archive. Archive. Archive. I love Dropbox, but if you have a folder for every active and inactive client, you will soon get tendonitis just from looking through your cloud. If I am finished with a project or email, I put it straight into storage. Dropbox syncs on all office computers, making it a cinch to see and sort through only the most active and recent files.

Recipe Makers

The Issue: Boring, repetitive tasks that make me nuts.

The Shortcut: IFTTT and other recipe makers. Sometimes you are pulling in five pictures per day and they all need to be a certain size. Create a recipe that saves them that way to the right file automatically! Sure, it takes about 30 seconds to set up in the beginning. But when making a presentation or building a website, this creates a lot more serenity than manually resizing multiple photos. The same goes for other repeatable tasks (taking pictures of your receipts to categorize, downloading files from your Google Drive, building templates in illustrator for white papers and ebooks). Use a recipe or template for any project you think you will do more than once — and use it!

There you have it — the hacks that get me through every single day. I learned early on that I had to start looking at every task more strategically. I would often think, “There HAS to be a better way to do this.” And there usually is.

Share your time-saving hacks in the comments, and let’s all get out of our own way!

Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space.

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.

This article originally appeared on BusinessCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Ways to Overcome Your Biggest Distractions

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Make sure your day doesn’t turn into answering 'quick questions'

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Question: What’s the biggest distraction you run into on a daily basis and how do you overcome it?


“On average I receive 170 emails a day. It used to put me in a reactive mode and most of my day would be spent in my inbox. I’d wrap up 12 hours in the office and feel as though I hadn’t accomplished a thing. Now, I only check my messages at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and batch my responses. As a result, I am more focused, get considerably more done and when I do go into my inbox, I’m highly effective.” — Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

Phone Calls

“I get numerous calls a day and would not be able to efficiently complete projects for clients if I was constantly being pulled away and then had to refocus. Instead, I often put my phone on mute and return calls either in between projects or at set points of time during the day when it is not disruptive to completing work.” — Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

“Quick Questions”

“The biggest daily distractions are the “quick questions” that people swear will take “two seconds” to answer. In reality, these questions can pull you off-task and interrupt your focus. On average, at least an hour of my day is spent answering “quick questions.” I now work from home one day a week to focus on larger, bigger-picture tasks without interruption.” — Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

New Tasks

“As an entrepreneur, you have 1,000 tasks which you could do — hiring, social media marketing, sales calls, etc. I’ve never been great about organizing my days, and I find myself distracted by thinking, “Oh! I should do X.” To save myself, I’ve recently started listing out my five “must-do” things at the start of the day. Seeing those in front of me keeps me on task.” — Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches


“At one time, every five minutes my phone would buzz with a new update or notification. These spanned email, calendar, text, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, messenger. The majority are not urgent, but it’s easy to follow them down the rabbit hole. To manage this I turn off 95 percent of notifications and keep my phone on silent unless I’m expecting a call.” — Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

The Internet

“Sometimes being online doesn’t allow me to focus on tasks that require more social interaction, or even on tasks that don’t require Internet. Whether it’s Skype, email or iMessages, sometimes disconnecting from the world for a few hours a day can do wonders for productivity. The Internet has been a double-edged sword for most people, and those that can control their usage will be miles ahead.” — Derek Capo, Next Step China

Unnecessary Meetings

“Meetings can take up a great deal of valuable time, so unnecessary meetings are truly a waste of your time. To overcome this issue, validate meeting requests by requiring a detailed agenda from the person requesting the meeting or call. Ask for questions and objectives ahead of time, as you can often just answer them in an email and avoid the meeting altogether.” — Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Video Doorbell


“As someone who works in social media, I can publicly admit that I love Facebook but it’s a massive distraction. It’s especially difficult when you actually use Facebook for paid or organic engagement — there’s no way to check your ads without also seeing all of your personal notifications. I try to only check Facebook as a reward or on a specific break between tasks.” — Laura Roeder, MeetEdgar.com

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.

This article was originally published on BusinessCollective.


This Is the Shocking Amount of Money You Throw Away Commuting

Lines of cars are pictured during a rush hour traffic jam in central Shanghai July 11, 2013.
Aly Song—Reuters Lines of cars are pictured during a rush hour traffic jam.

It's enough to give you road rage

Those thankless hours (200 a year, on average) you spend commuting aren’t just dull and frustrating: They’re expensive. A new survey finds that American workers shell out an average of $2,600 every year on their commuting costs.

Commissioned for Citi’s ThankYou Premier credit card, the survey says the average daily cost of a commute in major cities is $12. Los Angeles is the priciest place to get to work, with an average $16 daily commuting cost, but even commuters in the lowest-cost cities for commuting, Chicago and San Francisco, still have to dig into their pockets to the tune of $11 every workday.

If time is money, though, New Yorkers might have the most expensive commute: They have an average commute of an hour and 13 minutes, and 44% of workers have hour-plus trips to work. Among major cities, Miami offers the shortest average commute at 49 minutes.

In an indication of how busy the rest of our lives are, about two-thirds of respondents say their commute is the only time they get to themselves — but we still want to be productive and get work done, based on the wide variety of activities we engage in during our trips to work.

About a third of workers try to make the most of their travel time by holding conference calls, and about a quarter email during their commutes. In New York, where public transportation is extensive and popular, people are much more likely to use commuting time to read and respond to email; more than half of survey respondents say they use their commutes for these workday chores. (New Yorkers also are more likely to read or use social media during their commutes.) More than a third of Chicago commuters use this time to prepare for meetings, and almost a quarter of Los Angelenos squeeze errand-running into their commuting time.

Almost 80% of commuters say their biggest expense is gas, and even with gas prices today lower than they’ve been in years, 60% of respondents said their commute has gotten more expensive over the past five years.

Cars are, by far, the most popular commuting vehicle, with 77% driving to work. Buses ferry 21% of Americans to work, while 17% ride subways or trains. About half, though, say they’d be open to commuting via bicycle if a bike-sharing service was available in their city. Although almost 60% of commuters in sunny Los Angeles indicated they’d like the option to bike, so did a slightly larger number of respondents in blustery Chicago.



These Are America’s Biggest Productivity Killers

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You're probably doing one right now

When you get to the end of a workday and realize you just didn’t accomplish what you needed to, there are a few typical culprits: Text messaging, Facebook, cookies in the break room — the usual suspects.

A survey from CareerBuilder.com rounds up the top ways America wastes time at work. Unsurprisingly, digital distractions play a large role, but old-school goofing off hasn’t vanished entirely. More than half of workers surveyed say their cell phones or texting are a shortcut to slacking off. While 44% blame the Internet for killing their productivity, 36% say social media torches their to-do list. That’s higher than the number of workers who said these things were black holes for productivity last year.

It also seems we might be getting overwhelmed by the deluge of email we get every day (which one study estimates could cost American businesses more than half a billion dollars a year in needless busywork). While 23% of workers last year said this was a top workplace distraction, 31% blamed their inboxes this year.

When it comes to actual face-to-face interaction, about a quarter of respondents each say that meetings, snack or smoke breaks and co-workers stopping by to chat contribute to wasting time.

But career experts say it’s not inevitable that the siren song of the vending machine or a recap of Orange Is the New Black will throw a wrench into your plans for productivity. Here are their best tips for staying on track.

Don’t check everything that chimes. “Set aside specific times of the day to check things like social media,” says Peter Hirst, executive director of MIT Sloan Executive Education. Likewise, plan to check your email at regular intervals but not in between so you don’t get sidetracked and lose the momentum of what you were working on.

Associate with go-getters. “Group norms and values are very important in influencing individual behavior,” says James Craft, a professor of business administration at the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. In plain English, if you surround yourself with slackers, you’ll be more likely to slack off, but if your colleagues all do what it takes to get the job done, their drive can rub off on you. “These expectations… can be key in keeping the members of the group focused,” Craft says.

Take breaks, but make them deliberate. Build breaks into your day, CareerBuilder suggests, and make sure they have both a start and an end time. “Not only will you have something to look forward to after you’ve worked hard, you will also know when it’s time to get back to work,” the site advises.

Give yourself some breathing room — literally. Hirst suggests getting into a regular practice of yoga or meditation, since both can help improve productivity. “Even just five minutes of meditation a day can have a significant impact on your concentration and focus,” he says. It’s also a good way to clear your head during a hectic day when your mind is going in eight different directions.

TIME Careers & Workplace

The Ultimate Strategy to Get Off Work Early on Fridays

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Get out the door early everything single time

Summer Fridays are great — but we’re guessing that escape-at-lunchtime thing doesn’t always go as planned. Maybe you get bogged down in work and don’t leave until midafternoon (while telling yourself it still sort-of counts as a half day), or you throw caution to the wind and leave behind an unfinished pile of work that thinking about gives you pangs of anxiety by Sunday evening.

There’s a better way to have enjoy summer Fridays and get all your work done, too. Career experts and management pros say there are some simple steps you can take on Friday that will help you get out the door on time so you can enjoy those extra few hours of summertime, guilt-free.

Give co-workers a heads-up. Even if your employer offers summer Fridays, it’s likely that not everyone takes them, says Rose Ernst, national director of Genesis10’s G10 Associate Program. “Don’t assume people know,” she says. Laying the groundwork ahead of time by telling everyone when you’ll be leaving on Fridays will stop colleagues from stopping by your desk as you’re walking out the door with a question or problem they need you to deal with right away.

Use a to-do list. “Write things down and cross things off,” Michael B. Spring, associate professor of information science and telecommunications at the University of Pittsburgh. It doesn’t matter if you use your phone, a digital organization app or go old-school with a pen and notepad. “For to-dos, I still use index cards with a card for each major responsibility,” Spring says. “I write it down, see which card is most filled [and] cross it off when done.”

Get calls out of the way early. “ Make all telephone contacts or other interactions that could result in required follow-ups and commitments early on Friday morning so they can be completed before noon,” advises James Craft, professor of business administration at the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. There’s nothing worse than looking at the clock, waiting for the phone to ring.

Say no to meetings. “Schedule no meetings on Friday morning,” Craft says. Be honest: How many times do meetings drag on longer than you expect? Throw in a little time to linger and chat, and you’ve suddenly burned a couple of hours you could have been using to get the rest of your work done.

Plan around your mental state. “By Fridays, many people have already ‘clocked out,’” says Joseph G. Gerard, assistant professor of management at Western New England University. “Save the work that fits best with your Friday mindset for Friday,” he suggests. If you need to brainstorm for a presentation but you’re mentally tapped out, find another time to get that creative thinking done. “If you’re drained of creativity, then spend your time processing work that doesn’t require your sharpest frame of mind,” Gerard says.

Save the best for last. “Save the most engaging or interesting tasks for Friday,” says Sherry Moss, a professor of organizational studies at Wake Forest University School of Business. The half-day won’t drag if you’re actively engaged, she says. “The work will be fun — and likely more productive — and when the project is complete, it will be time for the weekend.”

Don’t bother multitasking. “An array of neuroscience research show that the brain is designed for single-tasking,” says Bahman Paul Ebrahami, a professor of management at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. If you think you’ll be more productive doing three or four things at once, you’re just fooling yourself. “Pause the multitasking habit… and focus on what you have to get done now,” he says.

Stop yammering already. “Skip the water cooler talks,” Ernst says. Catching up on gossip or talking about your favorite TV show might be fun, but you’ll be kicking yourself as the afternoon ticks on if you’re still stuck at your desk.

TIME career

How to Stay Productive While Working From Home

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Tips for morning, noon and night

I never really thought about working from home—until suddenly, I was. Up until now, I’ve always just happened to work in an office building—the big, enormous ones that require a security ID and several escalators before you can get to any sort of sandwich wrap. But now that my apartment is my office, I’ve realized it’s no small switch-up. There are certainly pros: My monthly dry cleaning bill is much lower (read: $0), and I no longer have to spend a half hour stuffed underneath someone’s armpit on the subway each morning. But there are also cons: As a people person, I miss having work BFFs right by my side, and one can only take so much time in the same apartment, as hard as you try to make it worthy of a West Elm catalogue.

So, over the past month, I’ve moonlighted as a Working-From-Home Productivity Detective, asking friends who work from a self-made office about their routine, and experimenting with my own. It accumulated into a pretty helpful guide to get you through your day.


1. Start your day outside.

Some people do their workouts at night in order to let off some steam after a long day at the office, but as a newly-minted SAHW (Stay-at-Home Worker), I like knowing that I’ve already left the house before my workday starts. I do a morning run, walk back with coffee, and if it’s nice out, I’ll go up to my roof to stretch for a few minutes (one of my favorite perks of living in San Francisco).

2. Throw on a pair of jeans.

I stole this tip from Jessica Knoll, author of Luckiest Girl Alive. She told me that since she started working from home as a full-time novelist, she’s made a point to wear jeans instead of yoga pants. I tried it too, and now I swear by it. Something about ‘em just makes me feel instantly more put together, and I like having an office uniform that allows me to devote more brain space to my work. (Confession: I usually steal a sweater from my boyfriend’s side of the closet to finish off my look.)

3. Designate an official “start time”—and pad in a few minutes for housekeeping.

The beauty of working from home is that nobody’s around to give you side eye if your butt hits the chair at 9:15 a.m., or even 9:30 a.m. But the downside is that it can seriously mess with your productivity. I like to be in front of the computer by 9 a.m., and use the time I would be commuting to tidy up my workspace. As Lucy Maher Regan, a freelance writer based in NYC, says, “When you’re working in an office, your un-made bed or pile of un-returned Zappos boxes taking over your dining table are a non-issue. Not so much when you work from home—these things can distract even the most diligent telecommuter. Keeping your space clean and tidy will allow you to focus 100 percent on your work.”


1. De-clutter your desk.

Since it’s command central from 9 to 5, your desk usually racks up mugs, plates, and other piles of randomness by lunchtime. Take five minutes mid-day to freshen things up. And overall, it’s nice to give up some desktop real estate to important mementos. Ranya Barrett, who works from home in Glen Ridge, N.J., says her workspace features a mint julep cup filled with colored pencils and a mercury glass flower vase filled with pens. “They offer a welcome pop of color and infuse the space with a personal touch,” she says.

2. Embrace Gchat.

The more I edged my way up the ladder while working in an office, the less I wanted to be on Gchat. I felt like on top of meetings, conversations with my coworkers, and random coffee breaks, it just made me look like I wasn’t focused during what precious time I had to get real work done. But now that I’m working from home, and interact with coworkers mainly through meetings, I find myself craving more casual conversation throughout the day. It’s not like I’m Gchatting 24/7, but if I want to get a friend’s opinion on something, or if I just want to share a funny BuzzFeed post, I don’t hold myself back so much anymore, and therefore don’t feel like a rabid monkey by 5 p.m.

3. Force yourself to take an afternoon walk.

My friend Cathy Caludis, who works from home as a business analyst, inspired me to do this one. Every day around 1 or 2 p.m., she takes her dog (dog optional!) for a 30-minute walk. “It definitely helps keep me sane to get fresh air and stretch my legs!” she says. Done and done.

End of day

1. Reap the benefits of a well-stocked fridge.

I don’t know about you, but around 4 p.m., I get hardcore cravings to snack on just about EVERYTHING within sight. As Barrett reminds me, “It’s up to you to keep your refrigerator stocked with good, healthy foods. And a strong espresso for when you need an extra boost.” So, on Sundays, the grocery store is my race track, and I don’t stop for anything but the healthy stuff (and, OK, maybe a bag or two of chips and salsa).

2. Clock out.

Just like you should give yourself an official “start time,” it’s equally important to mentally shut down at the end of the day—whether it’s simply the act of closing your laptop or booking a 5:30 p.m. SoulCycle class. “One of my biggest challenges when I started working from home was calling it quits each day,” says Jenny Buccos, who is the creator, director and producer of Project Explorer and lives in NYC. “By setting a regular end-of-business time, I’m now able to separate my work life from my home life—for the most part!”

3. Go out and be social.

When I was working in an office, I mostly just wanted to hightail it home and get into my PJs as soon as possible, then Olivia Pope it up with some popcorn and red wine. Now, I’m much less of a homebody after hours, because I get to be one all day. I’ve become the “planner” in my relationship and in my friend group, finding cool new restaurants or concerts to check out during the week. It’s kind of win-win, because on top of feeling more refreshed when I’m back at work, discovering fun weeknight plans makes me feel like a better partner and friend.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

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