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7 Things You Can Do Right Now to Be More Productive in 2017

Dec 20, 2016

Now that 2016 is (finally) coming to an end, we want to make sure you start the new year on the right note. All of those ideas, projects, and new ventures that you’ve been putting off can get done no matter how busy you think you are. It will just take some slight tweaks to your daily schedule.

We mined Fortune for some of the top productivity tips that experts, psychologists, and entrepreneurs shared with us this year . Here are seven actionable tips you can incorporate in your day starting now:

Do this imaginary ‘end of year’ exercise

Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It, has a mental exercise to help you get more done in less time. First, imagine that it’s the end of 2017, and you have successfully achieved your professional goals. “What three to five things did you do that made it so incredible?” she asks. Do the same thing with your personal life, highlighting key events that you would share with your family and friends. Now you have a list of your personal and professional goals for the new year. Vanderkam says the next step is to break them down into small, manageable steps that you can tackle each week.

Start your day two hours earlier

As great as it feels to hit the snooze button time and time again, this practice may be killing your mornings. Matt Mayberry, a former NFL linebacker and performance strategist, says you should set your alarm for at least two hours before you have to be at work. “You have daily obligations and adequately preparing for them first thing will help set the tone and mood of the day,” he says.

Keep your email replies short and sweet

No one likes to send long, convoluted emails, and no one likes to receive long, convoluted emails either. So do yourself and the person you are emailing a favor by keeping your responses short and to the point. Squarespace founder and CEO Anthony Casalena says they should be no more than two sentences. “If ever a message necessitates a longer response, I’d rather have a conversation in person or on the phone,” he says.

Be strategic when booking meetings

If you’re about to visit a different city for a business meeting, use your time as wisely as possible. Take the opportunity to meet with potential new clients and make more business contacts. Pick a location, and schedule meetings back-to-back to make it worthwhile. “Your time is valuable,” says Shark Tank star Robert Herjavec. “Be strategic about what you need to accomplish and how to maximize your commuting time.”

Organize your thoughts in a single email

Sometimes one clear email can be more effective than a bunch of one-off meetings. Each week, Airbnb’s VP of product Joe Zadeh sends an email to his team outlining the projects he’s focused on at work and what’s inspiring him outside of work. “It not only forces me to prioritize my week, but the act of writing helps organize my thoughts clearly,” he says.

Do this quick trick to shrink your anxiety

When feeling overwhelmed with worry, here’s a tactic that can almost immediately shrink your anxiety. Maggie Johnson, a clinical psychology postdoctoral fellow, says we experience anxiety when our body’s autonomic stress system kicks in to protect us from threat or harm. This reaction doesn’t only kick in during matters of life or death, but also in situations such as an investor meeting. Johnson says “catastrophizing,” is the mind’s natural tendency to perceive a situation as far worse than it really is. First, she tells her clients to imagine the worst-case scenario. Then, she asks them to objectively look at how bad the situation would be if this worst-case scenario happened. Next time you’re stressed, repeatedly ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” until you understand the root of your anxiety. Much of it is misplaced or exaggerated, she says.

Stop reading and start doing

How much time did you spend reading this article? Adam Grant thinks you could’ve used your time to learn a new skill instead. "Work on increasing your typing speed -- or invest in voice recognition software. And then stop wasting time reading productivity tips," says Grant, a professor of Psychology at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

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