productive winter holiday downtime

3 Productive Things To Do During The Holiday Downtime

Christmas is now in the past. You celebrated with family and friends, exchanged presents and ate a lot. Hopefully you got to relax and recharge your batteries as well.

But the holidays are not over yet. New Year’s is still to come.

Although some people are already back to work, for most, the period between Christmas and New Year’s eve is downtime. Even if you want to work and be fully productive, the rest of the world does not share your opinion. Many businesses are fully closed for the holidays. The ones that are open don’t operate at 100%. So even if you try to work, you can only accomplish the things that are only dependent on you.

That does not mean you cannot still be productive during the holiday downtime. It simply means you need to be more creative with the choice of activities. Below are 3  productive things you can do to help  you hit the ground running when the holiday season are over.

Organize Your Contacts

Contact management seems like a rather boring activity on the surface (and it most cases it is). However, it will save you untold amounts of time when you need to get in touch with someone.

Think of all the people you are in touch with on a regular basis. The average person has 104 friends on Facebook. Add to that your business contacts and the number can easily double.

Now, think of all the different ways you use to communicate with people. There’s email, phone, social media, text messaging, chat apps, fax and even snail mail. And most people have a at least 2 email addresses, several social media accounts, and in many cases, a personal and a business number.

Combine the number of connections you have with the different ways you stay in touch with them and the need for proper contact management clearly emerges.

There are many contact management solutions. They range from paid to free, from super sophisticated (Salesforce) to mega simple (your cellphone contacts). There is no right and wrong way of keeping your contacts organized. However, there is a productive and non-productive way. The productive way is to use FullContact.

full contact

FullContact is a free, fully online, contact management solution that synch with a large amount of 3rd party services. They are still officially in beta, but you can request an invite to join.

Once you’ve signed up, import all your contacts into FullContact.

Here are the most common places to import from:

  • Various email accounts (personal and business)
  • Social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Phone contacts

This will naturally create a lot of duplicates. Full Contact will automatically discover the duplicates and ask you what to do with them. With one click you can merge all the information and eliminate the duplicate entries.

Now that you have all your contacts in one place, it is time to organize them. Create a couple of lists and start adding contacts to them. At minimum, have a list for friends, family and business contacts. As you add people to the lists, see what vital contact information is missing. Some people will have only phone numbers, others only emails, etc. Make a note to obtain the additional information and enter it in Full Contact.

It takes some time and work to go through the initial set up, but the return on your time investment is going to be at least 2x down the road.

Contact management is also an activity that does not require lot of brain power so it is perfect for the holiday downtime.

Organize Your Passwords

Password management is another seemingly boring activity, but it will save you hours of time over the course of just a few months.

Think of all the websites you access on a regular basis. Between emails, social media, banks, online courses and programs, every single one of them requires a user name and a password. You cannot even use the same password for all of them (which is highly NOT recommended) as different websites require different length passwords.

Think of how many times per day you need to access those website and how many times you need to enter a user name and password. It only takes 10 seconds to enter your information, but over the course of time, seconds turn into minutes and hours.

Not to mention it is pointless to store all login information in your head. Your brain should be free of useless data so it can concentrate on the high leverage tasks. Albert Einstein refused to memorize his own phone number and other “meaningless” data so he can use his brain’s full capacity where it matters most, in his work.

Enter LastPass.

last pass

LastPass is a free password management services. Once you sign up, you need to download a browser extension and you are all set up. From this point onward the application will remember every user name/email and password combination that you use. Next time you visit the same website, LassPass will automatically fill in the information and log you in.

The old process looks like this: you enter the website url, click on login, manually enter your user name and password and click on the login button. The process with LastPass looks like this: you enter the url, LastPass automatically fills in the information and even clicks the login button for you.

LastPass will remember all your passwords and input them when necessary. But these are only some of the features. This tool will also help you generate secure passwords. It will also analyze all your current passwords and give you an overall estimate of how secure your identity is and provide you with suggestions on how to improve it.

Using LastPass, or any other password management service will greatly reduce the time you spend loging in and navigating between websites. As with contact management, it will take some time to set things up initially, but once you are up and running, your productivity and high performance will greatly improve.

For a more in-depth look into how to use LastPass and how to secure your passwords, check out this blog post.

Clear Out Your Inbox

The holiday downtime is the perfect time to clean out and organize your inbox.

  • Process all emails from your inbox following these 4 rules.
  • Unsubscribe from as many email lists as possible. This will clear out a lot of your current emails, but also lower your future email count.
  • Delete old unopened emails. If you have not opened an email for more than 30 days, chances are you are never going to open it. Find all such emails and delete them.
  • Delete all emails with large attachments . Your email account comes with limited space. Deleting big file attachments will prevent you from ever finding out what your size limit is.
  • If you have more than a couple of folders, you are probably hindering your own productivity. Most email clients have great search functions. If you need to find an email, you fill find it easier and faster with the search, compared to manually going through your 10s of folders looking for that once piece of information. Eliminate all unnecessary folders.

Getting your inbox cleaned out does not require a lot of brain power, but it will take some time. The holiday downtime is a great time to make sure your inbox is nice and organized. This way, when you and the rest of the world resume work at full speed, you will  be able to handle your emails with ease.

Over To You Now

The time between Christmas and New Year gives you a great opportunity to do something productive and set yourself up for success when you are back to work at 100%. Use this holiday downtime to organize your contacts using FullContact. Plan for 2 – 3 hours for initial set up. Once done, get LastPass and start organizing your passwords. This will take you another couple of hours. Once you’ve conquered that, take the time to clear out and organize your inbox.

All the time you put in into these seemingly boring activities will save you hours down the road so don’t underestimate them.

What are some other productive things you can do during the holiday downtime? Share in the comment section below.