Maximize Your 2017: Tips on Being Productive in the New Year

With the clean slate that comes along with the new year comes an opportunity to readdress our bad working habits and try to add a few good ones.  It’s often the case that there are just a few simple tricks that we can adopt into our routines to increase workplace productivity and make our days (and life) run smoother. asked a few of our friends in the industry their own tips on increasing their productivity in the workplace.

Keep Conference Call Options Open

Skype has become a favorite in global communication, yet fails us regularly in China. Having more channels at your disposal will ensure that the communication keeps flowing. For internal communication with colleagues, consider WeChat group calls, which have proven quite reliable. To speak with customers outside of China, think GoToMeeting or WebEx, which are fairly stable. And Investing in a 4G hotspot (bundles available on taobao) is also worthwhile to stay online during long taxi rides across the city.

- Sebastian Mueller - CEO of Minglabs


Never Close an Email Without Replying

In my line of work I get between 40 and 70 emails a day, from a variety of clients concerning a range of tasks from the simple, shoot-off-a-quick reply variety to the complex, take-two-hours-to-deal-with-this sort of thing.  In the past, I've opened up my emails, scanned the contents, determined how important the job was and then moved on, letting the emails pile up in my inbox while I pondered which one to take care of first.  A better system that works for me is to have a rule that I never ever close a received email without dealing with the task it presents.  It's like a rule: never close an email and moving on without replying.  I find if I force myself to blast through the emails as they come in, I cut down on the pondering and procrastinating time, and I'm able to clear my inbox quicker and more efficiently.

 - Morgan Short - Managing Editor


Actually Purchase Your Software

Besides the moral issues that crop up when we take shortcuts with our software, having to deal with crashes and malware that comes with pirated gear is time consuming and saps up energy. Especially in China, it’s worth it to actually just purchase the support you need to get the job done.  For a lot of applications, monthly subscription services are imminently affordable and save time and hassle.  Photoshop for example only costs around 150rmb per month. Unfortunately Adobe’s CreativeCloud (Photoshop, Illustrator) is not available for sale in China — not even through HK retailers. The only way to get it is by using an overseas account and credit card to register and pay. Then, however, it works well in China, even with updates.


Spend the Time to Make Your Workplace a Place You Want to Work In

Whether it’s just a simple matter of keeping your work space clean or doing the most to keep your team’s environment clean and streamlined, the simple matter of having a tidy work space to do work in does wonders for productivity.  Besides the fact that you’re a more organized worker, a clean working environment fosters a sense of balance and calmness to your working routine, and reduces stress.


Take Advantage of Your “Downtimes”

On commutes to and from work or even when you’re having a coffee break, spend the time to take stock in where you are at in your working day and where you are with the tasks you have to complete. It’s often in our downtimes when we have a chance to take a step back from the pace of directly working that we get new perspective and new breakthroughs.


Work With Two Browsers: One VPN and One Without

While VPNs are essential for accessing foreign sites, local sites work much faster without a VPN.  To avoid switching off and on your VPN client, work with two browsers, and change your VPN settings to only affect one browser.  This technique saves a lot of time and aggravation in constantly loading up your VPN and waiting for access.


Eat That Frog!

Eating frogs is a much-cited analogy for avoiding procrastination, and for me it works so well. For greatest effectiveness, decide what tomorrow's worst task is today, the biggest ugliest frog you have to eat, then complete that task before you touch anything else. After that, you’ll be on a roll, every other job is comparatively simple, motivation is high, it’s a win win win.

 - Ben Weldon - Director at Thread Design


Use Desktop Apps for Email and Slack

With China’s slow and flaky internet, much of our time is usually spent on waiting for things to happen in browsers (e.g. an email to be sent in gmail).  Working with Desktops clients for email, Slack, and WeChat avoids this problem as apps can work in the background.  


Get the Most Out of WeChat

For most of us WeChat has become the go-to platform for mobile communication with staff, clients, whoever.  The app has a few underutilized functions, however, which make it use more efficient. 

- Turn Off Your Moments:  Yes, this might be a bit extreme. It means you won't see the Moments tab on your WeChat at all. But it's not as terrifying as you think -- your past posts and likes won't be erased, and you can just enable it again anytime you want. Settings - General - Features - Moments, then click "Disable". That's it. 

- Save Groups to Your Contact List: Small groups sometimes get buried, to save the trouble of creating again, click the group chat icon on top of the right corner, then enable "Save to Contacts". They will show up in the "Saved Groups" channel on your contacts. 

- Transcribe your voice messages to text: So far it only works for mandarin and your WeChat needs to be in Chinese. Long press a voice message, then 转换为文字(仅普通话)will show up. It works pretty well. Hope they will roll out support for English soon.

Turn Your WeChat into a Notebook: Go to Me - Favorites then press the "+" button, a notebook window will show up. You can save important texts, voice memos, and upload pictures and files. Long press then click more to send it to a chat.

- Jin Qian - Editor at


Know What You're Getting Into With Networking Events

Shanghai is a hotbed of entrepreneurs looking to make connections to further their projects and the highly competitive events industry in this city caters to that. There’s no shortage of networking events in Shanghai, but there are very few that offer real, tangible benefits. Whether it’s a crowd of new arrivals and sales staff or, even worse, you get trapped in seminars with a company promoting their product, to avoid disappointment it really is worth the time to properly research the event you are attending before you attend. Nothing worse than commuting through rush hour after a day’s work at 7pm to waste time.  Stick to industry specific events and know what you are attending.


Streamline Your Meetings

With any size of staff, meetings can quickly run long or run counter-productive. With different voices looking to express their views and different ideas being explored, it’s very easy to stray off focus.  Have a designated moderator and a clear outline of your objectives before going into your meeting, and keep everyone on task to reach those ends. Keep the discussion going oriented towards your specific goals.


Start Work Early

I used to be a late riser. Changing my lifestyle to getting up early has increased my productivity significantly. I arrive to the office feeling invigorated and happier when my commute means cycling on empty streets at 7am. Having to deal with traffic and waiting in front of crowded elevators at 10am kills my mood and productivity. But there’s something even more Shanghai specific to it. Since Shanghai (like all of China) is in the Beijing time zone, it gets dark here way too early. Getting up early brings your work/sleep cycle closer to its natural state.

- Alex Weng - Director at