News

8 Smart Things Super-Productive People Do Each Morning

Posted in Tips on 17 December 2014

The super producers know how to start their day and finish tasks, even before lunch. This sets the tone they need to stay productive all day.

Good productivity is a sign of smart thinking.

The people who achieve the most during the day typically have the smartest approach to their tasks, they have the right attitude, and they employ the best tricks. Here are a few ideas on how to jumpstart your day and get more work done by lunch.

1. Finish one task right away

Super-productive people complete one task right away in the morning to set the tone and demeanor for the day. It's a level set on attitude that says this is how your day will play out. It's a springboard, and orients your thinking. Even if it's a small task, bang it out.

2. Reward yourself for completing a task by lunch

I'm a big fan of personal rewards. Tell yourself you will head down to Caribou and get that triple espresso as a reward for working hard. Having that motivation dangling in front of you is a good way to knock out extra tasks. Just be sure to take the time to actually get the reward.

3. Kill the bad attitude early

The most productive people in the office have an attitude of productivity. If you go into your day thinking you'll be overloaded, stressed out, and bogged down, you will be. Change your attitude about work and start with the mindset that you will accomplish everything on your plate.

4. Eat a healthy breakfast

You might think breakfast is optional. After all, isn't it better to just dive right into work? Super-productive people eat breakfast. I always eat an egg and some fruit to get a protein and natural sugar boost. Being hungry at your desk can be a distraction. Avoid donuts and unhealthy snacks, though--they can kill productivity.

5. Schedule every phone call in advance

To some, a productive day means one spent making phone calls. And that's OK, but it needs to be predetermined. Schedule your calls, even if it means locking in a schedule in 30-minute increments. When you have a plan, you can achieve the plan. Don't rely on randomness.

6. Then, turn off your phone

That shiny little smartphone is a major distraction for really productive people. Use it only when you actually need to make a call or use an app. Otherwise, power that sucker down, or at least disable the ringer and vibration. For serious work sessions, leave it in the car.

7. Never read a news site more than once

I'm shooting my own foot with this one, since I write about the news quite often. The problem with investing a ton of time reading the news all morning is that you create a habit of distraction. It's OK to read the news once in the morning, then focus on work only.

8. Avoid the downers

Those who are super-productive tend to avoid the procrastinators in the office, the curmudgeons who don't finish anything, the complainers who act like the world is out to make them feel miserable. Nod at them in the hallway; avoid them everywhere else.

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Massive Instagram update adds 5 new filters

Posted in News on 17 December 2014

Instagrammers: You're getting new filters for the first time in two years.

The company rolled out a massive update to its iOS and Android app Tuesday that adds five new filters and the ability to rearrange how filters appear within the app.

Instagram's new filters, Crema, Slumber, Ludwig, Aden and Perpetua, will now appear first in the filter tray of the updated app. It also made the filter tray itself smarter as the filter choices now display mini previews of what that filter would like if applied to your photo.

Users also now have the ability to reorder the app's filters or hide the ones they don't use. Scroll to the end of the filter tray to find the new "Manage" setting, which allows you to quickly personalize how and where your favorite filters appear in the Instagram app.

This is the first time the company has updated its filter set since adding the Mayfair and Willow filter in December 2012 (the app now has 24 total filter options.) Instagram says the new filters were inspired by camera improvements on smartphones and the creativity of its users.

"Photography trends have evolved, and the capabilities of the camera on your phone have vastly improved" the company wrote in a blog post. "We’ve seen tremendous creativity within the community, not only in the moments they share, but in the time spent carefully composing and editing photos and videos to bring out emotions and make them beautiful."

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New Skype Technology Enables Nearly Real-Time Translation

Posted in News on 17 December 2014

Microsoft has broken the language barrier with Skype Translator, a new technology that can translate speech, practically in real-time.

The Skype Translator preview program is still in a formative stage, in which those who sign-up via this page can aid Microsoft in refining the technology.

“Even the smallest conversations help Skype Translator learn and grow, which can enrich your communication and lead to amazing things,” Microsoft said on its Skype Translator website.

Using Skype Translator a person will speak in the language of his or her choice and the words will then be translated into the recipient’s chosen language.

After one person speaks, the system then does its best to audibly translate the words in real-time. On the Skype display will be a text translation of what was said to act as a fail safe in case the automated voice makes a mistake.

The oral translator is currently available only in English and Spanish, but more than 40 instant messaging languages are available to those who have signed up and use Windows 8.1 on a desktop, tablet or Smartphone. Language selections will improve as people sign up for the preview version and Microsoft tinkers with improvements to the software.

“Skype Translator relies on machine learning, which means that the more the technology is used, the smarter it gets,” Skype corporate vice-president Gurdeep Pall said in a blog post. “This is just the beginning of a journey that will transform the way we communicate with people around the world. Our long-term goal for speech translation is to translate as many languages as possible on as many platforms as possible and deliver the best Skype Translator experience on each individual platform for our more than 300 million connected users.”

Microsoft did a test run of its software with two schools: Peterson School in Mexico City and Stafford Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington.

The children played a game of ‘Mystery Skype’ in which they asked questions to determine the location of the other school. The Washington class spoke English, of course, and the Mexican class spoke Spanish. As the children posed questions, Skype Translator translated back and forth from Spanish to English and vice versa.

The technology works by combining Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, and neural network-based speech recognition.

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Apple and IBM Roll Out 10 New Mobile Apps Exclusively for Businesses

Posted in News on 16 December 2014

Today, Apple and IBM launched 10 new business apps, marking the first wave of a landmark partnership that the former adversaries forged earlier this year.

The deal will see the two companies ultimately team to create more than 100 business apps, capitalizing on both the unique ubiquity of iPhones and iPads as well as IBM’s proficiency in big data and analytics. The apps are being billed as IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions.

The first suite of software pertains to businesses in the realms of banking, retail, insurance, financial services and telecommunications, as well as governments and airlines, according to a press release. Some of the first companies to use the apps include Citi, Air Canada, Sprint and Banorte.

Plan Flight, for instance, has been developed to allow pilots to make informed decisions about discretionary fuel, while Advise & Grow enables small business bankers to get a real-time glimpse into client portfolios.

Incident Aware, an app for law enforcement officers, turns iPhones into crime-fighting devices, providing video feed of incident locations, information about victim status and more. And a retail app called Sales Assist connects associates with various customer profiles, allowing them to make suggestions based on previous purchases and ship out-of-store items.

Interested parties can check out the full rundown of available apps -- and contact IBM reps in order to implement them within their corporations.

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3 Tips for Creative Leaders to Successfully Tackle Daily Business

Posted in Tips on 16 December 2014

Creative leaders, no doubt, lead differently.

They’re the change makers, idea champions and people inspirers of the world. But the fact is that they still need to find ways to manage the day-to-day tasks of running a business. This might seem contrary to the standard advice, “Stay in your genius zone!”

Yet creative leaders often forget to put enough time and energy into developing a system for daily task management that works. Many immediately become overwhelmed when thinking about systemizing their business. They’d rather spend their time and energy dreaming up the next big idea.  

With a little help, creative leaders can take steps to help guarantee that their businesses will thrive and their ideas make an impact. Here are three smart ways for creative leaders to strike a balance between the long-term and day-to-day aspects of their business: 

1. Allocate time for administrative tasks.

Creative leaders often feel bogged down by routine administrative tasks, such as going through their email inbox, updating the employee handbook and handling paperwork. But when neglected, these responsibilities pile up and become extremely difficult to handle. 

To avoid hectic pileups, creative leaders should become creative about how they schedule time for administrative work each day. Tumblr founder David Karp manages well the monotonous task of checking his email. He saves dealing with email until he arrives at work and allots 30 minutes at the start of each workday to tackle his inbox before moving on to bigger projects.  

You could try this and add a block of time at lunch or the end of the day to suit your schedule. For other big-ticket administrative tasks that are energy draining, deploy the simple trick of scheduling these tasks as calendar items and then your showing up to do them could save you months, if not years, of pain.

2. Follow through with setting standards and getting support.

Creative-minded leaders are able to shape and influence wonderful company cultures through their vision and energy. But it’s equally important that these leaders follow through with developing a company game plan, setting standards and aligning discrete actions with the plan. Delegation is key. Creative leaders must be able to let go and delegate aligned tasks to their teams.

For example, if a creative CEO is fine with employees' working from home or wants everyone to be in the office by a certain time each day, the expectation must be set and the rule adhered to. Failure to follow up means a slippery slope downward for all involved.

Hiring a right-hand person to assist with this process is helpful. This person should be more than an assistant and could be a chief operating officer or partner. But it’s critical to have someone trustworthy and capable of leading the administrative side of things.

Your relationship with this right-hand person should be based on your internal working process and what is effective for you. For example, one of my mentors who’s a creative leader likes to go on a morning jog with her key adminstrative leader and just start talking. The staff person is recording the session and can help her implement the plan from there. 

3. Know how to spell P&L.

Even though creative leaders might not be the ones accomplishing daily reconciliation of the books, they must take their companies seriously enough to set up regular weekly meetings about the organization's financial state. With a sound financial understanding, creative leaders will feel freer, make more powerful decisions and be much more confident.

Creative leaders are a special breed. They’re focused on the ideas that drive businesses and motivate teams. When they take a little extra time and effort to focus on the best way to tackle daily tasks, their companies can become unstoppable. 

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21 Ways to Achieve Wealth and Success

Posted in Tips on 16 December 2014

In his book, Rich Habits -- The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, Tom Corley outlines several habits that distinguish the wealthy from the nonwealthy. 

It got me to think, How many people operate on autopilot and don’t stop to monitor their everyday patterns? Below I've summarized 19 of his habits for success (nine culled from his book and the next 10 from his recent article in Success) plus two of my own. If you're not actively engaged in these 21 things, you are, in effect, leaving money on the table.

1. Setting good daily habits.

Good habits are the foundation of wealth building. The difference between successful and unsuccessful people lies in their daily habits. Simply put, successful people have many good habits and few bad ones. If you understand that your bad habits may be preventing you from becoming wealthy, that realization will be the first step in your improving your circumstances.

In his book, Corley invites you to take out a sheet of paper and list your bad habits in one column and then invert each one to place under a new column for good habits. It should look like this:

Bad Habit/Good Habit

I watch too much TV.             I limit myself to one hour of TV per day. 

I don’t remember names.     I write down names and remember them. 

Then for 30 days, follow the guidance of your new good habits list. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish. 

2. Regularly creating goals.

Successful people are goal driven. They create goals all the time. They plan their day the night before with to-do lists.

People who are headed for success think for the long term. They have daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals. But what’s a goal without a plan to reach them? So not only do successful people have goals, they also come up with ways to achieve them and hold themselves accountable. 

3. Engaging in self-improvement daily.

Successful people are always looking for ways to improve themselves. They read every day and are students of their profession. They don’t spend their time on activities that don't bring them closer to their goals.

I recently attended an event hosted by author Brendon Burchard, who said he consistently blocks out time to create. Successful people like Burchard know that time is too valuable a commodity to waste. They spend their time on the things that will move the needle for them in their business: Being committed to self-improvement means you engage in activities every day that will stretch you.

Seek ways to expand your knowledge. This won’t always be easy, but people grow from things that pose a challenge. Once your knowledge grows, opportunities appear. 

4. Regularly taking care of personal health.

Each and every day successful people make an effort to eat right and exercise. Eating right is of utmost importance. Exercising daily can become a regular habit, just like taking a bath. People who exercise routinely have more energy to get things done. How are you doing in this area? 

5. Often making time for relationship building.

People who are successful are other-people focused. They take time out of their day to strengthen the bonds of friendship and form long-lasting relationships with others. Networking is something they do all the time. They reach out to their contacts and look for ways to help them with no expectation of in return.

The most beautiful sound on Earth, I once heard someone say, is your name. So make it a goal to learn the names of every contact you meet. Aren’t you impressed when someone remembers your name? I know I am. So stand out as different and start remembering names. 

6. Doing things in moderation.

You live in a balanced way if you do activities in moderation. This means having a balanced approach to work, eating, exercise, consuming alcohol, watching television, surfing the Internet and so forth. As a result, people will enjoy your company. If people like being around you, then you will be more apt to collaborate or find the new business partner that you need to take your business to the next level. 

7. Getting things done.

Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today: Accomplish things. All people have fears, but successful people push past them. They don't procrastinate. They get the important things done, no matter the cost.

In Rich Habits, Corley explains that when the thought of putting off something enters the mind, immediately shed notion by saying, “Do it now.” He says repeat these words 100 times if necessary. Just don’t stop till the task is done. 

8. Keeping a positive outlook.

Consider the most successful person you know. Is that person positive or negative? Most likely this individual is positive, enthusiastic, energetic and happy. This person chooses to see the good in others and in himself or herself. To this person, problems are just opportunities waiting to be uncovered.

Every day people are bombarded by news of bad deeds and doings. Successful people minimize their exposure to this type of thing and instead opt to fill their minds with positive ideas from books and magazines. 

9. Regularly saving money. 

According to Corley, successful individuals put away about 10 percent to 20 percent of their gross earnings in a savings, investment or retirement plan. Not everyone can afford to do so, but what percent are you putting away? 

10. Rejecting self-limiting thoughts. 

Successful people command their thoughts and emotions. As soon as bad thoughts intrude, they cast out anything that challenges their ability to succeed at the task at hand. They do not dwell on negative notions. Their self-talk is positive and not overly critical. They replace bad thoughts with good ones.

Because successful people engage in self-improvement daily and are constantly involved in positive things, they don’t allow themselves time to indulge in negative emotions. 

11. Living within means.

Wealthy people avoid overspending. Among many of those struggling financially, some are living above their means. They spend more than they earn, live from paycheck to paycheck and are drowning in credit-card debt. If this is you, resolve today to turn things around for you and your family. 

12. Reading daily. 

Many successful people read 30 minutes or more every day. Reading can increase your knowledge and know-how. When you read, often  you are seeking to improve yourself. This automatically sets you apart from your counterparts. You will stand out from the competition. 

13. Limiting TV watching. 

Did you know that many successful  people limit the amount their TV time to one hour or less a day? How much time do you lose in front of the television that you could be spending doing something more productive? 

14. Doing more than what’s required.

Successful people regularly go above and beyond the call of duty at work. Even if something is not in their job description, they will volunteer to do it. Wealthy people make themselves invaluable. As an entrepreneur, you may not have a boss. But in what ways do you go above and beyond for your clients? How do you wow them? 

15. Talking less and listening more. 

When you listen, you learn. And as the adage goes, that’s why people have two ears and one mouth. When you take the time to really pay attention to what another person is saying, it can truly help not only you but your bottom line as well. When you listen, you are in a better position to help others. 

16. Not giving up.

Don't give up when the going gets tough. Successful people hang in there. They pivot. They try something new. They persist. They may have to change their direction, but they keep moving forward. 

17. Spending time with like-minded ones. 

There's a saying that goes, “Show me who your friends are and I’ll show you who you are.” I believe that. People are only as successful as those they choose to surround themselves with. Good associations can help you more quickly achieve your goals. 

18. Finding a mentor.

Many people who have had a mentor have attributed their success to that person. Mentors can help you achieve your goals faster and keep you accountable. They can share valuable experience that can cut your learning time in half.

19. Knowing your why.

When you know why you're doing something, you will get what you want quicker than if you don’t. Having a purpose is essential to being successful in business and in life. Why do you want to be successful? Why do you really want to be wealthy? 

20. Not giving fear the upper hand. 

Everyone has fears. Successful people don’t allow their fears to limit or define them. Fear inevitably keeps you in the same position and stunts your growth. Recognize your fears and seek ways to overcome them. Interview someone you admire and ask that person how he or she overcame a fear or pick up an autobiography and take notes. 

21. Upgrading skills. 

If you want to get ahead, there’s only one way to do it: Become better at something than you are today. What's the one thing you can focus on for the next 30 days that will catapult you to rock-star status in your industry? Focus your attention on that. I heard John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur on Fire define "FOCUS" like this: Follow one course until success. Will you? 

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At Work, Emotional Intelligence Pays

Posted in Tips on 16 December 2014

When it comes to achieving career success, emotional intelligence probably isn't the first trait that jumps to mind. Particularly in Silicon Valley, where technical, intrapersonal skills are so celebrated that industry leaders are increasingly self-diagnosing themselves as autistic, the ability to decipher other peoples' emotions is often dismissed as a fringe benefit.

But a new study published in The Journal of Organizational Behavior suggests the opposite: Emotional intelligence is a skill that, quite literally, pays. According to the paper, employees who are better at reading their coworkers' emotions make more money than their less emotionally perceptive peers.

To gauge emotional intelligence, the researchers showed 142 study participants – all working adults, holding various level-positions in a broad range of jobs – a collection of images and voice recordings, and asked that they pinpoint the emotion being expressed in each case. "On average, the participants succeeded in 77 percent of the cases," Gerhard Blickle, the study's lead author, said in a press release. Participants who correctly identified 87 percent of cases were deemed good at recognizing emotions, while those that identified more than 90 percent were considered very good. Meanwhile, those that correctly identified less than 60 percent received low marks for emotional intelligence.

Next, the researchers asked one colleague along with one supervisor to rate each participant's social astuteness on scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Sample statements included: "She always seems to instinctively know the right things to say or do to influence others" and "People believe he is sincere in what he says and does." Participants who received high marks on the emotions test were perceived as more socially skilled by their co-workers than those who registered lower scores, and even after controlling for factors such as gender, age, weekly working hours and hierarchical position, the researchers found that they also tended to make significantly more money.

In other words, emotional intelligence is a prerequisite for wielding social influence, a skill that, in turn, is important for successfully navigating work dynamics to achieve career success as well as a higher paycheck, says Yongmei Liu, one of the study's authors.

Interestingly, while emotional intelligence has a warm and fuzzy ring to it, the ability to easily and accurately decipher others' emotions doesn't necessarily make you more empathetic – it just makes you adroit at navigating the social playing field. Like any skill, says Liu "people can use it for good or evil."

While the study did not examine various career contexts, it makes intuitive sense that emotional intelligence is more valuable in some jobs than it is in others. For example in positions that require a lot of social interaction and/or where there are fewer objective performance indicators, emotional intelligence is likely very important, says Liu.

In fact, the researchers conclude, more emphasis should be placed on emotional intelligence when selecting managers, a role that typically requires a large amount of interaction with employees. "Often we hear managers speak of understanding and esteem," Blickle said, "but when we look at their management behavior, we realize that they have neither."

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Why no one should multitask and how I finally stopped

Posted in News on 16 December 2014

Usually, at any given time, I have about 10 to 20 tabs open on Chrome. I'm also juggling several tasks at once: answering emails as they come in, updating my organization's social media channels, writing an article, browsing the news — you get the picture.

I used to think this method of tackling everything at once made me more efficient, but I've started to notice that it actually takes longer to finish anything. I'll write a couple lines of a piece for The Muse, jump over Twitter and churn out a tweet, think of a message I need to send and finally jump back to my Word doc — only to have completely lost my train of thought.

This is called "the myth of multitasking," and I'm not the first to realize that it harms our work. In fact, research shows that multitasking lowers productivity by up to 40% and increases errors and stress.

Why, then, is multitasking still a thing? And, more importantly, how can multitaskers like me stop once and for all?

It feels good

Just like eating an entire carton of ice cream in one sitting (guilty) can give you a temporary boost, it turns out there's a positive emotional response associated with multitasking.

A study from the Ohio State University found those who multitask feel better — not because they got more done (their performance was actually impaired) but because they perceived they were getting more done. The subjects, explains study author Zheng Wang, "seem to be misperceiving the positive feelings they get from multitasking. They are not being more productive — they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work."

So

by recognizing that my multitasking is holding me back, I've already made some progress

by recognizing that my multitasking is holding me back, I've already made some progress.

My next step (and yours)? To eradicate it. When I sat down to think about it, I pinpointed three key reasons I multitask: The nature of internet browsing making it easy to flip-flop between web pages, my lack of organization and my propensity to get bored when I spend a long time on one task.

Here's how I tackled them, one by one.

One tab

Remember all of those open tabs I mentioned? Well, I'm not alone. According to a Mozilla Firefox study, most people have around five to 10 tabs open at one time.

I often leave websites open if I know I'll have to go back and reference them while I'm working. However, that's no excuse for having Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook up — especially because I've gotten into the habit of instantly checking them whenever I see a notification pop up in their tab.

To force myself to focus, I downloaded OneTab a Chrome extension that converts all of your open tabs into a hyperlinked list.

It's amazing how even just the visual effect of reducing my browser to one website improves my concentration, like the virtual version of cleaning my desk. Plus, it's much harder to do three things at once when I'm only looking at one.

Make a list

One of the reasons I skip from project to project throughout the day is because I often remember something I have to do midway through something else. Suddenly, I feel compelled to complete this new task — either because it's more urgent, or I don't want to forget it again, or simply because what I'm currently working on isn't very entertaining.

However, I've found I can solve all of these problems by making a better to-do list.

I'm far from the first professional (or Muser) to champion the power of a task list, so this is not revolutionary advice.

However, if like me, your to-do list is scattered across various platforms — a physical planner, an app like Evernote, a desk calendar, Google Calendar, a notepad, an extension like Any.Do, and so on — you may want to consider concentrating them into a single source.

That's what I did. I decided to exclusively use my planner — since I can use it for scheduling both dates and assignments — and refused to write reminders anywhere else.

Similar to OneTab, this instantly made me feel more organized. It also guaranteed I never suddenly realized I was forgetting a deadline or project, so I could work on one thing in peace.

Chunk it out
Another reason I multitask is because I crave variety. While the "addictive nature" of multi-tasking hasn't been well-studied, one researcher has likened it to skydiving or playing video games, activities in which we "get a buzz from novelty and variety."

Fighting against my impulses reminded me of the Pomodoro Technique, a work method that has you work in set increments, then take periodic breaks. For example, you complete three cycles of working for 25 minutes and then rest for five. It's designed to fight procrastination, but I wondered if assigning myself to work solely on one project for a set amount of time could have the same effect on my tendency to multitask.

It definitely did. For longer projects, I found my momentum around the 20-minute mark, whereas before I had been jumping to something different every five or 10 minutes. And with the shorter tasks, after a couple of days I didn't even need a timer — I could just work until they were done.

When I began this article, I was a chronic multitasker. However, as I write these last sentences, I'm proud to report that not only do I have just one tab open, but this is the sole thing I've been working on for the past 20 minutes. I may still have an obsessive need to check my email — but I'll save that problem for next week.

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9 jobs robots could replace in 2015

Posted in News on 16 December 2014

Walking through the city, I find myself thinking about all the jobs a robot could do.

A robot could probably stand in for my coffee truck guy, though I doubt he’d smile, call me “buddy” and ask if I said “three sugars” or “no sugar.”

A robot could probably take over for that guy spraying down the street every morning — though I often wonder why we need anyone doing that at all.

Could a robot drive that taxi, which just deposited a woman on Fifth Ave.? Probably, though I bet it wouldn’t be as good at multi-tasking. I’ve watched taxi drivers snack, take a call and quiz me about my work all while driving above the speed limit. A robot might simply drive at 25 MPH.

These are not idle thoughts. In two separate reports over the last two years, researchers predicted that the rise of the robot worker was imminent. In the UK, Deloitte and the University of Oxford predict that 10 million unskilled jobs could be taken over by robots. Last year, Oxford Research predicted that 45% of the U.S. jobs across a fairly wide spectrum of industries could be automated and taken over by computers by 2033.

Granted, automation and robotics are not necessarily synonymous, but they’re clearly related, especially when you talk about artificial intelligence.

Earlier this year I spoke to Automated Insights. Its AI engine helps write thousands of news stories for all kinds of mainstream websites. It’s likely that that kind of sneaky innovation — the kind we scarcely notice until someone tells us about it — will be far more commonplace than CP3-O-like automatons working side-by-side by us in the near term.

Still, there is the very real possibility that in 2015 and for many decades to come, robot coworkers and robot replacements will multiply.

With the understanding that my own job, reporter, may be the first one to go, let’s take a look at some of the jobs robots are training for right now.

Cleaning person

Cleaning a house or room is tough enough, but imagine if you had to eradicate every single germ. In the age of Ebola, that’s a baseline requirement. Turns out, there’s already a robot ready to do this. Xenex Disinfection Services' germ-zapping robot is currently using UV light to blast away bacteria, mold and more in a Northern California hospital.

Teacher

You may find robots creepy, but some Connecticut school children with learning and developmental disabilities actually find it easier to interact with a pair of humanoid robots than their human instructors.

Standing just 22-inches tall, the NAO robot from French technology company Aldebaran, is actually designed to be an educational robot. It can’t yet replace teachers, but probably qualifies as a teaching assistant.

Athlete

We've seen robots run and throw things, but we haven't often seen them accomplish many of the tasks necessary to, well, compete.

It's true, there are robot soccer players, but they tend to be tiny and only play against themselves. There is also a robot ping pong player, but a crafty human beat it and we're betting it's somewhere licking its wounds.

What if, though, a robot could take part in America's pastime? That's right, a robot baseball player.

A team of Japanese scientists is teaching robots to catch, hit, run and field. Granted, these robot advancements are happening separately and it'll be a while until the University of Tokyo's Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory can combine them all into one Android major leaguer, but just think of the possibilities. If a robot learns to hit a baseball, they might have to move back all the fences at major league ball parks.

Hospital worker or nurse

Being a nurse is hard work. Not only are you caring for multiple patients on a hospital floor, sometimes you have to move them, bed and all, from room to room. Now a robot hospital bed can, it seems, cut the number of human workers needed to move the bed by one.

Abacus Global Technology unveiled the EPush bed earlier this year at Singapore’s Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. The bed not only has motors to assist in the move, but enough intelligence to maintain a safe speed and adjust if the terrain changes from, say, rug to tile.

Sales clerk

How often have you walked up to a sales clerk, asked him to point out a product only to have him scratch his head and remember whether it’s on aisle three or 16? A robot store clerk won’t do that; it will know more about the store than you or any other nearby human.

Lowes is already putting this concept to the test in a subsidiary called Orchard Supply Store, where a new robotic store clerk named OSHbot is busy helping customers find products. It actually has a map of the store in its brain and in-store GPS. It’s more likely to take you to the product than point the way and go back to playing Candy Crush on its smartphone.

In Japan, Pepper, the robot that’s supposed to know how you feel, is gearing up to sell Nescafe coffee. It may be the rare barista not juiced up on caffeine.

Hotel concierge

The little fellow shows you to your hotel room, gliding almost unnaturally. He doesn’t say much but has already encouraged you two tweet about how much you like him. That’s right, next year’s robot concierge, SaviOne, at the Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, California, can be just as helpful and pushy as its human counterpart. In 2014, it was dubbed A.L.O. Botlr and only part of a trial program, but surely Starwood Hotels, which owns Aloft, will, in 2015, roll out a tiny army of metal and plastic automatons to make your stay more pleasant.

Actor

It’s bad enough that most actors are up against dozens of others for a role. Now they have to compete with robots. This past October in Budapest, Hungary, a robot called REPLIEE S1 played the title role in an unusual staging of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. However, instead of Gregor turning into a bug, he awakes one morning to find himself a robot.

While it’s true that REPLIEE’s performance could best be described as robotic, it’s worth noting that a robot will never forget a line or miss a mark. Expect more robot thespians in 2015.

Airplane pilots

There’s already a fair amount of automation in modern aircraft. What is “autopilot” if not robotics? The pilots who often flip the autopilot switch, though, are all flesh and blood.

Pibot could change that.

Developed by South Korea’s Advance Institute of Science and Technology, the humanoid robot features arms, legs and a head. It’s designed to fly a plane into dangerous situations, such as the damaged Fukishima nuclear power plant.

Commercial flight is probably out of the question for 2015, especially because it’ll probably take a few years to teach a robot pilot how to speak with a Midwest accent, “We’re flyin’ at 30,000 feet over — beep — the Grand Canyon — beep. If y'all look to yer left, ya’ll should — beep — see a robot riding a donkey.”

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Joining the real world: A digital approach to accomplishing your goals

Posted in Tips on 16 December 2014

Whether you've gracefully accepted the fact that college is over and it's time to join the ranks of the "real world," or you're being dragged into adulthood kicking and screaming, there's no denying it: Growing up is inevitable.

And beyond making your bed every morning and paying your own taxes, becoming a self-sufficient adult is a process of trial and error, as well as a juggling act of work, social life, financial responsibilities, dating ... we'll stop the list before it becomes too terrifying.

Luckily, there are numerous digital resources to help you with this sometimes awkward (and scary) transition — apps to help you manage finances, expand your social circle and figure out a healthy routine that doesn't involve eating two-thirds of your daily meals at Dunkin' Donuts. With the New Year coming up, it's time to develop a game plan for how you'll tackle real-world responsibilities in 2015. Below, we've compiled some of the most helpful resources to accomplish your "big kid" goals.

For financial matters

One of the most difficult transitions into adult life is getting the hang of all the money-related matters in your life

One of the most difficult transitions into adult life is getting the hang of all the money-related matters in your life — the intricacies of stock options, 401(k)s and investment options can be confusing to even the most financially savvy, let alone the average liberal arts major. A couple online resources you might find helpful include Khan Academy and LearnVest, continued education platforms that offer helpful videos and lessons on everything from economics and entrepreneurship to financial planning.

Mint is another go-to resource for young adults focusing on money management — the app's user-friendly, visual interface helps categorize your expenses and provide budgeting advice (you'll easily learn exactly how much you're spending on your morning lattes).

And for everything from paying rent to splitting cab fare, forget Credit Card Roulette — divvying up the check has never been easier with cash-sharing apps like Venmo, and more recently Snapcash (though the jury is still out on whether Snapchat's new product will take off).

Lastly, if you're being cut off from mom and dad's joint checking account (bummer), check out Simple. We've written about the online banking service before, but it's worth mentioning again — the fee-free, customer-friendly service holds true to its name; it's the easiest way to spend and save without dealing with the hassles of big banks.

Resolution for 2015: Develop a viable budget based on your income, location, living expenses and savings goals — and stick to it. Use Simple Goals to help save for that reunion with your college pals.

Staying healthy

If you're wistfully reminiscing about the days of free campus gym memberships and check-ups covered by your parents' health insurance, we feel your pain. The below tools can help you rip off the bandaid of becoming responsible for your own health, doctor's visits and medical expenses.

For preventative care, it helps to eat well and stay in shape, as well as to get regular physicals — and unfortunately,

mom isn't going to book your appointments anymore.

mom isn't going to book your appointments anymore. Check out Rise for a "nutritionist in your pocket" to learn how you can keep yourself healthy with a balanced diet. Online recipes from EatingWell and Skinnytaste are good places to start, too; or consider signing up for BlueApron for easy and healthy meals delivered to your doorstep in perfect proportions (because grocery shopping for one person is a pain). If a gym membership isn't in your budget, check out fitness class packages and deals on sites like Lifebooker and ClassPass. Tone It Up is another online workout resource for women that offers free classes and nutrition guides.

ZocDoc has emerged in the past few years as one of the best, low-hassle ways to find a specialist, dentist or primary care physician, and it's easy to find the best doctors in your area based on ratings from other users. Both the app and the website are self-explanatory and receive high marks from users.

Resolution for 2015: Aim to cook one new, healthy meal per week to add to your personal recipe list.

Building a career

This topic could be an article in itself (and in fact, it's already a whole series on Mashable), but there are countless resources for recent graduates and young professionals to help you transition from college or grad school into a professional role. Beyond LinkedIn, which is a must, check out The Muse for openings at hot companies around the U.S. — also be sure to keep an eye on the Mashable Job Board and, if you attended college, your alma mater's online career site or resources.

For graduates and young professionals looking to test out a career path before committing to a 9-5, VirtualJobShadow calls itself a "interactive career exploration" tool, featuring digital job shadow videos, resume builders and more. Check out an example of one of their videos profiling a wildlife conversationalist below.

For recent grads with a philanthropic side, the NGS movement — the Next Generation of Service — encourages young professionals to take their talents to social change organizations around the country and the globe instead of immediately entering the corporate world. Find out about current NGS opportunities and get paired with a mentor here.

Resolution for 2015: Learn a new career-related skill — it can be as ambitious as learning how to code, or as simple as figuring out how to manage a spreadsheet.

Getting a life: Social apps and websites

Making friends and developing a solid social circle is often a slower process — and requires more effort — than when you were thrown together with dozens (or hundreds) of peers in class or in a freshman dorm. For meeting friends with similar interests, both professionally and personally, check out Meetups in your area, which connect you with like-minded people at events, activities and online.

Another platform that brings online connections together in IRL gatherings is Tea With Strangers, the concept of which is to take people's fascination with sites like Upworthy and Humans of New York and turn that mentality into real-world connections and friendships.

Resolution for 2015: Go to one networking event, activity or concert by yourself — and aim to make connections.

Life stuff

You may find that there's simply a lot to keep track of in your daily life as an adult. The below tools can help you sort through the noise, as well as expand your horizons and stay up to date with current events, news and the issues that are most relevant to you.

Facebook's Paper is a useful tool for curating stories and keeping tabs on your friends as you all settle into your adult lives; Flipboard is another news curation tool that's helpful for sorting through the overwhelming amount of content on the Internet and hand-selecting the publications, blogs and sites that are most relevant to your interests.

If you'll be commuting on a daily basis, consider a subscription to Audible for an easy and portable way to keep up with your monthly book club or listen to the latest bestsellers — in a similar vein, podcasts are making a comeback in a big way, so think about downloading a few if you'll be traveling to work via subway or in the car.

And to keep track of your day-to-day, Evernote and Todoist are both invaluable. Taking it a step beyond a simple to-do list, my50 is also an online goal-setting community worth checking out for any and all "bucket list" inspiration.

Resolution for 2015: Take up a new hobby or aim to have a new experience this year. If you're not a reader, try reading (or listening to) six books throughout the course of the year. If you've never been up on the news, connect with some digitally savvy organizations on Twitter and follow along with current events in 140-character snippets.

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