Slow day in August? 3 ways to get ahead

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(MoneyWatch) The work day can seem to drag on forever in August, with half your industry on vacation and the other half leaving the office early. If you're able to take advantage of some time away, good for you. But if you find yourself at your desk in an eerily silent office free of all the usual distractions, instead of polishing your "Words with Friends" or "Angry Birds" skills, it's a good time to take advantage of this downtime  Here are three better ways to capitalize on slow days. And then feel free to nail that triple word score against your mom on Saturday:

Tackle your business card pile. When you receive new business cards, do you file them immediately or dump them into a huge, disorganized pile? If the latter describes you, now's the time to scan those or move them into a binder or Rolodex, says Kathleen Nadeau, director of the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland and co-author of "ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life." Do a little each day, and by September you and your contacts will be able to hit the ground running. This popular scanner from Canon costs just $55. And this highly rated one from Fujitsu ($190) fits easily into your purse or briefcase.

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Fill up on face time. "Oftentimes, busy periods at work force you to postpone face-to-face client meetings or respond to their phone calls via email or text in order to save time," says efficiency expert Andrew Jensen, founder and CEO of business consulting firm Sozo. Now's the time to schedule lunches or meetings with clients and colleagues; their offices are probably slow, too. "Not only are you proving your devotion to your clients by giving them your full attention, but because making time specifically for them is the best way to discuss progress, make plans for the future, and brainstorm new ideas, you're setting yourself up for increased productivity," Jensen says.

Revamp your filing system. This is a classic example of something you can do in August that will make you more productive even into next summer. (It's also the last thing you have time for when your "to-do" list is longer.) First, evaluate how your current filing system hinders you instead of helping. "A filing system that isn't used is no filing system at all," Nadeau says. Then order new filing cabinets or software, and use the temporary summer intern's help to get your new system cranking.

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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