Are you buried under paper? Or swimming through your inbox? Both?

We all dream of being in charge of our information, but lets face it, most days, we lose the fight. Why? Did you know that we make more decisions in one day than the average person made in an entire year back in the 1900s?!?!? It’s no wonder we’re going crazy!

When it comes to dealing with information, the problem is more than incoming paper. In a recent Wall Street Journal  article on Digital Hoarding, David D. Nowell, a neuropsychologist specializing in attention issues in Worcester, Mass. says when it comes to storing digital files there is so much storage available, “The problem isn’t that it slows down your computer—it slows down your brain.”

Getting a handle on your information-both paper and electronic- can help you clean things up and maintain your sanity. So whatever your preference, the key to trying to get a jump on your information woes is to have systems and prcesses in place to catch information as it comes in and make a decision about what you have to do and when you’re going to do it.

First here are a few tried and true methods for managing paper and electronic information:

  • Stop the onslaught of unwanted incoming mail. Use services like Catalog Choice, Paper Karma, DMA The DirectMail.com National Do Not Mail List to get your name off mailing lists.
  • If you don’t need it or read it unsubscribe from newsletter lists (except mine LOL).
  • Put your technology to work for you  and make things talk to each other (aka synchronize your cell phone to your tablet to your computer).
  • Think before you print. Email is electronic for a reason. Consider using a second monitor. Most people print a document to use it as reference. Using a second monitor lets you review documents on one screen while you work on the other.
  • Match your files electronic and paper files so you reinforce good habits about where to store and look for your information.
  • Reduce duplicates and condense files into broad categories. By consolidating your files, it will be easier to find your information with fewer places to look.
  • Use a  document scanning service to convert your paper, receipts and stacks of business cards to searchable PDFs, indexed expense reports with images and exportable contact lists. My favorite is Shoeboxed.
  • If you’re always on the go, use a cloud storage solution so you can easily access the same files from different computers,smartphones or tablets.

Still stuck? Check out the VISIONS Information Action Grid below for ways to handle your incoming information.

Incoming Information What to Do with It
Paper Mail
  • Sort mail as it comes in.
  • Pull information for unwanted mail to use in unsubcribe requests and toss what you don’t need
  • Shred anything with sensitive data
  • Separate Action items (bills, invitations, project work) from Reference (newsletters, updates, FYIs)
  • Decide when you will work on the Action item. Schedule it on your calendar and/or put it in your tickler system like the SwiftFile™
  • Once you read your Reference mail, shred it, toss it or file it away.
  • Remember to put project related work together in your Action/Project files and keep them close at hand.
Email
  • Have scheduled times to check your emails
  • Mark junk as Spam to train your email system and delete what you don’t need
  • Read messages for actions and next steps on your part
  • Decide when you will take action and schedule that time on your calendar
  • Use the Create Event or Create Task feature in your email system to schedule your work
  • Set up folders for your Action items by project name (Website Makeover) or next action (Calls, Bills to Pay, To Read)
  • Move the scheduled items into the appropriate folder. Try to get as much “white space” as possible in your inbox.
  • Check these folders regularly against incoming items and your schedule to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
Calls/Voice Mails
  • Have one notebook or electronic file that you use to take notes when you are making calls or reviewing voice mail. Get crazy and set up a Call log that lets you detail your discussion points, next actions and capture any off topic items that may come up later.
  • Separate your next steps or promised actions from things you request of others
  • Schedule your next actions on your calendar once you’re off the phone
Project Work
  • Create dedicated folders for your projects in progress. Break out specific portions of the projects if they have large moving parts.
  • As information related to key projects come in, decide if they are just for reference or if they require an action on your part.
  • Schedule your next actions and check your timing against the Master project schedule. Be sure to plan for things you have to hand off to others or that you are waiting for.
  • Place reference information directly in the appropriate folder for that portion of the project so you don’t have to scramble for it down the road.
Requests from Others
  • If you deal with key people often, set up folders for them and use these folders to capture key items or information that you have to share with them.
  • Schedule regular check ins with them to minmize interruptions and make sure that you are on target with timing for your work.

Need more help on managing your information? Click here to request your complimentary consultation with Nicole for some guidance.

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Nicole Chamblin
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Nicole Chamblin

I’m Nicole Chamblin, a productivity “coachsultant”, the Chief Visionary and owner of Visions Productivity Solutions. Through onsite consulting, virtual coaching and live training sessions, I love teaching ways to more effectively manage the 3 Ts™- time, team, and tasks. If you’re a small business owner or a department head of an established business that has never taken the time to put in place back end administrative processes to improve productivity, efficiency, communication and collaboration– I can help.
Nicole Chamblin
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