Landfill by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Stop Information Clutter and Start Getting More Done

By Bob Sadowski, APR, Public Relations & Social Media Manager, ACCO Brands

Are you an information landfill, where important notes, phone calls, messages, ideas and websites come in but they never come out? If so, then you need to reduce your information clutter.

Luckily, you’re not alone. People commonly struggle to handle the enormous amount of information and communication each day. Here are a few simple tips for managing the information in your life:

  • Inbox Overload? Statistics show the typical worker handles 110 pieces of email each day. Stay on top of this digital clutter pile by using the 3 R’s: Read, Respond, Remove. Process your email this way three times per day: early in the morning, just after lunch and 30 minutes before you leave work.
  • Voice mail Clutter: Proper voice mail management begins with a good outbound greeting. Be sure to leave specific instructions about what you want from your callers and then offer up an alternative solution, such as calling back later or calling someone who can assist them immediately. Then, keep a routine system for writing voice messages in your planner as a task item. Always delete your messages once you’ve listened to them.
  • Website Traffic: Three great routines will reduce reading material clutter:
      1. Store bookmarks of favorite websites in your browser and organize them in folders by relevant categories.
      2. Keep updates on your favorite blogs and online news services through an RSS reader. It’s a preferred alternative to inbox-clogging email subscriptions. Google Reader is a great choice that offers set-up instructions for the new user.
      3. Save interesting articles you come across by emailing yourself a link with a brief note to read later.
  • Filing systems: File all documentation in alphabetical order. When in doubt, start a new folder using a descriptive file name and label a start date on the front. Twice a year, sort through your files, purging outdated or unnecessary papers and rewrite the date on the folder to indicate when it was last updated. Old files worth keeping should be archived in a secondary storage location.
  • Desktop Clutter: Your inbox should be the hub of your information system. All physical information starts there, so make a habit of emptying your inbox each day. Do this by making decisions to:
      1. Take action on it today
      2. File and read later
      3. Store for reference
      4. Recycle it

Your goal should be to always leave work with an empty inbox.

  • Notes, memos and “stickies”: The trick to managing random information is to not create it. Make a habit of writing all notes in one key capture location, such as your planner or organizer. It will greatly reduce time spent recalling information—as well as your stress. Here’s a great article on the power of using one planner by Time Management Ninja.

You’ll find yourself being more productive when you minimize the information clutter in your life. Take control today.

Do you have any tips on clutter? Please share with your fellow readers.

[photo by widnr]

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