Time Management Challenges: Too Much Information!

What does your daily mail look like? I don’t mean just your email, but also your snail-mail. How much of it is junk? How many trees were lost to all that we throw away each day?

 Between the mail, emails, radio and television plus whatever newspapers or magazines you read – online or off, there is just too much information to handle each day. It is time consuming and frustrating when you can’t remember where you read that tidbit you wanted to share because your mind has traversed numerous information sources.

Information is essential. The form in which it comes in not the issue – it’s the amount! Handling the abundance of information requires some good habits. Computers were supposed to have reduced the paper usage. Do you really think they have since it is so easy to generate and distribute more information more efficiently? And too many people email the person in the next office instead of talking to him. After a series of email discussion points back and forth, the amount of paper it takes to capture the information is greater than ever – assuming one prints it for a “CYA file.”

There are a few habits you can develop to help you manage information:

Printed Information:

  • You have choices here: Dump It, Delegate It, Do It or Delay It!
  • Try to handle it only once.
  • If you don’t have time to deal with it at the moment, file it in an appropriately labeled file: Reading, Up Coming Events, Follow Up, Needs Immediate Attention, etc.
  • This will help you clear your work space and let you retrieve the information quickly when you need it.
  • Don’t forget about File #13: Trash. 

Develop criteria for what you should keep and what to toss.

  • Analyze your printed information to see what you can combine, eliminate, shorten or modify to capture what you need.
  • Develop routines and procedures that simplify the way you work. Schedule time to read the information you have saved.
  • Schedule work sessions to deal with the information.
  • And finally, remember to clear out your files at least once a year!

Electronic Information:

Your email inbox is full. You have saved emails in a number of folders. Your computer is bogged down! What’s a person to do?

Some emails are worth saving – either in a “folder” or as a hard copy, which means you have to handle that also.

  • Do you go back to those saved in folders or do they just sit there holding space?
  • If you saved an email for a specific reason, use or log that information as soon as possible so you can delete it.
  • This will require you to have a logical system for capturing and storing important information.

What about downloads: MP3 files, PDF documents, video files, webinars, etc.?

  • Do you find time to listen or read them again?
  • Is there a way to capture the key points you need to keep?
  • Should you burn them to CDs or DVDs or a thumb drive?

You have a number of choices with electronic information. The important point is that you must decide what to do with each piece and act on it. Just like printed information, it will begin to pile up!

Ask yourself: Is this information really going to be of value to me? 

To manage the information that crosses your desk, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Will I really use this information?
  2. When will I use it?
  3. Where should I keep it so I can retrieve it when needed?

Next Step: Catch yourself spending too much time handling information. Either give yourself permission to continue for a specific amount of time and move on or ask yourself: “Is what I am doing right now getting my closer to completing my goal(s)?” 

Remember: you are in charge of your time!

Sherry G. Day, M.S., President & Chief Learning Officer of Executive Resources-Human Potential Consultants, L.C. based in Michigan, has worked with thousands of individuals to assist them in discovering the potential within oneself. Transforming individuals and organizations to maximize potential and execute intentions, Sherry works in one-on-one, team and classroom environments to help individuals to maximize their potential and develop their innate interpersonal skills to communicate and lead more effectively. © 2009

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