You can remember our previous publication here: Live to work or work to live. Part 6. Priorities: how to weed out the superfluous and find time for important.
21st century is the information century. The volumes of information are enormous and fast growing. Nowadays any person who wants to achieve success should have a personal system of “information management”.
This system should respond such simple questions as “How should documents be stored on the desktop?” and the most complex questions, for example “When, how and what to learn?”, “What, why and how to read?” etc.
Everything is changing so fast that you always need to learn. Only in this case, you will be competitive in the modern world. But to learn continuously, spending a reasonable amount of time on it, it is necessary to do it systematically.
Managing information in personal work starts with the system of reading.
First, you should understand that you must read. It is better to have a rule: no less than one serious book a week.
How to read more effectively? The most formulaic answer to this question is speed reading. But in fact, speed reading is important primarily for professionals dealing with large volumes of information, such as analysts. If you don’t have such a task, do not read “more” – read “smarter”.
While reading, you can follow the simple guidelines :
Here are some simple recommendations for the system of reading:
How does the war in Iraq affect your daily activities? If your company does not work with the Middle East and you do not have relatives there – it probably does not affect. So why should you “turn your head into the trash?”
Stephen Covey in his book “Seven habits of highly effective people” have a good concept of “circle of influence” and “circle of concern”. The circle of concern is usually wider than the circle of influence. But why should you worry about things that do not affect your life?
It’s not easy to refuse extra knowledge and not to read about the divorce of the pop star and damage brought to Timbuktu by the hurricane. Reassure yourself that the amount of information in the world is growing exponentially, you’ll know it anyway.
Here are the simple rules for optimizing relations with the TV:
A similar approach works with other sources of news. Honestly answer the question: “Do I really need this information or just try to fill the inner emptiness with the information noise?”
Email is wonderful and yet underrated by many leaders’ tools. Its time management advantage is that it does not require simultaneous contact – you send mail in appropriate time to you, your counterparty read it in a convenient time to him. It is much more convenient than telephone communication, which requires the simultaneous presence of both communication partners. So, it is better to use email for all non-urgent issues.
The next problem with the e-mail is spam letters. If you encounter them frequently – it’s recommended to get a separate mailbox, never mentioned in the public domain and known only to the key colleagues, leadership, etc. Even when you are engaged in an important task, the signal “You have a new email” immediately alarms your brain. You set everything aside and a new letter, of course, is not as important as it seemed to be.
Disable notifications of new emails and make automatic update more rare, check it only about 3-4 times a day. It’s better to do it at a certain time well-known to your colleagues, for example, the last half hour before lunch and before the end of the working day.
Sometimes you need to check email more often, for example, if your head frequently sends emails with urgent tasks during the day. But even in such cases updating the email once an hour is enough. The question that can not wait an hour will be probably asked on the phone.
To facilitate your work, set automatic sorting of the emails. Make separate folders for the key topics, projects or people, and configure automatic spreading of messages in these folders.
It is strongly recommended to keep all the e-mails in several thematic folders. It often happens that all the emails are left in the “Inbox” folder. Clearing the “Inbox” is one of the key tasks. It can be made with the help of the system of folders “In Control”. The structure of these folders can be as follows:
By establishing such system of control, you use the important advantage of the e-mail: the materialization of plans and arrangements. Human memory is a very flexible tool. If your plans and arrangements are confirmed by e-mail, it will be much easier to resolve any disputes. Therefore, even after discussion questions on the phone or face to face, it is highly recommended to confirm the key points by sending a short “check” letter with the main theses by e-mail.
Everyone has particular information streams: paper documents, e-mail, electronic documents, etc. The more complicated our work, the more intense these flows and the more we need to build the data storage system. But there is no use in building it immediately and spontaneously. It’s much more effective to “grow” the structure using the method of “limited chaos”.
In civilized countries, the footpaths are not made randomly. Planners first watch how people tread the paths and only then asphalt them. These paved paths can be curved, but it will be the best solution, prompted by life itself and not invented out of someone’s head.
The same approach we use to create the structure for storing the information. First, we let it to “tread” the path and only then “asphalt” it.
The method of “limited chaos” is as follows:
When you follow this algorithm you will gradually grow the “place of order” instead of chaos. It will be simple and convenient due to the fact that you will not try to invent the correct order immediately. You’ll first watch what paths are treaded and only then asphalt them.
If you have to work a lot on non-standard tasks, generate new ideas, etc. – you should create a control system for thoughts and ideas.
The organizer/diary is a “place of order”, the creative card-file is a “place of chaos”.
Basic principles of card-files:
During the day of intensive work we receive a huge amount of information. When we materialize the objectives, the desktop is filled with stickers and documents on necessary matters. But the problem is that people’s attention is not unlimited. This resource is as valuable as time. It also should be spent wisely. And chaos in the working space is distracting, it doesn’t allow to focus on the major tasks.
Let’s understand the structure of the person’s attention:
Well-organized structure of the workspace must match the structure of attention. On your desktop, on board with stickers or anywhere else highlight three main areas:
The main rule of control of attention: if you put something closer to the center of attention – be sure that you remove something from it. This method ensures that your attention is spent optimally.
One of the key aspects of “personal information management” is the organization of the desktop. It is the place where you spend about one-third of your life, so you should organize it wisely.
The computer is usually the center of attention. The space near the center of attention is “preconscious” – 7 ± 2 key signals (stickers, documents), reminding you of the highest priority tasks.
Thus, the first step in optimizing the workplace is to identify the center of attention and “preconscious”, clear “preconscious” from everything extraneous and leave only 7-9 signal elements (stickers, business cards, documents). Typically, it is convenient to place this area between the monitor and keyboard.
Somewhere near the signal area, you should place the “subconscious” of the signal area – the place for stickers, business cards, and other signals. The signal area should be cleared at the end of the day and the “subconscious” – about once a week.
It is also desirable to allocate a separate space close to the signal area for the technically necessary things: calculator, stapler, phone, writing instruments, manuals, etc. These things should be available, but clearly separated from the signal area.
The next step after the separation of the center of attention and the signal area is to organize a “place of chaos” for documents. The incoming documents are received in the Inbox storage during the day. Reay documents are moved to the Outbox storage. Once in the evening you get all the documents in the Outbox storage and scatter them to the proper folders.
Finally, place a planning board with stickers, background information, elements of the long-term planning or regular cases on the wall near the table. Additional “board” can perform the function of motivating. Put on it pictures of your future house or car, inspirational sayings, family photos or other signals which can help to forget about work for a moment. They shouldn’t be placed close to the center of attention. When they are away from it, addressing them well help to switch from current problems on something pleasant.
Organize your desktop, think over the direction of the information flows. Then you’ll guarantee yourself the ability to cope with any operating information chaos, not applying excessive force to it.
Implement techniques of filtering, storage and rapid movement of information, that will allow you to keep it under control without applying excessive force to it.
Summary of recommendations:
Stay tuned with us and check our next post: Live to work or work to live. Part 8. Time consumers: how to find time reserves.