How to be Organized and Rich, not Rigid – Final

Information OverloadWho knew that organization would be such a popular topic with IT developers? Since writing this blog series, I had the chance to speak at two tech conferences for people who code – That Conference in Wisconsin and Music City Code in Nashville.  I thought the technical sessions would be the most popular, but I saw that learning soft skills was also in demand.  My speaking sessions were very well attended for my topic From Mess to Success.

In the last of this four part series on Organization, Il discuss being organized with Information.  We are in constant information overload.  How do we know what to read, keep, and discard as entrepreneurs and employees?  Did you know that people spend up to an hour a day searching for things?  That’s 12 days a year!

Employees spend roughly 25% to 35% of their time looking for the information they need to do their jobs. Document Magazine

Let me share some of the tips that I presented in Nashville to help you organize information so you can find it when you need it.

  1. The Rule of One (one calendar, one device, one email) – storing information in multiple locations and having several email accounts is redundant and inefficient. There’s just too much to monitor and track, so why make it more complex.  Instead, consolidate one place for everything.  This means have one place to jot down notes – not multiple scraps of paper that pile up on your desk.  Have all of your emails forwarded to one account so you don’t have to log into multiple systems.  Have one computer that you use for everything.  The Rule of One means there is ONLY one place to retrieve information.
  1. Keep Only What you Can’t Access Elsewhere – no need for duplication. If you can find something online (ie. bank statements and cancelled checks), no need to keep a paper copy, too. If you backup your computer and email regularly, no need store files on Google drive or a jump drive.  This tip also have with version control since you only make changes in one place. Avoid redundancy when possible and just keep only what you need.  (Hint: Read bullet #5 for a great bonus tip.)
  1. Create Handy Cheat Sheets for Occasional Notes – when I was a corporate consultant implementing SAP software, there were a few tasks that I only did at the go-live point in the project. These tasks had special steps that had to be done in a precise order.  Since I only did these actions once a year, I created a cheat sheet that I kept in my planner for easy access.  I knew that if I made an electronic document, I would forget what I named it and where I stored it.  This paper cheat sheet was just what I needed for quick access to the special action steps.  For those critical tasks that you only do on occasion, I suggest creating your own cheat sheet that you can quickly find when needed. You will be glad you did.
  1. Purge every 30 days (papers, email, efiles) – set up a routine to periodically discard or archive paper, email, and electronic files you no longer need. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, 80% of what we keep we never use.  In the corporate world, decisions and requirements change at times.  That’s a great opportunity to discard papers and efiles that are no longer relevant.  Another purge technique is to toss business cards after you’ve scanned them into your phone app (or can’t remember the person because there’s no photo or notes on the card).  Before I started purging, I kept cards for so long that they wore out or changed color.  Now, I scan and toss once a month.
  1. Bonus Tip: Make friends with the hoarder. For those people who are still hesitant to let go of information ‘just in case’, I recommend one thing – make friends with ‘the hoarder’.  That’s the person who no matter what, won’t follow any of these steps because he or she feels the need to retain everything. Leverage your hoarder friend as your backup drive.  Follow all of my steps above to simplify YOUR information, but rest easy that you can still call on that person if needed.  You won’t have to do the heavy lifting.

I trust you enjoyed this series on being more organized and gained back hours in your week.  Please leave a comment to share what you are doing with that free time – spending more time with kids, working out, meditating, or maybe re-engaging with a hobby you love.

Nancy Gaines

Nancy Gaines is CEO/Founder of Gain Advantages Inc. and has been advising small businesses and Fortune 100 companies how to increase revenues through proven systems for almost two decades. She is a best-selling author and international keynote speaker. Nancy has been named in the Top 100 Productivity Experts to follow on Twitter and has a global podcast downloaded in over 95 countries. Her main focus is creating business processes with actionable steps so her clients achieve more consistency, ease, and ultimate success.

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