Stop Information From Becoming Your Clutter

paper clutterIt’s National Clutter Awareness Week and we’re pointing our attention toward the productivity damaging clutter in your life. We’ve already discussed tips for eliminating clutter in your workspaces and avoiding time clutter. Today’s post covers how information clutter can stand in your way.

Do you feel like an information landfill? Important notes, phone calls, messages, and things to read come in but never come out, then it’s time to take control of your information clutter.

Here is a quick guide for managing the information clutter in your life:

  • Email inbox: Statistics show that the average person handles 110 pieces of email each day. Stay on top of this digital 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.
  • Voicemail: Proper voicemail 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.
  • Websites and blogs: Three great routines will help you keep up with your reading. First, store bookmarks of favorite websites in your browser and organize them in folders by relevant categories. Second, keep updates on your favorite blogs through an RSS reader. It’s a preferred alternative to inbox-clogging blog email subscriptions. Google Reader is a great choice that offers set-up instructions for the new user. Finally, 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, but just be sure to keep a descriptive file name and always write a date on the outside of the folder. Twice a year sort through your files, purging outdated or unnecessary papers and rewrite the date on the outside of the folder to indicate the day you updated your files. Archive older files worth keeping in boxes in a secondary storage location.
  • Physical Inbox: Your desktop inbox is a vital part of an information system. It’s smart to make a practice of emptying your inbox each day. Do this by making decisions on all of the various items: take action on it today, file and read later, store it for reference, or recycle it. You should always leave work with an empty inbox.
  • Notes, memos, and stickies: The best way to manage loose notes is to not create them. Instead, make a habit of writing all notes in one key capture location, your planner. 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. Go take control today.

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

[photo by FeatheredTar]
Day-Timer Spokesperson Jeff Doubek can be reached at [email protected]