Nine Tips to Cope With Information Overload

June 29, 2010 by  Filed under: Management 

The information age has spawned its own problem: information overload. Try these tips for managing today’s information flood:

1. Schedule appointments with yourself to deal with incoming information. Set aside time in the morning and the afternoon to deal with your paper mail, e-mail, and voice messages. You know how long it typically takes you to handle what comes in, so split that time in half, and physically schedule two appointments with yourself each day on your calendar to manage the information.

2. Read while you hold. Spending time on hold when trying to complete telephone calls is a big time-waster, but you can turn it into a productivity tool if you keep a pile of articles you’ve been “meaning to read” nearby. Five minutes per day equals 2.5 reading days per year.

3. Schedule your mail handling. Establish a time each day to deal with incoming mail–don’t drop everything when the mail arrives. Don’t let low-priority mail interfere with high-priority tasks; instead, save the mail for a quiet time in the afternoon when your energy and productivity levels are down.

4. Purge your flow of inbound information. For one month, track every report, subscription, and memo distribution list you’re on. At the end of the month, go through the list and decide what you need to continue receiving, what should be discontinued, and what should be routed to someone else.

5. Travelers’ tip: Make an appointment with yourself the day after returning from a trip. Give yourself three to four hours to go through accumulated mail and messages and “deal with your desk.”

6. Keep your files thin. Don’t retain copies of minutes, reports, and correspondence if someone in the office also has a copy filed. Note a throw-out date on all paperwork before filing so it can be readily tossed when you purge your files. And file documents digitally whenever possible.

7. Set up a central location for information and maintain reports and other research there. It’s not necessary for everyone in the organization to have a copy of everything in their office as long as they have access to what they need to know.

8. Use voice mail effectively. Leave detailed messages so the person you are calling can gather necessary information for an accurate response when returning your call–don’t make people call you back to find out what you want.

9. Set policies to control information-generation. Instruct employees to only send material to the appropriate people and to avoid generating unnecessary correspondence. Resist duplicating communications unless absolutely necessary. Finally, be concise and purposeful; keep your communications brief and to-the-point, and be sure everyone in your organization follows your example.

Jacquelyn Lynn is the editor of Flashpoints newsletter. Flashpoints is a comprehensive information resource for business owners and managers who want to take their operation to the Flashpoint. Visit http://www.theflashpoints.com to sign up for a free subscription to Flashpoints newsletter plus an extra free gift: The Mindset of High Achievers by JK Harris and Jacquelyn Lynn.

In addition, Jacquelyn Lynn is the author of more than 20 books, including Entrepreneur’s Almanac ; Online Shopper’s Survival Guide ; Make Big Profits on eBay (with Charlene Davis); In Search of the Five-Cent Nickel (with Don Abbott); and 11 titles in Entrepreneur Media’s StartUp Guide series. Visit http://www.jacquelynlynn.com for more details.

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