I once asked an executive, “If you decided to hire an assistant, what would you have the individual do?”
His response, “Help me stay current.” He was greatly challenged with staying current on his industry and area of expertise. With all of the new information being made available each day, he was trying to figure out how to keep up with it and still work his “day job.”
Given all that needs to be done each day, what are some of the best productivity hacks to avoid getting bogged down in information flow overload? Here are a few tips:
Block out your time
One of the biggest hiccups to productivity is the “stop and start again game.” Every time you stop an activity then restart it again, time and focus are lost. Kermit Pattison noted in his article, The Cost of Task Switching, “We found about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.”
Establishing a routine and daily blocks of time is ideal for productivity, but it isn’t feasible for everyone. Instead, start with your weekly calendar and mark off blocks of time for tasks such as, tackle that big project, check off annoying task items, or dedicate 30 minutes to the information that keeps distracting you day after day. Compartmentalizing activities, particularly those that need focus, and providing specific blocks of time can provide a good basis for on-going productivity.
If the thought of the word “system” makes you cringe, call it your “rhythm and groove”. Either way, find some standardization with your activities that can be as flexible as your schedule needs it to be. Outside of my RSS feed, I have a daily read folder in my inbox. As emails come in that I’m interested in reading, I move them to that folder and continue on. That folder is accessible on each of my devices and when I have 5-15 minutes blocks during the day, that would be unproductive otherwise, I scan through them. I am able to keep updated without feeling overwhelmed by it.
Turn off the alerts
It was bad enough when Microsoft came up with the desktop alerts to tell you each time an email came in. It has now cascaded to a never-ending barrage of notifications and alerts.
Get rid of the distractions. Minimize or turn off all alerts. If you are hyperventilating at the thought of this, start with at least turning off the sound alerts. Every time that “ding” goes off, whether you stop to look or not, it is distracting you from the current activity. Remember the “stop and start again game” math.
Truncate the information
As a business leader, information is coming at you from all directions and in all shapes and sizes. For sustainable productivity, provide some guidance on how you want the information delivered to you.
Instead of spending your time sifting through file after file of reports, have your team summarize it into a dashboard & exception reports. Keep the dashboard to no more than ten pieces of information, preferably in chart or graph format. Exception reporting is used only for the information you should be aware of. Establish parameters and only the information outside those parameters goes on the exception report.
The 3 Ds
One of my favorite productivity hacks for managing information is using the 3 Ds. The quicker you decide what to do with the information or tasks, the more productive you will be.
– Do it: If it will take less than 5-10 minutes get it done at the moment since it will take more than that to file, add it to a task list, and pick it up again at a later date/time.
– Delegate it: Even if it takes an additional time investment initially to explain and/or train – delegate it.
– Delete it: Ask yourself, “Am I really ever going to get to this?” This is very different than, “I’d really like to get to this.” Get rid of everything that does not need to end up on your To-Do list. That includes the items that have been sitting in your inbox for more than a month or have been on your To-Do list for more than a week.
Leverage the information
One of the great things about the speed of information is all of the productivity tools that are available as a result. Often times they can be more frustrating than helpful since you invest the time to learn them and then don’t end up using them.
The best way to learn is from someone else. Put a post on your social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and ask for recommendations. The recommendations often come with a story of how they use it which is more helpful than a features and benefits video on most websites. Once you narrow it down, reach out to the person who originally made the recommendation and ask for 15 minutes of their time to walk you through it. I’ve never had anyone say “No” to this request.
There is no need to stop or slow down the flow of information in your life. Invest a little time in how to manage it and it will pay off greatly.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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