Should you disconnect the cell phone? Boycott voice mail? Throw the PDA out the window? As a chaotic 2008 comes to a close and workers resolve to regain sanity in 2009, where do they go for answers to questions about how to cope with information overload?
For more than 30 years, Xerox Corporation social scientists have been studying how workers communicate, organize and generally get things done. Inspired by their Future of Work study, they provide nine tips to help workers save time and manage information overload.
*Breathe. It may sound simple, but not enough people take the time to do it. So schedule breaks into your daily working routine. It helps productivity -- even stepping away from your desk for a moment. Even a quick nap helps you regenerate and be more productive. Research supports this, we swear.
*Simplify Your Schedule. Try scheduling all of your meetings on specific days so you have more time on non-meeting days to process information coming in –- it’s much easier to focus when you don’t have a meeting looming in 20 minutes.
*Back It Up. No information is worse than too much. Make sure you have a solution in place for regular back-up.
*De-clutter Your Desktop (both of them). File, pile or toss papers as soon as you receive them. Scan and save important documents to reduce desktop clutter instead of filing. On your computer, consider getting rid of folders altogether and using desktop search engines to find things when you need them.
*Touch it Once. Often we waste time dealing with the same piece of information again and again. Respond as soon as you receive it, put it in its file or delete it/shred it the first time you touch it.
*Forget the Free Stuff. It comes at a price (e-mail garbage and unsolicited offers). Choose quality over quantity. Manage your bills and accounts online and sign up for the do not call lists and the no junk mail lists.
*Use Your Tools. Make use of your phone for getting the right info at the right time. For instance, you don’t have to waste time printing maps if you can access them from your phone. GPS phones have the smarts to give you the right information based on your actual location.
*RSS Reprieve. Sign up for an aggregator. It helps you see all your news in one place.
*Manage Mobile Madness. Use a mobile device with e-mail support to make hours way from your desk more productive. Keeping track of e-mail throughout the day can help you anticipate future work, and take care of mini-projects as they arise instead of waiting until later to sift through a huge pile of e-mail.