Nowadays, neither Outlook, Google Calendar nor their task management tools come up to scratch because, beyond a certain level of complexity, they simply don’t allow you to keep tabs on all your activities.
The connectivity offered by the web, social media and smartphones are just some of the factors that have driven this explosion of information. We now face an information overload, with far more input than we can possibly process or digest.
To cope with this complex and overwhelming professional environment, I want to give you 5 practical tips: they’re designed to help you keep your head above water in the sea of information available, whether via Google, social media, the financial papers, specialist magazines and any of the other attention-grabbing sources of reading matter to be found online, which can divert your focus from work tasks:
Only subscribe to newspapers, blogs and online magazines that really offer you an edge, whether that’s because they provide an insider perspective from your industry, or because they allow you to stay up to date with trends and news.
Follow or friend people on social media who post news or articles that are of interest to you personally or professionally. Don’t accept friend requests or follow users just because they have followed you — this will only clutter up your inbox on each platform or social media network with low-interest information, forcing you to spend large amounts of time filtering it in order to find the information that really matters to you.
Set daily or weekly limits on the time you spend reading news or doing research. 30 or 40 minutes a day is plenty of time to spend reading work-related articles and news items.
Allocate a specific time slot to reading for research and professional development. Interrupting your work to read news items, articles and tweets and so on makes you less efficient. My recommendation is to set aside a fixed time on your agenda, just as you would schedule a meeting or a client visit. This will help you stay more focused when you’re working and give your undivided attention to the task in hand. I don’t recommend allocating the time when you are at your most productive and your concentration levels are at their highest. Reading for research can be a useful complementary activity to fill short 10 to 15 minute windows between one appointment and the next.
Use a tool to help you organize and structure information that you have found useful, which you’d like to be able to file systematically and access. For example, Pocket is a handy tool that allows you to save and classify webpages.
We’ve moved from a paradigm in which information was a scarce resource, to one in which the scarce resource is our attention and our ability to filter, organize and archive the information relevant to our own lives. More than ever we need a method to help us organize information in an efficient, manageable way. And not everyone has one. Have you ever had to re-create a document because, after wasting time searching for it, you just couldn’t locate it? Do you send important information to yourself via email, just to make sure you can access it easily, and not lose track of it in a maze of files and folders?
The challenge of organizing information impacts on our personal and professional lives. Some of the most problematic aspects of organizing information and activities may include:
Managing and coordinating documents within a team or across departments: many companies are struggling with the changeover to paper-free management. This is due as much to the lack of a reliable method as it is to the lack of an appropriate tool. With paper-based technology, even if we’re not aware of it, we’re not just processing the document, but also, when we use filing trays, stacks of papers and colored or coded folders, we are in fact also managing the document’s history and meta-information. The filing system paradigm does not make it easy to track or manage meta-information to ensure processes transfer fluidly across work groups or between departments. This is one of the main stumbling blocks in the transition to a digital model, especially in small and medium sized enterprises.
Professional career: monitoring and organizing your documents and activities are crucial tasks in an ever more demanding working environment. The vast amount and variety of informational input, as well as the challenge of keeping track of our activities, can result in confusion and make it difficult to access information and keep track of our agenda.
Constant training: constant training is essential, and a key factor in professional success. Only a few years ago, most people received advanced training at a specific times in their lives, normally after completing secondary education. Today, the way we see training has changed: it’s our own responsibility to stay up to date and adapt our skills and competences to a changing reality. So we continue training throughout our lives.
Official certificates: official documents on paper are gradually being replaced by digital documents, such as, for example, medical reports, invoices, training certificates and son, which need to be filed and organized correctly so they can be accessed when we need them.
Leisure: sport, cultural activities, travel and trips away are also part of our daily lives. Organizing leisure time can be a time-consuming task too: there are the hotels and restaurants we’ve enjoyed that we’d like to recommend or return to some day; back copies of magazines or articles from the New York Times to keep track of.