By Clare Kumar
We are increasingly inundated with mail, some of it very useful to us and critical to our successful performance, but much of it extraneous and distracting. To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the physical clutter of paper mail and the mental chaos of an abundance of electronic information, it is critical to systematically deal with each incoming piece. This means knowing how to process email, regular mail, faxes, information from trade shows, meeting notes and more.
The first step involves making a decision on how to treat a new piece when it comes in. I suggest there are only three real options, Do, Delete or Designate.
This category includes incoming mail that requires an action, by you or a delegate. Set aside time each day for processing incoming mail incorporating time to address items which can be responded to quickly – in one or two minutes each.
It can be most productive to review email through a few scheduled periods throughout the day, such as mid-morning, after lunch and before the day’s end. If you start your day reviewing email try to avoid being sidetracked and derailing the plan you’ve made for your day. If you process mail as it arrives you run the risk of losing minutes of productive time as you switch between tasks.
For actions that can’t be taken immediately, add them to your to-do list and/or schedule them in your calendar. If it’s appropriate to delegate the task, do so as quickly as possible to give the assigned person more time to process the request.
For current projects, it can be helpful to have desktop file folders available to hold related materials. Desktop systems are easy to see which prevent you from forgetting about the action.
Be sure to follow privacy laws and corporate guidance to comply with information management and retention requirements what information to delete.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information you own and to ensure efficient use of storage space, it is important to delete items that you have completed and no longer need or that can easily be sourced again when needed.
Open paper mail near a recycling bin or shredder so you can discard or destroy unneeded pieces as you read them. Always shred anything containing sensitive or confidential information.
Unneeded electronic mail may also be discarded as it is read. If you have let emails accumulate, rather than processing them one by one which is very time to consume, considering batch deleting based on the age of the message or the sender.
Any item that you wish to easily find and use later must have a home. Figuring out where that home should be will depend on how you think about looking for the item. Your system for personal information management must be simple and easy to use so you can quickly put away an item the first time you review it. This will help to avoid information accumulating, having to handle the same piece several times and time lost searching for missing information.
Coming up next in the series: Information Management Strategies – 6 Tips to Turn Your Filing System into a Finding System
ACCO BRANDS CANADA is proud to sponsor this 10 week series on organizing your workspace leading up to ORGANIZE YOUR DESK DAY on October 21, 2010. Get the tools you need to get organized from world-class brands such as Swingline, Quartet, Day-Timer, GBC, Kensington, and Wilson Jones. Clare Kumar, founder and Chief Organizer at Streamlife, an organizing company, will take you on a practical and inspiring journey from chaos and clutter to productivity and peace of mind.