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Articles to Help You Be More Productive

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  • Time Management Article Collection
  • Microsoft Outlook and Email Article Collection
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  • Computer & Email
  • Get the Most from Microsoft Outlook

  • Beware the Empty Inbox

  • Get the Most from Your Handheld

  • Do Digital Organizers Save Time - Or Waste It?

  • Efficient E-mail Habits

  • Transitioning from Paper to Digital Information Storage

  • Faxing Without a Fax Machine

  • Getting Your Files When You're On The Go

  • Business & the Office
  • Time Tactics for the Office

  • Keeping Track of Delegated Tasks

  • Controlling Interruptions

  • Keeping Track of Your Customers & Prospects

  • Do Your Employees Really Need Customer Service Training?

  • Paper Management
  • Action Files Prevent Desk Clutter

  • Reclaim Your Desktop with a Tickler File

  • What To Do With All Those Business Cards?

  • Managing Project Folders - A Surprising Tip that Works

  • Time Management & Organizing
  • The Power of Planning Ahead

  • Words of Wisdom You Should Ignore

  • Coping with Information Overload

  • Thirteen No-Tech Time Management Tips

  • Coping With Information Overload
    © Jan Jasper; 2001-2012

    Henry David Thoreau said, "Things are in the saddle and ride mankind." Today, information is in the saddle and it's riding us into the ground. Information is good, but we've got too much of a good thing. Due to email and the internet, we are drowning in information. We fear that if we don't read everything of interest, we'll miss something important. While we may no longer hoard stacks of magazines and newspapers to read "someday," we now struggle to stay focused at work with the temptation of the internet a mere click away, and our inboxes stuffed with email newsletters. (I'm not talking about spam, that's a different dicussion.)

    Email Overload

    A bulging inbox is insidious because the more email you've got, the greater the risk of overlooking an important email that requires you to act. Dealing with email overload is a whole subject in itself - see Efficient E-mail Habits and Beware the Empty Inbox for some tips.

    The Myth of Good Information

    We save informative eZines and links that colleagues and friends email to us, thinking it's good information that we'll save and read "someday." But we don't absorb information by osmosis. Until we read it, information has no value. Some information just repeats what we already know. Valuable information may be obsolete before we read it. Unless we're willing to devote hours or days to catching up, there's no reason to save a lot of information we haven't looked at. To save it because of its potential value is merely self-delusion.

    The Limits of Search

    At this point, I know some folks will say that hoarding digital information is a good thing - they can find whatever they need with computer search tools. But computer search is not a panacea - you can't search for what you don't even know you have. And some search terms are so broad they'd produce hundreds of hits on your hard drive. The point is not that we should stop reading, rather to be realistic about what we actually have time for and can manage.

    The Temptation of the Internet

    For many of us, web-induced procrastination is making our workdays longer because it's hard to stay focused. Years ago, if you wanted to go shopping you had to leave your desk and go to the store, if you wanted to read the news you had to buy a newspaper, and if you wanted to look up a college friend you had to make phone calls. Today we can do all this while sitting at our desks. That it's lighting fast is not necessarily a good thing.

    If you can't resist surfing the internet during working hours, try this tip to help you focus. For a couple hours each day, unplug your internet cable, or if you have a wireless connection, turn your wireless card off. If you rely on the internet to do your work, try deleting the desktop shortcuts to your favorite procrastination websites. Then you'll have to type in the URL and your password, which makes it just a little bit harder to get distracted when you should be working. If that sounds drastic, consider - wouldn't you rather wrap up your work sooner so you can spend time this evening, away from your desk?

    Using Bits of Time to Read

    Wireless-connected smart phones and iPads are extremly helpful. We can read and respond to emails, keep up with the news, and read books and magazines while riding a commuter train, on the exercise bike at the gym, or waiting for an appointment. If you get the paper version of magazines, newsletters, or catalogs, rip out what you intend to read and put them in a folder which you can easily carry with you. When the folder gets too full, either schedule reading time to catch up, or throw away the oldest articles.

    Filing What's Worth Keeping

    Even in this technological age, there's still information on paper we need to keep. Important magazine and newsletter articles should be clipped and filed by topic so you can find them later. If you don't file it, you won't be able to find it when you need it. You'll probably forget you even have it. Such information does you no good - you may as well have thrown it out in the first place. But be selective about what you save and file. Surveys have found that 80% of files are never looked at again. And often, by the time you need to use the information, it's outdated. If you are selective enough, you probably won't need to buy that extra filing cabinet.

    To Scan Or Not To Scan

    If you have a backlog of paper filing that doesn't get done, "Putting it in the computer" may not be a solution. Clients often ask me if they should scan information that, upon a closer look, they don't even need to save. The more selective you are about what you keep, the better off you'll be - regardless of whether your files are paper or electronic.

    Beware of "Free"

    People often sign up for eZines because they're free. Or they buy books and magazine subscriptions because they're on sale - then they never get around to reading them. Being free or on sale is not sufficient reason to bring a new source of overwhelm into your life. Your time is more important than money.

    Remember: You can always buy more stuff, and you can always get more information - but you can't get more time.

    *The usual disclaimers apply. My mentioning these products is not a guarantee of any sort. Obviously, you should not change anything until you've completely backed up your files. You already do that, right?

    This article is available for a one-time reprint or one-time internet posting if you include my copyright notice, provide a link to www.janjasper.com and identify me as follows: "Jan Jasper, a productivity expert in the New York City area, is the author of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology (St. Martin's Press)." Read Terms and Conditions for details.
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    About the Author:
    Productivity coach Jan Jasper has been helping busy people work smarter, not harder since 1988. Her customized approach guides clients to manage time, tasks, and information more effectively. She also provides Microsoft Outlook customization for clients. Jan is the author of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology (St. Martin's Press). She recently completed a North American media tour as the national efficiency spokesperson for IKON Office Solutions, Inc. She has appeared on radio and TV all over North America and is quoted regularly in print. Jan is an adjunct instructor at New York University.

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