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Articles to Help You Be More Productive

Enjoy these articles? There are many more available:
  • Time Management Article Collection
  • Microsoft Outlook and Email Article Collection
  • Managing Paper Article Collection
  • Computer Tips Article Collection
  • Less-Paper Office Article Collection
  • 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

  • Transitioning from Paper to Digital Information Storage
    © Jan Jasper; 2001-2012

    Information Everywhere!

    Information should be stored in a consistent manner so you can quickly find it later. Otherwise you'll forget what's where, and you'll waste time hunting for things. At worst, you won't even remember where to look, which means valuable information is forgotten about. Here are some things to consider:

    Avoid Keeping Related Information in Many Different Places

    Let's take phone numbers and addresses. Many folks have a patchwork system. They've got some contacts in their iPhone, others in their desktop or laptop computer, others in an old Palm they can't quite let go of, and maybe still others in an old paper phonebook or a stack of well-worn business cards. Finding a phone number or address is difficult, not to mention sending your holiday greeting cards. If you work from more than one location, it's a challenge to pull all this together so you have people's contact information with you when you need it. The fewer places you keep contact information, the better.

    Visual Cues Help You Find Things

    Even if you're consistent in where you store information, there's another thing to consider: Most of us rely on visual cues. Seeing the yellow folder on our desk reminds us to work on The Big Project. We easily locate the notes made at yesterday's meeting because they're in our spiral pad. When we need to find a phone message, we look for small pink message slips. We easily locate things by color, thickness, and size. While the visual cues are fewer, to some extent you still can color-code in the computer.

    Color-Coding Things in the Computer

    A big challenge when moving away from paper is that in the computer, every appointment, every document can look the same, in an identical light-gray slot or yellow folder icon. The visual cues you've relied on are gone. For your computer calendar, the solution is to color-code - for example, project deadlines in red, work for a particular client in blue, and so on. You can also color code your email. This is very easy to do in Outlook.*

    Minimize Your Reliance on Paper

    To avoid making notes on paper that are easily lost, type ideas you get for client work into a WORD doc named "client name - miscellaneous" stored in the same computer folder as other documents for that client or project. You can also type these miscellaneous bits of information and reminders in the Comment box in the client's Outlook Contact record. You wouldn't do this for things like a reminder that the meeting is at 3:00, but it's a good way to track substantive information that is of enduring value, or will eventually be used for a project.

    Reach for the Keyboard

    Reach for your keyboard instead of a piece of paper when you want to jot something down. For example, instead of writing a reminder to yourself to e-mail Bob an update, just start a new email to Bob with "Update" in the subject header, type in a few words, then save it in your Drafts folder so you can finish and send it later. When you get an idea for a project you're involved in, type it into a WORD file and save that with other files on the same project. How can you get into the habit? Hide the note paper and move the keyboard to center stage on your desk so it's actually easier to type than to scribble a note.

    Your Own Personal Paper/Digital Divide

    I don't think any of us will ever have a totally paperless office, and that's perfectly OK. Where you put the dividing line between paper and digital is a matter of personal preference. You'll have to experiment and see what works for you. Do try to be consistent in how you store information - keep related information in as few places as possible so it's not always a mystery of where to find things.

    The Benefits

    The less paper you handle, the more time you'll save. Another advantage is that information stored digitally can be backed up, which protects you against total data loss if there's a fire or flood in your office. It does take some getting used to, but the sooner you move to a less-paper office, the sooner you'll start saving time and money.


    This article is available for a one-time reprint or 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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