Is Information Overload Stealing Your Time?

Is information overload stealing your time?

From emails and text to social media, is it any wonder that many of us operate on information overload. While relevant information certainly builds knowledge, we often need to cut through the clutter to get the nuggets that make a difference in our lives and business.

In the early 1900’s, John Wanamaker, department store founder, said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” The same can be said about email, text and social media – about 50% of it is worthless, but you don’t always know which half.

So the key to managing all the information today is simple. Handle each message once, decide what to do with each message and take one of the following actions:

  1. Delete It
  2. Do It
  3. Delegate It
  4. Defer It

Delete It
Half of the information you get can be quickly read and deleted. But many in business hesitate to delete anything but the most obvious junk mail for fear they may need the information later. Certainly, some information is worth keeping, but much of it can be deleted.

Not sure what to delete? Here’s some questions from productivity trainer, Sally McGhee of McGhee Productivity Solutions that may help:

  • Does the message relate to a meaningful objective you are currently working on? If not, you can probably delete it.
  • Does the message contain information you can find elsewhere? If so, delete it.
  • Does the message contain information that you will refer to within the next six months? If not, delete it.
  • Does the message contain information you are required to keep? If not, delete it.

Do It
If you can’t delete it, then ask yourself “Can I take action (do it) in less than two minutes?” Some common quick actions include a simple response to a question, confirming a meeting, making a quick phone call or filing it for future use . If you can do it in less than two minutes, do it. There is little value in closing it to do later. Once you have handled it, delete the email from your inbox.

Delegate It
If you wish to delegate the ‘doing’ to someone else, do so right away. And remember to include specific instructions — what you need him/her to do.  Typically delegating emails can be done in less than two minutes – and the person on the receiving end will appreciate your timeliness. After you delegate it, delete the email from your inbox or move it into a follow-up system file.

Defer It
At times, the action required is something that only you can accomplish – and it will take more than two minutes. These emails should be deferred – to work on later. While you can leave it in your inbox with the greatest expectations to act on it later, buried emails are a recipe for missed deadlines and blown opportunities.

Deferred emails typically require time to work on a project or task or need collaboration in the form of a meeting or conference call. The easiest way to handle this is to create an action item on your to-do list or tasks application if you use your computer or smartphone. Then, as part of your daily and weekly planning, you can prioritize the tasks and schedule time to act on them.

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