Guest post by Jim McCullen
The amount of information being thrown at us every day is insane and it is coming from so many different sources; social media, email, smartphone apps, and yes we still get the occasional piece of paper mail we need to do something with.
I like to work in the digital world much the way I do in the physical world. I clearly define places to store my “stuff” so I know where to find it when I need it. For example, you have cabinets in your kitchen where you keep glasses, dishes, pots, and perhaps you have a junk drawer for all that miscellaneous stuff you don’t really know what to do with but you might need at some point. You probably have one spot where you keep the things you need when you leave the house like your wallet and your keys and another spot where new items are placed like mail, notes, etc. Over time even these defined spaces can get overcome with stuff. Yesterday I cleaned out my junk drawer in the kitchen. I threw out a bunch of useless items, realized that some of the items had a better more permanent place to be stored and that some indeed belonged in my junk drawer.
That is the physical world, and when we move over to the digital world, it is really not that different. You have your email folders, Windows or Mac folders, data organization applications like Evernote or OneNote along with many other places to keep information. Stop and think for a moment: Are these storage locations organized in a similar fashion to your physical world?
Let me take you through how I organize my digital world.
I manage all of my email accounts in Microsoft Outlook (Outlook and Gmail accounts). Over the past 10 years I developed a system and published a book that allows me to manage all of my email messages, commitments and to-do items using Microsoft Outlook and the best practices from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. My system and my book are both called Control Your Day and you can find the book on Amazon and more information about my system on my website www.controlyourday.net.
I use Microsoft OneNote to organize and store information about customers, staff, projects and reference information for work. If I get an email that doesn’t require any action items on my part but it might be needed in the future, I move it into OneNote in a folder for that subject. This way it is no longer creating noise in my daily action system, but it is easy to reference when needed. If we go back to the physical work for a minute, this would be similar to putting glasses back in the cabinet and not leaving them on the counter with your keys and wallet.
Evernote is my tool of choice for all of my personal reference information, if I find information on a place I would like to visit or perhaps I am researching the purchase of a new mountain bike, I will keep all of that information in Evernote. You could do everything in one platform, Evernote or OneNote and just setup separate accounts for personal and work, I find each product has some unique features that fit well in the way I use them.
Outlook acts as my inbox and the place where I go to see what I need to work on next. What makes the system work is the ability to quickly process and move information into the correct storage location so you can find it when you need it but at the same time it doesn’t cloud your view to the work you have to focus on. If I am working on a project, I will send emails to myself with the tasks I need to work on so I can continue to move larger initiatives forward.
Many people choose to treat their email inbox like a junk draw, everything goes in and nothing comes out. When you need something it can be challenging to find it unless you know what you are looking for. Important items tend to get missed due to all the noise around them. Consider if you placed your bills in your junk draw, there would probably be a good chance you would be late to pay them as they would get lost with everything else in there.
Give some thought to how you manage your digital world today, could you apply some of the basic principles in this post to get a bit more organized? Are you using a tool like Evernote or OneNote? If you are a Microsoft Outlook user be sure to stop by my website and check out Control Your Day, drop me a line with any questions or thoughts.
Thanks to Jim McCullen for today's guest blog post!