7 Tips to Help You Handle Too Much Information
Today we’ve got a guest poster on the blog (thank goodness, since my posting has been non-existant lately)! She’s bringing you 7 great tips to process all the information you get throughout the day. Thanks so much, Erin for your insights!
It’s midmorning. You’re already running late for your meeting, the phone is ringing off the hook, you have several emails you still need to reply to and you haven’t even gathered the documents needed for the meeting you are going to be late for. These moments of frustration can be common in the workplace or for a small business owner, especially when a good organization plan is not in order. Creating an organization plan can help keep you from being overwhelmed and help you tackle your day with the least amount of aggravation.
1. Find Out Where Your Information is Coming From
When you’re faced with information overload, it is essential to discover where all of the information is coming from. Is it your cell phone, email, desk phone? Identifying all of the potential distractions is the first step in implementing an effective plan to keep you productive and frustration-free.
2. Analyze How You Are Handling the Information
Pay close attention to how you are dealing with all of the information that is coming at you. Let’s say you’re receiving 60-80 emails a day. How are you organizing, replying, and clearing them out? Are you keeping way too much? Are you afraid of the ‘delete’ key? Do you stop what you are doing every time an email comes in or do you try to answer them all at the end of the day?
Ask yourself the same questions for phone calls, text messages and even chats with coworkers. Spend a day taking notes every time you switch tasks. This data will help you figure out what your primary distractions are. Once you see where you are spending your time, it will be a lot easier to get yourself organized.
3. Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
Prioritizing allows you to deal with one task at a time – in order of importance. When you change directions every time you get an email or phone call, it can quickly become overwhelming and stressful. Instead, make your daily list of things to do and simply do one at a time in order of importance. If something comes up that is pressing, you can adjust your priorities without stressing out. The new task can go to the top of the list and everything else can be adjusted accordingly.
By only tackling one thing at a time, all of your attention can be focused on that particular item. This will make it possible for you to finish the task with full focus and move on to the next one smoothly. In addition to getting things done, this will give you a sense of accomplishment and help you to push forward through your day with a more positive attitude.
4. Learn to Cope with Interruptions
Interruptions are an unavoidable nuisance in most work days. In order to cope with interruptions effectively, you must learn to be able to focus on a task even when an interruption takes place.
If you are interrupted by a co-worker asking for your help on a task, don’t be afraid to tell them you don’t have the time right now, but that you would be happy to schedule them in. When you sit down to work on your task, close down your email client, change your instant messenger to unavailable, and switch your phone to silent. Another important tip is to block out time on your calendar to only do your own tasks, without meetings or client visits.
5. Utilize Organization Tools
There are hundreds of software tools available to help you improve your organization skills. Microsoft Outlook, for example, has many capabilities that allow you to completely organize and prioritize your entire schedule. There are great online options like Google mail and docs that can also help. You can set up calendars, place alerts and organize your email into multiple folders and priorities.
Cell phones and mobile devices have apps that can set up to-do lists, alarms, interactive calendars and programs that silence your alerts when you are working on a project. Many of the newer devices have voice recognition to help you make things even easier. Become familiar with the technology available to you and use it. Taking the time to learn how to use it can save you hours of frustration later.
6. Don’t Get Stuck in a Loop
When every action item on your to-do list depends on another one, it can be very frustrating. The pattern of a circular dilemma can be a tricky one to navigate. If one goal is impossible to accomplish without accomplishing the first two, an extreme case of overload can occur.
Pursue the first step until it is resolved and stay focused while doing it. Prioritize, focus and don’t jump to the next task without completing the first. If you jump ahead, you’ll only have to go back and fix everything anyway. Keeping on top of the task is the only way to keep your to-do list from growing.
7. Take Breaks
Taking breaks doesn’t always mean 15 minutes walking around your workplace parking lot. When your mind is overwhelmed, a quick mental break can make a huge difference in your productivity. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, remember to take scheduled time off of work. Having a good work/life balance is critical to efficient brain operation.
Organize your schedule so that your days off are exactly what they are meant to be…days off. Enjoy your breaks with fun, family and friends so that you are mentally and physically ready to tackle the workplace when you go back. When you are not on a break from work, sleeping well will make your days more proactive and you will accomplish more.
Letting the stress of work get to you will only slow you down and make you less productive. Stress and overload will affect your mood and your productivity. Having a plan in place that will keep you better organized is vital in keeping your life – both at work and at home – balanced. Organize your plan in a way that will result in a more productive, low-stress format that will also let you enjoy your days off and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
This post was provided by Erin Palmer. Erin works for University Alliance and writes about the online project management programs offered by partner universities. These programs can help you prepare for a PMI certification.