On my last post I was talking about the digital clutter created by the existence of multiple programs or applications to record information or do things on the office. There is not much that we can do to change the applications that corporate want us to use but there are many things that we can do to fix the clutter that we create on our own. These clutter cause lost of productivity and focus, its constitute a colosal waste of time and a good way to practice continuous improvement.
1. Desktop icons
The desktop of some of my colleagues looks like a view of NY city from twenty thousand feet, a tiles collection so tight that there is almost no space. The reason is the need to access the applications or the critical documents as fast as possible. Filling the desktop with shortcuts defeats the purpose because now you have so many icons there that you waste time looking for the right one. Start deleting the shortcuts of obsolete applications, then those of programs that you use once on a blue moon. Same with the critical documents, delete what you do not need anymore. I bet that from it left not all are critical; maybe you just use them pretty often. The solution for this will be to create folders, I will mention this on my number 3 below.
We don’t want to miss a piece of information, therefore the solution is to ask everybody to copy you on their emails. The problem is that then you receive the email you want plus a lot more that you do not, mostly of people replying to all just to say thank you. Also you receive emails that honestly you don’t need anymore, maybe because your role changed. You spend time just browsing through them, deleting and filing. It is better to just ask politely to be removed of those distribution lists where you don’t need to be anymore.
Another thing I do is to follow the one touch rule. Once I open an email, I read it and decide what to do with it; can I delete it? Should I file it? Do I need to keep a reminder to do something later? Whatever it is, I will do it at that moment; that way I touch that email only once, do what I have to do with it and then I delete it from the inbox. There are a couple more tricks that I used when it comes to emails but that will be the subject of a future post.
There are two things about documents: necessity and organization. Like with emails, you don’t need everything that landed on your hands, or your email. Somethings are to be read and then deleted. There are recurrent or daily reports that you receive which contain all the information year or month to-day, saving every single one of them is unnecessary and will create clutter.
If you prefer to save all of them, then you need to work with the organization. I know people who create folders to save their documents, but there is no logic whatsoever on the folders names. Or maybe there is some logic, but then there are a couple of folders with the same name or worst, there are folders inside folders inside folders. You would need a map to be able to find where your document is. I have folders by themes, let’s say: daily reports, CI projects, training materials and others. Then your sub-folders name can be the name of the reports, projects or trainings. You have to create your own organization system based on your needs, once you have it, use it consistently.
Finally, even when you follow these rules every once on a while you will have to take some time to browse your emails, folders and desktop and do some maintenance. Reorganize, delete, improve your system. Keeping clutter out of your computer will help you to be more productive and focus, spend your energy creating not looking for lost information.