Have you ever suffered from the following scene? Your desk breeds paper every time you turn your back on it – layer upon layer of miscellaneous paper, magazines, newsletters, invitations to this and that, reports, files and vital tasks you mustn’t forget to attend to. Every couple of weeks, with grim determination and fired by a sense of desperation, you approach this monstrosity supposed to be a desk.
I’m not doing a single thing today until I clean up this mess,’ you mutter through clenched teeth.
You spend an hour or two of your most productive time (if you’re lucky) shuffling pieces of paper across the surface of the desk, and eventually it’s all sorted out. New and reorganised piles decorate the perimeter of your working space, and you sit back with a sigh of satisfaction, saying to yourself, ‘That’s better. I won’t let that happen again.’
Guess what? For many folk, within a couple of weeks, the pattern is repeated!
One of the biggest management challenges for most people is how to survive the deluge of information, either via paper or an electronic medium. The good news is – we live in the information age, but we don’t have to be overwhelmed by it.
With the whole subject of paper and information, whether it’s paper or computer-based, there are only a few basic areas. The biggest challenge is – many strategies are so obvious that people overlook them and therefore suffer unnecessary stress and pressure. This book has the solutions – here you’ll find everything broken down into three main quick-to-digest and practical sections, and also two bonus sections (which will in due course become further books).
Part 1: Layout and equipment
- How to organise the layout of your office
- Why bother about the look of an office?
- Open-Plan Offices
- Desks, shelves and cupboards
- Filing equipment
- Archival storage
Part 2: Get organised
- Please don’t look at my office!
- What excuse can I come up with this time?
- How to set up an easy-to-run workspace
- Filing systems – challenging or simple
- Desks and how to drive them
- How to clear the clutter
Part 3: Stay organised
- Why we feel overwhelmed
- Two success habits
- In-time and through-time
- How to read more effectively
- Act now or act later?
- Useful day-to-day filing tips
- What can we throw out?
Part 4: Working from home
- The benefits of a home office
- How to get going, and how to stop
Part 5: Handling electronic information
- Computer stuff for non-nerds
- How to file your computer files
- Keystrokes to save you time
- Strategies to reduce e-mail overload
- Electronic tools to make office life easier
- Back up – or die!
- You’ll find it very easy and quick to find help in whatever area you’re currently challenged by, using the comprehensive index and the bulleted key point lists.
From Chapter 13 Why We Feel Overwhelmed!
(Just one example to whet your appetite)
- The volume of new information demanding our focus doubles faster every year
- We may not be able to change the volume of information the world spits at us, but we can change the way we handle it
- Don’t relax yet! We’re talking new habits!
- Be a quick responder
- Don’t major in minor things – stay focused on your priorities
- How to keep the process simple
We may not be able to change the volume of information the world spits at us, but we can change the way we handle it
It’s the sense of being out-of-control that people don’t like about an overload of information: it’s the feeling of being on a runaway horse that creates so much stress. However, we do have power over our own behaviour, how we respond, and how we adapt.
In some cases we need to modify our behaviour. In other situations we must modify our environment and learn to block out and switch off. The best possible day-to-day information-handling skills will assist you to keep sane, instead of just sinking despairingly under the flood.
So what can you do to keep up to date with what’s relevant? How can you block out the irrelevant? Let’s go back to our newly immaculate office.
3. Don’t relax yet! We’re talking new habits!
The big temptation for folk, once they’ve got their environment cleaned out, is to think the job is done – and relax. In fact, we never can.
In one of my very early ‘Win the paper war’ courses a CEO, after listening to other peoples’ tales of woe, suddenly announced with satisfaction,
‘Now I know why I have to work such long hours, Robyn. If I turn my back on the stuff, it breeds.’
A roll of laughter swept around the room – they all understood exactly what he was talking about.
Ask anyone with an organised office if it comes naturally to be uncluttered. If they have a halfway busy life most of them will assure you that it’s a conscious decision to stay that way, coupled with good old self-discipline.
4. Be a quick responder
A group of senior credit control managers attended one of my speeches. Afterwards Eddie came up to chat.
‘I run an extremely busy office, with many demands on my time. The key that’s gained me the reputation of being a good time manager is simple. Wherever possible I act immediately. Most people say, ‘I’ll do something about it later’ or ‘leave it with me’, and of course all the ‘laters’ pile up around them, weigh them down, and make them feel less effective (and they are!). No matter how much I feel like deferring a decision or an action, wherever possible I push myself to handle it on the spot.’
Key Point. Do it fast, and do it now.