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10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

Do you need to manage overloaded information? Simple productivity tricks can help you cope with information in your job and your personal and social life.

Here’s how to cope. You need systems to help you to keep track of everything. Once you have a trusted system in place, you can relax. Let’s look at ten simple productivity tricks which will help.

1. Get the list habit.

Lists are essential to help you to manage your overloaded information. You probably use To Do lists all the time; however, lists come in many different forms. Examples include: checklists, planning lists, password lists, reading lists, reference lists, back-burner lists, and goal lists. All your information can be added to a list, or to several lists.

You can even create lists to keep track of lists. For example, you might have a list of lists for “work” and another for “home.” Lists can be text-based, or visual. If you’re a visual person, you’ll find a mind mapping program like FreeMind useful.

I use Evernote to manage my lists. You can use Evernote anywhere, on many difference devices. Its “table of contents” feature is wonderful for lists. With this feature, you can select a number of notes which contain lists and you can create a table of contents note for them all with a couple of clicks. Just drag your list notes to the shortcut bar for easy access.

2. Create and manage collections of reference material and people.

You have reference material you need to access at work, such as price lists and operations manuals. You also have reference material for home. Your home reference material might include insurance policies and manuals for your car and security system.

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If your work reference material has been digitized, store it in Evernote. Keep printed material in a filing cabinet, or on a shelf.

Most of your home reference material won’t be digitized. Store insurance policies in a fireproof safe, and other material, like manuals and tax returns, on a shelf, or in a drawer. Digitize home reference material when you have time, but keep the originals.

Vital: make lists of your reference materials, so you know where a specific reference is stored. Keep these lists in Evernote.

3. Organize long lists and folders from A to Z.

You need a way to organize long lists and folders of material. The easiest way is to sort materials alphabetically. You can also sort your material by date. You may also want to use a combination of both.

For example, if you’re organizing work material on your computer, you may choose to create a new folder for each year, then sub-folders for each month, or sub-folders for each client.

4. Archive old and out-of-date materials.

Decide when you’ll archive materials you no longer need, both on your computer, and print materials. You can choose to archive once a year. However, archiving once a month can be more efficient.

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If you choose to archive once a month, schedule some time on the last working day of the month.

Move computer materials to archive folders. Buy large plastic archive boxes for print materials, and move materials from your filing cabinets to the archive boxes. Add labels to your boxes, so you can see what they contain at a glance.

5. Add tickler dates to bubble up key things to the top of your lists.

Some things need to happen on specific dates, so if you have lots of print materials, you need a tickler file. Ticklers are date-labelled folders, one for each day of the month. File your materials in the appropriate future day’s folder, so you can deal with the contents on that day. You can create separate tickler files for work and for home.

Need a computer tickler file? Evernote’s reminders work well. You’ll be reminded of notes on any date you choose.

6. Decide whether you’re optimizing material for storing or retrieving.

If you think you’ll rarely need to look at something again, archive it in an archive box, or in an archive folder on your computer. These kinds of materials include old tax returns, completed project files, materials for events like weddings after the big day, and photos.

Things you need daily, like passwords, timetables and price lists, need to be stored so you can retrieve them in seconds. Put print material within arm’s reach, and store digital materials so you can access them with just a click.

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7. Build productive habits: establish a daily routine to manage information.

Information arrives constantly. Email can be a hassle, so establish an “inbox zero” habit. Be ruthless. Delete, delete, delete. Schedule email replies, or reply immediately, with as short a response as possible. Check your email no more three times a day.

At work, if you’re not sure where a document belongs, store it on your physical or computer desktop. File everything on both desktops at the end of the working day.

At home, deal with the day’s mail immediately, and trash what you can. Put everything that needs a response in your tickler file.

8. Cut down on input so you can focus on output.

Consider going on an information diet so you can be more productive:

Like any good diet, the information diet works best if you think about it not as denying yourself information, but as consuming more of the right stuff and developing healthy habits.

How much of your information overload is just a habit? You may decide that you don’t need to check Facebook three times a day.

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9. Take regular breaks to avoid overwhelm.

Do Nothing for Two Minutes
    Do Nothing for Two Minutes

    Try this useful free Web app: Do Nothing for Two Minutes. As the name suggests, you’re encouraged to do nothing on your computer for two minutes. If you touch your mouse or your keyboard, you fail.

    This app encourages you to take breaks. Not only does a break clear your mind, it reduces stress. Think of the two minutes as a way of rebooting your brain.

    10. Prioritize items daily, weekly, and monthly.

    You’ll feel overwhelmed and overloaded with information unless you set priorities. At the start of each month, create a priorities list which will help you to achieve your goals. Then break the list down into weekly and daily priorities.

    Prioritize your tasks at the beginning of the day. Do the highest priority tasks first. If you need to complete a sales report for a board of directors meeting, that’s your main priority for the day. Checking your email can wait until you’ve completed the report.

    Try these simple productivity tricks. Although you have no way of avoiding a constant flood of information, you can manage it, and feel in control.

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

    The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

    Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

    In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

    When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

    Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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    1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

    When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

    As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

    That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

    The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

    What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

    Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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    There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

    So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

    2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

    When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

    No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

    3. Move Your Body

    A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

    It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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    So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

    4. Connect With Another Person

    Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

    One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

    Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

    5. Use Your Imagination

    When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

    That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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    And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

    Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

    Final Thoughts

    Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

    Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

    More on the Importance of Taking a Break

    Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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