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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 January 6, 2021

    14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

    14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

    Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

    In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

    For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

    For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

    Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

    Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

    Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

    How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

    Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

    1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

    Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

    For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

    2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

    Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

    Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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    Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

    3. Create a System

    Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

    This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

    You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

    Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

    Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

    4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

    We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

    If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

    Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

    Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

    5. Use a Ratings Scale

    Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

    Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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    It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

    6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

    This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

    You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

    You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

    7. Offer Feedback Forms

    Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

    First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

    Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

    You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    8. Track Cost Effectiveness

    This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

    Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

    Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

    9. Use Self-Evaluations

    Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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    Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

    10. Monitor Time Management

    This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

    Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

      The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

      While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

      11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

      We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

      Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

      For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

      Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

      Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

      From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

      12. Utilize Peer Feedback

      This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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      Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

      Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

      It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

      13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

      When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

      Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

      Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

      14. Use an External Evaluator

      Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

      They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

      While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

      Final Thoughts

      These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

      The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

      The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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      Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

      Reference

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