When it comes to all of the information in your life, what is the best way to get organized? And once you achieve your new year’s resolution to get organized, what is the best way to stay that way? Everyone is different, of course, and one size does not fit all. But here are some tips that most folks should find helpful in achieving those goals.
According to a paper by the Alliance Academy, 83% of Americans want to be more organized. When we were younger, being organized wasn’t as important, or nearly as difficult. Maybe it wasn’t as important because it wasn’t cool, not as much depended on it, or we were just more carefree. It probably wasn’t as difficult because we had a much smaller circle of acquaintances, there was much less going on in our life, or everything just moved more slowly before things like the internet and wireless handheld devices came along.
Whatever the reasons, it seems increasingly harder to do now. Here are five things you can do to deal with the information overload in your life:
- Determine what kind of information you have the most trouble keeping up withMaybe you find it almost impossible to remember when you have a dentist appointment. Or perhaps you keep forgetting that your father-in-law’s first name is Bob. Or maybe all of these are true and you think it may just be hopeless. Knowing the scope of the issue and the type of information involved is the first step in being able to identify the best way to organize it.
- Decide what type of organizational tool fits you bestOnce you know what kind of information you need to organize, you have a better chance of choosing the right tool that will work for you. If you are a techie and you always have a gadget with you, then a mobile phone, tablet computer, or PDA may suit you best. If you’re a luddite, then you’ll probably want to stick with something like a Moleskin notebook or other paper-based solution.
- Put your information into your organizational toolMost people have a tendency to want to keep track of “everything”. But you’re probably better off culling out the stuff you’re never going to use so you can get down to something more manageable and less overwhelming. Once you have identified what’s really important, think about the best way to organize all of it, and then put it into your tool in a way that makes sense to you.
- Get into the habit of using your organizational tool by establishing a routineThe more you use your organizational tool of choice, the more useful information it will contain. The more useful information it contains, the more you will want to use it. See how nicely that works? The best way to ensure that you are capturing useful information is to establish a routine for putting information into it. When you meet someone new, put their contact information into your organizational tool right away. When you are scheduling an appointment, consult your tool to see when you’re available and immediately record your appointment.
- Periodically refine your processEvery once in a while, it pays to evaluate how well this whole model is working for you. You might start out using a paper-based system but, after having gotten an iPhone for your birthday, become much more comfortable with technology and more productive using it. Or, you may have changed jobs from one that involved working with lots of different people and required maintaining a bunch of contacts to one that is less people-oriented and requires keeping track of tasks and projects.
Those tips may not help get your junk drawer sorted out, but hopefully they will help you get your information in order.