< Back to Media listings

Officiency in the Media

Change your habits at work in new 'data world'

by KJ McCorry


When computers first came on the scene many office workers figured they would be the "magic bullet" for managing work life so we could work less and play more.

Just the opposite occurred, and we are working many more hours than we did 20 years ago. According to the latest Bureau of Labor statistics, the average American works 9.1 hours per day during the week and between five to seven hours during the weekend. The average two-week vacation has now been reduced to 10 days.

We are definitely working longer, but are we working smarter?

According to the Gartner Group, information is doubling every 2.5 years. It is estimated that the information in a given New York Times has more data than the average 18th century man knew in a lifetime. The reality is that we will never get it all done, and we will never have enough time. There is so much information in today's work world, and it is vital that we create effective habits to maintain, decipher and take action with the data that comes to us daily.

Here are three habits that will assist managing the information overload:

Habit 1: Avoid delaying the decisions. Many of the problems in managing data such as e-mail and paper result from delayed response and action. These problems start when receivers open and read through an e-mail message or inbox document, review and skim it and then move to the next piece of data. They fail to act on or respond to any data before moving on.

By not dealing with data immediately, we're ensuring that it will be read and handled more than once. Frequently one may forget to respond to or handle the data at all.

E-mail keeps coming every minute of every day, and paper consumption has tripled. Rarely do people have time to go back and reread past messages. This skim-and-delay technique is an inefficient and ineffective way to manage e-mail, paper and other data communications.

Try to respond to information when possible. Once a decision is made, move the information to the appropriate location, file or take the necessary action. It is best to take the time right after you have read the document or e-mail to respond, delete or file the information.

Habit 2: Do the hard things first. Research shows that our brain functions best between 9 and 11 a.m. Our lowest times of day are later in the afternoon. Instead of trying to do multiple small things in the morning, consider working on that one item that is time intensive and takes concentrative thought. Most workers usually do all the small stuff such as e-mail, phone calls and meetings in the morning, and by the afternoon there is little motivation to work on that difficult task or project. By shifting the structure of the day the task get done early, and you are more apt to go home on time. Small items and e-mails can always wait until tomorrow.

Habit 3: Be proactive not reactive. It feels difficult getting ahead in the data world. Don't try to get ahead, just be as proactive as possible. All you need to do is get in the habit of taking five to 10 minutes to prepare for your week. Highlight five or seven items of top priority. This is a key habit to keep you focused and well-prepared every week. It will begin to take you out of the reactive mode and put you in the proactive arena where you feel prepared and in control of the workday.

These habits are keys to success with managing data in this information world. If mastered, they can increase the feeling of control during the workday. There always will be too many things to do and not enough time. Use the time you have wisely, and make decisions and avoid delayed responses. Do the hard things first and take the time to plan your next step.

K.J. McCorry is founder and president of Officiency Inc., a professional organizing company based in Boulder. She is a productivity and efficiency consultant that specializes in customizing systems for individuals and companies with office and computer organization. She is the author of "Organize Your Work Day in No Time," released by Que Publishing in April 2005. She can be reached at www.officiency.com.