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Dealing With Digital

 

How does your day go?

 

If you're like any of the millions of professionals worldwide who are perpetually plugged online, then it can range anywhere from manic to maniacal. The tipping factor? Information overload. 

 

Here are practical tips from an obsessive-compulsive project manager living in a digital world:

 

Have a fixed number of non-negotiables: whether it's your "1 Thing To Do Today" or "3 Musts This Morning," the objective is to keep disciplined focus on a limited achievable list of tasks. Get your non-negotiables done as soon as you get to work; your mind is still fresh from rest and is the least distracted. Come whatever new catastrophe through the day, you can at least end it knowing you have completed critical tasks.

 

This idea of setting your mind up for concentration should cross over to other business activities. For instance, in having conference calls over digital portals such as Skype, Google Voice, FaceTime, etc., it would help to email an agenda prior to the meeting so everyone can stick to a maximum of 20 minutes per session. What would even be better is to make sure that every meeting is necessary, and not just perfunctory.

 

Improve your Email habits: either set time intervals (ie. 9:00AM-10:00AM/1:00PM-2:00PM/5:00-6:00PM) or allocate a certain length of time per hour (10 minutes of email checking for every 60 minutes of work) to check and respond to emails. When working with global markets, being familiar with the time zones can help prioritize which emails to address first so the other team gets it during their work hours. Using your mail provider’s filters and labels can also help you organize it by importance of sender address, nature of content, etc. You know what they say, garbage in-garbage out. Filtering out the low quality sources can help prevent time-wasters.

 

Consider creating a dummy email for those one-time sign-ups that are necessary but not something you want to keep - think about those documents or features online you can only access after “Free Registration.” By having a separate account, you are able to redirect any of followup emails that could be useful but are not urgent.

 

In responding to most emails, think of how you would answer it if it were asked in person and avoid the compulsion to perfect every single email. As much as possible, draft and send answers right away, rather than over-think things with multiple re-readings of the email apart from the quick fact check and review. Send short, concise emails that get straight to the (action) point.

 

Keeping yourself on track can be made easier with the help of Leechblock, StayFocused, and other extensions that help block distracting websites during your work hours.

 

On top of helping cope with information overload, there are many online tools to help improve work performance.

 

For presentations: Screenflow, Camtasia and Screenr can record what goes on your screen for documentation, educational tutorials and other resource creation. These make international training facilitation so much easier (not to mention cost effective).

 

For project management/coordination: Yammer, IBM Connections, Microsoft SharePoint, Chatter, Newsgator all serve to provide practical platforms for information dissemination/aggregation, activity streaming/updating, file sharing and even relationship building within the team.

 

For social media management: whether of your personal/professional accounts or your company’s, look to applications like Hootsuite, Boomerang, and Rapportive to sort out and schedule pre-made posts/tweets/updates to help lighten the load. Activate online alerts such as those that Google has, to track any media mention made of you.

 

For learning more, learning smart: bookmark online knowledge bases relevant to you and your specialization/interests. Chances are, the experts in your industry maintain their own websites/social media pages where they share their insights and latest know-how. Or, there are people like yourself who believe in continuing their professional learning and look to online communities such as profession-specific forums/boards, Quora, and the versatile LinkedIn.

 

 

These quick tips are pretty handy, but as always, making the most out of it begins with knowing yourself well. Monitoring your work habits offline can give you insight into your online tendencies - the same rules about your motivators, rewarding yourself, peak performance periods, etc. apply here albeit at a .

 

In dividing up the 24 hours of your day, make sure to recharge. Sleep deprivation in any form can negatively affect creative, cognitive, and emotional ability. So make sure you get enough sleep each night, you’ll be more effective the next day. It also won’t kill you to take that lunch break for yourself. In between work, choose to make your breaks productive by cleaning your computer, schedule checking social media (to get that compulsion out of the way), get exercise to induce work-enhancing endorphins, etc.

 

References:

 

Leonov, D. “5 Ways to Get Email Overload Under Control.” Mashable. 31 July 2012. <http://mashable.com/2012/07/31/email-overload-tips/> Accessed 20 August 2012.

 

Rangnekar, A. “5 Productivity Hacks for the Startup CEO.” Mashable. 31 May 2012. <http://mashable.com/2012/05/31/productivity-hacks-ceo/>. Accessed 20 August 2012.

 

Schulte, E. “9 Simple Productivity Tips You Can Do Right Now.” Fast Company. 4 May 2012. <http://www.fastcompany.com/1836453/9-simple-productivity-tips-you-can-do-right-now>. Accessed 20 August 2012.

 

Schwartz, T. “Six Ways to Supercharge Your Productivity.” Fast Company. 9 September 2010. <http://www.fastcompany.com/1687884/six-ways-supercharge-your-productivity>. Accessed 20 August 2012.

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