Tackling digital overload: Simplify & standardize

Are you overwhelmed by one or more inboxes? Is your todo list a bunch of post-it notes all over your desk? Do you have a pretty good organizational system but could use some efficiency fine tuning? Go read Bit Literacy. (Big thanks to Karine Joly for turning me on to this Friday.) I’m only six chapters in, and I’m already applying the author’s advice and practices. (Side note: This is the first book I’m reading on my iPad, as well as my first Kindle app book. I’m a fan already.)

I’ve become digitally overwhelmed and overloaded. I’m completely in love with my new job, but we sure do use a lot of different systems there. I’m adapting to a new way of managing my calendars (personal+work), contacts (personal+work), and email (work). In addition to these systems, I’ve been trying to integrate my todo list manager, Remember The Milk (still failing on that for work, but active user for personal stuff). Throw in that mix the following that I now use:

  • One paper notebook full of notes & scattered action items
  • Paper files in a desk drawer and in my commuter tote
  • network drive for department file sharing
  • network drive for personal files
  • myHome (portal) community groups for some committees / working groups (files+discussions)
  • activeCollab for web and recruitment marketing projects (project management status, discussions, files)
  • FileMaker Pro for print projects
  • Google wiki as a repository for some documentation and notes
  • Google docs
  • Dropbox

To add to this digital overload, there’s also messages coming at me via social media on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and via SMS. And, I’ve just started using Evernote as a test to see if this might help me organize. The jury is still out on that one.

It’s too much! I can’t remember where virtually anything is saved. I need the Mac’s “Spotlight” feature in my brain! I’m on a mission to simplify and standardize. Reading Bit Literacy is just step three. (Step one was identifying all of these items, step two was ordering a label maker and new file folders for work. Hey, it’s a process.) Once I feel more in control and organized personally, I’m going to attempt to take on these systems at work and see if there’s any way we can simplify and standardize as a group.

Reading this book has also been effective in helping me realize I’m not a total disaster. I actually have some really good organizational practices in place – I just got hit with a whole lot of change at once, and it’s piled up to the point that I’m digitally overwhelmed. Time to take control of all those bits.

Today’s success: I had an email induction ceremony to achieve personal inbox emptiness. I have only one message in my personal inbox that requires me to make a decision on tonight. I’ve never seen my inbox this size. Step two – my work account. Tomorrow.

I think this could be an interesting process, and I’m going to try to keep up with documenting my personal progress with this effort here. I’m always on the lookout for new tools that will help me simplify and be more efficient. I’ve heard lots about GTD and Things. I’ve also read and watched a video about goodtodo.com, which was developed by the author of Bit Literacy. I’m actually not convinced to switch to that, as Remember the Milk has been working just fine for me — it’s integrating the work stuff and keeping track of who I delegate certain tasks too that I don’t have a good process for yet. (Delegation & having a “someday” list are two features I wish Remember the Milk would implement.)

How do you handle digital overload? What tools and processes do you have in place to not let the bits overwhelm you?