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Overwhelmed with Digital Clutter and unsure how to begin finding sanity?
Embrace a bit of wisdom from Mark Twain who voiced the sentiment that "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex and overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."
Below are 7 small steps to help you move in the direction of a bit more manageability as it pertains to your digital resources.
Given that a far majority of email subject lines don't tell you much; why not edit the subject line prior to filing the message; it's a lot more likely you can find it again when you need it.
Can you imagine having to sort email messages like the US Post Office? It would be an impossible feat. Yet we can utilize some of the age-old principles to help us sort and process our emails.
Watch the video below to learn some valuable tips to sorting your emails.
Want to know how to use the "career saver" feature in Outlook? Watch this video and see how to setup a 90 second send delay in Microsoft Outlook.
The definition of clutter is “a collection of things lying in an untidy mass” and is synonymous with confusion, chaos and disorder.
I am one to adhere to the belief that a cluttered environment doesn’t necessarily mean that everything in that environment has served its purpose, outlived its usefulness and is no longer necessary or needed. I do however, believe that in this age of digital overwhelm, digital clutter has become and will continue to be have a major impact; one that negatively impacts productivity.
I read an article by Elizabeth Larkin that categorized physical clutter into five areas and found it interesting that these same five categories apply to digital clutter as well albeit with a little twist.
An exercise known as "Stand in a Circle" which is said to have originated with Ohno was purposed to help managers understand and "see" waste. History reports thatTaiichi Ohno would stand a manager in a chalk circle drawn on the shop floor with a one word instruction to “watch.” Undoubtedly, Ohno had spotted something that he wanted the manager to see . Several hours later, Ohno would return and ask “What do you see?” If the reply was something other than what Ohno had noticed, he would simply ask the manager to “watch some more.”
In business processing terms, a bottleneck is a point of congestion in a system that occurs when workloads arrive at a given point more quickly than that point can handle them. The inefficiencies brought about by the bottleneck often create a queue (holding pattern) and what is known as a longer cycle time. The term bottleneck refers to the shape of a bottle and the fact that the bottle's neck is the narrowest point, and thus the most likely place for congestion to occur, slowing down the flow of liquid from the bottle.
It’s likely that each one of us has experienced bottlenecks in the form of traffic congestion, long lines at the grocery store, extended telephone hold times or waiting for a product to arrive from an online shipping service. In the business world, the term is used to describe points of congestion in everything from poorly executed meetings, chaotic calendars, poor communication delivery, digital clutter and jammed email inbox's.
The 5 Whys is a simple problem-solving technique that helps you uncover the root of a problem quickly. Made popular in the 1970s by the Toyota Production System, the 5 Whys strategy involves looking at any problem and asking: "Why?" and "What caused this problem?"
Very often, the answer to the first "why" will prompt another "why" and the answer to the second "why" will prompt another and so on; hence the name the 5 Whys strategy.
The beauty of this approach is that it can assist you to quickly determine the root cause of a problem and it's simple to learn as well as apply. Take note that the more complex things become you may need to use a more sophisticated problem solving approach
Begin with the end result (i.e., the "problem") and work backward (toward the root cause), continually asking: "Why?"
For example, suppose you have a less than satisfied client who expressed frustration with the timely delivery of your services. Using the 5 Why's to target the cause of the problem might look like this:
During a process improvement initiative; after you have targeted a process you would like to improve and have created a current map for that process, it will be time to examine the map for challenges, problems and opportunities for improvement!
Below are 5 Questions that will guide you as you examine each individual component of the current state map; ask yourself (or your team):
Each time you answer "yes" to any of the questions for any step in your process, take a post it note or a highlighter and "flag" that area. Why? Because you have just identified an area a perfect opportunity for improvement!
If you have not yet targeted a potential area for improvement, take 20 minutes and target a process you find yourself involved in on a daily basis; email, (as usual) keeps coming to mind. Create a current map. Then use the 5 questions above to examine the process a bit more closely and begin to look at how you can improve that particular part of the process.
As a business process enthusiast and advocate for Lean Office Improvement which by the way, I believe is an opportunity available to any and all business professional's, here is a quick look at how to "map" a process you recognize has room for, well improvement!
First identify a process you want to improve; for example the process you take for processing incoming email messages.
1. Start by documenting each of the activities that occur when the process is underway.
2. Use this information to create a macro map*
3. Gather data about the process such as how many steps or how much or time do you invest in the process, how often does the process take place?
4. Create an "as is flowchart" of the process*.
*Macro maps depict the major steps in a process; limit them to between 5 and 7 whereas when you create the "as is" flowchart, you will dive a bit deeper and depict activity in more detail. From there, dive deeper still, adding details about each step in the process and each of the activities performed.
Congratulations, you've just created what is known as a current state map. Tune in for the next post and learn how to examine the map and begin to identify improvement opportunities.