Dealing with information overload: The art of letting go

papersAre you overwhelmed by too much information? Are you surrounded by piles of paper?

A professional organiser once said to me that 80% of what you file away you will never look at again.

So why hold on to it?

When it comes to papers entering your space, you have to be ruthless.

If you allow your papers to take over, chances are your productivity and mental clarity are going to suffer.

Below are some tips for combating information overload and managing all the bits of paper that enter your life.

1. Review regularly

If you don’t review what’s in your files, you forget. It’s as simple as that.

You need to be disciplined to set aside time every few months to review your papers.

As productivity expert David Allen states –

“A real review process will lead to enhanced and proactive new thinking in key areas of your life and work”.

Doing a review is a great opportunity to toss out any papers that you no longer need.

2. How fast can you fill up a recycling box

Challenge yourself. Set a timer for 8 minutes and see how much you can fill it with in that period of time. Be strong and work fast. And just remember, you probably won’t miss the document or even remember that you had it in the first place.

3. Deal with your papers immediately

Don’t allow mountains of papers to form in your room or office. If you can file a document away in under 2 minutes, do it.

It also helps to set aside time to do something Psychologist Sharon Melnick calls the “The nightly sweep”. This involves gathering all the papers and notes you have accumulated over the day, putting them in one spot and formulating one ‘to do’ list. As you go through each item, I find it helps to ask yourself the following questions –

What do I need to do with this?
Is it general reference material that needs to be filed away?
Do I need to take some form of action in relation to the item? If so, what’s the next small step I need to take?

4. Say no to accumulating papers from the outset

Before you click the print button or take a handout sheet, ask yourself –

“What benefit will this information bring to my life? What will I do with it?”

If it will bring very little benefit and the document doesn’t serve a need or purpose, be strong and don’t let the document enter your space.

5. Just do 10 minutes a day

If you feel mentally overwhelmed by your papers, just say to yourself that all you need to do is a 10 minute purge. That’s all. Every day for a week. That’s at least 50 minutes of paper purging. And a whole lot of mental relief.

You see, when you get rid of useless papers and review your files regularly, you feel lighter and more in control of your life. You can also make better decisions and work more efficiently because you know where things are.

I challenge you to start the paper purge today. Set up a recycling bin, grab a timer and go for it!

See what kind of difference it makes to your thinking and productivity. I have to say, life is better without my criminal law notes from first year university.

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