We all have them. Post-it notes pasted everywhere or maybe it's a pocketful of random notes on paper scraps, receipts, and napkins. Each and every one of them filled with important numbers, reminders, to-do items, sketches of the new office layout; all of them very important. Then we empty our pockets or gather the post-its only to discover we can't remember who's number that was, or we missed the due date for that to-do item.
It's exhausting to manage all those bits of data and to add insult to injury none of them have a relationship to any other bit of data. It becomes daunting when we factor in our inability to manage paper documents and reports. The lack of good information organization has a dramatic impact on our personal and professional effectiveness. Did you know that over 70% of office trash is paper. The Boston Globe reported that 15% of all paper documents handled in the workplace is lost and 30% of our time is spent trying to find it. We lose over six weeks a year searching for lost paper.Our organizational methods for electronic data aren't any better.
There are many systems and tools available to help organize and manage our paper and electronic data. I've tried more of them than I care to admit often spending hundreds to be disappointed in them. I don't recommend trial and error, but I do emphasize careful consideration of potential new tools. Here are some thoughts on two great tools that when used together create a stress reducing double-header; David Allen's Getting Things Done system and The PersonalBrain. This isn't a campaign to sell either the GTD products or The PersonalBrain Software. Frankly, both can be used for personal data management and organizational effectiveness without costing anything.
GTD is not new, but if you're unfamiliar with it be sure to check out David Allen's GTD website and blog. The site offers free downloads of useful articles.If you use Outlook for your email and calendar consider the GTD add-in for Outlook. There is a wealth of GTD information available with a simple web search. The PersonalBrain is less prominent in the data management conversation.
The developers of the PersonalBrain call it “the ultimate digital memory.” This is an easy to use, dynamic mind-mapping software application that is non-linear and non-hierarchical. It applies visualization to your information, creating a digital map similar to paper-based mind maps you may be familiar with, but is so much more powerful. It allows you to create a network of information that is organized in a way that reflects the way you think so finding data is easier and the relationships between things is clear. Your ideas are no longer forced into a single folder or copied multiple times for various projects. Combined with basic GTD concepts Personal Brain becomes a powerful brainstorming, project management, and data storage system.
Still like carrying around paper? Seems I see more and more people carrying little leather-bound notebooks. These items are varied, attractive, and can be purchased just about anywhere. I think they're a bit expensive so, I use a pocketmod for daily note taking. You can get your own fold-up notebook at PocketMod.com. This website is set up for you to design and then print a pdf of a single-sheet, paper pocket notebook. Design it, print it, use it. I suggest designing it with GTD in mind. At the end of the day put it in your Brain. Now that's managing data effectively.