For more than two decades, the one simplicity question I still hear is “How do I deal with the overload?” or variations like “How do I delete more?”
One more time…
For this post, I’ll borrow from Jocelyn Glei, whose advice on Behance is very similar to my workshops.
1. Define Your Own Rules of Engagement
Not the company’s. Not your peers’. Not your teammates’. Yours!
Not every message is created equal. Most of us have no more than 25 or so people (customers, boss, friends, family) whose messages MUST get answered right away and with most attention. Almost all others fall into the “I can come back to it” category.
Rules of Engagement also mean WHEN you’ll deal with messages. Very few of those senders actually do need super-immediate responses. Most can wait — at least a little. Do NOT answer in real-time! Allow yourself some down-times! Set up a disciplined schedule — (say four or so times a day, or whatever works best for you) — and STICK TO IT!
2. Use Tech to Keep You On Track
Filter, filter, filter!
If you don’t know how, a few ideas to get you started:
• Outlook filters: Here and here
• Managing Twitter
• Filter and Manage Your Entire Online Social Life
Think of setting these up not as yet another tech chore… These filters and organizers and synthesizers are your traffic cops — they help you enforce your own Rules of Engagement.
3. Manage Expectations
Communicate your Rules of Engagement so people know — up front — when you’ll be getting back to them, and how you prefer information communicated to you. Standard ways of doing this are:
• Face to face conversations with teammates
• Out of the Office responses
• Email footers and notes and auto-responses on web-based and social communications
As Glei says: Your greatest weapon against overload is setting other people’s expectations
4. Channels: Constantly Prune, Delete, Edit
Less is more!
You are probably over-subscribed to too many social media channels, you probably get too many newsletters, you probably have too many apps feeding too much to you.
At least once per month, schedule some editing and pruning time. And keep scheduling it. Be as disciplined about this as you are numbers 1, 2 and 3.
Follow these four simple steps (with discipline) and you will tame the overload beast!