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Working Smart – 3 Simple Keys for Managing Information

April 11, 2009

I wanted to follow-up my blog on working smart earlier this week, and not let the week go by without providing some tips on working smart that I promised.

Let’s get a definition going to start. Here’s my working definition:
Working smart is a style of working based on the decisions you make and how you manage information in the process.

This blog is going to be short and to the point, but conceptual – and I’m aiming it at those of you who would would like to get more done with less, not those who reframe working smart as making money without working… there’s plenty written about that already.

Sometimes you just need some practical tips. There are some great blogs and web pages out there that cover practical tips that I don’t want to duplicate. See the following as some examples:

Working Smart with teams,  General life choices, Saving an hour a dayWorking Smart at the office

So let’s get to it.  From my vantage point, working smart and managing information converge on three basic practices I use.  Strengthen any one and you work smarter.  But why just do one, do all three.

1. Use information (and time) with intentionality.    Do it to start the day, do it all day long.  Think about your outcome and manage the information that will help you get there and let go of the rest.  This is essentially a take-off on the idea of think before you act, but it has huge implications when it comes to managing information, since most of us are so awash in it.

Here’s what this doesn’t look like – going through the paces,  whether that is working as usual, putting your time in, dutifully reading through your email.  Be intentional with how you manage life and information. But then that requires that you think (“What’s most important to accomplish today in terms of outcomes?”) not just work, which leads to the next key.

2. Prioritize your focus.  There’s not enough time to do everything.  You don’t have time to put everything neatly away, there’s not enough time to stay up on all the topics of interest, not enough time to read all the email and blogs coming in.    Manage information based upon what’s important – which is defined by the first step.  Identify and live with intentionality.    That brings a relatively narrow focus, or as the movie “City Slickers” defined it, “know what’s number 1” – and I would add to it, know what’s number 1, and how you plan to get closer to it today.

Your job is probably not to be the “library of congress.” To have everything neatly in its place, or to please everyone.  It is, for the purpose of this blog, to work smart, to live smart, and when that comes to managing information, it means narrowing the focus based upon your priorities and desired outcomes.   That’s where you want to spend your time, that’s where it’s most important to track and manage information.

I don’t need to get everything done, just the priority one items. And on the priority one items, I need a system that allows everyone who touches that to work in a coordinated, collaborative, up-to-date manner, anything short of that isn’t working smart.

3.  Get green with information – recycle it!  People that work smart recycle critical information.  What do I mean by that?  Think of working smart as documenting and tracking that high priority information in a way that is useful over and over – by numerous people. One input, multiple outputs.  It’s capturing and storing information in a way that makes it available at your finger tips, but also capturing it in a way that it helps you and others plan, track, adjust priorities, allocate resources, review results… and the list goes on.

Not getting green with information, looks consistently like storing information in a means that is easiest at the moment – but unavailable without a lot of work to anyone else who might need it.  Not being green means managing information in a way that requires little effort on your part, but is unavailable to anyone else who needs to collaborate or coordinate with you.  Not being green means managing critical information in places like your personal todo list, your brain, in a spoken conversation, on a piece of paper.    I can’t read it from over here, neither will the other people your team, nor can I pull it up in a couple of clicks.

You can see why we put such an emphasis upon using the information management and work smart capabilities of ManagePro, because most of us need to take advantage of technology tools to work smarter – it has such large potential payoffs.


Bottom Line:

You can affect how much you and others work smart, especially as it interfaces with managing information, by focusing on the following keys:

1.  Use information with intentionality, with ongoing reference to outcomes and time remaining.
2. Use the focus of priority and apply it to every time you touch information.  Carefully manage priority one, let go of most of the rest.
3. Get green with information.  Information that fits the first two criteria, needs to be documented in a manner (in a database) that is re-useable and very accessible to whom-ever you are collaborating and coordinating with.  This is partly a personal information management discipline and partly a using the right technology.


Working Smart and the Comfort of Habit

Working Strategically – the Missing 4th Step

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