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E-clutter Management

Get a grip on your digital communication

By Astrid van den Broek

Theresa Gatto receives about 200 e-mails daily. “In this industry, we’ve got things coming at us from every angle,” says the Milton, Ont.-based convention sales manager for Ottawa Tourism. “And technology helps and hinders communication because I’ve got multiple sources communicating at the same time. Some are communicating the same message, some in a different format. And then there’s figuring out how to keep up on social media communications—it’s a constant challenge to stay on top of everything.”

Digital clutter comes from multiple sources—think texts, e-mails, BBMs, social media alerts and more. Unlike physical clutter, which is easy to see, e-clutter can grow unmanageable because it’s hiding in our devices, says Elizabeth Bowman, president of Innovatively Organized, a Seattle-based productivity consulting and organization firm. “And clutter tends to form when individuals are overloaded and are in a rush to switch from task to task,” Bowman notes.

Here’s how to streamline your electronic communications:
Say no to texting. Texting's nature encourages more conversation and it’s easy to lapse into non-professional communication. “Texting is primarily more of a personal thing in terms of communications—I don’t really like to use texting for business,” says Gatto.

Use technology to handle technology. Drowning in social media email alerts? Use aggregators like HootSuite to manage social media accounts from one central dashboard, suggests Bowman. “This way, you don’t have to log in and out of so many different sites and you can view it all in one place.” Having trouble keeping up on your own communications you send out via social media? “We like tools like Buffer that help you gather interesting articles and then the app automatically shares them with your social networks throughout the day,” adds Bowman.

Prioritize e-mails. “Use the two-minute rule when making decisions about processing e-mails,” says Bowman. “If it can be tackled in two minutes or less, do it now. If it will take longer than two minutes, then add the action from the e-mail to your task management system or to-do list.”

Set up filters. Use the power of your e-mail system to set up filters for e-mails to be sent directly to folders. That way you can look at industry e-mail blasts when it’s convenient.

Start now. “Begin by organizing your active digital clutter such as your e-mail inbox, contacts, etc. Once those habits and processes have been established, then organize and archive past files,” notes Bowman.

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