Sometimes I feel like an info-squirrel. I hunt for a nut of information buried in one of several possible places. Did I save the note in a Google Doc? Or Evernote? Or Google Keep? Or was it something I saw in email? Maybe I saved it in Quip. Or maybe I read it in Feedly… or Pocket?
I have too many info-buckets: too many places to stash digital information. It’s time for a digital spring cleaning. Here’s how I suggest tackling your overflow of digital info.
1. Identify the buckets
Make a list of all the apps and tools you use throughout the course of several days. In my case, I use a different mix of tools for different projects, so it may take a week (or more) to create a comprehensive list of tools. The list includes all the communication tools, social media apps, document creation and editing tools, databases, financial apps, meeting tools, entertainment apps, and more. If you use a site or app, it goes on the list.
2. Simplify, if possible
Next, review the list of apps.
Sometimes, you’ll see an opportunity to eliminate an app entirely. For example, I choose to use Waze for navigation, instead of other mapping apps. And, awhile ago, I decided to keep some of my notes in Evernote, rather than Simplenote, OneNote, or other solutions. They’re all solid products. I just try to settle on a single solution and eliminate apps with features that overlap.
With other tools, I might take some time to review alternative solutions. This periodic review helps me choose the best tool for my needs. Pinboard.in, for example, is an excellent bookmarking tool, but I might explore Diigo, Delicious, or others. Products and personal preferences change.
3. Clarify: which tool for a task?
Ideally, you want to map a task to a tool—or set of tools. Use the following sentence: When I need to (task to be done), I use (tool). For example, when I take notes during an initial client visit, I use Evernote—because it allows me to capture notes, pictures, drawings, and audio, all in one app.
My distinctions may get pretty specific. When I need to share web resources in sequence, I use Bunkr. And when I need to explain a series of ideas, I use Google Slides. They’re both presentation tools, but I clarify distinct use cases: Bunkr for presentations of web links, Slides otherwise.
The goal is to clarify the tool you’ll use for each task.
The needs of the many….
In an organization, the scale and complexity increase, but the process is essentially the same: review the tools, simplify wherever possible, and clarify which tools are approved for each task.
Security, collaboration, and data integrity concerns also increase as more people have access to apps and data. Apps and data need to be compatible across the organization—to optimize data flow and minimize errors. And a backup system becomes critical as organization size increases: the chance that any one person will make an error that results in the loss or corruption of data goes up. (Example, for Google Apps use a Cloud-to-Cloud Backup solution.)
If your team numbers in the double-digits, try the review-simplify-clarify process first individually, then work through it collectively as a team. As your team size increases, the number of solutions tends to narrow—or become more difficult to optimize. (The late Leonard Nimoy in his role as Spock in Star Trek II put it aptly: “...the needs of many outweigh the needs of the few.” Enterprise software selection tends to solve problems for the majority of people.)
Every person in your organization should know which tool to use for each task—and, correspondingly, where to search for information to retrieve it at a future date.
When was the last time you completed a review of all the places you’ve stashed data—personally? Or at your organization? If it’s been awhile, add “review info-buckets” to your digital spring cleaning task list. The information you dig up might surprise you.