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4 Ways to Screen Out Non-Essential Information

Originally published: 04.01.10 by Kerry Gleeson


An important part of managing time is getting rid of useless mail.

You and your team waste more time each year addressing useless information that is sent via paper-mail and email. This is a big problem because accumulating either physical or electronic “piles” of useless data can freeze your ability to get your value-creating work done. We’ve all been stopped in our tracks by the need to search for important information that is lost within a pile or folder of marginally important or useless information. If you are not in command of incoming mail, you’ll keep hitting the same, frustrating wall when trying to be productive.

According to the WhiteCollar Productivity Index, the average professional believes 50% of the mail they receive has absolutely no value to them. Of the “other” 50%, only about half should have actually been sent, respondents said, and this does not include “pure spam.” This means that only 1:4 or 25% of what is mailed has a value and is worth time to address it.

How should you address the other 75%?

By employing the following rules, you will find that you will:

• Save time.

• Improve information control.

• Keep focused on work that is important.

• Get more of the right things done in less time.

Block valueless information from entering your system by:

1. Looking at it and

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immediately throwing out or deleting things with no value.

2. Having someone else (assistant or mail room) get rid of all the information — mostly mass mailers, brochures, and solicitations — that you have decided you don’t ever want to see again. One of our client’s senior leadership gave the mailroom permission to toss mail they identified as useless or any “new” mail that did not have a complete name and address on it. This alone decreased the amount of mail delivered by 50%. Tell the correct people what you do not want to see again, have them recycle it for you, and you’ll never have to deal with it again. Remember, this is an ongoing process, so as you get new items that are worthless, inform your gatekeepers.

3. Getting removed from both electronic and paper distribution lists that have “no value” so that no one within your organization will have to waste their valuable time looking at them again.

For the foreseeable future, email will be the prime delivery method of useless information.

4. You have a marvelous tool within Outlook — or almost any other email program you are using — called Rules or Rules Wizard that will allow you to give instructions to your system to take action on incoming email that you designate has no value to you.

Investing the time to learn how to use Rules will allow you to move items you have identified by sender, subject, content words, or almost any other identifier — through your Inbox to a specific folder (great for routine periodicals report, newsletters and such), to forward to someone else, or even send an item to Trash.

You can find Rules, with Outlook opened, by going to Tools in the Main Menu line, then — depending on your version of Outlook — look for Rules Wizard, Quick Rules, or Rules and Alerts. From this point, follow the prompts that appear. You can also learn more about Rules by going to Help in the Main Menu and then typing in Rules, which will direct you to the vast amount of information available at this source. If you’re an online person, go to Outlook Rules and learn from the large selection, which will show itself. And, if you’re a book person, check out Claus Moller’s book Time Manager for MS Outlook.

Investing the time to block junk mail and master Rules will bring you an excellent return of hours saved over the months and years ahead.

Kerry Gleeson is the founder of the Institute for Business Technology International (IBT) and developer of the Personal Efficiency Program (PEP). He is the author of the books The Personal Efficiency Program and The High-Tech Personal Efficiency Program.

Bary Sherman is CEO of PEP Productivity Solutions, an international efficiency consulting company. Contact them at kgleeson@bellsouth.net and bary. sherman@PEPproductivitysolutions.com.


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