Busy professionals often wonder how to develop a strategy for long-term information management, posing questions such as:
- “What exactly do I need to keep?”
- “How long do I need to keep it?”
- “Where do I keep it?”
- “How will I (and others) find it again if we need it?”
Streamlining access to valuable information has become increasingly complex. In large part this is due to the sheer volume of information generated, and also because it’s not common practice to pro-actively think though strategies about what information needs to be kept, for how long, and, in what form.
As a consequence the majority of companies and individual professionals default to saving it all. In doing so they create a digital landfill of dangerous proportions and managing the “landfill” becomes, well, inefficient and unmanageable. These inefficiencies generate a tremendous amount of stress, decrease productivity, dilute access to key information, increase litigation risk and cost untold thousands of dollars.
With growing volumes of information and a myriad of file formats, individuals and organizations should be encouraged to manage their information in order to:
- Improve agility
- Ensure security
- Leverage opportunities
- Reduce risk
Whether you are a single end user or a corporate giant, consider the following questions as a checklist towards developing information management practices and/or policies:
- WHO: Who will require access to the information (now and in the future) and who is responsible for managing (filing, purging, destroying) information?
- WHAT: What types of information do you need/want to save and in what form? Email, audio, images, paper?
- WHY: Outline why you save information. In doing so keep in mind that there are only 3 reasons to save anything.
- It’s mandated legally or by profession or industry
- It is (or will be) used in day-to-day business or personal business
- It has historical value
- WHEN: Think timelines here; when will information be accessed again, when will it be purged, moved, stored, and deleted?
- WHERE: What platforms or “containers” will house your information? Paper or digital file cabinets, archive Boxes, shared drives, Cloud repositories, external hard drives?
- HOW: How will you find what you need when you need it? Will you use your computer search functions, a software program, or a file index? What naming conventions will you create that support easy access to stored information?
It’s likely that you understand the need for information management systems and also very likely the idea of creating a system may seem overwhelming. To that end, start small and make incremental steps toward development. Consider consulting with a productivity specialist with expertise in this area who can help you jump start your initiative or oversee it from start to finish.
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About the author: Tracy Parks is CEO of Simplicated, LLC, Productivity Consultant, trainer and speaker.