Clean desk? Empty inbox? Douglas C. Merrill, former Chief Information Officer of Google, says neither is necessary in his book Getting Organized in the Google Era. With a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science he talks a lot in the first part of the book about how our brains work, the stress we are putting on them with information overload and ways to organize the information – getting it out of our short term memory and into our long term memory or into a searchable database (email).”

Don’t organize it, SEARCH for it,” Merrill says. Adding relevant key words to your email and documents will improve search results. “Search is as essential as oxygen” in today’s information era! He uses the example of a closet. Imagine throwing all of our clothes into a pile in the closet. Then, when we need our blue shirt we type it in and before our eyes appears our favorite blue shirt! No time is spent organizing it and we can find it instantly when we need it! Merrill states, “Let your goals determine how you receive and store information instead of simply accepting someone else’s system that doesn’t meet your needs.”

If your goals for 2011 are to be more organized and/or more productive you need to objectively assess the tools/methods you are using right now. What tools do you use now to help you stay organized and how do you use them? Make a list. Then, challenge your assumptions about why you do things the way you do. Figure out which systems let you down, how they let you down and why. Identifying these breaking points and finding solutions to work around them will help you reach your goals.

When deciding what to do with information let your goals drive your decisions. Ask yourself questions like:

  1. Why do I need that information?
  2. How, when and where will I use it later?
  3. How long will I need it?
  4. Who, aside from me, will benefit from it?
  5. When will I need it?

If organizing information is a challenge for you then reading Getting Organized in the Google Era will give you a fresh perspective and specific ideas to reduce brain stress and increase your productivity!

Ideas and quotes above are from Getting Organized in the Google Era by Douglas C. Merrilland James A. Martin.

Tracy Hoth