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Separate Information from Action

Hi, this is Cyril from Work Smarter Live Better.

In this video, I would like to share with you one simple advice which can help you to declutter both your desk and your inbox.

The principle I want to share today is very simple. Separate information from action.

Separate information action. What do I mean? I had the pleasure of coaching many people over the last 12, 15 years. A lot at their desk and one of the first thing I do with them is to declutter their world. And one the thing we do is we declutter their desks.

So we go around the desk, we start purging and pruning, reorganizing. And there is always a time where there is a document and I take the document, and I ask “What’s this?” and they said to me, “Ah Cyril, I can’t put this away from my desk.” And I said “Why?” And they said, “Well, I keep this document on my desk to remind myself that I need to do something about it.” And I always ask them question, “Is your desk your task management system?” “What do you mean?” “So, well your desk is on a task management system. It doesn’t remind you what to do, reorganize it for you, and so on. It’s a poor one.”

We’ve moved a lot now from the desk and I see a more and more people having probably less paper on the desk. But it’s moved from the desk to the inbox. So I see people with thousands and thousands of emails in their inbox. And again we’re still the same thing. We did declutter their world. So the first thing we do when we go team, we declutter their world so we declutter their inbox.

And so we just take an e-mail, re-organize it, purged it, move it file it, and there’s always an email that they say to me, “Cyril, I can’t file this e-mail.” And I said “Why?” “I keep this email in my inbox because I need to do something about it.” And I always ask the same question, “Is your inbox your task management system? No! Your inbox is a poor task management system. It doesn’t prioritize for you, it doesn’t tell you how long it’s going to take. It doesn’t tell you when it’s due.”

So my advice for whether it’s your desk, whether it’s your inbox, it’s very simple. Your desk, your inbox is not your task management system. What you need to do is you need to separate information from action.

If you keep a document on your desk, that mean you blended two things. You blended the information which in the document and the action – what you want to do with it. The same thing if you keep an email in your inbox because you want to remember to do something about it, then you blended two things. You blended the information in the e-mail and the action when you need to do something about it. You need to separate them both.

So what does that mean? The information, whether it’s a paper or an e-mail, needs to go in your filing system. Keep in mind, one of the previous video that I did, 80% should be in my friend the bin, which means delete it. But the information needs to be file where it needs to be file.

The action needs to go into your action system in your task management system. Now whether you’re using Outlook, you’re on Apple, whether you’re using Gmail, whether you’re using A Paper Diary, whether you’re using an app. That’s another topic in itself. But you need to take this action and write it in your system. So you need to separate information from action.

This is this week Work Smarter Live Better tip. I hope you enjoy it. Always keen to get your feedback, get your ideas. I think it is great to get people sharing and say “Oh, actually Cyril, my way of doing it is…” and we share with everyone.

So don’t hesitate to share with all of us. Just type a few ideas that can be of use to everyone. Until next time. You enjoy.

Take care.

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