Time and Task Management – Part 4 – Managing Information

information management with google drive

Time and Task Management Recap

In Part 1, I covered concepts. In Part 2, systems that flavored my current system. Part 3, how I use Google Calendar and Task for my day to day time and task management.

Key ideas moving forward

  • “The System” does not exist. A system is critical.
  • Your system should allow you to “forget” items until they are necessary
  • Establish appointments for working your system. Daily/weekly/monthly

Beware the “My Situation is Different” Syndrome

I realize that my name for the syndrome is lousy. Here is what I mean:

When I coach individuals or companies on information management or email management, I am often met with resistance in the form of, “I cannot disconnect from email because….” or “My information or process is so unique I cannot…..”

Usually (in 100% of the cases), this is less about the system (or some variation of it) being viable, it is more about NOT wanting to undertake the necessary change to implement a system. Change can be challenging. Change requires retraining how we operate. Change requires an admission that we are NOT as effective as we’d like to be.

Remove the personal emotion by objectively evaluating your situation. What advice would you give someone in your exact situation? Really!!! Simply create a list of how you currently operate and your information challenges with your name and specific company removed. Now, truthfully offer suggestions to the “person” facing those listed challenges.

What does that solution look like?

Too much information

Especially for email. But overall, we maintain so much information. Email attachments, downloads, files and documents we create, etc. It can be (IS DEFINITELY) overwhelming.

Similar to time and task management, information and email management requires that you have a system. I’ll explain some concepts that are important and also explain how I use Google Drive to help me manage information.

Inbox Zero and Information Management

I covered Inbox Zero in Part 2. I’ve been working more on archiving emails without using folders – simplifying my taxonomy. This was a challenge for me. For whatever reason, I feel as though when I simply archive an email, it is the same as deleting it.

It isn’t, but that is how it feels.

However, understanding some key search tools for Gmail helps. And, of course, you can search by a keyword or term that is found in the subject or the body of any email. A couple of additional methods to narrow your search are:

Searching using “To:” and “From:”

You can search for emails that have come from a specific person or have been sent to a specific person using either “to:” or “from:”

As in: from:personsemail@anydomain.com or to:personsemail@anydomain.com

Emails with an attachment


Join terms to pinpoint email

“to:johnsmith@anydomain.com has:attachment” is a great way to find that proposal you sent to John.

For additional tips on searching Gmail, visit:


Google Drive and Information Management

I store things on my harddrive and critical documents, I’ve started moving more diligently to an external drive as a backup. However, a lot of my information management involves using Google Drive – in either a Google Document or Spreadsheet.

I’ll explain why in just a moment, but let’s talk about naming files.

I try to name both folders and documents with logical search terms. For files, however, I also add the date I create them into the name.

I do this in the form of Year-month-day – using a full 4 digit year and 2 digits for the month and day. So, today, July 7, 2014 would be prefaced with:

2014-07-07 – proposal for abc company

The reason I do this is that you cannot properly sort month, day, year – as July of 2012, 2013, 2014 would all be grouped together by month, rather than by the year. Look at the two lists below. You can also see that if I do not use a two digit month or day, the order can also be messed up.

List 1: month-day-year

  • 05-10-2014   (note year)
  • 06-15-2013 (note – the day is the 15th)
  • 06-2-2009  (note – the day is the 2nd and the year is 2009)
  • 07-07-2012
  • 07-07-2013
  • 07-07-2014

List 2: year-month-day

This is the same list with the year first and every month and day as 2 digits. It is in proper date order.

  • 2009-06-02
  • 2012-07-07
  • 2013-06-15
  • 2013-07-07
  • 2014-05-10
  • 2014-07-07

Working Notes, Then Store the Information

I maintain a working notes document in Google Drive. It is open during the day. I may make simple notes about a conversation, copy a web URL, or almost any other piece of information during my working day.

Every 1 to 3 days, I then take that file and effectively purge it. I either determine I did not need the information – and I delete it – or I move the information into some other type of document.

For instance: I have a spreadsheet with links to check. I copy the URL I want to check, make a note about it, who sent it to me, and the date I entered it into the sheet. I periodically go back and review that list – again, deleting things that just aren’t that relevant.

Google Drive is Searchable

It is simple to find Google Docs and I store them in reasonable sub-folders. I have a folder for current projects, a client folder with a sub-folder for each client, a family folder, and a few other folders.


Google Drive on Your Computer

You can install Google Drive on your computer and specify folders to synchronize between your Google Drive and your computer. I do this with a limited subset of folders; but it is a great way to backup your desktop files as you make changes to them.


Google Keep


This is another product I just discovered this year. It was launched last year, but true to form, Google has hardly mentioned it. I hope they keep it and continue to develop it.

It is a simple list and information manager. You can record an audio file, create a shopping list (or quick “to do” list), and store images as well. The audio recording feature is pretty cool because it stores the audio and transcribes it as well.


You Must Work Your System

There is no way around this. Great tools abound and even less than stellar tools will work – but only if you work the system. You MUST set aside time in order to more effectively use your time.

With deadlines and pressing demands, it often seems impossible to stop long enough to manage time, tasks, or our information. Failure to do so will result in lost time, missed tasks, and inability to leverage and manage the information flow that comes your way.

Remember, the adage, there is never time to do it right, but there is always time to do it again.

While not directly applicable, the premise is there. You need to allocate and spend time in order to better utilize and ultimately save time.

Let me know if this helps you or any systems that you find helpful.


Posted in Coaching, Leadership, Tools.

What do you think?