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Do you have any “Time Squanders” in your work or personal life?

That was a trick question: we all do!

A Time Squander is one of those little 5-10 minute (or more!) time-wasting activities that work their way into our days. Each Time Squander doesn’t seem like a big deal — we hardly even notice them — but they add up to a huge amount of wasted time every day and week.

If there is one thing we have learned in all of our years doing productivity experiments and helping over 15,000 customers be more productive, it is this:

Lost of small changes lead to major results!

Reading 20 pages a day equates to 30 books per year. Saving $10 per day is $3,650 per year. Running 1 mile per day is 365 miles per year.

Small, positive changes can lead to big results over time. The opposite is also true in the context of productivity: small, time wasting activities lead to lots of wasted hours.

That’s why Time Squanders are so dangerous. You oftentimes don’t notice them yet they rob you of hours a week (and hundreds of hours a year). Here’s a perfect example: trying to find that email attachment, file, note, or photo that you know you saved, but you have to dig around to trying to locate it.

Here’s another one: you have a document or other file, and you have to figure out the best place to save it. Does it go under “Utilities” or “Home”?

There’s an Excel file that goes with this PDF: do they get saved together or in different places?

You have a meeting note: does it go under “Meetings” or “Clients”?

You have photos from your family vacation to Barcelona. Does they go under “Family” or “Vacations” or “Spain” or “Europe”?

None of these activities are rocket science, I’ll give you that. (Unless you’re a rocket scientist.)

But they are all examples of things that involve uncertainty, and uncertainly leads to procrastination, and procrastination leads to the mess that many of us have with our digital files, notes, and photos.

Just because we’re in this situation doesn’t mean we need to stay there. Getting organized is possible and gives you the possibility free up hundreds of hours a year.

Introducing The Digital Organization Challenge

In this 5-day Digital Organization Challenge, we’re going to show you how to make those small changes that lead to major results over time. You’ll learn how to get organized with your files, notes, and photos, even if you have thousands of disorganized files all over the place.

Plus, if you hang around until the end of the challenge, we’re going to be giving out some fantastic prizes:

First Prize: Apple Airpods Max Headphones ($549 value)

These have amazing noise cancellation and seamless integration with Apple products. If you’re an Android user, they work well too!

Second Prize: Kindle Paperwhite ($149 value)

The electronic reader that almost the whole AE team uses to read almost every day. It’s unbeatable for portability and clarity.

Third Prize: 1 Habit For a Thriving Home Office: Killer Habits of the Most Successful Home-Based Business People on the Planet ($26 value)

Physical copy of a book with short chapters containing tips to work productively at home. One of those chapters was written by AE’s very own Brooks Duncan!

What Others Have To Say

This is the first time we are doing a Digital Organization challenge, but many people just like you have loved our previous challenges on focus, personal automation, working from home, and email. Here’s what readers have had to say about our last challenge:

I love your challenges: they break down learning and implementation in a really convenient way that helps things stick. – Paul

I really enjoyed and benefited from the challenge. And it was really neat know that there were so many others out there doing it too. Hey, y’all. – Dana

Made my week so much more productive. Thanks for the great content. I am addicted to your website….in a good way. – Paula

Thanks, Asian Efficiency for these nice tips. They are very helpful. I was already implementing a couple of things in this challenge but learned the remaining ones. I am very hopeful that these will improve my productivity. It was nice to see a lot many people are in the same boat as me and nice to see their comments and tips. – Karthik

Information is one thing, but action is where the real change happens. That’s why we love doing challenges along with you: There’s nothing like a challenge to encourage us all to start taking concrete action. Prizes are nice too. 😀

We’ve Been Teaching Digital Organization For More Than 12 Years

Asian Efficiency started in 2011, but I (Brooks) have been teaching digital organization online since 2008.

Back then, the concept of working with digital information was crazy to some people. I remember once I was at a friend’s party and a lawyer, who had perhaps had one too many Negronis, came up to me.

“We could NEVER go digital in the legal profession. It’s not possible” she said, expecting an argument.

I just smiled and sipped my Black Manhattan in my non-confrontational Canadian way, but I think we can all agree that the world has changed in the decade since.

Now the problem is we all have too much digital information, and we haven’t had the time, energy, or expertise to organize it effectively.

Thanh and I have been teaching digital organization on the Blog and Podcast for years, and I have been teaching it at conferences like the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals and the American Bar Association.

By the way, this digital organization knowledge didn’t just appear magically. It came from years working in corporate, struggling with a mountain of incoming email attachments, duplicate files, and documents with names like Support Offering version 3 For Review Final Final Final.docx.

I didn’t have any guidance for how to organize and find my information (and made lots of mistakes along the way). Over time, I developed a system, and we are excited to share our experience with you in this challenge.

Here’s what to expect

We want this challenge to do three things for you:

  1. Help you free up the Time Squanders in your work and personal life so that you can have an extra 1.5 hours a day. What would you do with that time?
  2. Help you remove the frustration of not being able to find what you need, when you need it. With the extra energy and focus that comes from being in control of your information, what will you be able to do?
  3. Provide you with the systems and practices that will let you thrive in this information economy. If everyone else in your work and life is struggling to organize and find their files, notes, and photos, you’ll have extra confidence and control.

We always have thousands of fellow AE readers across the world take our challenges, and we are looking forward to sharing this journey with you. Here’s how it will work:

During the week, we will be posting ONE new tip each day, starting Monday, May 3. We designed these tips to help you develop your work-from-home skills and give you the tools and techniques that will help you thrive.

While waiting for the challenge to start, download our free guide on the Easy Organization System to find out how you can win back 5-8 hours a week. Download it now before you forget and life gets in the way.

Exercise

For each tip, there’ll be an exercise so that you can put your new strategy into action.

For this first pre-lesson, your homework is simple — comment below to let us know that you’re in, and if you’re a Twitter user, click this button to share that you’re taking the 5-Day Digital Organization Challenge:

Why share? You’re more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down, and even more likely to achieve it if you share it publicly for accountability. Commenting and sharing it on social media will achieve both and let us, others, and (most importantly) yourself know that you’re committed.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brooks Duncan

I love taking technical topics and translating them so that they make sense to non-nerds. I'm a Chartered Professional Accountant and have been a software developer and have run software support in very small startups and extremely large public corporations. I strive to be relentlessly helpful in everything that I do. I live in Vancouver, Canada and insert extra u's in many of my words.


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  1. Looking for tips to streamline my filing. I have a system that works to find stuff but it's hard to properly process inputs quickly.

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