Do you feel like you spend too much time looking for that email or document? Studies have shown employees waste at least two hours per day looking for information. An effective reference system can solve that. Do you have an effective reference system in place?

A reference system is a collection of places we store information and how we store that information. An effective reference system is about being intentional on where you store information, how you will find the information, why it’s worthy to keep, and why you store it where you do.

An electronic reference system consists of:

  • Email folders
  • Desktop/documents folders
  • Cloud and hard drive storage such as OneDrive, Dropbox, or Google Drive
  • Notes and other applications on desktop and phone

Everything we touch can be deleted, stored in reference, or is actionable. Everything fits in one of those buckets.

Here are a few coaching questions to ask yourself for those things you’ve decided to keep:

  • Why am I keeping this?
  • What is it?
  • Where’s the best place to store it? [Email folder, documents, print and file]
  • How will I find it? [Save As/rename to be easily searchable and findable]

Your reference system matters for many reasons. A good reference system will save you time because it helps you find things faster allowing you to get back to the main thing. When you know where things are you feel organized at an inner level, reducing overwhelm and undue stress. And, since you’re not scrambling to find things (which makes us look bad to those waiting), we tend to boost our personal brand because we’re perceived as more organized to others.

Tips for an Effective Reference System:

  • Only keep or reference what’s necessary. Ask yourself, do I need this? If so, why? By asking yourself this you can challenge the beliefs that may be causing unnecessary email hoarding and space.
  • Always challenge yourself to let go. Allowing less and letting go is a principle of productivity and becoming your best self.
  • Decide if you want to keep certain files on your computer and/or cloud system for easier accessibility when needed.
  • Keep in mind that creating an effective reference system has a lot to do with how we personally search for information, so consider thinking through how you work before you make changes to your reference system.
  • Determine and use naming conventions. For example, use the same file name structure so things are stored easily such as Project name – date – author or initiative – project – version. The same file naming structure helps to find things easier. This can be done with email subjects as well.
  • Always use the acronym of the project name or topic in the subject line of emails.
  • Make a file system that makes sense.
  • Make decisions on whether or not you wish to keep something right away.
  • Consider 1:1 Coaching with us to help figure out the right file system for you.
  • Don’t be overly detailed. Less is more.

There are many ways to improve your reference system, but awareness is the first step. Make the effort to be aware about what you decide to keep, why, and where you put it to find improvements in your strategy. And as always, we’re happy to help in a coaching session or two to refine your reference system according to how you work. Schedule a complimentary consultation today by emailing us at [email protected].