Turn on the filters, turn down the noise

Are you overwhelmed with 'stuff'? Andy Tattersall shares his Top Ten 'filters for the workplace' tips and tools.

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Filter #4 Listen

Away from the silence of meditation, listening to music with a pair of headphones is more than entertainment whilst you work. It can be a sign to your colleagues that you do not want to be disturbed, it can be a way of shutting out external noise, or it can be way of focusing your attention when you are trying to complete some work. It's the opposite of filter #3, but serves a similar purpose, to help channel your mind and concentration. Not all of these filters will work for everyone, it is the same as dieting, not every diet works for everyone, some people may try the 5:2 Diet, others the Dukan Diet. The main thing is to try a few options if you feel information overload is a problem for you. I work with colleagues who listen to TED Lectures, heavy metal, classical or even dance music. Whether they are actually listening to the music is anyone’s guess, certainly for spoken word content it is unlikely you remember much as your focus may be on the task you are undertaking. Whilst other tasks you can undertake without much thought wouldn’t be affected too much by an audio soundtrack.

Filter #5 Automate

There are many tools out there that help you automate processes and for some they can be good at saving you time, whilst others convolute simple tasks making them actually more labour intensive. One tool if used correctly to help filter out the noise and automate processes if IFTTT - 'If This Then That' which is a recipe tool that allows you to create relationships between applications, so for instance if you label an email in Gmail as 'Evernote' it will send the email to your Evernote. Another example is if you post a Tweet it can automatically add it to a Google Doc, or if you blog something in Tumblr it will Tweet that blog post for you - I think you get the picture. IFTTT has 84 channels you can activate from common tools like Facebook and Dropbox to lesser known ones such as Withings and Surfline. By creating useful recipes it will save you the effort of reposting content from one resource to another and help streamline your output. In addition, with functions like reposting to Docs and Evernote you can ensure your information and content is annexed into collections rather than in disparate, anachronistic piles of stuff.

Filter #6 De-clutter

Websites have evolved to some extent over the last couple of decades with some earlier ideas of what a good website should look like condemned to Web heaven and hell, such as entry pages with a spinning 'Enter' logo being replaced with cleaner straight-to-the-point Web presences. Yet as Websites have grown, so has their content with much of it clammering to gain your attention, which means lots of menus and sometimes lots of hyperlinks. Hyperlinks are essential to what the Web is and without them the Web would be utterly useless. Nevertheless, too many of them can have a negative effect on our attention, in fact I applaud you for getting this far down the article without checking your Facebook status, and this is without having links to throw you off your stride.

A simple tool you can apply to prevent you being lured away to the many links within an article or through the links by the side of it is Readability. Readability is a simple website and browser extension that turns a complex, hyperlinked web page into a simple, clean article devoid of links, adverts and other distracting junk. The tool allows you print the article as a clean PDF or tag and save it for reading later whether that be on your PC, tablet or even your Kindle Fire. The real benefit of Readability is that it does filter out distraction and turn what can be at times tests of your attention span as you’re offered other useful information in the guise of links and similar reads. It’s great that Web articles offer alternative and supplementary reading, but let’s get to the end of this first article shall we?

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