Give Your Home a Control Center

Welcome to the age of information overload.

The flow of news, communications, and as well as stuff, has increased exponentially over the past few decades. It also shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. When you multiply the impact of information overload by the number of people in your household — it can get downright overwhelming. Staying on top of what’s important may seem impossible when you’re slammed with a virtual avalanche of information. But it’s definitely much easier if you establish a control center — a central clearing house of sorts — for the flow of information into and out of your home.

Alicia on ‘The Impact of Information Overload’

‘Cognitive psychologists have long known that when people are bombarded with more information than they can process, their intellectual performance decreases and their judgment suffers, which in turn causes stress levels to rise significantly. Some call it ‘technostress,’ others call it ‘the snowball effect.’ Whatever the name, in order to successfully combat it, you will need to establish efficient systems for sifting through loads of information quickly — so you can focus on what’s important and gloss over the rest.’

Sarah on ‘Creating Effective Filters’

‘With the massive amounts of information flowing through the average American home, it’s hard not to worry that you’ve overlooked something important and spent too much time reviewing another thing that didn’t matter at all. The trick to staying on top of it is to force all information through one control center in your home that is set up with a handful of effective filters that categorize it into digestible bits.’

Here are three important things to consider as you set up your home control center to effectively wrangle the information flow in your household.

#1: The Fundamentals
If the thought of setting up a control center seems daunting, rest assured it doesn’t need to be an all consuming project. There are really only two fundamentals to a successful control center. First, it must be in a central location so that it is easy for all family members to access and use. Ideally you can put it near the main entrance, or at least close to where you usually drop the mail, since one of its main functions is to keep what comes in the post under control. Second, you will need a flat surface large enough to sort papers and envelopes as well as a place for a large monthly calendar with enough room to put key activities for everybody in the house for that month.

#2: Effective Filters for Papers
Once you have set aside some space, you will want to set up an easy to understand and easy to use inbox filtering system. Select inbox filters that correspond to the most important areas of your life. You may be able to get away with as few as three inboxes: bills, school information, and social events. It may seem surprising, but the most crucial file by miles will be the circular file, the humble trash can. If a piece of information coming into the house doesn’t fit into one of your important inboxes, review it on the spot and if it isn’t crucial, throw it out immediately.

#3: One Master Calendar for All
One of the hardest things to keep track of is the family calendar. To keep from missing important dates, be sure to keep track of everybody’s schedule on one, master calendar. To make sure that one person isn’t stuck with the responsibility of tracking down every detail; make sure all family members are responsible for inputting their information into the master calendar each week (ideally on a Sunday afternoon).