Hello, my name is Rick and I’m a tech-aholic. I love technology. Words like optimization, data-mining and automation excite me. I’m one of those people who have a countdown for the next phone update. Sometimes, I type “u” instead of “you” when I write e-mail. With the time it saves me, I ponder the mysteries of life.
As the consumer-tech world continues its exponential growth, we’re faced with ever-new decisions. We’re also constantly “on call.” Social media, e-mails, text messages, apps and photos are all sending notifications of their importance and fighting to be No. 1 on our priority list. This overload takes a toll on our lives in one way or another. The individual who can tame these tech beasts is one who’ll have more control and less stress.
While tech is near and dear to me, so is my desire for a simplistic lifestyle. My drive to streamline has led me to examine my technology habits to ensure they’re the most efficient. Let’s walk through some steps to better organize your digital world, which will benefit you not only in your self-storage operation, but in all areas of life.
Control Your Inbox
Stop checking your e-mail first thing in the morning! Yes, check the facility account in case a customer is trying to reach you; but this is your most productive time of the day. You might feel productive when you open that inbox and delete 20 messages, but it’s really the opposite. That simple task is one that should be handled during a slower time.
My inbox is the bane of my existence. I receive so many e-mails that I rely on an organization method. First, I unsubscribe to all junk messages as they come. Second, I automate by using filters to send files to various folders. Third, I maintain four key folders labeled Today, This Week, This Month and This Quarter. This enables me to prioritize messages, responding or taking action as time permits.
Whatever e-mail service you’re using, there’s probably a better system. I love Inbox by Gmail. Even if your e-mail comes through your self-storage facility website, you can configure it to send to Inbox. The feature I use the most is the snooze button, which allows you to postpone a message to a chosen date, time or even location. For example, if I have several e-mails I need to examine when I get to a specific storage property, I choose the “snooze to location” option. Once I arrive at that store, the e-mails are waiting for me in that inbox.
When I receive an e-mail that contains a due date, to-do list or other request, I put that info into an organizational collaboration tool. It’s helpful if I’m part of a 10-person e-mail chain, for example, as by the time the discussion is over, the part of the message outlining my responsibility is long buried.
Apps like Google Keep, Wunderlist and Trello allow you to collaborate with team members on various tasks. They also provide a simple way to track info across multiple devices. You can set due dates, reminders and assignments, all of which can be updated and changed as projects are added to or completed. By using these apps, the need for e-mails is reduced and efficiency is increased.
Reduce the Paperwork
In life, we all suffer three types of death. One is “the final storage unit” in which we’re all buried. (Luckily, there are no auctions.) The second is death by meetings, and the third is death by paperwork.
Digital and physical paperwork occupy different kinds of space. The key is to keep both well-organized. For example, there are probably a few overflowing filing cabinets in your office. Most contain signed leases. If you haven’t switched to paperless yet, repent your evil ways and start! The old paper versions are taking up a massive amount of space.
I bought two USB thumb drives, scanned all my paper leases and shredded the hard copies. I placed a digital copy on each thumb drive and a backup in the cloud for redundancy. If I need a copy of a lease, I can easily print one.
Automate Your Work
Have you ever thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could do this automatically?” Welcome to the world of automation! My two favorite tools in this area are If This Then That (IFTTT), a free Web-based service to create chains of conditional statements, and Zapier, which allows users to connect the apps they use to automate their work and be more productive. These programs are designed for people who want to combine Web apps in a system of triggers and actions.
For example, I spend time at various self-storage facilities throughout my day and need to keep track of time. With IFTTT, a location trigger occurs automatically when I arrive at a site. It logs the start time in a nice, organized Google spreadsheet, and I can put it into payroll later.
Both IFTTT and Zapier offer thousands of ways to improve and automate every aspect of your work and personal life. If you fail to find an integration that works for you, make one! The sky is the limit in these great automation programs.
Begin the ‘Great Purge’
Every six months I institute the “great purge” at all my storage locations. It begins with picking a corner in your office. That corner is the starting point of a 360-degree house-cleaning, ending where you started. Every cabinet, drawer, nook and cranny is rid of useless junk.
Part of the purge is the computers we use every day. It’s easy to let old downloads, scans and programs pile up on your machine. These files create a digital wasteland you’re forced to wade through every day. Files should be organized, folders should be labeled, and there should be an easy way for someone other than you to find something they need.
We once lived in a world where there was a separation between our work, home and social lives. Today our lives are so blended with technology that it’s difficult to compartmentalize. Having a messy digital life and thinking it won’t ooze into your personal life is a fool’s errand. Now more than ever, it’s prudent to organize your digital world. Remember, you’ll always have the choice between taming the tech beast or having it become your master. Choose wisely.
Rick Beal is the district manager and part owner of Cubes Self Storage in Salt Lake City. His goal is to help a historically slow-changing industry embrace new, innovative ideas. His professional motto is “Storage is a business of inches not miles.” He can be reached at [email protected]. Connect with him on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/storagerick.