All families are unique and different. As you’d likely expect, the various types of information we share with our families are similar, yet the ways in which we manage our information varies greatly from family to family.
It can be daunting to learn that there are more than 700 different types of information commonly shared amongst families, from Netflix credentials to life insurance policies, and this number has doubled every 10 years for the last 3 decades.
As we’ve worked to create a solution to help families communicate better, it’s imperative that at an aggregate level we understand what information families have, how they manage it, and how it is communicated.
We’ve spent 3 years working directly with thousands of families to distill what the best ways to manage and communicate information are. This blog will summarize what we’ve learned about information management best practices into 4 easy steps that we hope will help make information management easier for you and your family.
Each step builds on the previous one, and are unsurprisingly ordered from best to worst in terms of how good families do on average at each given step.
Step 1: Make Sure Your Information is Up To Date
How many families do a good job? 85–95%
This is the only step that is more about making sure you have the right information — the following steps have more to do with what you’re actually doing with your information, but it doesn’t matter what you do with your information if it’s lapsed or expired.
This step may only apply to a small percentage of the types of information you have, but the ramifications can be very significant when certain types of information aren’t kept current — think health, auto & life insurance.
So how do you make sure your information is up to date?
Keep track of important dates & lead times. This can be done many ways, from circling dates in calendars, sticky notes, digital calendars, automated reminders etc.
We understand that people have different preferences for how they manage calendars, but we’ve created an automated notification system around expiration dates in Kinnect to help make it easier for our users to remember to keep everything up to date.
Budgeting also plays a role in this. ‘Not Knowing’ is the number one reason information gets out of date, but the second most common reason is a lack of funds available. I’d recommend Dave Ramsey to anyone who wants to know more about planning and budgeting.
Step 2: Keep Your Information Organized
How many families do a good job: 50–60%
One interesting discovery is the correlation between how long families have commonly managed certain types of information and how well they are typically organized.
For example, most families (around 60–70%) who have legal documents — like wills, trusts & power of attorney documents do a good job organizing them.
Inversely, very few families (less than 20%) do a good job organizing their device access codes — like the password to an iPad or a garage door code.
You would be right to conclude that there is a hierarchy of importance for certain types of information over others, however, in our experience, we’ve come across hundreds of stories of heartache and frustration when families are unable to find priceless memories and photographs from digital devices that they’re locked out of. It’s highly likely that you or someone you know has been through a situation like this.
Another interesting thing we’ve observed is that 80%+ of people say they do a good job at organizing their information if you ask that question before you ask them what they do with their various types of digital information.
If you ask them how well they organize their information after the digital information question, it drops to under 55%.
So what is the best way for a family to organize their information?
We’ve been fortunate to work with a number of professional organizers in our alpha test of Kinnect. After all — who would be more qualified to help us create a platform that helps families manage their information than those who professionally help others become more organized?
I view organization kind of like beauty. It can be subjective, but you know it when you see it.
There are two ways to think through this:
The first is: How knowledgeable are you about the whereabouts of your own information?
A litmus test you can use is: Do I know where X type of information is? The easier you can answer that question, the more organized X type of information is. Chances are you can answer that easily for your important documents, but what about different types of digital information?
The second is: How many different places do you keep your information?
The closer you are to 1 here, the better. And the more types of information you’re only keeping in your head, the worse. There is a reason 78% of people have had to reset a password in the last 90 days. People forget things if they’re not organized.
Most people keep their information in 3–5 locations. Along with automated updates, Kinnect provides an option to organize all of the types of information you have in one location, with over 200 templates ranging from advance directives to crypto wallets.
Step 3: Make Your Information Accessible
How many families do a good job: 40–50%
If step 2 is about knowing where your information is, then step 3 is about making it easy to access. Effective information management is having the right information, knowing where it is, and the ability to access it when It is needed.
I live in Central Florida, let’s say my information is up to date and organized, but I keep it at my sister’s house. My sister (unfortunately) lives in Sydney, Australia, the polar opposite side of the globe from Florida. This would be an example of inaccessible information.
The more effort required, the less accessible that information is.
When we say 40–50% of families do a good job here, that’s because we’re really only talking about most types of important documents. If we realistically used all types of information that families share, it would likely be less than 10%.
So how do you make your information more easily accessible?
This one isn’t as easy to answer as the previous step. There are several acceptable options to choose from when deciding how you’re going to organize your information.
Many iconic leaders like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs have articulated the concept of ‘simple is hard’ — which means that the easier something is to use, typically, the more effort is required to make it that way.
Let’s process the following 3 questions to start thinking about how to make our information more easily accessible:
- What types of information do I have?
Let’s break all of the information you and your family has down into 8 identifiable categories:
Home & Family
Then, for each category, let’s break it down by the (very) high level types of information you might have in each category:
Finally, for each category and type of information: let’s process where you keep that information using the most common options:
In a safe physical location
With a trusted person
In a digital platform
In my head
We would have to go through each piece of information you have to truly know how accessible your information is, but thinking through categories, types & locations of your information will give you a general idea of how accessible it all is.
Step 4: Make Your Information Easy To Communicate
How many families do a good job: Less than 30%
We innately know that much of the information we will inevitably need one day is in the possession of others who we know we can rely on. Yet a vast majority of us will predictably experience hardships when we need information from someone who isn’t readily available.
I’m going to use a summary of responses to 2 questions from a survey we’ve conducted with more than 10,000 people to illustrate this point.
We asked parents who have legal documents and insurance policies:
“How sure are you that your family would be able to find the information they need if you weren’t available to help them find it?”
75% Said they are confident those who would need it would know where to find their information.
Then we asked the family members of parents who have legal documents and insurance policies:
“How sure are you that you would be able to find the information your parents have if they weren’t available to help you find it?”
30% Said they are confident they would know where to find everything they need.
Communication and interaction differences are the #1 reason for family conflict.
This is because the types of information we communicate are growing exponentially, while the ways in which we communicate this information lag significantly behind.
It requires a tremendous amount of effort to make it easy for your loved ones to understand what you have, and where it’s located. This is the reason we created Kinnect.
From simply identifying what you have and communicating it to those who will need it one day, to centralized, secure information management, we believe the process of effectively communicating information with loved ones was something that needed to be simplified, so we’ve made it accessible for everyone.
We’ll be releasing our beta in late June of 2021, if you’d like to be an early user and get exclusive perks, sign up for early access.