As part of a new series, “Gaining Altitude,” we’ve invited well-known productivity experts and thought leaders to provide their perspectives on managing information overload and tips for success in a world where real-time communication and overflowing inboxes have become the norm.

This week we've invited Douglas Merrill to give his perspectives on productivity in the cloud. Dr. Douglas C. Merrill is the author of “Getting Organized in the Google Era: How to Get Stuff Out of Your Head, Find It When You Need It, and Get It Done Right”, a book on personal and workplace organization. Douglas is also the Founder & CEO of ZestCash - a financial services technology company committed to serving the underbanked - and was previously CIO and VP of Engineering at Google. Prior to Google, Douglas spent time at Charles Schwab, Price Waterhouse, and RAND Corporation. He has a Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton.

We are drowning in new information. For example, during the time it's taken you to read this far, people around the world have sent enough email to fill about 10,000 hardcover books.

However, the main barrier to getting organized is nestled between your ears: your brain. It weighs about three pounds -- roughly the same size as a roasting chicken. Your brain is amazing. You can recognize a person's face when you can only see their nose. Pretty cool, yes?

But your brain has limitations. You can't consciously remember more than about 9 items. To remember more items, you need to stick them into long-term memory and tag them with cues that you will use later to find the information. When you need the information you've learned, you "ask" your long-term memory by looking for information with matching tags.

But it's hard to predict what you will need a bit of information in the future. If you can't predict its use, it's hard to tag the information as you store it.

This is why filing doesn't work well. You mark a manila folder with a couple of words when you store it. However, since you can't be sure what you will use the information for, you don't know which words are best.

This is why many of us have drawers full of manila folders, all totally unused. We didn't mark them with the right tags, and so they aren’t stored where we actually need them to be. The same is true with email folders -- generally, people stick email in folders and never see them again.

Given how much information we face, and how much help our brains need to store it all, we need tools to help us. Enter Gmail. When you use Gmail, you leave your email in your Inbox and use search to find it. Instead of trying to guess what you'll need the email for later, so you can tag the email correctly, you just ask Google to find it for you.

Even though you search for your email, it still helps to tag them to improve your searches. Gmail will do some tagging automatically -- as in when it recognizes mails that seem important to you and puts them in your Priority Inbox.

Additionally, you could consider building your own filters to tag your mail. Unlike manila folders, with only a word or two as tags, Gmail can tag each mail with several labels, making it more likely you can find and use the email when you need it.

At the core, organization is being able to store and use information later. After all, the only reason you care about being organized is because it makes you more effective at what you are going to do tomorrow.

The combination of search and email labels let you do what your brain does well -- understanding -- and helps you do what your brain struggles with -- remembering.