With all of the paperwork flowing into our lives day after day, it’s easy for it to get out-of-control. Forms, memos, letters, catalogs, mail, flyers and advertising offers are stacked in our In Box. Leave that In Box untouched for a day, and you’ve got yourself a paperwork pile. Leave it untouched for a week or more, and you’ve got yourself a paperwork nightmare!
Here are a few simple ideas to help end the nightmare and get all of your paperwork under control:
1. BREAK IT DOWN.
Break the job, of reducing your paperwork, into smaller pieces. Instead of trying to organize ALL of your paperwork at once, set a series of mini goals instead. For example, Day 1, go through one pile; Day 2, go through your In-Box, and so on.
2. THE 4 D’S OF EFFECTIVE PAPER MANAGEMENT.
Over 80% of the paper most people have in their homes and offices is either out-of-date or will be of no further use to them. There are only 4 things to do with a piece of paper:
A) Do it
B) Delay it (File it in an action file or archive file)
C) Delegate it
D) Dump it
The Dump it solution should not be taken lightly. A large percentage of the papers in your office (except for legal or tax related documents), especially the ones in boxes that haven’t been looked at for years or months, can probably be trashed.
3. OPEN MAIL OVER THE WASTEBASKET.
When you get your mail each day, quickly open it right over the wastebasket, or recycling container. Immediately get rid of mail you don’t need, such as catalogs or advertising offers you’re not interested in, or unnecessary inserts that come with your bills. Then, sort the rest of your mail immediately, so it doesn’t have a chance to pile up.
4. FILE EVERY DAY.
If you hate filing, I’m guessing that one of the primary reasons is because you are overwhelmed with your current filing situation. If you only had 1 or 2 pieces of paper to file, you likely wouldn’t see the task as so daunting. Once your paperwork is organized and an effective filing system is in place, filing will become an easier task. That is, as long as you file on a daily, or at the bare minimum, a weekly basis.
5. USE E-MAIL.
Rather than using snail mail, or interoffice mail that must be delivered by a mail person, communicate and share information via e-mail. And whatever you do, don’t print out every single e-mail you get. Most e-mail, and file attachments can be stored on your computer, rather than being printed out. Just beware of virtual clutter! The same rules for avoiding paper pileups apply to the files on your computer, otherwise you’re bound to have a digital document nightmare.
6. DON’T MAKE EXTRA COPIES.
Many people make lots of extra copies of documents, just in case they’re needed later. Very often, this results in tons of copies that never get used. Don’t make copies until you truly need them. And don’t add to other peoples’ paperwork nightmares by making them copies of something they don’t need.
7. BE REALISTIC WITH YOUR READING GOALS.
Many people temporarily store magazine articles, newspaper articles, newsletters, magazines and other reading material in a To Read basket. Unfortunately, for most people, there’s generally more papers in their To Read pile then they would be able to read in a lifetime. Be realistic. When you see the papers in your To Read basket flowing over the rim, it’s time to weed it out. By the way, the only way you’ll get through that To Read basket is by scheduling a reading hour each day, and using that hour to read when the time rolls around.
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