Do you like to go on archeological digs? I hope so because your desk requires an archeological dig to find the desktop. And you know there are important papers in the rubble that you need for today's meeting. Are you asking yourself how the papers got so out of control? Now you are buried and feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.
Paper Patrol to the Rescue. You have a problem: you can't possibly imagine where or how to begin. That is 50% of the problem. Not knowing how or where to start is a perfect reason and excuse to put it off. This is the #1 reason most people let their paperwork get out of control for such a long time. It doesn't have to be that way, though.
You can do it and you can make a difference.
As you are standing in your office and look around, feeling lost in a sea of paper, let's stop looking and let's get started.
Here are the proven techniques that will change how you handle your papers:
1. Start with your desktop - The papers there are more current than the ones on other tables.
2. Sort each piece of paper into categories. Keep the categories general until you have sorted them all.
3. Categories will create themselves. Don't make this hard. Examples of general categories are: insurance, health/medical, project 1, project 2, legal, warranties.
4. Sub-Categorize - Now that your papers are categorized, you will notice that some piles are very large. In that case, that is a topic that should be sub-categorized. For example, insurance is a very broad term. You may prefer to divide it into: medical/life/business/auto. Take it one step further and you may divide for each person.
5. Use hanging file folders with interior file folders. When you retrieve a folder, the hanging file always stays in the drawer. Only the interior folder is removed. When replacing the folder, it is easy to see where to put it back.
6. Label all folders - The hanging files have the plastic tab to use. There are so many ways to label- pick the one that works best for you. Some common methods are A - Z (alphabetical), by categories and in order of importance.
7. Color coding can work well, especially in business. Perhaps all the financial files are in green (money), the prospects and hot items are in red. The interior folder label should be more specific to the contents.
8. Miscellaneous files are not allowed - Every paper does have a home. If it's miscellaneous to you, then you haven't made a decision about it. How often do the papers in your miscellaneous file get acted upon? Rarely. If it's that unimportant. . . make the decision and toss it.
9. Start small - From the desk, begin taking small piles of paper from other surfaces and continue sorting. Over time, you will be able to sort all the loose papers into categories.
10. Baby steps - Work in short sessions, 30 - 60 minutes at a time. The key is to stay focused while you are working. This process will not happen in one day. It took a long time for your papers to get this deep, so plan on taking time to restore order.
Congratulations! You made it through the dig and located the resources and information you were looking for. You accomplished what you set out to do and can get back to your routines. Good job!
Your office looks great, everything has a home and you feel relieved. Don't forget that you will continue to receive new paper every day. Plan 15-20 minutes a day to process papers and maintain your systems.
Barb Friedman Organize IT - Business Organizing Tips and Ideas
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