The Spring Cleaning Challenge and The Great Paper Purge: From Piles to *almost* Paperless are colliding today! What does that mean? We’re making progress with our paper!
Now that we’ve set up our filing system it’s time to make a dent in that pile of paper hanging around your work station. What better time to do this than when we’re Spring Cleaning!
By the way, if you haven’t entered to win the Washer/Dryer sets, Closet Organizer, Steam Mop…or linked up your Spring Cleaning Posts, go do that now! I’ll wait… 🙂
How to Organize Your Piles of Paper Efficiently
Let me preface these instructions by saying once again that there may be a better way to eliminate stacks of paper. However, I’ve recently reduced an entire office full of files and paper down to a few file drawers of neatly organized documents. I’m hoping these instructions will help you move through your own paper piles quickly and reduce the amount of mistakes I made.
It’s finally time to begin reducing the size of the paper piles around us. Depending on the amount of paper you have, it may take a while. As in days. Or weeks. Or months! Just work diligently and you’ll begin to see a difference.
It will be worth it!
First things first. Gather all mail and paperwork from around the home or office and put in one place. Be sure to keep recent items separate from older stacks of paper.
- Begin with the pile containing your most recent documents and go through each item one by one. This first pile should be pretty easy since the action items are most likely recent in your memory.
- Do your very best to deal with each piece of paper as you touch it.
- If it’s a bill to pay, pay it immediately.
- If you can trash it, throw it away immediately.
- If it’s a note, jot it in a note-taking system like Evernote or begin a list in a notebook.
- If you can file it in a current file folder, do it immediately.
- If you need to make a new file folder, make it. This will be easiest if you write on your file folders, have a portable label maker or are using the FreedomFiler. If, however, you want to mass produce your labels, just put the document in a file folder and use a sticky note to label it for now.
- If there’s something that will take more than a couple of minutes to handle or you just don’t know how to deal with it yet, put it in a new categorized pile. For example, I had stacks all around me; one for receipts that needed to be scanned, one for magazines, one for photos that I wanted to scan, one for items I needed to ask my husband about, one for action items, etc.
- Next go though the other piles using the same method.
- You can turn the pile upside down and begin from the bottom. The thought process behind this is that so much time has probably passed since accumulating that bottom piece of paper that you can throw it away easily. It’s probably too old to keep, has been updated, or is no longer relevant.
- You can also start from the top, filing most recent documents since they are more current and you will probably be able to deal with them quicker.
A few things to keep in mind as you organize your paperwork.
- As you progress through the piles, you will most likely be reminded of actions items you need to complete. Unless it’s extremely urgent, file it anyway and jot a reminder on your notepad or Evernote list.
- Try to focus on the task at hand and work quickly.
- It’s okay to have piles left over after this first session.
- It’s also okay to have full file folders after this first session. We’re going to go through them later to weed out duplicate and unnecessary files. We’ll also move what we can to a paperless system. This first goal is to get rid of the stacks of paper piled around your desk!
Action Items for Today
- Gather all paperwork and put in one location, closest to your file drawers.
- Gather supplies: blank file folders, label maker, sticky notes, notepad, pen.
- Go through your stacks, one by one, and make decisions quickly.
Let’s hear from you…
Approximately how many piles of paper so you have to go through?!
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