It’s one of the most difficult things to keep organized, and it keeps arriving every day. So, I am going to separate this topic into two parts: clearing your desk, and setting up a system.
While you may be tempted just scoop up the entire contents of your desk top and move it aside – or even throw it all away – doing so does not actually accomplish anything. So, let’s start with creating categories. If you have a large quantity of each category, then you may want to use a bin or paper bag for each category.
- File: Include in this category everything that you need for reference later. Be thoughtful about this, and ask yourself if you could find the information again easily. If the answer is no – you could not easily locate the information again – then those are the items you keep. In addition, you will want to keep any paper that acts as proof: tax receipts, legal documents, mortgage information, wills, etc.
- Action: If a paper requires action (other than bill-paying), then those belong in a separate pile. This includes making a phone call, completing a form, placing an order or working on a project. The most pressing items can be located on or near your desk-top. If you have a stack of paperwork that is related to one project, then create a folder for that project, so that you can move the entire project to the side while you are working on something else.
- To-Pay: There are several ways to manage your bill-paying. For the moment, be sure they are all collected together. Next month, we will discuss some options and how to create a system that works for you and your daily routines.
- Recycle: Any paper that you don’t need, and that does not need to be shredded, goes into the recycle pile. However, please consider thoughtfully what really needs to be shredded. Some people feel the need to shred everything that has their address on it. Ask yourself these questions: how difficult would it be for an identity thief to locate your address? Is it worth your time to shred everything with your address on it?
- Shred: If you have a substantial amount of paper to be shredded, then you may want to find a local shredding facility. The cost is affordable, and the process is much faster than shredding a large volume at home. The best companies will shred while you watch. Once you are caught up, you can shred at home going forward.
Now – and this is very important – follow through with your piles. Take out the recycle immediately. File your papers, and finish all of your shredding. The reduced volume of paper means less stress, the remaining papers on your desk will be your immediate action piles, and you will be able to more easily determine your priorities and locate the paperwork you need.
Next month, we will cover some options for keeping your papers under control. Want to learn more in the mean time? Read about 5 Mistakes People Make in Handling Paper.