By Nicola Evans, Oct 4 2015 06:31AM
Whether at home or in the office, paper clutter seems to be the hardest for many to control. We are bombarded by paper from everywhere on a daily basis and unless you know how to manage it well, it can soon get out of control and then become an overwhelming task.
1. Identify the source.
Where does the paper come from and where does it land? Common ones include junk mail, print outs of emails, newspapers, multiple written lists. Do you have a single in tray system or does paper land on the table, the home office, kitchen bench etc?
2. Stop it before it reaches your In Tray.
Cancel unwanted subscriptions, put up a ‘no junk mail’ sign and open post over recycling bin and shredder before putting in your in tray. Recycle unwanted advertising fliers but shred credit card offers or any other items with personal information to help avoid identity theft.
3. Use technology to your advantage.
Think before you print out emails or information from the Internet. Read news, articles and emails online and file soft copies of documents (only if needed for future) in a folder structure on your computer or even better in the Cloud (so you can access anywhere from multiple devices). Forget multiple calendars and post it notes and transfer information to single calendar and task list e.g. Google or Outlook.
4. Tackle your existing piles of paper.
Creating new habits like those above will help but you still need to tackle the piles you already have. Start a new habit today and handle in short bursts. Pick a pile and use a timer for 5-10 mins – you will be surprised how much paper you can get through! I have a system called RAFT (Read, Action, File or Throw), which is a simple tool to help make quick decisions on what to do next with each piece of paper. The basic aim is to ensure that every piece of paper is in its right place by the time you have finished sorting through incoming paperwork or information. It doesn’t mean that everything is completed, only that you have decided where to put each item until you are ready for it to be actioned.
5. Schedule time to action papers.
The secret to managing papers that require further action is to schedule them. Decide when you are going to action and record the start date in diary (not due date), file in your follow up file. On the due date, retrieve and Action, then File or Throw (RAFT). If you repeat the same task on a regular basis set up a weekly schedule to keep you on track. Alternatively, use a tickler system with files for each month, week or day to temporarily file until required to action.
6. Create a good filing system.
Filing overwhelms most people because they don’t have a good filing system for papers requiring a more permanent home. It’s worth investing in a good system that suits your own needs so you can locate and retrieve information quickly and easily. Remember that 85% of what you file never gets sees the light of day again, so only keep what you really need and clear out on a regular basis at least annually. Scanning documents will also help reduce paper though some important original documents will need to be kept. Don’t forget to label any boxes that are archived with details of contents and a destroy date.
Don’t let paper weigh you down – remember paper, like everything else in your life, also needs a proper place, even if it’s in the bin, recycling or shredder! I hope you find these tips useful and I am always happy to help you tackle your paper mountains and create individual solutions that work to keep your paperwork flowing.