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Break Free from Paper Clutter
Until You Can Make Your Office Paperless, Takes Steps to Organize the Paper Mess
By Christi Youd
Look at just about anyone’s workspace these days and you’re bound to see the same thing: piles and piles of paper…on the desk, on top of the filing cabinet and even on the floor. Paper has seemingly overrun many offices, causing stress, confusion, and a lapse in productivity. How can something as simple as paper cause so much turmoil?
The answer lies in how we deal with it. The fact is when it comes to paper clutter, many people make the “putting away” process too complicated. So rather than do something with their paper, they set it aside and pile it. Or, if it’s an active piece of paper, meaning something that represents work they need to do, they don’t have a home for that active paperwork. Those are the papers that get spread all over the desk and moved from one side to the next.
Fortunately, no matter how high your piles are or how many you have, you can control the clutter and reclaim your desktop (and even your floor). Use the following six tips to de-clutter once and for all.
1. Create a “home” for your active paperwork
Many people rely on an “inbox” for active paperwork, and that’s one of the biggest mistakes when it comes to de-cluttering. An inbox inherently lends itself to inaction. Think about your own inbox for a moment. Do you often have paper sitting in your inbox for a long time? Do papers “slip between the cracks” because they got buried in your inbox? Is your inbox regularly overflowing with papers that spread all over the desk? Most people answer “yes” to at least one of those questions.
A better solution is to have a work processing system in your desk file drawer. This tickler file system consists of a thirty-one hanging files, one for each day of the month. Behind those are twelve additional hanging files, one for each month. As each piece of active paper comes into your office, you make a decision as to what date you are committed to taking action on that paper and file it in the appropriate date’s file. If it’s something you need to schedule further in the year, put it in the appropriate month’s file. Each evening you simply pull out the dated file for the following date and prioritize all the tasks the papers represent. This one strategy keeps your desktop free of active paperwork clutter and enables you to process work in a timely manner.
2. Prepare your file drawers
Before you start filing the rest of your papers, you need an efficient filing system in place. To begin, make sure you have access to four file drawers within your cockpit. That means you should be able to reach each of the four file drawers while sitting behind your desk. One file drawer will be the tickler file system you just created. The remaining three are what’s necessary to properly fit all the documents the average person needs to keep for work.
For a filing system that is easy to maintain you need to keep it extremely simple....