End the Paperwork Nightmare

By Maria Gracia

With all of the paperwork flowing into our lives each day, it's easy for it to get out-of-control. Forms, memos, letters, catalogs, mail, flyers and advertising offers are stacked in our in box. Leave that in box for a day, and you've got yourself a paperwork pile. Leave it untouched for a week or more, and you've got yourself a paperwork nightmare!

Here are a few simple ideas to help end the nightmare and get your paperwork under control:


Break It Down

Break down the job of reducing your paperwork into smaller pieces. Instead of trying to organize ALL of your paperwork at once, set a series of mini-goals instead. For example, on Day 1, go through one pile; on Day 2, go through your in box, and so on.


The 4 D's of Effective Paper Management

Over 80% of the paper most people have in their homes and offices is either outdated or will have no further use to them. There are only four things to do with a piece of paper:

A) Do it
B) Delay it (File it in an action file or archive file)
C) Delegate it
D) Dump it

The "Dump it" solution should not be taken lightly. A large percentage of the papers in your office (except for legal or tax related documents), especially the ones in boxes that haven't been looked at for months or years, can probably be trashed.


Open Mail Over the Wastebasket

When you get your mail each day, quickly open it right over the wastebasket or a recycling container. Immediately get rid of mail you don't need, such as catalogs or advertising offers you're not interested in, or unnecessary inserts that come with your bills. Then, sort the rest of your mail immediately, so it doesn't have a chance to pile up.


File Every Day

If you hate filing, it's probably because you are overwhelmed with your current filing situation. If you only had one or two pieces of paper to file, the task wouldn't seem so daunting. Once your paperwork is organized and an effective filing system is in place, filing will become an easier task. That is, as long as you file on a daily, or at minimum, a weekly basis.


Use E-mail

Rather than using snail mail, or interoffice mail that must be delivered by a mail person, communicate and share information via e-mail. And whatever you do, don't print out every e-mail you get. Most e-mail messages and file attachments can be stored on your computer, rather than being printed out. But beware of virtual clutter! The same rules for avoiding paper pileups apply to the files on your computer; otherwise you're bound to have a digital document nightmare.


Don't Make Extra Copies

Many people make lots of extra copies of documents, just in case they're needed later. Very often, this results in huge volumes of paper that is never used. Don't make copies until you truly need them. And don't add to other peoples' paperwork nightmares, by them copies of something they don't need.


Be Realistic with Your Reading Goals

Many people temporarily store magazine articles, newspaper articles, newsletters, magazines and other reading material in a "To Read" basket. Many people have more papers in their "To Read" pile then they would be able to read in a lifetime. Be realistic. When you see the papers in your "To Read" basket flowing over the rim, it's time to weed it out. By the way, the only way you'll get through that "To Read" basket is by scheduling a reading hour each day, and using that hour to read.

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