Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
Paper breeds more paper. It is only by regular processing that we can hope to keep the paper monster from breeding all over our homes. But faced with piles of paper, it is very tempting just to shove the piles in a hidden space and hope they go away. They never do (trust me on this, I have tried).
Streamlining the way we handle paper can make it much smoother and faster to deal with. This will in turn lead to fewer backlogs, which will lead to less misplaced information.
Here are my tips for streamlining paper input:
Keep It In One Place
Keep all your papers in one place. Having mail in the kitchen, bills in your briefcase and letters to answer in your bedroom is just asking for chaos.
Have one designated place that you will keep papers until you can process through them. Depending on the quantity, it might be a basket, box or file folder.
The rule of thumb here is the smaller the better. If you can’t fit any more paper into your processing place, you will be more likely to deal with it than to stuff more in.
I have a poly file folder that stands on my desk (poly holds up much longer than the standard file folders). When I come in from work, I bring my briefcase to my desk, drop any mail into the folder, and then empty out any papers I may have in my briefcase that need to be dealt with. My folder is labeled (gotta love label makers!) “Process”
Deal With It Often
To stay on top of papers, you will need to process through them regularly, and it should be as often as you need to.
How’s that for vague?
Since all of my bills are done electronically, the only paper I have to deal with are school notices, bank statements, receipts that have to be entered, and things that need to be filed.
I find that once a week is sufficient to keep that folder empty, with nothing being missed in the meantime.
I recommend that you process at least once a week. If you need more, do twice. Don’t process your papers every day, though, or you will spend far too much time doing it.
Process To Actions
When the time comes to process the items in your designated place, you will need a few things:
- Recycling bin
- Folders for further processing
I violate the “touch it once principle”. I go through everything in my Process folder and quickly sort it. Envelopes are opened, inner non-relevant contents recycled, and the envelopes with the windows thrown out.
For each item, I place it in one of the following places:
- My @Computer folder, for those things that need to be processed at the computer
- My Waiting For folder, for those things that I am waiting for
- Respond, for those snail mail letters that I like to respond with snail mail
- One of my filing folders (more about this below)
If the item cannot be placed in one of those folders, say for the odd bill, I write the check out right then, place a notation where the stamp would go for when it has to be mailed, and place it in the @Computer folder so a reminder can be put into Remember The Milk.
Anything dealt with is either shredded, recycled or put in one of the filing folders.
Next I process through the @Computer folder. I group like items together – for instance, all Girl Scout receipts go in one pile, all gas receipts in another, all calendar entries in another, all Remember the Milk items in another. Then I work through each group on the computer. Again, when I am done, each item is either shredded, recycled, or put in one of the filing folders.
This next item has recently changed. I used to have one folder for filing, but since I detest filing (probably due to the two summers I spent as a filing clerk), this folder would get bulky and take me a long time to sort out.
After reading the article “Get-It-Done Guy : Make Your Folders Do the Work” I changed my methodology.
Instead of one “to file” folder, I made separate folders for the different types of items that need to be filed. By sorting them, I take the thinking out of the process, and I can quickly put the items where they belong.
My current “to file” set of folders contain the following:
- Safe for those things needing to go into the safe.
- Pet for those things filed with the pet records, kept with the pet carriers in the downstairs
- Warranties for putting in the envelopes I keep warranties in
- Daughter for school papers that will be scrapbooked
- Filing Cabinet for everything else
What this has done is made filing quick. I may not be able to deal with the warranties at one moment, but I can grap the folder to put the school papers away. If I am in the area with the safe digging something else out, I can grab the folder for the safe and put those items in (obviously, I don’t let papers that need to be in the safe hang around in the folder for long, even if it is not convenient to put them away).
Streamlining my paper processing and implementing standard ways of handling them have made paperwork so much easier to deal with! My time spent dealing with papers is minimal, and I never lose track of anything anymore.
Do you have methods to streamline paper handling? Share below.
Photo by 10ch