I’ve been reading articles about the promise of a paperless office my entire life, and for the most part, those articles have just created more paper.
For the first time in modern history, we now have the tools to go completely paperless. But before you go invest in a new gadget and hunker down to scan all of your paper, you can probably do a lot to reduce the amount of paper in your life.
If you really want to go paperless, start with these steps to have less paper in your life. You’ll find more space in your home.
Everyone hates to file papers and we all have piles of them on our desks, tables, and any other flat surface around. No one likes to deal with all the papers that we still have even in our modern “paperless” society. Today I offer an easy, simple system that is not overwhelming and will have you binging Netflix in no time. The best part of this solution is that it’s only two steps!!
Even as a professional organizer, my ADHD gets in the way of keeping my attention on sorting papers for any significant length of time. As everyone knows, dealing with papers is boring. It becomes overwhelming so we give up and give in to the piles. So, out of necessity, I created this quick and easy system for dealing with the paper piles.
Step 1: Get 2 containers – boxes, plastic bins, baskets etc. to hold your papers. They can be pretty or they can be from the liquor store. The look of the container is up to you.
Step 2: Answer one yes or no question for each paper: “Does this paper have anything to do with my money, property, legal identification, or taxes?” If the answer is yes, it goes in box #1. If the answer if no, then it goes into box #2.
That’s it, you’re done filing! Even if you never do anything else with either box, you will be able to find any important paper that you need, when you need it. Most papers that we think we need to keep are rarely, if ever, referenced again.
If you need to find an important legal document, receipt or tax info you only have to look in Box #1. You don’t need to be distracted by all the non-legal or non-financial papers to find what you need. Your stress level is greatly reduced or even eliminated. If there is ever an emergency, storm, fire, or other need to evacuate quickly, you just have to grab Box #1.
Now, a lot of people would just not feel completely comfortable with this simple system. If you fall into this category, then take the next step. Get a 3-ring binder and some sheet protectors. Place all of the most critical documents – your birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, marriage and divorce documents, property deeds, college transcripts, etc. and put them into the page protectors in the binder. Keep this binder in or near Box #1 and let all household members know about it and where it is. Believe me, this will save you so much time and stress when you need to locate these documents.
I know that this system works well as I just completed the process of getting both my Real ID and my passport. It was so much easier knowing where all of the documents were and that they were all together.
Now that you paper piles are tackled, grab some ice cream and enjoy your favorite show or activity. Guilt free. Now you are organized…at least with your papers!
While helping clients organize their papers, they express concern that they’re doing something wrong when handling them more than once. What they’re unknowingly asking about is the OHIO (Only Handle it Once) rule.
Keep in mind, though, that OHIO is a guideline, not meant to always be applied. The intent is to Only Handle It Once, or as few times as necessary to completion.
We don’t stop to think about how many times we handle the same papers — and how much time we waste. A lot!
Here’s a favorite productivity tip from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. His Two-Minute Rule states that if it takes less than two minutes, do it now. That doesn’t mean two minutes exactly, but just a few minutes to complete quick tasks. Brilliant!
Contact a pro organizer if you want to learn how to get more done in less time.
© 2019 Adriane Weinberg. All rights reserved.
Remember the Trapper Keeper days? And the 5-subject notebook? We all used them as students but why don’t we use them today? The concept is still the same, it’s just the subjects have changed.
To-Do’s: Instead of subject, separate your to do’s into broad categories (personal, business, church for example). Use a 3 or 5 subject notebook as your one place to store it all. Create a system to prioritize like highlighting or numbering. Don’t forget about those to do’s that you keep putting off. Mix these in with some of your urgent ones.
Projects vs. To Do’s: There is a difference. Projects are made up of a lot of to do’s. That’s why a project can seem so overwhelming and never gets done. Break up that project and add those to do’s to your list.
Notebook vs. Stickies: Is your desk or computer overrun by sticky notes? Use the divided notebooks to keep track of your to do’s/ideas/projects. Stickies should be used temporarily. Regularly transfer that information to the appropriate section of the notebook.
There is no one way to keep track of your to do’s. Build upon the systems that are currently working for you. But take it one task at a time and be patient. Conquer a couple each day or set a time limit. And in today’s digital era, sometimes a good old notebook will do just fine. Just be sure that you don’t lose it because you can’t back it up!
While working with clients on managing their paperwork and filing systems, and/or time management/productivity we often come across very old (meaning over a year) TO DO lists.
Are YOU haunted by these? Know they are out there lurking to challenge and shame you? I AM!!!
Here are some thoughts to guide you as you contemplate your next move against these demons.
Option #1: Look at them
Option #2 Throw them out
Take an hour or two off and, armed with a legal pad or journal, bring those lists to a coffee shop/library or other secret hideaway. Review them in a loving, self-accepting way. Jot down any thoughts that arise.
Then, like you would with the old tub of cream cheese that is festering in the back of the frig, growing green and black molds, TOSS the old to do lists out.
Onward to what calls to you NOW!
Do you love to see things grow and blossom? Your kids? Your puppy? Your Christmas amaryllis? Your spring flowers? Your summer veggies? Your piles of paper? Say what? What was that last one – paper? No!
If you’re like many of the people I work with, paper is not your thing. You didn’t ask for so much mail, you don’t know what to keep vs. what to discard and you don’t enjoy processing it. I’m going to help you reframe the way you look at paper by comparing paper management to gardening. Stay with me here! It might be more motivational than you think.
So, what are some of the components of both gardening and paper management?
When planning a flower garden, consider color schemes, the timing of the blooms, the height of the plants, etc.
Create a plan for where to place paper, i.e. unopened mail, papers to be acted on, papers to be filed, papers going out of the house, etc.
Perhaps you use Round Up to prevent weeds (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure).
To prevent unwanted and junk mail, sign up using an online service, such as dmachoice.org (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of MAIL).
When gardening, you periodically fertilize, weed, dead-head the flowers, and of course cut the flowers for indoor appreciation.
Establish daily, weekly and monthly routines to open the mail, address action items, pay bills, file, read, etc.
You’ve dedicated a place where you store your pots, tools, soil, etc. for easy access.
Use file cabinets or file boxes to store reference papers and keep papers you need to act upon on your desk.
END OF SEASON CLEAN UP
Gardens get ‘put to bed’ in the autumn by cutting back plants, etc.
Purge your files annually. The best time is when you’re gathering papers for income tax. Shred paid invoices you don’t need for taxes and make room for a new year.
I wish you much success in your garden and office. KEEP UP in order to thrive and blossom!