Paper flows into our lives with surprising regularity, and it piles up quickly. Snail mail, newspapers, magazines, work memos, school flyers, invitations, brochures . . . the longer you put off dealing with it, the harder it is to get started and the more deadlines you will miss.
The solution? Set up an efficient paper processing center and nip those papers in the bud.
What supplies do you need?
- A letter opener. Yes, I know you can open a letter without one, but a letter opener makes it faster and easier, and it’s fun to use!
- A recycle bin. It doesn’t have to be fancy – a simple wastebasket will do – but it should be exclusively for papers that will be recycled.
- A shredder. Keep it plugged in and ready for use. If you have one that needs to be set up each time you want to shred, throw it away and buy a real one!
- File folders. These can be in a vertical file holder or in a portable file box, as long as it sits at your paper processing area. Set up these five folders:
– Read It
– File It
– Pay It
– Take Action
– My Events
So here is what you do with that pile of papers:
- Pick up the paper on top.
- If it’s a letter, open it with your letter opener, and throw away the envelope and any inserts that you don’t need. Unfold the letter so that it lays flat — it takes up less room that way.
- Look at the paper and decide whether this is a paper that you want to keep.
- If it doesn’t need to be kept, then recycle it or shred it.
- If it does need to be kept, determine which of the five folders it belongs in, and put it there. (My Events is for theatre tickets, invitations, driving directions, and other papers that relate to something in your calendar).
- If it is going into the “Take Action” file, then put a sticky note on it saying the due date and what the next action is. This will save you time later when you are ready to act on it.
- Keep going through the pile until all the papers have been processed.
Now all you have to do is do the reading, filing, paying, and acting on!
These follow-up steps can happen another time if you don’t have time now. But don’t let the lack of follow-up time prevent you from processing the paper every day — or every two or three days.
Don’t wait longer than three days to process the paper or you will get overwhelmed and will likely miss important deadlines.