Like you, I struggle with paper. I no sooner get my desk cleared off than it gets covered up again with the next day’s mail. I’ve written about my struggle and my strategies for mastering paper in some of my previous organizing tips, most notably Divide and Conquer the Pile and What Color is Your Desk?
Attacking a pile of paper is very intimidating. It can be time-consuming to figure out what needs to be done with each piece of paper. If you’re like me, you’ve already done the easy stuff, so the papers left in the pile are the hard ones. One of the key strategies I teach my clients is to put a sticky note on each piece of paper stating the next action required, and the due date if there is one. Next time you come back to the pile, it’s much less intimidating if your action items are clearly spelled out. You might actually do them!
Several years ago, I purchased some pre-printed sticky notes that facilitate this process. They were created by Sue Becker, a Chicago-based Professional Organizer and owner of a company called From Piles to Smiles. They are called Action Notes, and they ask three questions: “What’s the next action?”, “How long will it take?”, and “When is it due?”
I’ve given some of these notes out to clients from time to time, but I had never used them myself. Last week, frustrated at the papers that never make it off my desk, I decided it was time to put my own advice into action. And it has made a huge difference.
I’ve organized the pile so that the most important papers are on the top. Every day, I remove a few and take care of them. My pile isn’t so scary or intimidating any more. I plan to start off the new year with no paper on my desk.
Want to try this method? You can purchase Sue’s Action Notes at From Piles to Smiles. They come in yellow and blue. You can even take a pad of sticky notes and customize your own version. My suggestion is to use a different color than the one you’re used to. I typically use yellow sticky notes for jotting things down, so for my action pile, I’m using the blue notes. It makes them stand out and compels me to action.
Here’s to a New Year full of action!