Let’s face it, nobody likes paperwork. But we all love the sense of relief, confidence, even empowerment, we feel getting organized!
Part and parcel of being disorganized are the stacks of papers and paperwork that turn into a source of stress and anxiety. In fact, one survey uncovered that police officers found dealing with paperwork more stressful than the actual dangers inherent in pursuing criminals.
Who knew something so seemingly benign as paper could have such an effect?!
And it builds up so darned fast! Day after day, month after month, paperwork and related responsibilities fall to the bottom of the to-do list. We’re talking the deepest, darkest, most boring, tedious, and often hopeless recesses of the to-do list. Neglected paperwork induces anxiety, frustration, and even shame, negatively impacting our well-being and sense of mastery over our own lives.
No more! There’s no time like the present—forget adding to your overwhelming list of New Year’s resolutions!—to take control of the administrative minutiae and tedium. The time is now to show that endless stream of papers and paperwork who’s boss.
Oh, did I mention tax time is just around the corner…? So, let’s get started!
Collect it All!
Room to room, gather up all piles of paper, paperwork, documents, and the rest. Start with surfaces and then head into drawers and cabinets as a next step.
In order to effectively start fresh with new organization techniques and tools, it’s important to take care of pending, or existing paper clutter first—all of it!
Now that you’ve gathered up all the paperwork and paper clutter, you need to choose a place, at home or at work, where you can tackle the sorting, organizing, and filing with as little chance of interruption as possible.
Choose a room with a door that you can close. Administrative work can be super mind-numbing, and it’s SO easy to succumb to shiny object syndrome while doing it. Keep smartphones and computers in sleep mode, out of reach to avoid distraction.
A large, clear surface (desk, table, even the floor) upon which to work is helpful, too.
Prepare with Organizing Supplies
Gathering the various supplies to effectively get a handle on, and properly organize, your paperwork can act as an effective incentive. This is one you could easily move to the top of this list.
Some items you may need: pens, pencils, felt-tipped markers, binders, dividers with pockets, clipboards, folders, sticky tabs, and a three-hole-punch.
Sort, sort, and sub-sort!
This is where the tedium comes in! But, with your supplies in order, it can be done fairly quickly.
Be sure to have a shredder and a trash can handy. Lay out your folders, clipboard, and/or binders to help designate your categories. Identify your paper clutter and paper work according to category, stacking on the corresponding file or binder.
As you go through this important process, keep in mind you are creating a system for your future activity. Envision using this category system and ask yourself whether or not your categories will make it easy to find what you need.
General category examples might include: Home Finances, Business Finances, Business Records, Cards + Keepsakes, Kids School Papers, Kids artwork, and taxes. Simply pile papers on the corresponding file or binder.
Chances are, once you start sorting, you’ll have identified sub-categories as well to refine the process just that much more.
Miscellaneous folders can actually work against you when trying to find information quickly and easily, and as tempting as it may be to dump random, individual papers into one file, please don’t do it!
There’s another, more helpful alternative, however, when it comes to taking care of takeout menus, coupons, electronics warranties and manuals, and other random individual documents.
Gather each of them up into their own categories as best you can. For instance, electronics warranties and instruction books can have their own dedicated file. A collection of favorite take-out menus? Same goes – they get their own labeled folder.
File It—Beautifully and at Your Fingertips!
Give yourself the additional motivation to keep your papers and documents organized by choosing a filing unit that is as attractive as it is functional.
Let that old, grey, and clunky metal filing cabinet be a thing of the past. A spacious filing cabinet with drawers that pull smoothly and easily will be vital to your organizational success.
As you add folders to your filing cabinet, consider how you think and work and what system is going to best to encourage you to use it consistently. Do you want to organize alphabetically, by name, company, client, project, payee?
Label files accordingly. Use a pencil as it makes for easy changes and edits. If you’re more ambitious, a label maker will make for a professional, very uniform organization.
Moving Forward? Touch it Once!
Here’s how this works: the moment mail, a document, or paperwork comes in, it’s either identified as immediate (i.e. bill to pay), filing, or trash. Create folders or trays to accommodate the first two (by family member, employee, etc.), the third gets taken care of without hesitation.
The items can then be put in one of three places: 1. Into a dedicated, labeled folder; 2. Clipped to a clipboard, or into a tray of documents to be dealt with short-term; and 3. Filed immediately into the filing system.
Get into the habit of filing papers at the end of the day, or at any time that works best. At the most choose a time once a week to ensure you stay on top of the piles that inevitably stack up.
You may also want to keep a shredder and a paper recycling bin close by to make it easy to properly dispose of the old, outdated, or unnecessary papers.
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