Controlling paper is the first step to organization, whether it is business or personal papers. It can be an easy task, providing you WANT to do it and KNOW HOW to do it. I can provide the how-to part and you will need to provide the want-to part.
Basically, there are only five things to do with paper: 1) You can do something with it right then and there, 2) It can be placed in an "Action" or project folder to do something with it later, even a reading or "To Review" basket, 3) It can be routed or delegated to another, 4) It can be filed, 5) It can be thrown away.
The paper-sorting process involves this approach, as does routine mail in the In-basket. By dealing with each piece of paper, one by one, it is not so difficult to discover what is worth saving and what needs to be discarded. The accumulation of paper will occur when one doesn't know how to orchestrate it into their life or business. Therefore, the first approach in sorting is to make a decision on each piece of paper and either handle it right then and there or put it in its designated place to be handled. The goal is to give EVERY PIECE OF PAPER A HOME.
There are various "action" type papers which involve sorting in particular categories. There are:
ACTION PENDING FOLDERS. Any item that requires action which cannot be done during the sorting process because it involves more than a few minutes is noted on a "To Do List" and placed in an Action File Folder or pending basket. (NOTE: It is best to keep these action folders in a vertical desktop file holder).
PROJECT FOLDERS. This is an action-type folder, however it is for a specialized project that involves various steps. Anything that relates with a particular project goes into that file (i.e., researching a new computer, etc.). When it is done (i.e., you have purchased your computer), it can be filed away.
REVIEW FOLDER. Any item that requires review or discussion (such as events to attend, issues to discuss or research, service or products you want to purchase, etc.) should be placed in a "To Review" folder. If it is an event you are strongly considering, it may be best to note it on your calendar in pencil right then and there! Whatever the case may be, the item needs to be noted on your "To Do" list (i.e., "Discuss video idea with Smith").
READING BASKET. This can be anything from article clippings, to whole newspaper or magazines. It is best to set aside "reading time" or just take some reading along with you to look over while you wait for appointments or while traveling.
FINANCE FOLDER. Outstanding bills to pay and things to purchase should be in action folders, "Bills To Pay" or Purchase Requests" or "Orders To Fill," etc. The expense items are entered in a summary ledger of bills to pay (or in computer program's bill reminder).
MESSAGE SLOTS. Any message papers should have a designated spot to ensure that calls are returned. If you have a voice-mail system, there are voice-mail log books which assist in tracking all calls.
The management of your paper flow means getting rid of any paper stacks and handling each piece so you know what you have to deal with and how to find something easily and fast. Everything should have a "home," meaning there is a place for it. The piles may initially appear like it would take weeks, even months, to sort through, but they won't. Once you start, you'll begin to enjoy a clean, happy work place!
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