From Paper Madness to Paper Management in Six Easy Steps

From Paper Madness to Paper Management in Six Easy Steps
26 Mar 2014

Most of us are drowning in paper these days. It doesn’t seem to stop – mail, school papers, magazines, and more. If you don’t have a good way to manage it, it will just keep piling up. To keep a handle on your papers, you need a good paper management system. A what?! Have no fear, here are six steps to set you up for paper management success:

  1. Open and review your mail and other paper every day! Open mail in one place with all your tools and supplies. Have a wastebasket, recycling bin, and shredder available so you can toss unnecessary items immediately.
  2. Make decisions as you open the mail. Get rid of anything you don’t want or need immediately – you’ll be left with only the items that require some action. This includes doing a quick scan of catalogs – if nothing interests you, recycle it right away!
  3. Sort what you need to keep by follow up action. For example: To Do, To Scan, To Shred (better yet, shred these items immediately), To File (again, file immediately if possible), and To Save for Taxes. Keep follow up items together with a desktop file – this should be your go-to place for transient papers.
  4. Just do it! Be sure to regularly set aside time to take follow up action – doing, scanning, shredding and filing. When it comes to the “To Do” category, if it will take 2 minutes or less to complete, it’s often best to ‘just do it!’ It usually takes more time to review, set aside, and remind yourself to do them later.
  5. Take Control Today. Put the past behind you and don’t let stress about past piles keep you from getting started. Start with new incoming mail/paperwork first – get your system in place, then tackle the old stuff. Speaking of…
  6. Tackle Your Old Piles and Files. Once you’ve gotten used to managing your incoming paper, it’s time to tackle your old piles and files. Start by gathering everything in one place, immediately tossing anything that is clearly junk. Then go through the piles and decide whether you need to keep each item, and if so, what the best way to store it is – scanned or paper file. Commit to just 15 minutes a day and you will make progress!


Sarah Buckwalter