As many of you know Sane Spaces began as an organizing company. A professional organizer helps people cut through the clutter and get systematized in their homes and businesses. Today as a coach I draw on many of the skills I learned as an organizer to help mom entrepreneurs get systematized and organized.
Did know that the single most requested area where people need organizing assistance is with their paper? Although email and web based marketing have dramatically changed the amount of direct mail that is available today, paper is still an issue for so many people. One of the critical gaps that cause paper piles to appear is the lack of a workable filing system.
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How To Get Started
To address this growing issue, here are the five easy steps to take right now to get yourself going in the right direction and get organized.
- Make a paper processing center – Designate an area near your most popular entrance (or the one that you use to bring in the mail) as your paper processing center. Set yourself up for success with pens a letter opener and even a box cutter. Be sure this area has a paper trash can and a shredder.
- Sort incoming mail BEFORE it becomes a problem – Sort your incoming mail directly over your trash/shredder. Dispose of anything that you do not need or have to take action on. Be sure to remove and shred address labels from catalogs and junk mail for that extra layer of protection against identity theft.
- Make three standard file folders: File, Act & Read – One of the things that bogs people down with incoming mail is that they feel they need to have a chunk of time to process all of the incoming items. That’s just not true. If you would like to speed up your incoming mail process, reduce incoming mail clutter, and save time on follow-up all you need to do is create three file folders labeled FILE, ACT and READ. Now, when incoming mail shows up, quickly process it by sorting out all the trash and junk mail right into the garbage, and then separate the items remaining into the file folders.Remember that the folder labeled file should only contain items for which you already have a designated file. If you have incoming mail that requires you to create a new file that mail belongs in the ACT folder. Place anything you like to (and WILL actually) read later into the read folder.
- Note the next action on each incoming actionable item – Before you put items into the act folder one easy and quick tip is to write on each piece the very next action you need to take. It really doesn’t matter what the next action is as long as you process that piece of mail through your decision-making criterion and determine what it’s very next action is, you will save yourself an extraordinary amount of time when it’s time to process that file. Having decided on what you’re going to do already and written that next action on the actual piece of incoming mail, will save you headaches and time later. You will know immediately what to do when you pick that piece of paper up again. There’s really no need to rethink it.
- Maintain your center at least one time per week – If only we made time for maintenance… Even the most effective and well designed system can go awry without proper and regular maintenance. This is the area where most people who struggle with paper fall apart. Schedule yourself a 30 minute time period one day per week, and designate that as your admin time for your own items. When you actually scheduled time and put it on your calendar with a reminder you must hold yourself accountable to that appointment. Without proper maintenance your system will not work. Imagine what would happen if you simply decided to no longer make time for maintenance tasks around the house? Before long the lawn would be overgrown, the bathroom unfit for human use, and the inhabitants going hungry or struggling to survive on rotting food. Your incoming paper engine MUST BE MAINTAINED for it to remain in working condition. Just like a lawn that is ever-growing, so will your incoming paper center be without regular maintenance.
For the items requiring action – determine what the next action step is (file, pay, call, schedule, etc.) – and then immediately ‘activate’ that paper by adding the item to a to do list – or placing it into an action file used to manage your tasks.
Your Sanity Assignment
You can be again any time with this process! Design a Paper Processing Center first, and then start with a pile of paper that might be lurking in your office right now. First sort your items into the three piles, then note the actions on all items requiring your attention. Now activate those papers by blocking out some time in your calendar to complete those actions. (Better yet, make a regular appointment with yourself for the next three weeks and see how that works!)
What are your tricks to processing your papers efficiently? What have we missed? What pearls of wisdom can you share with our readers? Please share your thoughts with us below in the comments. We love learning from each other!