Turn Those Piles into Files

You come in from a meeting and you are tired. You bring in the mail but don’t have time to mess with it right now. You are afraid if you file the paper away you will forget it. So, everything gets dumped on the desk or countertop.

Meanwhile, your desk or countertop becomes one big inbox with piles everywhere. Some paper has been there so long that it has actually stuck to the surface or has fallen behind the desk or is so buried that unless there is some trigger to dig for it, it is forgotten. The clutter is overwhelming and slows down your productivity.

See if some of these tips work for you:

  • When you bring in paper, do a quick triage. What is obviously trash or needs shredding? What needs action soon? What do you need to take some time over and ponder? 
  • Have a trash can and shred box nearby and get those papers handled right away
  • Have a landing pad for all items needing action soon
  • Have a basket or bin for magazines or articles you want to read and ponder. When that basket gets full, acknowledge that you have more than you can handle and either set aside some time to read or dispose of some of the material
  • Have a folder or box for ads or upcoming workshops or events that you are considering
This should corral most of the paper but still very little has gone away.
Here comes the hard part:
  • Schedule regular times on your calendar to pay bills or check on bill pay. Then after paying, immediately file or get rid of paid bills
  • Weekly, at a scheduled time, take care of any receipts or invoices that need entering or filing. If possible, scan these items and get rid of the paper
  • Chose a couple of items you want to read and ponder and either look through them now or remove them to another location to read later. After reading them either dispose of them or file them
  • Schedule a time at least monthly to look through ads and coupons you have saved and toss any that have expired or that no longer interest you. Look over any upcoming events and see if some no longer appeal to you or have passed their due date. Dispose of all expired items.
  • Empty the trash can and the shred container
While you may never get your desk completely clear of paper, do realize that paper you keep has a purpose and when that purpose is completed, the paper should go somewhere else besides on your desk.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Fear of Filing

I had a client this week meet me at the door with Judith Kolberg’s book ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life and the words, “I want to find out why I have a fear of filing”.

I knew from working with this client before in other areas of her home that she definitely suffers from the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome. She is afraid that if she puts something away in a file, she might as well just trash it because she will never think of it again. So she has stacks of papers on the coffee table, on her desk, on her office table, and randomly elsewhere. The clutter bothers her and the fact that when she finds something (ex. papers about her father’s health plan) it is usually just a part of what she needs to start her research and make calls so she just postpones the task. This worries her as some of the tasks are time sensitive.

Sooo….What to do?

  1. First we gathered all of her papers and put them in one spot.
  2. Then we used the “verb” system to do a rough sort. I would ask her, “What is the first thing you need to do with this information? Is there an action required or do you just need this paper for reference?” While going through all of the papers she found a significant amount that she could now just let go to the recycle bin. She had a reason in the past to  keep them but not so much now. The categories she came up with for her stacks were:
  • Do this task this week
  • Do it when I can
  • Wait for the right time or someone else’s response
  • Read
  • File
  • Ask my husband about these papers
3. We then looked at what papers did not really fit into any of those categories and we found:
  • Coupons
  • Current information about her clean streams work
  • A project she was working on for her dad
  • Memorabilia
  • Directions and warranties for items in the house
4. We found homes for all of these categories. Normally when I make desktop or action folders I like  to use a cascading vertical file holder. We had tried this system earlier in her office downstairs. It obviously was not working.  She had recently purchased an attractive file folder with a lid that clasped and had a handle. This has a much better chance of working because it can stay by the coffee table in her living room and this is where she sorts her mail and does many of her projects. The handle allows her to lift it up on the coffee table or couch when she is working. We relabeled the tabs with all her “verb” categories and the one on streams. Coupons were housed in the kitchen. Memorabilia was put into a memorabilia box. A project box was found for her dad’s project. Warranties and directions already had a file elsewhere but she put the directions for the TV in the cabinet below the screen and the directions for her heart monitor in the box it came in as she accesses these frequently.
5. Since we had a lot to file, we used her existing systems to file those items now. Moving forward she can put items in her file section of her folder until it gets too bulky.
6. Last we did the most important task to make this work. She scheduled on her calendar times to look in this folder. I encouraged her to make it the same day every week so that it would eventually become a habit. Ideally this would be every week but some weeks she is gone so we just skipped those weeks and scheduled the next good time after she returned home.
As we finished up our session, she was really pleased with the results. But she held one small set of papers in her hand. “I really need to do this today,” she said. “Do I need to put it into this file?” That’s when we talked about Judith’s “Hot Spot”. She designated a place on her coffee table for any paper task that needed to happen immediately.
I think her fear of filing might be gone!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Keep That Paper Movin, Movin Right Along


I had one client tell me his office was one big inbox with no outbox in sight. What can we do to keep that paper moving right along off our desk and out of our office?

Try this:

  • Immediately trash/recycle/put in the shred box what you don’t need. Be ruthless here. If you don’t need more clothes why keep the clothes catalogue at all? If a fancy vacation is not possible now, let the travel ads go. More will come later.
  • Put all magazines and catalogues you are keeping in a basket near where you read. Each month clear out the old editions.
  • All papers you are now keeping need an action. Look at the papers (and yes, that does mean opening the mail) and decide what the first action you must take with this paper. Paper piles build up because you defer making those decisions on the spot.
  • Have action or desktop files ready. This is where those papers will go. You might label your files “read”, “pay”, “file”, “pending”, or “contact”. What labels you use will depend on what actions are needed for your kept paper.
  • Know that the action referred to in “action files” is not the action of putting the paper into the files. You must schedule a time to pay bills, make contacts, and follow up on pending items. Schedule times on your calendar to do the actions that the folders demand. Don’t let papers live there forever.
  • Set up idea folders for those papers you keep that are not immediate actions. These folders might include vacation ideas, landscaping ideas, party or home decorating ideas. At least yearly, clear out what no longer interests you. These folders can live in a file drawer or in a bookcase.
  • Use project bins. These bins are for ongoing projects. Designate a bin for each big project (daughter’s wedding, book you’re writing, etc.). Some smaller projects can go into folders within a bin. I use folders for business ideas or organizations I attend. With project bins, you pull out what you need to work on and as soon as you are finished or out of time, you sweep it all back into the bin.
  • Keep regular files (insurance, car, medical) updated and cleared out.
Following these habits will help you maintain a clear desk, office, and a clearer mind. Getting rid of the piles of paper that scream “Look at me!” when you are working on something else keeps you from getting distracted.
Let’s keep that paper movin’ right along and to its final destination. No more paper pile ups!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Paper, Paper, Everywhere!

Paper, paper everywhere! Where does it all come from? How do we make it go away?

We all dream of having that clutter free office and clutter free desk. But somehow that dream often eludes us.

Where does this paper come from? As I look around my office, I see a presentation I am working on, some notes on a potential client, a client folder from a client I worked with today, an itinerary I printed on a trip I am taking this summer, a report from my Feng Shui consultant, information on an event I may want to see this weekend, and my calendar. I have just recently disposed of today’s mail. At other times I have had coupons from a store that sells office supplies, a receipt to enter into QuickBooks, a card to send to a client, a magazine, and menu ideas. Paper continually invades my space.

Fortunately, I do have a plan in place. I have action files and project bins nearby that will allow me to clear my desk before I leave it this evening. The presentation notes and the Feng Shui notes will go into project bins that are held in my cabinet. The itinerary for my trip will to into my pending folder. My notes on the potential client will go into my call folder. My today’s client folder will go into my desk drawer file of current clients. This evening I will discuss the event with my husband and we will decide if we are going to attend. If we decide to attend, the event will be noted on my calendar and then the information will go into my pending file. If we decide not to go, the information will go into the recycling bin. The calendar lives on my file cabinet next to my desk.

Those coupons I was talking about went into my purse. My receipts went into a labeled envelope after being recorded. The card was addressed and laid out on the landing pad to go out in the mail the next day. The magazine was dropped into the magazine holder in the living room. The menu ideas went into a folder in the kitchen.

Yeah! No visible papers in my office. The point of this is that, yes, paper continually comes into my office zone but I do have a plan. Daily maintenance is very important if I don’t want to feel overrun by paper. Clearing the paper and thinking you are done is foolish. That’s sort of like washing the dishes and thinking you are done with that task. It all needs to be done again the next day. But, it’s all in having a plan and a schedule.

For more information on handling paper, come to Diane Quintana and my presentation on From Paper Piles to Files on February 14 (9:30 am) at Finders Keepers (2753 East College Ave., Decatur, GA 30030).

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

 

Clear the Clutter from Your Desk – Action Files


It seems no matter how hard you try, papers pile up all over your desk. There are the notes to make phone calls, the folder to complete, the bills to enter or pay, the report to complete, the papers waiting to be filed, etc., etc., etc.

So what’s a poor working girl (or guy) going to do?

Set up desktop or action files.

What files do I need to set up?

That depends on what is lurking on your desk.

  • If you have bills to pay or enter, set up a file that says “pay” or “enter.”
  • If you have papers to file, set up a file that says “file.”
  • If you have notes about making calls, set up a file that says “call.”
  • If you have unfinished projects lying about, set up a file saying “projects.”

You get the idea. The file names entirely depend on what is lurking on your desk. If you can’t keep stuff from accumulating during the day, at least make a clean sweep of your desk at the end of the day so that you start each fresh new day with a clean desk.

The only tricky part is to remember to visit those folders on a regularly scheduled basis and take care of the tasks that you have tucked away.

Now you will not dread coming into your office in the mornings with your cup of coffee to start your day!

For more help on organizing your papers, come to the free workshop, From Paper Piles to Files, at Finders Keepers on Feb. 1 at 9:30. http://www.consignatlanta.blogspot.com/

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Maintain a Paper Flow Not a Pile Up


 

Everyone has piles on their work area at some time or other. Usually with me they appear when I have not been managing my time well.

Here are some tips to make your paper flow across your desk without piling up.

  1. Spend as little time as possible getting that paper off your desk. Paper piles up because you defer making decision about it. Instead of laying down the paper and leaving it there, take a few moments right away and ask, “What is the first action I must do with this paper?”
  2. Immediately trash/recycle/put in the shred box what you do not need.
  3. Put the other papers in action files according to that first action. You might label the files “Read”, “Pay”, “File”, “Pending”, or “Contact”.
  4. Record dates on your calendar. Record dates of obligations to others and dates you plan to do the action that the folders demand. Record when you are going to pay those bills, make those calls, or read those papers.
  5. Put all magazines and catalogues in a basket near where you read. Every month clear out old editions.
  6. Use project bins. If you have ongoing projects, designate a bin for each project or a folder within a bin. After you are through working on a project for the day, sweep it back into that bin.

Following these habits will help you maintain a clear desk and a clearer mind. Getting rid of the piles of paper that scream “Look at me!” when you are working on something else can be very distracting.

Let’s keep the paper flowing right across the desk and on to its final destination. No more pile ups!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer