Get Paperwork Under Control Once and For All

Written by Angela Atkinson

What’s cluttering up your house and office, Sure, there may be some big items like an old refrigerator in the basement or outdated computer stations filling up a storage closet. However, much of the everyday mess is probably caused by small pieces of paper that pile up quickly unless you show them who’s boss.

Save time and free up extra room by getting your paper work under control. Take a look at these strategies.

Cutting Down on Paperwork

The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year, and almost half of that winds up being trashed by the end of the day, according to The Paperless Project. The first rule of paper management is to eliminate unnecessary paper.

1. Hit unsubscribe. Say goodbye to junk mail. It only takes a minute to register online for the National Do Not Mail List and remove your name from the records of thousands of direct mail companies. If you want to keep reading your local newspaper and favorite magazines, sign up for digital subscriptions.

2. Think before printing. Ask yourself whether you need a hard copy. Otherwise, read documents online.

3. Copy less. Make only as many copies as you need. Use both sides of the paper whenever possible.

4. Bank online. Financial transactions leave a long paper trail. Pay your bills and invoice your clients electronically. You’ll also be protecting your personal information and spending less time shredding.

5. Sort mail immediately. Put a recycling bin by the door where you can pitch catalogues and advertising flyers before they come into your home. Remove important papers and throw out the rest of the package from investment bankers and art museums.

Organizing Paperwork

The Paperless Project also says that the typical employee spends at least 30% of their time trying to find information they filed away. Learn to manage the paper you have left.

1. Choose your style. Maybe you like a clean desk or maybe you like to keep your workflow in plain view. Buy products that suit your preferences, whether that’s covered bins or clear folders.

2. Make it accessible. Keep information on active projects within arm’s reach. Label folders and color-code them if needed so you can tell at a glance what’s what.

3. Be consistent. Papers are less likely to go missing if you habitually return them to one place and use a single chronological or alphabetical system. You’ll also make it easier for your colleagues to locate items when you’re out.

4. Transfer it. Develop central files for group projects. That way you can avoid duplication.

5. Review regularly. Keep looking for ways to make your paperwork system consume less time and space. For example, when a project is completed, throw out any notes and emails you no longer need so only the essential documents are archived.

6. Focus on priorities. Organizing is a big job. Start with your most important activities. When you find a system that works, you can adapt it to manage additional tasks.

7. Break it down. Who knows how long you’d be waiting around for a free day to spend on filing, Make it a daily or weekly habit to clear off your desk and deposit any stray papers into their appropriate storage places. Ten minutes here and there can make a significant difference.

Creating paper management systems that work for you could give you an extra hour or more each day, along with greater peace of mind. Put your home and office into shape and keep them that way. The next time you need to clean or find a paper item, you’ll be glad you did!

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