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Paper, paper, paper. Let’s face it. It’s not going away anytime soon. It’s a necessary evil that must be faced head on.
If you’re looking hopelessly at the piles on your desk, allow me to throw you a lifeline. Paper has some basic rules and categories. Once you know what to do with them, you’ll be happier and way more productive. One thing to remember is that "organized" only means you can find what you need in about 5 minutes. So, let’s talk about some simple ways to handle paper.
The biggest struggle most people have with paper is the "action paper". Let me give you a quick and dirty explanation: "Action paper" is associated with tasks you need to do. For example: calls to make, forms to fill out and submit, data entry, bills to pay or travel itineraries. How can you corral them and know you can find the piece of paper you need when you need it? That’s easy, set up an "Action Paper" system.
The Action Paper System Basics
If you’re like most people, the paper piles up on your desk so you don’t forget about it (which also means you’re a visual person…but that’s another topic altogether). So, how can you stop that from happening? One solution is setting up an Action Paper Management system, which is a big, long term for a group of specific folders.
Here’s how it works:
- Get a set of six 3-tab cut folders
- Label each folder with one of the following: Action, Data Entry, Waiting For, Read & Review, Bills To Pay, Travel & Meetings
- Go through your inbox or clear off your desk and file it in the appropriate folder
- Put each task associated with that paper on your task list OR set a time to process each file
Here’s how to use the folders:
Only put things in this folder you truly need to do something with. If it helps, use a clear folder you can see into, and put it in front. This will most likely be your biggest file, but don’t let it become a dumping ground.
Great for business cards to be entered into your contact manager (like Outlook) or bookkeeping data entry. All those little scraps of paper with phone numbers on them? Put them in here and get them where you can access them.
Orders you are waiting on, shipments you are tracking and phone calls you are waiting for. Keep on top of them and know the details are at your fingertips when you need them.
Read & Review
This is a great "grab & go" file, for times you know you will have some extra time. Like travelling on an airplane, doctor appointments, etc. Just grab it, put it in your bag and pull it out when you have a few minutes.
Bills To Pay
This one is pretty straightforward. Just be sure you visit this one often so bills aren’t forgotten.
Travel & Meeting Folder
Ever been in a rush to get out the door to catch a plane, and somehow can’t find your itinerary? Or have a contract or other materials that needs to go to a meeting and you have no idea where you put it? Now you’ll know.
Action paper can take over your business and your office if you aren’t careful. With this simple system, you can dramatically change the way your desktop looks, and the way you handle your workload.
So, get up and get going!