Controlling paper clutter is a real challenge, especially for small business accountants, whether at the office or right at the home. Every day, wherever we turn we are confronted by what to do with paper, and without a good plan for how to control it the piles can get overwhelming very quickly. Here is how to tackle the clutter from a small business professional organiser point of view.
1. Identify Sources
As an office organiser I want to know from where the paper is coming and where does it end up? Common sources are email printouts, junk mail, numerous written lists and newspapers. Is there just one tray system into which paper is placed, or does it end up on a desk, table, or kitchen workbench?
2. Put an end to paper clutter before it gets to the In Tray
Cancel subscriptions that are not wanted and install ‘no junk mail’ signs where necessary. Open incoming mail at the shredder or over recycling bin even before it can reach your desk. Shred credit card offers and other mailings that include your personal information to avoid identity theft. Recycle meaningless fliers with advertisement on them.
3. Take advantage of technology
Forget about routinely printing out emails and other internet obtained information. Instead, read the news, emails and articles online and file copied documents in folders in the Cloud or your computer, but only if they are important for future use. Storing them in the Cloud ensures that you will have access to them from multiple devices anywhere. My inner office organizer tells me that Google and Outlook are a great way to eliminate post it notes and multiple calendars because all important dates are in one location.
4. Tackle those paper piles
Although the tips above can help prevent paper clutter in the future, you still have to tackle the ones you have now. Begin the habit of working through your piles every day in short bursts. Choose a pile and set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes and work your way through it. RAFT (Read, Action, File or Throw) is what I call the system I use to make quick decisions about each piece of paper. By the time you finish, each bit of paper will be in its rightful place. This does not mean that you are finished, but you have made a decision to find a place for everything and put everything in its place until you have determined what action to take.
5. Pencil in a time for paper action
The key to handling paper is to schedule when you will deal with it. Record the date the action will take place and retrieve the file on the appropriate date. By doing this on a regular basis you will build the habit of doing this every week and that will keep you on track.
6. Make a filing system
Most people become overwhelmed with paper when they do not have an adequate filing system providing a permanent home for it. You will thank yourself for creating a good filing system that meets your needs. With only 85% of anything you file never being seen again, it makes sense to only keep what you really need. Although you will need to keep some original documents, you can reduce paper by scanning others. A home organiser will tell you that archived boxes should be labeled with content details and destroy dates.
Paper should never be allowed to weigh you down. Even if its proper place is the shredder or recycling bin, paper does have a proper place just like other things in your life. Remember, a professional organizer can help you get your mountains of paper under control by creating an individualized solution for you.