When it comes to getting and staying organized one challenge is the #1 culprit, paper, also known as, the paper tiger.  This is true for both home and work environments.  If you’re challenged with clutter, look at the clutter to see what percentage of your clutter is paper.  Of all the things that can possibly clutter any given space, paper usually paper comes out on top, not that it’s a good thing.

The paper tiger comes about for several reasons: people keep documents that are no longer relevant or that they don’t need, they don’t have a system in place for dealing with paper or their filing system is inadequate and usually they aren’t aware that paper falls into one of three categories-action, reference or archive.  No matter what your challenge is, there is a simple process for getting and keeping control of your paper.

If you’re like most, you have stacks of paper.  Get yourself out of the overwhelm conversation and start by dealing with one stack of paper at a time.  Go through each one piece of paper at a time and determine the following:


  • Is it relevant; do you need it?  Can you get the information again, perhaps from a book or online?
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen if you got rid of it?
    • If it’s no longer relevant, get rid of it!
  • If it is relevant, what needs to happen to it?
    • Does it need to be filed?
    • Do you need to take action on it?
    • Does it need to go to someone else?
  • Sort  the paper  into separate bins; one designated for each of the three options
  • Once that stack is sorted, move to the next stack and continue until you’ve worked your way through each
  • Next, take action on the items in each bin
    • Do the filing
    • Take action on items that require you to do something
    • Delegate the items that need to go to someone else

Finally, to keep the tiger from becoming untamed again, set up a system to help you manage your paper and keep it under control and create new habits that support you in maintaining that system.