PaperOverflow-ResizeThere’s a paper tiger in your office. You know, the one that keeps showing up time and time again after you think you have it under control. Paper, AKA the paper tiger, is the #1 culprit when it comes to a disorganized office.  Of all the things that can possibly clutter any given space, paper usually paper comes out on top. If you just don’t seem to be able to keep the paper under control, you’ve got to tame that paper tiger and do it quickly because the more paper you have, the more paper you’re likely to accumulate. Like attracts like. It’s all energy.

The paper tiger comes about for several reasons: you keep documents that are no longer relevant or that you don’t need; you don’t have a system in place for dealing with paper or your filing system is inadequate. Usually people aren’t aware that paper falls into one of three categories-action, reference or archive.  What I see is that people don’t know that they have a choice when it comes to paper. No matter how much of it you have, there is a simple process for getting and keeping control of your paper.

If you’re like a lot of people, you have stacks of paper. You probably even know what’s in each stack and if you had to find something in one of them you might even know exactly where to look in that stack to find it. Get yourself out of the overwhelm conversation and start by dealing with one stack of paper at a time.  Go through each stack one piece of paper at a time and determine the following:

  • 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 is relevant, what needs to happen to it?
    • Does it need to be filed? If so, where?
    • Do you need to take action on it?
    • Does it need to go to someone else?

As you go through the paper, sort  it  into separate bins; one designated for each of the three options (File, action, delegate) and the fourth is the stuff that gets tossed. Once the first 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; create or place the associated paper into the reference or archive file
  • Take action on items that require you to do something
  • Delegate the items that need to go to someone else
  • Shred any documents that have confidential information

Finally, to keep the tiger from becoming untamed again, set up a system to help you manage your paper on a regular basis. Set a time to file, or to have someone else do it. Create new habits that support you in maintaining that system. That’s how you keep it under control.