6 Steps to Reducing Paper

May 25, 2009 at 5:26 pm 1 comment

Dont Agonize, Just Organize, $15.95

Don't Agonize, Organize! $15.95

Thanks to Diane Hatcher, CPO® for contributing this excerpt from her book, Don’t Agonize, Organize Your Office Now!


The advent of computers promised to lead us toward a paperless society. Instead, our paper production has increased. We print out e-mails, make multiple copies on the copy machine, and send and receive faxes with the touch of a button. There is a solution, however. Keeping your paper under control with these 6 simple steps can make life more manageable:

1. DON’T ALLOW PAPERS TO BUILD UP: Handle your paper on a daily basis. Open mail daily. Don’t let it grow into a pile for days or weeks, otherwise it gets totally out of control and the difficulty for dealing with it actually increases.

2. MAKE A DECISION ON EACH PAPER THE FIRST TIME YOU TOUCH IT. This doesn’t mean that every time you get a sheet of paper that you have to work on it immediately. It simply means that, rather than putting it down somewhere ‘temporarily’–like on the dining room table or a desk (read as “pile”)–you have a plan for it. If it can be completed in 60 seconds or less do it now. Otherwise, place it in an action tray to be worked on at a more appropriate time. Separate items that need to be read or filed later. The other choices are to refer it to someone else or toss it into the garbage can.

3. IMPLEMENT THE PROCESS. Continuing the thought from step 2, it is important not to spend your day shuffling papers—for instance moving a sheet of paper from your in-box, to your desk, to your table, into your action tray and back to your desk. Instead, each time you pick up a sheet of paper, make a small dot in the upper right hand corner. Notice anything? You may be procrastinating. Three or more dots are indicative that it is past time to take action on that paper. Refer back to step 2.

4. BE RUTHLESS: 80% of what is filed is never accessed again and 80% or more of the paper you receive on a daily basis can be immediately discarded. Keep a garbage can or recycle bin within reach when opening mail. Toss unwanted papers immediately. Go through your “in-box” each day if others bring you papers. Toss anything that doesn’t concern you. Remove yourself from distribution lists and magazine subscriptions you don’t need. Purge your files once or twice a year at the minimum. Outdated papers and duplicates obtainable elsewhere should go.

5. THINK BEFORE YOU PRINT. Do you really need to print every single e-mail you get? Many e-mails, once read, can immediately be deleted. If you have to keep an e-mail, learn how to make folders for storage on the computer and back them up on a disk. If you must print an e-mail, or a web page, decide if you really need to print the entire thing. You can highlight a portion of an e-mail or a web site with your mouse, click on FILE, PRINT, then choose PRINT SELECTION. This prints only the portion you need.

6. FOLLOW RETENTION GUIDELINES. Your company or personal CPA may have retention guidelines setting out how long a particular paper or file must be kept. You can obtain guidelines yourself on the web. Getting familiar with these guidelines also helps manage the amount of papers necessary to be kept. At the very least, remove closed or inactive files from your active work area and get them to storage. Always indicate a “destroy” date on the box or page to ease the future purging process. An additional benefit of this process is that it serves to provide more space for the coming year’s papers. Space can be “reused” rather than adding new filing cabinets.

Author Diane Hatcher, CPO®, has been organizing offices and homes since 1998. She specializes in law offices, chronic disorganization and virtual organizing. Contact her at www.timesaversusa.com or 954-252-7511.


Entry filed under: Business, Home Management, Office, Paper Management, Record Keeping.

Organizing Paper with P.E.A.C.E. Regain Control for an Organized Life

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Theresa Finnigin  |  May 29, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Great tips! Being aware of how we use and abuse paper also makes earth-friendly. Thanks for the post.


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