5 Steps to Eliminate Your Paper Piles and Feel Calm Again


Stop what you are doing and look at your desk. Are there piles of paper surrounding your computer? Do you wish you could wave a magic wand and make them disappear? I know how you feel. My week starts with the greatest of intentions, but after a few days of back to back meetings my desk gets covered with piles of paper.

How do I get back on track? I do it one step at a time. Here are my steps to getting back on track.

  1. Trash it: One of the first things I do is trash the papers I no longer need. I may have convenience copies or marked up drafts lingering on my desk. So, I toss them in the trash.
  2. Process it: Sometimes piles of paper linger on my desk because they serve as a reminder of a task to be completed. A better way to track that task is to put it into a To Do list. I use Asana a free cloud based app that you can access from anywhere. Once it is in Asana, I can either trash the paper or scan it.
  3. Scan it: I have a Fujitsu ScanSnap personal scanner on my desk. At the end of a meeting I scan my paper notes with the personal scanner onto my computer and trash the paper. Most of my papers are project based, so they get scanned to a specific project folder.
  4. Keep it: One way to get rid of paper is to keep that document or email electronically. Do you really need to print out that email? Could you just bring it with you by accessing it on your smartphone or tablet? Or, for those of you that can, why not take notes electronically?
  5. File it: And for those documents you absolutely need to keep in paper, file them away in a folder. I have some paper project files. I also have an alphabetical subject file as well. I find that if I am going to go through the trouble of filing a paper document, I want to use a label maker (like Dymo) on my folders to make them look neat. It looks 100% better than handwriting and makes my organizer soul happy.

And, as with any system, it will need maintenance. Ideally you would want to take time twice a day to address your paper piles to avoid allowing them to creep back: once before lunch and once before leaving for the day. But, reality is you may need to book an appointment with yourself once a week to get caught up. I think of this as my simple desk time. It is an investment in my sanity. I actually feel better and energized when my desk is clear and organized.

What is your strategy for conquering your paper piles? I am always on the lookout for new tips and tricks. Please leave me a tip in the comments below.

Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant

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