Organize Your Paperwork [Mission #36]

Organize Your Paperwork

Welcome to Mission #36 of our 52 Get Organized Missions.

If you wish you could vaporize your paperwork, then you’ll love this mission. It gives you a chance to put into practice some of the decision making skills you picked up in the last mission Get Organized Mission #35 – Say Yes To Priorities and Know When to Say No. 

We’ll organize those towering piles of paper and help you get back on top of all your paperwork tasks.

Remember: you only need 30 minutes for the basic mission. Extended Options are below.

If you’re new, you might like to start here -> 52 Organizing Missions.

Get Organized Mission #36:
Organize Your Paperwork

Step 1: Make Three Piles (15 minutes)

First, create three piles for your papers.

You don’t have to do anything with the piles in this step, just divide your papers into these three categories. Move quickly.

Pile 1: Flick

Include in this pile:

  • Anything you don’t need to keep or action
  • Anything out of date – invitations, notices, etc
  • Reading material you’ll never realistically get to – which probably means all of it, since newer, more up-to-date stuff is constantly available
  • Anything you can get later if needed – info that’s available online, archived, kept by someone else, etc
  • Random unsorted scribbled papers and notes – you may suspect there’s gold in those notes, but the truth is you’re unlikely to have the time to find it. So issue a note amnesty and let it all go. More gold will come.

Pile 2: File

Include in this pile:

  • Anything you don’t need to action but do need to keep – eg tax receipts, financial records, etc.

Pile 3: Action

Include in this pile:

  • Anything you need to action – eg reports to write, tasks to complete, bills to pay (you won’t have any of these if you’ve completed Get Organized Mission #3: Organize Your Bill Payment and Get Organized Mission #12: Organize Your Accounts & Credit Cards).

Step 2: Flick Pile (5 minutes)

Now, let’s deal with the first pile.

This one’s super-simple: just get rid of everything.

Shred sensitive or identifying papers, recycle the rest.

Step 3: File Pile (5 minutes)

Next, let’s do the second pile.

Unless your filing pile is huge, you should be able to quickly file everything using the filing system we developed in Get Organized Mission #9: Filing System Nirvana.

If it is huge, check again for items that belong in the ‘flick’ pile.

Step 4: Action Pile (5 minutes)

Finally, let’s turn to the third pile.

We’ll need to schedule time to process this pile. There’s a trick to this.

  1. Estimate how long it will take to action all the items. A small pile might require only 30 minutes, a large one several hours.
  2. Choose a time when you’re likely to have the energy to power through your paperwork. An afternoon early in the week, a weekend morning when it’s quiet, or even a long lunch by yourself in a cafe could be good choices.
  3. Schedule the time in your diary or organizer. Make an appointment with yourself – and keep it.

TIP: Batching paperwork rather than doing it in dribs and drabs, and choosing the right energy state in which to complete it, can significantly reduce the time it takes to get through your paperwork. You might even end up with bonus time.

Now that your paperwork is organized, keep it that way!

Dos & Don’ts

  • Do weigh up the cost of feeling cluttered and stressed by piles of paper that may one day have some use, against the immediate gain of freeing your mind and space for greater productivity, creativity and progress.
  • Don’t be a slave to reading piles and notebooks. If they aren’t serving you today, consider letting them go.

Extended Organizing Mission Options

Want to go beyond this 30-minute organizing mission?

  • Include the family. If your partner wants to tackle his/her paperwork piles, and your kids want to handle their school papers, do the mission together.
  • If you have more time available, start straight away on your action pile. Simply making a dent in your paperwork tasks will motivate you and feel great. 🙂

Ready, Set, Go!

Remember – move quickly, act fast, don’t overthink.

Start The 30-Minute Timer

Before You Go: Check In!

Please add a comment to say you’ve completed this week’s Get Organized Mission and you’re keeping your commitment.

And see you back here next week!

Did You Know

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Click here to sign up for 52 Organizing Missions.

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