If you struggle with paper piles, this is the episode for you! Maybe you have been avoiding your pile of paper for so long you have forgotten what’s in the pile. You are afraid that there are way more “to-dos” in there than you can handle right now! The hardest part is sometimes just getting started. and we are here to walk with you and assure you that even though it may look daunting, it is not as hard as it looks!
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Ready to join? Snap a pic of your inbox as it is and tag #atobpodcast. Download our Paper Management Bundle which includes the 5 Steps to print out and follow along at home!
Step 1: clear a work surface and collect your supplies
- a notebook for jotting down to-dos that crop up,
- a container for recycle, trash, and shred.
Step 2: Empty your inbox onto your work surface
Go ahead, it won’t bite. Pause here, before step 3, and put something enjoyable to listen to. It could be A to B Podcast that you listen along to as you tackle step 3 or it could be, as in Bethany’s case, an episode of The Office. Whatever you deem as a little mini reward while taking on your paper pile.
Step 3: A quick sort
Pick up each piece of paper and make a super speedy decision: keep or don’t keep.
With your “don’t keep” items you can sort into your shred, recycle, trash containers. But for the “keep” items, don’t think beyond whether to keep or not. If it is a to-do, don’t put it on the to-do list yet, just put it in the pile of keep papers.
On this step, don’t let the fear of the finding incomplete tasks stop you from going through your paper! This quicksort will help get all the extra “fluff” out of your pile and you’ll also get a better sense of what is actually in your neglected pile.
Step 4: Record “Actionable” tasks on your To-do list
After the quick sort, there’s a bag of recycling, a pile of shred, a few items in the trash and then a pile of keep items left. It is time to dive back into that keep pile. Good news, your pile is much smaller after sorting out the unnecessary papers to shred and recycle!
Grab a notebook or even just a piece of paper and write down specific, actionable tasks to do that relate to each piece of paper. Also, each paper it gets resorted into “taking action” categories. For example, “to file” is for long term references or keepsake items. Papers that will move elsewhere out of current papers or your inbox.
Here the categories Bethany used:
- these are receipts, statements, etc, that I can put right into my Taxes file.
- To Read
- if it’s a manageable amount, it will go to my to read basket.
- School Papers
- these will head back to the classroom on Monday.
- Bills/Finance Papers
- to file for my records or to scan and keep.
- Take Action/To Dos
- Every item in this file represents a to-do or an action item that is on my to do list.
You are really focusing on the actions that need to be taken. What is my next step?
Step 5: shred, recycle, reset
Immediately after step 4, it is time to handle your shred and recycling. Once those tasks are handled, look back at the task list you made in Step 4.
To reset, decide a spot for each pile of action categories you made in step 4. Make a place for 4-5 categories in a container or file folders. In Episode 28, Stopping Paper Clutter, I share my Action Files and how I use them to keep my counters clear of paper piles. I also share a few of my favorite organizing supplies to create Action Files.
Don’t get bogged down by creating the perfect spot and cute labels. Use what you have. Right now, the most important things is processing and taking action on the paper. You can always come back at a later time to make a more presentable system (or maybe that is not necessary). Don’t let perfection stop you from getting organized!
Almost done! Grab your calendar and pencil in the most important items for the next two weeks. Be sure to pick a time when you are not already too busy with other obligations.
As new paper comes in, practice asking yourself quick questions about each pieces.
- Do I need to keep this?
- What is the next action I need to take?
- When do I need to take care of this next action?
If there is a “to-do” associated with the paper, write that task on your to-do list or directly into your calendar if you know when you are going to tackle it. Then the “task” for each piece of paper will determine which action file that paper will go in. When you go to take care of that to-do, you know right where to find it.
If you do decide to put papers in an inbox to process later be sure to set aside a time to process the paper and follow the steps above. Many times when you have one large “to-do” or inbox, unless you are processing your papers daily, like you would at an office job, papers at home tend to get buried and you lose track of what needs to be done and when. That is why action files have saved me on more than one occasion!
The more you practices the steps above the faster and faster these steps will become. It is such a habit for me now, it hardly feels like I am thinking about it.
Look! We did it! Piles are sorted with a folder for To Call, one for Search Online, and one for To Send. Now on the calendar, there are clear blocks of time to handle those “batched tasks”!
You got this! Snap a pic of your inbox as it is and tag #atobpodcast. Don’t forget to grab the Paper Management Bundle download which includes these 5 steps to clear your paper pile along with Sample File Categories for your long-term files!
Have a question or just want to connect? Send us an email Hello @ AtoBpodcast.com. You can also find us hanging out on Instagram @AtoBpodcast and Facebook. We even have a voicemail line (858) 480-7722!
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