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Organizing Paper and Information: 7 Mistakes that Sabotage Your Productivity

Organizing Paper and Information: 7 Mistakes that Sabotage Your Productivity

As Professional Organizers helping people organize their home offices and workspaces, here are the 7 biggest information-organizing mistakes we see in our work with clients– are you making these mistakes too?

Paper

    1. Not knowing the difference between “Action” & “Reference”

    This concept is very important for beginning to get through your piles. You need to separate out paper and information that requires action from information that simply needs to be kept for possible future needs.

    2. Not having a standard contact management system

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    Do you have a combination of scraps of paper, rubber-banded stacks of business cards, your e-mail address book, and a paper address book? Decide on one system and put everything in one place.

    3. Equipment and supplies making it difficult to file

    Many people have poor quality filing cabinets that create barriers to effective and timely filing of your paperwork. We often see drawers that stick or don’t work correctly, making you just not want to open the drawer at all. Purchasing quality filing supplies is also important. We often see cheap hanging folders coming apart, causing the metal piece to fall out (and your papers too).


    4. Not dealing with paper and information on a regular basis

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    What is your tolerance for doing dishes? Do you let your sink pile up until it feels overwhelming? Probably not… most people do their dishes daily. We teach people that their inbox or mail basket is just like their kitchen sink! The mail is just going to keep coming, and letting it stack up is just going to make it feel worse.

    5. Not having a secure home for your passwords

    It’s important to keep your passwords secure and change them often, but if you don’t have a system for tracking them, it’s very easy to forget the information. There are many password-keeper software programs on the market that are secure, encrypted, and require only one master password to unlock all of your other information. Our favorites are SplashID (for PDA users), Password Agent, and Password Depot.

    Remember, it’s crucial for someone else to know this information if you were to get hit by the proverbial bus. Tell someone you trust how to find your information.

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    6. Keeping too much for too long

    Probably the most frequently-asked question we hear is about how long to keep papers. In general, tax supporting documents like bank statements can be shredded after seven years, according to most experts. But it’s advisable to save the tax return itself indefinitely, and investment and real estate documents may need to be kept forever as well. You need to check with your attorney or accountant to be completely certain about your unique situation.

    7. Not backing up your computer

    We are always shocked at how many people do not back up their data. The question is not if your hard drive will fail, it’s when! Are you prepared? A good backup system should be:

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    • Secure– reliable and safe from hackers and prying eyes
    • Automated– so you won’t procrastinate or forget
    • Remote– in case of fire or disaster

    We usually recommend www.backuphelp.com or www.ibackup.com. These reasonably-priced services have saved the neck of more than one of our clients!

    Lorie Marrero is a Professional Organizer and creator of The Clutter Diet, an innovative, affordable online program for home organization. Lorie’s site helps members lose “Clutter-Pounds” from their home by providing online access to her team of organizers. Lorie writes something useful, funny, interesting, and/or insanely practical every few days or so in the Clutter Diet Blog. She lives in Austin, TX, where her company has provided hands-on organizing services to clients since 2000.

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    Last Updated on March 31, 2020

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why We Procrastinate After All?

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    Is Procrastination Bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How Bad Procrastination Can Be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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    Procrastination, a Technical Failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

    Reference

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