It’s so easy to get buried under the press of paper, most of which is just not important! All you have to do is ignore incoming paper for a week or two and you’re sunk.
Even if you have a job where most of your work is done online, you’ve probably still got letters, periodicals, inter-office memos, contracts, and other important pieces of paperwork that are piling up in your office.
For years I have been working to figure out the best way to deal with the influx of paper into my home. I’m one of the lucky ones who does not have the school paper nightmare that comes with having children. But, running a business from home can feel like having a very big child!
I’ve gotten good about doing an initial daily paper sort in the kitchen, which usually results in a chunk of papers being recycled and the majority of them making their way to the in-box of my desk. There they are corralled until the weekend when I have time to seriously consider their importance and take action.
I once had the intention of taking action on paper every day, filing those pages that I really might reference some day. But, as life would have it, I just got too busy to file every day. I was lucky if I responded to email once a day, much less did something as exciting as filing papers. Now all that paper waits until Sunday when I can sit down, assess my reality, sort, pitch, file and make plans for the next week.
I’ve found that a weekly review of everything on my desk and in my in-box, which is actually a clean up, throw out, prioritize and planning session, really serves me very well. The amount of paper that gathers in that six day period is still manageable and processing it helps me get clear about my priorities for the next week. Out of that stack of papers come new to-do items that I add to my running list, papers to be filed, and papers to recycle. By the end of my clean up and review session I know just what I must do that day, what errands I need to run during the week, and where I stand on larger projects. I feel grounded and ready to take action.
The biggest challenge is getting started with the week session. The task always feels enormous to me, even when there aren’t large volumes of paper. What’s that about? I think it’s about making a commitment to my own order, getting clear about my reality. It’s easier to live in a vague la la land than to face time obligations and challenges. I manage to push past my resistance by reminding myself how good I feel when once again I am grounded with a clear picture and plan for the upcoming week. It’s a mental exercise to get me to pick up the first piece of paper. Once I get going the positive feelings that come from getting organized motivate me to keep going.
If you hate paper and continually find yourself buried in a mess of papers of your own making, try the weekly sort, pitch and prioritize method. Make a commitment to bite the paper bullet once a week and watch your paper misery ease and your feeling of empowerment soar. It takes much less time to do than you think it will. If you persist in doing a weekly cleanup, no longer will you be the victim of paper insanity. You’ll be in charge of your paper. People who control their paper are better able to control every other aspect of their lives. That could be you!