How to organize paperwork

How to organize paperwork on your desk in just 5 minutes

The myth of the paperless office

How to organize paperworkIf you believe the myth, we’re all working in a paperless office but for many of you that’s not a reality yet, so we all need to learn how to organize paperwork. Many offices still use paper to pass memos, leave messages, present client briefs, print and read articles, print receipts and tax invoices, send and receive faxes… the list goes on.

In my book, Time to Start, I wrote about how to organize paperwork. I put forward an approach by Brian Tracy, who is an entrepreneur, public speaker and author. Brian details this approach in his book, Time Power. Tracy suggests, when a piece of paper lands on your desk you can throw it away, delegate it to someone else, take personal action or file it for future reference.

How to organize paperwork

“It’s not just about clearing your desk, it’s about clearing your mind… for more important things.” -Cynthia Kriazis; productivity coach, strategist and trainer.

I’m going to suggest a slightly different approach but will still use Tracy’s framework as a guide. I’m going to suggest you have an in tray on your desk, so unsorted paperwork can stay there until you can sort it. When you have a few minutes, here’s how to organize paperwork:

  1. Review each piece of paper and decide if it’s important to you or your role.
  2. Throw away an piece of paper that’s not important to you or your role.
  3. Delegate important papers, in cases when you are not the best person to deal with them.
  4. Outsource important papers, if there is no one in your organisation with the appropriate skills to action them.
  5. Take immediate action on remaining items that can be cleared up in less than one minute.
  6. Schedule future action, via a calendar or task entry, on items that will take longer than one minute for you to action personally.
  7. File papers scheduled for future action, so you can easily find them when required.

You probably can reach the same conclusions intuitively, so why is your desk so messy? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with incoming requests, not only on paper but through new modes of communication. If you learn how to organize paperwork, you can clear your desk and your mind. Less mess, less clutter and less to worry about. Start and finish your day with a clean desk. It feels great.

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