get-to-grips-with-paperworkPaperwork is the bane of my existence – coming home from my weekly business trips, I am met with a mountain of mail; magazines that I ‘should’ read are piled up next to ones I ‘want to’ read; and the amount of paperwork that kids’ schools generate can be overwhelming at times.

[My kids’ elementary school used to send home all important notices on Thursdays – a smart move since you knew to have your calendar, etc. handy that day, and you only had to worry about one day’s notices – however, many parents would dread the “Thursday folder” more than a trip to the dentist!]

How to tame the paperwork beast?

A few simple tips:

1) Sort your mail with a recycling bin beside you.

When I sort my pile of mail, I sort into two piles – take action (calendar, pay, respond); and recycling trash.

By sorting directly into the recycling bin you can eliminate the step of sort then recycle (take care to rip up the mail first, through your address, and if it’s a credit card application or other sensitive document, you may want to shred first).

2) Keep reading materials, mail to respond to, etc. in a bag with you at all times.

I recently was stopped at a railroad crossing in my car, so I turned off the car, dove into my bag, and was able to get through a quick article I had wanted to skim before sending on to a client.

By the time the signal arms were raising after the train had passed, I had ripped the article out of a magazine, skimmed it, written a note, and addressed the envelope [I keep post-its in the bag, as well as a pen and envelopes].

It doesn’t sound like much, but I felt ridiculously pleased with myself to have gotten a relevant article into someone else’s hands while ‘wasting’ my time in the car!

[And, turning the car off during those 4-6 minutes saved gas and the environment… another bonus.]

When I was driving the kids around more, I found that I had more patience if they were running late from practice, or dawdling with their friends, if I could also get something done while waiting…

3) Toss, Toss, Toss.

A veteran pack rat like me keeps things ‘just in case’ – however, the impending move of my office has me rethinking that idea.

I am culling through my files to toss out info that I also have electronically; I am getting rid of articles that are outdated; or simply saying ‘enough is enough’ and not keeping EVERY reference to a particular subject on file.

After all, I only use 8-10 references maximum; why keep 40-50 on file?

Pare down your files to keep it manageable.

4) Go electronic.

Credit card companies, cell phone companies – the list of folks who are eager for you to receive your statements via email keeps on growing and growing… so consider going electronic and eliminating the paper at the source rather than have to recycle it at your office or house.

Who do you do business with that wants to send you statements electronically?

Do your part – streamline your paper handling – and let me know how you make out!