The Paperless Office? What a Joke!

No matter how technologically savvy we become, we can’t seem to eliminate paper. In fact, studies estimate that we generate up to ten times more paper than we did before the advent of the computer! How much of that paper is sitting in stacks on multiple surfaces all over your home and office?  To tame those mountains of paper, try throwing these ideas at them.

1. Consistently purge your files without fear. Before you embark on an overhaul of your filing systems, purge all the old junk first. Why spend time dealing with paper you’re just going to toss anyway?

2. Create and maintain a filing system that allows you to find papers easily. If you can’t find a particular piece of paperwork when you need it, it might as well not exist. Pick a logical filing scheme and follow it religiously.

3. Follow a daily processing system for staying on top of mail and paperwork. Keep track of your incoming mail and other paperwork every day, and use the 6-D system to deal with it: discard, do, delegate, date, drawer, or deter.

4. Handle bills in a timely fashion and keep up with bookkeeping. Limit the number of credit cards and checking accounts you have, and learn to file everything effectively so you know when bills are due. Online payments can help.

5. Know where you put every piece of paper you receive. Keep different types of paperwork in separate files, and think before you put something into a file: is it really worth my time and effort? For example, most store coupons aren’t.

6. Handle phone calls and voice mail productively. Avoid phone tag, which does little but add to your daily paper deluge. Answering the phone when it rings can be much more effective. Also, start a phone log to keep track of who you’ve called and who’s called you.

7. Use technology to reduce paper and complete tasks quickly. Utilize computers and related devices to automate what would ordinarily be paper-based tasks: e.g., holiday lists, contact management, word processing, and mass-mailings.

8. Keep important papers up to date and easy to locate. It’s especially important to keep track of insurance, medical documents, and wills, and to keep them current at all times. Make a list of all your passwords and bank account numbers too, and make sure your loved ones know where to find that list.

9. Use a calendar system to track family members’ schedules. Use ONE calendar that contains ALL your personal, family, and work commitments, so you can track and sync other people’s schedules with your own.

10. Organize and keep up with my reading. If you’ve got too little time to keep up with your reading, cut back on your commitments, and try listening to audio books. Even better, ditch the stuff that’s so dull it puts you to sleep.

It pays to spend a little time every day making your bill paying, filing, reading, tracking, and scheduling more manageable. If you don’t get control of the paper monster, it’ll get control of you. If that happens, you’re likely to find yourself drowning in a sea of paper — not exactly the most dignified way to go!

© 2008 Laura Stack.  Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, professional speaker, and author who helps busy workers Leave the Office Earlier® with Maximum Results in Minimum Time™. She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training company in Denver, Colorado, that caters to high-stress industries. Laura’s newest productivity book, The Exhaustion Cure (Broadway Books), hits bookstores in May 2008.  Laura is a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, and Day-Timers®, Inc and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and the New York Times. Her clients include Cisco, Sunoco, KPMG, Nationwide, and MolsonCoors.  Contact her at www.TheProductivityPro.com

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  1. (Personal msg to Laura: I just want to say that I love your speaking style and humor, and to keep it up!)

    This blog entry could not have come at a better time. I currently have a 2-drawer file cabinet chock full to the max with papers I haven’t seen in years, and as a result, for the past 6 months I have been throwing any mail or papers into a large plastic bin, making it the largest home-based “to do” inbox on the planet! That file cabinet/bin is a great source of anxiety for me. I will immediately, upon finishing with this response, get to cleaning all of it out, thanks to you, and specifically your paperless office entry.

    Just a thought, there is one piece of indispensible office equipment one should not do without at home or in an office, and that is the SHREDDER. It really helps to shred as you go (although it’s not something I’ve made a habit yet – still working on that).

    I plan on keeping track of your blog to help me with my home organizational skills.

    Thank you so much!

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