Most of us have them, a pile or two or three of papers sitting on our desk or counter. They have a way of multiplying, especially when we’re busy. We end up sifting through them, looking for the important things (things we need to do) or that one piece of information you know is in there (email inboxes can be like this too, but that’s another article!). Piles ultimately have a way of sapping productivity.
Piles typically contain three types of things:
1. Things we need to act on (e.g. bills to pay, something to read, contact someone, buy something, etc.).
2. Reference information– information that needs no action now, but you may need it to look up something later.
3. Junk– paper that you don’t need (advertisements, duplicates of information you may have electronically, old information).
One of the reasons we end up with piles is that we don’t know where to put the papers-they have no ‘home’. Another reason is that their ‘home’ may be hard to get to (e.g. the filing cabinet is full). Another reason is we are afraid that if we put the papers away, we will forget about the action items in them. They are our visual reminders.
To get away from our piles acting as our visual reminders and to do lists, we need systems we can trust. A good filing system, homes for our papers (action files and reference files), a recycle bin and a to do list we actually use.
When you begin to put your action items contained in your piles on a To Do list, you begin to eliminate the power of the piles. Your action items and reference items can then be filed away and taken out only when needed. The junk can be shredded or recycled.
How To Start:
1. Make it easy to get rid of the junk in your pile. Have a shredder and recycle bin nearby.
2. Separate your reference information from your action items.
3. Create homes for your papers and files. (a file system, in boxes, etc.). This can be a big step if you do not have any systems set up.
4. As you file, put the action items on your To Do list. That means a list you look at and use frequently. One you KNOW contains all the actions you need to do. Otherwise you end up looking through piles again.
5. Regularly go through your In Box (where your paper lands). At least once a day is best.
You will be rewarded with a usable To Do list and a clear desk!