Snail Mail

When to process mail:

  • Designate a specific time of day to deal with processing your mail. Stick to this time as much as possible throughout the week.

  • If you totally detest processing the mail then deal with it at a high energy time. Avoid setting yourself up for failure by designating a time that you have the least amount of interest in concentrating on this task if you find it laborious and tedious.

  • Because experience has shown me that many people are way behind in processing mail, we will begin the next tips with a mindset that we are processing a backlog of mail.

    How to process mail:

  • The most workable daily paper management system falls into only 5 slots. Using the "5 basket system," See our office resource section for product recommendations, each paper will fall into one of the following categories :

  • The following compiled list of category questions will give you a better idea of what to ask yourself when handling mail on a daily basis. This system REALLY WORKS. You just need to be totally honest with yourself -- that's all.

  • Place your mail in each basket based on what you need to do with it (do an action on it later? something for today? read it? file it? toss it?)

  • Remember, "maybe," "miscellaneous" and "stuff" are not categories of choice. Place a verdict on each paper once and for all.

  • Understand that this diligent sorting is a must to maintain your valuable work space. Afterwards, you will have a clearer vision of all that needs your immediate attention and you will be able to make healthier decisions in the future.

  • Oooops, watch it now! If you pick a piece of mail up, be very careful not to put it down in another pile. That is exactly what we mean about "passing a verdict once and for all." Avoid "shuffling" papers and piles.

  • Sorting and/or tossing mail may appear difficult at first, yet after you truly understand "what's the worst that could happen if I do not have this paper tomorrow" in any given situation, the easier it will become.

    Note: Attempt dealing with all of your mail in this regard for 21 days and you will be well on your way to developing a new habit. It's a piece of cake from that point on. What have you got to lose? Just do it for 21 days ...then make a choice ...YOU controlling the paper...or the MAIL once again controlling you.

  • With each piece of paper, let's see if we can decide the following. This is "key"!

  • Do I need to: read it? file it? toss it? do something later? do something yesterday? (not to worry -- in the initial stages we usually uncover a LOT of these due to the fact that important things got buried).

  • Just place all those "needed to do yesterday" items in the Today basket as you come across them and you can schedule them for tomorrow. Clients find that just knowing all important papers are centrally located in the Today basket brings about a certain level of peace of mind.

    To Do...

  • Warning: this basket may be extremely large by the time you finish. Relax. It's actually quite normal to unearth quite a bit of things that need our attention in the near future during this part of the process. After all, we are nearing the bottom of the desk once and for all! No need to panic. We can easily show you how to easily dwindle this down in no time! See our section on handling daily schedules.

  • Pick a piece of mail ...any paper will do, and ask:

    Do I really need to do this?
    Is it too late to do this?
    Do I really want to do this?
    Does anybody care if I do this?

  • When a paper meets the criteria to the above questions, with an "emphatic yes -- I still need to take action" place the paper in the To Do basket. That's it for now!

  • If the answer is "nay," ...too late ... not as important as I "thought' time to do this or what am I even saving this for? Toss it! Utilizing the 5th basket (trash), IS an option we hope you see as viable.

  • To process paper landing in the To Do basket -- see our section on handling daily schedules.

    And so we continue...

    To Read...

    Do I have time to read this?
    Do I have more than 3 months of issues here?
    Is this out of date?
    Will I possibly receive this again?
    Is there another resource for this if I decide I may want to read it at a later date?

  • Whatever you do, avoid taking the time to read at this point. When a paper meets the criteria to the above questions, with an "emphatic yes -- I still need to read this," place the paper in the To Read basket.

  • Oooops, hold on a sec. If the item you want to read is "part of" a magazine, journal, newspaper or periodical -- tear the appropriate pages out and staple them together. 80% of the time that you save an entire item, you will forget why you were saving it by the time you get back to it.

  • To process paper in the To Read basket -- see our section on handling daily schedules.

    Moving right along...

    To File...

  • Some of the valid categories you may stumble into here are:

    archival files: legal and tax papers
    current files: regular business or home documents, warranties, instructions, reference material, clients, papers you will use as a resource etc..

  • Some of the invalid categories are a swarm of unknowns from oshgosh to kalamazoo. To deal with these critters you need to ask the following:

    Is this a duplicate?
    What's the date?
    How often will I need to refer to the information?
    Do I need this piece of paper or do I want it? (big difference)
    Will I really use this information?
    Is this really quality information?
    Can I acquire this information somewhere else in case I do need it later?
    Can I live without this piece of paper? (what's the worse that could happen if I didn't have this tomorrow)?
    Does this paper deserve to occupy my valuable space?

  • Remember, 80% of what you file is never looked at again!

  • When a paper meets the criteria to the above questions, with an "emphatic yes -- I still need to file this," place the paper in the To File basket.

  • If the answer is "nay," ... not as important as I thought ...I can get this again or why am I even saving this? Toss it! Utilizing the 5th basket (trash), IS an option we hope you see as viable solution.

  • To process paper in the To File basket -- see our section on handling daily schedules and creating file systems.


  • Now listen closely. In deciphering the difference between the To Do and the Today baskets, I want you to think of "when" these items need to be completed. Obviously any past due items need to receive the red carpet treatment. That is what the Today basket is all about. It's your "hot list" of things to do, not a "wish list" of things to do.

  • The To Do basket are items that will need your attention, just not necessarily today.

  • Ask yourself:

    Am I nearing a timeline on this?
    Has this opportunity expired?
    Is this past due, yet still requires my attention?
    Is this really something for today - or is it a project? (if so, place it in the To Do basket)
    Is this a miscellaneous paper that I just don't know what to do with?
    Am I dumping this here to avoid making a decision about it?
    Do I really have to do this today or do I have too much to do already?

  • Understand that the primary concept of the Today basket is to segregate all of your priorities for the day from all the others in the To Do basket.

  • With this in mind, you want to set yourself up to win. Decide what is realistically feasible to accomplish in a given day. Whatever you designate in the Today basket is accomplished that day.

  • If your basket is not empty at the end of the day, you are probably attempting to do too much and inevitably setting your self up for disappointment and we want to avoid tat completely.

  • Remember, after unearthing the desk like you have just done the Today basket may appear demanding for the next few days. After that it will be a cinch!

  • When a paper meets the criteria to the above questions, with an "emphatic yes -- I need to do this immediately," place the paper in the Today basket.

  • If the answer is "nay," ... not critical ...I still have a safe amount of time to deal with this -- Place it in the To Do basket instead. If the paper is history due to its age -- toss it!

    To process paper in the Today basket -- see our section on handling daily schedules.


  • Alright, I know many of you save a conglomeration of papers because you tossed something once and lived to regret it, hmmmm? Just remember, keeping everything isn't the best solution either due to the limited commodity called: space.

  • With this in mind we need to build up your confidence in regards to "letting things go." So, give this solution a shot:

    Place all of the papers you are hesitant to dump in a box.
    Put a real date (ie: September 30) on the box, 3 months from today, tops!
    Place the box in your garage or storage area.
    Make a note on your calendar to dispose of the box according to the day you have designated.
    If you have not opened this box within this time, chances are it's safe to eliminate.
    Vow to keep your promise and dispose of it as marked.
    REWARD have done a SUPER JOB !!

    A few last hints for catching up on reading mail:

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