Warning: this basket may be extremely large by the time you finish. Relax. It'sactually quite normal to unearth quite a bit of things that need our attention inthe near future during this part of the process. After all, we are nearing the bottomof the desk once and for all! No need to panic. We can easily show you how toeasily dwindle this down in no time! See our section on handling dailyschedules.
Pick a paper ...any paper, 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 -- Istill 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' ...no time to dothis or what am I even saving this for? Toss it! Utilizing the 5th basket (trash), ISan option we hope you see as viable. To process paper landing in the To Do basket -- see our section on handlingdaily schedules.
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Is this out of date?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 laterdate?
Whatever you do, avoid taking the time to read at this point. When a paper meetsthe criteria to the above questions, with an "emphatic yes -- I still need to readthis," 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 themtogether. 80% of the time that you save an entire item, you will forget why youwere saving it by the time you get back to it.To process paper in the To Read basket -- see our section on handling dailyschedules.
To File... OK. 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 aresource etc..
Some of the invalid categories are a swarm of unknowns from oshgosh tokalamazoo. 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 couldhappen 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 -- Istill 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 orwhy am I even saving this? Toss it! Utilizing the 5th basket (trash), IS an optionwe hope you see as viable solution.
To process paper in the To File basket -- see our section on handling dailyschedules and creating file systems.
Now listen closely. In deciphering the difference between the To Do and theToday 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 iswhat the Today basket is all about. It's your "hot list" of things to do, not a "wishlist" of things to do.
The To Do basket are items that will need your attention, just not necessarilytoday.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 inthe 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 doalready?
Understand that the primary concept of the Today basket is to segregate all ofyour 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 realisticallyfeasible to accomplish in a given day. Whatever you designate in the Todaybasket is accomplished that day.
If your basket is not empty at the end of the day, you are probably attempting todo too much and inevitably setting your self up for disappointment and we wantto avoid tat completely.
Remember, after unearthing the desk like you have just done the Today basketmay 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 -- Ineed 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 dealwith this -- Place it in the To Do basket instead. If the paper is history due to itsage -- 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 tossedsomething once and lived to regret it, hmmmm? Just remember, keepingeverything isn't the best solution either due to the limited commodity called:space.
P>With this in mind we need to build up your confidence in regards to "lettingthings 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 dayyou have designated.
If you have not opened this box within this time, chances are it's safe toeliminate.
Vow to keep your promise and dispose of it as marked.
REWARD yourself...you have done a !!
Yippeeee!!! You have finished weeding the papers!
- Avoid using manila envelopes for storing items in a filing cabinet, except in the caseof maintaining past tax records. A manila envelope for any other reason means "outof sight, out of mind." Which equals wasted space.
- When storing tax information, place all records used in a large manila envelope. Thisincludes: credit card billings, receipts, check registers, bills and any otherdocumentation used in calculating your deductions. A copy of your tax forms alsoneeds to be included. Date the outside of the envelope w/the tax year and file towardsthe back of one of the filing drawers. (Better yet, use an archive box for storing taxfiles). This means the oldest year will always be in front. Save tax records for 7 years.At the end of each new 8th tax year just toss the entire envelope in front.Note: Certaintypes of businesses and professions are required by law to maintain recordsindefinitely. Check with your local tax attorney for accurateness in this regard foryour locale and profession.
- Depending on the amount of papers you need on a regular basis, everyone needs afile cabinet of one size or another. Several vendors make "sturdy hard plastic"portable file cabinets for those who operate out of a "mobile office" or have only afew records to maintain. (See our resource section for product recommendations.)
- When designing a file system stay away from elaborate color schemes. Colorenhances this dreaded task for many people and I do recommend using it with certainpeople. Just remember when using color -- we still need to keep it simple. (See ourresource section for product recommendations.)
- Realize that color schemes may give some people an excuse not to file when they runout of the respective color needed. Maybe there was a special of the month thatprompted the initial "deal." Make sure you are you willing to pay the regular price.
- If purchase a popular color -- it might be sold out or on back order in the future.Make sure you monitor your stock to avoid running out at an inopportune time. Allthe time spent waiting for a color means our "filing is piling" -- creatingdis-organization!
- When creating any type of file system -- remember to keep it simple. You wouldn"twant to build a system in such a confusing manner that requires a road map to find afile.
- Remember 80% of what we file is never even looked at again!
- Color tabs come with color file folders and they are much harder to read. If you areset on using color files -- invest in a pack of clear tabs. (See our resource section forproduct recommendations.)
- When naming hanging files and interior files, always stick with the first identifyingword that comes to mind for that group of papers. Attempts at making it overlysophisticated ensure you won"t remember what you called it and you do need to findwhat you have decided to save. Keep it simple!
- Clarification: think of each hanging file as the family name. Each interior file can bethought of as the kids in that family.
- Name the interior file with an identifying word and write the name on the tab. Now,on the front cover of the interior file, write the "family" name of the hanging filewhere you are going to place it. Case in point: I have created a hanging file for allinformation and work I am involved with regarding the National SpeakersAssociation. The hanging file is labeled NSA. Within that hanging file are severalinterior files. Some of the topics are: National; Chapter; Events; Board meetings etc...Each interior file not only has its" folder labeled appropriately -- it contains the wordNSA on the front cover: *NSA. This way anyone using my file system that retrievesan interior file knows exactly where it gets returned to without having to understandthe logic of my file system.
- Place all tabs for hanging file folders on the front of the file. The fingers normallyapproach a file in such a way that if the tab is in front, the interior folder for that fileis right there. If the tab is on the back of the file folder, the contents being filed havea greater tendency to slip between one file folder and the next into an open space,aka: the black hole!
- Always, always use an interior folder for the contents of a file. Make sure it is labeledto correspond with the hanging file folder itself. When the contents of a file need tobe retrieved, remove the interior folder. NEVER remove the hanging file itself. Afterall, this is the landmark designating where the file actually lives. This simple subtletask will avoid lost files.
- Manila folders have several scored lines on the bottom, these are used when anoverabundance of paper in the interior file would hinder the visibility of the label onthe folder. Fold the scored area as necessary to expand the size of the folder.
- Avoid filing pocket folders, (the type you receive in workshops etc...), they impedethe visibility of the interior filer folder name as well as the tab on the hanging filefolder. Instead, remove the contents you need from the pocket folder and staple thepaper together before placing it in the interior folder.
- Never use paper clips when filing. They have a tendency to get caught on anotherpaper that is a different subject matter within the interior files. Staple multiple sheetsof similar topics together that are sharing the same interior folder.
- Make sure you use "nouns" when filing not adjectives. What is "old stuff" anyway?Note: avoid using a title of "miscellaneous." You need to make a decision about thatpaper, even if it means tossing it.
- As an alternative, if you are more of the creative sort" you may have a naturalabhorrence to filing cabinets. Utilize a cubbyhole organizing system on the wall oreven on your desktop. These organizers can be found in almost every office supplystore. They are either made of particle board or the same metal material used forfiling cabinets. These cubby systems allow you to visually see anything you want inentirety. (See our resource section for product recommendations.)
- Find out what the policy is in your office for the retention of records. Someone needsto make this decision or the tendency is to store everything indefinitely. This can addup to incredible expenses and lost space in a relatively short time.Note: people have atendency to invest in more file systems and/or archive boxes for offsight storage,rather than weed through papers and make decisions. You will eventually need toincrease the square footage of rented space thus incurring even more costs --allbecause no one took the time to analyze the data and make a decision!
- Designate an expiration date for as much of your filed material as possible. Maintainconsistency.For example, use a red pen in the upper left-hand corner and code aspecific expiration date on the material. Some people are hesitant in assigning thisdate for fear of error in judgement. They have a tendency to "save everything becausethey got burnt once." You must decide to make a decision. If you are in doubt andneed some confidence in this type of decision making -- just add 4 months to the dateto be safe. Note: Next time you are in that file and run into a file with an expirationdate that has passed -- toss it! Avoid taking the time to re-read, or re-analyze yourdecision. Trust yourself! Saving everything can get extremely costly rather quickly!
- If there are numerous users of your filing system, designate a "file guardian." Thisperson will be in charge of re-filing all information, as well as logging who has whatfor how long. This will greatly reduce the chances of mis-filing, as well as reduce thetime wasted on searching for files that are in use by others.
- When creating/organizing a file system, segregate active files from archive files. Use a"destroy date" on as many archive boxes as possible.
- When storing archive boxes make sure the contents are labeled on all 4 sides of thebox as well as the top lid. This will expedite the retrieval process as well as ensure thatthe contents will be visible from any angle, no matter who puts the box back.
- Invest in hanging "box" files for categories that contain larger amounts of data. As ageneral rule of thumb, if a file grows larger than one inch, it most likely needs to befurther subdivided in order to enhance rapid retrieval. (See our resource section forproduct recommendations.)
- After using files during the course of the day, return the file folder to the To Filebasket. You wouldn"t want to leave them hanging around where they couldpotentially get buried with other projects.
- Schedule filing time on a weekly basis. Stick with the same time on a regular day.This will allow you to create a new and positive habit in maintaining your files. Thetask will most likely take you 30 minutes a week or less.
- If you have a tendency to save relevant articles, beware that you are not saving anentire magazine or newspaper for this purpose. Take the time to cut out the article,otherwise this will quickly become a "space gobbler" in your file system. Note: if youstuff an entire paper or magazine in a file folder chances are you will forget "what"you were saving anyway!
Table of Contents