It seems like every single day information and paperwork comes at us from all directions. Mail, catalogs, invitations, school flyers, permission slips, and of course, bills. Having a way to deal with and organize the deluge will prevent paper from cluttering your mind and your home. Here's how to manage paperwork and be more productive in 2016!
Tip #1: Manage Paperwork with the “Touch It Once” Principle
As soon as a piece of paper “enters your life” via the mailbox, a child's backpack, or any other way- DON'T just put it in a pile on your desk. Instead, take each piece of paper, look at it and decide what to with it. Your options are:
Do It: If it is something you can do in two minutes, such as respond to a party invitation, sign and return a permission slip or add an event to your calendar. Just get it done and get rid of the paperwork!
File It: You should have at least three folders in your “kitchen command center” or on your desk that you can sort your paperwork into:
- Bills to Pay
- Things to Do This Week
- Things for the Future
I also have a file where I keep my incoming magazines to be read later. And a separate bin of catalogs I would like to look at. (They do not stay on my kitchen counter!)
Recycle or Trash It: If you’re not going to Do It or File It, get rid of it now!
Tip #2: Create a Bill Paying System That Works for You!
If you take the time to open each envelope and write and record the check (or use your online backing system to pay the bill), you are not using your time efficiently. It is much smarter to take the “bulk” approach of just filing all of your bills into your “Bills to Pay” folder when you receive them, and then twice a month (be sure to schedule this into your personal calendar system so you don't forget!), to sit down and take care of paying the bills. I also suggest you create a list, similar to the one above, that lists every bill you need to pay, how you will get that notification, and the due date of each bill, and then check off each one every month as you pay it. With this system you'll never miss a bill or be late!
Tip #3: Protect Your Personal Information!
Has your town switched over to single-stream recycling yet? Ours has in the past year, making it very easy to throw every single piece of paper into your recycling bin, without regard to what is on it! According to Lifehacker:
“You should shred anything that has personal information like your name, address, phone number, social security number, or bank account information. This might include a few documents you don't initially think about, including ATM receipts, credit card receipts, bills, and even used airline tickets. You should also immediately shred expired credit cards, visas, passports, and IDs.”
Last fall I was given the Fellowes 79Ci to try- and I am in love with this machine! It is 100% jam proof so I can feed in stacks of paper (up to 16 sheets at a time!) complete with staples and paper clips and it will shred it to smithereens. Their SafeSense® technology automatically stops shredding when hands touch the paper opening- so I can trust that my kids won’t injure their sweet fingers when they are shredding the junk mail. And it is quiet, so I can even shred paper when working in the middle of the night (yep- I do that sometimes)! What’s nice is that it has a built in system that maximizes its energy efficiency 100% of the time (both when you are and are not using it), and it has an extended 20-minute run time, which really helps you to stay productive! The 79Ci is available at Amazon and Office Superstores with a suggested retail price of $239.99.
I also love how it is sized to fit perfectly under my desk, and has wheels so I can easily pull it out to access it when I need it and tuck it away when I don't!
Tip #4- Create a 2016 Tax Folder Now
Most of us are focused on thinking about preparing our 2015 taxes sometime in the next few months- but if you want to be organized for next year, grab a folder and label it “Tax Documents for 2016”. Then, as you make donations to charity, collect receipts for business expenses, etc- you'll have a destination for all of that paperwork- making it much easier for you to get a jump on next year's taxes!
Tip #5- Create Daily To Do Lists with Time Blocks!
This is my favorite new productivity tip! While I still keep a master “to do” list of everything that I need to accomplish (heh heh!), every morning I create a to do list just for that day and write down on a 4″x4″ lined post it note. (With only 9 lines on the post it note, it helps to keep my list reasonable!).
Then I got through the list and assign a block of time to each item, or group of items. “Time blocking” like this has been a revelation for me! It keeps me focused and on task, and helps me to not overly schedule my day!
What tips do you have to manage paperwork and increase your productivity?