In my last article, I discussed the first part of my “5 D’s for Quick Decisions” for dealing with the daily paper that comes into your home or office. This month, I’ll cover the second part of the system, which should help you deal with just about any piece of paperwork that enters your space on a regular basis.
3. DO IT NOW
Recently I read a great article in our local newspaper by RI cognitive behavior therapist, Dr. Ben Johnson, who periodically writes a life-coaching column called The Mental Edge. He wrote about overcoming procrastination and how to increase your productivity. One of his statements really resonated with me: “‘Some Now’ is the royal road to productivity. Give me five full minutes on it right now. It will be a great investment.” (read the entire article here.) Johnson was writing about getting started on bigger projects and that often just committing to putting in five minutes on it to get started sparks the road to completion. It had extra meaning for me, because it applies so neatly to the next step in the “5 D’s”, which is taking just five minutes every day when the mail comes in to deal with what can be dealt with in five minutes or less. Sign that permission slip. Tear out that coupon. RSVP to that party. Put that event into your calendar right away. Make that quick phone call, send that easy email. If you can get it accomplished in five minutes or less, just do it on the spot. You’ll be surprised at how it will keep the little stuff on your “to-do” list from blossoming out of control, and that little, nagging stuff gets done and out of the way quickly.
4. DO IT SOON
Once you’ve gotten rid of the junk, delegated the things that belong to others, and taken five minutes to deal with the small stuff, you will be left with the most important mail/paperwork. These are the things that require action, whether it’s simply to file for the future, or needs more than five minutes of thought and energy. Ideally, papers that need to be dealt with in the next 3 days, even up to a week (no longer) should be in this category. Having a spot to place these “do it soon” items, such as a paper tray, wall pocket, or small basket isolates them from non-essential paperwork and makes it easier for you to keep what’s important together and ready for action when you have set aside time for them. Having a separate tray, pocket or basket for papers that simply need to be filed and require no action is also a good idea. You will save time sorting through piles of non-urgent, unimportant stuff to get to the good stuff when it’s all assembled and close at hand.
5. DOWN THE ROAD
These are the papers on which you will need to take action in the future, but are not urgent. Long-term projects fall into this category, as does anything you’d like to take some time to research. At home, these are things like making a major purchase (computer, appliance, car, house, etc.), or a decorating/construction project. At work, it could be a report for which you need to compile information, or notes for an upcoming meeting. Having file folders or binders for each project which have a place in a desktop file box, or a specific place in an easily-accessible filing cabinet drawer is a great collection spot. For the more visually oriented, clear plastic wall pockets or a literature sorter will do the trick. Simply setting aside an assigned home for those papers will cut down on your paper clutter, keep them gathered in one spot, and will save you time and hassle when it comes time for you to actually get the work done.
That’s it. A simple, quick, easy to use sorting guide that should help keep those paper piles from building up and make it much easier to find what you need, when you need it. Just a few minutes each will do the trick.