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Paper Management 101

By Debbie Williams

Did you know that the average executive wastes 150 hours per year looking for documents? One in 20 documents is lost and never recovered.

As an organizational consultant, the most common question I hear from clients is: How Do I Get My Papers Organized? I'd like to help you create a working system for your home or office. A basic filing method can be set up with three easy steps: sort it, file it, or follow up on it.

Now that you've established your paper management system, let's think about maintaining it. Just remember three easy rules: keep everything in its place, file as you go, and be consistent. Mail order catalogs contain wonderful organizing products such as bill paying notebooks, greeting card files, budget managers and planning calendars. Discount stores or office supply stores offer magazine holders, hanging folder holders, milk crates, vertical file holders, wicker baskets, and stacking trays. Use a tray or a folder to collect mail and process daily. File business cards or update your database on a daily basis. Post upcoming business and personal transactions in your planner or follow- up file, then file the documentation. Keep receipts in a folder or envelope, then cross-reference with your itemized bills. Purge files at least once a year. Designate a time and place to process mail and record incoming bills.

Remember to only be as organized as you need to be. Tackle those stacks of paper ten or fifteen minutes at a time each day until you can finally see your desktop. I think you'll be surprised at how much you get done in a short time. Set up your files where they will actually be used, not where you think they belong. If you like to read the mail at the kitchen table while drinking a cup of coffee, then sort and file papers in the kitchen, rather than the office. Once you've set up your working system, commit to maintaining it. You can do it. And you'll find more time to spend on the things that are really important to you and your family.

© Debbie Williams
Debbie Williams is an organizing strategist and parent educator who offers tools and training to help you put your house in order. She is the author of "Put Your House In Order". Learn more at


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