Oh, the paper possibilities! You can pile, you can procrastinate, you can create problems for yourself, or you can prepare a system.
The 4 D’s of Productivity apply to paper management. They are:
- Do It
- Delegate It
- Delete It
- Delay It
Stephanie Winston is known for her TRAF system of dealing with paperwork, with four things you can do with paper:
- Toss it
- Refer it
- Act on it
- File it (I prefer to consider filing under the Action heading, leaving F to stand for Follow-up.)
I don’t do much delegating or referring, so the R can be for Reading.
Toss: Questions to ask when deciding whether to retain or toss a piece of paper: 1. Is this only for my own information, and now I know it? 2. Is this quality information? Objective? Reliable? Timely? Useful? Clear? (Keep the best, and forget the rest) 3. Does this information exist elsewhere? If needed in the future, could it be replaced?
Reading: Clip articles that look interesting. After reading, use criteria above to evaluate the information and make a decision whether to toss or file.
Action: Files could include a red file for priority items, to read, to file, ideas and projects, etc.
Filing: Set up a file system that works for you.
How long to keep files? See the record retention guidelines at Organize Your Financial Paperwork from Forbes. NOTE: There are different record retention guidelines online that can vary on what they recommend. I am not an expert in this field! This one is nice because it’s easily printable, thereby adding to your paperwork!