Archive for the ‘mail’ Category

Action Files

February 10, 2016

Last week I started a series talking about the paper. Even though it’s possible to receive notices and statements via email paper is still a problem. Many of my clients complain about paper. Organizing paper, finding the documents they need quickly and efficiently, and eliminating paper piles are on the top of the ‘to-do’ list. While this is a problem for many it comes front and center around this time of the year when taxes are looming on the horizon.

I suggested, last week, that you gather the paper from around the house and bring it to a central location. I also recommended that you set up a card table or clear a surface so that this week we could work on sorting this paper into categories to file, recycle, or shred.

Speaking of shredding, I recommend you have a cross-cut shredder. If you don’t have one or don’t want to get one then take the papers you want to shred to a place that will shred them for you. Office Depot, Office Max, and some Mail Box shops offer shredding by the pound. Put the papers you want to shred into a box or a bag. When the bag is full take it to be shredded. Another option is to look in your newspaper for Free Shredding. Organizations will take turns sponsoring a mobile shred truck in a parking lot from time to time.

Remember to look at every sheet of paper. Sometimes things get stuck in between the sheets. One time a client of mine found her social security card stuck in between some pages that were stapled together.

Now, let’s start by creating action files.

Action files are just what the name indicates – full of papers which require you to take action. I recommend you use a table top file holder for these files. Schedule a time to check these files every few days. This is not a place to store papers long term. Rather a holding spot for papers for which there is an action.

Here are some basic steps to follow:

  1. Warning… this can get tedious and boring. When we’re bored we tend to make mistakes or want to just grab a handful of papers and think “I know what’s in this stack so I’m going to just shred them without checking” That’s when critical papers get misfiled, lost or destroyed.
  2. So, SET A TIMER for some time between 20 and 30 minutes. When the timer rings either take a break and come back in a little while or schedule another work time for tomorrow.
  3. Look at each piece of paper and decide what your next ACTION will be.
  4. Your action may be to Recycle – you know if you’re not going to look at a catalogue or a magazine or an advertisement so recycle these items right away.
  5. Your action may be to Shred if so put those pieces of mail into a shred box or bag
  6. Other typical actions are: READ, FILE, PAY, SCHEDULE
  7. What do you label it when you don’t know what your next step should be? Put it aside for another time – I call that MARINATING or PENDING. The next time you look at these papers you may have figured out what action to take.
  8. You may also want a file for CONTACTS. You could put contacts to input into your data base here. You may also put your children’s class list or other contacts you’d like to have at your fingertips.
  9. If you sort the mail into these action files as it comes into your house you will not have an accumulation of paper piles!

Before you go out and buy a table top file organizer figure out how many files you want to have at your fingertips.

You can find file holders at Target, Office Depot, Staples and The Container Store.

Good luck sorting your papers into these action files. Next week I’ll review what to do with the remainder of your papers!

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Make a Change

March 19, 2014

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could snap your fingers or wiggle your nose like either Samantha on Bewitched or Jeanne on I Dream of Jeanne and have something be changed? The problem is nothing changes if nothing changes. Think about that.

It’s tax season. We all have to locate the documents so that we can find the numbers to fill out the forms for our taxes. Some documents may be filed in the cloud, some may be in a pile on the floor, some may be in a file cabinet in multiple files. What if you changed the way you stored ALL tax related documents? You could, for instance, scan all the documents as they arrive in your house and store them together in a file in the cloud labeled ‘TAXES’. You could also print all tax related documents and store them in a file in your file cabinet labeled ‘TAXES’. This way when you were ready to prepare your taxes all you would have to do is take out your taxes file from the cabinet or refer to the file marked ‘taxes’ in the cloud. Simple, right? Sure, it’s simple but you have to buy into the process and change how you file your documents to make it happen. You can do it, if you’re ready to change how you file your documents. Maybe you already have such a file and preparing your taxes is a snap!

How about the mail? What do you do with the mail when you bring it in your home? Does it land on the counter in a pile? Do you look at the contents of the pile everyday and sort through it? Perhaps you wait until the end of the week to look at the mail. If that’s the case, I bet the mail is spilling all over the countertop and getting in the way. Why not change this situation? You can get an inexpensive stadium file. Create a few categories that resonate with you and your family. Some suggestions are: Bills, Filing, Read, Pending. Now as you bring in the mail sort it into these categories. You might put magazines and catalogues in a basket to look over later. Put anything you are not going to even open into either a recycling bin or a shred basket and file the remainder into the stadium file categories. Now you’ve changed the system and the mail has a place to go – instead of making a home all over your counter.

What about laundry? Are there clothes all over the floor in your room? Have you heard the expression ‘the floor is not an option’? When you change your clothes put clothes you can wear again away – either hang them up or fold them neatly and put them where they go. Shoes go in the closet or on a shoe rack. Any clothes that need to go to the dry cleaner can be placed in a pile on the floor of the closet or in a basket. Other clothes that can be washed should go into a laundry hamper ready for you when you tackle the laundry! Tweak the system a little and the bedroom floor will be clear of clothes! The added benefit is that your clothes do not get crumpled laying on the floor.

Speaking of laundry. You know it’s not really done until it comes out of the drier, is folded, and put away. Some people I know think that the laundry is done – finished – when it’s been put in the drier. Sorry, get the laundry out of the drier, complete the process and then you can call it done!

What habit will you change to create change in your home?

Paper piles?

January 28, 2014

Paper is everywhere. As much as we want to be paperless it still comes in our homes. What do you do with it? How do you keep from having paper avalanches? How do you stay on top of the things you have to know and do?

These are all questions that have come my way from time to time during the course of a home-office organizing session.

Paper can be managed but you must get in the habit of dealing with it everyday.

Here are a few quick tips:

1. Sort the paper as it comes in your house into the following categories: File, Shred, Recycle, Toss

2. Have a desk top action file holder. Create action files. These could be something like: Bills to pay, Articles to read, Pending or Things to think about, Follow up …

3. Sort the papers to file into your action files

4. Schedule a day every week to go through and work on your action files.

This system works and will help you gain control over the incoming paper. The next step is to have a main filing system that resonates with you. It is critical that you know where to put the documents you need to file and even more critical that you can find them when you need them. For this to happen, your filing system must make sense to you. It can be alphabetical, categorical or a mix. Whatever works for you is how it should be set up.

Once it’s set up – use it. File those papers, don’t pile them!

Small Steps Forward!

August 14, 2012

Are you in the process of learning a new skill? I’m always learning new things. New ways to approach an organizing task, new methods of teaching how to set priorities, new theories on productivity and time management – to name a few. Recently I decided to learn a brand new skill. Well, it’s really not completely new to me. All my life (ever since I can remember) I have loved to dance! I studied ballet and modern dance through my college years and took the pre-requisite ballroom dance lessons as a teenager. Dancing has always been part of how I define myself. About 6 months ago or so I decided to study ballroom dancing with the goal to enter competitions. Learning ballroom dancing is a real challenge for me. Just when I think I have the steps mastered my instructor(and partner) lets me know that if I tweak the series of steps by turning my shoulders slightly it will be that much better. Yes, it’s a little frustrating but at the same time it is challenging and rewarding. I am learning so much more than just how to move my feet. I’m learning how to occupy space and to create beautiful visual lines. I’m also exercising more than just my body.  I’m working my brain as I memorize the steps and patterns for the different dances. Even though I have been studying ballroom dancing for about 6 months now, and I know I have learned lots of steps, I still have many more things to learn to become the kind of dancer I would like to be.

I stay focused in this endeavor by understanding that I am learning. I do make progress. Practicing my dance steps at home while I’m folding laundry or cooking dinner or walking the dog brings me a little closer to mastering whichever step I am working on. I celebrate the small victories. I love it when my dance instructor tells me that series of steps ‘look good!’

Are you learning something new? If you are, practice patience with yourself. Learning a new skill requires time, effort and diligent hard work. You can not expect to be proficient in a day, week or even a month.  Maybe opening the mail everyday and dealing with it is a new skill for you? Mindful practicing  will bring you closer to mastering whatever you are attempting to learn. Developing a new skill is hard work – believe me when I say I know! All your hard work pays off in the end when you accomplish that which you set out to do. Celebrate every small step forward, I do!