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Paper Management

17 Minute File Diet

17 Minute File Diet

A couple weeks ago in my May Tip of the Month I recommended transferring your old taxes, old statements, and old tax supporting material from your file cabinet to a more remote location. I said that it should only take 15-20 minutes if you had a user-friendly file system set up.

This weekend, I followed my own advise and I’m happy to report that I clocked in at just under 17 minutes.

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May Tip of the Month

May Tip of the Month

The most important annual organizing habit is to PURGE YOUR FILE CABINET AFTER TAX SEASON. You’ve accessed all the tax-supporting material you need for 2009 and yes, you will still want to keep it, but there’s no reason it needs to occupy the valuable real estate of your desk file drawer. Last year’s statements fall under what I call Sleeping Files, files you are keeping just-in-case. I recommend transferring these to 2 inch file jackets inside remote file cabinets or banker boxes (or plastic file boxes in a damp basement).

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The End of the Mail Trail

The End of the Mail Trail

When does mail stop being mail? The second it comes out of your mailbox. That stuff piled up on your dining table is not mail. It’s bills to pay, solicitations to toss, statements to file, magazines to read, and material to review. Each envelope contains paper that requires action. Because those actions are hidden inside those envelopes, one fears the worst, but expose them to the light of day and you realize that your necessary actions are either a. easy or b. unnecessary (for now).

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Tickle Your Memory

Tickle Your Memory

Ever wonder what a “tickler file” is? It’s a collection of 43 labeled folders, 31 days and 12 months, that helps you organize time-sensitive documents. It has been around in various formats since the early 20th century, but has probably been most notably covered in David Allen’s 2001 classic, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity.

To me the most valuable message from Allen’s book was,

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“Out Where I Can See It.”

"Out Where I Can See It."

“Out Where I Can See It” is an understandable need, but the problem is if everything is important, then nothing is important. If the front page of a newspaper appeared solid gray with unbroken text, you probably wouldn’t bother with it. It’s too overwhelming. Not only would it take time to prioritize the most important articles, it would take time just to see them!

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Files In A Bind

Files In A Bind

If your shelves are overrun with binders and they’re busting at the seams it may be time to rethink your use of binders. Binders have their place, but like so many things, they will serve you better if used within limits. Here’s how:

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What Your Dining Table Has In Common With a Runway In Memphis

What Your Dining Table Has In Common With a Runway In Memphis

Want to make your home more inviting? The dining table is usually a great place to start. If it’s piled with mail, schoolwork, and crafts then it’s not very welcoming. To keep your table clear and inviting, it helps to think of it as a runway at the FedEx “Super Hub” at Memphis International Airport.

The most valuable organizing tool is a clear surface for processing.

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Receipt Deceipt

Receipt Deceipt

One of the most insidious pieces of paper that regularly litters my clients’ homes is the receipt. Alone it may look small and harmless, but it can be powerful in its importance or unimportance. Let me explain the latter.

One piece of tax advice I hear is “keep everything!” Really? This 2004 receipt for “Beggin Strips” from Petco is going to help me save money on taxes? Unless you run a kennel, this piece of paper is probably not going to help you.

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Don’t Apha-bet On It!

Don't Apha-bet On It!

An associate of mine joked the other day about how I was so organized that I had my sock drawer alphabetized. Naturally I took the joke in the spirit of good-natured ribbing it was intended, but for many organizing systems I believe alphabetizing can do more harm than good.

Now don’t get me wrong,if you have items like old client files or CDs that are all the same type of thing, filing alphabetically makes the most sense, but…

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Envel-nope!

Envel-nope!

Envelopes are necessary to help deliver mail, but mail stops being mail the second it comes out of your mailbox. At this moment envelopes are not only unnecessary, they are a natural enemy to staying organized.

Envelopes help in the sending of paper information in three ways. First, they conceal the information from outside eyes.

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