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Paper Management

“Important” is Not a Category

"Important" is Not a Category

Effective organizing begins with assigning basic categories, but “important” is NOT a category. It may be tempting to think, “I’ll just keep all my ‘important stuff’ together in one safe place and take my chances with the rest of it.” This is not a safe practice. Here are 5 reasons why.

1. “Important” changes with time. If this is the one system that makes you feel safe then the odds are very good that you don’t have a system for disposing of once-important items

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Daily Mail Daily

Daily Mail Daily

The number one habit to stay organized is to sort the daily mail DAILY. If your clutter is so overwhelming you don’t know where to begin, start with the daily mail. This may seem insignificant next to more monstrous organizing challenges, but the act of sorting your daily mail EVERY day encompasses some of the most fundamental organizing principles.

1. CIRCULATION PREVENTS ACCUMULATION.

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Two Sides of a Coin

Originally from Matt Baier’s Organizing Works Newsletter, July 2008 TWO SIDES OF A COIN If you think of storage as a one-way street, disorganization is inevitable.  Instead, I find it helpful to think of storage as a coin, where STORAGE is heads and RETRIEVAL is tails. Storage without retrieval is not a solution.  It is solving one problem by creating another.  In fact, the new problem is worse because when things are hidden away without any sort of exit strategy, the odds of ever dealing with them plummet.    Most likely it won’t occur to us to deal with stashed items until we can stash no more.  That’s usually when I get a call. Here are six typical areas where retrieval is lacking and ways to improve them. 1. Storage Closets.  Having lived in many small city apartments, I know that sometimes you have nowhere else to store unused items than a closet.   This, however, is not the time to throw up your hands and say you have no storage.  It is the time to truly prioritize and use your limited […]

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Focus on Filing, Part 3: The Finer Points

Originally from Matt Baier’s Organizing Works Newsletter, June 2007 Focus On Filing, Part 3: The Finer Points For want of a Nail the Shoe was lost; for want of a Shoe the Horse was lost; and for want of a Horse the Rider was lost; being overtaken and slain by the Enemy, all for want of Care about a Horse-shoe Nail.  ~Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, June 1758 As you can see from this month’s quote, details DO matter.  This is as true for user-friendly filing as it is for horseback riding.  Perhaps saying details matter seems to contradict my February attack on perfectionism, but it doesn’t.  The point is to observe the important details that prevent you from getting slowed by all the fussy aesthetic details that don’t.  What follows is a list of helpful filing details, to be used in conjunction with the filing guidelines from my last two newsletters.  Any one of these details may save an important document from being lost in much the same way that a simple horse-shoe nail would prevent the rider from […]

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Focus on Filing, Part 2: User-Friendly Filing

Originally from Matt Baier’s Organizing Works Newsletter, May 2007 FOCUS ON FILING, PART 2:  USER-FRIENDLY FILING The AVERAGE executive wastes one hour a day looking for lost or misplaced items.  That’s six weeks a year!      –The Wall Street Journal Last month I discussed the File Cycle, the lifecycle of a file in four stages of activity: Running, Sitting, Sleeping, and Dead.  Understanding a file’s lifecycle is important to staying organized because it helps you think about your files in terms of CIRCULATION, not accumulation. Sleeping and Dead files are easy to live with because they are out of your way.  Running files are easy to track because they are out where you can see them, but what about the Sitting Files?  This is where User-Friendly Filing comes in. It is very easy to make a file go away in a filing cabinet, but it is another matter entirely to retrieve it, instantly, when you need it.  User Friendly Filing begins with the need to RETRIEVE. My recommendation for User Friendly Filing is a system of organizing by CATEGORY […]

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Focus On Filing, Part 1: The Filecycle

Originally from Matt Baier’s Organizing Works Newsletter, April 2007 FOCUS ON FILING, PART 1:  THE FILE CYCLE “80% of papers that are filed are never referenced again.” Small Business Association  Do you sometimes feel like you don’t know where to begin when your desk is covered in papers?  If it was simply a matter of tossing it all in the trash you would have done that already.  They ARE all important, but as soon as you start addressing one of them, another more pressing one grabs your attention, then you need a supporting document, but you can’t find it in your file cabinet.  It must be in one of your “to file” piles, but that might have been buried under last week’s mail.  Sound familiar? If it does, you’re not alone. There are many reasons why filing can be challenging:  Your file cabinet may not be accessible enough; your system may be too complicated or confusing; you may not trust your file cabinet; or you may believe you will never get to anything unless it is out where you can see […]

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