shredderNothing keeps me busier than paper management.  Computer advocates once promised a “paperless society,” but in an age when we are printing out our emails, paper is here to stay for a while.

Before I can get to my best advice on paper management, however, I must first stop and have a conversation about SHREDDING.   “Why bother?” You may ask.  “Shouldn’t you just shred EVERYTHING to be on the safe side?”

If you are fortunate enough to have one of those big power shredders in your workplace then the answer is simple:  Yes.  However, for most of us especially those of us working out of a home office, we have to be a little more selective about exactly what paper trash we choose to shred.  Otherwise it costs too much in time, money, and energy.

I for one am very vigilant about shredding anything with my credit card number and Social Security number on it, but I figure anyone can access my home address online or from a phone book.  If you’re not comfortable with having your address in the recycling bin, however, you should expect to do 20 times as much shredding as I do and that 20 dollar shredder is not going to cut it.

After working with clients we may end up with four boxes of paper to shred and they tell me they are going to shred it while they are watching television, because they are good at multitasking.  It’s a fantasy.

I conducted an experiment once on just a quarter of a banker’s box of paper.  I have a medium sized shredder and I wanted to see how fast it could shred this quarter box of papers.  It was an eye opener.  Between the shredder’s overheating and the jamming up and unclogging, it took me the better part of a Sunday, my so called day of rest. I wasn’t rested. I was livid.

If you’ve got a lot of shredding to do, do yourself a favor and trust it to the professionals.  My choice is Shred Station Express.  They’ll shred 4 banker boxes of paper for about 60 bucks.  They are extremely professional and reliable and they even destroy electronic waste.

In case you don’t get their newsletter, here’s the latest, which has a great answer to the question…

Isn’t it cheaper to shred your own paper?

We did a time in motion study with one customer who thought they were saving money by shredding their own paper in a small 10 sheet shredder. Here is what we found.
The customer was having their receptionist do the shredding at her desk, employees would drop off the material in a basket during the day, and the receptionist spent on average 30 minutes at the end of each day shredding.
The receptionist was paid $14.50 an hour ($30,000 a year), with benefits and company paid taxes that came to $19.76.  So a half hour cost the company $9.88 a day.
$9.88 a day times  5 days a week equals $49.40 a week.  They were convinced that our monthly console service at $39.99 a month was a deal! This does not take into consideration:

**The amount of dust created around her desk.
**The amount of noise created.
**The fact that she had a hard time answering the phone (her real job) while she was shredding.
**The cost to replace the light duty shredder twice a year, or the electricity to run it.

Effective organizing is all about balancing priorities.  When it comes to shredding, be aware of the consequences of shredding EVERYTHING and if that’s the path you need to take, seriously consider the irreplaceable time and energy, you are going to devote to it.