paper pilesPaper piles accumulate on the desk — and any other flat surface — because you’re not sure where to put them and choose to decide “later.” In practice, there aren’t that many choices after all. Here are the five places where that paper can go…

1. Trash/shred/recycle – Is it a copy of something you have electronically? Does someone else have a copy that could be accessed? Is the information still relevant? Answer questions like these and if you don’t need it get rid of it right now.
2. To Pay – Anything that requires a payment, either by writing a check or making an electronic payment, should be filed in one folder created specifically for invoices/bills. I’ve seen people get hit with late fees not because they didn’t have the money but because the bill got lost in the shuffle.
3. To Read – Gather all the things you want to read and put them in one place. Frankly, you’ll probably never read all of it — other tasks just tend to take precedence. But at least you’ll have just one pile and know at a glance how much volume has accumulated instead of seeing piles in several places around your office.
4. To File – If you need to keep something for reference or historical reasons it goes into your reference or archive filing system. Put “need to file” items in one stack and file 5-10 minutes at a time.
5. To Do – Anything that requires an action goes into one system where the tasks can be prioritized according to urgency.

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