Hello there! I can see from here that your time is managed, your house is decluttered, and your chores are all finished! Nice job! Wait, what? You still have some organizational issues? Well, that’s okay, call us, and we’ll come help with whatever you need. Sometimes, it takes longer than a week to change everything you have done for years. I hope you are enjoying this series about the 5 simple strategies you need to live life organized. Feel free to go back and read the first three posts if you get a chance:
Strategy One: Managing Your Time
Strategy Two: Managing Your Stuff
Strategy Three: Managing Your Chores
Today’s post is about Strategy Four: Managing Your Paperwork. We all have a lot of paperwork. Mail comes almost daily and with it piles of bills, magazines, offers, and junk mail. If that weren't bad enough, we all get hundreds of emails a week from friends, family, school, stores, shopping sites, deal sites, and your uncle in Romania that you didn't know about, but he just left you a million dollars.
Paperwork is a beast that you must tame, or it will run your life. Luckily, here are some great tips to help with the process. As you read this, be aware that your goal will be to only look at or touch each piece of mail or email once and then be done with it. One simple and easy way to get less mail is to sign up for paperless billing, automatic withdrawal or online billpay. Most companies make it extremely easy and safe to do this, often right from your smartphone. There will even be a future blog post about how to do this.
Your first step is to have a family inbox. Buy a box that is about two inches deep and wide enough to hold most mail you receive. When you walk in the door with mail, school papers, flyers, or any other papers, put it all in your inbox immediately. Then you need to sort through your inbox. Take the time every day or every couple of days to go through your inbox. I find it is easier to go through 10 pieces of paper at a time than thirty. As you sort through your inbox, every piece of paper you touch is going to go into one of four piles. Then you are going to deal with each pile.
Pile One: Trash it
This pile is for junk mail, stuff you don’t need, unimportant papers. As soon as you are done making your piles, shred or recycle these immediately.
Pile Two: File it
This pile is for papers that don’t need an action, but you need to keep like school calendars, insurance cards, and health benefits. File these immediately. It is easier to file three papers than it is to file 73.
Pile Three: Deal with it
This pile is for papers that need an action of some sort: a phone call, an email, or a payment. Complete the action on this paper immediately. Pay the bill, write the email, call the company. The sooner you complete the action, the less time you waste thinking about doing it.
Pile Four: Pass it on
This pile is for papers that are not your responsibility. Perhaps your spouse pays the bills, and these papers can be handed off to him or her; or your daughter loves the American Girl catalog, and she can be responsible for it.
Email is often worse than snail mail. Since it is not actually piling up on one's desk, one tends to let the online inbox become very full. However, having 1300 emails in your inbox is not helpful. It is difficult to track down information that way, and it is difficult to see what has been dealt with and what still needs to be dealt with. Email must have the same rules as the actual paper that comes into your house. When you receive an email, read it and complete an action. You can trash it, archive it, file it, or answer it as soon as possible. Try to only read an email one time before you respond.
If you go through your paperwork and emails more often and more quickly, it soon becomes less of a burden to bear. Get into the habit of handling these right away. Once an invitation has been RSVP'ed for or a bill has been paid, it frees you to enjoy your life all the more.