Admit it, the thing that bugs you the most about your office are those piles of paper. They’re on your desk, on the extra chair, on the floor and on every available surface. How did they get so big? Why can’t I get rid of them? What are they??
First, control the inflow. Do you need catalogs? Virtually everything that is in a catalog is on the retailer’s website. If you are shopping for a specific item, tear out the page, then go online later to buy or bookmark it. Are you really going to read all those magazines? Who has time? Let your subscriptions expire. If you see a compelling article, chances are good you can find it online. Open your mail next to a wastebasket and throw out obvious solicitations and advertisements immediately. Now you can tackle your piles.
For every piece of paper, ask the following questions:
What is this?
Identify what type of paper it is. Is this something that requires action? A bill to pay, a phone call to make, an event to attend? Is it something I will refer to later? Is it something I won’t refer to frequently?
Why am I holding on to this?
When did I look at this last? Did I request this? Can I find this information someplace else? Is it something I need for my taxes? Is it a legal document? Is it something I am required to keep?
Under what circumstances would I need it again?
There is no magical time in the future when it “might come in handy.” Think. Under what specific circumstances will I use this information?
Where should I put it?
Wastebasket? Does it require action on my part? A task for my To Do list? An event to schedule in my calendar? An address I need to enter in my contacts? If I wanted this information later, what is the first word that comes into my head to recall it?