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Avoiding Admin Angst! Tips for Managing Paper by Heather Codling

Are you a paper junkie, or are you determined to work in a “paper free” environment?

Either way you need to stay on top of your admin. It’s so easy to put things in the “to read later” pile, which you never get around to… until a client or customer asks; “could I have views on my document about…?”. Then you’re scrambling around searching for that one document in the pile on your desk, that heap of paper you can hardly see over.

If paper is essential to your workplace and workflow, its really worth spending time creating a good set-up – a but simple system. It might take some organising to start with but will be worth it in the end.

Here are some quick tips on avoiding the administrative angst caused by paper:

Clear desk policy
This might sound draconian, but clear your desk at the end of each day. It really does help to with keeping the paper pile down. It also means when you come in the next morning you are starting from a clean space, giving you time to think and organise what you are going to do, and what your priorities are. A difficult habit to form, but it can be done.

Deal with things as they arrive – and if you do have an in-tray make sure it never overflows –aim to get to the bottom of it at least once a week.

Use coloured files and tabs, the less grey in your life the better, and you are more likely to remember different categories by their colour for faster retrieval.

Sort by sensible categories, things that make sense to you. Don’t have too many, but do subdivide where necessary. Plan what you need to keep together. You need to be able to find the various documents quickly and easily. Don’t duplicate – cross reference to another file, but don’t make multiple copies.

Be ruthless
Don’t keep everything – are you really sure you need every piece of paper that comes your way, only keep it if it is relevant to you.

Tools and tricks
There are some interesting “last century” tools for managing future documents – have a look at The Tickler (or 43 Files) System when filing things for the future (simple but effective).

Destroying old papers
Ensure files are date marked for destruction – some things won’t be needed after a period of time, i.e. some financial papers can be disposed of 7 years after the end of the financial year – no need to keep things longer than you need to.

Make sure you shred anything in the least bit sensitive – don’t leave it lying around to do later. If you build up a lot of paperwork there is the option of contracting it out to a specialist in secure document destruction, it really isn’t expensive.

Whatever system you use – keep on top of it. It’s too easy to drown in paper.

Find out more about Heather here.