When you have a pile of paper in front of you there are three questions that you should ask yourself – Tracy’s 3HOW?s™ for processing paper.
First, stand up in front of your paper pile (standing is the secret to successful paper processing!)
Second, pick up one piece of paper and ask:
How can I get rid of this piece of paper?
This should be your goal in life! Get rid of every piece of paper you can. Then, you don’t have to go on to the next question. Shred it. Recycle it. Trash it. Hand it off to someone else. Write the information (or enter it) into your calendar so you can get rid of the paper. Realize you can find almost everything on the internet and you don’t need to hang on to paper. This goes for recipes, interesting articles, a business phone number, etc.
If you are still holding the paper (because you couldn’t get rid of it) move on to the next question and ask:
How can I get this done on time?
If you can do it in less than 2 minutes then do it now. That is why you are standing. Lots of things can get done right now while you are processing paper. Review what Chelle did in under 2 minutes when she processed her paper here.
If it will take longer than two minutes or if you want to wait to do it later you will need to assign a time to get it done. You can use a To Do list. Write the task on the list and store the paper in the To Do folder/hanging file so you can find it when you need it. Or, you may choose to use a traditional tickler file (pictured below) that has a tab for every day of the month and every month of the year. If the bill is due the 18th put it in the 14th tab. Then, on the 14th you pull it out and pay it.
If the paper has no deadline and you are still holding it, ask:
How can I find this when I need it?
If it is a temporary paper, you only need it for a designated time, then use your action file. Use the month tabs in the tickler file (pictured above) to file birthday cards, holiday ideas, flight confirmations, forms to be turned it, invitations, etc. You will know just where to look when the time comes. Customize the hanging files – one for each family member, to file, coupons, contacts, etc. to store things temporarily.
If it is a more permanent paper use your file cabinet. Make file names that are broad. Some like alphabetical filing. Some like to file by categories. There is no right or wrong way. Just keep it simple and broad.
Time for a Quiz
Go through each example below using Tracy’s 3HOW?s™ on each. After YOU try you can see my thoughts below. But, remember there is no right or wrong answer. It is what works for you and how your brain thinks.
- Birthday card for Uncle Jack who’s birthday is in November.
- An estimate that your spouse received on the roof replacement
- Your daughter’s teacher information for the new school year.
- Your forms for a conference that you are speaking at in January.
- A wedding invitation
- A flyer for donation pick up in your area
- A recipe you ripped out of a magazine
- A paint swatch for kitchen wall color you are considering
- Address to Chelle’s urinalysis appointment
- Birthday card: Place in November tab of the tickler file
- Roof estimate: Place in husband’s file OR name a hanging file “projects” and place in file folder called ROOF.
- Daughter’s new school year info: Place in your daughter’s hanging file.
- Form for conference: Drop in the January tab of the tickler file.
- A wedding invitation: RSVP immediately. Place in the tab for the date of the wedding. That day you can pull it out and have all the information. OR enter info in your calendar and throw out!
- A flyer for donation pick up: Where can you find this when you need it? The information is on the internet but what if you tape it to your donate bin? I recycle mine because I drop by Goodwill so much that I never have anything!
- A recipe you ripped out of a magazine: Put in your recipe binder (read part 1 and part 2).
- A paint swatch for a kitchen color: Put in the project file in your action file. OR in a file named “HOME” in your file cabinet.
- Chelle’s urine address: (haha) Enter it under your Urine Doc as a contact in your phone! OR place it in the date of appointment tab.
What would you do?