Recent headlines tell of a mystery man who paid his parking ticket 44 years late. The $2 ticket was issued in 1974. The driver indicated in a note he enclosed with a $5 bill, “I’ve been carrying this ticket around for 40-plus years always intending to pay.” The driver’s return address?… “Feeling guilty, Wayward Road, Anytown, Ca.” This story appeared the
Whether this person physically carried this note around in his wallet or whether it was buried in a pile at home all those years doesn’t matter. What matters is that this poor man felt guilty all that time. What a waste of time and emotion! But he finally took action, confronted his demons, paid his debt (plus a little interest) and hopefully feels guilty no more. My question to you is… how much guilt are YOU carrying around for things you were supposed to do but never did?
In honer of the July 4th & Independence Day, I’ve decided to use this month to give you tips on how YOU can gain independence from your paperwork piles at work/home or both. Looking at the piles day after day is certain to leave you feeling overwhelmed and maybe even guilty. So here are some tips so you can take action on those items you’ve been meaning to do for quite some time.
1. Get Scheduled: Establish regular time slots on your calendar to work on this project until completion. I recommend sessions of 15-30 minutes at a time. If you allot too much time to each session (2 hours, for example), you’re more likely to procrastinate because you think of more pressing things you need to get done.
2. Get Prepared: Secure organizing supplies in advance with the end result in mind for each category (To Do, To File, To Recycle/Trash, To Shred, To Digitize, Not Sure). No need to buy fancy containers. Just use whatever you have hanging around your office/home (empty container, box, etc.)
3. Get informed: How long should you keep your household/personal paperwork? If you google this topic, you’ll find hundreds of different sources of information. I attempted to find IRS guidelines but could only find them for small businesses, not individuals. So this is what I’ll say on the topic… here’s a link to some general Household Document Retention Guidelines published by the Better Business Bureau. HOWEVER, you should also call your Tax Preparer/Accountant to see what recommendations they can provide you before you start this process. Review the guidelines to get familiar with them before you begin.
4. Rule the World: Establish rules before you dive in. Below are just a couple of examples:
- Rule 1: Make an immediate decision on each piece of paper by referring to the Document Retention Guidelines as necessary.
- Rule 2: If you’re unsure of what to do with a document, TEMPORARILY place it in the “Not Sure” category. When you’re done sorting ALL your paperwork, review the “Not Sure” pile to see if you now have clarity regarding what to do with it. If not, call your Tax Preparer/Accountant for their recommendation based on your personal situation so you can place each document in the appropriate category until the “not sure” pile no longer exists!
5. Get Ready to have Fun: Make sure you’re physically comfortable and working in an area with plenty of empty space for you, your paperwork and your storage supplies within easy reach. Perhaps you want to have your favorite music playing in the background? Now the fun begins… On Your Mark, Get Set, SORT!!! Use each session scheduled on your calendar to continue sorting until you’re done. Once your done, make sure you have more time blocked out on your calendar to take action of each of the categories/piles.
6. Although I really wanted to limit this document to 5 steps, I couldn’t do it in good conscience. The first 5 steps would only eliminate the initial problem. They would not set you up for success to prevent those overwhelming paperwork piles from creeping back into your life in the future.
So the final step is to Be Proactive. Set up a Command Center to deal your mail/paperwork as soon as it enters your home/office. I suggest having all the tools you need within reach in one zone… whether it’s in your kitchen, office, etc. The secret to success is having a system AT YOUR FINGERTIPS so you can easily and immediately sort your mail into the appropriate categories (To Do, To File, To Recycle/Trash, to Shred, to Digitize). Some you may be able to take action on immediately (file, recycle/trash, shred, etc.). Others you may have to put aside to do later when you have more time (To Do, Digitize, etc.). Don’t expect perfection the first time… your system will probably need to be tweaked over time to be more effective. The goal is to improve your system so it achieves the preventing future paperwork pile-ups!
Quote: “It isn’t necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.” ~ Frank Zappa ~
Brenda Tringali, Organizing, Productivity & HR Specialist
At Your Fingertips Organizing
Serving Greater Myrtle Beach, SC or “virtually” anywhere (via phone/video)
Brenda Tringali is the owner of At Your Fingertips Organizing. She provides Life/Workplace/Residential Organizing & Productivity services to clients in the Myrtle Beach, SC area & “virtually” anywhere via video, phone, etc. Drawing from her 30 years of Human Resources/Staffing experience, she also helps clients with HR/Staffing/Job Search needs as well. Brenda is an active member of NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing professionals). She is also Chair of the NAPOCares Committee which highlights the community outreach efforts of NAPO members, NAPO Chapters, and NAPO Business Partners as they reach out to share the three “T’s” of Social Responsibility: their Time, Treasures, and Talents.