Many of my clients have an office or desk that serves as the hub for many roles. They are finding it challenging to create in chaos and for many of my clients chaos causes more anxiety. Many of them explain it as a tiny window for courage to strike, they start going through a couple of papers, then overwhelm and anxiety strikes which leads to shut-down and a walk-out. There is just so many items that seem important and because they are serving not only their businesses, but their parents and adult-children as well everything seems important. If this sounds a lot like you then you will want to pay attention to the next 5 tips on clearing the paper clutter.
Personally, my home office is a micro-office that allows me to dedicate certain tasks to be done in here, which includes the creation of content and writing this blog. Only a select few papers are allowed to enter this zone and that leads us right into Tip 1.
1) Zoning Establish zones in your office and throughout your home for various categories. You can organize by any category you choose, but make sure to pair it with something that has commonalities. Most people try to put everything in their office and productivity actually is increased if you have different areas dedicated for various things. Each zone should allow you to create rituals around the tasks. Maybe it's lighting a candle or playing music when paying bill or maybe it's colored ink pens when writing notes regarding parent accounts. Ex: Accounts Payable/Receivable Area aka Money Zone, Creating Zone, Planning Zone, etc.
2) Loose Paper Purge Grab a laundry basket or small task basket and put all loose papers in it. Once you have all of the loose papers together after your zones have been identified you'll be able to start the sorting process. Do not stop to look at what's on the papers when putting in the basket just dump in there to contain the chaos.
3) Create Zone Signage Just do a cute little label or chalkboard signage for each zone (these zones may change as you feel that you naturally do one task in a different area). This is a new habit and you will have to consciously go to each area to tend to the dedicated task at the zone initially. Give yourself time and patience with this new way of life. Your subconscious is only familiar with clutter, chaos, and overwhelm. Peace and organization is outside of your comfort zone.
4) Download the Apps I love the app, Turboscan instead of an actual scanner. This is basically taking a picture from your phone and emailing it to yourself or your storage cloud. I did not say start scanning though. I just said to download a scanning app :)
5) Create Personal Folders for Your People Every member of your family should have their own color coding folder or cubby. When you get mail for them, have something that you've found, important documents for them, or tasks that you've completed put it in the folder and give it to them when it's completed. Scan the important items as a backup then hand it off to them.
Bonus Tip: Take your basket of papers and set a timer for 15 minutes per day to identify the following: KEEP, TOSS, SHRED, WHO'S WHO. Once you've broken it down by these categories then you want to break it down again by the zones, and take it to that location. The final step is to decide if it fits within the "how long do I keep this document for guidelines". You can repeat the KEEP, TOSS, SHRED, WHO'S WHO Daily to reduce the pile-up from repeating the vicious cycle.