Many managers ask me about how to deal with email overload and we’ve covered that a number of times on our courses and in blogs. But I also get enquiries from people who are paper-holics, unable to tell me the colour of their desk because of the piles of paper they have on it.
So I want to give you some ideas of what to do if you suffer from this. All it takes is the will and the awareness to be organised.
If you’re suffering from having too much paper around you so you don’t know how to deal with it all, this is how you cure yourself:
1. Block out some clear, uninterruptable time to get organised. Schedule an appointment in your task manager or Outlook Calendar, just like you would with a normal meeting. Make it as long as it needs to break the back of it and switch off your email, put your phone to voicemail and close your door or place a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your laptop. (Don’t put it on your desk…no-one will see it among all the other papers!)
2. Get the waste paper bin or recycle bin and be ruthless. You can absolutely categorically guarantee that over half the paper can be dumped!
3. Look at a pile of papers and work your way through it. Ask yourself these questions: What is it? Why do I have it? Do I need it? What am I going to do with it?
If you can’t come up with a really great answer, recycle it. If you really, really need to keep it, place it in a folder. Don’t leave it on your desk without a file…it will just add to the orginal pile that you have been building up. Be honest with yourself. DO YOU REALLY NEED IT?
If you do need to keep it and do something with it, put it on your task list or in your calendar and make sure it’s done.
4. You will have thrown so much away that your waste basket will be filled and you will be full of remorse. But don’t give in. Don’t fall to your knees, tearfully stroking each piece of paper as if you’re saying farewell to a long-time friend. This is the start of you being organised. Submit to the inevitable and allow the paper to shred itself into thousands of pieces or find sanctuary in the recycle bin. You are doing it (and yourself) a favour. Don’t pull it back out ‘just in case’ you might need it again. You won’t. Let it go into the ether.
5. Think about the advantages. Now you will be better organised, less stressed, more able to find the important stuff and less likely to give up looking when the department on floor five want that report they sent you last week.
Easy? No. Worth it? Definitely. And promise yourself it won’t get that bad again!
Originally published: 4 August, 2011