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Time Management: Handle Paperwork Right To Free Up Your Time

By Kate Regent

If youíre like most people, paperwork eats up a lot of your time at work. Even at home, you probably have more paper clutter than you want to deal with.

With a bit of planning, it is possible to dramatically reduce the burden paperwork imposes on your time and energy. Here are some suggestions. Pick out those that seem useful to you given your circumstances.

* Youíve heard this before -- never handle a piece of paper more than once. Dispose of the work the paper represents as soon as you pick it up. That may not always be possible. But if you can do it often enough, youíll free up a lot of your time and avoid clutter.

If you canít handle the work right now, at least put it in a proper place and donít just dump it onto a big stack of papers.

* Schedule time to handle paperwork. Set aside part of your non-prime hours, after youíve handled the most important tasks for the day. Try to limit paper-handling times to no more than a couple of times a day.

* If a paper representing some routine task reaches you, try to do it immediately. That way you avoid putting it off for later and allowing a stack of paper to build.

* If you have a secretary or assistant, ask her to give you the most urgent paperwork first. The rest should be sorted according to importance. She should attach any relevant files you need to deal with each paper immediately.

* Avoid the practice of using small sticky pieces of paper to preserve information. If you need the information on a yellow sticky note, write it down somewhere in an organized fashion or enter it into a database. Then throw the paper away.

* Once you finish making a letter, report, etc, throw away the drafts. They only add to physical and mental clutter.

* Train your subordinates to limit their written communications to one page, wherever possible. If they send you a paper, it should include a summary and recommended action.

* Once youíve finished acting on a piece of paper, including requests you send to others, throw it away. Exceptions are if you need to retain it for legal or other reasons.

* Organize your business cards into your preferred card holder. Donít leave them lying around in your drawer. Alternatively, input the details into a database and toss the cards away.

* Where you would normally send a memo requesting an action, see if you can substitute a phone call instead. That eliminates one piece of paper for you and the recipient.

* Donít keep old copies of magazines, retain only the current issue. If you really need some of the information in the older issues, clip out the relevant articles and have your secretary put them into well-organized files.

* Get a good filing system in place. Have different folders for each project youíre working on. Have folders for training sessions, upcoming meetings / events, suppliers, each major customer, requests from senior management, etc.

* Periodically go through your files and papers. Ask yourself if each piece of paper is still relevant to your work and if youíre really likely to read it. If not, throw it out.

* Clutter expands to fill the space available. Limit the storage space to what is absolutely necessary. That way, youíll limit the amount of clutter you tend to accumulate.

About the Author: Kate Regent is passionate about using time effectively. Her articles at and cover tips for managing time, the whys of delegation, time management techniques and more.