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Blog: Can We Have Some Order Here?
Reconciling Your Files And Your Computer

Anyone who talks about the paperless office becoming a reality any time soon is fooling himself -- paper isn't going anywhere! No matter how much you reduce your pulp consumption, computers will never completely eliminate the need for hard copies of certain documents. Technology has simply changed the way we interact with our paper -- and in some instances, its misuse has actually increased the amount of clutter on people's desks!

Think Twice Before You Print

It's almost a Pavlovian response -- you create a document or receive an email, and the knee-jerk reaction is to hit the "print" button! So instead of helping you reduce the paper in your life, that high-tech box on your desk is actually doubling the stacks and piles you have to deal with!

The next time you feel the urge to print, stop and ask yourself why. Do you have a specific reason for needing a hard copy of that item, or can you refer back to it just as easily in electronic format? "I might want to read it later" isn't a good enough reason -- you can save a copy on your hard drive instead of creating more paper for your file cabinet. "I should share this with so-and-so" doesn't cut it either -- sending the document as an email attachment is faster and easier than trying to print and mail it. And "I hate reading from a computer screen" simply means that you need to adjust the brightness or glare so it doesn't bother your eyes.

If you're worried that you might forget to take care of an action item without a mound of paper littering your desk to remind you, your method of dealing with electronic to-do's may be at fault. Keeping track of computerized follow-ups should be no different from handling paper ones -- the same system applies in both places. Set up a folder in your email program for each action file category ("to read," "to pay," "to contact," etc.) As requests come in that require your attention, put that message into the appropriate folder. Then set aside time on your weekly admin day to empty each in turn, the same way you would your paper to-do files. If you follow the same steps for processing email as snail mail,  there really is no need to print every document out.

Consolidate And Coordinate

A lot of the battle between electronic and paper comes down to label confusion -- you named it something different on your hard drives than you did in your hanging files, and now you can't find what you're looking for. The key to resolving this conflict is consistency -- make sure that your electronic system mirrors the one in your filing cabinet. Whatever you called a folder in one place should be what you call a folder in the other. If the paper copy is named "utilities," don't label it "monthly bills" on your computer, or you'll just get confused. Or choose one format for each category of information you maintain, and store everything related to that topic together in one place. So if you like to keep your bank statements on your computer, do it consistently for every account. If it makes more sense to organize utility records in your file drawer, that's a good reason to request a paper bill. Just be consistent -- storing half of one file electronically and the other half in paper format is going to increase the amount of time spent searching for a document.

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posted on: 5/20/2010 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips

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Can We Have Some Order Here?

by Ramona Creel

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About Ramona:

I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!

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