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Blog: Working From Home
Prevent Paper Clutter Two Easy Tips

Clients consistently tell me one of their greatest challenges to keeping a well-organized workspace is PAPER! Correspondence, invoices, catalogs, mail-order offers, reading material, and emails they've printed out wind up in piles or files all over their offices. Paper can turn into clutter faster than you can imagine, so don't create any, or keep any, you don't truly need. Here are two easy tips to keep paper under control.

Tip #1: Don't Print Emails
Why do people feel the need to print emails? Often it's because an email requires action and we are fearful we will forget about it if we don't see it on our desk or in a tickler file. Perhaps there is information we think will be useful in the future. We're afraid we won't be able to find it again because we won't remember where on the computer we filed it. But if we could keep track of the information without converting it to paper, that's really what we need, right? It's easier than you might think.
If you keep an electronic calendar, on Outlook or Google, for example, simply drag an email that requires action straight to the calendar function and drop it on the day you will take that action. You needn't think about it again! When you open the calendar for that day, you'll be able to see that email, complete with all the information you need.
If the information in the email is not date-specific, you can copy the relevant portion and paste it into a Word document; then file that document in a folder on your computer with other related information. This tends to work best if your computer files parallel the paper files in your office. Then you are likely to file your electronic documents along the same conventions you use for hard copies, making them easy to find.
You can also install my favorite FREE search application on your computer, Google Desktop Search, www.desktop.google.com. This clever application will find every email saved on your computer (actually every document of any kind) that contains whatever key words or phrases you search for.
Tip #2: Have a System for Deciding What Other Papers Are Worth Keeping
Some incoming paper you can immediately identify as not worth your time or space. Don't be tempted to save catalogs of seminars and training sessions you know you won't attend. Don't keep advertising pieces you have no intention of acting on. Discontinue subscriptions to magazines and trade journals that rarely have useful articles. Most of this information is online anyway, and will be more current when and if you decide you need it than some piece of paper that's been in your files for months.
For the rest, use the acronym "A-SORT" to remember the following guidelines. You should toss any item that doesn't meet at least one of the following criteria:
A        There is some action required of you.
S          You envision doing something specific with it within six months.
O         If would be difficult to obtain the information elsewhere if you needed it.
R          The information is recent and relevant to something you're working on.
T          There are tax, legal or financial reasons to keep it.
The last consideration to apply is, "What is the worst possible thing that could happen if I needed this and didn't have it?" If you can live with the answer, then out it goes! When in doubt, throw it out.

posted on: 7/18/2010 4:17:21 PM by Elaine Quinn, Author & Speaker
category: Business

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Working From Home

by Elaine Quinn, Author & Speaker

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About Elaine:

Elaine Quinn is an internationally recognized expert on organizing, time management and productivity for the work-from-home solo professional. She is the author of "There's No Place Like Working From Home," filled with tips for solopreneurs who want to get organized, stay motivated and get things done. Learn more at www.NoPlaceLikeWorkingFromHome.com.

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Favorite Books and Products

  • Google Desktop Search
    This free application finds documents on your own computer's hard drive just like a search engine finds information on the web.
  • Collectorz
    Intuitive, inexpensive and easy-to-use database programs that create catalogues of your personal collection of books, reference manuals, audiovisual media or digital photo files.
  • Roboform
    Log into your password-protected websites automatically with this inexpensive and secure software that memorizes your login IDs and passwords. It also fills in online forms with just one click.
  • "There's No Place Like Working From Home"
    As the author, naturally this book is one of my favorites!

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