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Paper Management In the Workplace

Feel free to use this tip sheet / checklist as you tackle your own ""do-it-yourself"" organizing projects. If you would like to REPRINT or DISTRIBUTE this information, please click here for reprinting instructions.

  • Simplify managing your paper in your workplace by using the ‘Five times Three’ method: Five steps in three categories. Here’s how to break it down:

Five Follow-Up Categories

  • Keep follow-up documents in a place off your desk, but close by, as a fluid filing system (not permanent). The point is to get it off your desk and off your mind:
  • 1-31 files: File documents in the day of the month it must be done. Pull that paperwork each day to work on it.
  • January-December files: File documents for long-term projects. This includes reading material. When the next month comes up, put in 1-31
  • Boss, Significant Other, Meeting and ‘Other’ files: When you think of issues for the boss, your significant other, a regular meeting (weekly, monthly, etc.), or other categories you designate, put them in these files to refer to later. For your staff, place these papers in 1-31 files.
  • Casual reading material: Create a portable version of ‘if would be nice if I had time’ reading file. Grab it when you can read it on the go.
  • Waiting for response file: File documents you are waiting for a response from someone. Clean out daily and file in 1-31 if necessary

Five Incoming “Documents”

  • Most paper comes into your workplace in one of five ways:
  • Paper: All mail, papers from work, travel, meetings and workshops
  • E-mail: On your e-mail or printed out on paper
  • Voice mail: Hand written from a phone message
  • Verbal requests: From the boss/coworker/client that ends up as paper
  • Your ideas: Your own projects/ideas in the form of paper, books and magazines

The Five Decisions

  • Narrow down your decisions by making one of five choices for all incoming documents
  • Discard/Delete: Basic premise to staying organized. Trust your judgment: do I have time to read, to take care of, or to waste on this?
  • Delegate/Forward: Should or can you delegate this to a coworker? It may not be done ‘your’ way, but it’s one less thing on your desk.
  • Take immediate action: If it takes 60 seconds (general guideline) or less to complete, do it now. This is another basic premise to staying organized.
  • To be filed: No action required, but needed for future reference. Place in one basket to file later in an uncomplicated filing system.
  • Needs follow-up: Additional work necessary


Vali Heist is a Professional Organizer, the owner of The Clutter Crew for homeowners, and a Certified GO System Trainer for businesses. She also writes a monthly column for the Reading Eagle called 'Ask the Organizer' and has a radio program called 'Organize This!' on BoomerGenerationRadio.com.

Vali's bachelor's degree is in Business Administration from Shippensburg University and her Master's Degree is in Higher Education from Kutztown University. Vali has an extensive background of 24 years in Higher Education including training, administration, project management, writing, and editorial production.

Her passion has always been organization and how it relates to the simplification of work and personal life in order to enjoy both to the fullest. Her ultimate goal is to continue finding simple, easy to implement ideas that work in the real world and pass them on to her clients.

Member Of:

  • Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Greater Philadelphia Chapter of National Association of Professional Organizers
  • National Association of Professional Organizers

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