Need some help with paper and email organization? These 5 tips can help you be the master of all those paper piles and email chains.
1. Keep a recycling bin (however aesthetically pleasing you like) and shredding bin near where you sort through your mail and papers. Usually, I spot a recycling bin in the kitchen, and that’s it. Adding one at your desk or paper landing zone can make a significant difference in paper piles stacking up. And with the bins right there, you just may be more inclined to let go of even more potential paper clutter.
2. Consider using Google Inbox instead of Google Gmail. It’s the same as Gmail, except your mail is clumped for you into categories. This way, I can delete a bunch of “Social”, “Promos”, and “Updates” messages in one fell swoop. I just click a check mark above the category. (if you do want to keep one of these messages in your inbox, there’s a pin icon to click, which “pins” it down to your inbox). It’s just like the recycling bin placed right near your paper zone - streamlining the de-cluttering process to make it more likely to happen on a regular basis.
3. Limit newspapers, magazines & catalogs to a certain age limit or certain finite amount of space. This type of paper is meant to be read or processed within a short time frame. If you find you don’t keep up with reading/processing your newspapers, magazines, or catalogs, don’t beat yourself up. Decide right here and now how many weeks (two?) or months (one?) you will keep this type of paper, and if it has expired you can let it go! Or, limit yourself to the number of periodicals that can fit into a particular bin or drawer of your choosing. Once the receptacle is full, it’s time to let some go.
4. Limit the number of newsletters you receive in your inbox. Here’s a question: Do you even know how many newsletters you subscribe to? There are only so many hours in a day and only so much information you can process in a day, and we are all seeking more peace and white space. This is your life and you are allowed to be in control of how much information is being thrown at you. The next time a newsletter pops up in your inbox that you feel “meh” about, consider unsubscribing until you’re only left with the ones you love, if any at all!
5. Prevent paper piles. To further prevent hodgepodge paper piles, be ready to containerize with something like this in your home paper area:
Label each drawer to your needs (Urgent, Action item, To File, Bills, are common needs), and systematically process the drawers, one at a time, on a regular basis. This way, you are preventing paper piles, can measure (based on how full the drawers are) how on top of things you are, and you can complete the same tasks altogether - such as filing everything at once.
6. Aim to keep an empty inbox (bear with me here) by using a “Pending” file and putting all unsorted emails into labeled files. This system is from Karen Kingston, and she’s right in pointing out how satisfying it is to leave work with an EMPTY inbox each day. If an email takes less than 2 minutes to respond to, do it now (that’s David Allen). If an email requires a few steps/back and forth, put it in your “Pending” file and archive it once the transaction is complete. For all your other emails, if you’re not wanting to delete them, then organize them into chronological files labeled “July 2021 Emails”, “August 2021 Emails”, etc. Just like having a clear, pile-free desk, having a clear, up-to-date inbox will work wonders for your mental clarity and focus.