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Ask a Professional Organizer: Organizing Paperwork

Organizing paperwork in your office can be a challenge, especially if the piles are overwhelming and you aren’t sure where to start. This month your NYC Professional Office Organizer is answering frequently asked questions about getting your office paperwork organized.

Q: I struggle with getting rid of paperwork in my office. How can I feel more confident about getting rid of the excess paper without worrying that I’ll need it at a later date?
A: Many people are challenged by this very issue. However, it is important to address the paper piles and file, shred or recycle all the excess papers. The most important question to ask yourself so that you clear the paper clutter is “where can I get this information if it’s needed in the future”. Identify the source of the information…. Did you get it from a colleague, family member or friend? Did you find it online and in another resource? Once you realize that you’ll be able to easily get the information again be needed, you can more confidently discard the paperwork.

Q: I’ve setup an inbox on my desk that has helped manage the flow of paper in my home. However, now I’m not sure of the best strategy for sorting through my inbox. It’s easy to ignore and now I find that I’m letting the papers pile up. How can I create a system for this?
A: Congrats on setting up the inbox! You would be surprised by the number of my clients who haven’t done this. The first challenge with an inbox is being sure to collect all other mail, paperwork and reading material in it. It sounds like you’re on the right path. Depending on the volume of stuff that collects each day, I would suggest scheduling time daily or at least 3 times per week to sort the pile. Until this becomes a habit, block 5-10 minutes on your calendar towards the end of the day or during a low energy time and quickly sort the pile. I suggest doing this later in the day so that any tasks that need to be done can be added to the to-do list that you’re creating for the next morning.

Q: I share an office with my team, and we utilize a shared filing cabinet. We are struggling because we don’t all file the same way and we keep losing documents. How can we create a system that makes this easier for us?
A: In order to create a more effective and efficient filing system, I would recommend having a brief team meeting to create the parameters for your group’s filing system. The objective should be to create a simple system that everyone follows and that can be easily taught to new staff. Discuss what’s working/not working, file categories, file naming protocols, retention guidelines, color coding and any other relevant specifics. Document your decisions. Once the system is set, re-organize the files and apply the new guidelines. Assign a high priority to this task so that it is promptly completed, and everyone can proceed with using the system as needed.

For more paper organizing strategies, reach out to your NYC Professional Office Organizer today! And if you have a question for a Professional Organizer, you can submit one here and maybe you’ll see your question featured on an upcoming blog.

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