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How to Decide What Papers to Keep

Have you ever sat looking at the piles of papers surrounding you and wondered where to start? While you may be tempted to feed them through the shredder without looking twice, that isn’t the best approach. Sorting the piles is the first step to clearing them. The question is how to decide what papers to keep. What to do with the papers? Where to put them?  It’s time to make decisions. Here are 3 questions that will help you reduce the piles of papers that have been collecting on your desk. Once you’ve cleared the stacks, use these questions to prevent future piles.

Why do I need this? If there is a clear and definitive reason for keeping a specific document, then you probably need it. Legal and financial documents are good examples of documents that you may need to keep in hard copy. Other items like pads or notebooks from the last couple of years containing your daily notes usually don’t need to be kept. The most you may want to do is to quickly review the contents before tossing them.

Does action need to be taken?  This is an easy way to separate those papers that are needed from those that are not. Look for those documents where some type of action is going to be required. Start with those documents that must be kept and should be filed. In other cases, the paper is a reminder that you need to make a call, send an email, do some research or confer with a colleague. Different types of action… but good reasons to keep the paperwork at least until you can add the task to your to-do list.

Where can I get another copy?  If you know where the information can be found should you need it in the future, then it will be easier to toss or shred the paperwork. Keep in mind that a lot of information is easily accessible online. Hence, there is no need to keep back issues of publications that you haven’t had a chance to read. As for reports drafted by colleagues or provided by a legal or financial advisor, they will have copies. Just as long as you know the name of the person who created the original, you can always get another copy.

These questions are how to decide what papers to keep. As you file those documents that need to be kept, be sure to update your retention checklist so that it will continue to be a valuable tool in managing your paperwork. Have you been struggling with clearing the paper piles? I would be happy to share 2 additional tips with you. Reach out now.

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