How can you be expected to work amid paper clutter and chaos? Turn reams of paper into Action Files that will enable you to clear your desk and stay atop current projects - and life.
Conquer desktop clutter with action files
Action files enable you to unclutter your desk yet still keep reminders and current papers close at hand. Also known as working files, these files are usually separate from -- and in addition to - client, project, or reference files. Action files are for current or pending activities and miscellaneous things you must act on.
Action files must always be within easy reach-- ideally in a small desktop file holder that holds the file folders upright so the tabs are clearly visible. For added peace of mind, make a note in your calendar or scheduling software to remind you of important dates. This combats the "out of sight, out of mind" worry and lets you clear your desk without fearing you'll forget something important.
Suggested categories for Action Files:
- phone calls to return
- agenda for an upcoming staff meeting
- expenses to submit bills to pay
- papers to file
- business development ideas
- good ideas to try someday
- papers to photocopy
- current departmental & administrative matters
- pending health insurance claims
- your upcoming business trip
- tasks to delegate to your assistant
- conferences to register for
- matters to discuss with co-workers
- errands to run, gifts to buy, sale coupons
- things to discuss with your child's teacher or doctor
- pending (for example, letters you sent for which you must receive a reply
It's a challenge to keep track of everything you must discuss with co-workers involved in a project. Project folders are a good start, but each folder contains issues involving various people. You may have 4 issues, in 4 different project folders, to discuss with Sue. How can you remember them all when Sue phones?
A commonly-used method that doesn't work is to remove all papers to be discussed with Sue from their project folders, and put them in a pile - when Sue calls, you go through the pile. But this causes problems later because you don't have time to put the papers back in the folder.
The solution -- Use colored flags or sticky notes to 'sort' paper without removing it from its project folder. Use visual cues. If Sue's last name is Green, she gets the green flags. When you see a paper to be discussed with Sue, stick on a green flag. When Sue calls, reach for the green-flagged papers. (Remove the colored flag when you're done.) How about Bob, your co-worker who's always down in the dumps? Assign him blue tabs. (I don't recommend you tell people the reasons for your color choices!)
The benefits are many: You don't have to call Sue again because you forgot to ask her something. You spend less time moving paper around. And you won't misplace things.