What do I mean when I say “time management?” Time is impossible to manage! It just keeps on ticking no matter what we do. When I talk about organizing your time, I’m really talking about priorities. You can’t manage time, but you can certainly manage what you DO with your time.
YOU get to choose what you do each day (within reason), and that means you have some decisions to make! But what do you spend your time on?
Finding your Priorities
If you don’t take a moment and take stock of how you spend your time, it’s easy to fall into a routine that includes lots of wasted time. Keep a quick diary of what you do for a normal week (what you REALLY do, not what you think you should do), and at the end of the week look at how you’ve spent your time. Was there anything you wanted to do but couldn’t get to? What could you cut out of next week to give you the space for important activities?
Have you ever had a pile of papers that defied being labeled? Or perhaps you’re worried that if you do file that important piece of paper, you’ll never find it again in your cavernous filing system. Yet some people seem to be able to put their hands on any piece of paper they are looking for within seconds. What are their secrets for labeling files?
Create one overall system and stick to it. If you forget what categories you have in your filing system, create an index so you can scan the index to file and find items.
Email–a blessing and a curse. It’s a wonderful way to reach someone without having to play phone tag. It’s a wonderful way to deliver necessary information. And it’s also an easy way for other people to send you the information they want to send you. Work reports that don’t actually pertain to your work. Marketing from a store that you bought one thing from 3 years ago and you might go back to one day. Reply-alls from well-meaning individuals in a group email. And spam! Managing it all can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help you stay on top of your email.
Limit what comes in
It’s so easy to sign up for interesting and useful newsletters and subscriptions. Set up a separate email address for your newsletters and subscriptions that you can check on your schedule, not theirs. Be judicious about who you give your primary email address to. Use a spam service that automatically reduces the amount of spam you have coming into your inbox.
Filing paperwork is crucial because it allows you to find things quickly and easily. Here are some tips for creating a great filing system.
Having a standardized terminology for your files keeps search time to a minimum, with both digital and physical files. For physical files, use consistent dates and names. For digital files, include multiple search terms in your file name to allow for faster retrieval.
Paper Files: 5-20 Items Rule of Thumb
Use cascading hierarchies when creating your paper files. For instance, you could keep all your insurances together in one hanging folder and have the paperwork for the individual policies in separate interior folders.
If you have fewer than five items in one category, that’s a sign that you could condense it with another. More than twenty items should be split up into subcategories. For instance, say you have files relating to places you want to travel to. If you only want to go to New Zealand and visit Lord of the Rings locations, you only need one folder. If you want to go to every state in the US and have paperwork about each state you want to visit, then a folder for each state will be helpful. This helps avoid overstuffed folders that are difficult to look through and avoids having unnecessary folders as well. Using labeling, color coding, or different locations for these categories makes them easy to see at a glance.
Action items are a type of paperwork that needs attention, like reminders of appointments, or a bill that’s coming due.
One common mistake people make when organizing their paperwork is keeping action items out to help them remember. Put away the paper and keep the reminder. Keeping an action item on your desk leads to clutter. Have a specific place for action items, so you know where to look for them when it is time to take that action.
Have a reminder system in place. You can set a reminder on your phone, write it in a paper planner, or use one of the action item systems below, and put the paper away.
Use the 2-minute rule – if it will take less than 2 minutes to do it, do it now. It’s not worth your time to file it. Set the reminder, and find it again – just do it!
Why organize your paperwork? Organizing your paperwork clears piles of paper cluttering your space, helps you find information efficiently, keeps you on top of bills and to-dos, and avoids late fees, missed deadlines, and wasting time. Organize your paperwork to reduce stress, have a clear mind and focus on what matters.
The first step toward fully organized paperwork is to sort. When we are clearing someone’s desk, we use the RAFTS system: Recycle, Action, File, Trash/Treasure, and Shred.
Any paperwork you no longer need that doesn’t contain sensitive information can be recycled. This includes things like advertisements, takeout menus, old Post-It notes, or junk mail.