PAPERWORK Making molehills out of mountains
The idea of a paperless society may have been predicted in George Orwell’s 1984 – but we are still a long way off achieving it. Most of us regularly go into battle with our paperwork. Letters, quotes and information arrive in the post, colleagues give us print-outs, and, of course, we print out stuff too. I used to wish for all of my paperwork to be dealt with: to have no paperwork outstanding. But then I realised that if this ever became true, it would be because I had too much time and not enough business keeping me busy! So it's not about having no paperwork, it's about having a process so that the outstanding paperwork is manageable - a molehill of papers instead of a mountain is very desirable.
I have a good system to manage my paperwork – but I’m not infallible. Over the last few weeks I have been busier than usual and so last week I had the experience of going through my mountain of ‘unprocessed’ papers many times. Each time I thumbed through it, I was aware of my frustration and the waste of my time. It also left me feeling slightly out of control. Yesterday after finally catching-up, I vowed (again!) to keep on top of it.
In an ideal world we would deal with all of our paperwork on a daily basis. In the real world it’s often not possible. No-one has every said to me: “Jennie, I love sorting my paperwork out!” For almost everybody, it feels like a chore. But not doing it costs time, energy and sometimes money if unpaid bills hidden in the pile start to incur additional costs.
And paperwork isn't just confined to the office. At home are you clear on who deals with what? If you are the one dealing with all of the paperwork, is that OK with you? Or would you like your spouse/partner to take over some of it for you? I know it isn’t the sexiest of subjects, but talk about it. Decide who does what and when.
If you are in business is there someone else who would make a better job of looking after the paperwork than you? Consider what it’s costing you to be tied up in admin vs. not doing your ‘real’ work. If you are a one-man-band, know these days there are virtual assistants and agencies that offer this type of help: you don’t need to employ someone to get help with your paperwork and admin.
Sometimes having an interim filing system helps rather than just letting one pile grow. I do this. I have several coloured ‘clear’ plastic slip files – each one for different things. My blue one for example is for money stuff – any invoices in the post go straight into this file. This process means there are less unsorted papers to go through at any one time. If I am looking for an invoice – I know to go straight to the blue file. When I’m ready to deal with my invoices, bills and bank statements they are already in one place.
Finally, I know this sounds so obvious, but it's often overlooked – allocate a time and/or a day for sorting paperwork - and stick to it. As I said most people don’t enjoy doing this, but leaving it until it reaches crisis point makes the chore seem even bigger than it is. By allocating a time on a regular basis means you stay on top of the paperwork, and it stays as a well-managed mole-hill and not a mountain on the verge of an avalanche!
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