clutter

organizing your home office correspondence

simply stephen / February 2, 2010

In our last article, I discussed organizing your home office storage space. Next in the series of organizing your office is the need to keep on top of paper and correspondence.

8 quick tips to organize your mail

  1. Make sure that you read this article on reducing your junk mail
  2. To get your mail sorted quickly have an in and out basket
  3. Don’t let it pile up – get to it right away
  4. Personal letters can be read and responded to immediately if needed
  5. Invitations are often best on a bulletin board and should immediately go in your calendar
  6. Donations and solicitations should stay with bills if they are items of interest
  7. All other mail should remind you how badly you want to get off the mailing list Put them in the recycle bin immediately
  8. Eliminate catalogs by going to the online version.

how to handle your eMail

Email can be dealt with effectively by responding immediately and establishing a routine time to respond. Do not let your email pile up or respond to quickly and respond to non urgent stuff at a relaxed time to get it done quickly. Time limits are also important – for instance 20 minutes at 8am and 4pm. Here’s how to respond:

  • fill out the subject line
  • identify yourself and what you do (be brief and clear)
  • use proper grammar
  • only send emails to the people that really need it
  • make sure everything isn’t marked urgent
  • if you can set up templates for standard responses this will be a big time saver and can create effective messages
  • don’t try to be funny, sarcastic, angry or rude – it generally creates more work and you might regret it

Sorting is even more important. Like your filing cabinet, create folders or tags. The beauty of email is that there are many tools (email clients) that can capture all your email and automatically filter and forward different addresses to one box.

Reducing what you sign up for and using a junk mail account is guaranteed to take a chunk out of the volume. Use a spam blocker and don’t read jokes and junk.

paper, oh the paper

While the Internet has created a lot of extra information to digest it can actually reduce files:

  • Internet banking
  • ebills
  • email
  • information such as eBooks or documents

Files can generally be broken into three groups: – active that need attention (bills and papers for current activities), financial/business and personal files.

To smooth over the filing process sort your files with colour codes. A nice system is red for financial, yellow for active (easy to find), blue for business and green for personal. You could also use funny or project names to remember things. Label files and date papers or notes to make it easier. Keep each file in chronological order so it is easy to remove papers once they are no longer needed.

Avoid paper clips as they can get stuck and use a stapler if needed. Do your filing often and it will be an quick task.

Tip – leave at least 3 inches in the cabinet – don’t stuff.

The quicker you automate and pay your bills on time, the less time needed in the long run. Throwing away items as you process and avoid piling it up – file it instead. Try spending just a couple minutes at the end of the day while you clear up your desk. Be ruthless you need much less than you think – every month throw out bank slips, credit card receipts and small receipts that you can’t deduct on your taxes.

Most bills, bank and utility statements can be thrown out after a couple years (but why not get them electronically). Pay stubs can be tossed once you have calculated your taxes. Tax files should generally be kept for 7 years but consult with your accountant. If a file becomes large, break it into smaller files or throw some stuff out if possible.

Assignment – choose one area of correspondence and organize it. rinse and repeat all week (or month) until it is all organized. Then you will have created habits.

That is more than enough for you to digest. Just take it slowly and work towards getting 10 minutes done every day.

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