The writer, born in Israel, earned an MS in TV and radio production in New York. After 25 years she has moved back to Israel. With this move in mind, she studied to become a professional organizer and belongs to the National Association of Professional Organizers.
The New Year is always a time for new resolutions, or for putting into practice some of those old ones that have been haunting us all year long. Most people feel they are not organized enough because their lives are so busy, especially in this country where there are no "Sundays" on which to catch up with chores.
Most of us have to deal with paper both at home and at work, and in most cases, when we think of getting organized, we usually think of our paperwork as our Number One organizing priority. Once the decision has been taken, the first step is to determine the paper management goals and priorities.
For example, goals could be to computerize information to handle backlog paper, or manage current paper. It is best to start with current paper.
Handling current paper
The main idea in resolving paper clutter is to have it moving on. The way to do this is to categorize papers by the next action that needs to be taken with them. Helpful categories could be: to read, to call, computer work, for another person, to toss, to pay, to file or to do.
If possible, do what needs to be done immediately so that you handle each piece of paper as few times as possible.
As far as bill payments, it is recommended to pay each one of them as soon as possible. This does not mean that you need to run to the bank at that moment. What it does mean is that in order to save time you can set aside a convenient day once a week, or two days a month when you pay your bills.
File all unpaid bills together, so that you don't need to look for each one of them when you pay your bills. Make sure each paid bill is marked as paid including date paid. Once your bills are paid file them in set categories and then by dates.
When filing paperwork It is best to set categories. Categories should be first broad, and than more specific. For instance: Home: Bills, Utility Bills, Electric, Phone, Land Line, Cell Phone, International Phone Call bills etc; Finances: Investments, Insurance, Car Insurance; Health: Each family member should have a separate folder or section for their medical records. Then subcategories could be: Test results; by type and by date, receipts sorted by service and date, and in the same way file diagnosis and referrals.
Handling backlog papers
When handling backlog paper you are most likely looking at piles that you wish to eliminate. The way to do this is the same as dealing with current papers. It is best to handle one pile at a time or by limiting a set time to go through several ones so it does not get overwhelming. Make sure you have a waste basket near you.
Some helpful questions to ask are:
Do I really need this?
Must I keep it for any purpose?
What is the worst thing that could happen if I toss it?
Do I need to do something with it?
Do I have it on the computer?
The most important thing to do is to reduce the amount of paper coming in. To do this:
Remove yourself from mailing lists.
Discontinue subscription to publications that you no longer read.
Ask yourself if you really need to print out an item and where you will keep the print out before you print it from your computer.
Avoid duplications of printed materials, meaning that if you have more of one of the same, let go of excess.
Avoid keeping any materials printed from the computer if they are still accessible on it.
Try to enter information such as phone numbers and notes on to the computer, always making sure you back up material on the computer.
Getting organized is a process and it may require a commitment. However, the goal is not be "totally organized," the goal should be to apply small tips and take small steps and actions to start with. Dedicate a short time each day to getting organized and that will make you more organized in the future.
Good luck and Shana Tova.
Next article: "How to manage your time when you have a home-based business."
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