Nothing will ruin your focus and productivity faster than paper clutter! But there are a couple of tools that will help you to eliminate paper piles from your workspace, so you can make the most of your business building time. In today’s post, I’m sharing all about the 4 powerful tools that keep my office paper clutter free!
4 Powerful Tools That Keep My Office Paper Clutter Free
One of the biggest office organization struggles is paper clutter. Disorganized paper clutters up our work spaces, adds frustration and stress to our already busy lives, and significantly decreases our productivity.
But you don’t have to suffer with paper clutter any longer!
By effectively using a few powerful tools you can kick those teetering paper piles to the curb.
In today’s post, I’m sharing the four powerhouse tools that helped me conquer paper clutter once and for all, how I use each one to stay paper-clutter free, and how they work together to help me make the most of my business building time!
How I Finally Conquered Paper Clutter
Before we get into the specific tools that help me stay paper-clutter free, I wanted to talk a little about how I finally kicked my paper piles to the curb.
When I hit my breaking point with paper clutter, the first thing I did was round up every last piece of paper in my home office. I dumped them all in
a bin several bins until I could formulate my next step.
This gave me a fresh view and a new perspective. I hadn’t realized how much paper clutter was interfering with my ability to complete important work tasks. I was wasting hours every week shuffling piles or searching for items I knew I had somewhere. Something had to change….
After rounding up all the papers in my home office, I sorted them into four main categories: to do, to file, to read, and trash/recycle/shred. Sticking with these four basic categories kept me from getting overwhelmed and made my sorting decisions easier and faster.
If you’re drowning in paper, then you have some foundational work to complete before the tools in today’s post can help you streamline the flow of paper into your office.
I highly recommend that you start with the first post in my Organize Your Files Week series: The First Step to Conquer Home Office Paper Clutter.
Follow the steps in each post in the series to start clearing out your paper clutter. Once you’ve done that, you can come back here and implement the additional tools in today’s post!
If you’ve made a dent in the paper clutter in your office and you’re ready to take it to the next level, then you’re in the right place. It’s time to talk about the 4 powerful tools that KEEP my office paper clutter free!
4 Powerful Tools That Keep My Office Paper Clutter Free
These tools will help you to continue clearing the paper clutter from your home office and make the routines necessary to stay paper-clutter free more manageable.
Action files (also called current files) hold all of the papers that require my attention or that require me to do something, and they’re my strongest line of defense against paper clutter.
At any one time, my action files are filled with:
- forms that need signed
- meeting or course notes that need reviewed
- proposal requests that need fulfilled
- the information I need to complete a client report
- computer and data entry information
- random projects that don’t have external deadlines
- paper items on which I need to follow up (requesting to receive paperless statements, auto recalls, etc)
- notes about how I want to tweak or change my business systems
- papers associated with in-progress projects
Basically, the items in my action files are all of those random papers that used to clutter up my desk and office. You know, the ones you never know what to do with or where to put them!
These are all the papers from my “To Do” pile mentioned above.
Now, those random “To Do” papers not only have a place to live, but I have built in blocks of time during which I actually deal with those papers!
Revolutionary, I know! 😉
You can learn more about how to create your own action files and how to create a routine around processing the items in them in this post: How to Use Action Files to Manage To-Do’s.
An Effective Filing System
The second of the 4 powerful tools that keep my office paper clutter free is an effective filing system.
The key word here is effective.
If you don’t use it or can’t use it, then your filing system is a waste of space!
Your filing system has to work for YOU.
You can create a filing system that works for you by throwing out everything you’ve been told about how to set up a filing system. Instead create folder names that make sense to YOU and how you’ll use the information you’re filing!
Another revolutionary idea! 😉
For example, I don’t file my mileage trackers in an “Auto” or “Vehicle” folder. I file them in my current year’s tax folder, because that’s how I’ll use that information (to file taxes).
Here’s another example: I file all of my planning printables in a single folder called “Planning,” because that’s what I use them for.
As you’re filing, be sure to:
- Use file names that make sense to you!
- File papers based on how you’ll USE them.
And one final tip for creating an effective filing system: locate it within arm’s reach of your desk, if possible. Just think how efficient it will be to file items as you’re sitting at your desk working instead of letting them pile up on your desk!
Be sure to check out this post to learn more about creating an effective filing system: How to Construct a Filing System That Works for You.
The Office Inbox
Are you sick of reading about the office inbox?
I talk about it all. the. time.
But there’s good reason for it: it’s the single, most powerful paper clutter busting tool in my home office!
Your office inbox is the catch-all filter for any paper item entering your office. It’s kind of like a net that surrounds your workspace, and it will keep paper piles off your desk and control the flow of information into your work space, so you stop missing things (business, family, and household).
And, when paired with a simple and doable office inbox management routine, your office inbox is the top dog of paper clutter-busting tools!
To learn more about the office inbox, set one up for yourself, and establish a simple inbox management routine, check out these posts:
- 8 Reasons You Need a Home Office Inbox
- My Favorite Home Office Paper Clutter Busting Tool
- 5 Easy Ways to Set Up a Home Office Inbox
See? I told you I talk about the office inbox a lot! 🙂
Okay, the final item in the 4 powerful tools that keep my office paper clutter free are 3-ring binders.
Versatile, inexpensive, available pretty much everywhere, portable, and infinitely customizable, binders are paper clutter busting ROCKSTARS!
Currently, there are 14 binders in use in my home office. Yep, FOURTEEN!
They’re one of the first tools I turn to when I need to store and organize papers.
But, I only use binders for papers that I reference frequently.
Papers I need once a year at tax time? Those go in my filing system.
Papers that require an action on my part (ie, a form that needs completed)? Those go in my action files.
Are you starting to see how these 4 tools work together?
The reference materials I keep in my office binders include:
- Business papers
- Educational materials
- Ebooks and workbooks
- Printable planners
- Paper-heavy special projects
I use some of my binders so frequently that they have a space all to themselves on my office bookshelf!
How These Tools Work Together to Keep My Office Free of Paper Clutter
Let’s talk a little more about how these tools work together to keep my office free of paper clutter.
A paper item enters my office, let’s use a piece of mail as an example:
- The item of mail lands in my inbox, because all paper items are filtered through my inbox FIRST.
- During my inbox management routine time, I open the piece of mail and see it’s an invitation to a small outdoor family party. I put it in my family action file, because I need to share the details with everyone in my immediate family, see who can attend, then follow up with my sister with our RSVP.
- On Saturday morning, I pull out my family action file (because everyone is home at that time), see the invitation, and talk to my family about it. I make a note on the invitation regarding which family members can attend, add the event information to our family calendar, then file the invitation in my “To Follow Up” action file.
- On Monday morning, during my action file time block, I grab my “To Follow Up” action file, pull out the invitation, then email my sister with our RSVP.
- Finally, I file the invitation in my filing system (in an “Upcoming Events” file) just in case I need to refer to the invitation for any reason.
Let’s go through this process with one more item, just for giggles. Indulge me…I’m an organization nerd. 😉
This time, let’s follow a piece of paper on which I wrote notes from a conference call with a client:
- I could put the notes in my inbox, but instead I put it directly into my “Client Current Projects” action file. Since I’m currently holding the notes in my hand and know where they need to go, I don’t need to put it in my inbox. Make sense?
- During my action file processing time block, I pull out my “Client Current Projects” action file and the notes, complete a couple of quick tasks highlighted on the notes (sending an email and updating a contact number), then add additional tasks to Trello.
- Finally, I file the item in my client’s folder in my filing system.
These examples demonstrate how I use these tools to keep my office free of paper clutter. There’s a system in place for storing, organizing, holding, and processing paper items, no matter where they enter or exit the process!
4 Powerful Tools That Keep My Office Paper Clutter Free
You don’t have to resign yourself to a home office full of paper clutter any longer! By effectively using a few powerful tools, you can kick paper clutter to the curb once and for all!
In today’s post, I shared sharing the four powerhouse tools that helped me conquer paper clutter once and for all:
- Action Files
- An Effective Filing System
- A Home Office Inbox
- And 3-Ring Binders
I also shared how I use each of these tools to stay paper-clutter free and how they work together to help me make the most of my business building time.
Disorganized paper clutters up our offices, adds frustration and stress to our already busy lives, and significantly decreases our productivity. But you by utilizing these four powerful tools, you can say buh-bye to paper clutter and make the most of your business building time!
If you enjoyed today’s post, you might find these related posts helpful:
- Tips for Setting Up a Home Office Filing System
- A No-Nonsense Monthly Bookkeeping Routine
- How to Organize Absolutely Anything at Work
Is paper clutter a problem in your home office? What tips do you have for dealing with it? What other items contribute most significantly to the clutter in your home office?
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Thanks for joining me today!