Thursday, April 3, 2008

How to handle paperwork?

Create a block of time during non-prime hours to handle paperwork. Schedule this in your planner and stick to it.

Sort through and handle the papers in your in-basket no more than twice a day.

Never handle a piece of paper more than once. Avoid the "I'll just put this here for now" habit.
Throw away previous drafts. They serve no purpose.

For items that will reach you, ask your assistant to a) sort it according to urgency, b) highlight important aspects, such as magazine articles and c) attach relevant files or information.

Ask subordinates to submit recommendations along with important reports. Nothing should be sent to you without a summary or indicated action.

Limit the length of letters, recommendations, responses, meeting requests and other correspondence to one page.

Try not filling out redundant sections of forms, to see if anyone is really using them.

Ask people if reports they prepare (or you prepare) are really necessary. Prepare them only when needed, not as a regular routine.

Don't keep copies of all your requests to others, unless there are legal or personnel reasons to do so.

Do something with every piece of paper that reaches you and put it in its proper place ­ not just back on the pile.

Handle routine requests or tasks immediately whenever you can.

Cut back on sending memos. Use a phone call instead.

Reduce the number of memos you keep. After all, memos are primarily for short-term information. Record the information you need and toss the memo.

Don't keep business cards tucked away in a drawer. Enter them on a contact manager database, and then throw out the card.

Create different file folders:

Reading files for long reports and magazines. If you read everything when it arrives, you will never get through your in-basket.
Personal file for those wacky inter-office jokes you want to keep (but will probably never look at again)
Training file for useful items on personal or professional development
Supplier file for information on products and services
Files for each subordinate for items to pass on or discuss
Invoices to pay
Upcoming events to attend
One folder for each subordinate and for your manager
One for each major project you're working on

Throw out last month's copy of a magazine when this month's copy arrives. If you must save them, only keep a year's worth. Stop subscriptions to magazines and newspapers you don't read anymore. This saves you money as well as time and guilt.

Schedule major reading for twice a week during non-priority times. Try reading on the subway, bus or train, while waiting for appointments, or at breakfast instead of reading the paper.

When you find items you keep putting off reading, ask "How likely am I to read this and how valuable is this information?" Throw it out.

Extra storage space ends up getting filled up quickly. Try reducing or throwing out extra paperwork collectors. Limit your stacking trays to two: one for incoming papers and the other for outgoing papers.

Reduce your credit cards to one per adult, two if you use one for home and one for work. This reduces statements and bill-paying time.

Reduce your bank accounts, if you have several. If you find yourself dealing with multiple bank statements every month, this is a good place to start.

Pay bills by automatic deduction. Most utility bills can be handled this way.

Put all your receipts in a small envelope. Sort through them every month or every quarter.

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