Winning the Battle: Managing Email and Paper

Most of us have experienced frustration related to misplacing our car keys, an important file or a recently-purchased gift. Even more frustrating is replacing the item because we just can’t locate it. Research has shown the average person spends 150 hours each year looking for misplaced information. That amounts to nearly four work weeks!

Disorganization carries a high price at times. It wreaks havoc with our emotional well-being, causes stress in our homes and relationships, and sometimes even gets in the way of job opportunities.

As a female business owner, I struggle with balancing family and work on a daily basis. I have obligations to my customers as well as my husband and children.  For example, I may have a client meeting from 4-6 p.m. while at the same time I have a son who needs to be at football practice. Any time I’m able to remove chaos from work or home, I feel a little more in control and peaceful in my spirit. In other words, being organized helps me transform my life, not just my space.

Everyone desires work space that is functional, efficient and peaceful. By addressing the two key components of email and paper, you can take measures to protect against the threat of disorganization.

Email – While there’s no argument email has improved the way we do business, it has definitely brought complications with its sheer volume and potential for interruptions. Here are a few tips in managing email:

  • Allow yourself 15-20 minutes at the start of each day to skim over your Inbox. Make decisions quickly on as many as possible. Your options include: Delete, Forward, Save, File, Schedule an appointment or create a task for future attention.
  • Try to limit the amount of times you check your email to four to six times each day. For those of us addicted to email, this is easier said than done. A recent survey among cable television managers and executives showed they reported logging into email, on average, 16 times a day with one manager checking in a whopping 50 times.
  • If your email has become an Interrupter versus an Aid, consider shutting off any type of instant messaging service or at least turning your volume down. Interruptions lower productivity levels and email is no exception.
  • Set up appropriate folders in your Email Management Program. Making quicker decisions on email will be easier once you have the proper folders established. Because mail stored here still counts against your storage quota, look at these files as a temporary place to store emails related to current projects only.
  • If you’re pressed for storage space in your Email Management Program, consider savingnecessary and important emails and attachments as documents on your hard drive.  You will still need to delete the email from your Inbox once it’s saved to your hard drive.  Before saving emails in this way, check with your IT Department regarding any company policies addressing this practice.
  • If, because of security issues,  you’re in the habit of printing emails and other electronic documents, be assured most IT departments back up files on company servers regularly.  Unnecessary printing only adds to the amount of paper in your office. Question yourself as to the use of printed documents and the necessity to have both paper and electronic copies.

Paper Management – It’s been estimated we use 20% of our possessions 80% of the time. If we apply this to paper are we really only using 20% of the paper bulging from our filing cabinets? Hard to imagine, but quite possibly true.

Here are a few tips to implement in your quest to better manage the paper found in your office as well as on the kitchen counter:

  • To stay on top of the amount of paper that comes in daily, establish a system for receiving, reviewing and storing your daily mail. This may be a simple inbox sitting near or on your desk or an open file box sitting on the kitchen counter. The important thing is to have a specific place designated to hold incoming items.
  • When it comes to filing, I tell my clients “You file to retrieve. You do not file to store.” Files exist to aid us, not to deter us. I’m a perfect example of someone understanding the need for filing, but despising the task. Once I designated a specific place for all items to be filed, I gave myself permission to only file about once every six weeks.
  • Take a good look at your current files. Do you know the contents of all of your files?  Are others able to retrieve items in your absence?  Are they easily accessible with space for future growth? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, chances are you need to spend some time sorting and purging.
  • In the kitchen, use an open file box to hold files labeled School, Sports, Church, etc. When the kids bring home the soccer schedule, they’ll know right where it goes.  Retrieving it to check field locations or treat sign-ups will be a breeze.
  • Create a file for each child. They’ll love having a “home” for things they want to keep. This will also give them the responsibility for taking care of their possessions.

It’s difficult to put a price on efficiency and organization. But we all know the benefits of getting to appointments on time, being able to locate a child’s school permission slip or knowing what’s for dinner at the end of the day. When there’s less chaos, there’s less anxiety and stress…among spouses, at home and at work.

Managing email and paper is key in being able to experience an efficient workplace and home. As you develop systems to keep you organized on a daily basis, you will be able to transform your life, not just your space.

This article was created by the team at Organized Audrey. This material may be reprinted or reposted, but please credit the author and our website:

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