That maxim, “Handle each piece of paper only once,” is too extreme to be realistic. But it contains a grain of truth. Do try to take the next action that’s required each time you handle a piece of paper. Either action directly or make a note in your appointment book/master-to-do list, to follow up/call later. Then you’re that much closer to being done with it.
- Get focussed. Often we are own worst enemies, interrupting ourselves by jumping from one half-finished task to another. Stop doing “the desktop shuffle” – moving papers aimlessly around on your desk. Every time you handle an item, take an action towards completing it.
- Write down & group your communications with individuals. Share these communication lists at one or two planned times during the day.
- Process your messages/email & other paperwork once or twice each day at planned times.
- Computer files should be organised in file folders just like your paper or e-mail filing system for simplicity & ease of retrieval. Aim to keep your in-box empty. Archive all up till now, for ease & a clean slate. Use the ‘flag option’ in Outlook to choose dates as reminders…If the e-mail can be done in two minutes or less, take action & complete it. Others may be dragged to the appropriate computer folder such as URGENT Folder, Important Folder, or PendingFolder. When finished processing e-mails, your inbox should be totally empty.
- Clean out & remove all unnecessary, closed, or unused files every six months (In your filing cabinet & in your PC)
- Schedule appointments with yourself to get things done. Commit to spending time on the things you keep “not getting around to.” When are you at your best & freshest – first thing in the morning maybe? – try to tackle the trickiest jobs then.
- Beware of perfectionism. Most routine work doesn’t need to be done perfectly. Ask yourself — Is your effort disproportionate to the value of the task? Will other, more important projects be delayed as a result? Can you reduce the frequency or level of detail of this task?