Monday, September 03, 2012

How to manage your paperwork... that it doesn't manage you.  

I wish I had taken pics when I began this journey at the end of July.  I have a very large dining room table and it was completely covered in paperwork.  I had so much paperwork I was completely paralyzed.  Think complete and total mental and emotional meltdown paralyzing.     

So here are the steps I took to conquer my paperwork. 

First, I purchased cute file folders.  Some that made me smile and think happy thoughts.  Might seem ridiculous, but it gives me something to look forward to as I pull out paperwork and work on it.  I did find them on sale for a very incredible low price.  It takes a total of 22 file folders to set up your system exactly as i have it.

Next I used my handy, dandy label maker to created January-December labels, Monday-Friday labels and Week 1-5 labels.  I used two expanding files that I already owned and loved.  To hold my monthly/weekly folders I use a 12 pocket plaid one and to hold my daily files I use a 7 pocket solid one.

Now that the fun part was done i got down to business.  The first thing I did was divide all of my paperwork into major general categories: bills, medical, my special needs son, farm, school and misc

Next I laid out the 12 monthly file folders.  I took each stack of papers and went through every single piece of paper and made a decision.  If I knew that the item had a definite future action (ie March 2013) I put it on top of that months file folder.  If it didn't have a future action but did require action I put it on top of July (because that is the month this all started for me). Finally I was left with this misc stack.  You know you have one.  Items ripped out of magazines, business cards collected, dates to remember, notes jotted on scrap paper, etc.  I set this aside because I had special plans for it (not the trash).  I then put the monthly file folders in the expanding file folder- two months per slot. 

Next i pulled out the current month.  So to begin I started with July, but my pictures will show September.  When i started this I had two and a half weeks left in the month.

Then I pulled out my five weekly folders.  Since I knew i didn't need Week 1 and 2 I filed those away. Knowing I had such little time left in the month I got real with myself.  I took my stack of papers and divided into two stacks- Emergency and non emergency.  You have two understand that my emergency pile was over two inches thick.  

I took the non emergency stack and put it in my August file folder.  Next I took my emergency stack and started prioritizing.  I had to realize my time restraints based on other priorities around me that didn't involve paperwork.   so I divided my emergencies in half.  The first half went into Week 3 and the second half went into Week 4.  I reserved week 5 for carry over since it only had a couple of days.  I filed my weekly file folders in front of my monthly file folders. 
Next I pulled the current week.  And took a deep breath.  While this all sounds super time consuming.  It is only time consuming in setting up the system and going through everything the first time.  This morning i went through September, divided into weekly folders and divided this weeks folder into the daily folders, took pictures for this blog and it might have taken me 20 minutes. 

So next I lay out my daily file folders and start sorting my weekly paperwork.  This is how it looks for me.  Bills automatically go on Thursday because Thursday is payday.  If anything related to an appointment I put it on the day of the appointment.  If I have anything pending from the previous week (ie waiting on return phone call, waiting for something in the mail) I automatically put that on Monday.  If I know I have appointments I try to limit the paperwork I assign to those days so i don't overwhelm myself.  If I am working on a special project that isn't a top priority I set that for Friday because that tends to be a light school day. After I have everything divided up for the week I put that in my expandable file for my daily file folders.  
Each morning when I get to my desk I pull the days file folder, set aside pending items and wait for either the mail to arrive and then handle or a return call.  If the mail comes and I don't get the info needed to complete the paperwork process then I quickly file it until the next day.  If I get to the end of my desk day and haven't received a return phone call I decide whether I have time (based on other activities I have going)to handle making a call or deferring until the next day.  So the rest of my daily items I handle as quickly as possible in the morning or if it is a more time consuming project I will handle it while we are taking a school break.

I know this post has grown terribly long so I will talk about the "misc" stack in another post.  If you have any questions just post them below and i will answer them as quickly as possible.  

View Part 2 here 
Answers to questions are here


Patti said...

What a neat system! My questions: Do you have desk time 7 days a week? How does that look in your daily schedule (ie when and for how long)? Is that day's file empty when you end your desk time? Thanks for sharing!

Brandi in TX said...

Patti, here is the link to the post answering your questions

if you think of anymore please keep them coming.