Peer-to-Peer: I'm drowning in paperwork. What can I do?

Written by ProfitGuide Staff


“I’m drowning in paper and struggling with creating a file system that can cope with it. Subjects include clients, projects, market data, product data, R&D, financial, etc. Is there a proven file system or a resource who can point me in the right direction? My homemade efforts seem to get overwhelmed too quickly.”

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Reader responses

Islay McGlynn:

While I don’t have a comprehensive answer to the overall filing problem, one recommendation I do have is for dealing with paper that can’t be actioned right away but also can’t be forgotten about. I have a “BF” system (BF stands for Bring Forward) which allows me to get paper off my desk until the date when it needs to be actioned. Simply buy an accordian file with 31 spaces or set up 31 files — one file for each day of the month. Then file your “BFs” under the date when you need to action the memo, letter etc. Each morning either you or an administrative assistant pulls the BFs for that day. The beauty of the system is that you can BF items for days, months and years ahead — just ensure that when the BFs are pulled that they are for the right month and year. Also ensure that on Monday morning the BF files for the prior Saturday and Sunday are checked.

This is an effective way to cope with some of the endless paper that crosses my desk

Lynn Riendeau, Surrey, BC:

One way to organize your files is to have a section called ADMINISTRATION and a section called OPERATIONS. The Administration section would include marketing, product data, R&D, and finances. And the Operations section would include practical applications — client files, projects… Colour coding helps you find your files quickly. It is a good idea to set up your electronic files along the same lines as your paper files. If you do not have the time to get all this organized yourself, or if you would rather be doing the work you really love, there are professionals who can do it for you. I would be glad to recommend one.

Alberto Quiroz, Toronto, ON:

The best filing cabinet is the Trash can!!! Yes, as you receive any paper review it ONLY ONCE, and decide immediately if you will need it or not. Most papers filed are rarely reviewed ever after. Usually forgotten. Why keep paper if you are not going to need it? So

  • If you see no future value or relevance THROW IT AWAY.
  • If has relevance or you think you might need it in the future decide right there what to do with it.

The bring forward method is a good way of organizing yourself. Attach a note with the date and keep them in chronological order. If after receiving the information you are interested, but do not have the time to deal with it right away, make an appointment with your file. Then review it again and TAKE ACTION. After that go back to # 1.

Always ask yourself, “What will be the ECONOMIC IMPACT of throwing this away?” Whatever it is, if you come to need it again someone else has kept it for you, either the person who sent it or your local library or the internet.

Keeping things simple is the most efficient way of filing. It will free up a lot of your time.

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Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com