From the President's Desk:
Preventing Paperwork Disease by Marion E. Gold, IWPA President
Did you know that nearly 70% of working hours are spent preparing, reading, recording, interpreting, filing and maintaining more than 30 billion pieces of paper, not to mention all the photocopying?
Business Week once called the wastebasket "man's [make that woman's] best friend aside from the dog." But if you are anything like me, you are loath to discard anything. Moving my office forced me to decide which papers to keep, and which to toss. As a committed collector of direct mail, I also had to decide which mailing lists to stay on.
As I packed, packed some more, and unpacked, I came across a set of rules I had tucked away on "preventing paperwork disease."
Rule 1: Toss
Next time you think about saving an item, ask yourself: what is the worst thing that could happen if I throw this out? Might someone call me on it later? If so, are duplicates available? For those items you really agonize over--set up a holding-pen file for short-life papers
Rule 2: Refer
Delegate paperwork whenever possible or send it on to someone else. A difficult task for freelancers to be sure. I tried organizing folders on a desktop rack marked for referrals to colleagues, friends and clients. On a weekly basis, try to review the folders and send on the materials. (Yes, snail mail still works!)
I also assigned a notebook page in my Day-Timer for everyone with whom I work on a regular basis. As I think of items to discuss with them, I jot it down on their page. Then when they call or I see them, I flip to their page and take care of several issues at once. A simple notebook will do as well. I chose the Day-Timer because it has pads designed for this method and are convenient for writing down items while I am on the road or at home. (No, I don't do PR for Day-Timers. It's just the system that works best for me.)
Rule 3: Act
There is a special action folder on my desk that includes letters and all other items that require attention. The top-priority ones are on my daily to-do list. Certainly not all letters require a formal response. A handwritten note on a letter or memo saves time and lets the sender know you paid attention and took the time to respond. A telephone or email response often works well, unless there is a legal or other important reason to document the action. I try to use my bulletin board for critical action items. Unfortunately, most papers pined to my bulletin board usually wind up as part of the decor!\
Rule 4: File
Items to be filed go into a folder marked "to file." But before they go into the folder, each is marked by categories in my file system and with a "destroy date." In this way, I don't stop the flow of going through the mail to file items. I just have to discipline myself to make sure I handle the "to file" folder each week without fail. And then do a quarterly review of the items flagged with destroy dates.
Rule 5: Read
Any item that requires more than five minutes of reading time should be handled separately. Lengthy reports and trade journals are saved for private time. Short items get put in a folder in the bathroom. (I don't think any explanation is necessary!)
The most important point about sorting papers is to make some decision about every piece of paper you pick up--and to limit the "sort" to once-a-day when you review your mail.
Rule 6: PenPoints
Always, always read PenPoints and consider writing an article for the rest of us to read. And--next time you see Jill Moline at an IWPA event--please thank her for doing such a wonderful job as our Editor.
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