Today’s topic for the MyMO blog is about paper that represents an action. In the last blog post, Paper Sorting Category #1, I covered how FOMM (Fear of Making a Mistake), gets in the way of people addressing paperwork as it comes into the home. By making recycling and trash disposal easy and accessible in all rooms of your home, shredding as you go, and pulling out action items to address as they come in, you will feel like you are getting a handle on this whole paperwork thing. Building these habits will sustain as you work through my backwards method.
Paper Representing an Action
People are busier than ever these days. We have families, careers, responsibilities. We run the home, volunteer our time, scale our businesses, go back to school, or home school our children. We cook from scratch or get carry out. Either way, we have mouths to feed, laundry to clean, forms to fill out, emails to read, texts to write and schedules to manage. We carpool, cheer from the sidelines, set up playdates and sneak over to each others houses while the kids are napping for a little mom time with our neighbor friends, baby monitor in hand.
We are busy people and sometimes an action item or to do list is so long, we just shut down. Who hasn’t spent a sunny Saturday in their pj’s binge watching Netflix because some days…it is just too much. This can lead to action items getting piled up, making them invisible, and yet we know that those piles represent mountains of work.
Here is what I do when my paper piles get out of control.
Step One: address each piece of paper one at a time
Pick up each paper and start sorting, grouping “like” things together. I deal with filing, shredding or trash right away, but if I have a piece of paper to file that doesn’t have a file created yet, I simply put it in a file called “create a file.” Why? Because my file system is organized, consistent and tracked. It’s worth making the time to assure that the file you need to create is put in the most logical place and that it looks consistent with every other file in my file system. This takes time, effort and thought, which can sidetrack you from the real task – sorting your paper. Personally, I tackle this activity once a month.
Step Two: Start a “To Do” list.
Often when I am organizing paper, my brain goes crazy remembering additional things that need to be done. Rather than doing them in the moment, I record what needs to get done for later. For example, a random receipt may remind you that you have a phone call to make. Instead of stopping and making that call, jot it down on your to do list and keep moving. Focus on organizing, not knocking out your to do list. If the action item involves a lot of steps, tracking or paperwork, create a temporary file using a file folder and label it with a sticky note. That stack might become your to-do list, where you work from the stack instead of a paper list.
If your to do items can be done on a certain day, add them to your calendar.
Step Three – Prioritize
When it comes to handling your list of action items, make sure you are addressing the most important things first. Sometimes the most important things to get done are the most time consuming. In this case, tackle some small part of the task and then move on to other quicker tasks. Work on the bigger, more time-consuming projects more often, but in smaller chunks.
Sometimes we just Procrastinate
Sometimes…We. Simply. Don’t. Want. To. Do. It. If this is the case, try using the timer on your phone. Set it for 15 minutes and force yourself only to tackle the task you are dreading for 15 minutes. I am a little competitive so when I set a goal and tell myself I am going to achieve ___ amount of work in the next 15 minutes, I’ll race against the timer to meet that goal. When the time goes off, I set it again and again, try to meet my new goal. I can get through an entire procrastinating project with that simple trick!
Sometimes a task is just not worth your time. I have created tons of folders and items on my to do list that I never actually completed. It may turn out that what sounds good in theory is not practical for your everyday life. So if completing some amazing baby book has been on your to do list since the day you found out you were pregnant and your kid is now ten, maybe it is time to rethink that task. Just sayin’…
Organizing your paper clutter, creating to-do folders and lists, and tackling your action items are all steps to work on over the next few weeks. You can do this!