Ways To Organize Paperwork
Step 2: Sort Your Papers Into Categories

For Step 2 in ways to organize paperwork, we'll look at quickly sorting your papers into categories.

The "Quick Sort"

This step is designed to be about sorting, and ONLY about sorting.

In this step, we are simply going to see what you've got in all those papers. One of the best ways to organize paperwork is to start by sorting and reducing your piles.

My invitation to you is to:

  • leave the handling of anything in your piles until later (rather than taking ‘just a minute’ to fill out a warranty card or read a letter you’ve been looking for, for example)
  • turn off the phone (or let it go to voice mail)
  • gently ignore any other distractions that show up in your mind

Create five categories for the Quick Sort

Create five categories of piles (either with post-it notes to mark the piles, or use boxes or manila folders for each of the categories):

  1. To Do (some kind of action is required)
  2. To Read
  3. To File (be ruthless. Only keep papers that you truly need – for tax purposes, for a current project, etc.).
  4. Undecided
  5. To Toss (aim for at least 50-75% of your papers to end up in this pile if possible). The bigger this pile is at the end of this step, the better. And please note, I use the term 'to toss' as a general term for papers you're getting rid of; you may plan to shred or recycle much of this pile...we'll cover that later. For now, simply make one big pile called 'to toss.'

Sort through your inbox

Start with the piece of paper that's on the top of your inbox, and simply place it in one your five categories (to do, to read, to file, undecided, or to toss).

The reason I call this the Quick Sort is that the only decision you need to make at this step is what pile that one piece of paper goes into. You don't need to take action on it yet, you don't need to spend more than a few seconds on any one piece of paper...this step is designed to be pretty simple.

Once you've placed that piece of paper in one of the categories, move to the next piece of paper and do the same thing, through to the bottom of your inbox.


When you're done with Step 2 of ways to organize paperwork, move on to the next step: Reduce Your Backlog of Papers

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