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
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
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):
- To Do (some kind of action is required)
- To Read
- To File (be ruthless. Only keep papers that you truly need
– for tax purposes, for a current project, etc.).
- 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
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.
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
When you're done with Step 2 of ways to organize paperwork, move on
to the next step: Reduce
Your Backlog of Papers