Paper overwhelm is one of the most commonly voiced productivity concerns I hear. There is just too much. There are many was of managing paper but today we are going to focus on printing less. The best thing you can do is think before you print.
Thinking before printing not only helps the environment but helps you be more productive by reducing the quantity of stuff you have to plow through to find the stuff that matters most. What can you do instead of printing?
Emails: Learn to use the search function. All email programs today have excellent search functions. While my preference is to file emails logically, even if you leave them all in your inbox you can still search for what you need when you need it. It is actually easier to find a specific email on your computer than in various unfiled piles in your office.
Articles: If you haven’t yet downloaded Evernote do so today. It’s free and crosses platforms – that means you can use it on your phone, tablet, and Mac/PC. Evernote also has a fabulous search function so you can find what you are looking for in a heartbeat. You can copy and paste the article into Evernote, you can save links in Evernote, and you can clip pictures into Evernote. It’s much more efficient to find what you are looking for in Evernote than in the various piles in your office
Drafts: Do you need to print and keep every draft of a project you are working on? If in fact you need to print, only keep the most current or two most current. Printing and keeping multiple copies of the same thing is both confusing and wasteful.
If there was one thing you could do to get your most important work done will you do it? It will take an hour or two every week and it will drive your productivity levels through the roof. It’s what I call my Weekly Focus Session. By looking at the work you have to do, comparing it to your goals and prioritizing what’s most important, you are setting yourself up for a most effective week. In a nut shell here is the process:
1. Block out time each week. Start with 2 hours. As time goes on and you get into the rhythm it will probably take only an hour – sometimes less. Put the two hours on your calendar. If something comes up in that time slot simply move the Focus session to another open two hour slot. I like scheduling my Focus session late Friday afternoon. It helps me relax over the weekend, though some clients like to do it on Saturday morning, Monday morning, or mid-week.
2. Take EVERYTHING that is laying around and put it into ONE BIG PILE.
3. Review your goals – both long term and short term. I like to keep them posted nearby so that it’s easy to reference.
4. Process the pile – picking up one item at a time and decide:
Do I need to do it? Does it help me reach my goals? If no, let it go (recycle, shred or file for future reference).
If Yes, ask yourself: how important is it that it gets done? Put the task associated with the paper on your to do list sectioned by level of priority (Critical, Hot, Sooner or Later.) Put the paper in an appropriate file or pile so you can find it when you need it.
Pick up the next item and repeat.
5. When you are at the end of the ONE BIG PILE you are done. And you will have a very clear picture of what you need to focus on for the upcoming week.