Find Paperwork Fast: Filing

The whole point of filing is to find paperwork fast! If your filing system is chaotic, you’re making yourself work harder. I don’t want that for you! Dial down the difficulty when searching for paperwork by using these tips.

Naming Conventions

Having standardized terminology for your files keeps search time to a minimum, with both digital and physical files. For physical files, use consistent dates and names. You want to make it easy on your eyes to follow along as you look through the files. If you’re looking through the files you have on home maintenance, and most of your files are labeled like “2020 Repair Bills,” and a few are named like, “Housekeeping – 2020,” you’re making your brain do extra work when you search. Keep it consistent, and save your brainpower for something more fun!

To make searching for digital files easier, include multiple search terms in the file name. Think about what you’ll want to know when you’re trying to find it. If you’re looking for a particular bank statement, what search terms would you use to find it? Adding the bank name, the account name, and the statement date means you can find it three different ways!

"More than 20 items in a file? Split it! Fewer than 5 items in a file? Combine it!"

Paper Files: 5-20 Items Rule of Thumb

Use cascading hierarchies when creating your paper files. For instance, you could keep all your insurance paperwork together in one hanging folder, and have paperwork for the individual policies in separate interior folders. This means you only have one place to go to look for anything regarding insurance, and if you know which policy you’re looking for you can narrow it down even further. Instead of flipping through dozens of different pieces of paper, you can go right to what you’re looking for.

It’s hard to find paperwork fast when your files are three inches thick. The best rule of thumb I have for keeping hierarchies neat and easy to use is this: If you have fewer than five items in one category, that’s a sign that you could condense it with another. More than twenty items should be split up into subcategories.

For instance, say you have files relating to places you want to travel to. If you only want to go to New Zealand and visit Lord of the Rings locations, you only need one folder. If you want to go to every state in the US and have paperwork about each state you want to visit, then a folder for each state will be helpful. This helps avoid overstuffed folders that are difficult to look through and avoids having unnecessary folders as well.

Make it even easier on yourself by using labeling, color coding, or different locations for these categories. If you use your labels or colors consistently, soon you’ll be able to see what you’re looking for at a glance.


Prioritizing Action Items: Paperwork

What are Action Items? Prioritizing Action Items.

Let’s talk about prioritizing action items!

Action Items

Action items are a type of paperwork that needs attention, like reminders of appointments, or a bill that’s coming due.

One common mistake people make when organizing their paperwork is keeping action items out to help them remember. Put away the paper and keep the reminder. Keeping an action item on your desk leads to clutter. Have a specific place for action items, so you know where to look for them when it is time to take that action.

Have a reminder system in place. You can set a reminder on your phone, write it in a paper planner, or use one of the action item systems below, and put the paper away.

Use the 2-minute rule – if it will take less than 2 minutes to do it, do it now. It’s not worth your time to file it. Set the reminder, and find it again – just do it!

I have four suggested methods for prioritizing paperwork in increasing complexity: an in/out tray, a 3-level priority system, Steven Covey’s quadrant method, and tickler files. Use the one that suits you best and is going to be the easiest for you to maintain. Remember the point is not to organize the paperwork, the point is to take action on your paperwork.

In/Out Tray

In/Out Tray: An in/out tray is a very simple way to keep track of action items. When you have a task to complete or a reminder of something due, it goes in the In tray. Once completed, move it to the Out tray. You can always look in your In tray to remind you of what you need to accomplish.

3-Level Priority System

3-Level Priority System: There are many ways to do a 3-level priority system, according to what works for you. Create three folders and label them based on level of importance or urgency. Hot/Warm/Cold, Do Now/Do Soon/Do Someday, Today/This Week/Next Week, and Red/Yellow/Blue are just a few ways to label these folders.

This kind of system breaks down action items into easy-to-understand categories. That way, you can see at a glance what needs your attention.

Tickler Files

Tickler Files: Tickler files – file folders labeled with dates – are a great way to keep action item paperwork accessible and organized. Here are two ways to use them:

  • 8 Folders By Week: This system consists of one folder for each day of the week and one folder for the next week or later. As you go through the week, complete items in the appropriate folder. Once a week, review the items in the “next week” folder, then decide when to do them in the coming week.
  • 43 Folders By Month: This is a more detailed system consisting of 31 folders (one for each day of the month) plus 12 folders (one for each upcoming month). At the beginning of the month, review all items in the monthly folder and sort them depending on which day you want to do them. Complete items in daily folders daily to keep on top of your action items.

The Quadrant Method

Stephen Covey’s Quadrant Method: Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, had a simple way of categorizing tasks based on urgency and importance, and this works with paperwork too. The infographic below shows how to use this system.

Using these strategies, you can organize your action items and work more effectively! Which of these do you think you’ll try when you’re prioritizing action items?

4 Tips to Keep Holiday Decorations Under Control

I have seen many, many storage spaces stuffed full of holiday decorations that are only used once a year. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have decorations—decorating is one of the best parts of the holidays! But there are ways to decorate that don’t take up your whole garage when you’re done.

Use organizers

The boxes that tree ornaments come in are usually flimsy and difficult to repack neatly. Recycle them and use a tote to keep all your ornaments in one safe place. Ornament keeper storage totes are a good way to keep fragile ornaments safe when they’re in storage, and consolidate space. This one offers three removable tiers of ornament storage

Tree storage bags are great for artificial trees. Specifically designed to hold each part of your tree tightly, they reduce storage space and keep your tree free of dust and damage, so you can use it year after year.

Repack carefully

One of the best ways to reduce holiday purchases is to take care of the items you already have. Storing things properly ensures you don’t have to re-purchase broken decorations, and can use them for years.

When it’s time to take down the decorations, pack your items with care. By “with care” I mean in such a way that they won’t break, and also with an eye on ways to save space. Packing all the wrapping paper in one place ensures you don’t have to go hunt for it next year.


4 Tips to De-Stress Holiday Giving

Giving gifts during the holidays is a wonderful way to express love to family and friends. But how do you make sure everyone gets what they want, without stressing at the last minute? De-stress your holiday giving with these tips.

Write Gift Ideas Down

Why try to keep a mental list of gift ideas when you can write them down? Save yourself the brainpower and jot presents down as you think of them throughout the year.

Keep the list in one place, and when it comes time to shop, you’ll know exactly what to get.

Check things off the list as you purchase them, so you don’t double-buy something because you forgot you got it months ago!

Encourage Re-Gifting

It’s easy to go overboard during the holidays and buy too much stuff, which creates waste and unnecessary clutter—and not just for you, but for gift recipients! Before you shop, look around at what you already have. If you got a great book for your birthday that you know your sister would love to read, re-gift it! Things don’t need to be new to be great gifts.

Encourage others to re-gift, too. Let your friends and family know that you would treasure used items just as much as brand new ones. Lead by example, and normalize re-gifting as a great way to cut down on waste and get items to the right person.


Minimize Holiday Stress: Plan!

Let’s Minimize Your Holiday Stress!

The holidays can be a wonderful(ly stressful) time of year! There’s family to connect with, decorations to put up, and gifts to arrange. With so many moving parts, how are you supposed to keep track of everything? Plan, plan, plan! 

Start Early

Think back to a time when you and your family made last-minute holiday plans. Is your blood pressure going up? The solution is simple (if not always easy): start early. 

Minimize Holiday Stress - Start Now!

There’s a reason I’m posting this in early October, and that’s to give you time to get your ducks in a row. After all, it takes a special kind of person to enjoy last-minute gift shopping, or booking a flight when you know a few months ago it would have been cheaper! 

If you want to see your family in December, look at tickets a few months beforehand (hint: that’s now). When you opt for refundable tickets, there’s no harm in grabbing that flight early. It’s a lot less expensive, too! 

Make a Gift List

Keep an eye out year-round for gift ideas. Jot them down in a dedicated list, even if it’s June! You don’t need to go out and buy the gift right away, especially if you live in a smaller space that doesn’t have room to store presents for months. But it’s nice to have ideas down on paper, in an app, or in a spreadsheet. When it comes time to shop, you know what to get.


Organize Your Desk: Tools and Supplies

Stock your desk with these essential tools and supplies to make working simpler and easier! 

Your Favorite Writing Instrument

Uni-Ball 4-Pack: $12.09. Montblanc PIX Black Rollerball: $315.00

Do you have a favorite pen, pencil, or fountain pen? Make a home for it on your desk. Always put it back in its home when you’re done with it, and it’ll never get lost! (Pro tip: that’s true with all of your belongings.)

Keeping track of one pen or pencil is easier than keeping track of a bunch. That’s the secret of minimalism and sustainability! Living simply with fewer possessions lets you have favorites, and choose higher-quality things that will last longer. 

I love a good rollerball pen like these from Uni-Ball! Or, if you want to totally splurge on your one-and-only work pen, Montblancs exist, too.

A Printer/Scanner

It usually makes sense to put your printer/scanner on the dominant hand side of the desk. It’s easier to operate that way and if you have it just in reach, you still have space for project items in front of you. It’s okay to place it slightly out of reach so that it gives you a break from sitting.