Friday, February 11, 2011

Paperwork, Filing, and Bills, Oh My!

Next to our schedules, professional organizer Colleen Collins Josellis says that the area that causes us the most stress is managing our paperwork. On the day Colleen visited me, I needed to pay my bills and oh, how I dreaded the task. I knew it would take hours of sorting and reading and filing.

My bills were somewhere in here.
Colleen took one look at my basket and stacks of paper and said, "You need a triage system. You probably don't even know where your bills are." 

She instructed me to go out and buy three stacking letter boxes and a label maker

"What do I need the label maker for?" I asked. 

"Everything!" she said.  

The first things to label were the three inboxes - To Pay, To Do, and To File. Colleen told me I  needed to sort my incoming mail and papers daily into those three slots. Then I should schedule short windows of time once or twice a week to actually handle the paperwork.

After Colleen left, I headed to Office Depot and bought the file boxes and labeler. Then I came home and slogged through four weeks of mail and a two month backlog of filing. It took me over three hours, but here's what it looked like afterward.

This looks manageable

Even though I hadn't filed or paid a single item yet, it seemed much more manageable and friendly. Most of all that paper needed no action other than to be recycled.

To the recycling bin with you!

When I finally sat down to pay my bills, you know what? It took about 15 minutes! My "To Pay" slot was empty and I felt very virtuous. I immediately pulled up my calendar on my screen and scheduled more time for paperwork later that week. So far, I'm a week and a half in to my new triage system and the benefits are huge. I know where everything is, I know where I stand, and my credenza is neat and tidy.

Of course, with all that paperwork comes another stressor -  the need for a filing system. Join me on Monday when a new expert, financial coach Kelley Long, tells us what keep, where to keep it, and for how long.

Calendar Update!
I'm trying to stick to the time I allocate for all my activities, including writing, which I'm finding really tough. I know this post would be much better written, wittier, and more useful if I spent more time on it. Arrgh. It probably isn't even grammatically correct.  But I'm trying to write more frequently and can only do that if I write faster. So, it is what it is now. And I'm on to my next task! 

No comments: