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The Paper Tiger Blog contains great ideas on better ways to stay organized, clear your desk, reduce stress and spend less time managing information.

Do you have trouble managing a home office? Add the kids and their activities, along with your busy schedule, and the managing with efficiency gets more difficult. Things get left undone, and the piles of paperwork, mail, magazines, kids’ artwork, not to mention all the stuff totally unrelated that finds a place on your desk you haven’t taken time to put away.

Whether you work from home or your home office is a place where you pay the bills, read the mail and file paperwork, you should be able to actually work from your desk. Your desk should not be a landing pad for everything that can be put away later. Stop procrastinating and make the decisions necessary to keep your desk looking good and a place where you can actually work. Of course, tips such as the ones listed below could relate to any area of your home that collects clutter.

You know what you have to do, but without scheduling time and a concentrated effort, the job will not get done. So take a look at what piles up on your desk. Is it just mail and magazines that are piling up? Or are there CDs, books, kids’ artwork, tools that need to be put away, office supplies, and other trinkets?

Have a family meeting to discuss what needs to go and what needs to stay. Whatever is on your desk that should not be there, create a ‘home’ for each type of item that would be best kept elsewhere so they don’t land back on your desk. You simply have to take the time to decide what you need to do with the problem area, what is your vision for the area, create a plan of action, clean and organize, and then maintain it.

  • Sort through the piles and gather similar items together so you can determine the right kind of container ‘home’ for organizing these items. Where should these items be kept and what containers would work best for accessibility? Everyone should agree on the container ‘homes’ so it will be convenient and efficient to maintain your office organization.
  • Would a CD binder help to keep CDs or DVDs together? You can place the CD/DVD in a binder such as the one pictured below. As you can see, the item number was written with permanent marker on the DVD and on the DVD binder slot. So the DVD numbered 45, would match what was indexed in Paper Tiger’s item number 45 for the DVD Location (DVD 45). Everyone will know where it should be returned as well. Then index the name, author, and other pertinent information into the item’s keyword section in your Paper Tiger database. Then when you want to pull a specific DVD, a quick search in the database will reveal where it is.

  • Do you have USB drives that you’re trying to keep up with? If you just have a few, maybe a small box or divider in your desk drawer would work. However if you have more than 5 USB drives and growing, how about a key cabinet or portable key storage cassette such as one of these at http://www.selectlocks.com/Portable-Storage. Number your USB drives. Then inventory the file contents in your Paper Tiger database, or take a screen shot of the file list on your USB, then print, write the number of the correlating USB drive on the printed screen shot and put the print in a hanging file folder.

  • Do you let magazines pile up? Think about what would work better for you. Maybe a magazine organizer like these pictured below would help keep your magazines together, but only keep what you really want to keep. Or maybe after you’ve gone through the magazine, cut out only the articles you want to refer to again, then trash or recycle the rest of the magazine. You’ll need a place to file the articles you keep. Depending on the volume, you could have one hanging file folder to hold the articles. Note, the magazine organizers can also double as a home for directories or manuals. These can also be used for some office supplies such as manilla folders, notebooks, assorted envelopes.

  • For kids’ artwork, allow your child(ren) to choose the artwork that should be kept. Consider framing the best, and put the rest of the keepers in a portfolio, one for each child. Framing can be as simple as the image at top of this page or in a photo frame room divider such as in the image below. Remember, you don’t have to keep every paper or artwork your child produces. You can always take a picture of the art that you won’t keep so you will have a digital image of the ones you’ll throw away. Getting the kids involved in choosing, creating and updating their schoolwork/art portfolio will empower them to manage their own paperwork, as well as which artwork gets switched out as they grow older.

Click here to see an example of how to organize kid’s artwork in this video by Sherry Borsheim of Simply Productive in which she describes how artwork and awards can be filed in a file tote bin, from preschool through grade 12. Sherry says, ‘By the time they graduate, you will have created an organized, preserved, collection of your kids artwork.’

  • Now, what about the stacks of paper files? Sort through the stacks and throw away the junk. If it’s not worth filing, don’t keep it! Keep in mind to adher to legal and tax retention guidelines. (Have you created a records retention policy for your home and business files? If not, click here to learn more about Retention Guidelines: How Long Should You Keep Records?) Shred sensitive information. Using Paper Tiger Filing System software will help you keep track of the paper files you decide to keep, but do not require action. Click here to see examples and managing of Reference Files. For things that need action, either do it now or place a note on it that outlines what action needs to be taken and by what deadline. Click here to see how to manage Action Files. Get the kids involved if there is a lot of shredding to do, especially in your initial file clean out.
  • Discuss with your family how to handle the mail when it comes in. Plan to take 5-10 minutes every day to go through the mail. Quickly scan through the sales papers and ads if you want to, then throw them away. Place your bills in the place you’ve designated for your bill reminder. Do you have a folder for bills or are you using a tickler file system? If you don’t have time to read the mail that needs to be read, place in a ‘to read’ file. If it is time sensitive, consider a tickler file system referenced above in the Action Files article.

How will you all work together to maintain the space? Once you have a ‘home’ for everything, and everything in its place, everyone needs to continue to do what you’ve agreed to so the area doesn’t get cluttered again. A simple reminder, ‘Whoa, that doesn’t go there! It has a home!’, will keep everyone on task, and you’ll be creating good habits that benefit everyone. Then have everyone take a few minutes a day or once a week, to work together to clear any clutter, rethink something that isn’t working as well as you thought and reorganize for more efficiency. It will be so much easier, take less time, and you’ll have more time to spend together doing the fun stuff with less stress!


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Do you feel like you are the only person that has clutter and don’t have any idea what to do about it? Well, you’re not alone!

If you Google-search ‘statistics on clutter’, you’ll see there are enough stats to fill up this page, but here are a few to note:

  • The average American receives 49,060 pieces of mail in their lifetime; 1/3 of it is junk mail.
    - National Association of Professional Organizers
  • 80% of papers and information that we file or keep, we never use or look at again.
    - Agency Sales Magazine
  • In the top 10 list of management wasters for the past 20 years is managing paper.
  • According to management engineers, misfiled documents cost between $61-122 to be retrieved. The cost is calculated by the value of the person looking for the file, the person interrupted to find the file, the space the file occupies, and the cost to recreate the file if it cannot be retrieved.
  • Americans waste 9 million hours per day searching for misplaced items.
    - American Demographics Society
  • The average U.S. executive wastes six weeks per year searching for missing information in messy desks and files. For an employee earning $60,000, that lost time costs the company a staggering $6,290.
    - The Wall Street Journal/Esselte Study
  • Office workers waste an average of 40% of their workday. Not because they aren’t smart, but because they were never taught organizing skills to cope with the increasing workloads and demands.
    - Wall Street Journal
  • The average desk worker has 36 hours of work on his or her desk and spends 3 hours per week sorting piles trying to find the project to work on next.
    - Richard Swenson, The Overload Syndrome, (NavPress, 1998)
  • Using the correct organizational tools can improve time management by 38%.
    - Mobile Technology Products
  • Unnecessary expenditures related to disorganization (last minute shopping at premium prices, buying duplicates of misplaced items, rush charges, late fees, finance charges, etc.) can cost as much as 15% to 20% of your annual budget.
  • 80% of the clutter in most homes is a result of disorganization, not lack of space.
  • 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside due to clutter and 32% only have room for one vehicle.
    – U.S. Department of Energy
  • Cleaning professionals say that getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40% of the housework in an average home.
    – National Soap and Detergent Association
  • A UCLA study confirms the direct correlation between a woman’s cortisol (stress) levels and the density of household objects.

With statistics like these, obviously you are not alone. Also obvious is the negative impact that clutter has in our lives. Knowing that productivity, budget, time and health are all affected, it is still overwhelming to think about how to declutter your world. So how do we fight the war against clutter?

Steps to Clear the Clutter

Vision for end result: You may only have one room that collects clutter. You know, the proverbial ‘junk room’. Or clutter may be only on your desk or in every room. Whatever your individual situation, you need a vision as to what you want. Some experts suggest taking photos of every room in your home to see a different perspective. It may be there are items cluttering a space that you are overlooking everyday. While you’re thinking about it, also think about why you want it. Sometimes it is not enough to see and feel the pain point in your life in order to do something about it, but when you can have a vision for how it could be better and why or how it would make you feel if it were better, then you will have a better chance of getting started with the determination to get it done.

Prioritize: Don’t feel like you have to clear all the clutter in one day! Remember, the clutter in your life and the habits that got it that way didn’t happen overnight. Make a list of each room or area in the order in which you want to get organized. Decide what area is stressing you the most, and start there. Then schedule time on your calendar, allotting the amount of time you want to spend for each room. Some areas, like the garage, might take more than a couple of hours in one day, so schedule a couple of hours in two different days. It might even be helpful to create a plan of action for an area that is too overwhelming – making a list of what items you want to organize first, then second, etc., in an area so that it won’t seem quite so overwhelming.

Goal/project management & schedule: Set your goal and schedule your time. How many times have you thought, ‘I really need to clean out the garage, but it will take so long, and I have to do this and that, before I tackle that huge job’, and it just never gets done? It may help you to break down a big project into individual steps. For example, schedule an hour to sort through and organize the sports equipment on one day, then on another day, take an hour to sort through and organize the tools. You probably set goals for your business life all the time. It’s the same concept with things you need to do to get organized. Creating new habits and a new perspective need reminders to stay on course. So really, actually put the different project times on your calendar just like any other event in your life.

Willpower for action: Once you have your projects scheduled, make a commitment to yourself that you will stick to it until your vision comes to fruition. You may need help along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may need to reschedule a project, because life happens, but make sure to reschedule it on your calendar.

  1. Take one room at a time.
  2. Envision how you want the end result.
  3. Make a list of individual steps to break down the project(s) so you won’t feel so overwhelmed.
  4. Decide how much time each step will take and put it on your calendar so you’ll have a reminder and you can stay on schedule.
  5. Determine what needs sorted, organized, boxed, given away, trashed, and filed. Remember, sometimes simply organizing what you have is not the answer. Sometimes you should decide to get rid of stuff. Refer back to the stats above!
  6. Decide what you would like to keep in the home or office, what you would like to box up and keep either in the basement, attic, a rented storage unit or some other type of storage space.
  7. Implement Paper Tiger. For each container, whether it be a box or hanging file folders in your desk drawers or filing cabinets, index or catalog each item by typing in item name and keywords into your Paper Tiger filing system database, including where the item will be stored. Any changes or moves you make to your physical items can also be adjusted or ‘transferred’ in your filing system database, and you’ll always be able to track your items.
  8. After each room in your home is organized, go through the same steps for your office envisioning your desired end result. Make a list of steps, how long it should take, and schedule the time on your calendar. You might start with the top of your desk. Find a ‘home’ for everything – the right place on your desk for each item that will help you work more efficiently. Take one stack of paper files at a time, and then one drawer at a time, indexing the items in your hanging file folders into Paper Tiger’s database as you go.
  9. If you get discouraged, go back to your vision. Remember why clearing the clutter will help you to feel less stressed, will save you time, will help you to be more productive….whatever your reason, remember your vision for the end result. Re-prioritize if necessary, and set a new goal, but get recharged and make it happen.
  10. Maintain! Take 5 minutes to go through the mail, and trash the junk, file what needs to be filed, and put items that need your action and bills to pay in your action or tickler file system. Take 15-30 minutes every day to walk through your home or office and put things away so clutter doesn’t build again.

How Implementing Paper Tiger Helps When Clearing Clutter

There are all those paper files, mail to go through, magazines, books, training binders, DVDs and video games to straighten up. When you remember that book you wanted to read while on vacation, it takes more time than it’s worth to find it! There are seasonal clothes to move to and from storage, if you can remember which bin in the basement that you’ve put them. You also have that treasured collection, some to showcase and some to store for safekeeping. And of course, the garage!

The good news is that you no longer have to procrastinate. By implementing Paper Tiger Online filing system software, you can now clear the clutter and feel confident to put things in their own place. Paper Tiger enables you to index physical items, and makes it easy to keep track of things. It will be so worth the time invested to clear clutter and get organized, because you won’t be wasting time searching for needed items. You’ll be able to find them again when you need them…in a matter of seconds with a quick search in the database.

If you had a folder for your car repairs and needed to refer to it, could you be certain you could find it when you needed it? Would you remember if you titled it car, auto, Honda or repairs? Did you actually get it filed or is it in that huge stack ‘to be filed’?

By implementing Paper Tiger filing system, you can type in all of those keywords and be able to find anything with a quick search in the database. The traditional alphabetical system has obviously worked, as long as you could recall the name you filed it under previously, that is – so maybe not as efficient as it could be. Using Paper Tiger Online filing system software takes all the confusion out of the equation, even if more than one person is using the system.

Paper Tiger can be used for paper files, but also for many other physical items. Anything that you can put a number onto, you can index with your filing system software. This is especially important for items that may be kept in more than one location. So, for example, if you are going to keep some collectible items on display and want to store some in your basement and others at a rented storage unit, this helps you recall which items ended up where. Each box would have an item number in your Paper Tiger database, and the contents of the box should be typed into the keywords section. All those items you keep cluttered in your home because you’re afraid if you put them away, you won’t remember where you put them, can now be stored somewhere else. When you need to retrieve an item, search your Paper Tiger database, and you’ll know where it is and what box number in seconds.

Go ahead, get started with the steps outlined above to clear the clutter. Before you know it, you’ll feel more organized and accomplished, and less stressed. You can live organized with peace of mind because you have a place for everything, you know where everything is, as well as where it goes when you need to put it back in its place. Clearing clutter will free up so much space and you can have your home and office back!


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We all know that clutter can get in the way of success, peace of mind and happiness. Whether you can get it done yourself, with family members, or with an expert, getting organized and getting rid of clutter, can be accomplished.

What To Do With Paper FilesHave you lost the ability to be creative? Are you tired of losing important records? Is a growing list of demands getting the better of you, or those around you? Are you ready for a change and want to break the cycle? You are not alone in your challenge to keep clutter and overwhelm from draining you of time and energy.

If you are seeking some calm in your life and work, have piles of paper that need to be organized effectively, or even if you have some big projects you want help getting launched, professional organizing and productivity experts can help. You can have an effective work space and home you love.

Recognizing the Problem

The experts we know often say there is a direct correlation between stress and clutter.  Recognizing that clutter is significant in the way you feel about your home and office can be a great start to your feeling less stressed and overwhelmed. Psychology Today has a great article you might find helpful, “Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies”.

In WebMD’s article, “Clutter Control: Is Too Much ‘Stuff’ Draining You?”, it states, ‘Professional organizers who are called to cluttered homes and offices say their clients use the same words, over and over, to describe their reaction to the mess: their energy is drained, they can’t find things, and it’s beginning to interfere with crucial parts of life — such as getting to work on time or navigating staircases.

‘They become overwhelmed, nonfunctional and nonproductive…’, says Lynne Gilberg, a professional organizer in West Los Angeles, CA.

The key is to start small: Tackle one room or even one bookshelf at a time. Cleaning the clutter from drawers? “Don’t dump the whole drawer,” says Gilberg, “it’s too overwhelming.” Instead, take out items that can be thrown away, then things you can donate.’

Make Decisions and Take Action

Clutter happens because you’re not making decisions when you need to. You’re putting off or procrastinating because you don’t want to deal with it. If you really want to have less clutter, make the necessary decisions. Decide to decide what needs focus, what can go, what should be kept. Take one room at a time or one section of a room.

  1. What is your vision for the area? What is your goal for this space? Write your vision down for the area you want to focus on first, and make a list of things needed to accomplish that goal.
  2. Once you’ve made that determination, you can decide what needs to be cleared from that space, and where the items need to go….either in the trash, donated, recycled, or put away in a better storage area.
  3. Finish one area, then move to the next area on your list.

Don’t de-clutter alone. Get your family involved. Chances are, it is the family habits that need to be rethought. It’s most likely not just one person that causes all of the clutter.

When you’ve cleared the clutter, you’ll need to switch to maintenance mode to ensure the pile up doesn’t happen again. When there is a place for everything and everything in its place, then it will be easier to maintain.

Are You Afraid of Putting Things Away?

If you have clutter because you think you need a visual reminder…if you put it away, you’ll forget about it or where you put it, then Paper Tiger can help. You can index anything in Paper Tiger that you can put a number onto. See our article Work SMART! Getting Organized Doesn’t Have to be Hard! for helpful steps to sort, make decisions, file papers, and index other things you can organize and put away, so that not only is clutter no longer a problem, but finding things you put away is no longer a problem.

You, your family, and your staff, can work less, earn more and be more productive. Get started today with just one area. If you need help, ask one of the productivity experts that can also help you implement Paper Tiger so you can clear clutter, and be able to find things quickly.


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Emphasis on Excellence, The PhD of Productivity™

This Paper Tiger webinar hosted by Meggin McIntosh, “The Ph.D. of Productivity”™ and Paper Tiger Expert, will help you better understand Paper Tiger Filing System Software for document management to be able to use the software more effectively and see how you can get organized in every area of your life — not just paper filing! Meggin does an awesome job in showing you pictures of all of the different things she has organized and relating those items back to what she has indexed in Paper Tiger.

About Meggin McIntosh

Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D., “The Ph.D. of Productivity”(tm). Through her company, Emphasis on Excellence, Inc., Meggin McIntosh supports smart people who want to be more productive so that they can consistently keep their emphasis on excellence.

Emphasis on Excellence, Inc.
Email: meggin@meggin.com
Phone: 775.853.5510

MEGGIN’S WEBSITES

http://meggin.com (Primary site)

http://GetaPlanGuides.com

http://KeepingChaosatBay.com

http://TopTenProductivityTips.com

http://JustWhelmed.com

http://OwningWordsforLiteracy.com

http://PumpernickelPublishing.com

http://StayingPositiveinaFreakedOutWorld.com

http://LifeofEs.com


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It can be overwhelming just thinking about what you have to do and the decisions you have to make to get organized. You might be tempted to give up before you start – but don’t! Whether you’re organizing your desk drawers, filing cabinets, a stack of paper files, a closet, attic, or the garage, Paper Tiger Filing System software will help you get organized! You can have a system in place so you can maintain organization, and be able to live and work in an more productive environment.

Overwhelmed getting organized

You may be asking yourself, why do I want to add another ‘system’ to my chaos. Will this really help me get organized? Think about it this way. You are already wasting a lot of time searching for things, whether it be a file under a name you don’t remember what you filed it under, or maybe you’re looking for something that you’ve boxed up in the attic, but you don’t know which box?

You also may dread the thought of having to make decisions about what to throw away or what to keep. Remember the Pareto Principle, you know the 80/20 rule … we only use 20% of what we have, and the other 80% are back-ups, mistakes, things we have held on to because we haven’t made good decisions about what to do with them. If you don’t try to figure out a system that will help you get organized so you can find what you need when you need it, you may come to realize that you’re only using 20% of what you can find!

Work SMART!

Sort: Whatever you’re organizing, you will need to sort through the clutter. Put similar or like things together.

Think about the similar items you have scattered throughout your home or office, and make a home for those like items to get them together. For example, do you have appliance manuals and warranties scattered, but cannot find the one you need? Depending on the volume of these similar things, designate a drawer, a hanging box file folder, or a box for these. Note that you don’t have to go searching for these items now. This could waste a lot of unnecessary time, however you will at least have a home for these items and will know where they go when you organize and sort through another part of your home or office and come across them at that time.

Make good decisions now! You’ll need to ask yourself some questions about your paper files and other stuff. Set yourself up for a maintenance plan that can be continued.

  • Does this need action on my part?
  • Does this need to be given to someone else for action? Delegate! Send it on, with instructions if needed.
  • Do I really need it? Do I need to keep it for tax or legal reasons?
  • What will happen if I throw/give it away, but need it again later? What is the worst thing to happen if I don’t have it? If it’s a paper file, does it exist elsewhere?
  • Is it recent enough to be useful? Or if physical other than paper, have I used this in the last 6 months? If not, ask if there is a more convenient place for this item, or could it be more beneficial to someone else.
  • Do I love it? If you don’t love it, decide to give it away or toss it. If it is something that causes you emotional turmoil when asking these questions, is it something that you could take a picture of for the memory, and then let it go?

When using Paper Tiger, you have the decision as to how you want to differentiate your types of files by creating what we call ‘Locations’ in the database. A Location is a group of like items, and could relate to where you will store your physical items or could relate to the types of physical items that you plan to index (paper files, books, CDs, DVDs, storage boxes, etc.) Your Locations can be named anything you want – however you relate to what you are indexing, i.e., Office files, Home files, Action files, Reference files, House, Basement, Garage, etc. Paper Tiger uses Locations to represent these places where you store the items you want to be able to find later. For example, your Reference files Location might contain an index of all files in your 5 file cabinets of 4 drawers each, and Item #1 in Paper Tiger starts with the documents in the first hanging file folder in file cabinet 1, and end with Item #500 in with all documents indexed from the last hanging file folder in file cabinet 5. Or you could differentiate your paper files even further with additional Locations such as Clients, Financial, Administrative, Research, etc.

You decide what is best for the way you wish to file. Remember, Paper Tiger is not just a filing system, it’s a ‘finding system’, so as long as you put in a few keywords for each hanging file folder, you will be able to find anything you need…and when you need it without time-wasting searches. A simple search in the database for whatever keyword you’re thinking of that day, will help you find the file quickly.

Paper Tiger experts recommend starting with Locations named ‘Action’ and ‘Reference’. Later you can create an ‘Archives’ Location for those files that you can’t part with for legal or tax reasons, but need to be moved from your general file area. These items can be transferred from one Location to another in your Paper Tiger database so you can still find them if you ever need them.

Action: For things that need action by you, either do it now or place a note on it that outlines what action needs to be taken and by what deadline. (See Paper Tiger Action Files)

Reference: Paper files that you need to keep for reference occasionally, but do not require action, can be indexed into your Reference file location. (See examples of Reference Files)

Toss/shred: If you don’t need a piece of paper, then throw it away or shred it! If you don’t need that old bike anymore, give it away to someone you know or maybe a non-profit agency such as http://www.bearingsbikeshop.org/. If you can’t wear or haven’t worn some of your clothes or shoes in a year, then give them away to someone you know or maybe to Goodwill.

Other Physical Items (not paper files)

For other physical items, (such as books, CDs, DVDs, boxes/containers, etc.), decide if the items need a location in Paper Tiger or if you can index keywords for the items in with other things. See other Location suggestions described on our Not Just For Filing Paper page. Basically, anything that you can put a number onto, can be indexed into Paper Tiger. For example, for CDs or DVDs, you can either place a numbered label that matches the item number in Paper Tiger, on the CD/DVD jacket or you can place the CD/DVD in a binder such as the one pictured below, index the name, author, and other pertinent information into the item’s keywords section in Paper Tiger. As you can see, the item number was written with permanent marker on the DVD and on the DVD binder slot. So the DVD numbered 45, would match what was indexed in Paper Tiger’s item number 45 for the DVD Location (DVD 45).

Other Locations might be for information only (unless you keep related papers in your Reference files), such as:

  • Passwords: for user names and passwords for websites
  • Subscriptions: for keeping record of subscriptions and renewal info
  • Statistics or Ideas
  • Books Read: books you’ve given away, but don’t want to forget you’ve read
  • Frequent Traveler – Membership #, toll free phone number, User ID, facts about memberships

To create your custom Location labels or more Action or Reference labels, Paper Tiger makes it easy. In case you’re wondering, there is no limit to the number of locations you can have! Click here to see even more ways to use Paper Tiger to get organized.

Paper Tiger Filing System software combined with a proven methodology, enables users to get organized and manage paper and other physical items more effectively.

Work the SMART system and get organized quickly!


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