Paper Tiger Blog

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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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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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