The 8 Action Files that keep you on task

How your inbox and to do lists are keeping you unorganized: The 8 Action Files that keep you on task

So how many times have you picked up your mail or a stack of papers looking for something you “just had”? A lot of time can be wasted picking though the same stacks over and over again. An alternative is to ask yourself what is this mail, note or business card for?

By having an open file box in a visible place such as your kitchen, entry table or office desk sets you up for successfully dealing with paper and being able to get your hands on what you need immediately. By having 8 hanging files labelled with what action needs to be taken, you only need to handle that paper once until you actually need it or use it. Below are the 8 hanging files you will need for your action box.

  1. To Pay. Even with online bill pay there is always a couple things you have to write a check for. Something like property taxes with the amount due can be a good trigger for what’s coming up to pay. You can better budget knowing what’s due that may not be part of your monthly auto bills. You can even keep your current checkbook in the file for easy access.
  2. To Call. You can keep a piece of paper in this file and write a list of people you need to call. You can have one piece of paper for business calls and one for social calls. You can keep notes for calls like Post It’s or business cards. I like to keep a To Call list on my Notes section of my phone. See my Phone Notes Blog for more details on this. Even being electronic you may have notes or information you need for a call that you can keep in this file.
  3. To Write/Email. This can be for hand written things so you could put a thank you note in this file for anything you need to write including stamps. You can also include anything you need to write on the computer or email. This could also be doctor forms or business forms that need to be filled out.
  4. Waiting for Response. This would be the notes, paper or information you need for someone who needs to get back to you. Perhaps a utility bill that you’ve left a message and they need to get back to you. Or perhaps a note for a meeting you need to review when a client or colleague returns your call.
  5. Coupons. This is the place to stash any coupons, gift cards, discounts, on line deals you’ve bought or offers. Make note of the expiration dates. When possible put these things on calendar when you are going to use them so you get the most value out of them and use them before they expire. If you know you will not be using it before the expiration date either don’t get it or don’t put it in here in the first place. In the mail when you get the coupon books or ads only tear out what you know you will use or the “that would be nice” or “someday I might do that”.
  6. Errands. This is for any piece of paper you would need to take with you outside of your home. It could be a receipt to return something, a boarding pass for a flight, forms from a class or seminar or school papers for kids.
  7. To File. This is an easy place to put papers that need to go into your filing system. See my 10 Tips to Organize your Office Blog for a quick and easy way to find all of your files more quickly.
  8. To Read. Anything you want to read. If it is a magazine and you only want to read one to two articles then tear them out and put them in this file. This includes mail you want to read later in more detail. Again, ask yourself if you really are going to set the time aside to read whatever you put in there. If it’s something that comes every month ask yourself will I read it this week and even before the next edition arrives? Better yet cancel any magazines that you consistently don’t make time to read. You can take this file with you when you leave the house in case you have 5-15 minutes waiting for an appointment where you can read some of these things and then recycle them. If you find this file is getting very thick either set time aside to really read these things or recycle them for more relevant or pressing items you need to read. If you are going on a trip or want to dedicate some weekend time to read you could put the magazine or longer reads in a Travel Reading bin to read for those occasions.

Feel free to book an individual session or attend one of our group classes listed under events on my website if you would like more support in building this tool.

Yours from Clutter to Calm,