Piles of paper are overwhelming and drain your mental energy. When I start working with my clients they usually have piles of papers scattered throughout the office. When asked about the piles, they often correspond with a task that they avoid doing regularly. There are a variety of reasons for avoiding the task, but most can be broken down into three main categories! They perceive the task will take too long. They perceive the task as overwhelming because they don’t have a regular process for doing the task. They forget to do the task because they don’t have a reminder to do the task [so they leave the items out on the desk]. So let’s take a look at each of these issues.
Piles often accumulate because we perceive that a task will take a long time. Often times however, the piles arise for tasks that only take a few moments to do if done regularly. My friend Angie Stegall, words it well in her Make Some Room Manifesto, “two minutes now saves hours later”. If the task takes two minutes or less do it now! Let’s take the example of sorting mail when it arrives. Instead of piling it on whatever horizontal surface you can find, what if you immediately recycled/shredded what you didn’t need and put the items you needed to take action on into action folders. NO MORE PILE!
Piles accumulate when we don’t have a regular process for dealing with them. One client was required to keep a paper trail of transactions. The trail became a pile because she would sometimes hand write them and sometimes type them on the computer. Together we created a notebook that had printed copies of the forms that were redesigned to make her work easier. Now she can keep up in just a few moments, instead of looking at the pile of paper and NEVER getting the task done. NO MORE PILE!
When we think we will forget to do a task we pile the items on top of our desk, until we can no longer see the desk. Then we are still overwhelmed because we don’t know what to do next! Another client of mine avoided working at the desk in her office because it became piled up with forms that needed to be filed. Once we got her caught up with the filing, we put a recurring appointment on her calendar to spend 15 minutes each week filing and neatening the desk she avoided. She gave herself a reward of 15 minutes on her favorite social media site for spending the 15 minutes doing the task each week. NO MORE PILE!
What can you do today about one of the piles on your desk?