Let's talk about paper piles (Part 1)
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and tell you that piles are OK. Yes! Even Rebecca of Rebecca Reorganize has piles at home. Even people with ample time and personal assistants have piles! It is unrealistic to act on every piece of paper the minute it comes your way. I have to put them aside until I am ready to take care of them.
You may have negative associations with your own paper piles because of their insidious accumulation, their silent nagging at you from atop your desk, or your lack of willingness to make them a priority in your life. This is normal. I would like to suggest a system for your piles that might make you see them in a more positive light.
Schedule the time in your calendar to go through those papers. Better yet, make it a recurring appointment. There will always be something more urgent or fun to do, but until you have a trusted system established for incoming papers, these piles have to be addressed (and hopefully whittled down a bit).
And do yourself a favor by setting yourself up for success:
Honor that time (try not to make excuses and reschedule)
Pick a time - and environment - with no distractions
If you have a tendency to clear away those piles for peace of mind or as a reflex when guests come over, just be sure you do not forget about them! I occasionally give in to the ‘out-of-sight-out-of-mind’ theory, therefore having the pile in plain view is it’s own form of motivation; having a clear desk is another perpetual goal of mine.
Currently my pile of papers contains the following:
Notes from a class
Receipts to be scanned
Life insurance statement and newsletter
Most things in the pile are not urgent (though my taxes might move to the urgent category soon!), which is why all this paper has accumulated in the first place. Seeing the contents of the pile typed out make it seem super manageable—I could go through it all right now! Upon closer inspection, some of those papers lead to quick tasks or bigger projects. Some papers have deadlines while others are things to think about strategically over time. It’s not just paper we’re dealing with; it’s ideas, projects, and ways to work towards a more fulfilling (dare I say, organized) life.
So be easy on yourself, but have the determination to tackle those piles! Set an attainable goal for each appointment. It could be quantity or time based: “I will complete tasks associated with 5 papers in this pile,” or “I will focus on this pile for 30 minutes.” If you manage to keep your pile small, it will clear your head and your desk could become a renewed beacon of productivity!