Your Document Management Knowledge Center

How to Deal With – And Prevent – Paper Document Clutter

declutter paper documents

If you’re like most people, you’ve got some stacks of paper sitting on your desk awaiting your attention. But you’re super busy, and pretty soon you’re surrounded by a variety of piles and stacks – enough to make your blood pressure rise when you walk into the office.

In situations like this, confusion easily abounds and your productivity slowly decreases. You’re not sure where to find things, what’s important and what’s not, or where you should even put the stuff.

It’s easy for important documents to get misplaced or put at the bottom of the stack. Worst of all, this can be a huge liability for your company as important workflows halt or critical documents get lost or stolen.

Here are 2 ways to get back to a neat and clean desk and a feeling of calm confidence:  you know where things are and have a clear vision of your highest priority tasks.

1. Declutter Your Paper Documents

Okay, this is kind of a pain, but it has to be done. The first step is to go through all of those stacks and organize, file, or toss away all the paper documents on your desk.

Clear your schedule, grab a cup of relaxing tea (or coffee!), and settle in to the task. Decluttering isn’t brain surgery, but here are some tips to get you in the right mindset. (And maybe help you procrastinate for just a few more minutes! LOL.)

Set Some Time Aside

Allow yourself enough time to work uninterrupted so that you won’t be frequently starting and stopping.

Make Documents More Manageable

If you’re faced with large piles of paper, break them down into smaller, more manageable stacks. As you work through smaller stacks, you’ll feed off that sense of accomplishment as you watch the paper disappear.

Work on One Stack at a Time

Stay focused: don’t flit from one stack to another. Over thinking how to tackle the problem can lead to procrastination which is counterproductive to your decluttering efforts. The more you prolong starting the larger these stacks of paper will grow.

Choose Your Filing Method

The hardest part of the whole process is to figure out what to do with all this stuff. Where in the heck should you put it? It can be very confusing and frustrating, which is probably why we get ourselves in this mess in the first place.

Right now the goal is to just get organized, so move forward with the strategy you’re most familiar with, whether it’s paper file folders or uploading documents into the computer.

2. Make a Better Document Management Plan

Now that you’re starting to be able to see your desk again, you’ll probably start to feel a sense of relief. Your muscles relax, your breathing slows, and you can start to think more clearly about the REAL work you have to do.

You might even notice that your mind is starting to free up for some new, innovative thinking. Don’t waste this opportunity!

The longer you can maintain this organized state, the more productive you’ll be. It’s time to start thinking hard about how to improve your process so you don’t get into this mess again (or at least not for a long while!)

As you’re sifting through the sea of paper, continually evaluate and document:

  • The types of documents you have
  • What they’re for and what you need to do with them
  • How you’re organizing and filing them

Take some notes. Diagram the process. Start thinking about how you could improve your document management and workflow. Otherwise, you’ll end up right back where you started in no time at all.

There are a variety of technology applications out there that can help you streamline your document management and workflow processes. Take some time to research to see what kind of features and functions are available that can really help you – and your whole company – stay organized.

If you don’t have time to do the research, take your copious notes to a document management consultant. With their unique industry expertise, they can help you create a solution that can dramatically improve how you manage your information.


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Topics: Workflow, Business Process Automation