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File organizing: Plow through the paper backlog

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Chip away at a paper pile by first flipping the stack upside down, so the oldest material is on top. It’s easier to toss out old things. Break down a large pile into one-inch piles. Attack the first one-inch pile by reviewing each piece and asking these four questions:

1. Has it become outdated? If a “reply by” date has passed, discard it without reading. If it’s not outdated, highlight the date and go to step 2.

2. Is it relevant?
Is it from a supplier or customer you no longer work with? If so, toss it. Otherwise, see if you can find the gist of the document without having to read the whole thing. Highlight key words.

3. Can you sum it up? Using the highlighted words and cover date, make an entry in your online address book or contact manager and discard the paper.

4. Does it still have to be filed?
If your boss called you tomorrow, could your refer to the entry you just made and give her the information needed? If so, eliminate the paper now.

— Adapted from Clutter-Proof Your Business, Mike Nelson, Career Press.

Note: For more tips, see our special report,  The Office Organizer.

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