Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Papers that need ACTION

In our journey to win The Paper Chase so far,
we have talked about how to minimize the number of  papers that come in (aka The Mail Game)
and how we really should be doing all we can to keep as many papers as we can OUT!

We've also talked about how if a paper does make it into the house, we should always try to give the needed information to our Secretary and then immediately throw that paper away.

But there are some papers that really do need to find a place in our homes--usually NOT permanently but for some given length of time. These papers have three futures, in my home at least--and they are either

In this post, I am going to be talking about the first on the list, papers that need "ACTION." (The "to file" and "to hold" topics both need some serious time and explanation so they will be addressed in the next few posts.)

When a paper comes in (as in you played the mail game and it made it into the house) and it wasn't something that could just be recorded on the BIG calendar and then thrown away, it usually requires some sort of ACTION. 

Some examples might be: a bill that needs to be paid, a wedding invitation that a card or gift needs to be sent for, a letter that needs answered, a notice that needs to be called about, or maybe a bank statement that needs to be reconciled. Speaking of bank statements though, we are enjoying life in the 21st century now and one of the great things about that is there are many pieces of mail that we used to get on paper via "snail mail" that are now easily accessible on line ... like bank or credit card statements, utility bills, phone bills, etc. As with just about anything, I strongly encourage you to do whatever it takes to keep unnecessary items from coming IN to your home...and that especially includes paper. So if you haven't already, contact your bank, lending institutions, and utility or phone companies (or ANY other place that sends you paper on a regular basis) and ask about receiving your statements, notices and bills on line. (Then, for heavens sake, when you do get them online, DON'T print them out!)

In your quest for management of your papers that do need to come in, something like this little "contraption" is a must.  Some call it a file tray. I call it a "Paperwork Processing System."
I keep mine in the closet in our den/office.
But in order to really show you what it is and how to use it, I'm going to pull it out and put in on the desk for a minute.
 A "Paperwork Processing System" can be set up in all sorts of ways. It does not need to be in a file tray format. It could look something like this:

or this

or this
or this....just to name a few

 The possibilities are endless really....just go to any office supply store and look around. 
The key though is it needs to be something that your papers can easily be placed into.
So, nothing with drawers or lids like these:

Why? you ask
Because anything like that could easily stop you from putting the paper where it goes and instead invites you to place the paper(s) ON TOP of the file holder instead, of course with the wonderful intent of putting it away "at some future time." (Which we all know how that turns out.)

So whatever it is, it needs to be something that is open and easily accessible and helps you put that paper away quickly.

When a paper comes in (it passed the MAIL GAME test) and the info it contains can't just be given to the SECRETARY (and then thrown away), then it comes here to your ACTION file. When I put something into my "Action" folder or slot, it means it needs to be specifically acted upon in some way.  We'll talk even more about examples in a later post  but just know that it's a general category....things that need ACTION.

And that ACTION will occur on Paperwork Processing Day....a key ingredient in your paper chase success story.

Paperwork Processing Day is always Wednesday for me. But it can be any day of the week for you. And don't let the "Day" in the title scare you really is about 15 minutes at most if you are the least bit consistent with it. On your Paperwork Processing Day, you simply take a few minutes and ACT on anything in your ACTION folder. You pay the bill, send off the card, make the phone call to ask the question or solve the problem, etc. Once the action is completed, if the item needs to be kept long term, it goes into the "To File" folder or space.
Important side note:  When you look at my files, you might notice that they aren't labeled. Which one is "Action" and which one is "To File?" And what are the other two for? Good job! Those are good questions. I am really big on labeling everything (just read here if you don't believe me) and yet you caught me today with something not labeled. Let me explain...up until about 2 months ago I had a black file tray that was labeled but eventually died (it was 16 years old after all and got cracked a few too many times) and that file tray was labeled. In all of those years, my husband and I (who are really the only two who use this Paperwork Processing System with any regularity at all--OK, let's face it, EVER) have been trained through the years by the previous file tray that was labeled to know which was which and now just know beyond any doubt that the 2nd from the bottom is "Action" and the next one up or 2nd from the top is "To File."  Always the top file is "Supplies"--so you can see blank paper, blank file folders, blank envelopes and blank cards. And always the bottom is "To Hold" which, like I said earlier, will be the topic of our next discussion.  Hope that helps.

One last word about Paperwork Processing Day...
when you take the time every week to address your paperwork, you are much more likely to stay on top of things and not be caught late or without. I really believe in this step. It's a must and, like I said earlier, only takes a few minutes out of your day. Choose a specific day and keep it consistent each week. And after just a few weeks, your paperwork will be trained and you will be too!

Next Post:  The papers to HOLD
In future posts, we of course will delve into filing and filing systems--such important topics on our quest to conquer papers! So stay tuned!

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