A simple system to keep your counters clear
One of the most central parts of my paper organizing system is called an “action file.”
An action file is a separate desktop file, kept in a convenient and commonly used area, that helps you organize those important papers that need some action taken.
- Bills that need to be paid
- Homework that needs to be done
- Insurance statements or medical bills to follow up on
- Applications that need to be filled out
- Papers that need to be signed
- Project-related paper that you’ll be referencing until the project is over
And the list goes on and on.
We tend to leave this important category of paper lying around on surfaces because we worry that out of sight will mean out of mind. But too often, piles melt together, papers seem to wander off on their own, and the constant visual assault of papers everywhere can feel very distracting and overwhelming.
Designating a separate, visible file system just for action paper is the key to keeping kitchen counters and desktops clean and clear. Keeping that paper organized and yet still within sight is that magic formula to helping you take action on the paper while giving you peace of mind.
How to get started?
Follow these simple steps to create an action system:
- Select an open, desk top container and hanging file folders in a style and color you love. This container, situated in a commonly used area like the kitchen, will keep paper standing vertically, which is psychologically important. Lay a paper down on a surface and it’s likely to get piled on. But standing up, that paper will give you the subtle nudge to stay emotionally connected to it and its corresponding action.
- Sort mail and other paper on the surface of your desk and counter into categories:
- Bills to pay
- Phone calls to make
- Appointments to schedule
- Coupons to clip, and so on. (Hint: create a label for each person in your family or home.)
Once you have your paper organized into groups, you’ll know what categories belong in your action system. (Of course, there will be a lot of paper that can bypass the action system by recycling or filing them into long term storage right away.)
3. Create labels according to the categories you’ve just made and file away the paper. Your surfaces will be clear, and you’ll know exactly where to find that homework packet, word document, or redecorating ideas you are taking with you to the store.
Of course, an action system is just a holding tank for these papers. To keep your counters clear and stay caught up on paperwork, designating a regular time to go through the paper and take action is crucial.