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How to win over the paper piles

Sigh ... you know what's it like with the paperless office that everyone was talking about some years ago. The world got the opposite instead. But it's actually easy to keep an eye on the flood of papers if you just get a little systematic. Here are your quick tips:

1. Firstly, schedule time each day to take care of papers that you are not expecting to receive. Make room for such a task in your daily schedule, so you won't have to get stressed by it during the rest of the day.

2. If you touch a piece of paper or a magazine, you must do something about it. It's a good rule. Don't just add it to the growing pile of papers on your desk. Ask yourself:
• Do I need to act in some way?
• Will I have any use for this soon?
• Is it difficult to get hold of this again?
• Is it updated enough to be useful?
• What is the worst thing about not keeping this?
You are looking for a reason to protect the piece of paper, magazine or whatever it is, from ending up in the trash. Most paper products will have very bad reasons to deserve a place on your desk.

3. Systemize everything you retain
Get three letter trays. One is called ”Today”, the second ”This Week” and the third one is called ”This Month”.
The last category probably contains things like invoices to be paid and other things that need to be maintained to be taken care of at a particular time

4. Get some binders
• The Monthly binder - should be empty at the end of the month (Allow time at the end of the month to clean everything out, so you get a clean, fresh start for the coming month).
• The Important binder – contains contracts and other things that you must always keep.
• The Not-so-important binder  - contains things that might be interesting - check it once every six months or whenever you stumble over it.
• The Must-have-but-don't- know-why binder. File everything that you can't be bothered to take decisions about right now in here.

5. Act on everything that takes five minutes or less to take care of. There are many such cases in your life and to instantly handle them removes weight from your shoulders (and brain) quickly. This can include the newsletter you receive that you never read. Newspapers and other papers that are passed on to you that is not really interesting. Remove your name from all lists, old vendor records and other things that just means more paper and folders that you don't have time to read or that are meaningless to you.

6. Create a reading pile that you bring and read on the subway, the bus, at lunch, on the toilet or when you're waiting for something. Throw it out, act or file each paper when you are finished reading.

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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"The 5 minute marketer" - the book
You run a small business and you want to get ahead of the competition, but how can you give resources to marketing when you're short on time and the budget is tight? The solution is here! The 5-Minute Marketer is packed with 395 tried-and-tested ways to market your business in 5 minutes or less.