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Recently, Meggin was asked this question:

“As an academic at a mid-sized institution, I am looking forward to another term and I’m trying to de-clutter the piles of paper in my office for real this time! For me, the papers are certainly a big problem, but having failed multiple times to clean them up, I think that I have identified one additional problem that I don’t really know how to solve. Each paper seems to represent a task that is “unfinished” - or represents something I should have done or meant to do.

This really messes with all of my attempts at a filing system! They can’t all go in a tickler file 🙂 and they don’t seem to quite belong locked up in a file, because I won’t remember to do whatever it is that the piece of paper represents. The only thing I can think of is to file the paper and add the task to an enormous to do list, which I guess then gets prioritized or eliminated through one of the processes you teach. Do you have a different suggestion for me?”

Meggin’s answer:

I think what you are saying is exactly the problem that many people have - each piece of paper represents a task and it’s the task that is part of what feels overwhelming.

When you look at a piece of paper in the pile (and you might as well start at the top), do one of the following:

1. Identify what needs to be done (the task that is represented by the paper) and actually do it right this minute. Or, if that’s not possible…

2. Identify what needs be to done and write that next action on the piece of paper (or attach a post-it note to it). Be very specific. This way, you’ve already done the thinking involved in deciding about the task and then that’s one less thing you need to do when you get ready to take further action. Then…

3. Put the paper (with the task indicated) in your tickler file (1-31) on the day you think you’ll do it. Or, there’s another option…

4. Put it in a “Calm the Chaos” folder (or whatever you want to name it). Then start having some Calm the Chaos time every day. For about 6 months, I had 30″ of C-the-C time every day and dealt with all kinds of random tasks and mini-projects. Whatever I could get done from this list/pile in 30″ that’s what I did. Or, you could always…

5. Put the to-do on a task list in your planning system and go ahead and toss the paper if it’s not needed any longer.

So…a few options.

gap_guide_de-clutter_de-stress_perspective_new-858x1024And if you’d like more ideas to help you find balance in your space you will want to access the Get a Plan! Guide® to De-clutter & De-stress: A Dozen Ways to Decrease Your Clutter and Decrease Your Stress. This Get a Plan! Guide® will help you learn a dozen specific ways to start dealing deliberately with your clutter – and then experiencing a reduction in your stress.

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