In following our Joy at Work tidying plan, after books - the next step is to tidy papers. If you work from home, you'll want to deal with work-related papers separately from personal papers. As before, set dedicated time for this process such as before work, during lunch or breaks, in the evening, or on weekends. I recommend 30 minutes to 1 hour for each tidying session to make progress.

  1. The basic rule is to discard everything. This statement (although unrealistic!) demonstrates how much resolve is needed to choose only those papers that are absolutely necessary and to discard the rest. Papers accumulate before we realize it and we hang on to them without really thinking. Decide to keep and store only those papers that make your work easier and never store even a single sheet of paper "just because." 
  2. Gather ALL of your papers, starting with those on your desktop and in your physical Inbox. Note: office, desk, electrical and other supplies fall into the "komono" category and will be tidied next. Put all of these papers in one spot and look at each one. You won't be able to "joy check" papers, instead you will have to check the content. Be sure to remove papers from envelopes, mailers, and folders so you can check every page and find unwanted material that may be mixed in with them.  
  3. While skimming through the content, sort papers into these three broad categories to make filing quicker and easier when you are done. 
    • Pending - papers that need action. Store in an upright filing box until you've dealt with them. If you stack papers in piles on your desk or lay them flat in an Inbox tray, you may forget the existence of the papers at the bottom. 
    • Save because you have to - sort these papers by category and file them in hanging file folders in a filing cabinet, upright in file folders in a filing box placed on a shelf, or scan and store them electronically (if you don't need the originals.) Note: place papers to scan in one place (a bin labeled "to scan") and scan all of them at one time, or in batches, if necessary. Before you start scanning, ask yourself whether you really need to keep a record of all the papers you've set aside for scanning. Scanning. Takes. Time.
    • Save because you want to - papers you want to keep as a reference or ones that actually spark joy for you!
  4. Let go of and discard all of the papers you don't need. Shred sensitive papers as appropriate.   

After you complete this tidying exercise, you will have cleared your workspace of unnecessary paper, you won't waste time looking for papers you need, and your desk and workspace will look neat and tidy. Congratulations, you have just created a peaceful place to work and increased your productivity! #peacefromproductivity  

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