Use the File-Act-Toss System to Help Make Decisions about Paper Retention

by Barbara Boone on March 22, 2008 | Articles

Have you ever struggled with trying to decide what to do with a piece of paper that comes into your office? Most people have at one time or another. That is why we say, “Clutter is postponed decisions.” That is why we accumulate so many piles of paper. We either don’t have a home for them or we aren’t sure whether we need to keep them. The File-Act-Toss System™ makes it easy to decide what to do with the papers.

First, decide if the paper is something that you need to keep. If it has an impact on taxes, is something needed for legal, insurance or warranty purposes, then keep it.

There are two types of files to manage if you are keeping a piece of paper, active or archive files. Active files need to be kept near your working area so that you can access them easily. Archive files don’t need to be kept nearby, but can be stored in another part of the office or even off site.

The second part of the system is Act. This step refers to papers that demand an action of some kind. These types of files are usually kept on the desktop or at least nearby so that you can easily access them daily. Some examples of titles for these files would be: Call, Email, Waiting for a Response, Consider This, Read, File. Each person can decide the names of the files according to their own preferences.

The third step in the system is Toss. Here again, many people procrastinate about throwing papers away because they aren’t sure if they are going to need them in the future. If you decide that the paper can be tossed, first decide if it needs to be shredded. Any paperwork with personal ID, account numbers, or other vital information needs to be shredded. If you don’t need to shred it, recycle it or just toss in the trash can.

Now that you know the three things that you can do with any piece of paper that comes into your office, you should be able to easily manage those piles before they get to the disaster stage. To help you remember the File-Act-Toss System, write them on a sheet of paper to make a label for them and attach them to something on your desk.

Used with permission. © 2005 – 2009 Paper Tiger Productivity Institute All trademarks and registrations are the property of Barbara Hemphill

Barbara Boone is the owner of Productivity Solutions which helps small businesses create and sustain a productive work environment by setting up systems for their workspace, work flow design, paper and digital information, and project management.

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