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What paperwork to keep and for how long

- Author: Crystal

Struggling with paperwork and filing? Check out this handy 1-page reference document, “What Paperwork to Keep and For How Long?”

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Office and paperwork

What to shred to prevent identify theft

- Author: Crystal

istock_000000241690xsmallTo help prevent identity theft, shred anything that has your:

  • birth date,
  • signature,
  • account number,
  • password, or
  • social security number

And for Pete’s sake, please shred all credit card applications!

Not all shredders are created equal! I recommend investing in a high quality, cross-cut (rather than vertical cut) shredder. Fellowes makes excellent shredders which will last you a lifetime, and they are often available in the $60-90 range at your local warehouse stores such as Costco.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Office and paperwork

Another green idea for reducing clutter

- Author: Crystal

istock_000007262651xsmallFew people realize that in most towns across the USA, mixed paper can be recycled with your weekly recycling pick-up.

To find out whether your town does, Google your local solid waste management program. You can also check Earth911 to find a drop-off center near you.

What is mixed paper?

  • Paper of all kinds – not just newspapers and office paper! We mean junk mail, construction paper, old birthday cards, cardstock, paper shopping bags, and any other non-standard paper. Staples are fine.
  • Paperboard. Shoeboxes, cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, etc which are clean and dry – no food contamination!
  • Soft books of all kinds. Phone books, paperback novels and catalogs are examples.

How to recycle mixed paper at your home or office:

  1. Designate a bin, box or bag for mixed paper in your home or office. I use an inexpensive crate like this one.
  2. Deal with junk mail right away. Do NOT set it aside for later. Put your junk mail directly into your mixed paper bin so it doesn’t pile up! Remember: Envelopes with plastic windows cannot be recycled, but their contents can! Shred any credit card offers.
  3. Make mixed paper recycling a habit. Each time you receive a package, finish off a box of cereal, or pay bills, gather your mixed paper and head toward the recycle bin!
  4. Put your bin out on recycling pick day along with your other recyclables.

Ready to go a step further? Simplify your paperwork.

If you have thoughts on this or other ideas, post a comment or write to Crystal.

2 Comments - Categories: Office and paperwork, Sustainable living

Stock up to keep up

- Author: Crystal

STOCK UP. Stocking your paperwork processing area with envelopes, return address labels and plenty of stamps will encourage bill paying and reduce procrastination!

No Comments - Categories: Office and paperwork

Get your e-mail inbox into shape

- Author: Crystal

This week, my friend Julia attended a workshop called “Reboot Your Work: Modern Methods for Productivity, Sanity, and Control”, presented by productivity consultant Matt Cornell. (Oooh! I wish I could have gone too!!)

I thought Matt had a good suggestion for people whose e-mail inboxes are out of control. One not-so-productive workshop trainee (we’ll call him “Phil”) complained of having 17,000 unread messages in his e-mail account. Matt advised Phil to (1) focus on dealing with only the e-mail messages from the last 2 weeks, and (2) put the rest of the messages in an archive folder to work on later (if he finds the time to.)

Finally, if the e-mail becomes more than Phil can handle, Matt says he could always file for e-mail bankruptcy.

Here are my two tips for keeping e-mail under control:

(1) Set yourself up for success.

  • For the love of God, consolidate your e-mail accounts. If you have more than one e-mail address, set up your system to receive ALL e-mail messages at one central account.
  • Create filters. How do they work? Filters will automatically label, archive or trash messages for you based on specific criteria you set. I use filters for managing my all newsletter subscriptions and listservs – basically anything that holds my general interest but does not require action. With filters, I can read newsletters and mailing list stuff whenever I have time (which isn’t very often!), and they stay out of my inbox, which I chiefly reserve for actionable items.
  • Set an intention for time spent working on e-mail. Decide before you sit down what your goals are. Do you want to address the most urgent messages and spend only 10 minutes doing so? If yes, then identify the urgent, actionable messages, reply and get out of there quickly. You must fight the urge to get sidetracked following YouTube links or reading forwarded jokes!
  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists, junk and newsletters as often as possible. It is worth your time to unsubscribe so you will not receive them ever again.

(2) Check e-mail the smart way.

  • Identify the action step inherent in each message. Tagging actionable messages with brightly colored tags (thanks Gmail!) such as “Do”, “Schedule”, “Read”, “Write Back ASAP”, “Write Back Later”, etc. will help you prioritize and clear your inbox much faster. For example, if you have three items labeled “Schedule”, you can take care of all three in one sitting the next time you have your calendar open.
  • Add specific tags to the messages you plan to archive but may need to find again later. The most useful tags refer specifically to the content of messages. Examples are “Blog ideas”, “Running group”, and “Recipes”.
  • Put off less urgent responses by writing a short note to the person such as, “Dear _______, Thank you for your message. I hope to get back to you next week with a thoughtful reply to your question.” Tag the message “Write Back Later”. Now you can put your energy into tackling the messages that require a more immediate response.
  • Archive messages immediately after taking action.

If you need more tips, I recommend checking out 43 folders’ Inbox Zero series.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

1 Comment - Categories: Office and paperwork, Online organizing

How to stop drowning in gadgetry

- Author: Crystal

You’ve just bought a new laptop, printer, cell phone, camera or other gadget. Great! But now you’ve got a bunch of peripheral junk to contend with.

When it comes to accessories, manuals and packaging, most folks are paralyzed with decisions. Will I need this? What should I keep? So they don’t take action and instead find themselves drowning in it.

My advice:

Unpack it right away. Open the box and take all the stuff out.

Break down the box. Unless you plan to return the item, there is no need to keep the box your gadget arrived in. Break it down (I keep a box cutter handy for this purpose) and put it in your recycling bin right away. This act takes less than 2 minutes and saves a ton of space. If you absolutely must keep the box, move it to the attic/basement/garage so it doesn’t clutter your office.

File the instruction manual in a folder in your file cabinet labeled “Instruction Manuals”. Makes it a cinch to find again when you need it!

Bundle up the cords. Loose cords are tangly and confusing. I recommend gently coiling them up and rubberbanding them. You can also try ties or twists

Optional bonus task: Label the cord. This can be accompished easily with a medium or large size sticky note. First, write your label on half of the sticky note (e.g., “Travel power charger for cell phone”).  Now fold the sticky note over the cord so the sticky parts of the note seal together and the written label is visible. Reinforce with clear tape if needed. You’ll never again wonder what those cords are for!

Store the accessories efficiently. It’s unlikely you’ll need all of those cords, disks, adapters, etc., but it’s nice to have them around if/when you do. I put mine in a plastic storage tub clearly labeled “Computer Accessories”, which I store in the most accessible part of the attic. The Clutter Coach advises bagging computer and gadget accessories (including manuals and disks) in gallon-size Ziplock bags and “filing” them in your file cabinet.

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Office and paperwork

Declutter your wallet!

- Author: Crystal

My wallet was getting too full of membership and frequent buyer cards, so I invented a system to maintain a sleek and orderly wallet: I took all the cards out and put them on a binder ring!

Not only does my wallet look a lot better now, but my cards are easy to find when I need them.

You can do it too! Here’s how:

First, I used my three-hole puncher to punch a hole in the top left corner of each card. Note: It’s best to do this one card at a time so you don’t overwhelm your puncher.

Next, I clipped all the cards onto a binder ring which I bought in a set for only a couple of dollars. Target sells cool, colored ones like the one shown in the photo, above.

Finally, I attached the binder ring to my coin purse zipper and put the whole thing in my handbag.

Voila! Instant organization!

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Closets, Office and paperwork

Freedom! Online filing, lists and sharing.

- Author: Crystal

Another reason I use a Web site called Backpack to organize my whole life is the remarkable ability it gives me to store files and share important information with other people.

Here are just a few examples of the ways I use Backpack:

Storing important documents for safe-keeping. A fire might be able to burn down your house or filing cabinet, but it can’t destroy the whole Internet! With Backpack, the filing possibilities are endless. Simply scan and upload documents to the site as files. As an example, I store my a copy of passport and other important travel documents on Backpack in case (heaven forbid!) I lose them while traveling.

Sharing travel information with my family members (they get worried about me). I create a whole page for them called, for example: “Crystal’s trip to Nigeria”. I attach the flight itinerary and include the addresses and phone numbers of the hotels where I’ll be staying. I also include time zone information in case they want to call me. While overseas, I can access the page and update it if necessary – and even include a note about how I’m doing. My mom finds real comfort in the practical travel pages I make for her!

Managing doctor and dentist contact information, as well as listing locations of all my family members’ medical records. This one really comes in handy. Whenever I need to make appointment, call for results or transfer records, I have all the information at my fingertips. I can also share the page with my husband so he can view and access the info too.

Christmas gift and card list. Using the “Notes” function, I create a list of all the people I need to buy gifts for, as well as any gift ideas or notes to myself. (Example: “Anna likes comfy slippers, wears size 8 shoe”) A second list includes all the people I want to send cards to.  I can keep these lists from year to year so I can continue to update and refine them.

Next —> How to use Backpack for organize your daily tasks.

Have more ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Office and paperwork, Online organizing

Organize your whole life with one Web site

- Author: Crystal

For the past two years, I have used a Web site called Backpack as my task list manager, collaboration tool, online filing system and much more.

How does it work? Very simply. Once you are logged in, you make pages. On each page, you choose to start a list, add notes, or upload files. You can share your pages with other people, or just keep them to yourself.

Why Backpack is so great:

  • It substantially reduces the amount of time I spend digging for paper or hunting desperately for information.
  • It is simple, easy to use and extremely intuitive, meaning you do not have to learn anything to be able to use it.
  • Backpack simplifies the way you use task lists, and it is highly useful for filing and planning. Basically, you can organize your whole entire life with it.
  • The index system for keeping track of all your pages makes Backpack like having your very own personal assistant.

Bottom line:

Backpack is like an undiscovered treasure. Folks have just not caught on yet. Backpack is great for anyone who wants simple, online organizing solutions.

Next —> How to use Backpack for online filing, lists and collaboration

2 Comments - Categories: Office and paperwork, Online organizing

It’s magic: a business card binder!

- Author: Crystal

Let’s face it. Most of us stuff the business cards we acquire into a desk drawer, a wallet, pockets or other random places.  We have no strategy for storing the cards, yet we hope to be able to refer to them again one day.

Idea. As the Great Organization Masters say, “If you can’t find it, you may as well not own it!” And there is no better way to organize those sweet little information-packed cards than in a binder!

Research. I investigated a number of business card storage options at Office Depot and Target, which ranged from $11 and up in price, including fancy leather-bound book-style organizers at over $40!  I finally concluded that it is cheaper and more effective to create your own business card binder.

Solution. I purchased a set of transparent pages with business card pockets, made by Rolodex, for $10.99 at Office Depot. Here is a link to the same product online for only $10.43. These pages hold up to 300 business cards – about twice the amount for half the price of the fancy leather-bound organizers!  I clipped the set into a thin three-ring binder that I already had at home.

It took me about 10 minutes to organize my business cards by type. I used the following categories to group my cards together: Home Repair, Auto, Pets, Health, Friends, Work, etc. and arranged them in the binder. I threw out cards I no longer cared about, as well as cards I knew were outdated and any duplicates.

Results. Voila! My binder is now a super handy directory of contacts which I can pull out whenever I need to! It’s cute too!

No Comments - Categories: Office and paperwork