Ruthless paperwork is the route to a clean desk. It’s a problem of small-scale decision-making, every piece of paper requires a decision and a final destination. Too often, papers fall prey to the procrastination syndrome: I’ll think about it tomorrow.
Ideally, mail and paperwork should be attended to for a few minutes every day. If the amount is small, three times a week may do. You don’t want papers to build up to the point where you look at it and you get discouraged. The easiest way to avoid that is to keep up to date.
Files can be kept in open piles on a desk or in folders, according to your style. If a clean visual environment is important to you, use boxes and folders as you RAFT. If you prefer a look of activity and busyness, paper piles may be the answer.
If you do keep stuff, keep it in a way so that it doesn’t jam up your life and you can find it again.
Use the RAFT template: refer it, act on it, file it or toss it.
- Refer it to the correct person, if you’re not the one to handle it.
- Act on it immediately. Items that can be dealt with easily, do now; David Allen’s two-minute rule.
- File it, if necessary. Eighty percent of filed papers are never looked at again. Make sure you really need it before you keep it.
- Toss out anything you no longer need. Don’t keep routine memos or anything that gives you information you already know or have. Record meeting information on your calendar, then toss the memo. We you receive document revisions, toss the orginals.
Take this Work/Life Balance quiz from the Canadian Mental Health Association. It will open in a new window. Once you have your results, come back here for some tips to help you manage the balance between work and life.
- Decide what is important. If you do not have a clear sense of your personal values, goals and priorities, you will not be able to determine which activities are important to furthering your life plan.
- Eliminate the unnecessary. Once you have a clear picture of your life plan, drop those things that do not move your goals forward. Learn to say no!
- Protect Your Goals and Priorities. Everyone will have an opinion as to how you should be living your life. Listening to opinions is fine, being dictated to is not. Live the life you want, not the one your parents or best friends or anyone else thinks you should be living.
- Don’t go it alone. Get the support of family and friends. Give your partner permission to remind you when things seem to be getting out of balance. Better yet, your partner should be involved in developing your life plan.
- Schedule brief breaks for yourself throughout the day. Your productivity and effectiveness will increase if you take short breaks every couple of hours. You will get more accomplished.
- At the end of each day, set your priorities for the following day. Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have available.
- Only respond to email once or twice a day. Then, shut off your email program to avoid being distracted as messages come in.
- Make a distinction between work and the rest of your life. Protect your private time by turning off electronic communications. Don’t be available 24/7.
- Address concerns about deadlines and deliverables early. As soon as you see that a deadline is unrealistic, communicate your concern to your employer – don’t wait until the deadline passes.
- Take all of your allotted vacation time. Taking vacation allows you to come back to work refreshed and more productive.
- Learn to say no!
- Create a buffer between work and home. After work, take a brief walk, do a crossword puzzle, or listen to some music before beginning the evening’s routine.
- Decide what chores can be shared or let go. Determine which household chores are critical and which can be done by someone else. Let the rest go.
- Exercise. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes at a time, you’ll feel more energized and refreshed.
- Create and implement a household budget. Start by setting aside some money from each pay cheque for the future.
- Make healthy food choices. Healthy eating will gives you and your family more energy.
- Pursue a hobby. Either with friends or family or for some quality time on your own.
- Learn to say no!
In Your Community
- Make choices. Social, community and volunteer obligations pull us in many directions. Choose the ones that are most fulfilling and learn to say ‘no’ to the rest.
- Manage expectations. Be clear at the outset about how much time or support you can contribute to community organizations or your children’s school events.
- Learn to say no!