Thursday 13th December 08:29

Time Management: Managing Your Paperwork

The amount of paperwork generated every day in our workplaces is huge, much of it excessive and time-wasting.

· 15 million miles of paper are used every day around the world
· 2 billion letters are posted every day world-wide
· 60 million photocopies are made every hour worldwide
· the UK government issues 2 billion forms a year ie 36 for every man, woman and child in the country
· an average office has 20,000 pages of paper being hoarded for no apparent reason
· we leave around 40 hours worth of paperwork lying around on our desks at any one time
· it is estimated that we spend 45 minutes a day looking for lost paperwork
· each piece of paper on our desks will distract us 5 times throughout the day.

Quite possibly, time spent on paperwork is the single biggest time waster in today's workplaces.

1. The Rules of Deskmanship

To overcome drowning in a sea of paperwork, there are three golden rules of deskmanship:

Rule 1: aim for a clear desk
Rule 2: handle every piece of paper only once, moving incoming correspondence immediately to its next destination.
Rule 3: have a regular clear out of files.

You can also observe the following rules:
· always stop and ask if a piece of paper is really necessary
· send replies to people on the paper they sent you
· phone instead of write
· only use paper if it is vital to record something
· wean yourself off junk-mail
· control the amount of photocopying you need
· keep a reminder of the 3 Golden Rules beside your desk.

2. Paper Control

If you have to keep your paperwork, here are 3 things you should do to keep it under control:

1. Mark It. Simply put a small mark on the top right-hand corner every time you handle a piece of paper that is lying around without a proper place. After about 20 aimless marks, guilt should kick in and force you to do something about it.
2. Sort It. Don't dither. Make up your mind to do one of 5 things with your piece of paper: bin it; file it; store it as a record; send it to someone for action; do whatever you must to end its presence.
3. Store It. Stored paperwork needs 3 simple systems: a colour-coding system to make it easier to find; an out-take system to keep track of it if it is removed; and a bring-forward system for actioning it.

Taking time to develop these systems will save you time in the long run. You can also adopt the Five S's system

3. The Five S's

The five S's is a Japanese methodology which, at one level, is a standardized way of doing things efficiently but at another level, is a way of managing. The 5 steps can be applied to routines for any physical materials management, including managing your paperwork. The 5 steps are known in Japanese and English as the 5 S's. They are:

1. "Seir" or Sorting. Go through all your materials and keep only the essentials. Store or discard the rest.
2. "Seiton" or Set in Order. Find a place for what is needed and put things in their place.
3. "Seiso" or Sweeping. Clean as you go. Tidy up at the end of the day. Put things back in their place.
4. "Seiketsu" or Standardize. Ensure everyone knows the system
5. "Shitsuke" or Sustain. Operate this way until a better method comes along.

Some people believe that you can save an hour a day by managing your paperwork better, an hour that can be better used on your number one goals, your number one tasks, and your number one priorities. 

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