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P—Paperwork—Reducing the Clutter

The explosion in the use of computers made some people suggest that we would create paperless workplaces. The opposite is now evident. Attaching printers and copiers to computers has made the duplication of information so simple that the amount of paper we are using has increased dramatically. Here are some things you can do to reduce the waste and save yourself lots of time too!

  1. Attack your desk! Put all the papers you see around you into one pile. Then go through them, one at a time, and choose one of these options for each:

    • File it. Get it out of sight. File it in a place where you can retrieve it without any problems.

    • Handle it. Make a decision. Respond to the person who sent it to you. Delegate the word processing to someone else if possible, or simplify the process by writing your reply on the letter and faxing it back.

    • Refer it if you are not the best person qualified to deal with it.

    • Throw it out. Most of the papers lying on your desk probably fall into this category; they've been around for so long that they have no value any more, or they are fun things that you thought you might have a use for but no longer do.

  2. Improve your filing system. You need the peace of mind that will enable you to retrieve information when it's out of sight. So don't

    • Create files that are described by an adjective, adverb, date, or number. For example, you're unlikely to find your Hot Prospect or New Products file, but you will find something in Prospects. Use nouns for file titles.

    • Create new files for every person or topic you hear of. Combine them. For example, Customers' Needs and Quality Service files can be combined under the heading Customer Service.

  3. Shorten your reports. It will reduce the time you need to create them and save your reader time. Key strategies are to

    • add pictures and graphs instead of narrative;

    • include details and tables in the appendix, in case people want to refer to them;

    • include an executive summary outlining the issue, solution, plan, and benefits;

    • use bullet points wherever possible.

  4. Reduce the number of reports printed. If people ask you for a copy of a certain report, ask them why they need it. Perhaps they don't. Maybe one section only will suffice. Or perhaps they need a different report.

  5. If you are on a circulation list that includes people who don't even work in your organization, think about removing your name. The information is probably redundant. Or, in the unlikely event that you need a copy at some time, you can track down that one issue.

  6. Reduce your reading of

    • corny solicitations;

    • forms that are duplicated;

    • letters sent to you to cover someone's behind;

    • reports and letters that have just about the entire organization on the "cc" list;

    • reports that are as heavy as a brick, but that contain only one page of interest to you;

    • policy manuals that are so detailed they would make you an indentured servant were you to follow all their directions.


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