Document organizing tips to keep you afloat


Document System

R – Read
A – Act
F – File
T- Toss

Paperwork, e-mail messages and electronic files can overwhelm you making you feel stressed and ineffective.  Step one is to open your mail or email.  Step 2 is to have a system to process it. If information has built up, look at the creation date on the document and decide if is the most recent version.  If the document was replaced by a more current version toss or delete the old versions.  If the document can be replicated, retrieved or is obsolete toss it, shredded it or delete it.

As documents arrive, paper or electronic decide:

R  –  Needs to be read or referred to later

If it will be read  or referred  to another person, place it in a folder (electronic or paper) labelled as read.  If the document is to be used by another person forward it to the correct person.

A – Needs to be processed

If the document requires:

  • an action to be taken,
  • a decision to be made,
  • a response conveyed or
  • has a deadline

place it in a folder marked Act.  Financial documents should have their own folder separate from the Act folder.

F – Needs to be filed

If  the documents  are completed, but must be retained ,then they are  filed.  If it is an electronic document forward it to the correct folder.  If it is a paper document place it in a file or basket for filing at a later date.

T – Toss – Needs to be disposed of

Documents  that you:

  • no longer need,
  • have no financial implications,
  • are out of date,
  • junk mail or
  • a copy can be obtained elsewhere

can be tossed, deleted, recycled or shredded.

All of your electronic communications and paperwork are now filed as:

  • Read
  • Act
  • File or
  • Tossed

and are ready to be handled at a later time.  Schedule time in your agenda/calendar to read documents, complete any action needed on documents and file paperwork.  This system helps you to:

  • know where documents are if someone has questions,
  • allows you to manage your time effectively by scheduling your paperwork at times when you will be uninterrupted and
  • be able to quickly locate the papers/documents you need to complete a task.

Although much of your information is paperless there is still a substantial amount of paper to control.  Have 3-5 stacking trays or a desktopper with folders.  Label the folders/trays: to do, to read, to file,  refer to other people, and miscellaneous forms.  File the paper correctly and schedule a time to process each folder.

3 black stackable plastic trays for filing and a white desktopper holding file folders for filing paperwork

At the end of the day:

  • Clean off your desk, leaving only papers you are going to process tomorrow in a stack on your desk.
  • In your calendar record the files you need to process.  Place e-mails/documents to be worked on in a folder marked with the day of the week they will be processed
  • Check your to-do files (paper and electronic) for items that need to be completed the next day
  • Sort all other papers and documents into their appropriate trays/ folders.

Share how do you prevent emails and paperwork from drowning you.

Julie Stobbe, professional organizerJulie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, virtually using Zoom. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of teaching to reduce clutter, in your home, office, mind and time. She guides and supports you to be accountable for your time, to complete projects and reach your goals. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

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  1. Diane Quintana on August 12, 2019 at 8:47 am

    I love the RAFT idea! I’m going to recommend it to clients who I feel could follow a system such as this.

    • Julie Stobbe on August 12, 2019 at 9:26 am

      It is a simple ways to help clients make decisions about what is important and what can wait.

  2. Janet Barclay on August 12, 2019 at 9:49 am

    I love the acronym, but it’s also important to schedule time to go through the READ file. Otherwise, they just pile up.

    • Julie Stobbe on August 12, 2019 at 1:09 pm

      Sometimes acronyms make it easier to remember what to do to so I enjoy sharing them. After sorting paperwork, scheduling time to act and read items is the next important step. Thanks for highlighting it.

  3. Linda Samuels on August 12, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Having a paper/digital management system is essential part of staying organized. Dealing with papers are often the biggest issue for my clients. There are many ways to set-up systems, but the basics are they need a place to route the incoming pieces, a place and way to pre-sort them, a place to file short term and long term papers, and the time to act on the items that require more than toss/shred/recycle.

    • Julie Stobbe on August 12, 2019 at 1:04 pm

      I agree that there are 2 stumbling block areas to controlling paper work. One is having a system to deal with the many different types of paperwork and the other is scheduling time to act on items. Having a 2 step process can help to avoid the procrastination of doing nothing because you are not sure where or how to start. Thanks for you comment.

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