Strategies to Simplify: Tip 8: Stop drowning in papers

“Work simply. Live fully.”  This week CMLE focuses on the following work productivity tip from Work Simply, Carson Tate’s popular book.  At CMLE, we’ve boiled down Tate’s wealth of knowledge from Work Simply to a few key points; please see the book for more detail and resources. At the bottom, see links to earlier tips in the series! Let’s all be our best selves….

This week’s activity: Handle your paperwork efficiently

Do you struggle with paper clutter and have trouble locating necessary information when it is needed? These common situations prove Carson Tate’s statement that “Paper management is still important in today’s electronic world – in fact, it is vital.” In her book Work Simply, Tate shares the four steps to take when encountering new paper documents (you may recognize them – they are also the steps of the Email Agility system, tweaked slightly to be relevant to paper files)


Decide: Does this document require some kind of action? If yes – skip to the next step. If no, ask yourself: Am I required to keep this paper for tax, legal, or compliance reasons? When would I need to access this information again? Where else can I find this information?

Act: Choose to complete the action required right now, delegate the action, or create a task to be worked on.

Contain: Clean up the paper chaos – use file folders, cases, baskets, etc. to keep your essential documents together. Tate suggests creating two main categories: Reference and Action, with subcategories in each group.

Recently, you discovered your Productivity Style with a simple assessment.

Work Simply

Find your Productivity Style for some personalized insight and tools for managing your paperwork:

Prioritizer: Your system must be efficient and logical; therefore, alphabetical and numerical systems are useful for you. Try this: Keep your files in folders all of the same color, and make sure they are out of sight in drawers or cabinets.

Planner: To work well for you, your system needs to be structured and planned. Alphabetical systems can be efficient for you, too. Try this: Use a weekly filing system, with a folder labelled for each day of the week, and containing the documents you will require on that particular day.

Arranger: Your system must be communicative and insightful. Try this: Texture and color can make file folders appealing to you – try using those tools to group your folders by a specific project or action.

Visualizer: In order to be useful to you, your system needs to be holistic and not too restrictive. Try this: “Out of sight, out of mind” may be true for you, so keep your files in clear containers and arrange the documents by project or idea.

Previous tips in this series