Be more ruthless
In case you missed them, parts one and two of this series are Identify to clarify and Get less coming in. Your third line of attack is to cast a steely gaze on the paper that's still coming in and be strict about it passing the test to stay in.
Is it relevant to your life right now, or in the near future?
Opportunities, invitations and offers come your way regularly. Many of them are quite worthwhile, especially here in the East Bay where there's so much going on. You can choose to get off all those mailing lists; that's the simple way.
But if you really want to keep getting this information, set up a system whereby it won't hang around endlessly. One easy way is to get an accordion folder and put new material at the front of it. When it starts getting full, pull a hunk of paper from the back and recycle it.
You might want to subdivide this folder into events and product/service offers. Examples of events are plays, gallery openings, school presentations and parties. Product and service offers are things like cell phone plan deals, clothing store sales and car service offers.
Keep closer track on how old these offers are by using a tickler file. This is a file or collection of folders with one folder or section for each month, sometimes also for each day of the month.
If your accordion file has sections, you can label it this way and use it year after year. Once you fill up the March section, go back and dump the January section.
Of course, you could wait till next January, but part of the idea here is that you go back and review what's in there and see if you want to take advantage of anything. If you've got six months to look at, you'll probably decide it's too much work and never do it.
Other questions to ask
- Do I really need or want this, or is it just because it's on sale? (example: a huge discount on something valuable that's not really useful in your life)
- Is this something I should get, but may not ever take advantage of? (example: a gym membership you buy because you should get in shape, even though you hate gyms)
- Is it worth my time to investigate this? (example: phone and Internet service plans can be impossible to compare. Unless you're sure you'll save a lot, don't spend the time)
The lure of the new
We all crave novelty to some extent. Knowing what's going on, what's out there, is part of the spice of life. Just make sure you aren't being controlled by the desire for novelty.
Stephen Covey wrote about the danger of doing tasks that are urgent at the expense of ones that are important. Those two are not the same thing. Urgent paper can grab your attention by its timeliness (Act now!) but is ultimately not an important piece of your life.
Don't stockpile paper you need to read, whether it's magazines, offers or special announcements. Think about how much time that will take, and how much time you have everyday that's not already committed to regular activities. Your spare time is precious! Don't let it get sucked up by dealing with paper.
If you're not dealing with it now, you'll have to eventually. Or you could be like a friend of mine who moved two years ago. Under her desk is a box labeled "Urgent!" She still hasn't opened it. Clearly, nothing really urgent was in there.
The information age
Remember that we live in the digital age. The great majority of information you need and want is available on the Internet. That means you don't need to store it yourself. What you look up online is the freshest information, unlike what's probably lurking in your file cabinet.
Paper has its charm and isn't going away any time soon. Draw your boundaries so you can peacefully coexist with it.
Coming up next is part four, Staying on top of it.