Basic Paperwork Categories

This is the second installment in my series of blog posts about managing paperwork. Hopefully you’ve gathered the tools you need and you’ve picked a place to serve as your paperwork project place. Let’s get set up. . .


Because everyone is different, how you handle paperwork needs to work for YOU! You may decide in-and-out baskets are best for you, or file folders laying flat, or file folders in a stacker, or large envelopes. Let’s keep categories to a bare minimum, though. My recommended categories are:

· Action items

· Reading Material

· Filing


Why just three categories? Because of Decision Fatigue. The overwhelming thing about paperwork is that there’s so much of it. If you try to handle each and every item the moment it comes into your possession you will throw up your hands in disgust and walk away. Then everything ends up in a box or a drawer or on top of the pile on your dining room table.

“Decision fatigue is not a medical diagnosis. Instead, “it’s the challenge of dealing with an overload of information and processing that any of us can face at different points in our lives,” Lynn Bufka, PhD, senior director of practice transformation and quality at the American Psychological Association, tells Health.”


Decision Fatigue Might Be Why You Can't Make Up Your Mind Right Now—Especially During the COVID-19 Pandemic (msn.com)


By minimizing the number of decisions you have to make at one sitting, you are able to do what you need to do and stop at a designated point in the process.


Your first decision is whether or not you have to keep incoming paperwork. For example, when you bring in the mail, clean out your purse or wallet, or go through handouts from work or events, the first decision to make is whether or not you can throw it away or shred it. If you don’t know, then just keep it for now. Easy. Decision made. The sweet thing about this system is you can stop HERE! You don’t have to read it now, file it now, or act on it now.

It’s okay to pick a time each week to categorize your most recent collection of incoming paperwork. Of course, if you know it’s urgent, pull it out of the pile and deal with it. As you get better at paper management, the number of urgent items get fewer and further between.


Next time, we’ll look more closely at two of the three categories of incoming paperwork.

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