by Paul Casey

Attack Your Stack (of Paperwork)

Use this strategy to get unburied from your too-tall paperwork pile.

Make one large pile, out of all the random piles. Like raking leaves or sweeping your kitchen floor, get all the “debris” in one place to collect for movement elsewhere.

Sort with a TRAF mentality. With each document, you will either choose to:

Toss it. Have a garbage can close by. Ask yourself, “Will I REALLY ever deal with this?”

Refer it to someone else. Maybe it’s something you need to delegate to get it off your plate, or maybe it’s an FYI that will help someone else more than taking up space on your desk.

Act on it. If the paper represents an action that can be done in a few short minutes, do it immediately and toss/move the paper along.

File it. The main reason we make piles is that we don’t have places for everything to go. Have manila files ready to label for any paper that doesn’t already have a destination.

  • Have a “hot file” for anything you need to put your hands on in the next day or so.
  • Have a meeting file for papers that need to be turned into discussion points with your team, boss, or individual.
  • Have an idea file, a “to read later” file, and an instruction guide file for when you buy a new item.
  • Have a follow-up file for business cards, or actions from a meeting you’ve attended.
  • And I like the “work in progress” file, for documents that require longer blocks of time to deal with; after putting the action into your calendar as an appointment with yourself, put the paper in the WIP folder to be easily found when the time comes.

Don’t put the paper back in the pile! Abide by the OHIO mantra: Only Handle It Once.

Paul’s hack: I actually use my top drawer as my in-box! I sweep all my papers into this drawer, which gives my desk an orderly look (decreasing my stress about clutter) and gives me one place to begin TRAFing each day. Then, to avoid out-of-sight-out-of-mind, I block out time each day to TRAF 30-45 minutes of paperwork to stay on top of it.

Please share your ideas for how you attack your stack, or other office organizational hacks that others in the Growing Forward tribe could benefit from. For more ideas, I’m at




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