A few tips for quick paper sorting

So you have a big pile of papers in front of you and you don’t know where to start.  Here is a very simple way of sorting that has helped many of my clients:

If you need to first separate your papers into “work” and “personal” in order to feel more focused, quickly sort your papers into two piles.


1.  Get 4 3×5 cards or something similar

2.  Label them:


urgent/high priority


Act on



3.  Use a large table, or if your are comfortable–the floor– and put the labels in front of you with enough room to put the papers next to the label. The goal is to be able to quickly put the papers in the correct pile without thinking much.

3.  Go through each paper and you will find that the paper fits one of the categories.  If you separated work and personal, you will need to duplicate the process.

4.  Put the urgent pile in a shallow box or container if possible. The main thing is to keep it where you will work on it.

5. Put the other piles into separate  plastic bags or large envelopes with the label taped to the container.

6.  Put these in a box labeled: “Papers to deal with”  Add the date of sorting.

7.  Write in your calendar (hopefully you have one!) a day that you will deal with these papers. Write on your calendar where you put the box–after you put the box somewhere out of the way.

8.  Go through the urgent/high priority pile.  Deal with the urgent right away, or make an appointment with yourself to deal with it.  Make an appointment with yourself to deal with the high priority items as well.

Hopefully you will now have a clear desk so that you can now start working on the items you really need to address.  I will write another article about filing in the future.

Let me know if this helps you–or how I can improve on this method.



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