Conquer your paper and digital chaos to keep stress at bay

By | January 24, 2014 | Home Decoration & Organizing

Conquer your paper and digital chaos to keep stress at bay

Stress is quickly becoming an epidemic in North America. Today, 75 to 90 percent of all doctor visits are stress related. Conditions like high blood pressure, allergies, migraines, ulcers, skin problems, and more are related to stress. Stress has also been linked to all the leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, and accidents.

The start of each day is a good time to feel fresh and confident in your ability to make progress on your daily tasks. This feeling of purpose comes easily with an organized workspace. There are two major types of chaos on your office space – paper and digital.

Disorganization with paper washes all good intentions away in confusion and stress, and sets the tone for the rest of the workday.

Digital chaos isn’t eliminated by spam assassins alone. The convenience of computer networking has created duplicates in local folders and network folders. Stored documents on CD are almost impossible to retrieve, and dare we enter the gloom of contact lists, emails and the convenience of archiving.

With all this in mind, now, more than ever, is the time to protect your health and business by conquering your chaos. Getting organized is one giant leap towards dealing with stress effectively. Know your priorities and then schedule time for those tasks in your calendar. You don’t have to complete your list in one day, just focus your energy on what matters most and work your way through your list. Here are a few tips for reducing stress through organization.

Paper chaos

  1. Take all of the paper piles you have on your desk, counter or table and place it in a box.
  2. Pick up the first piece of paper and apply the FAST Principle™. Ask yourself if you’re going to File, Act, Schedule or Toss this piece of paper? If it needs to be filed, then write trigger word(s) in the top right hand corner of the paper. Put it in a pile labeled File. If you need to take action, write out all the action steps on the top right corner of the paper or use a post-it-note and put it in a pile labeled Action. If you need to schedule this into your calendar then write it into your calendar and toss the paper. When you’ve sorted the entire box you should have three piles – File, Act, Schedule and I’ll assume that your wastebasket (the Toss pile) is overflowing!
  3. Once sorted, start with the Action pile and begin to handle each piece of paper – filing it in your action files or scheduling the next action into your calendar. You can also use the tickler system to file these for the day you plan to take action. A tickler system is a way of organizing documents and reminders by date and can help limit the possibility of missing deadlines and neglecting files.

Digital chaos

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to take charge of your computer and abolish all digital disorganization this month. To start, block off at least an hour in your day planner before taking the following steps.

  1. Review your computer files/documents and make a backup of all the documents that you know you will not refer to again (such as draft documents that have now been completed, files with out-of-date information or duplicate information in different file locations). Once a backup has been created, delete all of these electronic files.
  2. Remove any programs that you don’t use. In Microsoft Windows, open Programs and Features by clicking the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Programs, and then clicking Programs and Features. Select a program, and then click Uninstall.
  3. Run Scandisk weekly and create a backup.
  4. Make space in your computer’s browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.) by removing temporary files and cookies periodically.
  5. Take a few minutes to organize your files within your e-mail program. Create these additional files: Action; Read; Waiting for a response; and Templates. Each morning, delete unnecessary e-mails (spam/junk), respond to any e-mail that will only take two minutes or less to respond to, then move all other e-mails to their designated files, leaving a completely empty inbox. Then schedule time each day to deal with those e-mails.
  6. Use only one calendar, either electronic or paper. A good idea is to use an electronic calendar that can be easily synced with a handheld electronic organizer, such as your smartphone, on a daily basis.

Whatever you do to conquer your chaos around the office or home, don’t over schedule. Delegate tasks when appropriate. You don’t have to do everything. Leave free time in your calendar for the unexpected and perhaps for a break now and then. Streamline your office for success!

Photo source:  nuttakit |

How do you organize your paper and digital chaos?

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Sherry Borsheim

Sherry Borsheim is the founder of Simply Productive, an international organization expert, and has appeared on national media including HGTV. Sherry is an author and sought-after speaker who loves helping busy professionals, business owners and moms organize their chaos at home, at work and in their life. Sherry believes there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to getting organized and that your organizing systems need to work for you and the people in your life. Contact Sherry to get organized today at

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