How To Get Paper Under Control

By Joshua Zerkel

Dealing with paper is nobody’s idea of fun (well, unless you’re a professional organizer, perhaps!). Seeing stacks and piles of paper sitting around can be incredibly frustrating for many of us, and you may waste time rifling through your piles trying to find the one piece of paper you actually DO need. To help you better manage your paper, it’s key to get control over both the new paper coming in the door as well as the paper you already have sitting around. Here’s how:

Go digital. One easy way to get your new paper under control is to start receiving key documents digitally. The usual suspects here include utility bills (power, cable tv, internet, cell phone and landline), financial statements (credit card bills, bank statements, brokerage and investments), and the like. Beyond that, most documents that are sent through the mail, including health insurance statements, mortgage bills, and more, let you opt-in to receive them electronically instead of through snail mail. Go through your new mail, and for each document, see if there’s an option to receive it electronically instead, and sign up right away. To help keep things organized, you can use a service like FileThis Fetch ( to automatically download new statements for you.

Say “no” to the new. It’s largely up to you to stem the tide of new paper, and the less new paper you have to deal with, the better. Rather than blindly accepting paper coming your way, be strategic. If you’re at meetings and someone hands you a document, ask if you can get an electronic copy instead. The next time your reach to pick up a brochure, menu, or flyer, check a company’s website for the information you’re looking for. Instead of taking someone’s business card, take a photo with your phone using Evernote or a business card scanning app. Think about all the miscellaneous bits of paper you find yourself dealing with, and consider alternate ways to get that information.

Toss the junk. Go on a “seek and destroy” mission through the piles on your desk, the stacks on the floor, and your file drawers, looking for the documents that belong in the recycle bin or the shredder. Look for paper that’s blatantly outdated, documents you’ve never read (and never intend to), and things you never wanted in the first place, and get rid of them. Try to get eliminate as much as you can. This is meant to be a quick exercise – don’t waste time agonizing over whether to keep a particular document. Better to just keep it and move on, rather than spend tons of time on each individual piece of paper.

What are your strategies for eliminating paper from your life?


One Reply to “How To Get Paper Under Control”

  1. Interesting to see this kind of article on a Covey Blog. For years I have heard, \”paper has been around for 2,000 years and will be long after digital devices.\”

    I 100% agree that digital can be a great for solution for some, if not many. A few might not be ready for such a jump; but the new levels of technology are amazing out there. From Ipads, to Evernote. What is frustrating is that Covey has never take the time to really invest in converting to digital. PlanPlus has never been amazing, it started out great! but has failed to continue and their online version just doesn\’t cut it. Now there are some great copy cats out there that have made amazing planner and digital apps that Covey should be partnering with or be owning.

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