Plow Through Paper after Vacation

organize paper after vacation



You’ve just returned from a vacation, feeling relaxed and looking tanned, only to find a colossal pile of mail and other papers waiting for you at work. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the volume of paper when you return. Even when you are not on vacation, 57% of workers in a recent survey by Neat reported frustration with paper and believed there are better paper management tools. What’s the best way to deal with paper after you return from a vacation?

Get a plan.

The best start requires planning and prioritizing. Before heading on vacation, let your team at work know and encourage them to send emails after your return. When you return, get a good night’s rest and head to the office a little earlier than usual. Your head start means you are working before others arrive and interruptions begin. Make a list of all your outstanding and upcoming tasks. Then prioritize what is immediately important and what can wait until the end of the week. Getting clarity is the best first step.


Automate when possible.

There are many ways to automate your work. Set up your auto-responder before you leave to share your absence. Set up a new message for the week of your return to indicate you are back at work, slogging through paper (and email) and will not be available for meetings until later in the week. Arrange for auto pay for bills before you leave so payments are made in a timely fashion.


Plow through your papers.
Triage the important and urgent papers, brutally discarding others. It’s not time for the “maybe, should and what if” papers. Categorize the remaining papers into groups of Action, Pay, Scan and File and place these in your Command Center, your tool for organizing actionable papers. Create a task list for actionable items in addition. Your list will help you stay on top of projects and help you focus.


Scan and digitize paper from your trip.
Often on vacation we take journals and business related reading materials. We gather business cards from contacts and possibly have receipts for tax purposes. After the trip, consolidate the information, amazing brainstorming notes you had, and other scraps of paper in your Scan folder. Using your Neat Connect or Neat mobile, (sponsored post) scan these items in later in the week. Creating a digital version of these articles and papers will make these easier to file and easier to find with searchable PDF files. Scan in receipts to keep track of your expenses while on vacation and budget for your next trip.

As hard as it is to return to work, having a paper plan can help. It’s never easy to get back to routines and deadlines, but having less paper makes work life better.


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3 Steps to Organize Your Desk


organize your desk

Whether it is your home office, your small business office or your corporate office, getting down to business at your desk is a chore if it is piled with papers!  You need both a plan for what goes where on your desk and what to do with all those papers.   A plan for your desk will save you time finding papers. The more organized your desk is, the more confident you are  and the more professional you are perceived.


Follow these three steps to organize your desk and create an efficient and productive work area.

1. Planning your space
As you begin, determine what tasks you are doing in your office and the tools needed for these tasks. By making these decisions at the outset, you are preparing your space for accomplishment. Most of us want to pay bills, write a card, and keep important papers easy to access.  Create areas designating the best access for most frequent activities. As for room arrangement, place your desk in a position that allows maximum use of natural light. Position the desk in a direct ion that allows for direct viewing of all who enter without you having to turn.  Add additional space to your desk area with an L shape or credenza behind your desk for storing items you need to access.   Adding this space creates work space, compute space, and printer space.


2. Organizing your desk

Your desk top should be an inviting space.  Keep out only basic tools that you use every day. Minimize your photo gallery and knick knacks.  Desk drawers should have only what you use at the desk in them. Store your additional office supplies in another area. Keep specific categories of items individually stored in different drawers. One drawer should contain bill paying tools such as checks, stamps and envelopes.  One drawer should focus on writing a note and should include stationary and note pads.  One drawer should hold supplies with a pencil tray holding pencils, pens, tape, stapler and scissors. Again, keep just enough to use and do not over stuff the drawers. Place books on book shelves and magazines or reading material in a basket to grab and go. Be sure that your telephone, computer and other essentials are placed ergonomically.  Your calendar should have a specific spot so you can see it all the time.

3. Organizing your papers
Think about paper in terms of what you need to do with them.  Some papers require an action and some papes need storage to be retrieved.

Create your command center for “Action” files. Label them according to what actions or terms fit best with your needs. These files can be call, file, mail, or pay. Or these can be named by client name, project name, or other key word that comes to mind quickly. Clearly label your files so you will always know what is in them, and just as importantly, the labels will remind you what not to put in them.  At the end of every day, there should be a spot to put away the files you have used that day. The files in your command center  are the most actionable.  Your command center can be a desktop sorter or a section on your wall.

Less frequently accessed files can be placed in your file drawer in your desk or an accessible cart. These can be references, projects that are completed this year, or general files for running your business.  As for filing cabinets, use a low-lying, two-drawer cabinet that can be placed next to or near your desk for the added use of its top for other items that you often need.  This is what makes an L for your extra desk space.  Having easy to access files makes it more likely for you to file.

Have a spot for incoming mail and other papers.  It can be a wall pocket, basket or inbox.  Having this space set aside will give  you a place to drop all papers before you have time to review them. Alert your family or colleagues to drop papers in this spot to keep your desk clear.


Go Paperless

Set up a Neat connect (affiliate) to eliminate scraps of paper like business cards, tax related receipts and meeting notes. It’s an efficient way to access small bit of information easily. No more hunting for notes or trying to find a phone number for a potential client.




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Organized and Stylish! Cute counts with this File Tote Organizer for Paper

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for many of the products and services that I recommend. When you click on the link on my site and purchase  the product or service being offered I will receive a percentage of that purchase, at no extra cost to you. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, please go directly to the site of the product.

Office Candy sunrise key file folder sunrise key file tote organizer


Staying organized and stylish is easy with this cute  File Tote  for paper from OfficeCandy.   Cute counts when getting organized! My philosophy about organizing includes creating a system for what goes where and a routine for when to do the organizing.   A cute organizer can make dull, tedious paper work a lot more fun and easy to accomplish.  Paper organizing can be especially overwhelming without the right system and routine.  Having a great product with slots for your paper categories can make all the difference.  When you are on the go, attending meetings, working as a volunteer, or just want a system that can move to a work space, having a tote works well.


Why I love the Sunrise Key File Tote Organizer:

  • It stands freely for easy sorting and filing.
  • It opens to have 8 tabs and 10 pockets for categories, like an accordion file.
  • It can be labelled inside the accordion file keeping categories easy to find.
  • It coordinates with other sunrise office supplies, File Folders and Padfolio Clipboard.

Where to find this item?  View it and related products at  File Totes at Office Candy


What will you organize in your file tote?


How do Professional Organizers Stay Organized? That is the question! Shared by Birdie Brennan, CPO

I love the concept of sharing our inside secrets as organizers. Throughout the month of May I have asked my colleagues to share what works for them.  I know you will enjoy this guest post from Birdie Brennan, owner of Birdie Brennan Professional Organizers.


Birdie Brennan


It is usually a question that comes about when working with a client.  I tell them my house isn’t perfect but I do practice what I preach. I have always derived pleasure from putting things in order. So, I have created a home for everything. You know that old saying; A place for everything and everything in its place.  It may be cliché but it is true.  For me, once I have a “home” for everything life is easier. I recently found not only is life easier, but having a home is necessary when life throws you a curve ball.  I had an accident and was immobile for 5-6 weeks.  No major illness, nothing to worry about but I could not put any weight on my foot.  We had to bring someone in to help me get through the day.  It was perfect because they had no idea where anything was.  Instead of hunting, they could ask me “Where is the pitcher for the tea?” I could answer the cabinet all the way to the left on the third shelf!

Having a “home” for everything also helps when I have a busy week and I let things slide. I can spend a few minutes after the craziness and quickly put things away.

I recently downsized with a move. Before the move, I continually pared down my belongings. I wanted to create a space that held items that I used and loved and leave the unnecessary items behind.  It’s funny; I remember looking at my cookbooks several times before the move. Each time I could let a few more go.

I think organizing space and belongings is easy.  It is how I’m wired but I have to work on organizing my time.  That is a struggle. With my time struggle, I have put some systems in place to streamline the paperwork that goes with having a business. We have created a calendar with specific projects for week 1-4 every month. Systems help create calm because you know things will get done and will not fall through the cracks.

I have found that technology is a great way to save time. I love finding and sharing apps that save time! I love using Google calendar with all of the recurring events and special dates along with reminders.

I also have learned that delegation is necessary.  I have even given up some of the jobs that I enjoy doing because it frees up my time to do the tasks that are my responsibility.

To live an organized life, I practice what I preach with my home and office, am aware of my time management issues and continue to improve with life balance!

How I do it! 10 Organizing Tips from Certified Professional Organizer Ellen Delap



I love to keep things simple.  I am a born organized person who wants to help others simplify, create order and help people live the life they imagined.  So I wanted to share some tips that I use to make each day a little more organized.

  • I love my planner! It helps me keep the big picture of my activities in a place where I can see them.  I am always going to be a paper type planner person, but I do back up recurring events on a technology calendar.  As soon as I commit to a date, I add it immediately to my planner.  I break tasks into small, baby steps to make sure I can accomplish them and add this to my planner too.
  • I seldom print out anything. If I have a paper, I only handle it once.  I know that I can find anything I need on the internet when I need it especially when I am looking for new information, a recipe, or even financial data.  I find what I need, when I need it.  (I recently made vegan cupcakes!)
  • I add partners or delegate when I need help on a task.  I work best on a team and my team members usually possess strengths I don’t have.
  • I keep my perfectionism under control.  I weigh the “Return On Investment” on whether to keep plugging at a task or know when it is done.
  • My closet is organized by color and I keep a bag to drop donations in regularly. Some people find it more useful to organize by type of clothing, such as work, play,  or party.
  • Lists rock! I use them for every day tasks, shopping, and reminders.
  • I sync my iphone and outlook to keep both my personal and business contacts together.  Having all my connections together and easily accessible makes it easy to stay connected.  Its easy to do this with any email program.
  • My favorite apps are Reminders and Notes.  I set alarms in Reminders and keep lists in Notes.  These apps are free on any smartphone.
  • I am a woman of great consistency. I love having the same bedtime, adhering to my weekly planning and admin time, and knowing that these routines serve me well.
  • I keep in touch with my priorities.  We can have it all, but not all at the same time.  We have seasons in our life and I am enjoying my current season of working as a professional organizer and productivity consultant.

 Learn more on my pinterest board!


Work at Home: Transitioning your stuff

Working at home requires a transition between spaces. Bringing home papers and more can be the hardest part of this transition.

  • Use a designated slot for each type of paper you bring home.  Slots can be created with accordion files, expanding pocket files, or clear acrylic files.  Label each with the name of that category.  In this way you will always know what you have, where it goes, and where to place it.
  • Tie up your cords and use ziploc bags to keep them easily stored in  your briefcase.  Or duplicate your cords at each location.  Be sure you are never without a way to connect.
  • Wheels are the answer to heavy loads! A wheeled business case can make your efforts easier.
  • Create your own closing ceremony 15 minutes before quitting time.  Giving yourself time to transition and pack  up means that nothing will get lost or overlooked. 

Image courtesy of Office Candy (file tote).

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Black Faux Leather File Tote

Work at Home: Organizing your technology

Working from home is what we do! Whether it is a part time second income or an extension of what you do every day, we add on worktime through out the day.  Being organized to work at home makes a difference in productivity and efficiency.  To do both, we need great technology tools! Here are a few suggestions to make your work more successful.

  • Log Me In.  This is a service that logs you in to your base computer. Easy to use and free, you can do your work remotely on your base computer.
  • Dropbox.  This is a service that permits file sharing.  You create an account and save your files to Dropbox to use remotely, share with others while working on a project, or save as a backup for files in the cloud.
  • GoogleDrive.  This is one of the many free google products for you to use saving and sharing files.  It can be accessed by logging into google from anywhere.
  • Skype.  This free service is for free phone and video services between users.  Download it on your computer and choose the skype phone number to call and see others.
  • Task list.  There are many to choose from, including ziplist, toodle doo, wunderlist, and remember the milk.  A task list helps you prioritize and keep all your lists in one spot!
  • Evernote. This free app for computer and smart phone allows you to capture and organize notes, audio clips, photos, and more. 

What tech tools help you be more organized to work at home?

Work at Home: Organizing Your Home Office


Working at home requires setting up a space that will work for you! It can be a challenge to carve out a spot to get your work done, just because there are lots of distractions. 

  • Decide on what works best for you! Some families relinquish the dining room to become an office, some families work well in the midst of the media area.  Decide if you need quiet or not, paper management and printing capability, and what tools you will use to work.  You are ready to set up your space after thinking this through.
  • Set up office hours.  With a start and end time, your time will be most productive. 
  • Paper and work go hand in hand.  For portability from the office, there are products suited just for this! You can also set up a command center for work at home and work at the office with the same tabs keeping paperwork consistently.  A file cart is a great option to slot papers in, keep them close by, and keep them organized.
  • Decide on a time you will shut down for the evening. Working at home can interfere with a good night’s sleep.  Sleep is the best way to work efficiently and effectively!

Check out my Work At Home pinterest board!

Send One Suit and Make a Difference!


Join me in participating in this year’s Dress For Success Houston’s S.O.S. (Send One Suit) Drive.  The effort, formerly known as Clean Out Your Closet Week, provides interview suits, confidence boosts and career development to more than 45,000 women in over 75 cities each year.  Dress for Success is a not-for-profit organization that helps low-income women make tailored transitions into the workforce. Each Dress for Success client receives one suit when she has a job interview and a second suit when she gets the job.

 If you would like to contribute, please bring your interview appropriate suit in excellent condition, cleaned, pressed and on a hanger to Kingwood Country Club on March 6, 2013 from 5:00  – 6:30 p.m.  Matching jacket and pants or skirt are excellent donations.  Don’t have suit to donate?  Dress For Success Houston suggests donating $75 toward the cost of a suit for clients over size 14. Receipts for donations will be sent directly by Dress For Success Houston.  For more information call 281-360-3928 or email    

Want to find a local donation location? Visit  Many donation drives will be held March 4 – 8, 2013.

Plentiful Powerful Productivity= Success



Powerful productivity come when we create an environment that works with our strengths.  Improve your effectiveness and efficiency with these tips.

  • Your planner is the visual guide to your productivity.  Use it like a map, writing in what your destination is for your day, your week and longer.  When you write tasks and projects into your planner, you are making yourself accountable and breaking the job into smaller, manageable pieces.
  • Use paper management skills to go from overwhelmed to in control.  Break down the flood of paper by eliminating first what is junk and recycle this.  Create a command center where you drop recycling in and separate the paper into actions. Your command center should be at the spot where paper comes to you and you drop it in a pile. Create a fun and inviting command center using color!  Not sure what decisions to make about paper?  Be brutal and just keep what you absolutely need to work on, not maybe, someday projects.
  • Turn overwhelming email into 10 in your inbox by taking time three times a day to sort and clear email. Color code  your email and important email stands out.  Designate a power period to work on email that needs lengthy responses and relates to projects.  Your paper and email folders should be named the same to keep consistent and find what you need.
  • Add routines to your week to consolidate activities. Even grocery shopping is less stressful if you tack it on to an existing weekly activity.
  • Too much to do and too much on the brain? Use a notebook to capture your lists, dating the top of the list.  Then choose 3 – 7 tasks to do that day.
  • Use technology to help you increase your productivity.  Turn off alarms, email, texting and more when you really want to focus on a project.

What success tips do you have for plentiful productivity?


More ideas on powerful productivity here!