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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4 replies
  1. Linda Samuels
    Linda Samuels says:

    Ellen- Love these tips! I can see that you’re a scanning advocate as a way of reducing the physical papers. When I’m away, I like to bring clear or colored plastic folders to sort my trip papers as I go. That makes “filing” them away very easy when I return. For the papers that collected while I’m away (incoming mail,) I go through those immediately, recycling most of them, and routing the rest into the various action areas. As you suggested, making a “take off” list also helps.

  2. Regina Sanchez
    Regina Sanchez says:

    Ellen’s it’s coming back to this overload that makes it hard to want to go away. If it’s not work paper overload, then it’s personal mail. Like your recommendations.

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  1. […] pile, make decisions and let go of what is not going to be read this summer.  It’s also a bonus for when you return to have less […]

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