How to Deal with Mass Quantities of Paperwork

Overwhelmed with paperwork? This article provides a few simple methods that will help tame the wildest of the piles and set you back on your way to keeping organized. It is a method involving dealing with papers quickly, efficiently and storing them accurately. Here is how.


  1. Image titled Deal with Mass Quantities of Paperwork Step 1
    Deal with papers only once. When a piece of paper comes into your possession:
    • Address it immediately, and dispose of it.
    • Every piece of paper is a "hot potato" that you should retain absolutely no longer than necessary.
    • If it's trash, put it in the can or shredder.
    • If it needs to be filed, put it in the file right then, or give it to someone to do so.
    • If it requires action, take the action immediately, or if that is not practical, place in a "to-do" pile. (To-do's should be dealt with before you leave work that day....either complete the task, or schedule when it will be completed.)
  2. Image titled Deal with Mass Quantities of Paperwork Step 2
    Get a letterbox or even a plastic file box for those papers that just can't be thrown away. Put it near your desk. Keep a yellow pad on top of the box. Use it to deal with the occasions when you get one of these types of papers: advertisements, magazines, brochures etc.
    • Glance at your digital clock, and write a serial number in the upper right hand corner of the document, such as yyyymmddtttt where yyyy is the year, mm is the month, dd is the day of the month, and tttt is the time in military format.
    • The idea is that no two papers in the box have the same number, and that the one on the bottom has the oldest serial number.
    • Jot the serial number and a brief description of the item on the yellow pad.
    • When the box is full, store it and the yellow pad, and start a new one.
  3. Image titled Deal with Mass Quantities of Paperwork Step 3
    Allocate a day each week to follow through on any tasks left unfinished after the above. Life gets in the way and you will need to leave some "wiggle room" in your system.
    • For example, Wednesday might be filing day.
    • Make sure you finish all left over filing before you close up shop on Wednesday.
    • Friday might be file cleaning day.
    • Pick a file and clean it out before you leave for the weekend.


  • To increase the effectiveness of box filing system, you can enter the serial number and the description into a two column table in a word processor. This will allow you to search the text to find items more easily.
  • People who tend to remember the approximate date that documents arrive may prefer to use the "date stamp" method of numbering. As an alternative method, you may want to simply enter serial numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. on the yellow pad in advance. Simply write the next available number on the document, fill the identification information on the yellow pad next to the number, and you're done.


  • Also remember that important papers shouldn't be stored permanently in this system, as it is the general idea that the boxes of such miscellaneous papers will be destroyed before too many of them accumulate. If a paper so stored rises to a level of greater importance, it should be removed and filed in a more appropriate permanent location.

Things You'll Need

  • Cardboard "letter" box or milk crate style filing box.
  • Yellow pad
  • Pen or Pencil

Article Info

Categories: Job Strategies