Name, Barbara Hemphill. Book, Taming the Paper Tiger.
I was a Resident Assistant in college, always on the prowl for a good floor program. Managing paper (especially then) was a relevant and good life skill for the 75 residents living on my floor. So, I took the work of Barbara Hemphill and turned it into an award winning floor program. Eventually I developed a reputation, and even a following, for my presentation of Hemphill's no-nonsense approach to managing the paper in your life. I presented her material in graduate school, at conferences as a young professional, and still - even today - you might find my boys strapped to chairs, forced to listen to me rant... and rave.
There are 198 pages of no-nonsense ideas packed into Hemphill's book, but today I am only sharing two pages - five points.
Go directly to your closest stack of papers. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.00. Ask yourself these five questions and prepare to be ruthless:
- Is this only for my information and now I know it? My mother is great about sending me parenting and work-related articles from the New York Times. When an article arrives, I read it and then pitch it. Same with magazines.
- Does this information exist elsewhere? In 1989 this was a more legitimate question. Now, in the age of Google and search engines, this question is reserved for items such as contracts, receipts, warranty information, etc...
- Is this information recent enough to be useful? Old menus,to-do lists, advertisements, promotional materials, and schedules are of little value. Pitch them.
- Under what circumstances would you want this information? If your answer is "just in case" then pitch it. If you don't know exactly how you would use the information then it is unlikely you will remember you have it or be able to find it should the time ever come.
- Finally, what is the worst possible thing that could happen if you didn't have this piece of paper? If you are willing to live with the consequences, toss it immediately.
If you are interested in knowing what Hemphill says you should do with what's remaining, gather forces and make noise letting me know. Otherwise, I will leave it at this, assuming I would be preaching to an already organized choir.
One more point. Hemphill's book is 21 years old. If you are anything like me, the desk top on your computer could be every bit as messy as your physical desk top - even more! What advice would you share for organizing the files, emails, and other data accumulating on your computer?
I would suggest printing off today's post and presenting it someone you think should be celebrating "National Clean off Your Desk Day," but it seems a little ironic. Maybe with an additional note saying, "Start Here."
Signing off until tomorrow...