Clutter is the most common reason people first contact me, and I have learned that no matter what else is keeping people from reaching their goals and being effective and productive, without first clearing the physical disorganization, every other step in the Peak Productivity Pyramid System falls by the wayside.
In addition to increasing our efficiency, there are other reasons why achieving physical organization is important. According to a 2011 study by CareerBuilder, 28 percent of employers say they are less likely to promote someone who has a disorganized desk.Nearly two in five employers say that a cluttered desk negatively impacts their perception of that person.
Think about how much paper comes into your life every day, between everything you get in the mail, the kids’ school papers, and other personal papers at home. Then at work you receive notes, memos, faxes, and other documentation. We are bombarded with paper. For most of us, this paper tends to accumulate in stacks, and the stacks grow faster than we can keep up with it.
Every piece of paper that comes into your life falls into one of three categories:
- You’re going to shred or recycle the paper.
- It’s a document that requires some type of action, such as a bill to pay, an RSVP to mail, or a form to fill out.
- It’s something that you have to keep; either for legal reasons or because you might need to refer to it.
These are the “Three To’s” of sorting for all papers: to do, to keep, or to toss. When you use the Three To’s of sorting, you can make decisions quickly for all your papers by keeping it simple and placing them into one of just three categories.
Here’s how you apply this method to achieve physical organization. Imagine you have piles of paper spread around on your desk or on the floor. The first thing to do is to gather all the papers together and then sort them into the three categories by physically creating three piles.
- To Toss.These are all the papers that you no longer need or that you can access elsewhere. Papers on your “to toss” pile either get recycled or shredded.
- To Do.Create a second pile for all the papers that require you to take some action. If you need to schedule a meeting with some- body, respond to an invitation, pay your bill, put those papers together in one “to do” pile.
- To Keep. Everything that you need to save but you don’t need to do anything with—a bank statement, papers regarding medical history, tax receipts, or other items that you need to refer to in the future—place in another pile called “to keep.”
Using the Three To’s of sorting is similar to creating a big-picture view of your clutter; it’s a way of doing top-level sorting. When you first sort into three piles, the goal is really to get rid of as much paper as you can. Once you sort all your papers into these three stacks, you will reduce the clutter, feel in control, and be ready to move on to the next step of filing.