March 13, 2006 – How to stop the paperwork avalanche

Have one of those paper-filled desks that are constantly on the verge of an avalanche? And do you spend countless minutes of your day switching new paperwork from one increasing pile to another?
Then these time management tips, part of an ongoing series, are just right for you.
Delegate, and delegate some more
When you’re swamped, don’t be afraid to look for help. The sales manager’s job is complex. So take some of your duties and use the same Swiss Cheese approach we have discussed. Break those duties into bite-sized pieces. Now look to see which of those smaller jobs could be handled by a salesperson, a receptionist, an assistant or someone else. Then delegate.
Generate as little paperwork as possible, and throw away anything you can
Jason, my sales manager, was like that.
He had a thing about keeping his desk clean. It was almost as if paper was diseased. I’d give him a memo and he’d write his response right on the memo and hand it back almost immediately. If something came in for him to read, he’d read it the very first moment he found the time and then he’d throw it away (today we would recycle it instead). He just wanted his work area clean and ready to devote itself fully to the very next project or deal that came across it.
After sorting, try to handle each piece of paper only once.
You know how it goes. Something comes across your desk. You don’t have time to do it, so you put it in your “important pile.”
Later, you go through the “important pile” and reread the document. You determine that this item is really important, so you put it in your “very important” pile.
Unfortunately, all day you move that important document from one important pile to another. Each time you touch it, you have to reread it again.
Experts agree that by the time you touch a piece of paper for the third time, you’ve probably spent enough time with it to do what was required.
Try this technique. Put a single stroke mark in the upper right hand corner of the document. Each time you touch the document, put another mark. When you see three marks, remind yourself that you probably could have completed the assignment instead of rereading it and shuffling it around on your desk. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you adapt and how much more efficiently you handle the materials that come across your desk.
Keep your desktop cleared for action and put the most important things in the center drawer of your desk
When your salespeople come up to you with deals, and your desk looks like an explosion at the paper mill, you’re not ready to do your main job. How much confidence are you displaying in them and their deals? How great a sense of urgency? Do you look like you care at all?
Keep your desk cleared and ready for action. If you have a credenza, put your things back there. If you think a messy desk looks bad from your point of view, imagine what it looks like to your salespeople.
Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place.
This is such a time saver. Don’t believe those who say, “Don’t worry. It may look messy, but I know where everything is.” You must have a system — an orderly system. When you need something, you shouldn’t have to search for it. Not even for one second. You should be able to instinctively reach for it and find it right where it’s supposed to be.
Get a good filing system. Then, between Christmas and New Year’s, bring in a big recycling bin and get rid of everything you can. If in doubt, throw it out. psb
Next time: More time management tips
Author, speaker and educator, Gart Sutton has been retained by every major powersport manufacturer/distributor. He is a frequent keynote speaker for national motorcycle conventions and state Motorcycle Dealer Association events. Visit

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