Is the very mention of the word “paper” propel you into assuming the fetal position?
Will you resort to any activity, including changing the cat litter, to avoid sorting through decades of files? We are well aware of the feelings of hopelessness and fatigue that are provoked by any attempt at organizing paper. Today, we offer a strategy for eliminating some of the backlog by removing a paper CRUD category easily overlooked.
Most paper sorting paralysis is associated with combing through heaps of documents that lurk in towering file cabinets too cramped to consider opening, or thrown into bags or boxes without the aid of identification. The soul-destroying nature of this activity is further compounded by the realization that the responsibility for the mess resides solely with you. It is hard to muster the motivation to tackle something so formidable alone.
Before taking on a project of this magnitude, you should understand that paper comes in many forms. It is far easier to deal with the various sub-categories individually than to attack en masse. Our target for today is certificates. Certificates, diplomas and similar documentation establish one’s credentials in a world where differentiation often matters. When you are in your physician’s office dreading the results of a lab test that could confirm the existence of a rare but fatal disease, you might feel comforted by the presence of multiple degrees framed on the walls. At least the doctor making the diagnosis is a graduate of a recognized medical school. You might be similarly reassured by the display of degrees in your lawyer’s office, especially when the retainer keeps mounting for your lawsuit that is not even scheduled to come to trial for another two years.
While degrees and diplomas help to confer authority for medical and legal professionals, they are by no means the only ones who exhibit credentials. Many of our clients hold on to their own proof of achievement in the privacy of their homes. Some of this makes sense. After all, you never know when you may need to produce a document attesting that you earned a BS when you have applied for a position that requires corroboration. Still, many of us keep and often frame meaningless documents where our only accomplishment was attending a work mandated seminar on Teamwork. Even worse, we discovered positive proof that our client was among those whose achievement was completing the Alaska Highway by reaching Milepost 1422 in Delta Junction Alaska. Are we all so starved for recognition we need to a piece of paper to confirm our value?
Here is the real problem with saving stuff like this. The more useless paper you keep, the harder it is for you to retrieve important documents that you really do need. If you are retired, will it impress anyone anymore that you were the top producing salesperson in your branch office for the month of November in 1998? Will anyone care whether you were a runner up in the three-legged race at your elementary school’s annual sports day? Today may be the day to unload stacks of personal memorabilia responsible for taking up valuable wall space, filling binders and drawers well beyond their intended capacity, and loading your limited storage with fodder meant for recycling. When you are hunting down your paper prey, don’t forget to re-purpose or donate the pile of frames.