Get A Handle on the Paper Clutter

When I ask people what the most difficult part of organising their office is, the majority of them mention paper.

I think it’s because it feels like paper multiplies when you turn around πŸ™‚

It’s true though – I also have to be very strict about keeping up with my paper systems.

A few years ago I wrote a post on the Organising Blog and asked people to tell me all their office problems.

We’ll just pretend it was an Ask Marcia column πŸ˜‰

That post had some wonderful comments and in response, I wrote “7 easy steps to organise your office” which is now the main component of the organise your office system.

Of course in addition to the paper, there are emails and computer to organise, both of which are tackled in this product.

If your office is less than what your dream looks like (and I’m not talking magazine-worthy, just being able to open the door-worthy), then please take a look and see what you think.

I know this will help you, especially since it’s about organising according to your personality, not a one size-fits all solution.

I ask, you answer – which is a bigger challenge in your life?

Which is currently the biggest organising challenge/ problem in your life: paper or email?

Please leave a comment and tell me exactly what the problem is and I’ll try to get through as many of those questions over the next month or two.

PS for me, it’s email. I just hate pieces of paper lying around and they find the bin very quickly πŸ™‚

End-of-workday routines

I really like to have 30 minutes at the end of the work day to wind down and prepare for the next day.

It doesn’t always happen but my days always go smoother if I have that bridge time.


During that time (and it doesn’t take 30 minutes), I

  1. quickly check if I have any emails in drafts I need to quickly finish off and SEND (I get interrupted a lot in my job)
  2. make sure people aren’t waiting for something I’m ready to send but just haven’t got around to yet
  3. take cups/ glasses to the pause area
  4. make my * eat the frog list for the next day
  5. if I didn’t have such a love for tossing paper, I’d clear my desk during this time of any extra paper too πŸ™‚

* What’s theΒ eat the frog list, you say?

It’s my 5 most important things to get done the next day list.

Again, those 5 don’t always happen either but I do get at least two big things done daily.

Making that list is the best way for me to clear my mind from the current day, remind myself that I did get some things done (a day full of meetings often feels like nothing got done) and prepare mentally for the next day.

Do you have an end-of-workday routine (other than just grabbing your bag and going)?

Please share what’s on your list.

Messy desks – do they bother you or not?

There are two types of people in this world – those who can work on a messy desk and those who can’t.

I’m one of those who can’t.

I’m very affected by my environment (I can’t even concentrate very well if I’m cold) and I like to have things in order.

The interesting thing is that my desk gets very messy WHILE I’m working but to start working, I need things clear and nicely sorted.


This is a picture of my desk after an office move.

Need I tell you I was very annoyed that they came to move me outside of the time period I’d booked?!

Because what did that mean? I had to take an hour or so to position all my files and sort out my desk.

Over to you.

Can you work on a messy desk?

PS I spent some time yesterday taking a few pics of my desk at home. Would you like to see it? I thought it might be interesting to three of you to see how I do things for maximum productivity at home.

It’s office organising month and today we’re talking about email

I received this question from a reader and I’ve been waiting for March to answer it. I just randomly decided that March will be office organising month on the blog because I have a few things in mind I want to share about offices.

11-01 627

I have trouble deciding if an email needs to be stored (will I need it in the future?). If yes, where and once I have filed it, I don’t have any system to go through them again so outlook becomes problematic.

If you have written any posts that would help could you guide me to them?

For example how long would you keep email receipts from online purchases? I also tend to store useful newsletters but then never get around to reading them again.

Emails are the main area I struggle with.




I’m super passionate about emails so I loved that Joanne wrote to me.

My personal email policy is the same as my paper policy – keep very little because otherwise you have to store them.

Storing emails

The only emails I specifically store are my template emails and ones delegating work to my virtual assistant, Trisha. And that’s not so much to check up on her but to remind myself if I have asked her to do something or not.

I do keep a couple of others for short-term reference purposes like coaching action plans I send to my clients, emails from my kids’ school, etc. I keep the old one til I get the new one…

I do ask myself why I need to keep them and usually my rule of thumb is, if that information is nowhere else, then I’ll keep it for a while. E.g. if I send out a form to a client, I don’t keep those emails because I have those forms elsewhere.

The best question to ask – why do I want to keep these? Because I always have is not a good answer. Really question your habits.

How long to keep email purchase receipts?

I have a folder called temporary/ etsy purchases (which, right there, shows you where I spend a lot of money :)) I drag all my receipts in there until the item arrives. So with my Amazon Kindle purchases, I never keep those receipts since the book is transferred to my Kindle immediately. I print the groupon-type emails if I need to physically visit a vendor (hair, massage, etc.) as you need to present the voucher anyway.

Storing newsletters

I never keep these. In my mind, newsletters are current, hence the word “new” πŸ™‚ If I get behind, I just delete them unless I see a subject I’m really interested in reading about. I actually have two from one person in my inbox at the moment because I need to download audios from the specific site.

And, if I download audios, I listen within the week otherwise it’ll never happen (I’ve never thought, “oh I’m so bored, let me scroll through my hard drive and look for things to do. You?) and then I delete the audio from my computer unless I paid for it and will want to listen again.

Radical? Maybe but those things take up space and every coach/ consultant/ online marketer puts out tons of these things. I’ve accepted I will never be able to stay current so I go with what I fancy.

If I find I’ve not wanted to open a newsletter for about 3 – 4 weeks, I spend an extra 30 seconds asking myself why I’m on the list and 90% of the time, I’ll unsubscribe. If my newsletter is a burden to you, please feel free to unsubscribe – I want you to want to read it πŸ™‚

It would be remiss of me not to mention my Office Organising Product Bundle for further email resources. There is a fantastic product in there called Conquer your email, one section of the Virtual Organising Seminar deals with email and one of the sections in the 7 easy steps to organise your office also deals with email. You get audio downloads, stuff to read and you get email support so all the learning styles are well accommodated.

It really is great value for money and if you just put into practice one or two email steps, you’ll save yourself hours over the course of the month. Which will pay for the bundle many times over.

End of sales schpiel πŸ™‚


What are your best email tips?

Get organised before you go on holiday

Do you remember what it’s like getting back from leave?

You’re all relaxed, birds are chirping, the sun is shining, there’s no tension in your shoulders and everything’s wonderful.

Then you get to your desk.

After you look at your desk, and then see the 2000-odd emails that have piled up, you’re about ready to take your bag and your car keys and go right back home!

By the way, I don’t believe in taking your work with you on holiday unless it’s critical. I’m planning to block my emails from coming through to my iphone and ipad so that I’m not distracted from lazing on the beach.

I have a few ideas to help you prepare and get organised for your holiday:

1. Advise your clients and friends that you’ll be away.

I suggest that you write separate emails because…well…the tone and content will be different for each of them.

For clients, you’ll be explaining how long you’ll be away, what to do for queries and who your stand-in is. For friends, I like to tell them to please not send me any personal emails. After all, you don’t want to return to an Inbox full of PowerPoint presentations and the friends who really want to talk to you have your cell phone number if they want to chat. Right?

If you’re on Facebook, update your status too.

2. Delegate as much as possible

You need to be motivated to delegate! Now just think how lovely it will be when you get back from your holiday and after scanning through your emails, you only have to attend to about 10% of the emails.

You can delegate to a virtual assistant or my favourite, an auto-responder. I have an auto-responder set up to manage my mailing list so that it delivers my free Time Management Purpose Pack automatically to any subscribers and removes people who want to unsubscribe. Just putting this one thing into practice saves me at least an hour a week.

In your personal life, set up some systems to help you get ready to go and return from holiday. I’ve just asked our cleaning lady to come in on the weekend before we leave and again on the weekend following our return to help me get the house sparkling clean again.

I have checklists but I also update them after each holiday. My husband usually packs some things and I pack others (kids’ clothes). It’s helped me not micromanage and also lessened the load. And worse comes to worse, we’re not holidaying in the middle of nowhere – you can always buy if you’ve forgotten something small but the peace and sanity is worth the delegating.

3. Update your website if you’re a small business owner

Go through your Sent Items to see what type of questions you get a lot. If they’re not questions you have to think about and answer fresh every time, they probably belong on your site as a Frequently Asked Questions site or on your website somewhere else.

4. Turn on your out of office assistant

Remember to give the dates you’ll be unavailable, if your clients need to route their query to someone else and a number to contact you if it’s urgent. If at all possible, leave your out of office on a day longer than you need to gain some buffer time for easing back into work.

5. Declutter and get organised

Do a good clear-out of any paper, both on your desk and in your files. While you’re feeling the lovely rush of endorphins, do a good clear out of email and document folders too.

I have two hours scheduled next week to declutter and organise at the office so I can start 2013 on a clean slate. Honestly, I can’t wait to toss paper! I also can’t wait to break open a new notebook πŸ™‚

6. Plan for when you’re back

Write down the top 3 – 5 things on your to-do list for the day you’re back at work. Jot down a maximum of 5 items because you know you’ll be catching up on email!

This will ensure that you hit the ground running and that you beat the feeling of overwhelm.

Enjoy your holiday!

Marcia Francois is a time management coach and speaker who inspires busy women to break out of overwhelm, make the most of their time and take purposeful and focussed action so they have the time and freedom to live life to the full. Visit for your free Time Management Purpose Pack.

{Marcia gets crafty 8} fabric tape clothespeg clips

I went to Pep Stores the other day and saw they had the most adorable clothespegs.

Slightly shorter and wider than the regular ones and only R6,99 for 24 (less than a dollar).

I took a packet and decided to play with some of my fabric tape.

clothes pegs
fabric tape (I bought the two used for this project at Scrapadoodles)

How to make them
  1. I found that the quickest and easiest way to make them was to leave the pegs clipped to the little cardboard in the package but space them so they’re about 2cm (1 inch) apart.
  2. Measure (by measure I mean “eyeball) the length of tape you need against one peg and cut.
  3. I then cut them all, one for each side using the first piece of tape as my template.
  4. Peel off the backing and carefully affix to the peg (especially if, like me, you can’t see in a straight line!)
  5. Turn the peg on its side and carefully snip off any excess tape.
  6. I lined up the tape with one side of the peg so I only had to trim the ends off the other side.
  7. The longest part of the whole process was peeling the backing off the adhesive side of the tape.


They are VERY satisfying to make because it’s such a quick craft that before long, you have a whole load of beautiful clips.
Ideas for using them
  • for categorising paper (red for action, pink for fun, etc)
  • for gifts (package 4 together in a cellophane bag and tie with a satin ribbon)
  • for keeping family members’ paper separate (one colour per person)
  • keeping bags of chips/ peanuts closed
  • attach magnets to the back and use like I did in this picture (only use fabric tape on the one side)

How would you use these clips?

PS I went back to Pep and they no longer have the short, stubby pegs.
PPS I made another couple of sets on the weekend which I’ll show you soon πŸ™‚


What are your organising goals for April?


So, it’s 1 April but this is not an April Fool’s joke πŸ™‚
I want to know what your organising and time goals are for the month.


I’ll go first. Mine are

1) enjoy a lovely holiday – we’re going away for 4 days this month – so quite a bit of packing to do

2) get this blog redesigned – it’s about time, isn’t it?
3) declutter and organise the kids’ clothes as we go into the colder weather
4) get chest of drawers and other dresser painted (I’m going olive green for the one and turquoise for the other)


Last month I didn’t get the filing done but I did declutter their toys.

Sometimes you just have to ask youself, “what’s driving me more crazy right this minute?” πŸ™‚


So, what are your organising goals this month?


PS I’m also going to blog every day this month. So I need some ideas – what questions would you like me to answer? Ask in the comments and I’ll pepper my answers throughout the month. And don’t forget to send me your inspiring space, or the link if you see some gorgeous spaces while you’re blog-hopping.

7 Secrets of the Super Organised

We all know people that seem to be Super Organised.

They never forget birthdays, can find an email within seconds and know exactly where to find anything in their homes.

The actual definition of organised is being able to find anything within a minute or two.

This is from items in your home to an email, document or photo on your computer.

Shhhh – I have a confession. Some people say this about me too πŸ˜‰ so I’m going to let you in on some of my own secrets and also those I’ve observed from watching other Born Organised people.

Super organised people:

1. Plan their lives

Set aside time every weekend to plan your activities, events and meals for the week ahead. Before you finish up your work for the day, take 5 minutes to quickly plan your main priority tasks for the next day.

2. Have a place for everything and everything in its place

Everything in your house should have a specific home. The goal should be that if anyone asks, “where do I find the _____?” you should be able to tell them immediately. I’m talking about paper too!

3. Have effective systems, and are willing to change systems if necessary

A system tells you what to do when something happens. For instance, as you run low or finish foods, they immediately go on your shopping list. That’s a system. If you have morning and evening routines, those are also example of systems.

4. Write things down

My pastor always says, “a blunt pencil is better than a sharp mind.” The truth is when you write things down, it clears your mind so you can focus on more productive and creative thoughts.

5. Declutter regularly

Make time to go through your clothes and other possessions and then get rid of anything you don’t love or use regularly. Make a regular date to also declutter your documents and emails.

6. Put things away

If you take just a few minutes to put things back where they belong (see number 2) every day, you always have a home that’s comfortable and ready for company. In the office, take two extra seconds to file or delete an email immediately.

7. Do regular maintenance

Preserve your organising systems by doing a quick touch-up when you see things start to go awry. It’s like touching up your roots every 6 weeks πŸ˜‰ Don’t wait and let it get so bad that you have to totally rehaul your system.

Start building just ONE of these secrets into your daily routine every week until you create a habit and you too will be Super Organised πŸ˜‰

Marcia Francois is a time management coach and professional organiser who teaches busy women how to purposefully have more time, less stress and a more organised and fulfilled life. Visit for your free Organising Success Pack.

5 More Things to Do So You Can Have More Time

Want to get more of the right things done? These tips are sure to help you.

6. Stop multi-tasking

Yes, you read that correctly πŸ˜‰ When you try and do multiple tasks, your attention is split and you lose focus. The lack of focus means that you end up spending a lot longer completing your task because you’re not fully engaged.

What happens when you’re driving and you get lost? You switch off the radio so you can focus. Next time you have to work on a project, close Outlook so you’re not distracted by incoming email.

7. Write it down

Write down things to buy, things to talk to X about, errands to run, upcoming birthdays, etc.

You won’t find yourself returning from running errands only to find you forgot to return your library books. You will start being that organised person who actually has a birthday present wrapped days before the person’s birthday.

8. Declutter and simplify

Did you know that decluttering cuts your cleaning time by 32%? If that isn’t inspiration to declutter, then I don’t know what is!

Living a simplified life means you no longer spend hours looking for things. It also means your schedule isn’t jam-packed with activities and you actually have time to enjoy your life.

9. Plan your time

When you plan your time, leave enough time to complete the task plus some buffer time. Work expands to fill the available time so don’t allow 3 hours for a 1-hour activity because you will use the full 3 hours if you do so.

If you’re not sure how long things take to do, keep a time log for a week or two and see for yourself.

10. Organise your paper and email

Every time I run an organising workshop, I get participants to complete a Time Wasters Assessment. The results differ slightly depending on the type of group but since 2003, email has crept up the ranks and is now the top time waster! And paper is a close second.

Learning to correctly organise your paper and email will save you HOURS every day. Most business owners spend approximately 2 – 3 hours just attending to email; I spend 15 – 20 minutes!

Don’t get overwhelmed – work on just one of these tips consistently until it becomes a habit and keep adding another until you have it all mastered.

This is part 2 so please also read the five tips in part 1.

Marcia Francois is a time management and business organising coach who helps small business owners make the most of their time. Visit for your free 7-part audio series, 7 tips for time-strapped business owners.

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