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7 Ways to Tame Your Files

Are you buried up to your neck in paperwork? Here are some tips to help you from drowning in more paperwork.
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"I love being a writer," the novelist Peter De Vries once observed. "What I can't stand is the paperwork."

If your filing cabinets are beginning to bulge and you can't remember the last time you actually saw your desktop, here are some tips I've found that can lighten the paper load:

  1. Whenever possible, write notes on both sides of the paper—you'll cut your files in half right there. For notes typed on your computer, print file copies single-spaced and in the smallest font size you can read. Or just save them on your computer (but be sure to back them up).
  2. Don't file a whole magazine if all you need is one article. Tear out the article or, better still, just the relevant pages. Same for anything you print off the Web. With books, photocopy the information you want.
  3. Date every clipping or Web printout you save. Next time you clean your files you'll know at a glance what's obsolete.
  4. Never file something with the idea that you'll read it later. Read it first, and you'll often find you don't need to file it at all.
  5. Go easy on paper clips. They make files unnecessarily thick.
  6. Make a master list of all your files and keep it on your computer for easy updating. You'll know what's filed where and won't end up with a bunch of folders that duplicate each other.
  7. Finally, try three-ring binders as an alternative for some of your files. Binders can pack a lot of pages into a small amount of shelf space.

Greg Daugherty former editor in chief of New Choices magazine is the author You Can Write for Magazines.

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