How I organize mail can be summed up in one phrase: quickly and painlessly. Mail management is a dreadful task if you don’t have a system, so after years of honing my process, I’ve finally perfected a mail management system that works for me. Here is a my easy mail management process.
1. Establish an “In” box
This may be the most important step in managing your mail. I manage my mail out of an “In” tray that doubles as a catch-all for any paper documents. If someone hands me a piece of paper (“Here’s the address you were looking for,” “I thought you might be interested in this article,” etc.), I immediately put it in this tray.
About every-other-day (truthfully, maybe once a week) I go through the pile and manage the paper.
If you have a large family, a desktop file box with very general categories:
- Action items
- Papers to file
Will work really well for you.
2. Sort and shred first before organizing
I begin my mail management process by standing over a shredder and recycling bin with the idea being to recycle and shred as much as I possibly can. This way I am not handling mail I will eventually toss more than once.
Next, I take the remaining mail (at this point a fairly small pile) that needs to be acted on to my desk and sort into into categories.
3. File for events and invites
Anything dated I put into my calendar with the accompanying information.
- If there is a coupon I want to use, I put the coupon dates in my calendar.
- Any hard copy documents that go along with an event (invitation, directions, response cards) go into an “Events” folder in my desktop file box (see step #1).
I like this process because if I’m running out the door to an event, I know exactly where I left the information.
4. Categorize saved mail by tasks
This would be bills to pay, errands, calls to return, etc. I have 3 task folders under “Action” in my desktop file box:
Calls: RSVPS, questions about bills, etc.
Errands: Anything I need to do outside of the house.
Computer: Story ideas, interesting things I want to research, etc.
Any mail that fits into one of those categories is going into the appropriate folder. Then when it’s time to make calls, run errands or use the computer, I have everything I need in that folder and can grab and go.
5. Archive personal mail and keepsakes
I allow personal mail like greeting cards to hang out for a few weeks. This category includes:
- Birthday cards
- Ticket stubs
- Birth announcements
After a few weeks, I choose a few items to archive and I am very stringent about what I keep in this category. If I receive 15 birthday cards, most years I choose 1 or 2 to keep and unless I am related to the child, I typically do not keep birth announcements. The ones I do hold on to, I put into my filing cabinet to eventually go into a photo album for each year.