Canberra organiser filing
Virginia Wells

Virginia Wells

How To Get On Top Of Your (Actionable) Paperwork

Feature picture inspired by comedian Arj Barker – “Put a filing cabinet in your toilet and sort your shit out”.


To keep your paperwork in check, it can help to have an “action station” set up on your desk.  What’s an action station I hear you say? It’s a filing system that sits on your desk with all actionable items.

This includes things like bills to be paid… Receipts to be claimed, invites to RSVP to, documents to fill in. What it doesn’t include are papers that are being filed for future reference. They go in your filing cabinet instead.

What do you need to make one?

A desktop filer a bit like what’s pictured below. I got this one at Officeworks for under $30.

You’ll also need some hanging files, a pen or label maker.

Desktop filer

What headings should I have for my folders?

The best way to set up this station is to go through your current paperwork pile. Separate it into the actions that need to happen.  Label the file with the action that needs to occur.  Some examples are:


  1. Pay Me (bills, school fees or excursions, toll notices, fines and so on)
  2. Claim Me (things to claim at Medicare or Private Health)
  3. Respond to Me (Writing a letter to a friend or similar)
  4. Enter Me (contact details to put into your address book or similar. Or things you want to enter into the PC)
  5. Fill Me In (school excursion forms, documents from Centrelink and so on that need to be filled in)
  6. RSVP (invites and events to attend that you need to RSVP to and keep as a record if you’re not putting it in your diary)
  7. Tax (An active folder for receipts for this tax year)
  8. Prescriptions (can be good to have these in arms reach for a quick find)
  9. Scan me (things you want scanned onto the PC). You can check out my blog on going paperless here.
  10. Project(s). You could have a folder set up for current active projects. Name the folder after the project. (This might include files for a renovation or similar that you need regular access to).


You might not need some of the above, or you might have another folder.  Be clear to only use the action station for things that need actioning though. You also want to limit the amount of folders you have here. I’d try to keep it to below ten.


Papers still lying around?

As time goes on, if you find pieces of paper still sitting around consider why they’re there.  Do they have a folder to be put in? If not, create one. What action does it need? Maybe it actually just needs to be thrown out or filed.


Alternatively, papers might be building up because you haven’t put time aside to process them. Be sure to add to your diary time to actually process these folders, otherwise it just becomes another paperwork graveyard.


So why not set up and action station now and see how you go?

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