smiling professional from The Organized Coach with text overlay "08 Struggling to Organize Your Paper?"

Hi Coach,

Last week we started our three-part series on organizing paper.

Did you know that 80% of people struggle to keep paper under control? So many coaches have said, “Tracy, I need help organizing my digital files but I also have a problem with paper.”

First, listen to Episode 07 – Is Paper A Problem? Simple Solutions to Reduce Paper and Emails in Your Office and Home.

Then, join me on The Organized Coach podcast episode 08 as I reveal the game-changing “3 How Questions” to processing paper. Ask yourself these 3 questions every time you tackle a pile of paper.

In this episode, I’ll show you how to:

  • Process paper using the three ‘How Questions’
  • What tricks to use for paper when it enters your space
  • A must-do tip when processing paper
  • Where to store paper temporarily and/or permanently

The key moments in this episode are:

01:14 – Have you taken action to reduce paper?
03:42 – One tip to help you process your paper.
03:50 – The Three How Questions
05:39 – How to remember to take action on a paper.
09:43 – Set a time to process your paper.
10:44 – Action steps to take.

Take Action:

Decide where you will place your inbox.

Decide when you will process your paper and add an appointment to your calendar.

Grab the 3 How Questions. Print them where you process paper until you have them memorized.

Your Paper Organizing Coach,

Tracy Hoth's Signature

Resources Mentioned:


FREE File Naming Formula Cheatsheet
Get Time Freedom with a Systemized and Organized Business 
FREE Workshop: 3 Secrets to Organize Your Digital Files 

Connect with me:


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If you’re loving what you’re learning on this podcast every week – the strategies, how-tos, and time-saving ideas to set up your organized and systemized business so you can work less and scale – please follow, rate, and review by heading to Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Transcript with time stamps:

Are you ready to work less, feel more organized and productive, streamline repetitive tasks, and implement systems that allow your coaching business to run smoothly even without you? If so, you’re in the right place. Welcome to the Organized Coach Podcast, your go-to source for practical tips and solutions. I’m your host, Tracy Hoth, a professional organizer, certified life coach, simplifying expert, and most of all, a down-to-earth fellow coach just like you. No matter if you think you’re missing the organizing gene, have ADHD, or just love anything organizing, I’m here to help you become an organized coach with a business that works for you.

Pull up a seat and let’s get started.

This is part two of our paper series, how to Organize Paper. And last week we talked about paper being like a river. It has different sources, it comes into your home and office in different ways. It stops certain spots, hopefully it’s being processed, and then it flows out to temporary storage, to permanent storage, and eventually out of your home. And we talked a lot about reducing paper.

Hopefully you have done the opt out If not, I will link under the Show Notes a page to my website that has a lot of these paper resources. And I’ll also include specific links that we talk about. So one thing that we didn’t talk about was paperless statements. Another way to reduce paper is to get your statements online instead of having them mailed to your house as much as you’re comfortable.

So I still love getting my I have two, a work and a personal credit card. I still love getting those statements in the mail. I just like looking over them regularly. And if they were online, I don’t know that I would do that as easily. So I do get those.

But the rest of our statements are all online. And it’s so freeing to only have four pieces of mail regarding any sort of statement or bill. We have our bills auto paid. That just reduces a lot of stress and a lot of time that it requires to process paper. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

How do you process paper? What do you do? How do you make sure that it gets processed? Because if it’s not processed, it’s like a flood that forms in your house, right? It causes damage.

There’s paper everywhere. And then it becomes more and more overwhelming and you avoid it and it becomes a real problem. And maybe that’s your desk, the top of your desk, maybe spaces in your office where you’re avoiding it. So how do we set up a system to process our paper? Before you go any further, I just want you to think about what is it that you do right now.

What is your system for processing paper? Do you do it when you feel like it? Do you close out your office on Friday afternoon and clean it all up? How do you process it, think about what you do and what works, about what you do and then what doesn’t work, and then, how can we make it more efficient? One of the things that I teach about processing paper is that you stand that seems kind of silly, but try it.

Have you ever taken all your paper into a big pile and sat down and just kind of relaxed and went through it and made piles and then got distracted and turned all your piles turned into more piles? So we don’t want to do that if we want to be really focused and really intentional. Get all your paper in one spot, stand up and ask the three how questions. This is a free resource. You can print this out.

You can put it where you are currently going to process paper, and you can be practicing these questions as you process your paper. So the first thing is to stand at your inbox, you have your pile of paper and pick up one thing off the pile at a time, and you ask the first question, how can I get rid of this paper? That is your goal. That is what you are trying to do. Because if you can get rid of it, you don’t have to take any other action step.

This could be so fast. If you had a pile, you went through it and you could get rid of everything. It’d be beautiful and easy and free you up. So if you can get rid of it, trash it, shred it, recycle it, delegate it, put it to go out if it needs to go somewhere. If you can write the date on your calendar and get rid of it, do it.

So whatever you can do to get rid of that piece of paper, the only reason you should be still holding the piece of paper is if there’s still something that needs to be done and you can’t get rid of it. So the second question, if you’re still holding it, go to question number two. How can I get this done on time? If you can do it in two minutes or less, I want you to take action on it right then. And this is the beauty of standing and focusing.

If you need to go get a stamp and an envelope, or file it, or run over and ask somebody a question, or go look in your phone or your computer for a date to check. Anything that you can do now and it takes two minutes or less, do it immediately and then come back to your pile. If you’re still holding it, because it can’t be done in two minutes or less, and it is something that needs to be done on time. The next step would be to schedule the task on your calendar and then place the paper somewhere so that you can find it when you need it. So let’s say it’s a form that you have to fill out.

It’s going to take longer than two minutes. I want you to schedule that task fill out form on your calendar. Now, you don’t want to have 500 little tasks on your calendar. So one option for that is to put an admin appointment on your calendar. Let’s say you have a slot on your calendar that’s free on Friday mornings at ten.

Just put a 30 minutes admin task and in that appointment in the description, if you’re using a digital calendar, you can write fill out blah blah form. You keep a list of all the little tasks that you need to do in that appointment. And then when you go to the appointment, you pull it open and you go through those and you know exactly where the paper is. Maybe the paper is in a folder, like a manila folder on the side of your desk. That’s admin tasks.

That’s what it’s labeled so you know where to find it. What I used to do is have a desktop filing bin with hanging files in it. And I liked having a hanging file for each person in our family. Maybe a to do hanging file. Now you drop something in there, it’s going to be lost forever.

It needs to be attached to an appointment on your calendar. Or like I said, in the description of your admin time on your calendar. We kept coupons in there. There was one for a certain person, like some clients that had adult children. It’s like, where do you store things that you want to give to your adult children?

It was in there. So when she mailed something to them or when they came and visit, she knew exactly where to find it. Maybe there’s a project file in there where you are getting windows and you need to collect some bids and all those bids would hang in that project file. So there are some different options for things. But I would just see what’s laying around on your desk.

What is laying in paper as you process it that you need to keep temporarily? One temporary thing that came up when we had younger kids in sports was let’s say they’re in a six week soccer league and you get sent home from the first practice, a schedule of games, and then you also get a piece of paper that’s a roster. Now, the schedule, I can get all those put on my calendar. I can throw the schedule away. But the roster I didn’t want to add people’s names to my calendar or to my contacts necessarily, if I didn’t know them and I wouldn’t see them again after six weeks.

So I dropped to that piece of paper in the child’s soccer league that it was, it worked out perfect because when he was sick and couldn’t make it to the game, I would just go to that. I pulled it out. I called the coach and let him know that he wouldn’t be there. It’s only temporary. So after six weeks, after that league is over, we can take that piece of paper and throw it away.

I also did that with the kids school things that I wanted to keep. Maybe it was information about the teacher or their class schedule. I would put that in their temporary file and have it there for when I need it so I could find it when I need it. The definition of being organized. How can I get rid of this paper if you’re still holding it?

How can I get this done on time if you’re still holding it? Because there’s nothing that needs to be done, but you can’t get rid of it. The third question is, how can I find this when I need it? And that’s where the short term paper would go in an action file. Anything temporarily temporary, and the long term papers that you need to keep for a longer period of time would go into a file cabinet or something similar.

I know some people are obsessed with binders, and they want to keep things in binders, whatever’s easiest. And that’s why I personally like a file cabinet. I like to just drop things in a file versus three hole, punch things and pull the binder out and get a page protector if it needs that and put it in a binder. I just like to throw it in a file. It’s easier for me.

So you went through the three steps. How can I get rid of this? How can I get this done on time? And how can I find this when I need it? This is a free printout.

You can get it from my website. I’ll include all those links below, and you can print this out and hang it wherever you plan to process paper. So now you have a little bit of a clearer flow so the paper comes in. Where does it go? Could you put it in an inbox?

Could you have one spot where you put unprocessed paper? And then you have to have a time when you’re processing it, when you’re going to go through the papers that are there. I always like to tie something that I’m going to start doing to something that I’m already doing. So what is it in your life that you could tie it to? If it’s your office and the paper that you have in your office, you might want to tie it to opening your computer.

Before you open your computer, you’re going to get all the paper cleared off your desk before you leave your office for lunch. Maybe that’s when you’re going to process paper before you close out. Maybe you want to do it only once a week before you close on Friday. Or maybe you want to do it on Thursday, because Friday you tend to run out of your office ready for the weekend. So maybe a Thursday afternoon you could make an appointment on your calendar.

You could tie it to something else that happens. Maybe you have a certain mastermind call or client call that you could tie it to. And right after that, the first thing you do is go through your inbox and process those papers using the three how questions to take action on this. Go back to reducing. If you haven’t taken a step on reducing paper, decide which step you’re going to take from last week’s episode and then from this week.

Does paper have a place to go when it comes into your office or into your home? Do you need to get an inbox? And I’ll include a link to an inbox. I loved having a box with the lid off, and then everything went into that box. If someone was coming, if company was going to come, I might put the lid on it.

But if you keep the lid on it, believe me, nothing is going to go inside. So leave the lid off, and any paper that comes in starts going into the inbox. Put that inbox where paper tends to pile up, if that’s on your dining room table, if it’s on your counter, if it’s on the table behind your desk or on the edge of your desk, just start putting papers into the inbox. And then choose a time to process. Get that appointment on your calendar, tie it to something that you already do, and then print out or write on a sticky note and put it inside the lid of your inbox so that when you stand and process, paper, picking up one piece of paper at a time off the top of the pile.

You can ask the three how questions. How can I get rid of this paper? How can I get this done on time? And how can I find this when I need it? Next week we are going to talk about processing old paper.

What do we do when we have tons and tons of paper laying all around? How do we get that done? And that might even look like file cabinets that are full of stuff. And even when my business drawer file cabinet had a lot of old stuff because I changed my program and I started working less with clients in person and started working online and then had different things. So I have to go through that regularly.

But what if you haven’t in a long time? I will teach you next week how to process lots of old paper when you don’t have time, when you don’t want to, when you don’t think that the benefit of doing it will add to the bottom line. I will teach you how to get it done when you don’t have time. Okay, we’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to the episode. Please share this episode with your coaching bestie and tag me on Instagram at Tracyhoth. And, of course, I would be so grateful if you could subscribe and leave a written review on Apple podcasts. It’s the number one way you can thank me. To thank you, go grab the file naming formula cheat sheet and watch the workshop replay three secrets to organize your digital files.

Both are linked in the show notes. Until next time, have a beautiful week.

blue background with text overlay, "Tie paper processing to an existing habit or task to make it a consistent part of your routine."

Tracy Hoth