Reconciling Your Files And Your Computer

by Ramona Creel

Think Twice Before You Print

It'salmost a Pavlovian response — you create a document or receive anemail, and the knee-jerk reaction is to hit the “print” button! Soinstead of helping you reduce the paper in your life, that high-techbox on your desk is actually doubling the stacks and piles you have todeal with!

The next time you feel the urge to print, stop and askyourself why. Do you have a specific reason for needing a hard copy ofthat item, or can you refer back to it just as easily in electronicformat? “I might want to read it later” isn't a good enough reason –you can save a copy on your hard drive instead of creating more paper for your file cabinet. “I should share this withso-and-so” doesn't cut it either — sending the document as an emailattachment is faster and easier than trying to print and mail it. And “I hate reading from a computer screen” simply means that you need to adjust the brightness or glare so it doesn't bother your eyes.

If you're worried that you might forget to take careof an action item without a mound of paper littering your desk toremind you, your method of dealing with electronic to-do's may be atfault. Keeping track of computerized follow-ups should be no differentfrom handling paper ones — the same system applies in both places. Setup a folder in your email program for each action file category (“toread,” “to pay,” “to contact,” etc.) As requests come in that requireyour attention, put that message into the appropriate folder. Then setaside time on your weekly admin day to empty each in turn, the same wayyou would your paper to-do files. If you follow the same steps forprocessing email as snail mail,  there really is no need to print everydocument out.

Consolidate And Coordinate

Alot of the battle between electronic and paper comes down to labelconfusion — you named it something different on your hard drives thanyou did in your hanging files, and now you can't find what you'relooking for. The key to resolving this conflict is consistency — makesure that your electronic system mirrors the one in your filingcabinet. Whatever you called a folder in one place should be what youcall a folder in the other. If the paper copy is named “utilities,”don't label it “monthly bills” on your computer, or you'll just getconfused. Or chooseone format for each category of information you maintain, and storeeverything related to that topic together in one place. So if you liketo keep your bank statements on your computer, do it consistently forevery account. If it makes more senseto organize utility records in your file drawer, that's a good reasonto request a paper bill. Just be consistent — storing half of one fileelectronically and the other half in paper format is going to increasethe amount of time spent searching for a document.

© Ramona Creel, all rights reserved. Ramona Creel is a modern Renaissance woman and guru of simplicity -- traveling the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Coach, Ramona will help you create the time and space to focus on your true priorities -- clearing away the clutter other obstacles and standing in the way of that life you've always wanted to be living. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a travel writer, social commentator, and blogger, she shares her experiences and insights about the world as we know it. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at And be sure to follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.