It’s About Time
Ruth Wong

Avoid pile-up, handle
mail immediately

Handle today's mail today to avoid mail pile-up. If this is the year you're going to get organized, you'll need to take control of your mail.

Most of us go to the mailbox eager to see what has arrived. All too often it's just bills, junk mail and periodicals. The tendency is to put it aside for later. Sometimes, much later.

According to time management expert Harold Taylor, the secret to handling mail is to handle today's mail today, and handle it as little as possible. That means not putting it off until later, and not shuffling through it over and over again.

I've noticed that one reason people don't deal with mail is because they don't have three necessary ingredients: a block of time (for me, about 10 to 15 minutes), a regular place (the dining table works for me) and a simple system.

I'd like to suggest a simple system for those drowning in mail: "DA RAFT."

"DA RAFT" is an acronym. The "D" is for Decision and the "A," Action.

The two must go together, and when you've allowed a block of time to process your mail, you have the time to take action.

The basic actions are in the word R-A-F-T: "Refer" (to other household members), "Act," "File" and "Toss" (or shred).

Each day, I spend 10 to 15 minutes sitting at the dining table to open each piece of mail and do a quick sort, making piles for things to Refer, Act, File and Toss. Add another for Shred if necessary.

Today's mail had only seven items. Here is how I used DA RAFT:

1. A subscription offer: Toss pile.

2. A junk mail postcard: Toss.

3. A check for me: Act pile.

4. A mortgage payment coupon book: File.

5. A ballot to vote for association officers: Act.

6. A cruise flyer: Toss, because a cruise is not in my plans for this year.

7. Real Simple magazine: Act (to read).

8. Midweek: Act.

I then took action with each pile. I took the Toss pile to the wastebasket. I filed the mortgage coupons.

For the Action items: I put the check in my check register to deposit when I go to the bank. The ballot I quickly reviewed, filled out and got it ready to mail. As for the magazine, I read one article, flagged other articles of interest, and put it in the living room magazine basket.

Then I checked out Midweek and took about 5 minutes to make my shopping list before putting it into its "home" (an upright basket holding a week's worth of newspapers) to read at leisure later. There! I was done with the day's mail.

Your assignment is to handle each day's mail each day. It may take 10 or 15 minutes, but it's time well spent!

See you in two weeks.

"It's About Time," by Ruth Wong, owner of Organization Plus, runs the fourth Friday of each month. Contact her at "It's About Time," care of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813; or e-mail features@starbulletin.com

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