Drowning in Paper?

I keep every scrap of paper I have generated over the past 2.5 years of rezooming my solo practice. Literally! If you are one of those uber-efficient people who read and toss, stop reading this post now.  What I have to say does not apply to you. You’re already liberated.

However, I have every article I’ve ever read, intended to read, wrote or intended to write from newspapers, the internet, dog magazines, law review articles, client communications and even People magazine articles (remember Kristen Stewart and her conflict over who gets the dog?). You may be chuckling to yourself, but for a solo practitioner, drowning in paper can kill you, literally and figuratively. You cannot find things. You miss things. You keep adding to the ‘to read’ list which you will never ever get to. Yet you are afraid to throw anything out because you may need it.

If this sounds like something you are facing in your office space, then this post is for you and I’m going to share my PDR handbook with you. I’ve now been a solo practitioner for 2.5 years.  I truly love what I do. I help people in conflict over an animal find resolution, without resorting to litigation, in less time, for less cost, while retaining their relationships. These kinds of conflicts pop up in every venue of law including, divorce, contract, civil, criminal, real estate, trust and estates, elder law and medical malpractice. I love it. Anytime an article crosses my desk about an animal conflict that could have been solved more efficiently and respectfully using mediation, I keep it to comment on later. At least 10 articles a day come in from my Google alert. You see why I needed help with my PDR!

I hired a professional organizer to come to my office and help me PDR. One Sunday I emptied my entire office into boxes. Monday morning the Baier Guys came in and separated all the mix and match boxes into ‘like stuff’ boxes. There were 15 boxes of stuff, not office files, I had collected to use in some way. They sat me down for 4 of their 6 hours and had me choose what was still relevant, what was possibly relevant and what wasn’t relevant at all and needed to go. It was tough love for an information junkie. I whittled the 15 boxes to 5.5 empty boxes holding specific items with actions to be taken that weekend.

My office and my ideas have been liberated.

My PDR Handbook is below. It is meant for my Rezooming friends and those already in the thick of rezooming who need a bit of support and help in getting out from under their best intentions of information gathering.

There are Four Major Steps to take:

  1. Hire a Professional Organizer: You cannot do this alone
  2. Recognize your efficiency and creativity are being stifled.
  3. Trust you have what you need or will find it again.
  4. Choose to live in the now, not the past or future

Hire a Professional:

  • Time is money and this is money well spent
  • You cannot make these decisions efficiently alone
  • The prep work is invaluable

Recognize the Stifle:

You have file upon file of:

  • Things to read and do,
  • Conferences to check out, attend or have attended
  • Articles to write or rewrite

Trust you have what you need:

  • You have read what you need to read
  • Can now keep track of what you have, are and will be attending
  • Go with the good, as perfection will stop you in your tracks

Be present:

  • If the detritus is not for use right now, let it go
  • You will find it again
  • Or something better will materialize
  • Re-write your ‘to do’ list

These are scary concepts, but oh so true. You can only do so much.
Trust what you get done is what gets done. Let go of getting everything done, it is impossible. Live in the now, respect all you do.

Don’t hang onto your ‘to do’ list from day to day. Write a new one. Hanging on to the old will be a constant reminder of what you didn’t get ‘to do’. I now keep my Google article alert in a file. I can easily find them if I need something but they won’t clutter my office. I had 2.5 years worth of articles to read and write about that were now stale. I may never look in this file again. Yet the articles in it will not grow like weeds in my office.

It is difficult. I can be found, even today, printing out information I may want to follow up on next week. Like biting my nails, info-junkie habits are hard to break!  However now I’ve made the one-week file. If I haven’t read or used something in that file in a week, it gets purged every Friday, no exception.  I can bookmark the article if I think it is important, then it is gone.
I can find it but it is not on my desk mocking me.

Realize, reward and revel in what you do get to read, write about and otherwise get done. Let go of what you don’t. PDR your office now as you rezoom your practice or contemplate rezooming. It will make your creativity and efficiency skyrocket.

A bonus–I no longer have constant reminders of what I have not completed. I am finally relaxing into my brilliance instead of struggling to keep up.

My files are next. To paraphrase Arnold… The Baier Boys will be baacckk (confidentiality protected, of course)

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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