Last week, I wrote about setting up a way to sort your incoming mail. That’s step one of handling the mail. It paves the way for the more important step of doing something with all that mail. This means getting it to its final destination rather than letting it stack up on the counter or in lovely labeled file folders.
The biggest mistake I see people make with mail is that they open it, glance at the contents, then set it down again “for later.” Sometimes they’re even at their desks; the place that mail gets handled. The problem is that they don’t allow enough time to make decisions and take action on their mail.
When you look through a pile of opened mail you plan to deal with later, you’ll find things like: bills, a credit card offer, an event flyer, catalogs, insurance company forms, bank statements and coupons (just to name a few). Since you’ve decided they are interesting or important enough to read, you need to make time to do that.
For example, to consider a credit card offer, you’ll probably want to refresh your memory about what card(s) you have now. What is the interest rate? Does the new card offer air miles or some other rebate you want? Are you going to condense your balances? Will this card replace one you have now, or be an additional one? Is there a yearly fee?
When organizers say that clutter is the result of delayed decision making, this is exactly what they’re talking about! Another question to ask is: Would you be better off tossing this offer in the shredder right now? if the choices are to let the offer molder away on your desk for six months or chuck it out right now, I vote for the latter. The ideal choice is to allot enough time to make a good decision, provided it’s worth your time at all.
Some items don’t require this kind of consideration, but they need to be put in the right place. Event flyers work well on a bulletin board or refrigerator; some place where you’ll keep seeing them. Catalogs belong somewhere that, again, you will see them and look through them before they expire. And keep throwing them out when the new ones arrive.
So try this two step method of handling mail. First, sort it as described in the previous post. Then, sit down with it at your desk and spend time making those decisions and taking action. If it seems like you’re spending way too much time on mail, you may be inspired to use the shredder more often. You can more easily let go of offers without feeling guilty when you’re clear that you have better things to do with your time.