Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to Keep Paperwork From Driving You Completely Insane

If you're a CEO, chances are that you HATE paperwork. The thought of facing that pile of paper on your desk makes you break out in hives and drives you to drink (more coffee that is). For most leaders, paperwork is the thorn in their side that takes all the joy out of doing their job. Does this sound like you? Read on.

For the past ten years I have worked in the financial services industry. (If you have never worked in this type of industry, let me assure you that the paperwork NEVER ends.) When you're dealing with money it seems like even the smallest task requires volumes of paperwork all of which needs to be processed immediately. It is not uncommon to have a stack of paperwork 6 inches high on my desk that needs proofing, scanning, faxing, signing, filing etc. I remember a Seinfeld episode when Newman explained why postal workers have such a high suicide rate by saying "the mail never stops, it just keeps coming and coming!" I empathize.

Let me share with you some tips I've learned when dealing with paperwork that have kept me from going completely bananas. (Feel free to share in the comments section your best tip.)
  • Simplify. Look through your stack and separate out what could be done by somebody else. Physically get the paperwork off your desk and onto theirs asap.
  • Prioritize. Review the remaining stack and do what needs to be done first, first. Don't leave an important task to the last minute. Take one action step towards getting it completed immediately.
  • Don't multi-task. Handle one piece of paperwork at a time and don't put it away until you have finished doing whatever you need to do to it. Don't answer the phone, don't check your email, don't shift your focus. Your rate of making mistakes will increase if you're distracted from completing your task.
  • Do it right the first time. The only thing worse than doing paperwork once is having to do it again. Don't cut corners, do it right the first time through so that you (hopefully) never have to see it again.
  • Use a tracking system. Initiate a way to keep a record of what what sent to who and how it was sent. Do not rely on your memory when it comes to paperwork, your auditor will not be happy.
Handling paperwork is like running on a treadmill. You do it because you want to be healthy but it feels like you're running and running but never really getting anywhere. The road never seems to end!

Take heart, you're doing a great job and dealing with admin is usually an unavoidable part of the role of being the ED. Don't be shy to ask for help if you need it.

What's your best paperwork handling tip?

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