How To Organize Files for Pending Paperwork         

One of my most important file folders is called ‘Waiting On.’ This file folder contains items that I cannot act upon until I get a response from someone else. For many of us, these ‘Waiting On’ items are at high risk of being forgotten or unintentionally delayed, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

How do we ensure that these items don’t fall through the cracks? How do we keep track of things that cannot be completed until someone gets back to us with something important? Below are five tips to help manage the (often huge) backlog of these types of tasks.

  1. Create a ‘Waiting On’ list of all outstanding tasks that are waiting on input from others. Gather everything into one place. Focus on collecting these from wherever they may be – in email, in your documents, plunked onto Post It notes, or even in your brain. The format doesn’t matter at this point – just the capture process. Spreadsheets are great for this, as is project management software. Even old school pen & paper works if you don’t mind revising manually.
  1. Once you’ve gathered all ‘Waiting On’ items, Identify.  For each item, identify the type of task, its priority, its due date, next steps, the responsible party, and, if applicable, the cause of the delay. Add this information to your ‘Waiting On’ list.

    As an example, for the task ‘Reach out to writer re: this month’s blog post’, the type might be marketing, the priority high, the due date yesterday, the responsible party the blogger, and the cause of the delay could be unknown, lack of time, the blogger forgot, or something else.
  1. Prioritize the items on your ‘Waiting On’ list. What needs to be done first, and what can wait? If publishing this month’s blog post is important, or if the due date is looming (or past), this task becomes a high priority that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
  1. Then, craft a brief follow up plan. Will you send an email to your wayward blogger or make a quick phone call? When is the last possible day to take action? What happens if your blogger doesn’t respond in time to publish? In the case of our wayward blogger, the follow up plan might be to send a reminder email including the date by which the blog needs to go out, along with a reminder that payment is not tendered for work not completed.
  1. One final tip – I often tell my productivity clients to use a calendar.  Plunking tasks and appointments on your calendar, especially those that are easily forgotten, can be time consuming and annoying, but it pays off big time. Having good control over your calendar leads to improved productivity and work performance, and far fewer items fall through the cracks.

If you need help creating a system for your pending items, contact Lisa Mark, C.P.O. to find out if she is a good fit for your organizing or productivity needs.

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