One of the biggest drains on my energy is paper clutter. One of the biggest drains on the environment is trash. For these reasons, I try to do everything I can digitally rather than with paper.
I am so used to having so much paperwork, that I forget what it would be like without it. I went to school to be a band director, not a clerical assistant, but there are entire days where all I do is office work while another director teaches my class. Fundraising, returned progress reports, ARD forms, absence notes, hall passes, schedule change forms, field trip requests, receipts, deposit slips, you name it, I have it. Oh yeah, the students also occasionally turn work in too!
My city, sadly, does not offer a recycling program of any sort. The city council has been talking about it, but to no avail yet…
Even so, some papers are inevitable.
To reduce paper clutter, I have gotten in the habit of putting everything that I am currently working or waiting on in one of my desk drawers. When I get some free time, I can go through and rummage through these papers. File some, throw some away (recycle if the city council gets to work), redrawer some, etc.
If I am in class and need to find something, it is almost always in the top right desk drawer. This saves time and keeps my desk clear.
When I check my mailbox, the first thing I do is throw away (recycling is a better option) anything that isn’t necessary. Mail rooms often have trash cans (or better yet, recycle bins) right there just for that reason! Don’t take anything that is unnecessary back to your classroom if you can avoid it. Stop the clutter before it even starts!
I also don’t go out of my way to go get my mail ever. This reduces clutter in my office quite substantially also. If I happen to be in the mailbox area and have my hands free enough to carry stuff back with me, I will pick it up. Otherwise, I won’t.
Next, I use plain manila folders for current projects. Use them as if they were going out of style. When you start a new project, reuse the old ones. It is much easier when you can just tell someone to go get the ATTENDANCE folder out of your desk and they can get it. It’s super handy!
As far as the incoming paperwork that is necessary, I try to maintain a policy of not touching mail more than once if I can avoid it. When I have ARD forms to do, I try to sit down and complete them immediately. When I have budget requests or whatever, one time is the goal.
On the printing front, I still try to do as much stuff digitally as possible. I pay my personal bills online, I save important documents on my computer rather than printing them out. I file important emails into folders. I have taken my name off of junk email lists. I aim to move as much stuff to electronic communications as possible. It’s not perfect, but it is definitely moving me in the right direction.