Organizing with ADHD — Part 5(ish): Addressing the Paper Piles!

It’s paper day! Dealing with your paper piles requires a unique approach that is more of a cousin to the four steps we’ve been practicing thus far. First thing to note: paper organizing has no end!

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It’s paper day! Dealing with your paper piles requires a unique approach that is more of a cousin to the four steps we’ve been practicing thus far. First thing to note: paper organizing has no end! Once you wrap your head around that, we can get started in building a system to efficiently categorize and stay up-to-date on the paper without becoming overrun by piles!

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Complete Show Transcript

Pete: Hello everybody, and welcome to “Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast” on RashPixel.FM. I’m Pete Wright and right over there is snowbound, Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki: Hello everyone. I have power.

Pete: You have power.

Nikki: So that’s good.

Pete: Yes. You have power.

Nikki: Yes. Digging yesterday.

Pete: You’re digging out. Your poor dog is too short for the snow.

Nikki: He’s too short. It was really funny. I wish I had video. I so wish I had video because I was laughing and then I got in trouble for laughing at our dog.

Pete: I don’t think your dog cares. Does your dog care?

Nikki: Where he was like, “No, you can’t laugh at him.” I’m like, “But he is so funny.”

Pete: He knows he’s funny. Don’t worry about it. You’re fine.

Nikki: Yes, he does. Yeah, he just didn’t know where he was going and how he was gonna get out of all of the snow. There was a little look of panic, for sure.

Pete: Oh, that’s funny.

Nikki: But, yeah, he’s great. We have lots of snow, it’s fun, but we’re safe and everything is good.

Pete: Good. That’s good. Let’s see, before we get started, I have a couple of elsewhere on the internet notes, if I may.

Nikki: Yes.

Pete: I have guested this last week on Luke Barnett’s author live chat if you’re into writing, in particular, the structure of your life around writing and as it relates to ADHD. There’s a link in the show notes to my conversation with Luke. It’s a new YouTube channel. He’s very excited about it and we had a good chat. And then just this morning, I did a guest spot on Francesco D’Alessio’s “Key Productive Tools They Use Podcast” which as you listen to this, should have gone live, I believe, yesterday. For those in the live stream, it’ll be next week.

That was also fun and it was really a conversation around ADHD and the productivity tools that we use and how they work with ADHD and how they don’t. And, yes, I talk all about…you know, simultaneously using multiple to-do apps and the disaster that is my life online. So, it was good fun and so thank you to Luke and to Francesco for inviting me on and Francesco is gonna be back on our show, on the main show, in the coming month or so at some point. We still need to work out the final date, but he’s great, so more Productivity Tools stuff coming soon.

Nikki: Yay. We can never get enough of those.

Pete: So true, so true. So we are going to be talking here about paper…

Nikki: Paper.

Pete…as sort of a part five-ish of our organizing steps conversation. Before we do that, head over to takecontroladhd.com to get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to our mailing list, and you’ll get an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook @takecontroladhd. The opening question, Nikki Kinzer?

Nikki: Yes. The opening question. So, this was a question about how to deal with letting somebody down. And so, this particular person had written in and they had promised to do something for someone and they forgot. They just forgot, you know, simply, just that’s it. They just forgot to do it. She had every intention, but got overwhelmed with my own life and I didn’t put it in my calendar like I should have. I’m not someone that is usually so unreliable, but I’m having a hard time dealing with my forgetfulness and how that affects others. And so the question was really just sort of, how do I deal with this? How do I move on from this? So what do you think?

Pete: Well, I’m gonna toss it back to you and because you and I have worked together for a long time and I know I have let you down in the past, and so…

Nikki: No, you have not.

Pete: I’m sure, I’m sure I have on big projects and I know I have because I have…I don’t remember specifics but I have a visceral sense memory of the feeling of letting you down because I care about you very much and I really…

Nikki: Oh, that’s so sad.

Pete: Oh, no, it’s not…we’ve moved on. Don’t you know? We’ve moved on.

Nikki: Right, yes, yes.

Pete: We got over it and we’re still together.

Nikki: Yes, that’s true.

Pete: But I know I have the feeling sort of the emotional memory much more than the specific memory of being in a space of letting you down and feeling like I made a commitment and I’m not living up to it and I don’t know how to live up to it and I guess I better just be real quiet and pretend that it doesn’t exist.

Nikki: You’re covering your eyes like…

Pete: You know?

Nikki: …“You can’t see me.”

Pete: Right? And this is the trick. In my to-do app, if I just remove the date due from a task, it’ll just disappear. I won’t see it. Like, that’s a handy trick.

Nikki: Till I come knocking.

Pete: So it is a soul-crushing feeling to know you’re letting somebody down. I absolutely get that. So I don’t know. Have I learned anything?

Nikki: You know this is kind of talking about two different things, right? Because what she’s specifically talking about was letting a friend down of something that she was gonna follow through on. We’re kind of talking more of like a work relationship, but maybe they are the same thing, maybe they’re not that different.

Pete: I don’t think they’re that different.

Nikki: Yeah.

Pete: I really don’t.

Nikki: They’re probably really not. You know, I think that in her situation she did try to make up for it. You know, she obviously apologized and explained what happened. And I think that’s probably really the most important thing coming from maybe a receiving end of it. But really, Pete, I’ve never felt like, you know, you’ve…

Pete: Well, I’m just really…I’m glad to know that your memory is shorter than mine.

Nikki: Yeah. But what I would say to anyone that’s experiencing this is that I think you have to just be transparent about it and be honest. And I do know that one of the things that I do talk about that relates to you and I specifically is that the communication is so important. That if you are working on a project for me and it’s not coming along as well as you thought, then I want to know that, like, I want to know the truth because, for me, it’s worst to not know what’s going on. So, you’re hiding and then I’m wondering what’s going on and that’s frustrating. So I think that the biggest lesson to be learned is just to be transparent about it and even if it’s not what the other person wants to hear, I still think that’s better than not hearing anything at all.

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: So, and in her situation she acknowledged it. I mean, she fessed up to it. She didn’t make excuses. She didn’t say anything other than that she simply forgot. She didn’t put it on her calendar and, you know, and I think that you do learn from those experiences. You kind of figure out what you’re gonna do next time. And somehow, you just have to sort of forgive yourself and, you know, give yourself the same grace that you would give somebody else. Right?

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: And especially when you’re dealing with friends and family, you know, you would hope that they would find that grace. Now, if they don’t, then they’re probably not the best people to be around you anyway because, especially with ADHD, this is not gonna be the first time or probably the last time that something is gonna either get forgotten or is gonna be a little bit late because the ADHD doesn’t go away. even if you’re managing it perfectly, something could still happen. So you need to have people that are understanding and supportive around you.

Pete: It is an act of great vulnerability to admit that you failed in some way, right, that you’ve let somebody down that you have, you know, that you’ve dropped the ball on something. And I think we’re genuinely afraid to do it and don’t know how to put words to it. And so it comes from this place of fear and uncertainty, and in my experience, I think if you’re open and authentic about how, A, I recognize that I’ve done this thing, and, B, it hurts me genuinely to have done this thing, and I recognize that I didn’t pull my weight in some way. I don’t have an experience where somebody has come back to me and said, you know, “I’m not your friend anymore.” Right?

Nikki: Right, right, yeah. It just doesn’t…

Pete: That’s like that just doesn’t happen.

Nikki: No.

Pete: And so you can start from a place of building and construction and I know I forgot this thing because I didn’t put it on my calendar. I’m not making an excuse, but I’m trying to set a context for why I didn’t do this thing, and now I’d like to try to find a way to rebuild, to can I do it now. Is it too late? Can I do something else that would make up for it? Can I just buy you a drink? Like, what can I do to help rebuild? And I think that’s the important part. Set context and not excuses.

Nikki: Yeah, absolutely. And move on from it and talk to the person. I mean, I think that when you talk it out and don’t just hide it that helps, you know, or talk to somebody else if you’re really struggling with it. But, yeah, absolutely, I think that’s exactly how I would approach that.

Pete: The “ADHD Podcast” is brought to you by you. The reason we can do this show each week, year after year is thanks to the support of our listeners at patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. And you know what? Patreon is fantastic. It has a fun structure that allows us to set goals. If you haven’t seen it at the website, you can set these goals for, you know, patreon support that says if we achieve this goal, we’re gonna be able to do this next thing that we’ve been wanting to do for a long time and we’ve needed support to do it. And we, this week, achieved a major milestone that is…

Nikki: Woohoo.

Pete: I know. It’s just…it’s amazing. And it’s gonna allow us to do something that has been a long time, but probably the longest single request that we’ve had of the show is to bring about transcripts. We know that transcripts are important, they’re important for those who come to the show with hearing challenge, those who want to be able to read and reference the show, those who want to be able to search for specific topics across the transcript. Transcripts are huge. It’s something that’s not lost on us, the myriad needs that people bring to the show asking for transcripts is not lost on us at all. But we want to do it well, we want to do it right, we want human transcriptions, and now thanks to Patreon support, we can do that. So our first goal is met.

You all, please. You can’t know how it feels to be able to do this and Nikki and I have been talking about our next goal because there are more things we want to do. We just, you know, we’ll keep updating the website and keep posting for these live streams, patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. Thank you so much for your support and to those who come after this point, the transcripts that you see on the website are thanks to other listeners. So thank the community for making this work, patreon.com/theadhdpodcast.

Our main topic today, Nikki Kinzer is part five-ish.

Nikki: Yes.

Pete: It is not officially one of the steps, but it’s definitely part of the series of organizing with ADHD. We have completed the first four steps and we strongly recommend you go back and listen to those four episodes before you begin this one. It sets a foundation for the conversation we’re going to have today, getting started with your paper piles.

Nikki: Yes, yes, so exciting. And something that I want to talk about a little bit before I get right into this, is on my website, I have three different online courses. One is organizing your space your way, and the other one is The Paper Solution, and then the other one is organizing time with ADHD. They’re such creative titles. Like, you know, I really should get an award for like creativity on my titles.

Pete: Oh, yes.

Nikki: I really think that that should happen.

Pete: In stone.

Nikki: But what I want listeners to know and I know that some of our listeners have already done this and that’s why I want to say, first of all, the people that have purchased these online courses in the last few weeks and I’m hoping that you were inspired by our podcast, thank you very much. And I want people to know that they’re there.

So organizing your space your way is the four steps that we have been talking about for the last four weeks, but it goes into a lot more depth. I mean, it is an online course and so you get more information, you get feedback from me and from other people taking the course. The Paper Solution is the same thing. It is all about how to organize your paper. It is also on the website and then organizing your time. I mean, it really is organizing your time with ADHD. But that’s really about not all time management because that’s so big, but it’s really about how to get your to-do list into your calendar to get things done. That’s the easiest way for me to explain that.

When it comes to paper, the reason this is part kind of five-ish is because it’s very similar to the four steps of organizing your space, but just a little bit different. Because you’re dealing with these, you know, thin pieces of 8 by 10 shapes that we have to think about what to do with, right? And, you know, although I think that many of us are going more paperless, I don’t, you know, I don’t see the piles of paper or hear about the piles of paper like I used to 10 years ago…

Pete: Which was significant.

Nikki: …it’s still an issue… Oh, it was very significant and it’s definitely changed since I, you know, the time I went into homes and to what I’m seeing now when I’m working with clients online. But it’s frustrating and it adds anxiety. We still get mail and that’s a big thing so we’re gonna talk about mail today. All right, so before we talk about the actual paper piles and getting caught up on those paper piles, I do want to recommend a system for your incoming paper, right? So that’s the mail.

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: So I think that if we can get this set up first and you have a way to already deal with incoming mail, then it’s gonna be a lot easier to kind of go through that backup, that stuff that’s been piling up.

Pete: Yeah, the backlog, right.

Nikki: Exactly. Okay, so most current paper is coming from your mail, but it could also be coming from your kids, it could be coming from organizations that you, you know, support or whatever. So what we want to do is create an inbox for your mail and for the other paper that comes in. So you want to have one spot where all of your paper goes to. So this prevents you from putting it in your car, putting it onto the kitchen table, putting it onto the counter, or in your office or whatever, right, because that’s what happens is we just kind of drop it wherever it’s at. And so, let’s create one spot, it could be a basket, a bin, I know people who have like a little bag that they stick it in, whatever. Then you want to go through it on a regular basis. Now, I’m not gonna be the one that tells you to do it daily. I don’t know, do you do your mail daily?

Pete: Do I do my mail daily?

Nikki: Do you look at it daily?

Pete: You know what I do? This gets into maybe a little bit more detail that we can talk about later. I have my paper list system, so my mail comes in and I do the sorting, which I know you’re about to talk about. And then, anything that needs action gets scanned and put into an Evernote folder that’s shared with my wife and family and it’s reviewed on a schedule. So I don’t do anything with that paper, but I definitely get it into the workflow.

Nikki: Well, and that’s kind of what is…you know, this is the physical paper. So you’re talking about how you’re doing electronically, you can also do it, you know, physically and have it all in one spot and everything, so…

Pete: But ultimately, all of our paper that comes in gets recycled, essentially, the day it comes in. If things are…

Nikki: The day that it comes in.

Pete: …really cranking along, it gets into the inbox. So I live this systems, so let’s talk about the categories because this, I’m a big supporter.

Nikki: Yeah. Well, there’s really three categories. So, I mean, we wanna simplify things. You know, you’re either gonna recycle it or it’s gonna go into an action type of category or you’re gonna go and you’re gonna reference it. So recycles all the trash and, you know, junk mail and things that you don’t want. Action is going to be anything that needs your attention now. And those action papers do need to have a separate place to go, so you’re saying on electronic level, you’re putting it into Evernote and that’s where you go to look at your action items, or you’re actually probably transferring it then to your to-do list.

Pete: Exactly. So, anything that needs action… So I have a…we call it the finance coffee because my wife and I had this thing where we were touring around Portland coffee shops when we talked about our finances and that was super fun.

Nikki: It’s cute.

Pete: And so anything that I have…I have a daily mail folder or Notebook in Evernote and all the daily mail goes in their data as it comes through. And then on our finance coffee, we review any bills, any statements, anything that we need to take action on as a family, you know, we pay the bills, we do all the stuff.

Reference stuff also goes into Evernote for me and that goes into what I called my filing cabinet, and I tag it and I put it in there and then it’s officially reference material, but all of that happens in the process.

Nikki: Do you keep that into Evernote?

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: Is Evernote your reference…

Pete: It is.

Nikki: …online filing cabinet?

Pete: Yes, and if there is a task that is associated with that reference note, I put a link from the Evernote note into my to-do list and make the work task out of it, so.

Nikki: Perfect.

Pete: Yeah. That’s it. I hope I’m still doing it right.

Nikki: It’s a nice system, right?

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: I mean, you really have kind of this is what happens when it comes in, then we meet on a weekly basis, we figure out where it goes, and then you’re putting it where it needs to go. And I’ll go ahead… I can tell you’re saying something…

Pete: Well, I have a question, I do…

Nikki: Yeah, please.

Pete: I have a question. It’s a challenge that when I started with this system and it’s a really simple system. This is not, you know, rocket science. But when I started this system, I did not have kids that were receiving mail and now I have a family where all four of us are receiving mail regularly and I’m seeing new paper piles, you know, sprout up around my house of mail that’s not mine or my wife’s because we have a system, but making sure that we’re teaching the kids who have no interest in this at all, right?

Nikki: Right.

Pete: They would rather just light it on fire. They don’t even care what it says. And so, I’m trying to figure out how to make that transition and how to support them as they move into kind of adulthood where they’re just gonna receive mail. And let me tell you, we’re in college season and my daughter is getting a lot of mail. Oh my goodness.

Nikki: But, you know, something that comes to mind right away is getting her a separate basket, you know, a separate place for her for…so anything that goes to her especially because I can imagine she’s getting a lot of college stuff. You know, to at least have it in one spot, and then work with her to go through it like what is she interested in and what isn’t she. So, if there are schools that she knows that she’s not gonna even pay attention to, let’s recycle that and get rid of it. But yeah, that’s a really good point, Pete, because it’s sort of a new dynamic, new chapter in your life that as a family, that you’re gonna have to teach her just like anything else. I mean, when you’ve taught her how to organize her room in general, it’s like it’s just another thing that you’re gonna have to kind of teach her and figure out how she is gonna initially want to go back to that when she is ready to start touring and doing all that stuff.

Pete: Yeah, exactly. And so I feel like that question itself maybe derailed our attacking the paper piles’ conversation, but it’s just something to think about if you also were in this situation, so.

Nikki: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, and for paper that is actually physical paper, and I’m so glad we’re having this conversation because people can see both sides. They can see the electronic side and they can see what happens when you have just the regular paper, I recommend a bulletin board to put those actions papers in. So if you have an RCP or you have bills that you know you have to pay, put a sticky note…you know, put a red sticky note on it, put it on the bulletin board. Out of sight is out of mind. If you do not have that in front of you in some way, you will forget. And so that’s why in my experience, the bulletin board has been, you know, pretty consistently, it works.

I mean, it works on a pretty consistent level. So that’s what I recommend for that. Reference paper, again, is anything that you want to keep, but it just gets filed. You don’t need to have it right away. So you’re putting yours into Evernote, which is great. Again, if you’re gonna have a traditional paper just having kind of a filing cabinet that that’s gonna go into. However, I have to just say, again, keep that very simple. I have 12 folders, January, February, March, through December, and anything that comes in in that month, then that’s where it goes. I don’t even care what it is. That’s just where it goes, so it has one spot to go. So I’m not, you know, I’m not one to say category, subcategory, subcategory, subcategory. I think we got to make these things easy and simple, so that they don’t get piled up. You actually have a place for them to go. And better yet, do what Pete Wright is doing, follow his example and go paperless. That less paper you have, you know, to collect, the better. So online bill paying, all of that stuff, that is not new anymore.

Pete: Right. Yeah. Think about that. When we first did attacked paper that was still kind of a new thing.

Nikki: Kind of a new thing.

Pete: And we didn’t have systems for dealing with that and for turning off the paper.

Nikki: Right.

Pete: Now, we do, that’s pretty regular.

Nikki: Bills come through your email, they’re already paid and, you know, where do they go and do you need them? I mean, that’s the other thing too is what do you really need to keep and for how long. Well, you know, that’s a whole another podcast. But ask your financial adviser and tax accountant first, especially because so many people have different requirements and things that they have to keep, so definitely if you’re curious about what you need to keep, ask…

Pete: And for how long, right?

Nikki: …one of those professionals. Right, right. Yeah, exactly. Okay, so now that you’ve processed your mail, we want to tackle the backlog, we want to go and tackle all of the paper piles that you have or boxes, banker boxes that you have. And I think the first thing that we want to really go into the project, treating it like it is a project.

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: And I know that sounds odd, but do you know what I mean by that? Do you understand what I’m saying?

Pete: I think I do. You know, when I think of a project, it’s a thing that you invest time into on a schedule and it ends.

Nikki: Perfect description. And it’s not something that necessarily you’re gonna get done in one day because it really depends on how much paper you have. I have been in hundreds of homes in my professional organizing career and I have seen, you know, more paper than I’ve ever seen in my life in one spot and then I’ve seen paper piles that just seem pretty normal, but it’s really anxiety-driven for that person. So everybody’s tolerance is a little bit different and everybody is gonna have a different amount of paper to go through. So the time that the project is gonna take is gonna depend. And it’s also, if you do feel…like, if you’re listening to this podcast because you have a paper issue, then my guess is that it’s gonna take you longer than just 30 minutes to complete this, right?

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: Because you wouldn’t be listening to this if you didn’t think you had a paper problem. So you really do want to treat it like a project, pay attention to it, make the time for it, everything that Pete said is right on. And, you know, I think that it’s one of those things that you just want to get started on and keep working on it, you know, box by box. It’s gonna be kind of frustrating, you know, because you’re gonna see the paper and you’re gonna be like, “Oh, my gosh, there’s so much to go to,” but just keep focusing box on box, pile to pile, don’t worry about it, you’re gonna get through it.

Pete: Well, and you know, I would add that, you know, it’s a thing of great stress to imagine doing this, but I mentioned an old boss who had a great way of thinking about, you know, attacking a paper pile that you can convert any size paper pile into something that’s completely manageable. Just take one piece right of the top and start a new pile, that’s all you have to focus on. So, one piece of paper at a time, one decision at a time, as long as you put it on the calendar, as long as you make room in your life to accomplish the goal that you set out to achieve, which is tackling the paper piles.

Nikki: Yes. Intentional planning, you got to keep this project in front of you because we know that you can get started and then leave it. It’s, you know, that’s a real high possibility. So we want to be pretty intentional with our time, decide how often you want to work on this project and make a commitment to your schedule to do so. Schedule your organizing sessions into your calendar. It may be easier for you to be consistent. Choose, like, the same time every day to work on your paper, or the same days. Like, you could say, “Okay, 10 minutes a day right after dinner,” but you could also say, “Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’m gonna work on my paper for 30 minutes from 5:00 to 5:30 before I make dinner,” right?

So you’re kind of attaching it to other things, but you’re making it easy and simple and not so overwhelming. So, there’s a lot of flexibility of how you can plan for this, but it definitely takes some attention, otherwise, what happens?

Pete: Nothing.

Nikki: Thank you. If you weren’t gonna say that I was gonna, like, do sign language so that you knew what the answer was. So I’m so glad that our minds…

Pete: Well, I was trying to insert nothing as a metaphor.

Nikki: Nothing.

Pete: Yeah, a silence. Nothing happens.

Nikki: Good job, Pete

Pete: Yeah, thank you. It’s like I’ve…

Nikki: Yeah, nothing happens.

Pete: …been paying attention all these years.

Nikki: I know. It’s fabulous. Okay, so now that you’ve set the time aside, where do you start? Okay, well, I’m gonna do a shameless plug in my online program, The Paper Solution. I suggest collecting your paper first before sorting it. So what I say is that this is where it gets kind of overwhelming. If you have a lot of paper in a lot of different places and, man, I got to tell you, I have seen some really creative places to put paper, like in unused bathtubs and, I mean all kinds of stuff. So what you got to do is get some kind of container, whether it’s a banker box, a bin, bags, whatever, and just go through and get everything together. And at your scheduled time, you’re taking a box or like you said, you take one piece of paper and you just start going through it.

The categories of when you’re going through backlog are very, very simple. You’re basically gonna keep it or you’re not. Yes or no. It’s so simple. And then, you know, the key pile, once you get through all of that, it’s gonna be separated into action or reference. But I can almost guarantee you that 90% of the time, it’s gonna be reference paper, not action because we’re talking about backlog. So if you come to a piece of paper that had an action item on it, I almost guarantee you probably have missed the date.

Pete: Right. If it was a bill, for example, and this…I love this, how they have the 30, 60, 90, 120, like, they’ll tell you how late you are in paying your bill.

Nikki: Right.

Pete: And so, you know, we run into this occasionally when one of our bills ends up in my daughter’s pile for some weird reason, you know, where we’ll have gotten it two or three times, it’s the same bill. We just need to go pay it…

Nikki: Exactky.

Pete: The date is…it’s over. It’s, yeah.

Nikki: It’s not relevant anymore.

Pete: Right, right.

Nikki: Exactly. So, that is typically what’s gonna happen. What you’re also gonna find is with older paper, it typically, you’re gonna have a lot more recycled and shredding. You’re not gonna keep it. And so that…I actually…I want you guys, the people that are listening to this, have that as be a little piece of hope for you, like, inspiration to actually go through it. Because the majority of what is in front of you and what’s stacked in front of you, you don’t need and you don’t need to keep. And so, if you can just get rid of it, it’s gonna be a heck of a easier when you get into, you know…what is it, step three, and that’s actually organizing the paper and putting it into a file, so.

Pete: Well, and that’s why… I mean, that goes back to the organizing steps, right? You always do your sport and purge before you organize it. Right? Get rid of the…

Nikki: Exactly.

Pete: …stuff you don’t need before you spend the time, you know, trying to figure out what to do with it.

Nikki: That’s right. And that’s what, this is where the two systems really are very parallel because that’s exactly what’s happening. A big challenge when sorting paper that I have found with my clients is the fear of regret, “What if I need this later?” So in some situations, there is paper that you’re gonna need for tax purposes. Ask your accountant, ask your financial adviser for advice, they’re gonna know what you need. Most paper outside of memorabilia can be replaced if you absolutely need it back. So let me repeat that. Most paper outside of memorabilia can be replaced, so if you have memorabilia type of paper that you want to keep for a reason, keep it. You know, this is your house. Keep it. I do have a question for you though, Pete, because this came up recently. What if you’re a grad student or a teacher or you’ve had like, you know, you’ve done all these research on getting your…what is it, the thesis? Or what is it at the end when you get your…?

Pete: Dissertation.

Nikki: Yes. Yes. So you’ve done all your research for all of that. What would you suggest to someone as far as like what do you with that? Do you keep it? Do you scan it and put it online? How do you decide what is important to keep?

Pete: Well, okay, look, I’m the paperless guy, right? So I keep…

Nikki: Right.

Pete: …everything, and since most of my research in the research process, and when I was working on my own thesis, that research all lived inside of the digital domain at the time, you know. I was an early, early Evernote person, but when I was working on my thesis, I didn’t have Evernote. But it was still all, you know, PDFs and selections from resources that I had scanned manually, I had the big scanner and I was scanning books and I was scanning… So all of that had been converted into PDF even in the early days, the bygone days.

So I still have all of that reference information and have found it useful in my teaching to keep all of that stuff. So I’m an advocate for, you know, from the purpose of academia, I’m an advocate of keeping the archive of academic work and personal academic research and keeping it well-organized and tagged, especially if you’re in a position of writing a dissertation, you’re going to be teaching. And so using those resources as, you know, as something to help you and your professional development to stay on top of the sort of the work that you’re doing is key, it’s absolutely key. So I keep everything.

Nikki: Okay. Well, I’m really glad you said that because that’s exactly the person that I have in mind. That’s exactly what’s happened, you know. She knows that she’s gonna need to go back to it because she’s gonna be teaching it. Just to be clear then, your recommendation would be that maybe it would be worth her time, then, to scan the information, get it into Evernote or something that she trusts and take the time to tag it and categorize it in that regard, so that when she wants to go back and get it, she can get it just in the computer and not into a banker box.

Pete: I absolutely,, absolutely believe that is the right path forward.

Nikki: And you absolutely trust… I know I’m sounding so old school, but I know there’s people probably asking this, you trust that the information, once it gets into your computer, it’s safe and you can go ahead and get rid of the hard copies?

Pete: Well, yeah. I do.

Nikki: Okay. I just want to make sure, because, you know, people are gonna ask.

Pete: They do.

Nikki: They’re gonna wonder.

Pete: They ask all the time and this is an important question and, you know, and so I’ll just say, again, I have my computer, I’m a Backblaze customer and I also…so all of the…my resources, so Evernote is my digital resource for my digital filing cabinet. All of those attachments, PDFs, they all live in my computer and then they psync to the Evernote cloud server which, again, I trust over the years, I’ve used since the very beginning. And I trust what they have done. They’ve never lost data for me. But also, that Evernote local archive, that I never have to actually see because I interact with them on Evernote, but all of my data is synced in my computer, and then Backblaze backs up my computer, right, to the cloud. So the entire thing is backed up to the cloud. So I’m a big advocate of backups, make no mistake. You know, just in case is an important, you know, reason, just in case, right? I definitely have… And I’m of the mind that if you don’t have two copies of something, you don’t have any copies of something, right? Because if you lose the one, you have got none, so, all of my data is backed up.

Nikki: Double is safe.

Pete: Absolutely.

Nikki: I mean, it’s double backed up.

Pete: Double backed up.

Nikki: Yeah. And I do have to say when my computer crashed, everything I had on Evernote and everything I had in Google Docs came back to me immediately.

Pete: That’s right.

Nikki: And I lost nothing.

Pete: You lost nothing.

Nikki: So, yeah. And I actually…

Pete: That is a testament to where we are today right now. I mean, a lot of…

Nikki: It is.

Pete: …these things are figured out. This is settled science.

Nikki: Right. And it’s interesting because I used to save a lot of stuff on like the computer, right, like the… I don’t even know what the terminology is, but, you know, you make a folder, you file, whatever, it’s in the computer. But if your computer crashes and it’s not backed up for whatever reason, but it should be, you would lose those things. But the other things you’re not losing because they’re in the cloud.

Pete: They’re in the cloud.

Nikki: So I trust it too, but I just think, you know, it’s a good conversation for us to have because it’s still a question for a lot of people.

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: So, now we’re going back to reference paper, I kind of made a suggestion about this earlier about just…I have a January through December system. Just keep it simple, you know, whether you are filing online, which is what we are preferring you to do, we say that out loud, or you’re doing it in a, you know, a traditional filing cabinet or whatever. Just keep your categories simple. Don’t think too much about it because that’s where people get stuck and just how are you gonna remember if you do need to retrieve the piece of paper for whatever reason? But I got to say another really nice thing about being online is all you have to do is search for it and it comes up, so it’s kinda nice.

Pete: Yeah. And that gets to a question that we get occasionally and has come up in the chat room today, which is how do you tag your online resources, your digital scanned paper to make sure that you can then find it later? And I think that’s a great question. And it merits some thought, individual thought because your system is gonna be different than my system, it’s gonna be different than Nikki’s system, which is, you know, for me, if it’s a receipt, for example, the reason I’m saving a given receipt is for tax purposes. So I tag it for taxes and then that year and then it automatically goes into the right place, right?

As soon as I tagged it, if I search for that tag, I bring up that tag in Evernote, I see all the receipts. But the other benefit of Evernote, in particular, and a lot of these online systems now that we didn’t have as a benefit in the early days of paperless is that these systems will index the text in scanned PDFs, like books and receipts and pages and bills and statements. And so, you can actually search in the Evernote search bar and it will bring up text inside of PDFs. So you can tag broadly and then still find very narrowly a specific restaurant or a specific date or something like that that’s super useful. So that’s certainly something to think about, but I tend to tag broadly around general purposes. So taxes and then taxes and a specific year for receipts and statements that I need to keep around those kinds of scans, for example. You know, I had to give other category ideas to respond to if there’s a specific question, but that’s an idea.

Nikki: Well, and, you know, just for me, I think that when it comes to like ADHD research, I’ll tag it by whatever the research is. So, you know, I may have a file folder in Evernote that’s ADHD Research, but then I’m gonna have, you know, #workingmemory, #timemanagement, #organization. And so, if I’m looking for something that’s very specific to that, it’s very helpful, especially if I’m gonna do a podcast on paper organizing, you know. I didn’t do this because I didn’t need to, but if I needed to, I could go back and look at, you know, what I have done before. Which kind of goes back to the academic piece, what I have rewritten? What have I already done that I could put into this? And then put it into a podcast and teach it to the world.

Pete: To the world.

Nikki: Whoever is listening, yeah. So, anyway, the last step I want to talk about is that maintaining step, right? So in organizing your space, it’s that four-step, it’s the same thing here in your paper organization and I’m gonna say the same thing, you just have to keep paying attention. You have to have a system in place for incoming paper. You’ve got to have those steps that you’re gonna follow through, so think about what that’s gonna look like for you. Pay attention as soon as you start seeing the paper getting piled up or your basket is getting too big. My basket right now is a mess. I’m gonna have to go through it. And then you just continue to do those steps. You sort, you purge, you organize it, you file it. And that’s what you do with paper.

Pete: Paper doesn’t have to be hard. I think, often, you know, just the…when you see the volume of paper, if you have a backlog of paper, that can be a thing that sparks fear and anxiety and it doesn’t have to be. It only has to make you as anxious as you let it. So, don’t worry about what’s in it. All you need to know is that the second you attack it, you’ll know what’s in it and you’ll know there’s no reason to fear.

Nikki: That’s right.

Pete: Okay. Thank you everybody for downloading and listening to this very podcast. I hope this gives you some ideas on how to approach your paper, your giant and fermenting paper piles. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll catch you next time, right here, on “Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.”

Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.