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Paula Royalty

Some useful tips on how
to decide what to keep
and what
to throw away


Ask yourself these 11 questions to decide if you need to keep something or if you can
recycle it or throw it away.
This includes electronic documents.

1.  Am I legally required to keep this?

Example: tax purposes, patent requirements, contract requirements, government regulations. If YES, keep it.

2.  Does it help me do my job better to have this on hand?

Does it help me accomplish my individual job mission? If YES, keep it.

3.  Do I use this?

On average, people will only EVER use 20 percent of what is in their office. If YES, keep it.

4.  Is this information updated periodically?

Decide how much history I need to keep (Example: three months worth of reports) and throw out anything older. When the next report comes in, toss out the oldest report and I will have a "naturally maintained" file.

5.  Did I originate this and do I still use it?

Just because I originate something does not necessarily mean I have to keep a copy of it. Only keep it for legal, mission, or use reasons.

6.  Is someone else the originator of this information?

Almost everything that comes into my in-box (paper and electronic) originated somewhere else. If I do not need it for legal, mission, or use reasons, let the originator know I am relying on them to provide me with the most up-to-date information when I need it. Do not rely on potentially out-of-date or obsolete information to make decisions.

7.  Can I obtain this information from someone or somewhere else?

Example: Most newspapers, magazines, journals, and even newsletters can be retrieved from my local library, company library, or the original source.

8.  Is this personally important to me, but not job-related?

For personal items at work, establish one drawer or file(s) to store my personal items and keep them separate from work items.

9.  Do I need this for "political" reasons?

Example: My boss or a co-worker gave it to me and I do not want to hurt their feelings. If I do not need it, take it home and recycle it, explain that I passed it on to someone who could use it more than I could, or store it far away from my primary work space.

10.  What is the worst possible thing that could happen if I threw all

this away?

If I do not lose my job or break a law, the worst might be some lost time.

11.  Am I still not sure what to do?

After going through these questions, if I am uncomfortable throwing it away, keep it for now. The next time I review my resources (in six months or a year) I may feel more comfortable letting it go since I recently reviewed everything.  

Source: DayTimer Website


to throw away: to get rid of, to dispose (tirar a la basura)
: achieve, carry out (cumplir, llevar a cabo)
job mission: goal or objective of the task assigned (objetivo del trabajo asignado)
on average: typically (típicamente, en promedio)
worth of: meriting (que amerite, que valga la pena)
throw out: remove from the office (sacarse de encima)
toss out: throw away (descartar, tirar a la basura)
in-box: inward papers or messages (papeles ingresados o mensajes entrantes) ( =/= out-box)

rely on: depend on (confiar en)
: reflecting the latest information or changes (la información más reciente, la más actualizada)
: obsolete, no longer in use (obsoleto, desactualizado)
retrieved from: recovered from (recuperados de)
job-related: connected with my job (relacionado con mi trabajo)
co-worker: a fellow worker (colaborador, compañero de trabajo)
hurt their feeling: offend them (ofenderlos)
for now: for the moment being (por el momento)